A New Road for EAs?

Linear leadership understands power as the ability to assert your will, even against resistance.  In this mindset, the environmental assessment (EA) process is linked to the licencing process as a watchdog for potential problems. It seeks to protect the environment, even against economic drivers. It is also a stopgap, if you will, for government excessively asserting its will. Government holds the authority to licence a project. In this scenario, why not link EAs and licencing? They are conceptions of the same project, the same data-set, and the same way of knowing power, namely linear. 

The EA provides a neutral body to bring in information from an array of sources, collate it and make recommendations. The licencing process makes a decision based on the government’s conception of good governance. Good governance often means providing project certainty. After considering of the relevant factors, the limits of an activity are defined for the duration of the licence. Proponents can rely on their ability to conduct activities into the future, as long as they are in compliance with the terms of a licence. These terms are measurable, predictable and consistent.

In a 2WK world, the circular manifestation of good governance would also be considered. This is powered by knowing ourselves, being ourselves, and supporting others in doing the same. In other words, it is a transformational circle, with the ability to be responsive to changes. It leads to resilience when environments are unpredictable and gains the ability to capitalize on potential benefits as they arise.

Rapheal Benke, a macroeconomics experts with Proactiva Results gave a great description of the evolution of environmental assessment processes at a recent UN conference. They began by conceiving themselves as a part of the licensing process, responsible for identifying obstacles to overcome, as mentioned above. Next, EAs were linked to the licencing process as a forum for optimizing design and consideration of sustainability.  The axis of discussion became aspects like dam construction, transportation routes, the carbon footprint and social impacts. Then the big shift happened. Circular power began to find its place. The understanding of sustainability shifted to become the quest to find ways to benefit local communities through the assets and skills of the company. No longer is it enough to do no harm. Companies want to create a legacy of benefits in other sectors such as farming or manufacturing. This generates circular power – the desire to support other is being all that they can be. It becomes reciprocal and continues to generate mutual benefits in unexpected ways.

Realizing the full benefits of the shift requires a de-linking of the EA process from the licencing process. This allows the EA to operate under circular power dynamics, while licensing utilizes linear dynamics. Projects could then enjoy the benefits of both ways of knowing! 

Under circular power dynamics, the EA process would start well in advance of the licencing process. The parties would begin discussions at the point where there is time to build relationships, and generate trust. They take an interest in knowing and growing in understanding of each other, and working to support each other in fulfilling their values and creating shared benefits. When this is done long before thousands of dollars are spent, people are much more willing and able to find ways to accommodate each other.  

A circular environmental assessment process would be interactive and ongoing. Every time a new endeavour is proposed for a region, or an innovative process is found, it is shared with the regional hub to explore the potential benefits. That’s right. People would abandon certainty and welcome an iterative process rather than a one-time gateway. This creates the potential to consider how a change might be accommodated or provide a mutual benefit. The EA process would create a forum for all interested people to join the discussion. It would see itself as a facilitator of inclusion, transparency (including removing barriers to information), and conveners of good discussion. In short, they would form a hub that facilitated good relationship, good information exchanges and consensus decision-making, where appropriate.

Consideration of cumulative impacts would suddenly be possible. The forum would explore the potential for benefits to the new comer, the carbon footprint, the local economy, the company, and the collective. The discussion could result in an agreement between the parties and/or a proponent initiated, community supported, application to amend a licence to facilitate a benefit. 

In this new world, when someone offers new information of possible benefits or hazards, the proponent would receive it with gratitude knowing they are increasing their ability to bring their best effort to the project. They are gaining the benefit of a diverse range of perspectives.


Jill Bolte Taylor’s Story

From a circular perspective, there are two ways of knowing because that is what we experience. This is valid even without scientific study or expert advice. Linear thinking wants external, objective, repeatable evidence.


Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuro-anatomist, actually experienced her brain shifting between what she described as her left brain and her right brain during her stroke. Lucky for everyone, she lived to talk about and write about it in her book My Stroke of Insight. As a result, we have this example of two perspectives on the same event. One experiential, the other scientific. It is amazing to hear a neuroscientist describe these two radically different states of mind from first-hand experience. (Notice she didn’t feel herself shift between five or even three different states of mind. She experienced two distinct ways of being in the world.)

She was able to vividly describe the different sensations as the stroke completely cut off one aspect or her thinking, or the other. In one moment, Bolte Taylor describes caring deeply about the present moment. She felt connected to her body and the energy in everything around her. This flooded her with feelings of curiosity and love. The world made sense because we are connected, we are beautiful, and we are enough. She felt happy and just wanted to stay there.

Then it all shifted and she became very focused on finding details and more details to categorize and organize. This effort was in aid of a drive to increase the predictability of her environment. She wanted to take what she knew about the past and use it to navigate the future. She saw herself as separate from the external world and objectively driven to control it through goal achievement. In this mindset she focused on the goal of getting help.

This left-brain activity turned out to be lifesaving because just then Bolte-Taylor had moments left to figure out how to get help before she died. Fortunately, she achieved her goal.[1]

Jill Bolte-Tylor’s description of the experience of moving between her right and left brain is essentially describing what I call linear and circular thinking. There is remarkable similarity between what I observed and interpreted and her findings. We both recognized states driven by fear or love. We both saw the fear based world as objective, either/or thinking, and linear. The circular world is more subjective, focused on making connections (saying yes, and) and grounded in the moment with an interest in what is meaningful.


Are You a Circular or a Linear Thinker?

Have you ever been in a conversation and felt like you’ve just been hit by a train?  Or, that the person you are talking to is from another planet, and there might be unicorns and endless time there?  These are extreme cases, but I do sometimes find myself in a discussion where I feel that there are assumptions being made that I don’t agree with or even understand.  It makes it hard to join the discussion.

The root of this disconnect may be that a circular thinker is meeting a linear thinker and they’re not recognizing their difference.  Each of these modes has a set of operating conditions that are intuitively being applied.  When this profound point is not recognized, and people are in different modes, the conversation can go off the rails very quickly.

Here’s a quick quiz to determine your thinking style.  Imagine yourself facing a challenge.  Does column one or column two  feel like the best way to proceed?

Column One                                        Column Two

1. Define the goal                            1. Gather and welcome everyone affected

2. Develop a strategy                    2. Ask each person to express their feelings

3. Make a plan                                  3. Interactively share information

4. Set time lines, costs, tasks    4. Recognize a pattern, follow an idea

5. Activate the plan                          5. Give language to what is meaningful

6. Measure progress                        6. Respond to the information and redesign

Column one is a linear thinking process and column two is circular.  Some of you may have seen yourself more drawn to one mode or the other.  This can be the result of a cultural norm or a personal comfort zone. Scientists often think linearly while artists think circularly; men on average lean towards linear thinking while women are more circular; aboriginal people traditionally practice circular thinking while westerners tend to think linearly.

Possibly you answered “it depends.”  This makes sense because biologically we are all capable of both styles of thinking. Both are highly valuable when applied to the right situation. If you want to build a safety net, achieve a goal, have accountability, efficiency or loyalty, you want to engage in linear thinking. If, on the other hand, deep engagement in your work, creativity, transformation, gratitude, effectiveness, or happiness is what you seek, you want to be in circular thinking mode.

Neuroscience has shown us that there are two fundamental ways we can choose to view the world.  My geology professor, Bob Mason, used to say “there are two kinds of geologists; ones who say this is just like (fill in a deposit name), or ones who say this is nothing like…. The rest are fence sitters, just gathering useless information.”

We are biologically designed to either pull in what we love or push away what is detrimental or a waste of time.  Antonio Damasio‘s research at the University of Southern California found that a huge volume of information reaches our brains every day.  We must attach an emotion to any piece of information we want to remember. Only then is it available to us in decision making.  This is why tests are so effective.  We attach a fear based emotion to all the information required to get the grade.  Without the fear it is just a bunch of data.  Another way to learn is to engage with the material with curiosity.  Attaching this love based emotions also embeds information and makes it available for future use.IMG_2536

Fear-activated emotions lead to a linear style of thinking. Here logic, focus, objectivity, and discipline push back against the danger fear has identified for us.  Without this instinct we could not survive.

Circular thinking focuses on pulling in more of what you want.  It is rooted in a drive to be inclusive and transparent – a belief that the answer will come when everyone is included and a diverse array of thoughts are considered.  It subjectively seeks to find what is meaningful and allow that understanding to infuse everything we do.  WIthout circular thinking we could not change, feel contentment or develop relationships.

This blog is going to explore how knowing you are applying circular or linear thinking can make a difference to you in big and small ways.

Written by:

Kim Hudson

The Movie Arrival is All About 2WK

Louise and Ian, a linguist and a scientist, are rushed by helicopter to the site of an alien arrival. Somehow they have to decode the alien communication system, or as Louise would say, have a conversation with them. The US Army, and indeed the world, wants to know ‘What is your purpose on Earth?’


Louise wants to learn their language because it is the heart of how they think. The Army thinks that will take too long.

The whole movie is this kind of juxtaposition of linear and circular thinking. Louise is subjective. She constantly learns through her feelings. She experiences them fully, allows them to permeate her consciousness, and then awakens to the meaning they hold for her.


Ian is all about breaking things down into their base parts to find a logical reason for why they have assembled in the way that they have. He wants to know the operating principle that makes things predictable. And sometimes he finds it.


The armies of the world are all about linear power. They have ways to assert their will even against the will of others. The challenge is to determine where the line is. When is the danger significant enough for them to use major force?

Once an aggressive move is taken, they are geared up to use the advantage of time and take the first strike before there is retaliation. It is unimaginable that there is a love based world where no matter what your behaviour you are worthy of love. Love is offered not because you work hard or you’re family or even because you exist. Love is offered because it is the nature of the person offering.

The news reporters are looking for the elements of danger so they can report them. They are bound by a duty to report the facts and are held accountable by their peers. This keeps a degree of control over the development of fear. The problem is they report the fact in a fear inducing way and leave the viewer to fill in the emotional parts. The biggest problem with the army and the news and most of the men in the movie is that they have a one-world view. It’s actually ironic because they have evidence of another world right in front of them. It exists in the form of the aliens and in the radically different way that Louise sees the situation. They are always looking for evidence of danger. They never awaken to the possibility of love.

But the really scary part is the social media that spins an emotional frenzy of fear and leads to anarchy in the streets.

I don’t want to give any spoilers for this movie so I will say something that will only make sense after you have seen the movie. Consensus decision-making is not the power of a veto. Consensus decision-making is when a group of people decide they will leave no one behind. They will stay in the circular world of connection no matter what the disagreements between people. There is a build -n trust of group wisdom inherent to this standpoint. A trust in the process over productivity: together we will know what is the right thing to do. The answer exists somewhere in the overlap between our independent perspectives.

Finally, I think there is a brave assertion in this movie that men and women view the world differently. One of the best lines in the movie is at the end. I was reminded of the Cherokee Proverb that says ‘The job of a woman is to lead men to their souls. The job of men is to make women safe to walk the Earth.’

Oh, and before I go, I would give this movie two big thumbs up! It is definitely worth watching. Make sure you have time to discuss it afterwards. It is very thought provoking.

What Do You Get From Complaining and Gossip?


Will Bowen’s 21-Day complaint free challenge has been getting a lot of media attention lately. It made me wonder why people are finding this challenge so challenging. We, as a society, must be getting something out of complaining or it would be much easier to just stop. How does complaining benefit us?

Both complaining and gossip are two sides of the same coin. Complaining is a means of pushing back against something in our outside world. It is a use of our linear power to assert our will, even agains the will of others. The power comes from getting people to turn against something and forcing change through greater numbers. But can be a lazy form of action, pointing out flaws and hoping others will pick up the cause and actually make the change.

Gossip is a shadow behaviour in the circular world. It often is initiated by a person who has a feeling of disconnection, and s/he generates more disconnection by spreading disconnecting feelings to others. Saying things about other people’s nature or behaviour that is positive is not called gossip. It’s called support.

When complaints and gossip happen at work, they break bonds between co-workers.  As Will Bowen explains, complaint filled workplaces can become toxic, unproductive, miserable places to be.

Harvard Business Review’s article on Proof that Positive Work Cultures are More Productive, sets out a 4-step model to create a culture where relationships are created and maintained without the need to resort to these negative approaches.

We all know neither a culture nor habits are changed over night. Research shows it takes 21 days to break a habit. (Perfect timing for a challenge.) But when we start relating to each other from a positive approach, we will find we are not only more productive, but we also will discover the authentic relationships we’ve been looking for.


What purposes do complaining and gossip serve in your workplace?

What are some positive approaches to belonging and connecting to colleagues you have found successful?

Written By:

Michelle Eades

Things Change. So Can Your Approach


Jim Hemerling’s Ted Talk illustrates just how inevitable change is in all aspects of our lives. Its our approach to change that makes all the difference. Personal transformation is seen as an exciting adventure. It motivates people to become better; inspires them to see change as a positive goal.

When organisational change is thrust upon us, we often fear the consequences. Its always easier to accept change when we make the decision to change. But how can organisations continue to run a business and make tough decisions, which often require changes, while creating a culture where change is embraced?

My thought is to change the approach first. Jim Hemerling suggests leaders approach organisational change by putting people first. His five imperatives for putting people first are: inspire through purpose; go all in; give them the tools to succeed;create a culture of continued learning; and have a clear, accountable vision.

Creating a circular thinking work place won’t happen over night. Habits are hard to break. However, when people feel included, wanted, and valued you will be surprised on how fast fear is replaced with trust.

Written by:

Michelle Eades


Single Track to Success Reaches for the $1Million Prize

Glaciers floating on arctic water

UPDATE: Oct. 28, 2016 Single Track to Success was chosen as 1 of 8 finalists for the million dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize. Wishing them continued luck! 

Jane Koepke founded Single Track to Success to be a place where the Yukon’s First Nations youth could find pride in their ancestral land, meaningful employment, along with a sense of well being through trail building and mountain biking. Kim was honoured to be an advisor to the management team getting the project off the ground.

Now they are in the running for the Arctic Inspiration Prize. This is a million dollar prize awarded yearly. The prize is awarded to groups who are putting the unique arctic knowledge to use in their communities. Single Track to Success was nominated for this prestigious award and we couldn’t be more proud of them.

Follow their journey on their Facebook Page and cheer them on with us.