Adapted from the book, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What You Have Into What You Need. Dave Fleming. 2016. A Tribal Alchemy Resource.


Words are like potatoes; they are full of rich nutrients (meaning) until we strip them down, deep-fry them, and add salt. Take the word, discover. The first definition Merriam-Webster’s provides for the word discover is “to see, find, or become aware of (something) for the first time.” In a sense, that is accurate, but it’s not robust enough. It makes a word that has the nu- trients of a potato feel more like a French fry. When we understand more about the meaning of this handy little word, it reveals another important element of seeing together. Break the word in two and it yields its secrets.


Dis: apart, asunder, away

cover: to conceal


The definition of discover, then, is to throw off that which conceals something else. Oh, that’s good. It’s an especially poignant definition for collective seeing. As we now have established, when the raw materials of a situation are in front of your tribe, the possibility or creative solution is initially concealed. Discovery then allows your tribe to explore the hidden potential in the raw materials. In order to do this, you have to throw off certain ideas and actions that may be covering up the more novel and useful ones. Your tribe must throw off that which obfuscates your collective insights.

Because alchemy requires a new arrangement of familiar materials, this “throwing off” frequently begins when you change your collective view of those materials. No longer are your raw materials the same one’s you had yesterday and the day before that. Now they contain possibilities for alchemy. And if that’s the case, it’s time for you to remove obstacles and see the new hiding in the familiar.


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Here are three actions that make discovery more likely:

  • See and listen to different perspectives (even those outside your tribe)
  • Craft questions that move beyond the norm (ask questions adjacent to the familiar)
  • Weave perspectives and ideas together (create super ideas out of many smaller insights)