Do you know Ecocycle Planning from the Liberating Structures repertoire?
If you are new to Ecocycle Planning this post is for you.
- Ecocycle Planning is an excellent reflection tool. You can use it with groups, for example your team, or for individual reflection as well.
- Ecocycle Planning helps to see what is going on. There are busy times when one sees only trees, no longer the whole forest. The Ecocycle Planning process helps you evaluate where you stand with your activities, and even with your relationships.
- Ecocycle Planning supports progress and innovation. In order to create space for renewal, you have to let go of something (a project, an approach, a product or even a relationship).
The shape of the Ecocycle is an eight laying on its belly or on its back, whatever perspective you prefer. It runs through four stages: Creative Destruction, Gestation, Birth and Maturity and two traps are lurking, the rigidity trap and the poverty trap.
This sounds strange?
For first-time users, this terminology might be confusing.
We remember when we first learned about Ecocycle Planning, we didn’t fall in love with it instantly. We needed some time to get acquainted. Through the years, we have deepened our practice.
Ecocycle Planning is a powerful interaction structure! We love it. It is our go-to tool to analyze our own work and to help teams and groups to review theirs.
We definitely think you should know about it.
The rhythm of the Ecocycle Planning
Ecocycle Planning follows the rhythm of nature. The four seasons – winter, spring, summer and autumn – are a helpful metaphor to illustrate how the Ecocycle is flowing.
Creative Destruction in winter.
Gestation in spring.
Birth in summer.
Maturity in autumn
Another metaphor could be a newborn baby, a young adult, a grown up person, an elderly person. Or, the launch of a new project, its planning and designing; the beginning of the implementation; the project on its top when all is running fine and smoothly; closing the project and review.
So let us introduce you to the four stages of the Ecocycle and the two traps.
We will add a real life example coming from our own recent practice.
At the moment in March, nature is in winter sleep in the northern hemisphere. There is not a lot growing in the gardens and on the fields, at least it is not visible. Nature has a rest and regathers strength. The new season is in the making. Gardeners are pruning and tidying where necessary. Winemakers cut back the vine leaving only the shoots that will produce fruit in the coming season, municipalities are cutting back trees. Farmers start plowing the ground to create space for the new season.
In the Ecocycle language this stage is called creative destruction.
You are probably not a farmer, we are neither. Yet your work and life also follow rhythm. When the work is done, you sometimes must let go and destroy what no longer is needed and helpful to create space for renewal.
We had to do so too. In our communication approach we felt stuck. Sending out direct emails to our community was no longer useful. We did so when we started with Bringing your Online Meetings & Workshop Alive! We reached out with personal emails, direct messages and phone calls to our personal networks. After 9 editions, some coaching and thematic workshops our community was growing. Reaching out with personal messages was no longer appropriate. We needed to act.
Gestation or Renewal
After Creative Destruction comes Gestation (or Renewal). Clearing out creates space and energy for new things. The typical first spring flowers, snowdrops, crocus and daffodils are coming out. The seeds the farmers were sowing are germinating.
Ideas are like plant seeds germinating in fertile soil. Timing is important. Ideas need time and space to develop. You have to be patient sometimes and notice what is emerging. Your ideas need your attention, your headspace, your creativity.
We talked a lot about starting a newsletter to replace our direct mailing. This needed some reflection. How do you write a good newsletter, one that is opened, read and appreciated? One that is helpful for growing our community? What are the technical options? What is best for us? We developed ideas and talked a lot.
The risk of falling into the poverty trap
We reached a crucial point in our newsletter project. If we wanted to really change something we needed to do something. With talking alone we will not produce any newsletter.
If you want to give your ideas a chance to materialize, you have to invest your energy and resources. If you only talk and dream but forget to act, new ideas will never find their way into your practice. You get stuck in the poverty trap.
The same is true for farmers, without taking care of apple trees, vineyards, fields, the harvest will get lesser and lesser each year.
So, we invested in our idea. Nadia followed an online course “The 7 Rules of Newsletters” with David Hieatt from Do-Lectures. Corinne had a look at different technical solutions and acquainted herself with mailchimp. We developed the first concept.
After having taken some action you arrive at the state of birth.
Grainfields, flower beets, vegetable patches getting greener and more colorful. In summer all is sprouting. Farmers are tending the fields, sorting out weeds, adding compost and irrigating if needed.
With ideas it is similar. You take care of your prototypes. You fail forward and learn to become better.
We drafted our first newsletter. End of September 2021 it flew off. Curiously we hit the send button.
Our first lines started with a promise: “We are pleased to present our first newsletter. How wonderful you opened it and are reading it. We are excited and also a bit nervous. Will it serve you? We hope it does! Our promise to you is: Inspiring you is our purpose. So let’s not lose any of your precious time.”
After birth comes maturity. When the apple trees are bending under the heaviness of the fruits the farmers start harvesting.
When projects and initiatives are running smoothly, and you book success after success you are at your best. You are in the maturity phase.
In the meantime we have posted 9 newsletters. The feedback is positive and encouraging.
Thank you for this joyful piece of readingMarie Marchand
We are proud we dared to start our newsletter. The newsletter is our little baby. We are far from reaching maturity. We are still in the birthing phase. We celebrate each new subscriber – at the moment we have 153) and each newsletter going out.
The newsletter is still an experiment. Writing the pieces and making little drawings is fun, light and fresh. It’s a ping-pong style of working together asynchronously, inspiring each other.
We see potential in cultivating and inspiring our community. Exclusively. What’s in the newsletter is only in the newsletter, not on LinkedIn and not on the blog. When people tell us that this is the kind of newsletter they want to have in their inbox, we are highly motivated to continue. And move towards maturity one day.
The risk of falling into rigidity trap
There is another risky point for you to keep an eye on if you want to flourish with your ideas and initiatives. The rigidity trap.
There is a risk of becoming too comfortable with your success. You definitely should enjoy your successes. But you should also pause and reflect:
- What you are doing now, will it still be valuable tomorrow?
- Are you getting too comfortable with certain things? Is it time to let go of certain things?
If you stick too much to what you are good at, you lose your flexibility and agility. If you forget to update your thinking and doing, your services and products might no longer be valid or meaningful tomorrow. You need to take some bold steps. That is the rigidity trap.
That was our starting point. And we will reach it again. When we feel that our newsletter is not giving us nor our community energy and inspiration it will be time for us to stop and re-think.
Farmers have to innovate too. If they produce year after year the same crops with the same machines, for the same market with the same buyers it might be that one day, they are no longer competitive. Or with the climate change their crops are no longer adapted. Or with the legislation their way of farming is no longer accepted.
We love Ecocycle Planning because it is a hopeful tool.
Hope, as there is always a 2nd or 3rd chance for creative destruction and renewal.
A guiding tool stimulating reflection.
The movement of Ecocycle Planning is dynamic. So is life.
Try it out!
For how to use and apply it have a look at the Liberating Structures website. Also Ewen Le Borgne’s blog post Get a real, deep, dynamic hang on what you do and who with through *Ecocycle planning* or the Liberators show you to apply it step by step.
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