KEY QUESTION – How to explore the power of a single question?

By Viktor Kunovski

COACH ERA website

would like you to share my experience about the difference between knowing and answering a question, and not-knowing  and holding a question.  The difference between this two is very important, powerful and ads value in the creation processes.

People In their personal lives and especially people that manage and lead other people often have difficulty with not knowing the answer to something. My life shows me that there are 2 main obstacles we face when we deal with the unknown.
First is the powerful believe present in our western culture that if we don’t know or solve the question/issue,  we are stupid, inadequate, not good enough etc.
The second obstacle is the feeling of not knowing itself.  In my experience both as a human being and as a coach, this is one of the most difficult feelings to sit with and be present.
The cocktail of not knowing and the believe about “not knowing” is a blend that presents an amazing challenge to anyone. Anyone who recognises and has faced this, will know the mixture of impatience, frustration and reactive impulses to do something and fill the gap of not knowing.

So how do we approach this challenge as people, coaches or leaders?

The main and perhaps the key thing that can help us when we face the unknown is practicing and staying present. Since the art of staying present is so big and for most of us who are learning it is a lifelong practice and deserves a whole book itself, I will just say that if you would like to be healthy, wealthy and lead others, practicing presence is task number 1.

The second key is to learn to design meaningful KEY QUESTIONS.
As a coach I learned to ask powerful, well designed question. But lately I am exploring the not knowing terrain and instate of answering I hold and remind myself of a question on a daily base.
The difference between knowing- having the answer and exploring the answer makes a valuable difference. It keeps the creative tension, it expands the comfort zone and it brings multitude of options, scenarios and possibilities. If you knew the answer the creative tension would have gone and with it the enlarged options for knowing.
This difference is particularly useful when we are working with a team that needs to develop a new strategy, approach or innovate a solution.
The permission to hold the question after the initial period of tension relaxes the system. I creates supportive environment where trying different things is OK. This is especially useful for the CEO or the top manager of the team since it removes from his back the unbearable burden of knowing it all, and having the fix for everything. It allows the team to participate, get included and come up with collective solutions.  Since the solutions are collective the responsibilities are shared all the way from planning to action delivery.  Teams that work in such environment are bursting with creativity and innovation and have healthier and more aligned cultures.

How do we design key questions?
In the next blog I will share my experience of designing and using key questions.



The Diamond Leadership

Are you a linear or systemic leader?

By Viktor Kunovski

COACH ERA website

In his latest book “the Wave Rider”, Harrison Owen, the originator of the open space technology makes distinction between organizations who were engaged in linear development and few others which had almost instantaneous change results and development trajectory that was anything but the standard linear model. He calls them High Performing System.

You are executive with years of experience. You have an MBA from prestigious university and your organization is making money.
And yet the company results are just average, “good rather than great“.
The speed of change has left your company back in the race.
These days you feel like NOKIA looking at the iPhone.

So what is happening?

Do you belong to the old school of business leaders and thinkers, the linear (top to bottom) thinkers? or you are a systemic leader?

Your executive team makes decisions and strategies on the top floor or on the 2 day retreat somewhere in the mountain. Than you come back and try to execute the strategy down the line. By the time you got back from the mountain the strategy has become old. You know that something is not working.

What is happening, you ask again?

Have you noticed? your competitors have embraced systemic thinking and leading, they are not even hiding it.
They are measuring the culture, the pulse and the health of the whole system because they know that systemic intelligence is always wiser than the smartest minds.
They are approaching change systemically, employees participate in leadership and share responsibility.
Their innovation and creativity has exploded since they are working with those open space systemic methods and tools.

Clients, shareholders, environment, even your staff adores them.


Get systemic in 3 easy steps:

1) Leadership team MUST commit fully behind the culture transformation. Without this any effort is waste of time and energy.
2) Start measuring organizational values and culture using CVA Culture Values Assessment
3) Involve the whole system in meaningful conversations based on the results from the measurements, especially on the values in the desired culture.


COACH ERA facilitates breakthrough Creative Dialogue interventions that align the people of your team/organisation with your culture and strategy.

Why is asking questions a must for a modern leadership?

By Viktor Kunovski

COACH ERA website


Have you seen a politicians or a CEO asking questions?

I must say I have but it seams that this condition is so rare that it does take a memory exercise.
Do you as a manager or leader of your team ask meaningful questions? How can this make a big difference in your work performances?

I was observing people on leading positions this month, how they behave and what they do when facing the “crowd”. From governor Schwarzenegger in California answering questions on his Twitter panel, to a group of CEO and professors on a panel about creativity in business during the global entrepreneurship week.

The first impression is normally Wow, these people are so wise, they have answers to all the question that come from the public. But should it really be this way?

Most of our business and political leaders are repeating this big mistake continuously. Our school teachers and professors at the universities (those who mostly talk and don’t question) have contributed to the development of this attitude as well. This pattern, is deeply nested within the culture of the western world, where we project our power to our leader (father) and believe that because he is “up there” he is smarter, wiser and more capable than us. We therefore expect the answers and/or solutions to come from him only. In this way the “people” or the employees stay passive observers, do not participate and don’t take responsibility for their own action. On a national level, we often expect the mayor or the government to sort our street problems.

So why is it such a big mistake to answer “only” and not ask questions from the leadership position?  These are some of the reasons:

When a leader is only answering questions he is not allowing the responsibility for an issue (task, problem, project) to be shared.[i] Psychologically this looks like this:

The leader, “the big one” (the father) is responsible for all, therefore he knows all and he has answers to all.
The public “the listener, the small one (the child) knows less, is less responsible and is waiting for the right solution, decision etc. to come from “daddy”.

This is not only disempowering for the people who are lead, but creates unrealistic expectations and big burden for the leader (or the leadership team) to carry on his shoulders for a long time. This way does not encourage personal growth, and when there is no personal growth there is no organizational or systemic growth too.

By answering and not asking meaningful questions leaders are blocking the creativity, the collective insights and wisdom naturally nested within the system to surface.
This maybe serves a narcissistic purpose for the manager/leader but has no valid leadership, creative nor business value.
Since he/she does most of the talking and is consumed in his “smart monologue”, the leader is not learning a thing from the pool of knowledge that has the most valuable information for him/her.

The above method of leading by simply answering is old fashioned, it’s fear based with a power struggle in it and is not liberating energetically. Furthermore it does not support creativity and the regenerative natural flow of the system. The bottom line is that the teams/organizations that are lead by such managers and leaders have lower engagement, less creativity, possess fear based culture, are less productive and obviously they make less money as result of this. This is certainly not what we want.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Mr. Obama , but he or any other business and political leader must start to ask more and more meaningful questions and create  supportive environment for the collective intelligence to come to surface. Leaders need to encourage open space communication where smart ideas from the people in the system unfold creatively and freely. They need to create powerful and meaningful questions that captivate the interest of the group, questions that have value for the people they lead. In such a way they will support the co-creativity, invention, cooperation on local and/or global level.[ii] This will also help them to share the massive responsibility needed to make the changes in their teams/organizations or nations.

For the end let me“walk my talk” and stimulate your questions designing skills.  I’ll ask some questions you may use for personal and/or on organizational level.

To work on a personal questions find a partner or group with 2-3 people who would like to explore these or other meaningful question that matter to you.

In organisational setting, with specialized facilitation, the size of these groups can grow up to several hundreds where teams can explore and design variety of performance and strategy issues. With right conscious leadership and the support of the social media platforms like twitter, key questions can reach millions.

For those of you who would like to know more about these powerful methodologies for leading change and transformation in organizations and communities, take a look at some of these links:
world cafe, open space.


Exercise 1:
Do not try to answer the questions straight away, but rather hold the question for a certain period (few weeks to a month) and remind your self of it daily.
I strongly encourage you to find and design the most meaningful question for you in this moment. These are suggestions that can assist you on your path:

What is my(your) life purpose?
How could “I” contribute in my school, town….to humanity?
How can I create supportive and inspirational relationships?
How do I create excellence in life?

Exercise 2:  “7 Levels of organizational Inquiry” based on the Richard Barrett 7 levels of consciousness model (click on the image for full clarity)

Exercise 3: 8Q suggested by Now-Here

What is my unique Purpose?
How am I releasing the magic of the moment?
How am I venturing into uncertainty?
How am I focusing the power of my intent?
How am I supporting growth?
How am I learning to see the invisible?
How am I returning my gift?
How am I keeping my energy clear and bright?

[i] “Coaching for performances” John Whitmore Nicholas Bradley 1996

[ii] “The way of Nowhere” Nick Udall and Nic Turner Harper Collins 2008 

Open space technology, social media, global consciousness and culture transformation.

By Viktor Kunovski

Facebook: COACH ERA
Linked In: COACH ERA

I write this paper because I think, feel and see the unfolding of the biggest change in culture and consciousness the human kind has ever witnessed on the planet.

How will the world look like during and after these changes I don’t know now. This is a matter of evolution itself.
My only assumption and wish is that people, organizations and nations on the planet will be functioning more coherently and with more alignment. See “What is alignment”.

One thing I know is that open space technologies are the simplest form of group sharing and dialogue.
Today they exist in different names, such as “The world café”, “open end inquiry” or “appreciative inquiry“.

The number of people that can engage in these open spaced groups could be from 2 to several thousands people big. If we creatively use the social media technologies as a platforms, these groups could  reach millions.
People in these groups sit in formations of 3/4/5 around tables (or on the phone in a webinar) and they are lead by the group leader.[i] The leader is a person that ask a meaningful question.

The purpose of these open spaced groups is to find the way forward to an issue. An issue could be a problem that needs to be solved, or could be a developmental issue like “where does our community wants to go”?

The experiences and the facts show that the intelligence of the group (system) in cases like this is always superior to an intelligence of an individual or an isolated leadership team (general managers or political leaders). [ii]

Around the world there are many groups that are gathering and using the open space technology.
It happens to be, that I am also a member of such a group so I have kind of insiders view in these processes.
In my group we call this process “open ended Inquiry”. Our group leaders are proposing a single question at a time. We gather in groups of 3 and each of us talks for 15 min. When one person talks the others only listen, they don interrupt.

The effects of this process are empowering, illuminating and also healing.

The level of insights and creativity after a meeting with my group is 10 fold.

To describe this process imagine hundreds of meters deep dark vertical cave in the ground.
Imagine that few of those cracking luminous sticks that are used by explorers or solders are being simply dropped to fall freely. The gravity pulls the sticks towards the bottom and they simply fall effortlessly and they illuminate the space around. Creative energy is released from the process that is used to make changes in ones lives or to achieve goals in organizations and communities.
This is how the open spaced technology works, bringing on the surface the new illuminated knowledge and ideas started by a single question.

Now imagine the combination of open spaced technology, powerful leadership that asks meaningful questions with the platforms of social media.

This is the formula of managing your organization, community or nation towards impeccability.

If we can focus the energy and the attention of a large group, with powerful questions we will create an amazing shift in culture and in consciousness of people.

Lets try it by answering the question of the week?


Connected readings:

Why is asking questions a must for a modern leadership?
“Values or Death”
global alignment , the role of social media in culture transformation and organic systemic leadership.

ii The wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

What is Alignment?

By Viktor Kunovski


Let me start this writing by quoting Wikipedia on what alignment is[1]:

Alignment is the adjustment of an object in relation with other objects, or a static orientation of some object or set of objects in relation to others.

To make things simple and light please see this 60 seconds clip on you tube to see an alignment in the nature:

Beautiful isn’t it.

Humans can also create a wonderful alignment.
Examples of people accomplishing alignment are many. Think of a symphonic orchestra, a 30 dancers ballet group, or bring your memory back a year ago to the opening ceremony of the last Olympic games in China

Well, imagine now how your organization, city, nation or the whole planet will function and look like if we create organizational and global alignment.

Why do we need alignment?

In the business world, companies that have aligned cultures are the best performers on the market, sometimes outperforming its competitors for several times[3]. At the same time they are the most desired places to work in.
Alignment saves time, energy, resources, money…lots of money. Companies and national budgets could save trillions of $. See the slide 89 of this presentation named Estimated cost of Entropy (the energy in the system that is unproductive and is result of limiting values within the culture as well as the lack of alignment) . It shows the trillions of $ lost from the national budgets.
In sport, the most aligned teams are the ones with a gold medals around their necks.

How to create alignment in your organization/nation?

Start by asking people what values and behaviors they want the most in their life and in the organizational culture.
Measure the culture of your company, community or nation.

After the measurement you’ll have much clear picture of where you are and what needs to change in your strategy to get where you want to be.

Constantly use the “7 Levels of INQUIRY” questions. They will help your organization to start openly talking about your values, culture, how they affect you and what needs to be done in order to improve.  Trust the systemic intelligence, the system is always smarter.

UNILEVER Brazil is a several billion dollar company. They and other 2000 companies around the world have started a process of culture transformation. This process leads to an alignment in the organization and brings the mentioned benefits. [4].

Following the experience of the corporate world some countries have taken the advice from the business leaders and have started the process on national transformations that will lead to alignment on the national level.  Nations like Australia, South Africa,  Macedonia[6], Latvia[7] and several others have started a process of national alignment and paving the way to others that will follow.

What is needed to create an alignment?

1) Full system participation – an attitude that everyone is important, responsible and included and is a leader within the system.[8] The events in Egypt are good example of how this looks like on big scale.

2) Commitment from the top Leadership of the system organization, region, nation etc.

3) Continuous Measurement of culture and values within the system.

Social media and Alignment

The wonderful tools of social media that we have at disposal are predominantly used to chit chat, market and sale. They are very rarely used by our political and business leaders to ask powerful, meaningful questions.

Imagine the effect and the power of a cohesive and synchronized group of people asking meaningful questions in large numbers?
Imagine president Obama, Medvedev, Lula (to name few) and the president of your country asking together questions that matter in one voice.

Questions like how do we want planet to look like in 2020?
What do we have to do now to accomplish that goal?
What action are needed today?
etc, etc…

This process of open inquiry will create a global inclusion, that will generate global responsibility and mobilize the global collective wisdom and energy which will eventually result with collective alignment on a global scale that will bring sustainability and cohesion HOME on Earth.


How to maximise the role of the social media as management and transformation tool

By Viktor Kunovski

COACH ERA website


I like analogies.

Lets take a 8cm long garlic chopping knife (a tool). In my drawer is useless, in the sink is dirty and stinky, in the hands of a soldier!!! and in the hands of maestro chef….mmm.  Well who is buying the wine then?

We all know that the knife on its own does not make the finger licking dish. Our Soc. Media (SM) tools (Facebook, Twitter, linked….) are more or less like the knife.  Without the skilful hand they do not offer us anything new in the context of management or social change and the point I want to bring here is how the conscious use of these tools can make a difference and add a value.

If appropriately used and guided by a skilful conscious chef (I will stop with the analogy here and call my chef a systemic leader) SM tools could and I believe will provide a platform for staging the biggest consciousness and social change the humanity has seen, of which the signs are emerging and are already quite visible.

Let me illustrate this further with a simple example.
A certain twitter influential person has 1 million followers. Someone else has 10 million Facebook fans/friends. I have chosen this numbers randomly but you’ll get my point. Because of the audience his/her twitter/fb – social media activities have massive gravity.

Now this person can tweet something simple, like “I am in GUCCI” London shopping for shoes.
His/her tweet could be replied, twitted again and again. And this is all interesting, funny and beautiful in many ways.

The same person with his audience of millions could consciously choose to turn the attention to a particular important issue, challenge or problem that needs wider action and participation. Something that is important in his community, town, country or for the whole world.
This person could also tweet “How could you minimise your CO2 imprint? What will you do today?”

In the context of organizational management and social change, if we consciously use the SM tools we can design amazing results.  If you are asking yourself how SM could assist us in doing so, I would like to share some examples and my experiences.

Managing change could be assisted by several simple things that don’t require a CEO position or PhD in governance.

A Key Question

Like all strategies, change starts with a question.  What do we want, where do we want to be, how do we want to see things?
Questions invite us to participate and engage. They  are particularly powerful because they make us think. When they are well constructed and with value and meaning in mind, they often touch people. Statements and comments do not have such an impact on us.
Key questions create group dialogues and assist the processes of emergence of collective intelligence.
In this context a Key Question is the question that has value and meaning for a person and/or for a particular system.

Ask yourself: What question has value and meaning for you right now? You’ll often be passionate about a key question.

If the system is our town, a meaningful question could be “How could we design our town to meet the economic and environmental challenges for 2020?”.
If the system is our organization key question could be “How could we create excellence in our work and share it with our clients”?
Perhaps a key question for the president or the prime ministers would be “How do we lead our  nation to its highest potentials and contribute to humanity”.
I am just offering food for your thoughts, please explore and experiment with your own key questions  you want to ask.

Another important thing that can stimulate change is having a

Conscious committed leadership

In my blog named systemic leadership, I argue that each of us could, should and is a leader.
The gap between “could be” and is “a leader” exists in between the space of “I don’t care about this” and “I am taking conscious actions on this”. If you wait for someone else to sort the problems (challenges) in your life, and assume a passive role without participating, than you are still “could be” leader.
The moment you consciously decide to make some kind of change and take a step in this direction you are assuming the role and the position of a leader.
This first step could be as small (or as big) as posting a key question on twitter or fb.

When it comes to senior leaders, because our world still uses the good old fashioned top down leadership, the conscious commitment from these people is still paramount and is very necessary.
There is a massive difference in the performances of those organizations who are guided by conscious committed leaders and those who are not.
There is valuable difference if a CEO asks “what are the values and culture we need for greatness?” than if he does not ask questions like this.
When it comes to the mix of social media, large organizational and culture transformations the power of the CEO, president or prime minister is uttermost because of his followers so to speak. A single key question posted by these people will often spark viral discussion and will touch millions and make them think, aware and responsible by simply dwelling on the question.
Take a look at this numbers from (17 Feb 2013): Richard Branson the CEO of Virgin has 2.9 million twitter followers. Bill Gates has 9.7 million twitter audience, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson holds 629 000. Imagine an alliance of global leaders, to hold in continuity a powerful global key question?

Some astonishing numbers come from the showbiz world. Rihanna has 28.3 million, Lady Gaga 31.14million twitter followers. A single powerful key question from these people could set an avalanche of meaningful transformative energy.
Yet, we do not have to have such a big audience to become a leader and start a positive change.
A small group of like minded street neighbours could be enough.  New parks, playgrounds have been started like this.

Full system participation

The conscious leaders are there to design, remind and hold key questions. They have to do this because of the fact that the current challenges we face on local and global levels can’t be solved if we don’t involve majority of people within a system.  Weather the challenge is the pollution in our village or the global warming.

Conscious use of social media tools, added by conscious leadership that asks key questions could make a big difference. The power of numbers and the speed that these tools offer provides incredible platform for managing and leading organizational and social change programmes.



The Diamond Leadership



Holding a Key Question?

By Viktor Kunovski

COACH ERA website

Dear reade

The KEY Question/s are intend to provide platforms for opening a creative dialogue – INQUIRY that will enable the collective systemic intelligence and wisdom in your organization/system to come to surface and materialize in creative, transformative and innovative actions.

These questions do not have a simple answers.
They are questions that we need to hold rather than answer – see the blog KEY QUESTION – How to explore the power of a single question?
If you decide to use a Key Question as a platform for creative dialogue for change or to improve your team performances or national cohesion, make sure that:

1) The question stays open ended question that your team explores and holds. If you feel that you have answered the question it means that you have accomplished it and it holds no more value for you.
2) Every one needs to participate – no observers are allowed. “The system will not change without you”.
3) Carefully choose the key people in your team that need to hold this question.

I strongly recommend that for facilitation of questions like this you use a skilful professionals that are familiar with holding presence and are comfortable with the unknown.


The Key Question I am personally  holding at present is:


If this question has value for you please join the conversation on this blog.
The same question could be modified to suit your current need for change, ask your self what is the most valuable and meaningful key question you would like to hold at present?


Additional reading on this blog:

Why is asking questions a must for modern leadership?   and

Open space technology, social media, global consciousness and culture transformation.


The Diamond Leadership


Systemic leadership

By Viktor Kunovski
COACH ERA website


The impossible task made possible

In 2007 I coached a group of SME owners and business start up hopefuls.  Most of them were very young people.
I wanted to check their systemic thinking, so I asked them:

“Can the cleaning company in your town clean the city alone?”

The answer was unanimous.
“That is very difficult and almost impossible” the group said. They can’t cope on their own. They need constant support from ordinary people, communities and the business sector they explained… They were more than right.

* * *

Our old methods of governing organizations, people and nations are not quite functioning well these days. Recent economic turbulences which are far from over and the ecological situation on planet are living proof of this. More than ever the humanity needs a drastic change in the way we relate to each other and the planet.
The political and the economic leaders are unable to sort these problems by relying on their own wisdom. Our businesses, communities, and the environment needs immediate changes in leadership and the way leaders lead at present.
The “autocratic management”, “the one man show company”, “the management board knows it all” will no doubt stay with us for some time since there is still lots of fear among people and there are people who abuse this fear (mostly unconsciously) either by not taking personal responsibility,  or by manipulating others in companies and nations.
Luckily a new management style is also present and is slowly making its way and substituting the old schools of managing/governing.
This new managerial style substitutes fear with trust, command and control with support and cooperation, is in tune with the whole system, the people who are part of it, and it also is in tune with nature and other living systems that surround it. It considers organizations for what they really are, a living organisms made of living people. [1]
This style is a braking point, where management ends and leadership begins. Cohesion and alignment between people and their values and behaviors is vital to this leadership style. I will call it systemic leadership.

One person that certainly help in understanding and knows about this is James Surowiecki who in his book “The wisdom of crowds” says:

Our collective intelligence is often excellent”
He continues:
“If you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to make decisions affecting matters of general interest, that group’s decision will over time be intellectually superior to the individual, no matter how smart or well informed he is”.[2]

The experience of many companies also shows that the results that they give when being governed by this organic systemic leadership are more sustainable and with better overall performances.
I have seen examples and proofs many times that

“The system is always wiser than the leader or the leadership team that leads it”.

Key attitude in understanding and implementing systemic leadership is that the system is governed by the wisdom of the system itself (collective intelligence). The leaders of the new era will be those that will possess the quality of wisdom to recognize that the “system is always wiser than him/her”.  The new leaders will be in service of the system. They will feed the systemic wisdom back in the system itself and guide it. They will be transparent in these processes and inform the people in the system that what he/she is doing is simply responding to what they (people in the system) need and are motivated by.
In such a case, we do not have “a Leader” but rather a shared ownership and responsibility or a “systemic shared leadership”. This is how we’ll govern our organization, nation or the humanity.
In this way an effortless empowerment is happening. The leader is being lead, by the wisdom of the people that he leads. Kind of perpetuum mobile of effortless trust, support, nourishment and full spectrum functioning of the leader and the system.
Shared leadership or the “systemic leadership“ in my opinion is the most powerful leadership there is and is perhaps something we all need to include and put out there in global awareness. This is not only wise but is empowering as well, both for the leader and the lead.

It empowers the people who empower the leader that serves them by guiding them.

This is how a leadership sustainability will be accomplished in my opinion and perhaps general global sustainability on all levels.
I see no alternative for the humanity and its leadership than the process of the systemic leadership and leaders who are open enough to realize that what they are doing are serving the system itself who by default wants to evolve towards its full potential (authenticity, full spectrum, enlightenment…).

And no, this is not a utopia, this is actually happening and it gets more present thankfully. The systemic leadership is in tune with the nature, with the universe itself, it is alive and it is also human and spiritual as well. Further more it takes in consideration all the human needs (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual).
From multinational companies that turn several billion of dollars, to countries like Australia , South Africa and several others that are pioneering methodologies that will help their citizens and the whole country to be lead systemically.

Managers and companies/nations that will not understand this and don’t make the transformation from managers to systemic leaders, will be paying an ENORMOUS price. They will manage companies that are out of tune, govern without touch, and as bottom line will have poor performances in many ways.
Non systemic leadership is an impossible task, a burden to a leader and the system that no man (leadership team or government) is able to hold by himself. We are witnessing the damage of it already, from big wall street banks, to many countries around the world. The price is lost clients, minimized trust, bad image, unemployment, polluted towns, ….and all the rest that comes with it.


The Diamond Leadership

[1] Peter Senge “The fifth discipline”  Currency Doubleday, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1990.

[2] James Surowiecki “The wisdom of crowds”  Anchor Books 2005

Further links:

The Boston Consulting Group:  Simon Levin on Systems Advantage



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