Jake Jacobs has been helping large systems change for many years using participatory process that support “real time strategic change.” In this interview, he describes a new, breakthrough process, ninety minute” listening sessions” he and colleagues developed, that allow stakeholders in a system to listen, develop recommendations for change and make commitments—in under two hours. The work was implemented in a major project helping the City of Charleston move forward, community and police together, in the wake of the mass shooting and hate crime that took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on the evening of June 17, 2015.

Highlights from the show

Learn the four magic words: Could You Say More? and how they create a space for you to hear the story of another whose ideas may be different than yours.

Create a context where listening becomes the central secret.

How polarity thinking is important—for example having a deep regard for people with whom you work and a commitment to producing results.

Before addressing any divisiveness, step back and say “could you say more?” to create listening and appreciation.

Always join people where they are.

Why change agents need to be careful to not separate themselves from others with their zealousness.

“I probably follow people more than lead them,” says Jake, offering more questions than suggestions.

Why sometimes it can help to celebrate, rather than banish, the troublemakers when you’re working on a change project.

“Create a space for everyone.”

The development of a process for “listening sessions” to help diverse stakeholders come together.

Jake describes a recent project for Charleston, South Carolina, developed with colleagues Margaret and Bob Seidler and Chandra Irwin.

How Jake used “listening sessions” to obtain community input, gathering constructive ideas about strengthening community from the police as well as the community.

How the sessions led to concrete, actionable steps some of which have already been implemented by the police and the community.

5 C’s of a 90 minute listening session:

  1. Convening: introduction and setting the convening spirit in the room.
  2. Creating Context: e.g. what are the key issues; how terms are defined. It’s important to level the field so that everybody feels informed and included.
  3. Connect to the content: hopes and fears.
  4. Craft your preferred future. (In Charleston this led to concrete, behavioral actions for working in partnership police/community.)
  5. Commit to the cause. People vote on commitments to plans that will be going forward; close.

The output of the sessions was rolled into the strategic plan and then shared again with the community who could sign up for actions they were willing to take.

Deliverables count—what you can go ahead and implement.

Why participation helps build a “forgiveness factor” into the change work.



Click here to listen to episode 67 in iTunes

And if you like the show, please subscribe in iTunes and leave a rating or review!


And please leave a rating and review!

About my guest

Jake is a pioneer in the field of large group interventions. He has a twenty-five year track record successfully supporting companies, communities and countries using the Real Time Strategic Change Process.  He’s worked with some of the largest corporations in the world including American Express, Corning, Ford, The Home Depot, Marriott, Mobil Oil, and TJ Maxx. He has also supported major change efforts with the City of Charleston, the City of New York, the U.S. National Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency and the United Kingdom’s National Health and Employment Services.

He’s authored and contributed to seven books including:


The Show Notes

Learn more about Jake at http://www.realtimestrategicchange.com/

Email at Jake@realtimestrategicchange.com or call him at 310-924-7667



Join OurTribe

You're forging a creative path. Join others who are leading in uncommon ways. Join us to receive regular insights and a copy of our e-book "Lead With Your Legend."

You have Successfully Subscribed!