Even in the most difficult of contexts, humans are full of potential, which we can choose to engage — this podcast, The 100 Types of Humans, with barrister Dexter Dias QC and broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake explores the depths of what is real now and what can also be real now, in very difficult situations — it is a choice.
Does the universe seem to conspire with you? Everything seems to work. Or does the universe seem to conspire against you? Nothing seems to work.
Building on our global work of the past twenty years at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, my colleagues and I have been building an understanding of the underlying ecology of consciousness and nature, the reality that humanity is and in which it swims. The practical application of this ecology is the agreements field. An agreements field is the energetic field that you experience of a set of agreements, of the reality you experience with a group, in a specific space. This agreements field–what you unconsciously accept or consciously choose about how you will interact with reality, with each other–includes 10 dimensions of reality.
These dimensions describe the reality of the ecology of consciousness and nature. That means that they are dimensions of your reality. By seeing them as dimensions of your reality, dimensions that you can directly experience, this gives you the tools, the choices to change the agreements field, to adjust to the reality you want. The reality you need to have the experiences you want and to achieve the outcomes that are yours to achieve. They are all there, for you to choose. This is getting the universe to conspire with you, because the universe asks this of you. Decide how you want to agree to enter and relate with each of these dimensions. Set your intention.
The ten dimensions are relatively straightforward, building on thousands of years of observation across all human cultures, as well as string theory in physics. In essence, the universe is made up of purposeful energy, energy that transforms to and must serve a purpose. It is in the very nature of energy. So here is the first choice–what is the purpose towards which the energy is invited to engage. A tool for this is the Deeper Shared Purpose.
Then you have to connect to the energy. This is the choice of how to connect you and others to a purpose that engages them. This is connection to the source of the energy. Does your purpose and your process for connecting to it engage? We call this cohosting. That’s the second choice.
This purposeful energy comes with many different ways of understanding it, of relating to it. You can think of this as another multidimensional energy that requires many different lenses for engaging it. Like an 8-part harmony in a jazz ensemble or the 3 parts of deciding whether you can make money building and selling something (can we make it, can we sell it, can we profit from making it and selling it?). You need all of the requisite perspectives of that specific purpose to perceive it and engage it. You cannot do an 8-part harmony with 3 voices. You cannot decide whether you can make a profit by just knowing how much it will cost to make. You need all of the required perspectives. What perspectives are required depends on your purpose. The choice here is in how you bring in and work with those perspectives. One tool for this is the O Process. This is the third dimension of choice.
The degree to which those perspectives engage and share what they are perceiving depends on their experience of trust. This is reflected in the level of vibrancy experienced in five primary relationships: the relationship to one’s own self, to the other, to the group, to nature’s creative process, and to spirit’s creative source. When you have generated a space of low vibrancy where the experience is of a weak relationship to these five primary relationships, almost nothing of what the people perceived is shared. When you have generated a space of high vibrancy, people experience very strong relationships to these five primary relationships, and they share all of what they are perceiving and build on it together synergistically. From very low energy throughput to very high energy throughout. This is the fourth choice. A tool for assessing the level of vibrancy experienced is the Agreements Health Check survey, available free online.
Do the agreements in your group work with the energy engaged? The engaged energy comes in three forms: in knowledge of what already is, in developing new capacities and relationships, and in seeing new possibilities, accessing new potentials. Do your organizational agreements, structures, and processes work with all three forms or focus mostly on one? If you tend to focus explicitly on outcomes, existing capacities, and what is already known, you might capture the energy engaged around the knowledge shared of what already is, but you will lose all of the energy engaged around learning and seeing of new possibilities. You have to be structured consciously to work with these three forms and not lose them to entropy. This fifth dimension of choice can be assessed with the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool.
Once you have the engaged energy flowing into your organization, do you know how to transform it efficiently and effectively into something that others want? This means taking the inputs of raw resources and creative energy and putting them together in unique ways that drive value for others. This is the crux of the resource-based view of the strategy of the organization. This transformation works at three levels of leverage: direct, dynamic, and structural. Direct leverage is working directly with the resources in the most efficient way: knowing what you are doing to transform these enabling resources into value-driving resources. Dynamic leverage is knowing how to work with the system dynamics of feedback loops that either stabilize towards homeostasis, balancing the local system or grow the system exponentially–balancing or reinforcing feedback. This requires knowing how to work with the feedback dynamics of functional areas. Structural leverage is coordinating multiple balancing and reinforcing feedback loops–the organizational system–to achieve the overall desired goal. Maximize output from minimal inputs, across interacting feedback loops. This requires knowing how to bring together interacting feedback loops of balancing and reinforcing forces to achieve desired outcomes. This strategic systems work is the sixth dimension of choice. The Systemic Leverage Index tool describes the level of direct, dynamic, and structural leverage in your system and how to increase them.
For you to be resilient in your ability to continue to transform the engaged purposeful energy, you need to be able to access the resources you need. This resilience is a function of inflows and outflows. To be resilient, your resource inflows must match your outflows. Your resource outflows are the resources you need to transform the energy inputs into the product or service you are offering. Think of these as the costs of bringing in people and resources and having facilities. The inflows are the resources you need to provide the outflows. Think of these as the money, products, and services required to provide for the people, enabling resources, and facilities. When your inflows match your outflows, you are resilient. When your outflows exceed your inflows, you are not. When your inflows exceed your outflows, you are wasting resources. A tool for measuring your resilience is the Resilience Dynamics map. This is the seventh dimension.
These are the dimensions of transforming the purposeful energy engaged. The third set of dimensions key in on transferring that transformed energy.
Do the people you are intending to offer the transformed energy want it? Are they ready to receive it in the form offered? Shockingly, most groups will expend great amounts of resources to know how much money they have (accounting information systems and processes) and how much inventory they have (enterprise management systems), and they will then survey their consumers every couple of years, meaning they spend almost nothing in knowing whether people actually want and are able to receive what is being offered. When I ask, many, many groups tell me that they don’t really want what is being offered. This shows in the marketplace, and is harder to see in civil society and government offerings. And, when they do want what is being offered, it is often offered in ways they cannot work with. It is too much or too little, or in a form they don’t want. I don’t need soup, I need clothes. We want water access, but not through the policies you implemented. We want to educate our kids, but not your way. But you don’t ask, so you don’t know. Anther possibility is for the intended recipients of the transference of the transformed energy to be deeply involved in the process, co-creating the forms they most need and are ready to accept of the transformed energy. This is the highest value they can put on that energy. The Memetics and Epimemetics tools describe the ability to transfer the transformed energy, your eighth dimension of choice.
Who in the system are you actually serving? What percentage of the time? Many groups declare they are serving the entirety of a specific population, when their outcomes show they are not. Public K-12 education for all citizens. Serving all sports fans in our area. Yet, they only reach half the intended population, and the half they don’t reach is predictable, often by zip code. And, they reach most people in the system some of the time. The eCubed tool measures the degree to which a system serves everyone in the system (E1), everywhere in the system (E2), everyday in the system (E3). A system says it is designed for the people it is serving. This is eCubed (E1 * E2 * E3) equals 100%. Most systems have an eCubed far less than 100%: they are not serving the system they say they are. They are not transferring all of that transformed energy to the explicitly intended community, rather a subset of it. This reflects the quality of the overall system design. This is the ninth choice.
The 10th dimension of choice is the people you engage. When you invite people into your purpose, you are asking them to exchange their calorie burning for lumens generating. They need money, food, housing, etc to take care of their needs. These are all calorie-equivalents. Things to provide and protect more calories into their bodies for existence. When these are covered, these calorie burners become lumens generators. Lumens are the creative expression of human energy, as people connect to a purpose and the creative energy begins to flow. This is what you are doing with your organization: bringing in calorie burners to generate lumens. These lumens generated bind with the inputs of enabling resources to transform into value-driving resources.
You have all of these choices. Choices that you make every day, whether you do it consciously or unconsciously. The agreements field of these ten dimensions that you generate directly influences how much of this purposeful energy you access, engage, transform, and transfer and how much you lose to entropy. In all probability, you are currently losing most of it to entropy, because you have accepted an agreements field and not consciously designed it. You are expecting the universe to work in a specific way, which sometimes works for you and sometimes doesn’t. Another way of understanding this is to see that these are all dimensions in a set of choices, an agreements field that you can generate. They are all there for you to work with. This is how you get the universe to conspire with you. You tell it to. That is the choice that the universe expects from you, to know how to breath with you, to conspire with you.
You assume there is only one set of agreements, one reality. This is the way it is. If I like it, I like how it is. If I don’t like it, I don’t like how it is. And, that’s how it is. That’s reality, and I cannot change reality. I can like the experience or not. I can like the outcomes or not. But, that is reality. That is how it is.
That’s what you think. Yet, you also know that it is not true. If it were true, if that is the way it is, then it would have to be always true. True in all circumstances, in all situations. If it is sometimes true, and other times not, then it isn’t always true. Then, it depends. Sometimes that’s the way it is, and sometimes it is another way. What does it depend on?
You have two very different experiences of reality–one of scarcity and being disengaged and one of abundance and being engaged. You know the difference, in your own experience, in your own knowing. You have a preference. I have directly asked thousands of people from 39 countries, and I have surveyed people from 125 countries, asking if they know the difference and if they have a preference. So far, everyone says they do. They know when they are experiencing scarcity or abundance, being disengaged or engaged. And, they prefer to be engaged; they prefer abundance.
For you to experience scarcity to abundance, low to high engagement, there are different rules of the game, different rules of interaction, different agreements. Some of the rules of the game, the agreements, lead to the experience of scarcity and low engagement. In the exact same setting, some rules of the game lead to the experience of abundance and high engagement. It is a choice.
You may believe that it just is that way, because you believe there is only one substrate, one underlying substance to all agreements. One underlying reality. One underlying structure for how we humans agree to interact. That’s just the way it is. It turns out there isn’t only one possible substrate, rather there is an infinite number of underlying sets of assumptions that lay the foundation for the set of agreements that you experience in every group, in every system. An infinite number of substrates, which you can pick. It’s like going to the paint store. There isn’t just beige, rather an infinite number of possible colors to use.
Ecosynomics refers to these sets of assumptions about reality as the underlying agreements field, the foundational agreements structures. They include assumptions about what you think is real, what resources are available. About who decides how those resources are accessed, and who enforces those decisions. About the values that permeate the system, providing the criteria used to decide. About the rules of the game for how we interact with the resources and with each other. These are a set of agreements. A set of coherent agreements that describe the interactions that determine the experience you are having. One tool for mapping out, understanding, and changing these underlying agreements is called the agreements evidence map, which has been used in thousands of settings by groups across the world.
So, you assume the substrate is the same. It is just being used differently There is one set of agreements, which are used differently. That is what you assume, consciously or unconsciously. The last 20 years have conclusively shown that there is not just one substrate, rather there are an infinite variety of substrates. An infinite variety of ways that you can agree to interact. The substrate, the platform, the set of agreements used matters. What you are able to do within and with your agreements, your experience and your outcomes, depends on this substrate, on this set of agreements.
There is one experience. There are many ways to perceive that experience and what is real in it. This makes for many different realities that can be perceived in the same experience. You know what you experience. And, with reflection, you can know even more about what you experience, in all of its rich dimensions. The deeper vibrancy you experience to be real. You are the chooser of the experiences and outcomes in your life. You can take the path to choosing your substrate.
You can tell if you are enjoying an experience. If you are in the flow. People the world over, in many different languages, describe this knowing as the vibe, the vibrancy, the energy of the experience or the group.
While people in 1,000s of groups my colleagues and I have worked with, in 125 countries across the globe, describe their experience with similar terms, many “serious” people suggest that this experiential description is subjective and new agey. Rigorous science that is accepted in the mainstream does not talk like this. Until now.
A recent study published in Science Advances (Shao, Hayward, and Visell, 2020) from the Centre for the Study of the Senses and UCSB finds that the human sense of touch is far more than the specific spot of the touch. As Prof Visell, one of the coauthors, describes to the Science podcast host Sarah Crespi,”Our sense of touch, which we also call the haptic system, comprises our skin, muscles, brain and nervous system that allow us to touch and interact with the world via our sense of touch. An important part of that is the skin itself, and it’s not just properties for sensing, but also the mechanical elasticity and transmission of vibrations as waves throughout the skin, including kind of our whole hands.” We literally are wired to process the vibrancy we experience through our senses.
Leading business-school professors talk this way now. London Business School professor of management practice Lynda Gratton describes “hot spots” and “glow.” “You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energised and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas, and the people around you share your joy and excitement. The energy is palpable, bright, shining.” The Harvard Business Review published Fully Charged: How Great Leaders Boost Their Organization’s Energy and Ignite High Performance (Bruch and Vogel, 2011), describing how, “Most leaders have experienced the ebb and flow of different states of energy in their own organizations (p 1).”
To assess your experience of the vibrancy of a group or a relationship, the Institute for Strategic Clarity developed the Agreements Health Check survey. It is a free, online survey you can take periodically to check the health of the agreements in that group, the vibrancy you experience when with the group.
Great innovations. They always come to people when they are in their 20s. The brilliant wunderkind. No wait, some of those society-changing innovations came to people in their 40s. The mastermind. Oh, and some big-system changes came to people in their 60s. The philosopher-king. Then there were those great innovators in their 80s. The synthesizer. So, which is the greater generation? Maybe all of them, each with a different kind of contribution to make. Maybe it is a difference in kind of contribution, more than a difference in degree of contribution. It is not that one generation makes more or better innovations, rather that they make different kinds of innovations.
In the recommended book above, hotelier Chip Conley shares his experience in shifting from being the wunderkind-to-mastermind at his own successful company to being an elder philosopher-king at Airbnb. He highlights what the younger generation brings that he does not, what he brings that the younger folks do not, and how those can meld together into superior value-creating innovation, an intergen approach.
From an ecosynomic perspective, the political question of who decides comes to the front for consideration. As I explored in a previous post, each generation might have something unique to contribute to innovation. From this perspective, each generation tends to access and work with power differently. Each form of power is critical to the power of the whole.
- Power sensors, typically in the beginning of their careers, have direct experience in direct-contact, functional areas. They are uniquely aware of how to see what is happening now and on the periphery of a social system.
- Power brokers, typically 1-2 decades into their careers, have direct experience in managing functional areas and relating with other areas. They are uniquely aware of how to relate across different perspectives and goals.
- Power holders, typically in the last 15 years of their employment career, have direct experience in designing and enforcing inter-functional structures. From this perspective, they are uniquely aware of how to coordinate multiple, differing perspectives towards shared goals.
- Power formers, typically in retirement, have direct experience in taking an advisory overview of the whole, uniquely aware of how to manifest specific outcomes within complex dynamics, across multiple incentives and over time.
Ecosynomic research suggests that each generation potentially brings something unique and critical to decision making in deep collaboration. And, that is not how people in any generation today typically see people from other generations. They could. It is a choice.
Chip Conley shows how to start an “intergen” practice. I recommended reading his book.
Lots of people say they “sit in circle.” While sitting in circle is an ancient practice, from quality circles to check-in circles, sitting together in circle has become a common practice. Two of the key reasons given for forming a circle together are that it gets rid of hierarchy, no head of the table, which promotes collaboration. When people say they are forming a circle, what do they mean? I suggest there are actually four different things people mean by this. They are completely different, and often confused. Different in form and different in results.
What is a circle? A circle has points-nodes, links, and a center. The nodes are linked and the same distance from the common center, the circumcenter.
Node-only “circles”. You know you are experiencing a node-only circle when everyone in the circle tells their own, completely independent story. While you are talking, they are thinking about their own story. While you might have heard each person speak, they each spoke to their own thing, with no connections to a common purpose, and no acknowledgement or support of what others shared. Technically, the creativity comes only through each node in the circle. That is not a circle: it is a set of monads–independent units. In ecosynomic terms, this is design for segregating energy into separate units, which is characteristic of outcome-only or noun thinking. While it might look like a circle, based on the position of the chairs or the shape of the table, it is actually a bunch of independent nodes with no links or common purpose. And it feels that way. You speak your piece. They each speak their piece. The only creativity experienced comes through each node and is only for that specific node–no sharing. When people say they are forming this kind of “circle,” the key benefit is getting to hear yourself speak.
Link-node “circles”. You are sitting in a link-node circle when people pay attention to what you are saying, supporting you and curious about what you have to share. You listened to what they had to say, and your listening and inquiry supported them in delving deeper into their sharing. Technically, the creativity comes in through the individual’s sharing and through the supportive inquiry–through the node and the link. That is still not a circle: it is a dyad, two linked nodes. In ecosynomic terms, this is design for flocking energy, for cooperating, which is characteristic of development-and-outcome or verb-noun thinking. While it might look like a circle, it is a bunch of nodes with temporary links, with no common center, no common purpose. The key benefits are that you share your piece, and that others help you see more into what you are sharing, while you are sharing.
Center-link-node “circles”. You are sitting in a center-link-node circle when you are invited to share your own, uniquely creative contribution to the central purpose of the group forming the circle. You listen for what each person has to share, you inquire to support them in bringing out their unique contribution, and you listen for how each and all of the contributions support what is in the center of the circle, the group’s deeper shared purpose. Technically, the creativity flows into the group through the node, the links, and the center. This is a circle, minimally a triad with a circumcenter. In ecosynomic terms, this is design for uniting energy, for collaborating, which is characteristic of potential-and-development-and-outcome or light-verb-noun thinking. The key benefits are that you make your contribution, with the support of others, to a deeper shared purpose.
Double-vortex “circles”. You are sitting in a double-vortex circle when you experience the simultaneous evolutionary pull to refine your connection to a deeper shared purpose and the pull to refine how you are manifesting clear outcomes of the will you give towards a future you love. You are in the flow, the resonance field of being in service. You listen for what each person has to share, you support them in this inquiry, towards a shared purpose that is continuously deepening as you get feedback in outcomes. The pull towards purpose and the pull towards outcomes, a double vortex which holds the resonance field where you transform potentials into probabilities into outcomes. Technically, the creativity flows into the group through each node, each link, the center, the vortex of the pull to deeper shared purpose, and the vortex of the pull to manifestation. In ecosynomic terms, this is design for sacred hospitality, for evolutionary co-tangibilizing. This design focuses on the alignment of the in-finite creative energy of the pull of purpose and the creative input of feedback from reality given through what actually happened, the outcomes, and the creative input of what is being experienced in the nodes, links, and circumcenter. The key benefits are that you are contributing with others to an ever-evolving purpose, in service to a deeper calling with greater outcomes.
Where is the center? Another way to distinguish the different kinds of circles is to see where you experience the center of the circle. In nodes-only circles, the center of intention and attention is only within each node. In link-node circles, the center of intention and attention is within each link and each node. In center-link-node circles, the center is within the circumcenter and each link and each node. In double-vortex circles, the center is in the in-finite alignment of the field, and the circumcenter and the link and the node. Said another way, the center of the circle of a monad is within the monad. The center of the circle of a dyad is within the link. The center of the circle of a triad is in the circumcenter. The center of a double vortex is in the in-finite alignment of the field. While they might all be called circles by someone, where you experience the center of the circle makes all the difference. Only in the node. In the node and the link. In the node, link, and circumcenter. In the node, link, circumcenter, and in-finite alignment of the field.
The results of each type. What is more powerful, a “circle” that benefits only from the creative energy coming through each independent node (node-only)? Or one that adds creativity coming through the links (link-node) and through the circumcenter (center-link-node) and through the evolutionary pull of purpose and feedback (double-vortex)?
I look forward to seeing you there.
“Everyone knows that …”. “All people are like …”. The completion of these sentences includes an assumption about human nature. What you see as human nature.
What you see AS human nature depends on what you see IN human nature. Our study of four cosmologies (wisdom traditions, physics, daily experience, strategic systems understanding) suggests nine basic dimensions interpenetrating all of reality. As we humans are reality as well, we are also constituted by these nine dimensions. Energy that is purposeful. Experienced because it is reflected off of something and then witnessed. A choosing of the form it takes, which extends in a resonance field over multiple instances (time) and other resonance fields (space). The feedback in what results in form is taken up in the reflector, to be witnessed and a subsequent choice made in the next instance.
Another way that this is often described is that all humans experience a pull towards their unique higher purpose, which they engage with their thinking, feeling, and willing, in a physical and non-physical form. You have morals that guide you. You have thoughts, feelings, and intentions. You have physical experiences connected with your body and its context, and you have non-physical experiences in your thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
The dimensions you include in your understanding of human nature determine what you see as human nature. If you only include the pull, the higher purpose, then humans are moral. If you only include the thinking, then humans are rational. If you only include the feeling, then humans are social. If you only include the willing, then humans are stimulus-response organisms, purely biological. If you only include the physical, then humans are an interesting accident of matter with emergent properties. These simplifying models of what we each know we are, in our own actual experience, are major models of human nature prevalent today. By focusing on one of these dimensions of human nature, these models tend to exclude the other dimensions as irrelevant, unnecessary, emergent and secondary, or misguided.
Another way to approach the question of human nature, other than reading what a philosopher thinks, is to ask yourself, “What do I know, from my own experience, about the dimensions of my experience?” For me, I observe that I have a north star—a purpose that engages and guides me—and I have thoughts, feelings, and intentions, which I experience physically and non-physically. Each dimension seems to be different, in character, and they seem to come together to inform different dimensions of an experience. It is useful to understand that I have these different dimensions, and that integrating them gives me a fuller picture of my experience. I can corroborate this picture with the experience of others, and that is useful.
What I see that is included in human nature affects what I see as human nature. Seeing that I, you, and maybe everyone else, have all of these dimensions of experience within themselves leads me to curiosity, to inquiry, with myself, with you, with others, and the creative process, knowing that the ability to create the now, the future we really want is available here, within each and all of us. There are treasures everywhere to find–I just have to look. Whether one can see and access this infinitely-available creativity depends on what one sees as human nature, which depends on what one sees in human nature. The fuller human nature or a more collapsed form of human nature. It is a choice. Your choice. The difference that choice makes might be infinite.
In defining happiness, two ends of a continuum have emerged, providing completely different exemplars of and pathways to happiness. One defines happiness by economic wealth, the other by overall wellbeing.
The Homo economicus eunomicus hypotheis assumes (1) scarcity and (2) needing to engage the purely rational being. With success at basic resource needs (economicus) comes relational wellbeing (eunomicus). This is global aid’s developmental and neoclassical organizational model. Economic wealth leads to wellbeing, so wellbeing is only found through higher GDP. This framing leads to a GDP-based scaling of economic wealth, human development, and well-being, with the higher-GDP countries paving the way to models of greater success. Copy the wealthy, and you too will have wealth, health, and well-being.
The Homo eunomicus economicus hypothesis assumes (1) abundance in relationship and (2) engaging purposeful energy. With success at basic relational needs (eunomicus) comes resource impact (economicus). Wellbeing leads to higher economic impact. This framing leads to subjective estimates of steady traits and transitory states of psycho-social well-being, with objective estimates of economic development and physical health. High-well-being groups show up all over the globe. Identify local examples of health, and well-being, and learn with them—they have already figured out how to contextualize success.
Initial data from a global survey in 125 countries and fieldwork in 35 shows social topographic hotspots everywhere (Homo eunomicus economicus hypothesis), as compared to the global map of economic wealth (Homo economicus eunomicus hypothesis). What you can see, in your own experience, in framing humanity as Homo economicus eunomicus vs Homo eunomicus economicus: which comes first, economic wealth or social well-being?
To decide is a movement towards a future. Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon framed decisions as including value judgments about a desired future state and factual judgments about how to achieve that goal.