The NocHoIce Placebo — You Might Have Just Been Given One, and How to Counteract It

You know about medical placebos. That is when they give you a sugar pill instead of the real thing. Medical research uses the placebo to see if the real thing actually has the intended effect, or it was something else that did it. They do this by giving you something that has no medicinal value, a placebo.

Placebos are used in a lot of places, not just in medicine. The word “placebo” comes from the Latin for “I shall please.”  Is that really a thought you had (the real thing), or did someone else put it there (the sugar pill)?  That is the thinking sugar pill (cognitiva placebo).  Do you really like your friend or love your partner, or did someone lead to you feel that?  That is the feeling sugar pill (emotive placebo).  Are you really get nutrients out of that food or the caffeine out of that coffee, or did someone give you a sugar pill, masquerading for an incomprehensible list of ingredients?  That is the biological sugar pill (biological placebo).  Is that a real door you are knocking on, or is it a Pauli-exclusion-principle space you cannot pass through?  That is the material sugar pill (materia placebo).  Placebos are everywhere.  Are you getting the real thing or a sugar pill, something with no actual value?

You probably took a NocHoIce placebo recently.  Did you get the real thing, or a sugar pill?   The thinking, feeling, biological, and material are all ways that you relate to and make sense out of your experience.  You know this.  You create a story, in your head, of how the world really works.  While as humans we don’t actually know how most things in the world actually work, we are really good at knowing that they do work.  [For example, physicists don’t know what time actually is, just that it works, relatively.]  We humans can also be good at knowing, from our own experience, whether we are experiencing a placebo or the real thing.

You have multiple ways of sensing what is happening.  In your thinking, your feeling, your sensory perception.  These are different systems that you can use to perceive and differentiate what is real and what is a placebo.  Integrating these different systems gives you a fuller perception of what is happening.

When you are NOT pay attention, you might be accepting the NocHoIce placebo (non election placebo). You are letting someone else use your attention.  To counteract the NocHoIce placebo, you already have what you need.  You have the YesChoice.  It is in your thoughts, your feelings, your intentions, your biology, your matter.  You can see the NocHoIce placebo and choose reality with your YesChoice.

Measuring Success 2.0: Recommended Readings

Keller, S. and B. Schaninger (2019). Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley.

Phelps, E. (2013). Mass Flourishing: How Grass Roots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Stiglitz, J. E., et al. (2019). Measuring What Counts: The Global Movement for Well-being. New York, The New Press.

Nobel laureates in economics, economists, and strategy consultants. They have spent many years thinking about how society today measures success. They all suggest that today’s “obvious” measures of success miss huge amounts of value. They leave most of the value on the table. They even plain miss the mark. Basically, we are measuring the wrong things, in that the things we measure don’t tell us what we want to know.

We want to know both how well something has done and its capacity to keep doing this. Its performance and its health. Our current measures of performance focus mostly on performance–how well we did. We made money, we scored a goal, we got a 10/10 on the exam, we were promoted. This performance data only tells how we did. It doesn’t tell us anything about how we got the resources we used, how well we used them, or whether we can continue to get them. In other words, these performance measures don’t tell us whether we extracted all of the value out of the system to get our past results, or we have nourished an even richer system from which we can continue to produce great results. Did we extract value from the future to get results in the past, or did we generate a rich future while performing well in the past?

A common measure of sustainability looks at the net value an ecosystem generates today and its capacity to continue to do that in the future. In simple evaluation, this is called the net present value. The value generated now plus the potential values generated in the future, discounted by the risk of getting to that future. The performance these authors look at measures what we have done. The health they look at measures what we will be able to do. To know whether we are better off, now, we need to our performance and health. These authors plow through massive amounts of data, from the very macro to the very micro, to show how measuring performance and health leads to far better outcomes and far higher well-being.

McKinsey consultants Keller and Schaninger show that a robust, comprehensive organizational health index guides an organization towards strategies and actions that generate greater performance over time. This provides a way for aligning the organization internally, with higher quality execution and constant renewal. The practices that support organizational health also lead to greater awareness of one’s environment and the capacity to respond to changes in it, leading to more probable and greater performance.

Economists Stiglitz, Fitoussi, and Durand show that macro-economic initiatives guided by well-being are far more successful than GDP-only designs. They use data to show why we need to move beyond GDP, compiling many examples of how different countries are integrating well-being into their measurement systems.

Economist Phelps finds that prosperity is best measured by flourishing, the ability of people to engage their fullest capacities in a a task, as well as their ability to express themselves creatively, growing into their greater potential. While these factors are critical to understanding what has driven past growth and technological development, they are not usually included today in economic thinking. They need to be.

To measure our success, from the very micro level of individuals to the very macro level of whole societies, we are better off when we understand and evolve the systems we have that drive our performance, managing them in ways that continuously increase the health of these very systems. Performance and health are not tradeoffs, extracting the value from one for the other, rather they are indicators of the generativity of the system, and indicative of the underlying agreements than support that performance and health. These are great reads, full of data, with clear frameworks for what we can measure going forward.

Your Grit (perseverance and passion): 4 Levels

In this podcast, Freakonomics UChicago economist Steven Levitt explores “grit” with Grit UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth. Characterizing grit as perseverance and passion, they explore different ways people think of their own grit. Listening to this podcast, having reading Duckworth’s book, I realized that you could think of grit from an ecosynomic perspective from four different levels.

Noun level, where I focus on agreements based in what is already finished. At the noun level, grit (nGrit) is about my own node, the immediate space around my own self. I have an executable goal that I can achieve with my existing capacities. I have enough grit to read a book today, or climb that mountain this week.

Verb-noun level, where I pay attention to agreements based on what I am developing in relationships and capacities (verbs), as well as the outcomes (nouns). At the verb-noun level, grit (vnGrit) is about my own node and its links to other nodes. I have an intermediate-level, developmental goal, that I achieve as I grow. I have enough grit to strengthen my capacity to read more and more deeply, or climb that mountain, coming out stronger than I started.

Light-verb-noun level, where I focus on agreements based in my beingness, my potential, what I am becoming as I develop relationships and capacities, and the outcomes of that tangibilizing process. At the light-verb-noun level, grit (lvnGrit) is about my node, links to other nodes, and the centers of the circles of linked nodes. I have what Duckworth refers to as a top-level goal, often a deeper shared purpose to which I have the grit to contribute, that is in my potential to grow into being able to achieve. I can see that I will be able to read ever-more challenging books, and even begin to write books. I can see that I could climb ever-more challenging mountains, and maybe in different ways.

Ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, where I focus on agreements based in the deeper purpose I feel called to serve. At the ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, grit (eshGrit) is about the liminal space generated by the double pull of transcendence away from herenow and immanence completely in herenow. In my grit, I have an existential-master goal, which defines and guides every aspect of who I am and what I do. I am in service to reading or climbing, continuously in the process of cotangibilizing my service to that purpose, evolving what I understand is in my potential to realize along the way.

Grit. Perseverance and passion. What that means to me depends on what I see as my reality. Nouns only. Nouns and verbs. Nouns, verbs, and light. Ecosystems of sacred hospitality. Each level of reality engages orders of magnitude more grit, all which is inside of me to choose.

What Should I Measure? What Am I Measuring? Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes, Impacts?

You are NOT measuring what you want. You want your efforts to do something, to mean something. You give your will towards a future you love. When you don’t consciously choose how you engage your will, your creativity, your efforts, your attention, you feel disengaged, like most of the people seem to feel most of the time at work. If you want your efforts to have an impact, then measure your efforts and their impact.

What are you actually measuring? Your impact? Probably not. Lots of research on evaluation shows that most people are measuring inputs or outputs. Not outcomes and impacts.

Two questions. What is the difference? Does it matter? There is a difference, and it does matter. In fact, What You Measure Is What You Pay Attention To (WYMIWYPAT — pronounced “wimy why pat”).

What is the difference? First of all, you get resources to do something that impacts someone else. In organization-speak, you engage and accumulate assets, which you transform into a service or product that others want. In the figure below, there are inputs that flow into the Asset Accumulation, and there are outputs that flow out. These outputs of resources generate outcomes, within the organization, which have impacts for the recipients outside of the organization. [Here are OECD definitions of these terms.]

Differentiating Inflows, Outflows, Outcomes, Impacts

Does it matter? What are you measuring? Most people are measuring INPUTS. Their story is about the number of people they have working, the number of service offices they have, the number of products they have, the inventory available. We are a 12,000-member company with 450 fully-stocked storefronts in 210 communities, providing dozens of services.

Some people tell a narrative about their OUTPUTS. The number of hours worked, the number of meals served, the number of units sold.  Last year, with 120,000 hours of service, we provided 234,000 meals to 56,000 elderly in 700 communities.

With a famous example, you can focus on the number of drills you have (inputs), the number of drills sold (outputs), the sustainability of the profits from the drills sold (outcomes), or the holes drilled (impacts). The famous question is whether the customer wants the drill or the hole that the drill makes.

The main point is that what gets your attention gets your intention. Where you focus is where you act. If you really want your efforts to make a difference, if you want your work to mean something, then you need the feedback from the impacts your efforts have. You need to measure impacts. To be able to adjust what you are doing (outputs), and how well you are doing it (outcomes), you can also measure your outputs and outcomes. To know what resources you need for those activities, you can also measure inputs. The inputs, outputs, and outcomes are in service to your impacts. Understanding them can help you evolve what you do and how you do it to achieve the impacts you want. This gives your efforts meaning, and the ability to evolve your capacity to serve that meaning.

Your choice is to think about how you measure that meaning, the impact of your efforts, in terms of the recipient. Then you can choose how to assess what you do and how you do it to achieve those efforts, on an on-going manner, to continuously improve, to evolve. It is your choice.

How to Talk with Lower-Engagement Leaders

Your way of making sense of the world is clearly useful. It seems to work for you. You got this far. Then you meet people who just don’t see the world as clearly as you do. They seem to see it differently.

While there are many explanations for differences in worldview (different cultures, different languages, different life experiences), one difference we have found to be critical is in what you perceive to be real. Your level of perceived reality.

Do you tend to see reality as that which you can touch? Mostly it is what is directly right here right now, often in quite material terms. That’s real. Or do you also include how things ebb and flow over time, how people develop in new capacities and relationships? It’s about the material and the dynamics of networks of influence. That’s real. Or do you also include the potential you and others see in what is not yet here, in the creative arts? It’s about the outcomes and the learning and the potential. That’s real. Or do you also include the learning from feedback of what actually happens, and how that informs the potential you see, in service to a deeper purpose, and pathways to getting there. It’s about evolutionary co-tangibilizing. That’s real. It turns out that these are four very different perspectives of what is real. And, most people think that theirs is the right and only one, in any given moment. At each of these four levels, you are adding dimensions of reality.

Our global survey research, with over 100,000 people from 125 countries, finds that there is a distribution of people, across these four perspectives of what is real. And, the same people might vary what they perceive to be real depending on the group they are with, the group’s agreements field–how the group engages, transforms, and transfers creative energy.

Communicating with someone who is working with a different perspective of what is real, along this continuum, is very challenging. If you perceive more of reality to exist than they do, they don’t necessarily see you as stronger, rather weaker. That their reality doesn’t include dimensions that yours does means that you are focusing on things that are invisible or irrelevant to them. Those dimensions you find to be so interested are not in their equation.

Here is a 4-step process to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real.

Step #1 — Where You Are. The first step to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real is to determine where you are, what you include in your perspective of reality. In very simple terms, you can think of these as nouns-only, verbs-nouns, light-verbs-nouns, and ecosystems of sacred hospitality levels of reality.

  • Nouns-only — there are things, mostly material, that are right here right now
  • Verb-nouns — there are things, and there is change over time and space
  • Light-verbs-nouns — there are things, change, and always-present creative potential
  • Ecosystems of sacred hospitality — there are things, change, creative potential, all in an ever-evolving service to a deeper shared purpose

Step #2 — Where They Are. The second step is to determine where they are. How does the person you are communicating with see the world? What do they include in what they perceive to be real?

Step #3 — Understand How They See You from Their Reality. The other person can only see you and your reality from their reality. If your reality has more dimensions than theirs, they don’t see that. Often your attention to and inclusion of these other dimensions creates confusion for them. You are talking about things that are not in their definition of what is real, which usually is interpreted by them as a weakness. What you are going on and on about isn’t real.

The following table provides a first scan of what each perspective of reality experiences when communicating with someone from one of the other perspectives. This is based on what we observe when working with people across levels.

Perceived RealityN SeesVN SeesLVN SeesESH Sees
Ecosystems of Sacred Hospitality (ESH)High-risk explorersLack of alignment on agreed purposeShifting purposeComprehensive clarity (purposeful evolution)
Light-Verbs-Nouns (LVN)Lack of clear focus (high risk ventures)Lack of applying learningsComprehensive clarity (tangibilization)Beingness
Verbs-Nouns (VN)Inefficient, always experimentingComprehensive clarity (learning)Stuck in own thinkingBecoming
Noun-only (N)Comprehensive clarity (efficiency)Static surprise from dynamicsCollapsed in outcomesAlready finished

If they are coming from a perspective with fewer dimensions of perceived reality than you–for example, they see Nouns-only (N) and you see Verbs-Nouns (VN)–they see your focus on learning and developing new capacities and relationships as being inefficient. You are always experimenting with something new, never focused on what you have already done. Always moving on to the next thing and not leveraging what you already have.

Step #4 — How to Communicate with Them. To communicate with them, you are trying to invite them into a reality, yours, that is not part of their reality. It works best to start with remembering what they see as real. If you are a verb-noun-reality person, you might be most excited about sharing your focus on the learning, the verbs. To you the importance of the nouns is obvious and already proven, so you are focused on how to improve on what you already know. To communicate with the Nouns-only person, start by showing that you can speak their language, in their reality. Yes, you have nouns, which you have proven to be efficient. You have outcomes. You are efficient. Now you can ask, what if we could have even more-efficient nouns? You are introducing verbs-nouns dimensions of reality, in terms that a Nouns-only reality can begin to perceive. Focusing only on your leading-edge understanding of the cool features of learning and developing sounds to them like you are not grounded. Stay grounded and add the benefits of some verbs.

This logic works all the way up through the ESH levels. Start with what they can see as real in your world. Then you can begin to see if they might see the value of beginning to add dimensions of the next level.

What do you do if you are communicating with someone whose reality includes higher dimensions than yours? You might be working with a Verbs-Nouns (VN) reality, while they appear to be working from an LVN or ESH level. You might perceive that they can see things you can’t. You can invite them to share what they see. It is most helpful if you clarify with them that it is most useful to you if they can explain it first in terms you can understand–in verbs and nouns. Then they can begin to show you the value of adding dimensions from LVN or ESH. The point is to communicate with others. If you experience that you want to communicate with someone else and that it seems like you are talking about completely different things, while still in relatively the same context, maybe you are assuming different levels of perceived reality. Ask. See if you can get to a shared understanding at the Nouns-only level. Then you can try the Verbs-Nouns level, and so on.

The good news is that we all have all of these levels of perceived reality within us, so we can access all four of these levels of perceived reality. And, the agreements we tend to work with in some groups exclude some of them, making communication difficult. Since you already have the dimensions within you, you can still access them and ask the question. It is your choice.

Purpose Is Now Mainstream-Obvious

Our colleagues on the mainstream’s leading edge have now taken up “purpose” in a serious way. Purpose is no longer a nice-to-have, leading-fringe thing. It is not just for the systems thinkers and esoterically-oriented leaders out there. Connecting to the motivating reason that organizes everyone’s efforts in an efficient, effective way generates much greater value. People who do not know why they do what they do are now proven to be far less efficient and effective. Not good.

Finding your deeper shared purpose is straightforward to do. Mostly it takes you asking. Why do we actually do what we do? What gets us up in the morning, really? What gets our creative juices flowing?

The data-driven folks, with access to a large percentage of the organizations in the world, are now proving that purpose has come mainstream.  The benefits far outstrip the costs.  Leading thinkers at McKinsey have shown that if you do not help your employees find purpose, they will leave. The global survey folks at Gallup show that you need to start with purpose to get your people’s best performance.  The global consultancy Deloitte suggests that purpose-driven companies are built to flourish.  Even the medical establishment is getting on board, showing that people who do not connect to their purpose die earlier.

Go Do Your BIG YES!

Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Various people have attributed this insight to Howard Thurman.

I suggest that you have a big YES! within you. If you look, you will find it. You know when you are aligned with it, when you are in your creative flow. And you know when you are not in it, when your creative energy, your desire to engage and contribute is being extinguished. It is your Yes!, and you are the only who can contribute it in your specific way.

Why Is It A Surprise That It Is VERY EXPENSIVE To Disengage The People You Already Engaged? Some Are Figuring This Out

The folks at Gallup, whose global studies have shown that most people are disengaged at work, are now finding and studying groups who are actively working to not disengage their people. A 2020 report found four factors that drive higher engagement.

Actually engaging with the people who already show up at your work is possible, and the organizations they study are showing how. From an ecosynomic perspective, these organizations are making a very difficult and challenging move, from deep scarcity where they treat their people as replaceable machine pieces to respecting that these people actually know something, might actually be learning something, and might actually care about what the organization is doing. This is a huge step on the way to becoming an organization that stops saying No! to human creativity and begins to say Yes! to human creativity. It is a big step, and Gallup researchers have teased out four of the drivers that these leaders are taking in this step.

Here is what they describe, in the four drivers, and an initial ecosynomic description of what these drivers highlight.  

  1. High-development cultures are CEO- and board-initiated. This driver highlights the ecosynomic Economic Lens, which asks the question of how much resource is available.  In high-development cultures, the CEO and board signal to the organization that (a) development towards purpose is also an important resource, beyond just outputs and outcomes, and (b) organizational resources are available to support this.
  2. High-development cultures educate managers on new ways of managing — moving from a culture of “boss” to “coach.” This driver highlights the Political Lens, asking who decides and enforces.  In high-development cultures, decisions are made by the primary relationship most relevant to that decision, meaning that individuals make decisions about their own potential, learning, and engagement, supported by others in that process, with the group deciding for the group’s processes.
  3. High-development cultures hold managers accountable. This driver highlights the Cultural Lens, asking the question of what criteria or values are used in decision making and enforcement.  In high-development cultures, leaders throughout the organization are held accountable, based on values of potential and learning and outcomes.
  4. High-development cultures practice companywide communication. This driver highlights the Social Lens, which focuses on the question of how people interact.  In high-development cultures, the rules of the game focus on explicit communication across the whole organizational ecosystem, across levels, functions, and geographies, supporting the shared engagement and understanding of outputs, outcomes, development, learning, and potentials. 

These are very real examples of what Gallup is finding across many organizations.  What many others are figuring out. These are realities available to you.  It is VERY EXPENSIVE to shut down the people you already have.  It is far LESS EXPENSIVE to say Yes!, to engage the people who you already have.  Your choice.

Want a Daily Practice for Thriving?

For thousands of years, people across the planet, everywhere, have founds ways to thrive. Within their local context, they have learned how to live a good life, a life well lived. They have learned how to see what is actually happening, with an ever-expanding embrace of reality and how they want to engage in it. In today’s modern world, many of these practices from other cultures, other places, and other times are presented as modern solutions. You might find that some of them work for you. It is mostly about trying it, keeping at it, and seeing what it does.

A practice for thriving designed for today’s contemplative practitioner is the Integral Polarity Practice (IPP). Building on wisdom traditions, with modern practitioners in mind, it works with transcending polarities–seeming opposites, often pulling in different directions–to bring more of your own creative Yes! to the world. Developed by my colleague John Kesler over many years, IPP supports your development and integration of stages of awareness, what some call “growing up,” and states of awareness, also called “waking up.” This practice is directly applicable to your own development, to your relationships, and to your organizations.

Say YES! to ALL Children Flourishing in Public K-12 Education — OOMA Is

All children can flourish in public K-12 education. While it is not a reality yet, the OOMA network in Massachusetts is taking its first steps in a collaborative, systems approach to saying Yes! to all children. 100%. Not just some of the children, in some zip codes, some of the time. Everyone everywhere everyday.

In the June 2021 issue of the Eton Journal for Innovation and Research in Education, editors Jonathan Beale and Iro Konstantinou share a piece Wayne Ysaguirre, Hardin L.K. Coleman, and I wrote, “A Bold Vision to Advance Racial Equity and Prepare Underserved Youth to Thrive in Work and Life.”

The article describes the collaborative, strategic-systems approach taken by our colleagues at Open Opportunity MassachusettsInstitute for Strategic Clarity, Social Impact Exchange, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Wayne, Hardin, and I describe our article in this brief 6-minute video.