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Rambling thoughts from chicken scratch notes, while scribing… Maybe basis for unique writing chunks – or will let be as fleeting notions. This relates to a post where i more thoughtfully reviewed some insights: Eight Days, Eight Lessons. And it all overlaps…

  • You cannot “check out” – ever. You can – always – experiment.
  • Wear the most comfortable clothes you can (organizationally) culturally get away with.
  • Not over until the fat lady sings, and that would be (illegible) Holler and throw a victory dance when you are done. Well….
  • Protect your space – physical, while working. Do you have a table? own it. Floor area between you and chairs? Own it. Time at night? Keep it yours. Protect your asset. (back to WEF YGLs)
  • Power of the reframe
  • Dimensions of collaboration
  • Having discipline around something that has not yet emerged
  • More:


  • Budgeting real estate, esp in 8 day marathons


The Slim Volume

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It’s been a dream, almost my whole adult life, to write a “slim volume” in the spirit of Albers’ Interaction of Color, or Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook, or Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art. Lofty. I know. But the aim is actually simple: to plant just one seed in the conceptual garden of art-making, for those who today – and will in the future – seek to serve our times through the guidepost of SEEING.

This in-the-making slim volume, then, aims to anchor a practice known as graphic facilitation as an art form, in a poetic and hopefully inspirational way. It will offer a record of the work I have explored for 20+ years, an increasingly recognized practice called scribing. I’m opting to craft this writing online, in a completely open and piecemeal way, in an effort to invert the process of art-making from a private, sheltered creative act to one that is exposed and witnessed, that includes reader feedback, and thus brings a form alive in an organic, participatory way.

It is not intended as an instructional manual, or as a way to learn how to draw. My belief is that everyone can draw, because drawing is a pure connection between the mind, the heart, and the hand. It is not about how well one can articulate a perception of outward reality, though that is certainly useful! Rather, drawing – in this context – offers our species a means of communication; it is primarily valuable as a tool to share and receive information.

This body of writing will include insights and facilitation frameworks from deeply thoughtful pioneers in the fields of dialogue, human dynamics, organizational learning, circle work, system dynamics, and related social technologies. Scribing for practitioners in these areas has provided unique opportunity to enfold their thinking into my own art, the core of which has been to offer focal points for reflection and to surface potential.

It’s a work in progress! I’ll be editing all pages at whim. I welcome feedback and ideas that will stretch what is mapped. There is no end in site – merely an aspiration to share while it seems relevant.

Possible Quotes

“And anyway, I do not wish to represent man as he is, but only as he might be. And thus I could arrive at a happy association between my vision of life (Weltanschauung) and pure artistic craftsmanship.” – Paul Klee, On Modern Art

Possible Content


  • Complexity
  • Rate of Change
  • Ability to Adapt
  • Emergence
  • Trust
  • Containers



  • Open
  • Presencing
  • Sustaining



  • Orient
  • Suspend
  • Wonder
  • Perceive
  • Mental Models
  • Projection
  • Structure
  • Frame
  • Connect



  • Love
  • Readiness
  • Possibility – Scope
  • Tone
  • Sharing
  • Unfolding
  • Intervention

Ladder of Inference

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In graphic facilitation, the practitioner must continually orient their inner landscape and seek to SUSPEND beliefs and judgements that block clear listening. This requires ongoing self check-ins and mental model alignment, as related to ourselves, the content, the people in the room, the organization(s), and even the sector or region of the world represented.

It is far too easy to get tripped up by our own way of thinking, and inadvertently close off to what is actually happening. A room of 50 men in blue suits does not necessarily indicate a group of businessmen – it could be a NY Yankees reunion! or, or, or….. There could be dozens of interpretations, depending on our background and sorting mechanisms.

One fundamental framework to keep in mind is Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference, which describes the scale of thinking between experience-based data and belief-based action. Though all steps exist in the “now”, the top of the ladder tends to waver more abstractly in memory, and the bottom lands more solidly in the present moment.

Here is a breakdown (with reference to Google definitions):

  • Beliefs: Acceptances that a statement is true or that something exists.
    ie: For someone to recognize a bird, I need to represent it in flight
  • Conclusions: Judgment or decision reached by reasoning.
    ie: Birds fly.
  • Assumptions: Things that are accepted as true or as certain to happen.
    ie: Cardinals, and all birds for that matter, must fly around a lot.
  • Added Meaning: What is interpreted as meant by a word, text, concept, or action.
    ie: Cardinals must travel to many backyards in a day for food.
  • Selected Data: Chosen facts and statistics collected for reference.
    ie: Cardinals eat off flat surfaces and come and go freely.
  • Observable Data & Experience: Practical contact with facts or events or occurrences.
    ie: Sometimes my brother and i watch cardinals feeding in his backyard.
  • Reflexive Loop: Confirms bias. Beliefs influence data we choose to select in the future.
    ie: I draw birds in flight, and watch birds coming and going, but not birds on branches.
  • Reflective Learning: Looking more closely to increase our understanding.
    ie: I have serious challenge drawing animals, but if i more closely observe real birds in a variety of settings and notice their range of forms, my drawing will improve.

A possibly more tangible example I first heard from Bill Isaacs ~1999:

“A meeting starts at 09:00 and one person comes in at 09:15. What is the data? Most people would say that the person is late, without any further inquiry. In actuality, “late” is not data; it is a conclusion. The data is that the meeting began at 09:00 and the person came in at 09:15. Perhaps the person had been told the meeting started at 09:30 and was arriving early! Most people jump to conclusions such as: this person is not committed, not well organized, etc… What is even more damaging is that most people at the meeting, from that point on, would select only that data that reinforces their unexplored, unsubstantiated conclusions.”

To inquire into the situation, in order to surface the data, requires “scaling down the ladder.” As graphic facilitators, we must always return to actual words, no matter our triggers or wishes for the outcomes of a session. If something is not clear, pause. Slow down. Wonder. Check the reasoning. Turn away from the board and mentally move closer to the words, to the person speaking, to the data. Put yourself in their shoes. Inhabit another vantage point. Resist the urge to draw until you return to ground.

This kind of real-time inquiry risks getting in the way of our needed liquid state; to be checking what we heard for accuracy can break the momentum of attending to the next words, and the next after those. But one spot-on interpretation against 100 misrepresented ideas in invaluable. A picture is only worth 1000 words if it lands in an array of reference.

In the domain of Perceiving, in A Practice Model for Scribing, the Ladder is key.

For source material, read: The Ladder of Inference by Rick Ross, excerpt from The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Chapter 35, pp 242-246, Copyright 1994 by Peter M. Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, and Bryan J. Smith. Original illustration by Martie Holmer.