The Middle Stepping Stones: People; Concept; and Limiting Beliefs

In my last posting, I referred to a guide for planning I have been using in the last couple of years: “The Chaordic Stepping Stones” developed by Chris Corrigan. In that earlier posting, I described the first three of nine stepping stones: need; purpose; and principles.

This posting outlines the middle three stepping stones: people; concept; and limiting beliefs. As noted before, each step involves asking  questions that will help people fully explore issues related to that stage of planning. Additionally, each step should be discussed in order when planning a new initiative or perhaps looking at revising an old one.


Some people connected to your initiative might be core to its planning and implementation; others might be the people you want to draw into the circle or to reach out to. In this stage of planning, you can create a map of your current and desired network of people.

It might help to start by looking back at your principles. Did any of your discussions about principles highlight who else might be included?

Some other questions that might help you at this stage might include:

  • Who is in the room now?
  • Who is not here that we might bring in?
  • How might we use our relationships and networks to spread the ideas, the work we do?
  • Who will be interested in the results?


This stepping stone is about identifying the general approach for moving forward.  As Chris Corrigan writes, “This is a high level look at the shape of our endeavour.  For example, if our need was to design a way to cross a body of water, we could choose a bridge, a causeway or a ferry.” The concept doesn’t require a discussion of  the details of the colour of the ferry or the look of the bridge; that comes later. This step brings out the shape your endeavour will take.

Depending on the circumstance, those involved may truly have a blank slate that will allow them to weigh different approaches for moving forward in order to meet the need and purpose. Should it be a conference? A new series of workshops? The development of an online  virtual community? A new organization? A combination of things?

However, in other instances the concept might already have significant shape and it might be too late in the process to significantly amend. Nonetheless, it is important to spend time talking about the concept as it may highlight opportunities for adapting or augmenting the initial concept to better meet the need and purpose.

At this stage, it can be useful to encourage people to set aside pre-conceived notions of what the initiative should look like and to explore and learn about other approaches. For example, is a conference the best way forward or would initiating an series of regional dialogues and fostering a new network over time be a better approach? Is an new organization really the answer, or might new partnerships or networks be a better way forward? It is important to be open to new ways of meeting the need.

Some questions that Chris suggests are:

  • What are the shapes that we might choose for our work?
  • What is the deeper pattern of our work and what organizational forms are in alignment with that?
  • How might we activate our principles to best do our work?

Limiting beliefs

How often do you hear people say: ”Why re-invent the wheel.” “People aren’t going to share that deeply.” “We’ll never get the money to do that.” “The community never gets engaged.” “These things never last.”

While these comments might have some validity, they can also be based on assumptions and beliefs that will keep you coming back to the same old models of interaction.

The challenge at this stage is to explore what might be holding you back, collectively and individually, from reaching your full potential and creating new models of working together. Remember that change can be scary for some; but it can also be exciting.

Chris suggests a number of good questions that might help you unveil limiting beliefs and assumptions and work to overcome them:

  • What might be holding us back from reaching our potential?
  • What do we fear about new ways of working together?
  • What will it take for us to fully enter into working in new and unfamiliar ways?
  • What is our own learning edge in working together?
  • What do you need from our core team to feel supported in the places that make you anxious?

The next steps

There are three final steps in the Chaordic Stepping Stones: structure; practice; and harvest.  These will be discussed in the next posting.



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