A World Divided

Jennifer Simpson
5 min readJan 16, 2024

(but still dreaming)

Even (especially) when things look bleak, our dreams can point us toward a brighter future.

“Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.”

~Alice Walker

We are living in trying times, there’s no question about it. Together, we’ve weathered a global pandemic that killed millions of people around the world, and which fundamentally disrupted how we live, work, and are in community with one another. We see social and political strife all around us, from a resurgence of violent conflict in the Middle East, to electoral uncertainties in the United States.

Some days everything just feels BROKEN.

Inequities in our existing systems have come more and more into plain view and we’ve been given a chance to call into question whether the structures and philosophies that fueled industrial growth in the 20th century are well-suited to the much more rapidly evolving, complex, dynamic, and connected times we are living in now.

Today, you can download “A World Divided,” the second segment of the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World where I explore why things can feel so hopeless, and what we can do in the face of that feeling.

What if the search for common ground is the very thing that gets in the way of building a common good? Perhaps, when we feel at our most polarized and that the way through is most out of reach, we’re actually closest to a breakthrough. Maybe it’s when we can see our differences most clearly, that the possibility of discovering real solutions is closest at hand.

The challenge is in staying with the discomfort of not knowing long enough to discover a new way forward. Too often when we go looking for “common ground” what we find are least common denominator solutions. We end up settling for the least objectionable of the things we already know, but never really discover anything new. True breakthrough ideas come from amplifying differences, not minimizing them.

My decades of working in and with organizations all over the globe have also borne this out: If you want to understand something, you must MAGNIFY the distinctions, but also create the conditions in which they can be understood and made sense of. We’ve…



Jennifer Simpson

An artist, poet, leader, lover, daughter, sister, and mother living in Boulder, Colorado. Owner and CEO at Integrated Work. Author of the KOAN method.