New literacies - 3 on bean bag

What are the New Literacies for living well in the 21st century?

Episode Introduction

In this episode, my esteemed guest, organizational designer and systems thinker, Sallie Lee walks us through six new literacies that in the 21st century everyone needs. Some think that these literacies are most appropriate for leaders of organizations, but they will work in any set of circumstances in our complex world.  These new literacies were published in a chapter of the book, Lawyers as Changemakers: Integrative Law Movement (2017), by J.Kim Wright.  It also stands alone as a paper, entitled Leadership/Citizenship Literacies for the 21st Century: Solution and System Stalking

Episode Background

new literacies - Sallie LeeSallie Lee has spent her career in organizational design, serving as a thinking partner, facilitator, coach and strategist for a global client base ranging from 5-person to 500,000-person organizations. She is known for bringing vision, clarity of purpose, and innovation to all her work in organizational design, leadership coaching and workshop facilitation  all over the world.

As an internationally acclaimed Appreciative Inquiry practitioner and trainer, Sally helps leaders stalk solutions to questions such as

“How do we design organizations so we get the results we want? How do we design our work together with a focus on our relationships?”

Early Influencers

As a child, Sallie remembers that she found herself facilitating her family members and identifying the patterns in their family dynamics.  She admired her uncle who traveled the world as an international banker, and followed his example to creating her own opportunities to experience different cultures around the world.

As she grew her own career in organization development and design, Sallie pursed  different methodologie and genres.  When she discovered Appreciative Inquiry over 20 years ago, she described it as an answer to a prayer. Her facilitation took on a whole new career… lifted her out of the lethargy… it was life changing.

Solution and System Stalking

The paper Sallie references in this episode is littered with alliterations, as you quickly learn from the names of the six literacies.  Her subtitle, “Solution and System Stalking” is such an alliteration..  I inquired about the word “stalking.”  Listen in to hear Sallie’s response. In a nutshell, the solutions we seek are already within our systems and we have to ferret them out.  I love this quote from her paper:  

“A true invitation to collective dialogue builds on the belief that the answers to important questions walk into the room in the form of participants and emerge in combining their intelligence and intent.”

Defining Literacies

In doing my research before interviewing Sallie, I came across this definition of “literacy” from the National Council of Teachers of English website: .

“Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups.”

Literacies change with time.  Each generation develops sets of skills, competencies and tools that are central to our survival in our respective times.

In the 21st century, with our increasing complexities, where traditional regimes are struggling to stay relevant, we no longer listen to  one dominant voice, or conform to one dominant homogeneous culture, new leadership and citizenship literacies are required if we are to muddle our way through to the next meme.

New Literacies for the 21st Century

Reframing Reality

The literacy to be able to step outside our individual framing of  the world, to seek to understand another’s framing  and potentially stepping together into a bigger frame.

Managing Multiplicity

The literacy to see wholeness, to appreciate our world is teeming with diversity.  To get to the best we can be, we need to embrace multiple perspectives and dance with diversity.

Connecting the Collective

The literacy to invite others into dialogue and have processes to tap into all the voices that can contribute experience and wisdom to promote cooperation and collaboration.

Forecasting the Future

The literacy to be able to imagine and design what the future is calling for and to anticipate and project ourselves into novelty and possible futures.

Designing Dynamics

The literacy to be able to bring out the best in our humanity and all living systems to include those who may be outside the culture so they can contribute, innovate and celebrate.

Please listen to Sallie describe, give examples and share stories about each of these highly relevant 21st century literacies.

Among the Best Trained People on the Planet

For those of us who are grounded in Appreciative Inquiry, we recognize how AI is a foundational mindset with its  principles and practices that enable us to live, teach and facilitate such literacies within ourselves, our families, workplaces and communities.

We are among  the best trained people on the planet to bring these literacies to life.  We have these skills and literacies to be of service to others.  We are trained in designing the types of conversations that bring out the co-creative capacities of togetherness, interdependency and collaboration.  We recognize our world is socially constructed through our language and our relational processes. 

We need to step up and step into these literacies to model what good leadership and citizenship can accomplish together.

Four Beautiful Assumptions about Humankind

The above life literacies are founded on a set of positive assumptions about humankind, and with such a solid foundation, we know what we can do together.

We’re not as selfish as we’ve been taught to believe we are.

    • We have a huge capacity for good, as history shows.

Humans have the ability to learn what we need to learn.

    • Neuroplasticity is real – we can sculpt our brains and change the way we think.

We are interconnected and interdependent.

    • We are all in this together. We are living systems, everything is relational – we cannot disconnect from that.

One of our greatest gifts as humans is our insatiable curiosity.

    • We are information eaters – data grows as does our appetite.

Connect with Sallie

The best way to connect with Sallie is on LinkedIn, especially if you'd like a copy of her paper, Leadership/Citizenship Literacies for the 21st Century: Solution and System Stalking.

A second paper:  Positive Problem Solving: How Appreciative Inquiry Works 


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