Clean Coaching is Green Coaching

Clean Coaching is Green Coaching

I was in a small health food co-op the other day and on my way out I saw a local green directory titled Solstice.

I looked at the book, paused, walked out the door, then turned around walking back in and grabbing a copy for myself.

What happened as I walked out the door was an unrecognized thought came as a full-fledged association between sustainable, green living and the principles of the work I do.

What came to me was Clean Coaching is Green Coaching, ecologically sound for the heart and mind.

It seems to me that Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling have all the markers of an organic, sustainable, bio-diverse way of working with others.

All the reasons we may have for adding more organic, diverse foods to our diet and reducing our intake of additives and preservatives could be the same reasoning we use in choosing the form of therapy/coaching for OUR sustainable future.

Why take such care for your body if you are going to let others influence your mind through methods that have been robbed of their essence in a drive for conformity?

That’s like choosing those beautifully shaped, perfect looking, nutritionally cardboard vegetables you can get in most supermarkets over the strange and wonderful sustenance that comes from organic farms.  Sometimes the vegetables are a bit weirdly shaped (we all have a bit of weird in us) but they are packed with micro-nutrients.

Green is an overarching term used in relation to the ideas of organic and ecological sustainability.

Green living is about how to reduce our impact on the planet, support natural systems, create a lifestyle that works with nature and does no long-term damage to the planet.

It’s meant to reduce our carbon footprint and encourage spending our money in ways that cast our vote for products that have a “green” quality.

Being Green contributes towards maintaining the ecological balance of our environment and preserving the planet with its natural systems and resources.

Green living is free of synthetic additives, preservatives, and unnatural influences.  And is seen as good for self, good for other, and good for the planet.

Clean is an overarching term that we use to describe a philosophy in coaching and therapy that is designed to preserve and utilize the natural ecology of a person’s nature.

No additives, pesticides, or growth enhancers needed for good people to grow into who they want to be.  Others do not need our inferences, suggestions, or strategies to grow.

As Clean facilitators we do not add our input into the client’s ecological system.

Organic and bio-diverse, we help create an environment for change by utilizing exactly what the client provides us.

Our intention is to utilize what naturally occurs in a client’s system, do no harm, and promote connection to the naturally occurring resources of the client.

This creates change that belongs to the person, not the coach or facilitator.

It is designed and developed by the client, for the client, and, in so being, is sustainable.

Mother nature knows best…and so do our clients.

Would you like to learn more about how Clean Language might be useful to you and your practice?

Join one of our webinars on a Tuesday of your choice. You can sign up HERE

Hope to meet you soon.

The Wisdom of a Small Cup

The Wisdom of a Small Cup

I like coffee

I drink two American size mugs of coffee every morning between 7 and 9 am. That’s 12 ounces each! (350 ml). My cup is an elegant white bone china cup with a light curve that fits my hand perfectly, lovely on a cool morning.

But, I’m a sipper and my coffee gets cold as it sits on my desk.

I remember years ago when I was training in Japan. I went to a coffee shop, ordered a cuppa and was stunned to silence by the extremely small, delicate cup of coffee I was served. It must have only been 4, maybe 5 ounces at the most.

Hot fresh coffee, uhmm!

I hadn’t ordered an espresso, cappuccino, or other ‘small’ drink. And at first I was thinking .. Really? Is this all I get? It was a shock coming from an American coffee culture where a small cup comes as a ‘mug’ or in a large paper cup.

But what I found was this small, delicate, 5 oz coffee was one of the best cup of coffee I’d ever had. It was an awakening and I learned something important.

First, the Japanese roast a mean cup of coffee.

And second, when you drink your coffee from a small cup, the coffee stays hot from top to bottom and it tastes better.

No microwave needed, no throwing out cold coffee, and no tall cup to tip over on your lap top or desk when you talk with your hands .. Or your coffee table when your dog walks by and wags its tail.

I began to wonder, how is interviewing like drinking coffee from a small cup?

Here are two ways I’ve discovered:

  1. On a relational level, you want rapport and trust of your interviewee.Essentially you want to keep the interview warm from start to finish. 
  2. At the questioning level, you want to be sure the interviewee can answer your questions easily and without confusion. You might say the interview stays warm from ask to answer.   

If you go in with a big mug full of pre-formulated questions, pick lists, complex multi-segmented questions, or accidentally asking a question that takes your interviewee off-tangent, the interview can turn cold.

Without the two things above, an established sense of trust and easy to answer questions, an interview can easily become an intervention or even an interrogation.

There is no microwave to warm up a cold interview once it has been derailed. You’ve just got to let the work of friction … or reduction of friction do its work.

Here are a few other things Clean Language Questions in an interview process can help with…

Decrease & Reduce

  • leading or content heavy questions
  • dual or multi-content questions
  • conflation of terms
  • confirmation bias
  • addition of content (that would be yours)

Increase & Develop

  • questions that can be answered easily
  • rapport & trust of the interviewee
  • sequence or time lines
  • data accuracy / authenticity
  • better recall by your client (and you)

I would like to offer you a space at my Clean Language Interviewing workshop in January 2019 where I will be joined by one of the worlds primary experts on using Clean principles and questions in an interviewing frame.

~ You will learn to serve your questions in a small cup
~ You will have a resource for keeping rapport warm from beginning to end – even with   the most difficult interviewees
~ You will have a functional way of repairing communication or mis-understandings
~ You will have principles to draw on that underlay what information you choose to ask about and how to formulate your questions
~ You will have a more flexible and useful notion of questions that out serves the over used and simplistic notion of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ questions

You will have a way of working with duel outcomes – when two or more people within the interview process have different or conflicting outcomes in:

  • Coaching
  • Sales
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Hiring
  • Qualitative interviewing
  • Cause evaluation and
  • Auditing

Are you curious?

Head over to our trainings tab or join one of our complimentary webinars under the work with Sharon tab. There you’ll find a link to sign up on a Tuesday of your choice.

Alright, until next time
be well
think well
question well

On Symbolic Modeling Lite

On Symbolic Modeling Lite

This is a transcript for a 19-minute video chat with Penny Tompkins & James Lawley on August 28, 2017, about Penny & James original three-day training format “Symbolic Modeling Lite”.

This is the same training I, Sharon, will be presenting January 7-9, 2019 in California. It will be our 4th year of Clean Convergence – a four-part Clean Language training program given yearly that includes Symbolic Modeling Lite, an advanced training course, a self-development retreat, and Clean Language Interviewing training.

Symbolic Modeling Lite is designed to give a broad stroke overview of the entire Symbolic Modeling process and basics of Clean language that provide a scaffolding for practical application of and continued learning in this process.

All grammatical anomalies simply reflect the conversational nature of this document. (2500 words, approximately 10-12 minutes reading time)

If you are a “real paper” person, click HERE for a pdf that you can print and read.

Would you like to watch the video? You can do that here: Youtube Link

Would you like to listen to this post instead?  Click the sound cloud icon below to listen


Sharon: Hi Penny, Hi James

Penny & James: Hi Sharon

Sharon: It’s good to see you this morning. Thank you. I’m so glad you were able to make time.
Today we were just going to have a conversation about the Symbolic Modeling Lite format and what we’ve found with that being a very useful for people, grounding them in the Symbolic Modeling, getting them used the process, giving them a bigger picture.

I’m really curious, because the structure of Symbolic Modeling Lite is a little different to how I began teaching Symbolic Modeling. I’m curious how you come up with that particular three-day format, the Symbolic Modeling Lite?

Penny: Well we spent years teaching the process and we put the emphasis on various pieces of Symbolic Modeling and what we discovered was that people needed a framework, what we call a scaffolding, in order to, when they’re just starting out, to have a model that they could be thinking about when they are asking Clean Language questions of their clients and working in metaphor, because metaphor is a different way of working with most individuals, when you stay in that experience the client is having and the metaphor can go in any direction.

Of course, clean language questions direct attention. And we discovered that this framework, the Symbolic Modeling Lite, could be a framework that would, in a way, help direct the facilitators attention on what to pay attention to in the clients landscape. So that we found a lot of them really appreciated that rather than trying to select what was important without having something to guide them.

Sharon: Some kind of larger frame to know where they were / are in the process.

Penny: Yes, and we like the metaphor of scaffolding, because scaffolding is something you use and then you eventually take down.

So, people once they know how to do a session with Symbolic Modeling Lite, then they can start to look at other ways that they may find useful themselves in relation to the type of information the client is giving.

Sharon: Oh, nice, OK, So, giving them a framework that lets them have a bit more creativity and lateral with their client once they’re working with them.

Penny: Yes, yes, but I would say that to become proficient at Symbolic Modeling Lite is the place to start, because the whole Symbolic Modeling Lite … it’s a practical overview of the whole process.
So that in three days people can see, either what they are facilitating or what others are facilitating, how the whole process can go through the client’s information and learn that in a three day period. There is a whole-ness to it.

Sharon: For me, I think of a map. When I was teaching my introductory classes a little differently, concentrating on going deep on early skills, I experienced the participants having a bit of lostness.

They had the knowledge of what was next, but didn’t have the experience of it.
And this particular format, the Symbolic Modeling Lite format, these three days, seems to really give the participants a nice experience of what they are aiming towards [as facilitators].

James: It’s very hard when you start if you don’t know where you’re going.

While every session is unique, this Symbolic Modeling Lite gives the facilitator an idea of the kind of journey they are going to go on, so they know, generally speaking, the kind of, where they are in the journey, not just the end point. Where they are, the key four or five stages that there are in a traditional coaching session for example.

Sharon: And I’m wondering how have you found this format fitting in with continued learning for people who really want to become proficient at Symbolic Modeling?

James: Well, it’s like a lot of things … you can look at the Symbolic Modeling Lite process and it looks fairly simple, and it is. And then you look at it again and you realize there’s a little bit more too it, and you look at it again … and you realize there’s a bit more to it.

And you know we have been revisiting this process over and over and we still discover these interesting depths to it.And it is the way we start all of our sessions more or less. Surely all of our coaching sessions, we start with this process, we stick to it, and then as the session unfolds, so then the experience we have comes in.

It provides, to use a different metaphor, a foundation on which to add all the other skills, so you have a solid base on which to add other skills. And there are plenty of other advanced skills to get.

There are plenty wonderful subtle ways to notice what’s happening with the client, and model their landscape, and drop in those questions that really give them something to think about, but, it really helps to have that basics.

And the other time it’s really useful is when it … you know everybody now and then gets lost. We’ve been doing this 25-years, but still occasionally we kind of go “I don’t know what’s happening”. Whenever that happens we go right back to the basics. Right back to the absolute rock basics and we start again from that.

Sharon: It kind of relieves the need for clever. I sometimes tease that Symbolic Modeling is the cure for being clever.

And I agree that that iteration from ‘Oh, this is simple’ … I remember when I first started I thought … I watched the video, I read the book and I was like “Oh, I can do that!” And then I got about four questions in with a real human being and I’m just like grateful that my mind was clear enough to say “Oh this is really more, this is more than what I just watched.”

Penny: One thing that I really like about the three-day Symbolic Modeling Lite workshop is for a lot of people new, learning the process, is it helps them see what happens when you have a process that is desired outcome focused.

It isn’t that we avoid problems, we simple don’t address them until we use the Symbolic Modeling Lite framework to facilitate the client to have a fully embodied desired outcome landscape, a desired outcome metaphor. And by putting their attention on that and the embodiment of that through the metaphor, changes their relationship to their original problems and issues.

And to see learners, new learners, discover that … the difference that can make, is quite delightful. And how to work with problems from that state of “This is really what I want” and it’s like [the problem becomes] whatever.

Sharon: It’s a whole different animal, isn’t it?

Penny: Yes, to use a metaphor.

Sharon: Another metaphor, right? This is so funny, because we’re talking about a metaphorical process and in order to describe it, It’s, we’ve, been popping up – oh wait, another one! – popping up metaphors left and right.

James: David Grove once said that Clean Language questions are simple, because people are complex enough. And I think when we were designing the Symbolic Modeling Lite process, that was really present in the back of our minds. How could we make a process that’s as simple as possible that allows the person we’re working with to be as complex as they what, but we don’t have to get lost in their complexity?

And, that doesn’t mean we direct the process, because at the same time one of the challenges we had one designing this was how do we design a process to work with a complex adaptive system called a human being, that does all sorts of stuff, that all do their own, their unique, their metaphors are unique. In 25 years we’ve never heard two metaphor landscapes the same.

All sorts of wonderful things happen, surprising and unexpected things happen – how do you design a process that allows you to work in that emergent way? And it’s got to be simple in its structure, but flexible enough to respond to all those things that happen. Because those things happening are not the problem, those things happening is the process working!

Sharon: What comes to mind too, is there’s a lot of talk about flexibility. When you said flexibility, what happened in my mind is I thought about that there are a lot of innovations happening with the use of clean questions – all sort of, I call them mini-models, easy to apply, kind of mini-models. But a lot of these, almost every one that I’m aware, of has come from someone who has the grounding and the training in Symbolic Modeling.

This is like the ‘ground Zero’ of using this kind of methodology and thinking process to do something different.

Penny: I think that is absolutely accurate. And not only have those innovators have the Clean Language questions, they know them in every cell in their body and they have had experience of working with metaphor, but, also, they have learned more about modeling, and modeling is a key piece.

Once you are experienced modeling a client’s landscape, that modeling can generalize and you can take it to other areas. And I think that’s where a lot of the new processes are being taken into business, education, everything else. I think that is where a lot of that emerges from.

Sharon: Yes, modeling, the skill of modeling itself and the principles of clean and then having the questions and the thinking behind it to navigate what you come across, up to.
…So awesome.

James: And to respond to what’s happening in the moment, because, you know, it’s all happening right now. And one of the principles behind a Clean Approach which is, whatever the client presents and in whatever way they present it, that’s enough. We don’t need anything else. There’s plenty of material to work with. You just need to work with what you are given.

And that’s an interesting kind of discipline for the facilitator to simply stay with what’s presented by the client and stay within the framework and the logic of that.

And what the Clean Language questions combined with Symbolic Modeling Lite does is it disciplines the facilitator to do that. And that is a skill in itself. Because we all want to put in our advice and our suggestions and our metaphors and you have to learn to step aside for a while

Sharon: There is one other aspect of the Symbolic Modeling Lite, this particular three day training, that I think is really valuable for people … is that if someone doesn’t want to continue – I have noticed I have professional coaches come in and its given them just enough to begin to apply clean in their practices, work with their clients – And some have gone on to train more and some have found that it’s just enough that they have that framework to continue to learn from and iterate with, rather than leaving [a partial training] half baked, let’s say.

Penny: Having trained it for years and seen many participants, many people learn that, the process, particularly in a coaching environment, if you become proficient in Symbolic Modeling Lite, then especially in coaching, then probably, I’m guessing, perhaps 70% of clients, 80% of clients, that will be all they need and you need.

But as we know, there are clients that have binds, complex problems we call binds and you learn to model them out in metaphor. But here’s the interesting thing, in order to identify a specific bind a client is experiencing, we start with the Symbolic Modeling Lite framework.
And it is out of that the specific problem, the specific binding nature of that landscape emerges. So how you get to that is through those three days.

And then there are things that you can work with those more complex things. But for a lot of coaches that’s all they need for their client base.

Sharon: Well I’ve been really thrilled that you shared your Symbolic Modeling Lite with me and that I’ve been able to begin to use it with participants.

Penny: Well, it’s lovely to see you teaching it as well.

James: And I think the kind things people appreciate on this three-day workshop, in addition to the framework, the overview, is the demonstrations of real sessions using the process – live in the moment where you don’t know what the clients going to bring up, you don’ what the topic is going to be, you just use the process and its real.

And I think that people learn a lot from real demonstrations that are not kind of pre-planned or anything.

Sharon: No made up scenarios, no pretend and ‘put this other persons hat on’.

James: And people get a lot of their own personal development when they’re in the client role on those three days as well.

It’s amazing how much you can get from someone asking you those questions. And how much those metaphors, the metaphors do so much work, but you’ve got to experience it to believe it!

Sharon: It’s a bit like a presenting dream in Jungian Analysis. I have a metaphor that came up in my first training in early 2006 and it’s still alive for me. It’s changes a little and it is still really present and profoundly useful to me even now, years and years later, and that was in one of my first trainings.

Penny &James: Right, great.

Sharon: Well, it’s going to be great to have you guys here in January. This will be our third year, and my third year doing this Symbolic Modeling Lite. I am looking forward to having you here for your advanced programs and the retreat, and James, for Clean Interviewing.

(Note this was recorded in 2017. We are in our fourth year of Clean Convergence)

Penny & James: Yes.

Sharon: And, you know, when I first began teaching it [Symbolic Modeling Lite 3-Day program] I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough – and I am just so glad I went ahead and did it, because what I found is just what you are saying … this scaffolding, this framework, this broader view, this map, so participants know where they are and really give people the opportunity to choose whether they want to go further and deeper into the process or if this is just enough for what they want to have happen.

Penny: Well, great. California here we come!

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley will be in California with me for Clean Convergence 2019 from January 7th through January 20, 2019.

Find out more here:


Clean Language Meets the 5 Second Rule

Clean Language Meets the 5 Second Rule

I’ve been cleaning out my shed.

It’s at the very back of our property and holds books, treasures, and lots of junk. You know how it goes…ten years in the same place. For me small, and not so small, things accumulate and I do the ole “I’ll get around to it…one day” routine.

Here it was – a beautiful day for working outside and I was procrastinating.

I was online looking for something I could listen to while I worked, something motivational – I am cleaning a shed after all. I got side tracked on Youtube by “greatest speeches ever given” and somehow came across a short talk by a woman named Mel Robbins.

Mel has coined a pattern-interrupt strategy she calls The 5 Second Rule. In brief, when you have an inspiration, a thought, or something you want to get done, you 5-4-3-2-1 yourself to action. It is not so dissimilar to snapping a rubber band on your wrist or taking a deep breath and exhaling hard. The important thing is that, once the pattern redirect is done, you MOVE. You get up, you sit down, you do something with your body that begins a trajectory towards what you want to have happen.

What caught my attention wasn’t the strategy of habit redirect, but that Mel came by this idea through metaphor.

In Clean Language we love metaphor. Metaphor is a primary part of a client’s language we attend to. Metaphor in its leanest explanation is simply describing one thing in terms of another.

The thing is, the more personal something is, the more complex, the more apt we are to use metaphor to describe it. And this is what Mel did.

Her marriage was having a melt down. She and her husband had lost thousands in a business venture gone bad. She was depressed, unhappy, and not doing what she knew she should. She wanted to get up when the alarm went off, go walking, look for work, and eat better – the small things she knew would help her feel better and make life function more smoothly.

One evening after a trying day she was watching TV and saw a NASA rocket launch. It was then it struck her. Everyday, pushing the snooze button she was like a rocket that was grounded and what she needed to do was to “launch her self out of bed” just like that rocket she saw on TV. For her, it was the 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 LIFT OFF. She internalized the metaphor of a rocket launch and it changed her life.

Metaphors are powerful, idiosyncratic ways we make sense of the world.

Life can be a “bowl of cherries” or a “sh*t show”  You can imagine how different the experiences of these two people might be.

OK, back to the shed.

I didn’t 5-4-3-2-1 my work, a rocket launch isn’t a metaphor that fits my temperament. I like to wind along like a slow and steady river. So that’s what I did that lovely afternoon. Walking back and forth the length of my ‘back 40’ until I had filled the the pick-up truck with things to take to the local second hand shop.

We use metaphors all the time to describe how things are, what we want from life, and even how we want our dreams to be. Sometimes they are apparent like Mel’s rocket launch, and sometimes they are more subtle, embedded so deeply in our speech we do not even hear them.

Clean Questions are designed to help elicit the metaphors we use in everyday life. What this does is give you more agency and decision making skill in your life. Not everyone has an epiphany moment like Mel. Sometimes we have it and it fades due to time or distraction.

Unless we know what we would like to have happen changing gears, redirecting habits, and making changes might be effort waisted.

Clean Language comes into play because is it is designed to help you define your Desired Outcome. Not just any desired outcome, but yours.

Desired outcomes (DO) are not the same as goals, they are dynamic reference points. As you work toward a desired outcome you adjust your trajectory as you learn more, change a bit, and try on where you are headed.

Desired outcomes begin with the question: What would you like to have happen?

Is there something you would like to have happen and can’t quite seem to make that link between wanting and doing?

Something at work? A promotion, a job change, an artistic endeavor, a love aspiration, a life tangle you can’t seem to over come?

Join me January 13-15, 2019 at Clean Convergence 2019 for the Self-Modeling Retreat

We are joined with the co-developers of Symbolic Modeling, Penny Tompkins & James Lawley, for three days facilitation toward creative solutions designed by you, for you.

Start where you are and let us help you facilitate the conditions of change that need to happen for you to get where you would like to be.


PS. Here is something you CAN try at home

This morning or sometime in the next few days, sit down for a minute and think of something you would like to have happen in your life or work.

And think about how you need to be to move towards that desired outcome. Do you need to be like a rocket launch, like a smooth and windy river, a mountain, the rock of Gibraltar? It can be anything that fits your fancy. It is only for you. And you don’t have to share it with friends – although they might find it less weird than you think.

And from there you can begin to design movements and strategies that can help you bring your desired outcome from the future to real time.

Clean Language is like… Origami

Clean Language is like… Origami

Metaphor is to the human mind what folding is to science.

Everything is made of folds – the earth, our DNA, illness and health in the folding and unfolding of protein molecules, the human brain, our clothes, the folding and unfolding of our memories, metaphors and dreams …

A few weeks ago, as I was watching a documentary about origami (Between the Folds by Vanessa Gould) I found myself thinking about Clean Language, what it means to me, my experiences with it and how I have formed a way of looking at, learning and teaching it to others.

I realized I think of it as the art of Clean Language. Although I know that Clean Language is based in a certain logic – the logic of the client, their desired outcome and the probability that a particular question will elicit a useful answer – to me it is still an art.

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. It originated in China in the 2nd century and moved to Japan in the 6th century. Paper was very expensive, so it was originally an art form for the rich: even the smallest scraps were saved to be used in folding.

The epitome of folding is to create intricate design, real and surreal, out of a single piece of paper.

Of course, the human mind has greater complexity than a single piece of paper. But there are some similarities between the art of paper folding and the art of Clean Language. Both were designed by individuals ahead of their time, and both result in the creation of something new: lifelike and surreal forms that are representative of the mind of the person doing the creating.

When the French sculptor Eric Joisel discovered origami he put his career as a sculptor of clay and stone aside.

“Origami is so extraordinary, so magic, that I completely stopped any type of sculpture I have done before. I throw in the trash everything, I don’t have anything to say – and I start origami.”

When I heard Eric Joisel speak of the extraordinary nature and magic of origami, I recognized his sentiments. Six years ago I discovered Clean and began to let go of all the methods I had studied before… dreams, Jungian symbolism, sand-tray, hypnosis, graphology, esoteric arts, the world’s religions… I have been captured by Clean Language the same way Eric Joisel was captured by origami.

In this post I want to highlight some of the ways that Clean Language is like origami. Of course, there are many ways in which they are dissimilar. But just as a metaphor can help to reveal new information for a client, so a look at a completely different discipline shed light on what we do as Clean practitioners…

The Innovators
Innovators are at the forefront of new ideas, either as early adopters of an idea or the creator of something completely new. Innovators tend to be different in thought and lifestyle from the majority of their peers. They are the creators of new seeds, new systems, new ways of doing and thinking about something we think we already understand or know about.

Just after 1937, Yoshizawa Sensei, known affectionately in origami circles as “The Master”, developed the art of “Wet Folding”. This was considered by many to be a paradigm shift that allowed origami to become an art form, rather than a quaint oddity of folk craft. Wet Folding gave rise to a whole new adventure in origami, allowing the artist, or folder, to mold a craft a piece of paper into more lifelike forms and representations of the world around them.

“I wished to fold the laws of nature, the dignity of life, and the expression of affection into my work.”
Yoshizawa Sensei

David Grove, a New Zealander with European and Maori heritage, was a therapist and inventor. David developed a way of working with clients that utilizes the natural metaphors and symbols that arise in a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication.

Over several decades he created new and powerful ways of working with his clients, using simpler and simpler means.

In developing Clean Language, David Grove took plain questions that might be used in everyday conversation and added, not moisture, but the vocal qualities of an Iambic Pentameter and the idea of using the client’s exact language exactly. In so doing, he created a new way of working with people that is uniquely respectful.

David Grove and Sensei Yoshizawa were innovators ahead of their time, taking what came before and changing it ever so slightly to respect the medium more fully – whether that medium is a single sheet of paper of the single system of a human psyche.

The Champions
Every system of science and art has its champions: people who are generally well connected, speak their mind and are generous with their time and resources. When they find an innovation that inspires them, they work tirelessly to bring it to members of their given field or to the general public.

“Between the Folds” presented a number of Yoshizawa’s champions:

  • Michael LaFosse, a paper maker and artist from New York
  • Alfredo Giunta, an origami designer from Italy
  • Eric Joise, a sculptor from France
  • Paul Jackson, a professor from Israel
  • Eric Demaine, winner of the McCarther Genius Award

These artists and researchers have taken Yoshizawa Sensai’s work into studios, schools, laboratories and space. Their work is on the developmental edge of origami and they all have committed more than their professional lives to that development.

Among the champions of David Grove are Penny Tompkins and James Lawley. Penny and James first met David Grove in the early 1990’s. Little did they know at their first meeting that they would go on to dedicate the next five years of their lives to the study of David and his work. From this exceedingly rich joint effort they developed a teachable model called Symbolic Modeling which incorporated David Grove’s Clean Language.

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley have not only modeled David’s methodology but also his generosity. They provide an vast wealth of material on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling on their website and encourage others to make use of their material (providing they credit David Grove). Penny Tompkins and James Lawley continually share their new learnings and developments freely with the clean community.

The Adopters
Adopters of a scientific or artistic system usual following the lead of a champion.
They are the people who have the interest and the means to continue to cultivate, grow and enhance what the innovators and champions have discovered and promoted.

Each year over 200 academics meet to discuss origami. They are folders of a different kind. They are on the forefront of science, research, product development and more. They discuss ways in which the art and science of folding can be applied across many disciplines. Others meet around the world at different events to simply share in the art of origami – beginners and experts alike.

Similarly, each year growing numbers of people from around the globe meet at the Clean Conference to hear news of what others are doing with Clean Language, share their insights, create studies, have fun and share in their enthusiasm for this way of modeling change. The number of Clean practitioners and enthusiasts is growing around the world as information becomes more available through books, translations, the internet and global training. We meet online and in practice groups to continue learning and foster connections.

The Practice
The practice is what we do as innovators, champions and adopters. It is the application of the process to either the paper or the client’s information. Both result in the creation of something that can be viewed from the outside (as either personal creation of art in origami, or a metaphor landscape in Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling).

Here are just three of the practices origami and Clean Language have in common:
1. Keep it simple
2. Use the logic of the medium
3. Stay steady and be patient

1. Keep it simple
In both origami and Clean Language, the rules are simple and intensify the challenge:

no scissors, no tape, no glue
no suggestions, no fixes, no rescuing

In Between the Folds, origami is described as

“…a metamorphic art form. In sculpting and painting – when you add clay or paint it is an additive process. In sculpture, the chipping away at wood or stone, the cutting paper is subtractive. Origami you’ve got that piece of paper – you don’t add to it, you don’t take away from it, you change it.”
Michael LaFosse

Many therapeutic and coaching methods are also additive or subtractive.

Psychiatry is additive in its prescription of medicines

Mentoring is additive – mentors advise and make suggestions based on their personal experience.

Addiction Counseling is subtractive – the deletion of the substance of abuse is the first step to health.

And although Clean Language is additive in that we acknowledge and work directly from what a clients brings to a session, it is also, like origami, metamorphic. Where origami uses the sole medium of the paper, in Clean Language we use the exact words of the client. We are not adding in suggestions, trying to tell them a different story or trying to take away someone’s pain, suffering or concerns.

At the same time,

“When you put a crease in a piece of paper you are essentially changing the memory, if I try to unfold it, it will go back to the crease, the fold – not flat – I am essentially changing its memory.” Eric Domain, top origami theorist in the world

And when we ask a Clean Language question, we are directing a client’s attention in a certain way, and any knowledge that results from that process stays with the client. Just as creasing leaves a fold in a piece of paper, Clean questions influence a client’s thinking. In this sense Clean Language is additive:

“The repeated use of “and,” and “as” connects each question, and the response to the question, to the client’s preceding experience.”
Steve Andreas, Six Blind Elephants, vol 1

And then there is this…

“One crease – what can you do with one fold?”
Professor Paul Jackson

One question – what can you do with one question?

James Lawley tells a story where the use of one question brought about significant change for a training participant. The participants working in pairs and as James watched, the facilitator continued to ask, “And is there anything else?” until the client had quite a significant change happen. When asked about his reason for repeating this question, the budding new facilitator said that he could not remember any of the other questions.

Clever is not necessarily more effective in Clean Language or origami. Another of David Grove’s innovations, Emergent Knowledge, is intentionally based on the repetition of one question. It can be sheer simplicity that allows the paper or the psyche to give out its form.

2. Use the logic of the medium

“There is a logic and patterning needed to create the basic origami forms – and modeling after to give life to the form.”
Eric Joisel

And there is logic in the questions we ask as Clean Language facilitators – commensurate with the inherent logic within a client’s system. Using Clean Language with a client is like unfolding their metaphors and their relationships, one metaphor to another. David Grove said clients came to him with an “undifferentiated mass of information”. Perhaps information is being opened and unfolded from the recesses of our brains, which is also full of folds?

3. Stay steady and be patient

“There is something about the constraints of the medium … It always feels awkward like it isn’t going to work and this part, the part in the middle (at a juncture where he free folds his origami piece) is the part I can not write down.”
Chris Palmer

There is part of every Clean session that has that kind of feel. We have to be comfortable with not knowing what will happen next, or how a person will answer the next question. Indeed, we want to ask questions they don’t already know the answers to, we want to take someone to the edge of their knowledge. We do this by keeping track of the client’s information and sticking with the logic of that client’s individual system of thought and expression.

“Take it to the edge of something, because that’s where the interesting things always happen.”
Professor Paul Jackson

The shape of things to come

“Origami, the shape of things to come”
NY Times

Origami is being used more and more in the laboratories of science, space and technology. It is being used in class rooms in Israel to teach geometry, in car manufacturing to develop airbag technology, in space to design of folding satellite dishes, in laboratories to look at how DNA and protein molecules fold and unfold in relation to illnesses or lack of them.

As we become more individualistic and less homogeneous, Clean will be the shape of things to come whenever clear communication and sustainable change is desired. We are becoming less amenable to being put into a group or a box or a generalization. We want to be heard, listened to exquisitely and respected for our uniqueness as singular human beings.

Origami is an art form that could allow everyone to make their interpretation of the world in paper. Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling could allow everyone to make their interpretation of the world in metaphor… not just in the natural process of comparing or contrasting one thing to something else, but in a recognized restructuring of our folds, of our mind, our memory, our desires.

There is something elegant and simple in Clean Language that is like a great piece of art – without extraneous lines or medium – there to facilitate desired change(s) expressed by another human being. By learning this language – one can follow the ebb and flow of that human system, more simply, more expressively.

Whether you are an innovator, a champion or an adopter, it is the practice of folding or asking clean questions that will bring you mastery and bring out the true beauty and metamorphic qualities of the medium you are working with, whether that’s a piece of paper or the human mind.

Can you think of any other ways Clean is like origami? We’d love to know what you think!

Originally Published 22 November, 2011 with Clean Learning, UK. Clean Language, Creativity, Metaphor

Coaching with Metaphor

Coaching with Metaphor

Are you an aspirational, beginner, or advanced trainer or coach? Do you work in business, personal development or mind/body therapies? Are you a manager, director or a life long learner?

Join us for Clean Convergence 2019 and put the power of “Clean” to work for you!

Clean Convergence is just what the name implies – it is the convergence of global Clean Language trainers and participants gathering for the purpose of learning and skills development in Clean Language Methodologies. Lets just call it GOOD CLEAN FUN!

We all know that there are many models available for working with others  – yet none so powerful as Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling. Cleanis a methodology that works directly with the symbols of a persons mind and language.

In the last 25 years the research of many neuro-scientists, cognitive scientists and cognitive linguists have converged to form a new understanding about the way the human mind works. They have identified four key findings:

1. Metaphor is far more common in everyday language than had previously been realized. It is nearly impossible to describe internal states, abstract ideas and complex notions without using metaphor.

2. Usually neither speaker nor listener is aware of the metaphors being used.

3. Metaphor is more than a linguistic device; it is central to the way people think, make sense of the world and make decisions.

4. Metaphors are not used arbitrarily. They are mostly drawn from how people experience their body and how they interact with their environment.

Through the clinical and coaching experience of Penny Tompkins & James Lawley, described in Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modeling, they add four findings of their own:

1. While people often make use of common metaphors and clichés, the moment these are explored (with Clean Language) they become idiosyncratic and unique to the individual.

2. An individual’s use of metaphor has a coherent logic that is consistent over time.

3. Once a person settles on a particular metaphorical perspective there are logical consequences that follow, and result in behavior that is consistent with the metaphor.

4. When a person’s basic metaphor changes so does their view of the world, the decisions they make and the actions they take.

Read the full article online:

We are excited to share this opportunity with you!

Join Penny Tompkins, James Lawley, Gina Campbell and myself at Clean Convergence 2019