CorpTalk and Siemens at STIA + 2014 DC: Simple Means to Rich Ends

CorpTalk and Siemens Keynote graphic recording

When it comes to corporate well being, we diagnose the conversation, not the people. Conversation is the cure.

When I think about the STIA + 2014 DC conference (Nov 5-9), where I was honored to co-keynote our CorpTalk and Siemens cultural transformation success story, “simple means to rich ends” comes to mind.


“Simple means to rich ends” is a powerful insight derived through systems thinking that recognizes how small efforts within any system may compound into extraordinary effects.  These efforts and effects may then catalyze more complex changes, ultimately affecting or entirely reorganizing the entire system.

And here’s something simple – our ability to participate in honest, authentic, open (i.e., inclusive) conversations.

If every element or node in a system can affect the entire system and every possible perturbation has the potential to trigger ripple effects, when you convene a group of dedicated systems thinkers in a open learning forum and invite them – simply – to connect and share their ideas and honest experience, rich results emerge in ways that never could have been predicted entirely.

For me, this increased capacity for inspired learning and community building constitutes well being.

Starting conversations at STIA + 2014 DC

If you attended the 24th annual STIA conference, titled Systems of Wellbeing, co-hosted by Siraj Sirajuddin of Temenos  and Jean Tully of Creating Clarity, you know what I am talking about.  If you did not attend, I am sharing some highlights of the experience here.   I may also be co-hosting a number of podcasts with Chris Clark of Essential Media, so please keep an eye open for announcements.

As an introduction, Chris is a bright light mind and brilliant conversation partner. We met as part of the happy circumstance of my presenting on the CorpTalk & Siemens cultural transformation with David Stein and the COMMSquad team (see below).

Connecting with my TEDx talk: Be Human—Choose Your Words Carefully

Chris interviewed presenters before the conference and identified the golden threads linking various practitioners, educators and theoreticians who attended.  Chris’ broader mission is to explore what is “essential” in people’s lives by asking the question:  “what does it mean to be human in the 21st century?” Earlier this year, I gave a TEDx Youth talk titled, “Be Human: Choose Your Words Carefully.”  In my worldview, being human means being “in conversation.” We both think it will be interesting to play with the synergies of our work and share the experience of our conversations. I am thrilled to introduce Chris as a welcome colleague to our CorpTalk community as one outcome of the STIA conference.

Stay tuned for details of upcoming podcasts and hosted conversations.

What I won’t forget…

Looking inward–CorpTalk and Siemens keynote highlights

Siemens and CorpTalk Keynote at STIA

The COMMSquad and co-keynoters say, “cheese and conversations!”















The exceptional pride and appreciation I experienced co-presenting with the Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Point of Care COMMSquad Team and CEO David Stein.

The beauty, truth, and open sharing of the team, the honest insights and “breath-of-fresh-air-new-take-on-leadership” shared by David and my own practitioner’s roadmap advanced the conversation by providing a rare multi-perspective view and whole system culture change gestalt.

Full disclosure, I have been supporting David and his organization, working closely with the COMMSquad and other teams over the last few years. I am a fan, but with good reason. I know the quality and character of these folks in a way that only time, hard work and high complexity contexts can make clear. But don’t assume that my relationship with them means they get a pass or I’d make excuses for them, because that assumption would be mistaken. My knowing and working with them over time only means that I hold them to even higher standards and invite them to do the same with me.  That’s just the way we roll. How else could we grow or earn the right to do this work?

Sharing a multi-perspective view

Siemens and CorpTalk Keynote at STIA

CorpTalk and Siemens keynote: Everyone at the Table–Transforming Culture through Whole System Engagement











Together, we had an incredible opportunity to share a multi-perspective view – CEO, team and practitioner – with a group of highly skilled and appreciative educators and practitioners who identify as systems thinkers and are keen on collaborative learning.  I am proud to say, based on feedback from attendees, we delivered a really meaningful experience.

So, while I don’t want to toot our own horn, I also don’t want to be shy about sharing, and I want to give you a flavor of the experience.  I especially want to draw attention to the work in ways that may inspire others to build on what we have learned and share their own stories and examples.

CorpTalk and Siemens conversations feedback

To that end, I am sharing a sample of the feedback and appreciations others offered.

“In our experiences with the various corporate environments we’ve worked in and conferences we’ve attended, it’s rare to witness anything as genuine and memorable as your presentations. It’s rare you get to see both the theoretical and the practical demonstrated with all perspectives represented on-hand—the practitioner, the leader and the participants.”

“The corporate world has much to learn and gain hearing about your experience and giving it a go themselves.”

“What you have achieved is monumental AND inspirational, and we just wanted to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to share your cultural transformation at STIA.”

“The candor and respect in the interaction between COMMSquad members and practitioners was something special to see in the breakout sessions. You could visibly pinpoint the moments where a practitioner shifted their perception of your team from “panelist” to “peer.”

(And to David…) “We really respect your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable and be sensitive to the “tsoris” of your family at work.  You set the bar for CEO authenticity.”

Talk to Me preview

As an added bonus, it was wonderful to preview CorpTalk’s “conversation is the cure” change model and some of the collaborative concepts I will be featuring in my book, Talk to Me.  Ruth Wieder’s graphic recording (see above) captured the gestalt of the project, including some of these concepts. The interaction in the session has energized the writing process for me and I am looking forward to getting back to my draft.

I also shared some transcendent moments when I presented a very personal performance piece, called Industrial Accident. I was both honored and humbled that my piece and my book resonated on a very deep level with the conference audience.

Looking outward–presenter and the practitioner highlights

Here are just a few highlights…

Marilee Adams of The Inquiry Institute presented on the power of questions to shape our thinking and change our lives. She contrasted “judger” and “learner” mindsets to demonstrate how changing the way a question is framed or stated opens or closes opportunities for greater learning and collaboration. Personally, I like asking myself questions that make me nervous or really unsettled. For instance: What would it be like if everything I believed to be true turned out to be flat out wrong? How would I know and what, if anything, could I do to dig myself out from under? What would be my first building block, the initial question?

If you are not inclined to such disruptive questions then there are plenty others to choose from. For example:

  • Who else needs to be part of this discussion?
  • How does this decision impact those who are least empowered to influence it?
  • What new experience would support me to be more accepting of this change?
  • Who can I look to for an example I would seek to emulate?

Glenda Eoyang of Human Systems Dynamics backed up Marilee’s premise presenting on three very simple organizing questions that can be easily applied in any context or level of scale.  Here you go:

  1. What?
  2. So what?
  3. Now what?

Try them out the next time you are confused, worried, or working through a change, whether on your own, with a loved one, with your team, or across an entire organization or ecosystem.

In her experiential workshop on wellbeing, Miriam Hawley personalized and pushed big question thinking front of mind. The author of the seminal Our Bodies, Ourselves and CEO of Enlignment led the group on a soul-searching expedition to uncover their “burning questions,” challenging them to explore their “burning questions” and their purpose in the world.

Miriam Hawley at STIA

Miriam Hawley’s promises for wellbeing


David Stroh of Bridgeway Partners articulated a poignant undercurrent that permeated the conference – how our predominant “can do” culture undermines our ability to get anything worthwhile done and how lousy we feel about it. My experience supports David call for greater awareness – getting out from under the weight of this vicious cycle is the dilemma most organizations are struggling to resolve. (More about David’s premise down the road when I share my reading of “Industrial Accident” and a blog on “trauma bonding.”)

I was very excited to learn about the work that Tracy Weber of Kaleidoscope Learning Circle is doing.  Tracy is an accomplished “horse whisperer” and dedicates herself to helping leaders build trust by working with horses to develop increased empathy, sense of connection and ease of presence. Yes, she is bringing some sorely needed horse sense into the workplace with her traveling caravan and corps of four-legged cohorts. Tracy shows up in her cowgirl boots ready to muck through layers of artifice or anything else that you might find on a (umm hmm) barn floor to get to the heart of a matter.  See my interview with horse whisperer Monty Roberts, “New Ways of Listening: Conversations at Work,” to add another layer to this perspective.

Something I missed that everyone seems to be talking about is Beena Sharma‘s presentation on ego development and systems thinking.  From the presentation, she puts forward a really smart framework for conceptualizing adult development and for self-checking our own paths to increased individuation and wisdom. Check out slide #25 from Beena’s presentation “Systems Thinking and The Adult Ego Developmental Perspective”   for a succinct map differentiating knowledge and wisdom.

Looking forward–what is most promising and why leadership will make the difference

At Carol Gorelick’s  invitation, we listened in as David Stein and Victor Garcia, executive director of CoreChange, joined forces in an extraordinarily intimate leadership dialogue that was powerful precisely because it was so tender, real, and wrought with purpose. If you were in the room, you know what I am talking about. If you weren’t, let me share that these are two really strong leaders who are not afraid to tell it like it is, share their emotions or put a stake in the ground when it comes to building highly vocal and participatory coalitions for change.

No surprise that it was second nature for both of them to widen the circle and spark the conversation by bringing the room into the discussion.

Once again, Ruth Weider’s visual recording provides a roadmap to the exchange, capturing the spirit and essential topics of the conversation.

STIA Leadership Exchange Graphic Recording

Visionary leaders Victor Garcia of CoreChange and David Stein of Siemens share their views.

Expanding serious conversations

How will this conversation serve to bring serious attention and effort to solving the complex social, economic and health-based needs in inner city and USA communities and across the globe?

Minimally, the conversation is bigger and better, and the mindset is broader and more collaborative as a result of what occurred at STIA + 2014 DC.

Stay tuned…and, even more importantly, get involved by contributing your energies and expertise in any way that makes the most sense for you.

More thank yous

Appreciation goes out also to conference weavers, Jeremy Seligman of Insight to Action and Susan Gibson, for the soft facilitation and integration of the various keynotes, workshops and presentations, Shawna Holman as the conference’s high-functioning Awesome Experience Guru and the person who knew where everyone should be at any given moment, and Caryn Sterling of Drawing Insight for her inspired graphics and conversational roadmaps.

Graphic recording of Siemens & CorpTalk keynote at STIA

Caryn Sterling of DrawingInsight stands by her CorpTalk and Siemens keynote graphic creation.

Check out the STIA blog for more conference reporting and ruminating.

And visit my Facebook page, Maria Seddio Talk to Me, for a STIA photo album featuring visual highlights from the conference!

Intrigued by all you’ve heard and seen?  Simple means to rich ends – join the conversation.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply