We created Not Simple, because we care deeply about the way we as humans oversimplify the complex problems of the world. Will we solve those problems in this podcast? Probably not! But we encourage you to join host Wendy Bittner as she embraces their complexity and tries to think differently.

Not Simple is produced by Rebecca Scott.
Dave Michalak composed our theme.

“We’re also focused on your students’ needs, their emotional needs and well being first, before we teach them algebra and physical science.”

On the eve of a new school year, elementary and middle school principal Aletha Snowberger talks to Wendy about reopening school in a pandemic. From building relationships online with new students to the logistics of getting scared kindergarteners to the correct classrooms when parents aren’t allowed in the building, complexities abound.


“Getting stuff done peacefully is what most people want most of the time, and so the challenge isn’t to get them to do it but to remove the obstacles to them doing so.”

Adam Kahane, a Director of Reos Partners and author of several books, including Collaborating with the Enemy, joins Wendy to discuss the complexity of collaboration.

“I want the doing and the learning to happen simultaneously. I don’t want you to say ‘I don’t know enough and therefore I can’t do anything.’”

Wendy Moomaw, an executive coach and founder of the Conscious Collaboratory, and our host begin their conversation exploring our experience in the collective as the world changes around us and end up discussing what it takes for us as individuals to fight racism. Collective and individual, dominant and non-dominant, internal and external—polarities abound in this not simple discussion.

“People in poverty, people with addiction problems … there are assumptions that those people actually don’t care for themselves and don’t care for their life or their health.”

Stephanie Marrs is a nurse practitioner with a passion for public health. She joins Wendy to discuss how we oversimplify the choices people make about their health, which actually may not be choices at all.

“[It’s] like the elephant has been named. And it’s been claimed. And now we can do something with the elephant.”

Wendy is joined by her Cultivating Leadership colleague Akasha, whose work focuses on engaging across difference, to talk about race in America and the Caribbean–and the ways we do and don’t talk about it.

“What we want to look for is those threads such as behavior that we can both use to forecast but also help seed–how do we help take that thing that we want to be true and help drive the market in that direction?”

A year after she first appeared on the podcast, Elizabeth Mayo, Global Director of Solar Services at UL, returns to discuss how COVID-19 has changed her work in the energy industry and how those patterns translate to life in general.

“I’m thinking about this whole space the way poets think about a sonnet. There are specific constraints. Those constraints mean that most things are impossible, but an artist can figure out how to make great things happen inside the constraints.”

Guest host Keith Johnston has an “in house chat” with our normal host Wendy Bittner and Jennifer Garvey Berger about the challenge of helping leaders to learn in a virtual world. They explore what they have learned and the surprising discoveries that have surfaced over the past two months.

“The really hard challenge when you’re talking about empowerment is it’s a fundamentally different conversation around the way that power is then distributed, the way that power is shared, and the way that power is exercised.”

Dean Parkin is a part of the Quandamooka people, an investment analyst with Tanarra Capital, and an advocate for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which addresses the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. He speaks to Wendy about the oversimplification of the representation and empowerment of those who have been dispossessed.

A reframing of what failure is, what it means, and the importance of it can completely transform the way a person understands themselves and the challenges in the middle of a complex situation.

Failure is uncomfortable but necessary for learning, so how do we fail better? Wendy and Denise Van Eck unpack this decidedly not simple topic in this week’s podcast.


“If we really want to build a web of trust it has to be built on human relationships.”

Richard Whitt, a fellow at Georgetown University and the Mozilla Foundation and founder of the GLIAnet Project, talks to Wendy about human agency in the digital era, the impact of technology in our daily lives, and the uneasy compact we make when we blindly exchange our data for access to unlimited cat videos.

“It’s important to remember as adults that having been a student doesn’t make you an expert on teaching. You should be careful about your memories.”

Katy Shrout, an 8th grade English teacher, sits down with Wendy to the discuss the many layers of teacher responsibility, the pros and cons of standardized testing, policies and their unintended impacts, and a slew of other ways that education is not simple.



“We see restaurants and essentially the people in them as vending machines for our needs. We push buttons and we expect things to come out.”

Chef Rock Harper, President of Rock Solid Creative and podcast host, works to empower, educate, and entertain chefs. He and Wendy discuss strategies to allow personal dignity and culinary excellence to coexist in the complex world of restaurants.

“That can also happen in the game! In whatever match it is, it can all be going one way, the momentum’s going, and then suddenly a small event–as in complex systems–tips the system . . . and suddenly the whole game is transformed.”

Keith Johnston, co-founder of Cultivating Leadership, writer, and passionate fan of the All Blacks, joins Wendy to talk sport(s) as an echo for human life, a way to understand complexity, and a source of fun.

“What’s the gift in the now? It’s so easy to be thinking what’s the next thing, what’s the next thing, what’s the next thing.”

Aenslee Tanner, engineer turned leadership coach, talks to Wendy, chemist turned leadership consultant, about how we oversimplify life’s big choices and what new questions we might ask to change our focus from choosing the right thing to embracing possibility.



“If we are going to welcome diversity, we have to welcome conflict.”

Aftab Erfan, Director of Dialogue and Conflict Engagement at the University of British Columbia, and Wendy discuss how we can engage with, rather than manage, conflict in the name of creating greater insight along polarized lines.

“Psychologists have a way of talking about people as if we were only minds and it’s to miss something incredibly important and beautiful about us, which is that we’re organisms that have this amazing ability to connect and enrich and infuriate.”

Writer, editor, psychotherapist, and now filmmaker Lloyd Linford joins Wendy to discuss the ways we co-create narratives and how we talk to others changes our brains.

“Because it’s such a complex system, it’s a gradual change and has bumps and wiggles.”

Juliane Fry, professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Reed College, talks to Wendy about the complexity of climate change.

“I’ve given up looking for ‘whys’ so much as ‘tell me the story that that brings to mind’ . . . because I think with ‘why’ you can easily justify, you can easily go to ‘here are concrete reasons that fit for me.’”

Tony Quinlan, CEO and Chief Storyteller at Narrate (and one of our colleagues at Cultivating Leadership), joins Wendy to discuss the ways society’s polarization destroys connections between people and impedes our ability to deal with the problems we face.

“It’s not about simple cause and effect. You can put in place all the right conditions to grow beans, and then they start growing and there’s a sense of pride. Then you come in one day and realize ‘Oh no! Deer have eaten everything.”

Gideon Culman is the founder and owner of K Street Coaching, host of his own podcast, Where Genius Grows, and an amateur gardener. He talks to Wendy about using gardening as a prism for making sense of complexity in the world.

“I think knowing that there are many different experiences is possible if you take the time to do it . . . asking, ‘I see you’re a veteran. From what era?’ and then saying ‘What was your service like?'”

Hillary Wandler is a professor of law and Director of the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at the University of Montana. She and Wendy discuss how we oversimplify veterans’ experiences and what everyone can do to help.

“We’ve ingested the mythology that’s put out there that everyone has a chance to make it and that everyone can do it–and if you don’t make it, it’s your fault.”

René Bryce-Laporte, a DC-based consultant, joins Wendy to discuss the ways we oversimplify issues of advantage.

“Our personal interests drive both our risk appetite and how we manipulate and control risk.”

Elizabeth Mayo, Global Director of Solar Advisory at UL, joins Wendy to discuss the ways we oversimplify risk in energy, airplanes, and life in general.