The Chicken and the Eagle

Charlie Palmgren’s first book, with co-author and business partner at that time Stacie Hagen, ‘The Chicken Conspiracy, Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity’ starts with a quiz: “Are you a Chicken or an Eagle?” and a story: The Golden Eagle by Antony de Mello SJ.

The intriguing question on the cover of the book ‘Are you an eagle or a chicken?’ is an ‘or’ question and ‘The Farmer and his Zen Master’ story taught us, that it therefor can have only one valid answer: Yes! We were born an eagle and we’re gradually slip sliding away into a chicken state. What’s more, the title of the book reveals that there is a conspiracy among the chickens to keep the eagle in each of us hidden within the chicken.

In following marvelous video Charlie Palmgren narrates his unique paraphrase of Antony de Mello’s thought provoking story.



Re-dis-covering and re-living the Creative Interchange Process is indeed a transformation, from Chicken back to Eagle! The aim of the game of our endeavors, including the upcoming 14th Gathering of the Crucial Dialogue Society, can be pinpointed by one of Charlie’s incredible sayings: “Teaching People What They’ve Always Known, So They Can Discover What They Never Lost!”

This new lesson in the series ‘Learning to Fly’ will take place at:

Ter Heide, Tragelstraat 2, 9971 Lembeke

On July 7th 2016 from 900 till 1700 hours.

Investment, since Charlie has left his Consultancy fee in the States, the usual Euro: 250,- (Vat excluded; Refreshments, drinks, a genuine ‘Ter Heide’ lunch and an extended final networking drink @ Christine’s place included).

We’re going to have a great day! So Join Us!

To join, e-mail to with your name, company name and VAT number.

14th Gathering of the Crucial Dialogues Society

I’m really thrilled to be able to organize this Summer the 14th Gathering of the Crucial Dialogues Society quite unexpectedly animated by my ‘third father’ dr. Charles ‘Leroy’ Palmgren. The theme of this day is:

People Serving People

Empowered by Creative Interchange.

Creative Interchange as the process of Leadership and Service is more critical now in our rapidly changing and ambiguous world than ever before.

The great recent work of Frederic Laloux (‘Reinventing Organizations’) and Otto Scharmer (‘U Theory’) are showing us a path forward for organizational and societal systems. The question then arises: Who do we need to be in order to put these powerful new ideas into place? What skills, tools, awareness, and capacities do we need within us as the people who will facilitate transformation in business, government, education, and society?

The Creative Interchange Process was first introduced by Charlie’s mentor dr. Henry Nelson Wieman (Man’s Ultimate Commitment’) and is the key to ‘Becoming a Leader through Becoming Yourself’. Charlie Palmgren has been working with this ‘mother’ process of all learning and transformation for almost fifty years. He added to the thinking of Henry Nelson Wieman the necessary conditions needed for the Creative Interchange Process to thrive. On top of that, his approach provides a “skill set” that equips us to be truly transformational leaders, managers, business owners, and coaches in today’s world.

Charlie is co-author of ‘The Chicken Conspiracy’ and author of ‘The Ascent of the Eagle’ and is working on the third book in this series: ‘The Decent of the Dove’. All books about Birds, I hear you say… Learning the Creative Interchange Process is ‘Learning to Fly!’.  By the way, the series started with a poem from the ‘Songs of the Bird’ of Anthony de Mello SJ. Here you can hear Charlie narrating a beautiful metaphor-story, build upon a paragraph of ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’ of Charlie’s mentor, dr. Henry Nelson Wieman:

The Bird in the Cage

From this one-day event on, you will be able to further develop your skills and capacities for awareness, appreciation, creativity and commitment so that you’re able to step into effective, sustainable and transformational action. In other words: “You will fly, once again!”

You will discover how to navigate both challenges and opportunities by reconnecting with your innate capacity to trust, be open, curious, embrace uncertainty and ambiguity, connectivity, creativity, and tenacity when collaborating and co-creating with others.

This unique event will take place at:

Ter Heide, Tragelstraat 2, 9971 Lembeke

On July 7th from 900 till 1700 hours.

Investment, since Charlie has left his Consultancy fee in the States, the usual Euro: 250,- (Vat excluded; Refreshments, drinks, a genuine ‘Ter Heide’ lunch and the final networking drink @ Christine’s place included).

We’re going to have a great day! So Join Us!

To join, send an e-mail to with your name, company name and VAT number.

New Creative Interchange Column, First Entry

Author: dr. Charles Leroy Palmgren

At the launching of this new column I want to make two points.

1. As the volume of words and diversity of opinions pour out each minute at an accelerating rate into the Internet, it’s hard to imagine that one more column would have much value let alone impact. Nevertheless, as we humans continue changing the architecture of our brains and lives, there is value in understanding why and how we are doing it. What’s at the heart of personal, social, and organizational development and transformation?

Some of my colleagues and I want to outline a process that was identified 100 years ago. It is the process that is central to evolving our human minds, social institutions, and corporations. We’ll focus your attention on what is already operative, to a greater or lesser degree in us all. So why look at something that has been working for so long? Why would making it conscious add value? What’s different now? This process is a part of each of us whether we know it, like it, want it or not.

We would be amiss if we didn’t admit that while many marvelous things are taking place in our world today, there are also some painful, confusing, disastrous and lethal things as well. And, as we all know, that is nothing new in human history. One major difference is the accelerating exponential rate of global change and transformation and the driving force of technology. Civilization, as we have known it for thousands of years, is giving way to globalization. The human mind that served us well in the past is facing new challenges.

We must learn to navigate the uncharted territories of the Internet and its emerging social media networks to forge a new planetary existence. This change has social, cultural, political, economic, technological, individual, family, climate and planetary implications. The “old civilized mindset” is not equipped to bring about such a magnitude of change.

2. We are not selling anything. We just want to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and creativeness of the things you or any of us are doing. One of my favorite advertisements of all time was developed for BASF a few years back. The gist of it was “We don’t make most of the products we’re in, we make the products we’re in better.” By better they meant things like stronger, more flexible, brighter colored, longer lasting, etc.

That slogan sums up the intent of this column over the weeks and months ahead. I/we will be describing an innate process, called creative interchange by my mentor, Dr. Henry Nelson Wieman, that is present in us all. This process has developed our current best self and it is the same process that will make our current best self better. We’re not here to shoot anyone’s theory down, we want to expand it and make it and you more effective at using it.

Our intent is to help everyone discover and experience the creative interchange process within themselves and others. It is the process that can make you a better leader, manager, employee, parent, teacher, politician, physician, police officer or firefighter. You name it. The process can help you be better at it. It increases the performance of teams and organizations. So what’s the catch? In one sense there isn’t one, but what it does require is your commitment, discipline, patience and perseverance.

There you have it. If you’re interested join us in the weeks ahead, become active– comment, critique, challenge, correct and modify what you read here. All are welcome. The process will help you improve at authentic and appreciative communication AND creative commitment to be and do our best AND to what can transform us to be and do better.

Jean-François Zobrist’s building blocks of his Self-Organizing Organization FIVA – Part I

This is a column of dr. Charles Leroy ‘Charlie’ Palmgren. It was initially posted as a comment on my previous post “Creative Interchange: The Unconscious Ingredient in Sucessful Teal Organizations” and I think it deserved being published as a column ‘on its own’ in the series ‘Creative Interchange’ the unconscious ingredient of Self-Organizing Organizations. Since I’m for the moment the only moderator of this column website, the column is ‘posted’ by me. I hope that in the near future , the other members of ‘Charlie’s Eagles’ will be able to post their columns directly on this site.


Zobrist moves to the heart of having better organizations with the assumption, “People are systematically considered to be good.(Reliable, self-motivated, trustworthy, intelligent). The critical operative word is “good.” Many people are suspicious of such a word. I would use the word to mean of having worth or value.

Many corporations have written value statements. More often than not such statements become wall hangings and have little to do with how things are acutally done on a day to day basis. I believe, with Zobrist, that people are good, but I also believe there are two operative meanings for the word. I believe people are always “intrinsically” and often can be “extrinicallly” good. Unfortunately, most often extrinsic good or value is the only one that gets attention.

Extrinsic value is an instrumental value. One is good if one is doing what others like, what is acceptable in the eyes of others, what is expected of one by others. In other words, extrinsic worth or value is bestowed by others or a corporation. It comes from the outside. Most people assume they are worthy or good when they are pleasing others and that such value has to be earned through performance and success. And, worst of all that that is the only source of their worth as a person.

The primary threat or enemy of such value is failure and rejection. The fear of rejection and failure fills many a workplace. It is the major generator of fear, anger, guilt, shame, blame and stress in most organizations. It undermines productivity, confuses communication, obstructs creativity and innovation, wastes time and money. In short extrinsic value carries the seeds of  much that is wrong with organizations and their leadership and managment.

If what Zobrist means by good is intrinsic worth and value then a different outcome can be expected. Intrinic good, worth, respect or value is the basis for mental, emotional and behavioral health and wellness. It is the basis for healthy individuals, teams, marriages and organizations, Few leaders and managers even realize there is a difference between intrinsic and extrinic worth or good. Most organizations build their compensation, reward and promotion systems entirely on extrinsic good. No wonder so many employees in so many corporations are unhappy with their jobs.

Unhappy employees reduces loyalty and contributes to absenteeiism and turnover. Effective leaders and managers must first accept and experience their own intrinsic worth before that will be able to express and enable such worth toward others. Talking about respect for others is one thing, actually living it with them is quite another.

Creative Interchange: The Unconscious Ingredient in Successful Teal Organizations

In 1983, Jean-François Zobrist was appointed CEO of FAVI, a family owned brass foundry in the north of France. Within 3 years, he transformed FAVI into a highly successful, self-managing organization. In a market that has been steamrolled by Chinese competition, FAVI is the only European producer standing. It generates double digits margins and commands a 50% market share in automotive gearbox forks in Europe.

When FAVI switched to self-management, and in the years that followed, Zobrist and his colleagues defined three new assumptions[i] that over time have become mantras inside the factory:

  • People are systematically considered to be good.(Reliable, self-motivated, trustworthy, intelligent)
  • There is no performance without happiness. (To be happy, we need to be motivated. To be motivated, we need to be responsible. To be responsible we must understand why and for whom we work, and be free to decide how)
  • Value is created on the shop floor. (Shop floor operators craft the products; the CEO and staff at best serve to support them, at worst are costly distractions)

These three assumptions can and have in a number of instances revolutionized the way work and productivity can be achieved and organized. Frederic Laloux has researched both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that operate from similar assumptions and have achieved similar results[ii]. Since the late 1940’s such organizations have been envisioned and attempted – few have succeeded.

This column website proposes to engage its contributors with a process that was identified nearly a hundred years ago by Dr. Henry Nelson Wieman[iii]. Even then this process was an articulation of even much older wisdom and understanding. The great question arises as to why something now being practiced by only a few has been resisted for so long by so many. We want to identify and explore that process which was so successful for Zobrist and others, as well as, understand it with greater precision and understand why it has caused so many to shy away from it.

We invite you to join us on a quest to understand what brings out the best in humankind and ways of organizing and utilizing more of that vast reservoir of human potential for collaboration, creativity, innovation and productivity.


[ii] Laloux, Frederic Reinventing organizations. A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Nelson Parker, Brussels, 2014

[iii] Wieman, Henry Nelson described this process in many articles and books: e.g. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Carbondale,IL.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958

My Black Swan Award winning talk (Symposium A’dam Nov. 11th – 12th 2014): The Fourth Paradigm in the Work Field


Those of who have read my LinkedIn profile know that I’m slip sliding into my fourth life. That’s in fact the explanation of the first word in the title of my presentation.

Those of you who detest the P word, may I kindly ask you to replace that word instantly in your brains by a word that you do like: Frame of Reference, Point of View, Worldview, Mindset,… – as my third father Charlie Palmgren does – be my guest. By the way, my understanding of the P concept comes from the late Stephen Covey and I use the graphic representation of it presented by Joel Arthur Barker in his book ‘Paradigms’.

During the next minutes I will be pleading for a, in my humble opinion, very needed shift in thinking and acting in the work field, and thus not only in the realm of Safety.

One disclaimer though, I do not – and I repeat – I do not own the truth. I will be simply authentic interacting with all of you, from my Consciousness, my Mindset, my Frame of Reference, … my Paradigm if you will.

As I’ve said to picture a paradigm, I use the presentation of Joel Barker, which is the left side of a Bell Curve and, to me, during a paradigm shift the good elements of the existing way of living are kept. Therefore the shift is in my view, more a sudden evolution than a drastic revolution.

The paradigm shifts I’ve lived through are the following:

In my early years as a production manager in a French chemical plant I lived in the Technical mindset. Practically all our solutions for workplace and safety problems were technical. The concepts of this mindset were still rooted in the thinking of Frederick Taylor, William Heinrich and the like.

Due to a severe accident during the startup of a sulfuric acid plant in Visag, India, I got an epiphany and Safety became one of my values. Soon after that I was studying Safety at the University of Leuven and in 1980 I became Engineer in the Safety Techniques. As you can hear, the title is still grounded in the technical Frame of Reference.

It was the late Frank E. Bird Jr who introduced me in the eighties to, what he called, the new horizon in Safety: the organizational mindset. In fact, Frank changed the focus regarding the first domino of Heinrich’s model from Personal Features, like upbringing and education, to the Organizational Safety Program, its activities, criteria and their application.

In the late eighties I became consultant and used Frank’s ISRS audit system extensionally and very soon it became clear to me that, by combining the technical and the organizational endeavors alone, we never would reach the level of safety we wanted and needed. At that moment I met my third father Charlie Palmgren. The answer to this problem, the Human paradigm, given for instance by Dupont and BST, was in my eyes not always very Human. Although I preached a more human form of BBS, in this third and still prevailing way of organizing the workplace, the reality is that the emphasis is still strongly on ‘control’, and more precisely ‘control from the outside-in’. And most of the time top-down control, and even in the rare horizontal cases, it is still ‘from the outside-in’.

The last decade I’ve seen numerous signs that this way of living in the workplace does not bring us nearer to our goal, on the contrary.

For instance, in the field of Safety, workers and employees do not believe top management any more. The use by this Top management of illogical slogans and unrealistic programs have as result that the people in the organization merely make, in an artificial way, the moves of the change. They are far from being transformed!

Mantras as ‘Safety first’, ‘zero accidents’ and ‘zero preventable accidents’ have created a massive ‘black hole’ between the leaders and the followers, with a strong BOHICA (Bent Over Here It Comes Again) mentality as a result. Employees listen to those mantras and at the same time see with their Eagle eyes the reality, have corresponding gut feelings and… do not believe in Management any more.  Oh yeah, they still dance the necessary dances when the auditor comes along, and sure, they have learned to behave like chickens while still thinking and acting ‘outside of the company’ as the Eagles they really are.

Another sign that the way we are doing business is worn out, is the fact that we did not put into place a real answer to Demings’ command number eight: ‘Drive Out Fear’. Despite of books like “Driving Fear out of the Workplace’ by Kathleen Ryan and Daniel Oestreich, people are mostly still driven by fear.

And this will happen if we stay in this Mindset!

So what is my Dream which I call the Fourth Paradigm in the workplace?

My dream is that, in this new way of living in the workplace we finally drive out fear by replacing ‘outside-in control’ by ‘inside-out control’. Replacing ‘top-down’ control by a ‘top-down/bottom-up and all directions control from the inside-out’, which is a ‘both/and & different from’ approach. And this through honest, asked for and appreciatively understood feedback.

My dream is that we don’t realize plans any more through a mechanical use of Demings’ ‘Plan-Do-Check-Adjust’, but by continuously adapting those plans to an ever changing dynamic reality. This is, as my fourth father Paul de Sauvigny de Blot thought me, the essence of Business Spirituality. Business being the doing and Spirituality the being itself. Those two have to be constantly in interaction, and this interaction is the key to the new horizon. I call this interaction between doing and being, Creative Interchange.

The good news is that this process, through which we will create our bright new future in the workplace, including in Safety, the process by which we will transform our culture, is known to all of us. I’ll tell you more, we all were born with the Creative Interchange Process. It is this process that transforms our mind since it cannot transform itself.  It is through that process we are able to transform ourselves from chicken to eagles, so to speak.

You want an evidence based proof? Look carefully and awarenessfully at a young child. If you’re young, your own child; if you’re old, your grandchild and you’ll see tremendous evidence of that living process. Indeed the Creative Interchange Process is still fully alive in young children.

Do you know how creative kids of five are? They have measured the ability of young children to solve problems in a pleasant way, without any help of procedures, guidelines or systems and they’ve found that youngsters are extremely creative – 98 on a scale of hundred – until the age of five.

Do you know what happens with that creativity over time? Well, … when a kid is eight years old, his score has dropped to a mere 36%. Since that kid has been sent to school in the years between those two scores, people, like Sir Ken Robinson, blame education and the school system for that dramatic drop in creativity. I believe those facts are correlated and that there is no causation.

In my humble opinion the underlying reason for this decline of the creativity in young kids is their discovery and living of the Vicious Circle during that time frame. Without going into detail be aware that the Vicious Circle process is the opposite process who brakes, so to speak, the healthy work of the Creative Interchange Process. Both processes the positive Creative Interchange and the negative Vicious Circle are always more or less at work in a healthy person.

Those two processes are alive in this and will be in the future paradigm. So what is than the difference of the two eras. In the actual era the Vicious Circle draws too much energy from the Creative Interchange Process. In the future era, the opposite will take place.

What practically will change in the new paradigm?

Let’s start with change itself. Change projects will become transformation projects. Actually most change projects want to change what is and are constantly at war with the facts, while forcing people constantly into new models the ‘outside-in’ way. Transformation on the other hand is bringing out what is inside, thus the ‘inside-out’ way.

During transformation you have to see the reality in a different way. The sequence of transformation is ‘See-Feel-Do’. Let me explain this concept using my own Crucial Dialogue Model, based on Creative Interchange.

As long as people don’t first see it and really feel it, no inside transformation is possible. At best, people will perhaps display another behavior, they’ll change their behavior temporarily and nothing will really be transformed, the mindset will not be altered.

If you really want transformation who is enduring, it has to come from the inside-out. This can only been done by living the Creative Interchange Process. This is the meta transformation process of life, which was for the first time described that way by dr. Henry Nelson Wieman, an American Religious Philosopher. Pay attention, Wieman did not invent the process, he just discovered it and gave it the name I use: Creative Interchange.

Creative interchange consist of four characteristics:

  1. Authentic Interaction,
  2. Appreciative Understanding
  3. Creative Integrating
  4. Continual Transforming

The first two characteristics provide the SEEing:

Authentic Interacting, which means sharing with integrity your best and encouraging others to share their best;

Appreciative Understanding, which is listening with humility to understand and appreciate the best other know and value.

Through living these characteristics we FEEL and, if it is a real problem, we want to DO something about it, therefore:

Creative Integrating, which is building positives and whishes into “both/and & different from” creative outcomes; and finally

Continual Transforming, which is acting on our best, thus on the decisions we’ve been taken, and remaining open to learning what is better.

The conditions, needed for this process to be fluent, have been mostly discovered by my third Father dr. Charles Leroy Palmgren. Charlie Palmgren, whom I sometimes nickname ‘the best kept secret of the USA”.

For instance, the basic conditions for the first characteristic “Authentic Interacting’ are TRUST and being able to show VULNERABILITY without FEAR, so that people can be OPEN knowing that they won’t be caught because of that!

Charlie has not only identified the basic conditions, even more important, he has distilled some tools that can be used to enhance the probability that the conditions will be fostered, so that the process can finally do its work. In this he follows the quote of Buckminster Fuller;

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

And indeed there is a creative interaction between the tools and the conditions. For instance if I proof to have listened carefully to what the other person said, by using ‘confirmed paraphrasing’ – one of the tools – Trust and Openness, basic conditions of the first characteristic, will enhance! By the way, Trust and Openness are also the basic conditions of the first phase of my Crucial Dialogue Model, which is built upon and is a daily application of that wonderful process.

One of the major problems of the actual reality is that people in organizations don’t really trust their management any more. They have so long lived in a world of mistrust, that it takes a mindset transformation before people really open themselves.

In my experience, when I start in an organization unlocking the Creative Interchange Process, people are staring at me and I see them thinking “there we go again, a new consultant, and he’s coming with a new hype, so it is Creative Interchange this time, well… wait and you’ll see, we’ve seen so many passing by”. You know the ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’ mentality. And how do I react? I Appreciative understand and voice their thinking (which is paraphrasing) and they confirm and when they see and feel that I’m really listening to them, the crucial dialogue based on Creative Interchange can start. It’s true, we have to invest a lot in dialogue, over and over again. And during those dialogues I ask them about their reality and about their dreams. And I use a single important question: “What does frustrate you in your work and your work environment?”

As you know there is a lot of energy bottled up in frustration. And this energy is released when people are able to talk freely about their frustrations. And be aware, with this frustration comes the anger. For me this is a sign we’re on the right track. I then am sure that they are locked in, what I call, the Vicious Circle. That’s a reality at the ‘awareness’ level. So what we first have to do is to slow down the pace of the spinning of this circle, which will ultimately set free the positive creative interchange process. The anger is not bad at all, it is the sign that the passion is coming back.

I agree, it is a difficult phase in the transformation process when the energy is first released as anger and blame. Of course I don’t take that personally and, most of all, Management should not do this either, because otherwise they will be pushed back into their Vicious Circle, into allergy.

So management has to accept fully the perception of their people, if not I can’t help them. Which has been, to be honest, too much the case in my career. You know, Transformation management is Perception management. People are not mad at management, per sé, they are mad at the behavior of management.  If the leaders want to transform the perception of their followers, they will have to change their behavior in order to become a role model of the new way of doing things around here. They will have to transform themselves.

Deep transformation starts at the top, not with the whole organization! In the actual paradigm the change plan is first sold to management and then, immediately, rolled out in the Organization.

Deep transformation is accepting the need for personal transformation, starting with top management. They have to live the transformation process, thus the Creative Interchange Process by themselves – at least six months – before starting to roll it out in the Organization. And the rolling out should be a cascading down the Hierarchy!

Remember, followers do have Eagle eyes and SEE the difference between what Leaders say they will do and what they actually do, have accordingly FEELings and will take ACTION on those.

So what is needed, is that, before rolling out the transformation process, the members of the Management Team live the process themselves and do ask for and do give one another honest feedback about how they are living it. “Are we really doing ourselves what we will ask from our people in the near future?” is the crucial question.

So my dream is that in the new paradigm Fear will be ultimately driven out by the leaders who live the transformation process themselves from the inside out. And do this, long time before they will ask their people to do the same. In that new era, the Creative Interchange Process will finally be the Leader!

And in this new paradigm the formulae will be (CI)² meaning ‘Continuous Improvement through Creative Interchange’!

Why am I at my age still pleading for and even helping organizations in living this massive mindset transformation? Why am I writing about this process in my books, in columns and blogs? And why do I enter into dialogues, for instance on the LinkedIn forum that organizes this event? Dialogues that often turn into debates and discussions. And why do I confront the reality that distinguished members of this community clearly don’t want to understand me and ridicule me as being a BELIEVER and not being enough ‘evidence based’. Why do they not understand that, if you are a pioneer in a new paradigm, you don’t have evidence by definition?

Well my answer to the basic question “Why do you do all this, Johan?” is three fold. Please meet my grandchildren Eloïse, Edward and Elvire!

And let me end with my final questions to you:

  • If you don’t want to join me in the quest to this discover this new land, as Proust once said, “Discovering new land is seeing with new eyes”? – WHAT will you do?
  • When you decide not to do it now, because you do not have the time or the time is not right – WHEN will you do it? and
  • When you decide you won’t do it at all – WHO will do it in your place?