When Will We Rebuild Our Barn?

When Will We Rebuild Our Barn?
near Falkland, British Columbia, photo by David B. Savage

near Falkland, British Columbia, photo by David B. Savage

Our barn is no longer serving us. In some ways, our barn is now a hazard. By barn, think of how we collaborate, innovate and unlock possibilities. Our regulatory, political, business and social structures are failing us. Rather than paint over or patch, Consider a redesign.

Today, many focus solely on what’s in it for them. This has led to significant decay in services, infrastructure, economy, environment, trust, respect for public institutions, and, most importantly, in relationships. Think about what’s in it for us. A self-righteous manipulator or an inspirational innovator; your choice, your leadership, our world.

As we experience these days, months and years of outrage over Standing Rock, Trans Mountain, President Elect Donald Trump, carbon pricing, immigration, economic disparity, environmental degradation, and so much more, I offer a perspective from my 2016 book Break Through To Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration. As a negotiator, collaborator, consultant and an advocate for Creating Shared Value, I find that getting people out of the emotionally charged situation and having them share a reflection of a future vision or a past event most often brings them to shared values and better understanding.

When will we rebuild our barn? When we realize we are creating our shared future, developing our legacy, setting aside our power struggles, trusting one another and creating shared value with collaboration. Big challenge; yes. Impossible; never!

New panels, nails, and paint will not be enough. We must design a new foundation for our barn.

With our Collaborative Global Initiative, we can rebuild with a new foundation of inclusion, diversity, transparency, sustainability, trust, and process.

The Collaborative Global Initiative is an international network, of mediators, facilitators and systems design professionals that provide assessment, training, facilitation, mediation and process design services to help multiple stakeholders work together to achieve common goals. We focus on projects where organizations and individuals with differing interests require effective communication and learning across perspectives, cultures, and sectors to help all parties to achieve sustainable, cost efficient solutions. We work with any scale and complexity of conflict.


Here is an excerpt from my 2016 book Break Through To Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration. I hope will allow us to observe ourselves in more positive ways that invite our working together better. From the chapter, The Practice of Collaboration;


“All entities are “special interest groups.” Companies, political parties, environmental organizations, news media, natives and communities all tend to narrow their perspective (i.e. biases) and energize their own prejudices to advance their personal interests. These interests may be capital projects ranging from thousands of dollars to billions of dollars. These interests may be to generate funds or votes. These interests may serve the organizations or collectives in many different ways. But each “special interest” tends to be communicated in black and white, good and bad, right versus wrong.

What methods might be more productive and meaningful than the dualistic argument? A good start would be to cultivate a personal awareness and take action in all our relationships, work, and purchasing choices.

Throughout my career, I have sought to bring together diverse perspectives and expertise to identify and re-align people, processes, regulations and terms of engagement, so that the “good guys win” and the “bad guys” don’t get rewarded for misbehaving. Far too often, our political, legal and regulatory processes favor those that seek power over justice and the public interest. Too often, the organizations with the power run over those that don’t possess the same resources. Too often, special-interest groups run over the interests of the community. This is about what is right and how that is determined.

In 2000, while chairing the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Appropriate Dispute Resolution Committee, I worked with a group of about 20 volunteers who sought positive, respectful and productive ways to manage growing conflicts between industry, communities, aboriginals and environmentalists. We modeled Essential Collaboration and each represented a part of every one of these supposedly separate groups. This group put together the Conflict Solutions 2000 Conference that brought together 125 people to learn and develop better ways of relating and working together. However, we received scant media coverage.

That weekend, the media, instead, focused on a man named Webo Ludwig. Ludwig presented himself as the little guy versus Big Oil. For some, Webo and his group were speaking their truth. For others, Webo and his followers were directly and indirectly linked to several bombings and the murder of a young woman. Webo was serving the Mediots no matter what “side” you took.

In 2009, I coined a new term: MEDIOTS. Mediots are those in social media, traditional media, politics, and the world who subscribe to narrow, exclusive, one-dimensional thinking, who cast fear, separation, and misunderstanding in their pronouncements on current events and issues. Mediots are driven by and in turn drive our own reptilian brains into fast emotional judgements placing ignorance over intelligence.

Our conference Conflict Solutions 2000 was not news. We did not appeal to the mediots. Violence and hostility did. When we asked a Calgary-based TV journalist, why the media ignored 125 people who were working together to solve these challenges and instead filled their content with conflict, we were reminded that “If it bleeds, it leads.”

This conversation has been hijacked. There is a better path forward with a more complete perspective and new insights … Can you be a bridge to a better tomorrow? Can you lead without the bleeding? If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Today, if a person leads and there is no media or social media there, does it make a difference? If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, why bother? Because you matter, and together we are a forest.

Today every change, every incursion, every proposal, every leader is faced with passionate opposition. The Internet, education, and democratization provide billions of people with information, a perspective, a judgment and a community.

Whether the project is wind turbines on a ridge or massive strip mining doesn’t matter. People matter. People need to be heard. People need to listen.

Often today, we mistake passion for intelligence and commitment for ignorance. We act as if we live in a dualistic world of right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains and winners and losers. The biggest loser is what we didn’t understand and what we failed to co-create.

We live in a world of one. When we act that way, powerful positive change occurs.”

Join the movement to Unlock the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration and Break Through To Yes.



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David B Savage

David B Savage