Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Going Deeper into the Inquiry...

I have some thoughts that may be useful to go deeper into "our toxic beliefs and attitudes about money, growth and what constitues success and "progress". Some of these thoughts go "5 Deep" (1: Behaviors/Actions -> 2: Systems/Structures -> 3: Mind -> 4: Codes -> 5: Life Conditions), directed toward understanding and learning about where we are on our journey to the leading edge of who we are as individuals and as civilization(s).

Values ("Individual Interior" in the AQAL model)
The values of "economic growth" (Orange StriveDrive) and "healthy ecology" (Green Communitarian) are at odds with each other. This is what the theory of Spiral Dynamics predicts, as the center of gravity of the homo sapiens sapiens living system (collective as well as individual) shifts to a more complex way of seeing the world (Entering Green) --  as a living system in relationship with, rather than our current system (Exiting Orange) -- dominant over.

The theory also suggests that the struggle out of one system and into another one, especially collectively, can be a violent one. Chaos Theory suggests that any living system reaches a place in its evolutionary journey called a bifurcation point, which is a time in the system where far-from-equilibrium life conditions are influencing the system. This is also known as a tipping point. In those conditions, the butterfly effect gets much stronger, so that a small perturbation in the system can trigger a significant change (what some have dubbed the Singularity).

At this point the system goes kind of "out of control" and "re-organizes" itself. The reality of that re-organization is that some of the system will die in order to allow the new system to emerge. This triggers a "need to survive" message (what Spiral Dynamics calls a downshift in Life Conditions) to the existing system. This influences the various parts of the system to downshift their values in order to respond to the changing Life Conditions. That downshift also manifests as having less ability to handle the emerging new complexity... this is like a self-fulfilling prophecy that eventually does lead that part of the old system to die.

So the way forward is through... not back. That involves opening up our thinking... expanding our vision... letting go of old unhealthy patterns (individually and culturally)... and finding ways to not contract when we experience parts of the system dying. Andrew Harvey puts it well: "We are now, as a race about to move into the eye of the storm that will decide the future of the race and the planet. It is crucial for all of us to know as the crisis deepens that what will look and feel like destruction is the stripping away of delusions."

The key, of course, is to be comfortable living in the unknown, seeing and embracing paradoxes, living "lightly" in my deeply held beliefs, which may or may not be resonant with the new emerging system.

Metrics (Collective Exterior)
Metrics are feedback loops -- ways the system knows about itself. <i>"What you measure, you can change."</i> The 'yardstick' we've been using heretofore to define "success" is GDP -- Gross Domestic Product -- which is basically all of the economic activity of a country. Well, GDP is an outdated and unhealthy measure for the new system which is emerging. Thus letting go of rating ourselves using GDP will accelerate the transition. Living systems all have a tendency to fight major transitions ("deaths")... embracing what is inevitable, instead of fighting against it, also accelerates the transition. There are a number of metrics available that come from the future emerging system... because individuals have been living in this new emerging system for a long time... it's just that it's now becoming more of a collective phenomenon. As the collective begins using these new metrics (Quality of Life indicators, etc.), we will get different signals fed back to us that will lead us more in the direction we want to go.

The core energetic that is emerging now is change... from an existing system to a new one. There are many ways of looking at change, and I like the way Spiral Dynamics describes it. We tend to think of Change as one thing, but it's actually got a lot of nuances to it. One of those nuances is that there are "small" changes (what SD calls "first-order" changes) and big "second-order" changes that are inherently more difficult to embrace. In my last blog, I pointed out a first-order change strategy, which even though it might feel huge, is actually keeping the current system fundamentally unchanged. What Bud is talking about in his response is second-order change, and that is a very different animal. Most times on the evolutionary journey, transitions from one level of complexity to a more complex level requires second-order change... especially if there's major resistance against change, hanging onto the status quo as tightly as possible.

So the practice is to let go and enjoy the ride... much easier said than done, but it's why so many people are voluntarilly "powering down" their lives -- "voluntary simplicity". But the deeper motivations for doing so are different than the motivations perceived by the existing less-complex system. Spiral Dynamics suggests that we each see "life" through the lens of our value system(s) (which can change in each moment, but there's a "center-of-gravity".) So seeing behavior out in the world (of people), we overlay our values onto that behavior (or expression). But if we want to understand why the people themselves are creating that expression, we need to ask them what their underlying values are. You cannot tell the underlying values behind a behavior of another -- we tend to project our own value system onto their behavior. In order to find out, you must inquire.

So what does all of this tell us about leadership? We've learned some interesting things:
  • Leaders really need to be operating at a level of complexity beyond the people they are leading.
  • Leaders also need to be able to communicate effectively to the people they are leading, while still holding true to their vision. We call this "leading from half a step ahead."
  • The emerging leadership necessary to lead in the 21st century must by default have done enough personal work that they understand the appropriate role of ego in the leadership process. Transparent Leadership is one way of putting it... the inter-relatedness of everything must be the background from which the concept of separateness/ego is but a part of the evolutionary journey, itself a process to be transcended.
  • Leadership needs to be proven by example... there are myriads upon myriads of points of view... ideas. What's important is how those ideas translate into form... leadership is about making the translation as accurate as possible, in each moment. Another word for this is Presence.
  • Leadership understands and embraces the concept of paradox -- two seemingly opposite ideas co-arising at the same time, both seemingly true. The world is nothing, if not a world of paradoxes. Recognizing this is the key to being a lifelong learner, rather than a narrow-minded knower.
  • The best example I've run across lately of this kind of leadership is Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. I watched Ken Burns' documentary on PBS and marvelled at the value system Jefferson operated out of... truly inspirational. And of course, it has as much, if not more, chaos running through it as any other value system. Evolution simply is not about happiness... it's about adaptation. That's the nature of leadership in the 21st century.

These are some thoughts which go quite deep. I welcome your additional thoughts and inquiries.