Weak and Strong Agreements Fields

Agreements Fields.  Fields are systems where people interact, where there is a coherence that holds those interactions together.  An agreements field then is the coherent capacity of interactions to tangibilize the potential energy available in those interactions.  Experience seems to show that people experience weak agreements fields and strong agreements fields, which is supported by Agreements Health Check survey responses from 124 countries.

Weak Agreements Fields. When agreements fields are weak, we experience little capacity to making something with the available potential energy.  Though we might see the potential in individuals and in the group, our agreements make it hard to work with that potential: we tend to focus more on getting the required outcomes, and much less on developing capacities and relationships or on seeing and engaging potential.  To be responsible to the resilience of the group’s efforts, in weak agreements fields, we tend to try to increase resilience by increasing the flexibility of our capacity to get people to do work–our resource of human bodies.  From this perspective, we need to be able to scale up and down the number of human bodies available to do work.  When we need more output, we contract more bodies, and when we need less output, we contract fewer bodies.  We can do this more efficiently by contracting that pool of labor–bodies to do work–and keeping investment in their training and benefits low.  This leads us to focus on having flexible financial capital to be able to scale the number of contracted bodies available.  Does the liquidity of this flexibility of capital reduce the return on investment, since it needs to be more readily available?

Strong Agreements Fields. When agreements fields are strong, we experience a high capacity to tangibilize the potential energy available in our interactions, by definition.  We see potential, pathways to manifest that potential, and we use the outcomes of those pathways as feedback about the potential and pathways we saw.  In strong agreements fields, we seem to increase resilience by increasing the capacity of our interactions to leverage our inputs, by working with the reenforcing and balancing feedback loops in our interactions and in the viral nature of our social networks.  We study our interactions to find leverage through the nature of social systems.  This allows us to scale efficiency, achieving much greater outputs with the same inputs, the same number of people with the same level of financial capital.  By keeping the same people, we want to invest in their capacities and their benefits.  This leads us to focus on being more strategic, more systemic, and more collaborative, as a way to engage and learn from the potential energy available to us in the strong agreements field.

If agreements fields have within them the capacity to tangibilize the potential energy available in the individuals present and in their interactions, strong agreements fields seem to engage our intention and our attention–what we do for what reasons and what we focus on–in very different ways than do weak agreements fields.  I am curious what you find in these two different settings.


Shocking News! How We Treat Other Beings Might Influence What We Find

Connecting three dots.

  1. Vast amounts of people, globally, are disengaged at work.
  2. Some people are highly engaged at work, and get far better results, sustainably.
  3. Treating lab animals poorly seems to be decreasing experimental reproducibility of science.

In a piece just out in the prestigious academic journal ScienceStanford University researcher Joseph Garner suggests, “We’re trying to control these animals so much, they’re no longer useful…If we want animals to tell us about stuff that’s going to happen in people, we need to treat them more like people.”  Seeing how most people treat other people in the workplace (see earlier reference to the vastly disengaged workforce), maybe these scientists are arguing that people should treat lab animals better than most people treat people.

If the challenge with lab animals is how to ensure that the animals being tested are in similar conditions, to maximize reproducibility, thus the desire to minimize the number of variables in their living environment, might the challenge with how to treat people also extend beyond energy-depleting cubicle farms?

If nobody had ever tried to figure out how to treat lab animals well AND get good, reproducible results, and if nobody had ever tried to figure out how to celebrate the creative contributions of every individual in a group, then we would really be in deep trouble.  What to do?  Fortunately, there are many people who are figuring this out, and they have been for decades.  We just need to find them and to understand what they are doing.  This is the next frontier for science, at least with people.  How do we need to understand human interactions and human agreements to be able to find, study, and share what those on the forefront are learning.  They experience what we want to experience.  Let’s find them.

Leadership — How We Get to What We Have and Where We Could Be

Leadership.  While everyone has a different definition of what leadership is, how one achieves it, and what it does, it might be much simpler than that.  You know it when it is there, and when it is not there.  From the perspective of the choices we have in the agreements we either unconsciously accept or consciously choose, what does leadership look like?  Can this picture help us see how we ended up with the leadership examples we have today?  Can it help us see where we could be?  Let’s see.

To lead is to get someone to go with you.  This is an agreement, an interaction between two or more people.  In an interaction, there is a future possibility–a desired state–a pathway towards that desired state, and an outcome.  Elsewhere I refer to these as the three levels of perceived reality.  We can look at this interaction through four lenses, big questions that millions of people dedicate their whole careers to: how much resource is available in the interaction; who decides and who enforces; what values are used to decide; and what are the principles of the interaction, the rules of the road?

Where are we today with most leadership?  We can take the three levels of perceived reality (possibility, pathway, outcome) and the four lenses (how much, who decides, what values, what rules) and see how simplifying assumptions give us much of what we experience in leadership today.  Let’s start with what we can see from the three levels of perceived reality.

  1. Most leaders focus primarily on outcomes.  What did you do today?  Did you get the desired results?  Leaders like this are typically given authority to represent the whole group, of whatever size, and they are held responsible for the outcomes.  Get the results however you need to.  Do what I say.  No potentials or learning here.
  2. Many leaders have begun to focus on the outcomes and the pathway to them.  How can we learn and adapt to get the best outcomes, given the changing landscape?  These leaders try to bring out the best of the people and processes they have, learning over the time and space available and developing capacities with the whole and for the whole.  They try to increase the efficiency with which the work is done.  No potentials here.
  3. A few leaders focus on the outcomes, the pathways to them, and the potential.  What can we see that is possible, what pathways can get us there, and what feedback do we get from the outcomes along the way?  These leaders bring people together to see new possibilities, sets of relationships to achieve them, and then focus on what feedback they can get from intermediate outcomes, so that they can adjust the possibilities they see and the pathways they use along the way.

This simple formulation shows us that as we begin to subtract levels of perceived reality from our leadership model, we move from potential, pathways, and outcomes to pathways and outcomes, to outcomes, losing the capacity to choose how we adapt to what we have learned about ways to manifest, to make tangible the possibilities we saw.  When we focus only on outcomes, we lose access to possibilities and to learning.  While many say that they don’t have time for anything other than making sure they get the results–we don’t have time for seeing possibilities and learning–good engineering practice shows that these people spend most of their time correcting for easily avoidable mistakes, and they greatly increase the risk of becoming obsolete.  Learning and adapting does not have to take much more time, and it helps avoid extraordinary wastes of time in correcting mistakes late in the game.

Now let’s see what happens when leadership uses only one of the four lenses.

  1. Some leaders focus primarily on the economics of how much resource is available.  How much do we have, how much do we need, how much do we generate?  What is the net result?  How do I control more of the resources?
  2. Some leaders focus principally on the politics of who decides and who enforces.  Who has the right to make what decisions in the hierarchy?  Who enforces them?  What power do the decision makers and enforcers have?  How do I get more of that power?
  3. Some leaders focus on the cultural values used to decide.  What do we most care about?  How deeply do people live into these principles?  Do the people clearly understand and live by these principles?  What culture do I think we need?
  4. Some leaders focus on the social rules of the game.  What are the rules?  Does everyone know them and obey them?  How can I work the rules of the game to my benefit?

This simple formulation shows us that we can easily focus our leadership on the economic, political, cultural, or social forms within our interactions.  And that we do this at great risk, losing the value of the other perspectives.  With any one lens, we easily go astray.  We try to get power through resources.  We try to get resources through values.  We try to set the rules through power.  We try to set the values through the resources we control.

Does this mean that we are doomed as society with leadership that tends to focus on the outcomes level of perceived reality and only through one of the four lenses?  Maybe.  And, we see that are many examples of leaders who are beginning to do something that is actually easier to do and gets much better results.  They are starting with the assumption that they are leading with other people who actually care and have something to contribute.  From this perspective, they co-host people coming together to look for the possibilities they can see from the richness of perspectives they each bring, finding pathways they can use together to manifest those shared possibilities, and then see what they learn from the feedback they receive in the outcomes they achieve.  What happened?  What did we learn?  How can we adapt what we initially saw, given what we learned in the process?  These leaders also use all four lenses, at the same time, to ask one question, using the four lenses to see the subtleties:

  • how do we manifest the possibilities we see, with the resources we have and can develop in our potential and in our learning,
  • each making decisions for ourselves, for each other, for the group, and for the process, as is appropriate along the way,
  • with a deeper shared purpose and a set of values for those decisions that bring out the best we have to offer, in our potential, in our learning, and in our outcomes,
  • collaborating towards this shared purpose, uniting our best contributions, potentials, and learning.

This is not more nuanced than any other form of leadership.  All leadership forms take great energy and lots of resources.  Some just achieve far less impact, far less engagement, and far less resilience than others.  And it does not need to be that way, as leadership is more natural to human beings when it acknowledges possibilities, development, and outcomes, as seen in what resources are available, who decides and enforces, with what values and what principles of interaction, all at the same time.  It is not harder, it is built into who we are as human beings, if we can only see it and choose it.


Collaboration Basics: Essential Agreements

posted with Ruth Rominger, CHOICE Fellow and Garfield Foundation’s Director of Information and Network Design–Collaborative Networks

Those of us in the social sector hear a lot of talk about the value of collaboration. Why do so few actually do it? Because it is hard?  Because it takes too much time?  Or is it because we are operating out of old mindsets and assumptions?

Our research over the past three decades suggests that most people know how to collaborate and yet, they don’t. The evidence points to some common assumptions that get in the way, and a handful of key behaviors that show up in most authentic, effective collaborations. It is our observation that when you become aware of these assumptions and behaviors, you are poised for productive collaboration.  

What We See

People who collaborate effectively are actively engaged with others to co-create the time, space, and purpose for working together.  They share responsibility for hosting explicit processes to achieve desired outcomes. These include:  co-investment, integrated conversations, deep shared purpose, and uniting design.  We call this collaborative co-hosting. Here is a brief description of what these ideas mean:

Co-investment. People in effective collaboration come to the table with the attitude of a co-investor. Co-investors who take responsibility for process and outcomes, and want to bring all their available resources to the table. Collaborative co-investors look for opportunities to learn and grow, share their capacities, and see greater potential. It is possible to increase the effectiveness of any collaborative group by recognizing evidence of co-investment and reinforcing it.

Integrated Conversations. Collaboration is strongest if people who don’t typically interact with people in different sectors of a given system have small-group conversations that overlap with other small group conversations that build to whole group conversations, and continuously engage with each other through all phases of work. The behavior seems to maintain the flow of information throughout the system, which helps inform decisions at the core, in nodes (small groups), and at the periphery (with those people loosely involved, on the front lines, or highly impacted). And it makes it possible for decisions to be made at the most appropriate level, by informed and trusted individuals, pairs, or groups.  

Deep(er) Shared Purpose. There is nothing that motivates a diverse groups and individuals to collaborate more than identifying a deep shared purpose. Co-hosts create the opportunity to find and name a deeper shared purpose.  They welcome others who connect with that purpose.  They invite the contribution of each individual’s own purpose to the shared purpose, and the contribution of their unique capacities to the collaboration.

Uniting Design. Co-hosts design interactions and activities to unite, connect, reinforce, and reciprocate contributions of others sharing the deep shared purpose. They create the space to build trust, and see, with others, who their efforts can benefit. The collaboration focuses on learning together by seeing possibilities, testing them, and learning from the successes and failures.  More than looking for the one right answer to all of the problems, the focus is on continuously exploring the next step to generate common understanding of the subject.  And they contribute to others, to create a “whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

What We Do Instead

Even though most of us know how to co-host collaboration, we tend to overlook the potential, learning and growth, and unique capacities in ourselves, in others, and in whole groups.  Instead we focus on outcomes, attributing direct cause and claiming credit. What results did the work produce? Who gets acknowledged? The common practice—to directly associate an action to its outcome—tries to isolate one dimension, or one data point, at a time. At best, the use of logic models, good strategic planning, assessment, and evaluation of isolated data falls far short of what is needed to effectively change a complex system, and often lead to unintended consequences.

Instead of making explicit the group’s deep shared purpose and core values, we tend to focus on the values of one or a few key stakeholders, subordinating all others, often unconsciously.  We too often attribute value to a single success factor, a preferred group, or ultra-individualism in the name of freedom, to the exclusion of seeing and valuing the rest.

Why We Do This

Research shows two dominant reasons for why we continue to do this. We do not recognize scarcity-based assumptions that are embedded in the system and limit our ability to see other possibilities. We unconsciously accept that our world has scarce resources, and thus see scarcity in our life, at work, with strangers, friends, and family. This is just the way it is: there is not enough to go around, and we have to compete with others for what little there is.  Our research, based on an Agreements Health Check survey (http://instituteforstrategicclarity.org/take-the-survey/) with responses from 124 countries, shows that people unconsciously accept and selectively see scarcity.

We also tend to accept that most of our environments are energy depleting. Research in sociology shows us that underlying agreements of how we treat each other are deeply embedded in our social systems, which makes them very hard to see.  For example, we tend to design our companies hierarchically for efficiency. We measure efficiency by the value of outputs earned from the cost of inputs. We seek efficiency to maximize profitability for shareholders.  And we accept maximizing shareholder values over other stakeholders, because the current system is designed for shareholders to decide who has access to their capital. We have accepted an agreement that capital is the most important resource, over all else. Most of us are not aware that these are only agreements, and these agreements and their consequences are embedded in the current system. They exist only because we have unconsciously accepted that this is the way it is, and by doing so, we miss the opportunity to create something different.  While most agreements that exist today simplified reality to so that we could achieve the great contributions to society of the past two centuries, these same, simplifying  agreements now limit the capacity of our society to make the next step many collaborative efforts seek.  With gratitude we acknowledge where we have been and step towards where we need to be.

We Can Build Other Agreements

We have the ability to shift our reality.  When we recognize the agreements underpinning current reality, we can shift them. For example, we can build new agreements about what types of resource and collective potential are available to work with. We can choose who makes decisions. We can choose what values we base our decisions on and how we enforce them.  We can choose how we interact with others.  

We can choose the benefits of co-hosting collaboration.  We can shift from old agreements to collaborative agreements.  Following is a guide we have developed, based on our experience to date, to  assess and strengthen strategic, systems-changing collaboration.

Assessing Collaborative Strength

Collaborators’ Basics

Value Is there evidence that collaborators… Evidence
1 Co-investment
  • Bring a variety of resources  to the table
  • Invest in their own development
  • Tap into their full potential
  • All collaborators co-invest
  • Co-investors bring full complement of their resources: their capacities, their learning, and their potential
  • Clear model of Return on co-investment, from greater impact and resilience, for each co-investor
2 Integrated conversations
  • Integrate the parts of the system through overlapping conversations, where representatives from one conversation are part of another
  • In and across the parts and phases of work
  • Information flows through their system, intentionally and fluidly informing decisions
  • Decisions are made at appropriate levels, by trusted individuals, pairs of individuals, or groups
  • Structure of integrated conversations directly related to the deeper shared purpose
  • Clear structures and processes for continuous information flow through integrated conversations
  • Clarity of what perspectives need to be in each conversation
  • Participants demonstrate 100% responsibility for being prepared and engaging in each conversation
  • Rapid learning and adaptation within and across integrated conversations
3 Deeper shared purpose
  • Identify the deeper purpose that motivates action
  • Invite others motivated by the purpose to contribute what is unique and specific for that purpose
  • Statement of deeper shared purpose that deeply motivates co-investors
  • Direct connection of each integrated conversation to the deeper shared purpose
  • Clarity in each integrated conversation of how it is connected to and furthering the deeper shared purpose
4 Uniting design
  • Design interactions and activities to unite
  • Design to reinforce unique contributions of each person towards the purpose
  • Clarity of specific, unique contributions needed for each integrated conversation
  • Each integrated conversation inquires into and brings out the best of needed  perspectives

Delighting in Hard Ideas — Recommended Readings

Strogatz, Steven H. The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity. 2012, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Randall, Lisa. Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions.  2006, New York: Harper Perennial.

Kant, Immanuel.  The Metaphysics of Morals.  ed, Mary Gregor, 2007, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Some ideas are really hard to grasp.  Advanced math.  Particle physics.  Moral philosophy.  Or at least the ideas seem to be hard to grasp.  Most of the time, I seem to buy into the idea that only highly trained experts can even begin to have a clue about some of these ideas.  I no longer believe this to be true.  I find that it is more a matter of storytelling.  I do not need to understand all of the nuances of something to find it interesting and to be able to relate to it.

I find that there are a few ways to tell stories.  Three of them make it almost impossible to engage with the hard ideas.

  1. Some writers water down the ideas.  Just the bullet points, in 140 characters or less.  I think of this as the “American coffee” story.  Not much there.
  2. Some make the ideas hard to swallow.  Let me show you how smart I am.  This is the “cod liver oil” story.  Not much fun to take in.
  3. Some overwhelm the senses.  The 18 secrets to success.  Everything that I randomly can think  of to tell you about what I know.  This is the “half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon” story or the “notice the aged cinnamon in the roasted jalapeño Oaxacan chili mole” story.  Too many details I cannot connect, so it is also off-putting.

Then there are storytellers that engage me, awaken my interest, and help me make connections that I did not have before.  They do not water down the ideas; they dig in quite a bit.  They do not make the ideas hard to swallow; they sweeten them up with anecdotes, with context for why this is meaningful to know in my life, and even a few little insider secrets.  They do not overwhelm the senses, rather building up my understanding through a scaffolding of insights.  At the end, I see something I did not see before, and I have an engagement with the ideas that I did not have before.  While I could be upset that years of formal education did not give me the insights gleaned from a few hours of reading, I decided to be grateful that I have them now.

I have just finished reading the three books listed above.  They all do a great job at this.  Cornell University professor of math Steven Strogatz gave me an overview of the world of basic math principles, from grade school through graduate school, and an appreciation for how I can use it for my own understanding of the world and in my research that I did not have.  I had the tools, which I now grok at a whole new level.

Harvard University professor of theoretical physics Lisa Randall gave me a deeper understanding of particle physics, string theory, and multi-dimensional realities than I had gained after reading dozens of books on the subject.  What I had as a bunch of somewhat disconnected ideas, now fit together into a clean, clear picture.

I had never tried to read the great philosophers until recently.  While some are very hard to read, Immanuel Kant’s very structured logic and careful building of a frame works very well for me.  Not only was I able to see farther into the world of Kant’s philosophy and its repercussions through the years, I also benefitted from his structuring of a very challenging idea, of a moral philosophy for humanity.

It is a joy to explore the often-hidden depths of what it is to be alive, and it is even more fun to follow those warped passages when guided by great storytellers.


The Future Is Already Here

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” said cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson.

Prolific management author Peter Drucker observed, in October 1989 in The Economist, “The trends that I have described..are not forecasts (for which I have little use and scant respect); they are, if you will, conclusions.  Everything discussed here has already happened; it is only the full impacts that are still to come. I expect most readers to nod and to say, ‘Of course’.  But few, I suspect, have yet asked themselves: ‘What do these futures mean for my own work and my own organisation?'”

McGill University professor Elena Bennett has found over 500 vibrant social initiatives, which her lab describes as “seeds.” “Seeds are existing initiatives that are not widespread or well-known. They can be social initiatives, new technologies, economic tools, or social-ecological projects, or organisations, movements or new ways of acting that..appear to be making a substantial contribution towards creating a future that is just, prosperous, and sustainable.”

Through the Institute for Strategic Clarity‘s fieldwork in 39 countries and survey research in 124 countries over the past decade, my colleagues and I have identified 457 highly vibrant groups.  We have worked with 149 of them.

The point is that the seeds of our future are already here.  People are figuring out how to live and interact in ways that are more consistent with their own values, their own deeper shared purpose, developing energy-enhancing solutions that result in much greater impact resilience.  The Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience (MEDIR), working with community leaders, academic institutions, networks, and consultancies around the globe, is (1) identifying these seeds of the future that are already here, and (2) developing agreements field mapping (pactoecographic) frameworks, lenses, and processes to understand what people all over the world are learning about making vibrant, energy-enhancing, culturally-relevant choices within their local contexts.  Learning with and from people who are already figuring out parts of the “how to” can accelerate our capacity to find high impact-resilience solutions, solutions that work for everyone, everywhere in our systems, everyday.  That future that we prefer is already here.  The task now is to find it.


A Reframers’ Coup — Recommended Readings

Klarman, Michael J. The Framer’s Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution.  2016, New York: Oxford University Press.

Kishtainy, Niall.  A Little History of Economics. 2017, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Are the agreements that we live with today, whether consciously chosen or unconsciously accepted, the only agreements that are possible?  Are they “true,” in the sense that they are the only way that life could be?  While we tend to unconsciously act as if they were given truths, I find that all of these agreements have shifted over time.  Whether the laws of physics, the laws of medicine, the laws of economics, or the laws of politics, they all change, and often by a lot.  This constant reframing of what we “know” to be true intrigues me, so I have been looking into the history of thought and practice in many of these disciplines.

I recently recommended a book that explored the evolution of the modern mind.  A wild ride through the wars and tectonic shifts in how we define what a mind is.  I also recommend two books exploring how we arrived at our current-day understanding of two very influential systems, which we also tend to assume are given facts of reality:  the US Constitution and modern economics.

Professor Klarman, of the Harvard Law School, digs deep into the archives, through hundreds of letters from the framers of the US Constitution to describe, in the words of the framers themselves, the process that the framers went through to get from the Articles of Confederation to a ratified Constitution.  It was not a forgone conclusion that the convention could legally happen, that they would reach an agreement, or that the document would be ratified.  They just knew that the Articles of Confederation were not working, with bankruptcy and civil war imminent, and little else had worked. “By 1787, a decade’s worth of failed efforts at securing incremental reform within the framework of the Articles had convinced many political leaders of the need to pursue more fundamental change–and through other avenues” (p 72).  Where many of the states were moving towards democratic systems of local decision making, and many of the political leaders did not support a strong federal model, the framers were successful in changing the foundations of the USA going forward. To get this highly negotiated document ratified, “invocations of divine inspiration for the Constitution by supporters of ratification, were, at least in part, a conscious political strategy to maximize the chance of winning” (p 2).  While the Constitution has proved to be a very strong document, its framers wanted it to be revisited soon and strengthened, seeing it only as a better temporary solution than the Articles of Confederation.

While Professor Klarman’s archive-rich narrative includes 181 pages of endnotes, making it a long, nuanced read, London School of Economics guest lecturer Kishtainy‘s A Little History of Economics covers a wide spread of history in a few pages, highlighting key thinkers and tinkerers along the way, showing how they took a legacy of key concepts and the pressing issues of their times, to mold a new perspective on how people come together to produce and exchange goods.  It is the idea in a context that made huge shifts that we then consider normal or given today, many years later in a completely different context.  “Before Jevons and Marshall, economists imagined people as colorful characters.  In Adam Smith’s version of competition, merchants haggle and hustle to make the best deals, and Malthus’s poor liked to breed like rabbits.  Now economists place a new character at centre stage: ‘rational economic man,’ a person who decides what to do by weighing up marginal costs and marginal benefits, for example by comparing the price of a spoon with its utility.  The economy was seen as being full of cool-headed people who do all these calculations perfectly.  This kinds of economy looks calm and harmonious, quite different from how earlier economists saw it.  To Marx capitalism was all about the exploitation of workers by capitalists.  Workers create the economic value, but capitalists take most of it as profit.  In the world of ‘rational economic man’ there are simply lots of people buying and selling things.  There’s no such thing as exploitation” (p 65).

Another coup.  Take one idea, add some content and a new context, stir, and change the game.  We then accept the new game, and forget that there ever was a previous game that others previously also thought was true and given.  Two highly recommended books on the history of thought underlying major institutions today.


I Invite You to Become a Quitter, a Double Quitter

To celebrate the new year, I invite you to become a quitter.  Just quit.  Now.  And make a resolution for this new year to remain a quitter the whole year.  You can do it.

In yet another book with well expressed, great observations, author and entrepreneur Seth Godin starts off his 2007 book The Dip observing that, “Most people quit.  They just don’t quit successfully.  In fact, many professions and many marketplaces profit from quitters–society assumes you’re going to quit.  In fact, business and organizations count on it.  If you learn about the systems that have been put in place that encourage quitting, you’ll be more likely to beat them. And once you understand the common sinkhole that trips up so many people (I call it the Dip), you’ll be one step closer to getting through it.  Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.  Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny minority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new…Quit the wrong stuff.  Stick with the right stuff.  Have the guts to do one or the other” (pp 3-4).

I invite you to choose, right now, to be a quitter, and to have the guts and stamina to stick with it.  To make it through Godin’s “stop quitting” dip.   Quit what?  As Seth Godin observes above, society expects you to quit, to quit choosing to live life your way.  You know, from your own experience, that you prefer being engaged to being disengaged, being energized to being de-energized, being acknowledged for your efforts to being ignored or overlooked, being supported to undermined.  You know this.  And, you probably accept, consciously or unconsciously, to be disengaged, de-energized, ignored, overlooked, and undermined in many of your daily interactions.  On a continuous basis.  From the research my colleagues and I have done over the past decade, it seems that most people tend to accept these conditions, because they tend to think that this is just how reality is–much of life tends to disengage, de-energize, and disempower people.  That is just how it is.  At least that is what most of us tend to think or accept.

It is not that way.  You know this, because some of the time you experience being engaged, energized, acknowledged, and supported.  If the opposite, the downside, were a fact of reality, then you would never experience the upside.  The only truth here is that you have accepted this reality of being disengaged, de-energized, ignored, overlooked, and undermined.  Quit.  Doubly. I invite you to be a quitter.  To quit accepting that quitting is normal.  It is not normal.  Being human is.  To paraphrase Seth Godin, quit accepting being de-energized, which is quitting on being human, and stick with being engaged.  A double quit–quit quitting on yourself.  Push a tiny bit longer than most, and get through the dip.  Experience the extraordinary benefits that accrue to those with the guts to quit quitting now and refocus your efforts on the other reality, which you also know to be true for you.  Quit.


Why Utopias Go Nowhere in The Circle

Utopias, places where everything is perfect, are not real.  They are to be found nowhere, which is the etymology of the word utopia, from the Greek ou “not” + topos “place” or nowhere.  The recent movie The Circle suggests a utopian solution, where everything is designed to be nice.  Like many utopian designs, the basic premise is seductive, everything can be perfect, if everyone can just be…

In The Circle, everyone is supposed to contribute to the group.  If you can just do that, it will all work out.  Like most other social designs, this utopia focuses on one of the five primary relationships, the relationship to the group, assuming that if you do that well, then the other four primary relationships (self, other, nature, spirit) will somehow work out.  In The Circle, they imply that they are working on all five primary relationships by measuring the impact you have in each.  You have a scorecard, which everyone can see.  They measure how you express your own creativity with a self score (relationship to self), how you support others with a service score (relationship to other), how creative you are in finding solutions with an innovation score (relationship to nature), and how much you access the creative source with smiles (relationship to spirit).  It is all measured and in a scorecard.  All five primary relationships, measured continuously, giving you instant feedback on how healthy you are in the vibrancy of your five primary relationships.  That should work, right?  And, as the movie unfolds (spoiler alert), it does not work.  Why?

The utopia always focuses on one to two primary relationships, then either ignores the other three to four primary relationships or tries to fit them into the first one to two.  This is where the centripetal forces of The Circle’s utopia collapse it in on itself.  The design of The Circle is based on “the push.”  The principles of measurement focus on pushing you away from the centripetal forces of deep scarcity, away from low levels of vibrancy experienced in each of the five primary relationships.  Through measurement, they show you where you are on the continuum from weak to strong in each of the five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  Through the ecosynomic lens, it has to be based on a push, a push away from scarcity, because it is primarily based on one of the five primary relationships–the relationship to the group–masking the other four (self, other, nature, spirit) as expressions of the group.  Express yourself, for the health of the group.  Support others, for the health of the group.  Be creative, for the health of the group.  This is a scarcity-plus move. This move assumes that people are based in scarcity, and it tries to control or measure the scarcity out of them.  The lead actor receives lots of feedback, the second she engages, about how poorly she is doing at being vibrant, in multiple ways.  A key lesson here is that you cannot achieve higher levels of impact resilience and vibrancy through a push, a scarcity-plus move.  The centripetal forces of collapse, back to the center, are too strong.

Does this mean that there is nowhere to go, is everywhere a nowhere, a utopia?  Our research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity of the past two decades suggests that there is a somewhere to go, a now here, instead of a nowhere.  In beginning to map the global social topography of human agreements, my colleagues and I have found hundreds of examples all around the world of people that are beginning to find their own “now here.”  They are not in the middle of nowhere, rather right in the middle of now here.  What are they discovering that enables them to live in the outer circles of vibrancy in all five primary relationships on a sustainable basis?  The pull.  They have discovered how to connect to the pull, the force that pulls people towards a desired future to which they give their will.  We find this pull is connected with a deeper shared purpose that draws people together.  It accesses a seemingly infinite source of potential, of creative energy.  Within the pull, people work with tangibilization power, continuously learning and evolving, seeing potentials, discovering pathways of relationships and capacities to manifest that potential energy, and then experiencing the outcomes of those pathways, adjusting what is seen in potential and the pathways to be used.  Learning and evolving, which is nature’s process.

From the pull, they are uncovering more robust forms for realizing, making real, each of the five primary relationships.  In the relationship to the self, you find your own individual initiatory development of free expression, which only you can see for yourself.  Nobody else can dictate, like in The Circle, what your initiatory path of development is and how to express your own self.  In relationship to the other, justice as fairness supports each uniquely constituted and contextualized self equally.  In the relationship to the group, each individual is invited to contribute their unique expression in the self-other-whole relationship to the group.  In the relationship to nature, one learns to witness, through self awareness and with support from the other and the group, how to improve one’s capacity to tangibilize potential through pathways of relationships and capacities into outcomes.  And, in the relationship to spirit, groups are learning how to connect to their pull, their source of creativity.

Through the pull, it seems that it is indeed possible to find yourself now here.  Through the push, it seems that you end up nowhere.  The Circle shows what happens when you try the push method.  The O Process shows what groups have learned about working with the pull.


Then There Were 10D Glasses — Recommended Reading

Bryanton, Rob. Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking About Time and Space. 2006, Oxford, UK: Trafford Publishing.

For thousands of years, we had the rich inner pictures we perceived from elaborate storytelling.  Then there were the 2D images in black-and-white then in color on the big movie screen.  Now we have 3D images popping out at us, from screens big and little.  In Imagining the Tenth Dimension, Bryanton jumps way past 2D and 3D to 10D, inviting us to imagine the 10D reality that physicists tell us we live in, and possible implications of that 10D reality.

For the timid of mind, Bryanton starts by warning the reader that, “anyone wanting to dismiss the levels of detail we are imagining in these pages as ‘too extravagant’ would do well to keep in mind how extraordinarily, inconceivably extravagant we already know the universe to be” (p 5).  “All of these theories [of physics, such as string theory] tell us that it is the harmonics of superstring vibrations happening in the tenth spatial dimension that create the basic laws that define our reality–the strength of gravity, the charge, spin and nature of subatomic particles…It is the energy of these strings’ vibrations which is converted into mass” (p 5).

Bryanton walks us quickly through the initial build up of the dimensions, showing that 0D is a point, 1D is a straight line, 2D is a split, a branch into two lines, creating a plane, and 3D is a fold, which is “what we move through to get from one point to another in the dimension below” (p 11).  Instead of adding a third dimension to space, creating a volume, like most do, Bryanton uses the fold to start us thinking about how we perceive reality differently from different dimensions, a mechanism he uses in the subsequent dimensions.  So, the third dimension is how we can jump from one point to another in the perception of the second dimension.

He now repeats this pattern with the 4D being a line, which connects two points or states of existence of the 3D being.  Two different states of you, for example, connected with a line, as perceived from 4D.  5D is a split, branching into different possible lines.  You know one of those lines, which you live on as time, because that is the one you lived on, in your 3D experience of a 4D reality, branching in 5D.  Which branch you experience is a function of choice and circumstance. 6D is then a fold into different worlds of branches you, as you experience yourself, did not take.  The pattern then repeats, with 7D being a line of all possible timelines for the universe we experience, 8D is a split, and 9D is a fold.  10D consists of the vibrating strings that make up existence, according to string theory.

This is how Bryanton builds up an inner image of the experience of 10D reality.  For the rest of the book, he looks at some implications of this image.  Such as, what or who chooses the path we take at each branch in the 2D, 5D, and 8Ds?  Is it you when you are aware, conditions when you are not, or a higher-order existence?  He then explores the notion of time.  Does time exist as a separate thing, a dimension, or is time what we call the experience of movement through the changing of energy states?  If existence is full of energy everywhere, and energy moves, through power and work, then maybe the higher order dimensions of energy shifting states is what we call time, in our 3D experience of reality.  And we only experience one line of shifts in form–our time–because that is the one we experienced.  Time is what 3Ders, like us, call the experience of 4D.  Bryanton also explores why the speed of light is constant, while Einstein found all other speeds to be relative.  “In the ten dimensions as we’re imagining them, the speed of light is defined by interactions in a higher dimension than the one we live in.  This is how it can be independent of how we move in the fourth dimensions.”

Through these explorations, Bryanton leads us to choice. “As creatures with free will, we are constantly moving through the fifth dimensional paths that are available to us, selecting one of those paths as our personal timeline…a life-changing decision or event that breaks old habits and old patterns will certainly direct a person’s life to a new trajectory, making other future paths more likely to be followed from that point on” (pp 118-119).  Awareness matters.  Choice makes a difference.  And this is the link to ecosynomics, that choice makes a difference in the agreements we consciously enter, and that these agreements change everything.  And, as I explored in an earlier blog, you already know all of this, from your own experience.  The question is whether you use what you know to choose the agreements that influence the interactions that determine the experience and outcomes you achieve every day.  With Bryanton’s enjoyable read, you have 10D glasses with which to perceive the multi-color, multi-possibility universe of choice before you.  It is your choice whether or not you put on the 10D glasses.