February Book Club Discussion - Getting to Maybe

Posted 5 years ago at 9:34 am

Hello, Forum members! This is our February discussion thread for the first book selection for the Forum's new Social Change Book Club. This month's pick is Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton. (Purchase links at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

In this thread, we welcome you to share your thoughts, reflections, and questions about Getting to Maybe.

  • How did the discussions or stories in the book resonate with you?
  • Did any of it help shine a light on your own initiatives?
  • What did you find inspiring?
  • What brought up more questions for you?
  • What would you like to learn more about?

Also, we choose Getting to Maybe for our first book club selection as a way to honor the recent passing of coauthor Brenda Zimmerman, who was an inspiring thinker in complexity theory.

Share your thoughts on Getting to Maybe for a chance to win a free ebook of the Forum's March selection!

For each person who shares their thoughts and reflections about Getting to Maybe, you will be automatically entered into a random drawing to win a free ebook of the Forum's March book club choice--Everyone Leads by Paul Schmitz.

To be eligible to win: our only requirement is that we ask you to share your thoughts and questions about this month's reading.

The drawing for the next book will be done on March 1.

Please join us all month to discuss Getting to Maybe. We'd love to hear what you think!


Leslie Ayre-Jaschke

technical assistance provider / consultant

I have loved this book since it came out in 2006/07. My copy is well-thumbed, has multiple tabs and a sheaf of loose notes tucked into the front. I've read it a number of times, including for discussion in a Developmental Evaluation (DE) community of practice.

This is the book where Michael Quinn Patton began to more fully articulate his ideas on DE, but wound up with his material in the footnotes. People wanted more, though, so he then wrote his landmark book "Developmental Evaluation: Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and use" (thank you, MQP). "Getting to Maybe" primed readers for the idea of complexity and whetted our appetite for more.

I'm very proud that Canada provided the environment for MQP to develop his ideas, for the work of his outstanding co-authors (Frances Westley and the late, wonderful Brenda Zimmerman), and the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement that have all so significantly contributed to the idea of collective impact. 

The book isn't a typical read; it includes poetry, it doesn't provide pat answers, but it introduces the reader to what in 2007 were new ideas and now seem to have found their way into so much of the conversation about social change and evaluation. Read and appreciate the work of these pioneers--the authors and the individuals and organizations featured throughout the book. There is incredible wisdom here that I hope reaches a wider audience.

Submitted by Leslie Ayre-Jaschke on Wed, 2015-02-25 10:03

Getting to Maybe is a fantastic introduction to complexity science for social innovators and change makers.  It is well written and easy to understand. The book is extremely inspirational.  It considers that complexity scientists "tend to downplay, even dismiss, the possibility of human agency" and the book provides guidelines and lessons for unlocking complex adaptive system dynamics.  

While I highly recommend Getting to Maybe, I have found publications on complex systems leadership theory to provide more concrete steps for taking action.  Complex systems leadership theory considers leadership not to be held in a particular person or role but to be a process embedded in all of the interactions amongst agents in a system.  As a problem solving approach, complex systems leadership theories do not focus on finding the one way to solve a complex problem, instead their focus is on providing a framework within which stakeholders can learn, interact and adapt to maximise their effectiveness in solving complex problems. 

During my PhD I developed a diagnostic tool to assist practitioners to achieve change in complex adaptive systems which is based on insights from four complex systems leadership theories: Lichtenstein and Plowman’s leadership of emergence; Snowden and Boone’s tools for managing in a complex context; Surie and Hazy’s, and Goldstein, Hazy and Lichtenstein’s generative leadership; and Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey's complexity leadership theory.  Each of these complex systems leadership theories highlights conditional characteristics which enable the emergence of social innovation.

Submitted by Sharon Zivkovic on Fri, 2015-02-27 21:48

Tracy Timmons-Gray

administrator, backbone organization, community manager, funder of initiatives, partner organization, other, technical assistance provider / consultant, content administrator, blogger, funder community of practice

Thanks to Leslie and Sharon for sharing their thoughts on Getting to Maybe! You both have won free ebook copies of our March book club pick Everyone Leads by Paul Schmitz.

I'll follow-up via email with you both to see what ebook version (Nook or Kindle) that you would prefer.

This closes out our giveaway for February. We hope everyone will join us in reading Everyone Leads this month!

Submitted by Tracy Timmons-Gray on Tue, 2015-03-03 18:03

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