Ecosynomics of Surprisology — Recommended Reading

Luna, Tania, and Leann Renninger, Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected2015, New York: Perigree.  

“We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not” (p. xx), so suggest Tania and Leann in their wonderful invitation into the world of suspense and surprise.  I highly recommend reading this book and listening to Stephen Dubner’s recent Freakonomics podcast on creating suspense.

From an Ecosynomics perspective, I would rephrase what Tania and Leann wrote, suggesting that we feel most comfortable with the certainty we experience in the reality of things-nouns, and we feel most alive when we experience the open possibility (aka uncertainty) in the reality of potential-light coming into development-verbs, resulting in things-nouns.  All three levels of reality together, not separate.  We experience the greatest vibrancy when we experience the possibility being manifested through pathways of development towards specific outcomes — what we have also called the “grounded-potential” path.  In Surprise, Tania and Leann show how this path embraces suspense, surprise, and certainty, and how we love the experience of that path.

They suggest that surprise is evolutionarily beneficial. “With the help of surprise, our ancestors also spotted chances to eat, drink, and mate.  Surprise protected them from danger and pointed them toward opportunity” (4).

Their research also supports the Ecosynomic focus on the experience of how people relate to their own self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  One of the key components of their surprisology is the cultivation of relationships (ch 10).  “The quality of our relationships impacts the quality of our lives…Relationships thrive from a skillful application of surprise.”  For the practice of cultivating relational surprisology, they suggest six tools: “maintain complexity, balance oneness and otherness, balance novelty and routine, practice the magic ratio, speak the right surprise language, and track patterns” (172).

In maintaining complexity, they focus on what we have called mindfulness to new perspectives, finding that “the bad news is that during times of particularly difficult conflicts there is a tendency for complexity to collapse” (174), which in Ecosynomics we observe as the collapse into low vibrancy.  They provide an example of the importance of maintaining complexity, such as in the heart: “the heart shifts from a complex to a simple pattern right before cardiac arrest.  In the same way, relationships that embrace surprise by inviting complexity in roles and perspectives tend to be the healthiest and most fulfilling” (176).  Ecosynomically, we describe this complexity as the harmonic vibrancy people describe when engaged simultaneously in high levels of relatedness with the self and the other and the group and nature and spirit — the stability in the vibrancy experienced comes from the complexity of experiencing all five primary relationships in a healthy way at the same time.

Surprisology suggests practical tools for engaging the full human, in relationship, in ways that sustainably vitalize.  A great contribution.

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