011: Embracing Possibility in Complexity with Helen Palmer

Episode 11: Embracing Possibility in Complexity with Helen Palmer

When faced with complexity we tend to try and predict what will happen in the future rather than embrace the possibility adjacent to our current situation. In this episode of the Thriving in Complexity podcast, Susanne speaks with Helen Palmer about holding space so people can be present,  embrace our past in ways that serve us into the future, learn from the people around us, let go and allow new possibilities to emerge. 

Helen believes that people have a lot of potential locked up and unavailable to make a positive impact and she’s motivated to do something about this. Helen helps people learn so something different is possible. She is also the founder of the company Questo and the co-organiser of the premier Cynefin Meetup in Australia. 

There are certain novel situations that only arise in complexity and when we’re present in the moment, we can be curious about what’s going on in reality. Although we have no control over the future, we can explore how we influence it in the present. However, if we focus too much on a specific goal, or destination, we turn our filters in such a way that will only see certain things, which is the antithesis of curiosity. 

If you’re curious, have a listen to this episode!


  • A surprising fact about Helen Palmer (02:40) 
  • The importance of embracing the past and using it for the future (06:12)
  • How does learning together help to successfully work together (11:40) 
  • Tips to successfully holding spaces (18:39) 
  • The benefits of being in the present when working in complexity (21:29) 
  • The value of self-care in navigating complexity (32:18) 
  • Using the Cynefin framework to help explore human complexity (41:08) 
  • What does thriving in complexity mean for Helen? (50:30) 
  • Helen’s advice to her 25-year-old self (01:04:18)


“It’s not just watching for what’s emerging around you. It’s understanding what’s going on within you, at the same time.” -Helen Palmer 

“Be the guide from the side, not the sage from the stage” – Anonymous

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.” -Henry Ford


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