In The PRIMES: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem, Chris McGoff (@ThePRIMESbook) of The Clearing with Dana Theus (@DanaTheus) of Magus Consulting describes a set of “simple, enduring, and universally applicable truths” that “unlock the power of a group” in “solving complex problems and driving transformational outcomes” (“direct change, facilitate transformation, and solve complex problems”).
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The book introduces Universe Denters:
Michael Doyle [Chris McGoff’s colleague] and his team had a deep and practical understanding of the true nature of group work. They knew how to unlock the power of a group and catalyze the social construction of knowledge. I watched them accomplish “something big” over and over again. I called them “Universe Denters.”
The book then introduces the PRIMES:
In the process of scaling one organizational challenge or another, over a period of many years, realizations came to my partners and me one at a time — and often just in time. The PRIMES are these “eureka” insights. Usually, they occurred when we got stuck as a team. When something was wrong and we were in trouble, we talked it through. A realization would often surface that fit the exact circumstance and allowed us to move forward. As we refined and reused an insight successfully in other circumstances, we knew we had uncovered a PRIME. To qualify, the insight had to be universally applicable, effective in a wide variety of situations, and it had to be timeless and simple. One after another, we “met” the PRIMES.
This book then emphasizes distinguishing the PRIMES:
One of the most profound revelations in my life is that naming things is the act of creating the human experience and shaping the future. Naming is the core of what we do and what we cause. Naming is an essential first step toward achieving mastery over any aspect of life.
The book is organized into three parts with seven chapters:
Part 1 (The Calling): We pay attention to our “calling” and our desire to make a significant, lasting contribution to organizations, communities, and society. The PRIMES in Part One will help us prepare to meet challenges and enroll others in our vision.
Part 2 (Outward Bound): As we set out on our adventure, specific PRIMES help sustain us as a group. We’ll discover PRIMES for beginning our journey and for dealing with inevitable dangers on the path. Other PRIMES will help us “see around the corner,” to predict specific threats to our goal, and help us manage risks.
Part 3: (Summiting): Our goal is near, but at this stage we encounter the greatest fatigue. Our best and worst behaviors begin to manifest themselves. We’ll uncover PRIMES to help us protect the integrity of the expedition.
Artful Transformation and the PRIMES
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While the PRIMES may generally apply across Phase I, II, and III of Artful Transformation, they also have a natural place across Phase I, II, and III where they may have the greatest impact and value.
The Wanderlust chapter of Part 1 (The Calling) establishes underpinning or foundational PRIMES, which are commonly leveraged across Phase I, II, and III of Artful Transformation.
The Enrollment chapter of Part 1 (The Calling) offers PRIMES commonly leveraged in Phase I (Context) of Artful Transformation.
The Outfitting, Stepping Off, and Here be Dragons chapters of Part 2 (Outward Bound) introduce PRIMES commonly leveraged in Phase II (Foundation) of Artful Transformation.
The Strategic Pause chapter of Part 3 (Summiting) introduces PRIMES commonly leveraged in Phase III (Evolution) of Artful Transformation.
The Declared Leadership chapter of Part 3 (Summiting) establishes overarching or leadership PRIMES, which are commonly leveraged across Phase I, II, and III of Artful Transformation.
The Wanderlust chapter explores PRIMES that “help you clarify your purpose and prepare you to let the world know your vision.”
CHANGE VS. TRANSFORMATION: Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future.
INTEGRITY: Change fixes the past. Transformation creates the future.
TRUST THE UNIVERSE: The Universe helps people who live boldly.
ENNOBLEMENT: A great vision elevates the people that hold it.
DYNAMIC INCOMPLETENESS: Co-creation causes co-ownership.
The Enrollment chapter explores PRIMES that “give us the ability to build our team and excite, focus, and commit everyone to do what it takes to achieve our clear vision for the future.”
CORE PRIME: Powerful groups forge five essential agreements.
PARITY: Balancing the As Is and the To Be.
FACTS, STORIES, AND BELIEFS: Beliefs shape the facts we listen to and the stories we tell about them.
STAKE: People have different motivations; inspire them all.
DECLARATION: Great leaders DECLARE what will be, by when.
The Outfitting chapter explores PRIMES that “prepare you to recognize and manage inevitable obstacles on whatever path you take.”
CULTURE: Every group divides the behaviors it will tolerate from those it will not.
GOSSIP: GOSSIP is pure, destructive energy. Tolerate it at your peril.
CONSENSUS: Everyone “agreeing with everything” is overrated.
VICTIM-LEADER: Empowering discussions focus on that which you can control.
BREACH: Acknowledging BREACH is an important step into INTEGRITY.
The Stepping Off chapter explores PRIMES “to help fuel the group, and to focus and maintain its energy, as it attempts the extraordinary.”
MUDA: Stop non-value-added activity to make room for value.
REDPOINT: Focus on the fewest, most important, things to do now.
ISSUES FORWARD: Direct your focus to what you can affect.
COHESION: Knowing what you want increases your chances of getting it.
Here be Dragons
The Here be Dragons chapter explores PRIMES that “clarify the importance of focusing and expanding energy efficiently.”
BIG HAT-LITTLE HAT: Everyone wears two hats. Know which one you wear at all times.
RIGHT VS. RIGHT: The most important arguments occur when rights collide.
RESOLUTION PRINCIPLES: Ethical dilemmas can’t be avoided, but they can be managed.
BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT: Rationality is a function of the information at hand.
LEVELS OF PERSPECTIVE: Where you stand determines the problems and solutions you see.
The Strategic Pause chapter explores PRIMES that “help you locate the source of a group’s problem and help members resolve it quickly.”
FRAGMENTATION: Understanding the natural splintering of intentionality helps address it.
LAGGARDS: Ignore those who will never come along.
OPEN-CLOSE-DECIDE: Only one person, at one moment, makes a decision.
IN-ON: You are either working IN your business, or ON it.
The Declared Leadership chapter explores PRIMES that “are survival gear for truly great leaders.” “Outfitted with these principles, you will bypass obstacles, navigate the unexpected, and lead your teams through the rough patches every time they appear.”
LEADERSHIP SPECTRUM: Great leaders master multiple leadership styles.
SHAPE SHIFTING: Lead collaboratively or authoritatively, explicitly and intentionally.
CHASE-LOSE: Pursuit of meaningful outcomes inspires teamwork and leadership.
COMMITMENT VS. ATTACHMENT: Success is a state of being.
Artful Transformation and the PRIMES