How might drawing - literally - help us connect with each other, our content and collaborations? How do we connect authentically?

Authority figures give prizes for speed and efficiency. Our bosses always want us to move faster, and marketing scientists (we haven't even met) have literally rewired our brains by using intense physical, mental and spiritual biases via television shows and social media. We are starved for connection - for meaning - for love.

I have the great joy of collaborating with two amazing women, Denise Easton and Barb Siegel. Together we are building a program based in complexity, art, communication, and neuroscience called DRAWN to CONNECT (currently in beta).

We're designing a program consisting of three online workshops and one in-person retreat. Our first online workshop, DRAWN to CONNECT: Meet the Technique, ran in June 2018 and was a valuable experience from many angles. It's multifaceted, allowing participants to benefit in ways that best suit them.

As facilitators, we're always re-learning what it takes to build and sustain a community. We asked many questions and had great fun experimenting in our first workshop by attending to what emerged from the group - and WOW!

We've learned to share information live only when it needs to be live in order to make the most of our time together; to allow for different levels of interaction thereby honoring the intention (and personality) each person brings individually. Individually experimenting with how we pay attention, how we present information, ask for input and respond to suggestions can lead to different insights.

There is a subtle art to hosting interactions that fit the group’s collective personality while inviting each individual to show up in their own way.

Shifting the content and modes of engagement to the needs and preferences of those who are present can make for a dynamic experience rooted in complexity. Operating in this way creates a mirror for us as we begin to see how our human experience is mirrored in nature AND how we are part of that nature. This means having a plan and being willing to deviate from it!

As we progress through our daily lives with technology at our sides we begin to find that the clear cut edges of efficiency (of how our apps work in a linear way - and how we interact with these apps) is how we try to live our lives - fitting them into linear processes and clear dichotomies. Hello, frustration!

See, we’re wired for change, for adaptability. Our bodies and minds hold so much information (energetically embodied and knowledge based), simultaneously taking information in and giving it out. What does it mean to feel free? We explored this question as a cohort. Everyone’s drawn answers were different. Below is my drawn response to what freedom means to me.

In the image, there’s a wave of a sort, dots of potential engagement and a few figures (or various perspectives of one figure) emanating energy. One could interpret this drawing in many ways. There is no ‘RIGHT’ way. As we chatted about what freedom meant for each of us we found smiles and laughter and were struck by emerging patterns.

We found through conversation that being open and honest in our conversation brought a sense of freedom, inviting us to be in touch with our most authentic selves. We were able to continuously keep the collective in mind and heart - allowing differences to exist in harmony (rather than always seeking agreement).

As for our DRAWN to CONNECT program, we'll be formulating our next steps soon! Want to be one of the first to know when it's up? Stay tuned via or email Denise at or reach out to me!

#drawntoconnect #plexusdrawn #onlinecourse #workshop #plexusinstitute #complexity

I'm super excited to be part of the Plexus Institute community as a Board Member and Catalyst! There are so many amazing projects going on in this community. If you don't know Plexus Institute, I suggest you jump in by perusing the website or attending a Pop-up talk (a lightly facilitated informal online zoom conversation). Plexus is a network full of people and projects who apply complexity thinking in many ways who are part of the network to learn about complexity (think members) through volunteering and other learning initiatives or build complexity-based change initiatives (think consultants and clients). Wait, complexity thinking? (There's a whole written Primer - a great place to start!)

#plexusdrawn is a new initiative led by Barb Seigel ( and I. We'll be blogging for Plexus and exploring how to visualize complexity?! It's going to be an awesome adventure! Here's our first post, saying hello to the Plexus community:

Hello there! It’s Barb and Amanda. Great to be here. We’re excited to be blogging together with Plexus as we’ve both been a big part of the revitalized Plexus Network. The connections we’ve made at Plexus events and through the Plexus network have been incredible on so many levels. Forget simply being colleagues, we’ve become great friends with many folks through the network and find the high level of work that this crew does (applying complexity science to our world) awe-inspiring.

Our guess is that if you know how complexity changes the conversation, you therefore know what it’s like to feel like the odd man out as you spend time listening to the group you’re working with continue to focus on more traditional approaches and thinking. AND if you don’t feel comfortable with “complexity thinking”, you may have a lot of questions. Our hope is to tell Plexus’ awe-inspiring (and sometimes downright gritty) stories of complexity using visuals and simple language in a way that people can grasp; to inspire deep listening, thinking and feeling around complexity work; to become better at who we are as we learn with the Plexus community; and to have a blast while doing it!

As Barb and I continue to share how we, as visual practitioners, artists, facilitators, and humans think, feel and draw out complexity, we’d love to hear your reactions and stories too! We’ll be creating ways to open the conversation and practice. Watch our first Pop-Up Conversation, Seeing, Diagramming and Drawing Systems to see how you would like to be part of this emerging work. 

We’ll do a more in depth post on who we are. For now, a friendly wave hello. WELCOME to our #plexusdrawn conversation!


Amanda Lyons 

in conversation with Barb Siegel

How can I know a complex system when I'm looking at one? Let's think big picture. If we think back into our history, we would find that our ancestors had challenges they chose to communicate in drawings - perhaps not just linear problems. Was this a clue that things were more than complicated?

We can begin to understand a complex adaptive problem by first acknowledging what it is not. It is not a technical problem. A technical problem is one that can be solved somewhat linearly. It may be complicated, however it's not truly complex. A truck engine, per se, has many parts which go together in a particular way and as long as all of our parts are in good working condition and accounted for, the truck works every time. 

Does your system have just one answer? If not, might be complex. Complex adaptive problems don't have just one answer or one way to get to an answer. There are many variables in the environment that can create different influences and effects. The environment is a moving one, including humans, processes, combining old methods and new methods like technology, economic and social and other systems - most of which are in a constant state of change. We can learn to adapt as leaders and managers to this changing system using some tried and true complexity science. That said, it definitely takes a bit of courage to embrace the unknown.

Once we have methods for working and living in the unknown it becomes a lot easier. Upon study, once can see patterns emerge. There is order in chaos. Imagine people flocking into NYC subway entrances at rush hour naturally making way for one another, a jazz ensemble feeling their way through the night, and or an improv team acting within a scene as it unfolds. In each of these situations patterns may emerge if you study it for long enough.

One of the methods that I've found incredibly impactful as it allows us to unearth these patterns, see perspectives, and illuminate faulty thinking is that age old art of drawing, a non-linear practice. At first it's a method that feels unknown and messy for many. If we take drawing as a tool/method/vehicle toward understanding, appreciate the planning and messiness that comes with art, then we can use the method of drawing it out to help us understand and adapt while taking part in complex adaptive systems plentiful with challenges!

#complexity #technicalproblemsversuscomplexproblems #cavedrawings #systems #embracetheunknown #drawitout

© 2020 by Amanda Lyons

drawings + photos by Amanda Lyons

(unless stated otherwise)

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