Are You Low-skilled Labor Or a High-quality Craftsman? Depends on What You See

From one perspective, hundreds of millions of people working on the manufacturing floor, in offices, and in service jobs around the world are low-skilled labor.  They are filling blue-collar jobs.  Applying the agreements evidence map to the agreements underlying this low-skilled labor perspective, we find assumptions that people only bring the capacities to do work that they have.  This is an expression of resource power, focusing on the nouns, the capacities available right here right now.  From this logic, whoever has more resources to bring to the game has more power.

The agreements evidence map points to another perspective, one where many of the people in these jobs bring capacity to do work and they are experts at their craft, bringing deep levels of experience in collaboration, and very high-quality processes to their efforts.  They know what they are doing, and they are very efficient at it, continuously learning and furthering the craft.  The agreements evidence map shows agreements based on network power, focusing on learning and development of capacities and relationships, as well as outcomes, the verbs and the nouns.

Are the people in these hundreds of millions of jobs, low skilled or high skilled, labor or knowledge workers, replaceable cogs or expert technicians?  Is a knowledge worker only a professional, or might it depend on the level of craftsmanship brought and the level of agreements underlying the position?  It might depend on what you see, on the underlying agreements.

Group Work ≠ Collaboration: 2 Ways to Make Dysfunctional Groups

A few recent stories in the mainstream press talk about how collaboration on teams is wasteful, therefore collaboration isn’t what we think it is. They’re right, mostly.

Our field research of the past decade in over 35 countries in the USA, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, supported by our survey research in 98 countries, suggest that what people mean by collaboration varies greatly, along a continuum.  At one end of the continuum, we find groups organized to segregate people into similar general purposes, each acting only with their own perspective in mind.  At the other end of the continuum, we find groups organized to unite people into a larger whole that requires each individual’s unique contribution towards a shared deeper purpose, each keeping in mind their own perspective, that of the others in the group, and the group’s deeper purpose.  From focus on self with no conscious focus on the relationship with others to a conscious focus on self and the relationship with the other.  Somewhere in the middle, we find groups organized to work together, mostly aware of their own perspective, while aware that other groups have different perspectives that may combine or compete with their own, towards a common purpose.  Three very different ways of organizing human interactions in groups, two of them with their own dysfunctional form of group work.

Groups as segregating.  Focusing at the outcomes-noun level of perceived reality, these groups are structured to work with resource power only, depending completely on the existing capacities available.  To get work done, they tend to invest heavily in paying for lots of people to spend many hours sitting around many tables to which they make no contribution and gain no value.   People attend these meetings because they were told to, it was put in their calendar for them.  This is the phenomenon most of the “collaboration overload” criticism is rightly pointing at, where collaboration means sitting in the same room together, without clarity of a shared purpose or of the need for any of the specific people in the room.

Groups as flocking.  Focusing at the development and outcomes levels of perceived reality (verb and noun levels), these groups are structured to work with network power, leading them to invest in some people who are making many connections and bringing great creativity, while others are not.  They pay conscious attention to their own node and to the relationships with a set of nodes that influence them over time.  In these groups, people work together because this is where the action is, or where they need to be seen, where relationship is built.  Collaboration here often means lots of meetings, lots of learning conversation, and asking lots of the people into the room, especially the star contributors.

Groups as uniting.  Focusing across the potential, development, and outcomes levels of perceived reality (light, verb, and noun levels), these groups are structured to work with tangibilization power, seeing potential, pathways to manifest that potential, and rapid deployment to test that potential with specific outcomes along the way.  This leads these groups to invite the contributions of different perspectives to a deeper shared purpose that each individual is uniquely able to make. These people engage because this is how they can collaborate in service of something they deeply care about.  Collaboration in these groups requires each to bring their unique gifts, together, to be able to achieve the deeper purpose they share.

So collaboration meaning group activity might not work because of the underlying agreement about what we are working on, about who needs to be in the room to serve that purpose, and how we work together, not just because it is people coming together. Maybe collaboration is not equal to group work.

INVITATION — Do You Know an Academic, Mathematically Oriented, Economics Friendly, High-vibrancy Person?

Do you know an academic, mathematically oriented, economics-friendly, high-vibrancy person?  One who would like to work with me, on this research into our evolving framework for abundance-based agreements and our Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience, as well as publishing papers on our large data sets?

I would love to invite her/him to engage with our work.  If you know someone like this, please let me know (info@.

The Metamemetics and Epimemetics of What Homo lumens Experiences in Human Agreements

Are people predisposed to unconsciously accept and consciously choose certain kinds of agreements?  Do some people tend towards more vibrant or less vibrant experiences of the five primary relationships (to self, other, group, nature, spirit)?  Are people conditioned by the group’s agreements or do individuals condition the group’s agreements?  Do the agreements of a group live within the individual or are they distributed throughout the group?

While ecosynomics is at the early stage of exploring these questions, we might find hints for how to proceed from a parallel pattern in genetic research.  An individual’s genetic code is the code that design its biological form.  This code determines how the biological form can respond to different environmental conditions, turning on and off different attributes.  Where a genome is the genetic material of an entity, a metagenome is the genetic information of all the entities in a metasystem.  This information is distributed throughout the community.  Epigenesis is the process of how the environment an entity is in influences how the genetic code expresses itself, and then passes this new expression on to the next generation–nature and nurture.

Working with the concept of a “meme,” as a unit of culture that can be transmitted from one individual to another, we can look at the memetic code, the metamemetics, and the epimemetics of human agreements.  The “memetic code” describes the human predisposition to levels of vibrancy experienced in human interactions.  While people tend to be most comfortable within a specific range of vibrancy of agreements, as seen in the 3 circles of vibrancy, as Homo lumens people have access to all levels.  For some people, some levels are easy to access and others require development: nonetheless, they are all there in one’s memetic code.  “Metamemetics” then is the memetic information of all the members of a system that is distributed throughout the system, which we experience as the group’s agreements.  “Epimemetics” is then the interplay of nature and nurture in human agreements, which studies the question of how individuals and groups influence the level of vibrancy experienced they can take up in their agreements.

New areas to explore in human agreements, part of the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience.

Our Experience of Light, as Seen 2,500 Years Ago — Recommended Reading

Lawlor, Robert. 1994. “Pythagorean Number as Form, Color, and Light,” in Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science, Christopher Bamford, ed., Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Books.

In this chapter, Robert Lawlor explores the early observations on light of the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived 570 – c. 495 BC.  Pythagoras, famous today for the Pythagorean Theorem, was a very influential philosopher and mathematician.  This is a fascinating journey through thinking that influenced the last 2,500 years of western thought about what light is.

“The Pythagorean symbolists assumed what may seem an obvious cosmological ground for their numerical procedures: that God has manifested himself in this universe as light…Certainly spiritual texts from many cultures abound with the association between light and the universal creator.  But Pythagoreanism, like its Egyptian sources, is an instance in which this association may be taken not only as an inspired metaphor, but also as a protocol-scientific analogy.  Leibnitz beautifully restated this Pythagorean time, saying, ‘The exquisitely orderly behavior of light indicates the underlying radical patterned order of reality'” (p187).

Light and other forms of radiation can only be absorbed if they carry precisely the right amount of energy to promote an atom from one rung to a higher rung.  As the atom falls back to its fundamental state the absorbed radiation must be removed, carrying away the difference between the two levels.  This released energy appears as a photon or a quantum of light having a particular wave-length determined by the energy difference in the rise and fall within the structure of the atom…[This] occurs according to a very precise rhythmic scale.  Every atom possesses a preset harmonic energy scale, ‘a musical organization’: an in-formed vibratory gradation” (p201).

Substance and light are of the same electromagnetic energy; they are fields of force whose movement/form is detectable as wave phenomenon.  Substance varies from radiated light in that it has been organized into relatively stable geometric vortices by the three primary principles of organization, the protonic, the neutronic and the electronic: the movement towards centrality, centrality and the movement away from centrality.  The varying proportions of these three powers determine the geometry of the substance” (p203).

All light is invisible until it has encountered a substance.  All substances to some varying degree absorb and re-emit light.  This interaction is color, and it is the signature of the inner form of the substance” (p203).

“The logic of Pythagoras is the logic of light and vibration.  It is inclusive of the concept of an octave contained within an octave; but it also understands that the essential form-nature of an octave (the consonance of its proportions) is connected to all other octaves through resonance” (p204).  “For the Pythagorean, this universe is a universe of perception.  Perception is the transformation of light into forms of itself.  And light is consciousness imaging itself” (p 205).

The development of a perspective that still penetrates much of our current understanding of the experience of light.

Why We Care About the Resilience of Our Agreements — What We Lose When Our Agreements Collapse

Everyone lives in complex, turbulent times.  Will our agreements survive the changes we face?  How resilient are these agreements?  We can look to ecologists for how to think about the resilience of systems and to anthropologists for what has actually happened in human systems.

From earlier work by the ecologist C.S. Holling and colleagues, as described by the Resilience Alliance, “When resilience is enhanced, a system is more likely to tolerate disturbance events without collapsing into a qualitatively different state that is controlled by a different set of processes.”  From an ecosynomic perspective, this means that resilience is the ability to keep a similar level of agreements, meaning the levels of perceived reality they consciously include.  A collapse is then a qualitative shift in the level of agreements.

Anthropologists, like Joseph Tainter, have looked at societal collapse, finding, “The process of a matter of rapid, substantial decline in an established level of complexity. A society that has collapsed is suddenly smaller, less differentiated and heterogeneous, and characterized by fewer specialized parts; it displays less social differentiation; and it is able to exercise less control over the behavior of its members . It is able at the same time to command smaller surpluses, to offer fewer benefits and inducements to membership; and it is less capable of providing subsistence and defensive security for a regional population” (Tainter, 1988 pp. 38).  An example of a loss of a level of complexity might be the loss of consciously accepted agreements at the level of the development of capacities and relationships–the verb level–to focus solely on the level of outcomes–the noun level.

Thus, ecologists and anthropologists observe that a more resilient set of agreements is more capable of dealing with changing environments without losing whole levels of complexity in the agreements.  You can find more on the ecosynomics of impact resilience here.


The Regenerative Power of the Tangibilization Process

We human beings require heat energy to live.  Through the process of living, most biological beings take in energy, break it down into useable parts, and then release the remaining energy, which other beings then take in.  Where does this energy chain start?  How is it generated in the first place?  It starts with light energy that is converted into the chemical energy our life depends on, through the process of “primary production.”

Primary production” is the process by which autotrophs (such as plants and algae, from the Greek for self-nourishing or self-feeding) take in the energy from light or inorganic chemicals and produce the chemical energy that feeds the heterotrophs (such as animals, fungi, most bacteria, and protists, from the Greek for other-feeding) in the rest of the food chain.  You can see a NASA animation of the global primary production process here.  While most of the food chain takes in chemical energy and breaks it down into smaller units that are oxidized to release energy for its own use, with one level’s outputs being the next level’s inputs, autotrophs take light energy and build up larger units of energy.  The autotrophic process regenerates the energy process, increasing the quality of the energy that the rest of the system breaks down for its energy source.

Nature found a way to generate the energy it needed for life (biotic beings) by converting light energy into chemical energy.  This energy is measured in joules or calories.  This is the flow of energy in the biotic and abiotic realms.  Our research into the ecosynomics of human agreements suggests that maybe nature also found a way to generate the energy it needed to tangibilize possibilities into specific outcomes, to transform potential ideas through the creative process into observable nouns, things.

We human beings require creative energy to live.  We live in a world of possibilities, of pathways for learning and developing relationships, and of outcomes.  We experience this creative energy through the set of five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  We call this creative energy of human-interaction the lumens (from the Latin for light).  Where does this lumens-energy cycle start?  Like with the primary-production process, which starts by converting light energy into chemical energy, the tangibilization process starts by converting light-potential, in the forms of possibilities, and uses the creative process to convert that light potential, described in physics as an information-rich field of possibility, into learning, relationships, and outcomes.

By understanding the biological process of regenerating chemical energy, from the source of the food chain, ecologists were able to define sustainability as the ability of the environment to generate energy faster than that energy is used up.  Unsustainable is when the energy is used faster than it is regenerated.  By understanding the creative process of regenerating human-interaction energy, from the source of the possibility-development-outcome chain, Homo lumens is able to define impact resilience as the ability of people to choose abundance-based agreements that recognize and engage the human-interaction creative energy that is already there.  Low impact resilience is when the human-interaction energy is not engaged, leading to today’s global disengagement epidemic.


What Could You Do With a Surplus of Human Energy?

“Calories measure the energy resources of a civilization, and with a surplus of calories .. early communities were able to invest in infrastructure and organizational complexity” (Jonathan F.P. Rose, 2016, The Well-Termpered City, New York: Harper Wave, 44-45).  When there is no surplus,  focus is on getting enough calories–what comes in immediately goes out.  With a surplus of energy–more comes in than needs to be used immediately, focus can shift to investing in non-calorie-gathering activities, such as building common infrastructure, philosophizing, creating art, and managing projects.  The surplus of energy changed the game.

A calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.  In our field work of the past decade, we have found a related energy source in human interactions.  People describe being much more engaged with much greater energy when they experience a healthy relationship with their own self, with others, with the group, with the creative process of nature, and with the source of the creative spirit–five primary relationships.  Through the Institute for Strategic Clarity’s global survey research, we have found this experience described by people in thousands of groups in 98 countries.  From this research, we find this human-interaction energy, a lumens.  A lumens is a measure of the energy resources experienced in the set of the five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).

Like with calories, with a surplus of lumens, communities are able to invest in collaborative efforts, which require the harmonic combination of everyone’s unique contributions in a continuous process of tangibilization of what can be seen as possible together, in service of a shared deeper purpose.  When there is no surplus, when the lumens experienced are less than the lumens required for human interaction, the focus is on getting more lumens.  Harvard professors Kegan and Lahey call this the “second job,” protecting oneself while engaging in lumen-exhausting interactions.  Kegan and Lahey find examples of lumens-enhancing groups, where people are better off from being together, generating a surplus of lumens that can be invested in even more exciting, more productive human interactions.  Our impact-resilience research finds these people achieve much greater outcomes on a much more sustainable basis.

I have described many examples of the lumen-enhancing experiences we have described through the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience.  Have you experienced lumens-enhancing human interactions?  Please share them with us.

Our Myth Story

Every society has its myth, the story of its search for truth, for meaning, for significance, according to Joseph Campbell.  The word “myth” comes from the Greek mythos, which means “speech, thought, story, myth, anything delivered by word of mouth.”  Why do people care about their own myth?  Joseph Campbell suggests that, “Myths are the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance…Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”

What does a myth mean for us?  It is a framing for our deeper shared purpose, describing where we came from, how we started, what we serve, and why we need each other.  Campbell found four functions of the myth:

  1. The Metaphysical Function — Awakening a sense of awe before the mystery of being
  2. The Cosmological Function — Explaining the shape of the universe
  3. The Sociological Function — Validating and supporting the existing social order
  4. The Pedagogical Function — Guiding the individual through the stages of life

We can explore our creation myth, where we came from, and our foundation myth, how we started.

Creation Myth.  Where did we come from?  What is the model that describes our essential character?  We are Homo lumensbeings of light, of infinite creative potential with the ability to tangibilize the infinite potential we see.  As Homo lumens, we all want to experience resource abundance, appropriate inclusion in decision making and enforcement, vibrancy in what we value, and the harmonic in our interactions.  Since we are Homo lumens, which drives what we all want, this influences how we try to engage in this world together.

Foundation Myth.  How did we start?  As Homo lumens, we started unconsciously trying to express our infinite potential, from the beginning.  Anthropological evidence seems to show that many people have figured out thousands of ways to manifest our infinite potential.  It seems that most of these examples, where people learned to express their infinite creative potential, were in small groups.  As we progressed as humanity to very large nation states, we have struggled with finding ways to manifest that infinite creative potential on much larger scales.  Our research suggests that many efforts today that try to explore this abundance frontier seem to do so from scarcity-based agreements.  And, some are beginning to start a new foundation myth, from explicitly abundance-based agreements.

This new foundation myth starts with our experience, what we all know within our own experience.  We then use an abundance-based framing to support our ability to see what we experience and what we authentically want, indicating ways in which we can begin to take on abundance-based agreements consciously.  From this foundation, we are beginning to see pathways for co-investing in cohosting collaboration, a way to engage all of the required perspectives to address what we really want as Homo lumens, to experience ourselves as Homo lumens, as creative beings with infinite potential to manifest the realities we envision.


Guest post — Consciously Choosing Abundance-driven Agreements

by Christoph Hinske, ISC Contributing Fellow, and Eyal Drimmer, Certified Vibrancy Guide

You can download a PDF of this blogpost here.


Abundance and Scarcity-Driven Agreements

The problem with most agreements is that we don’t see them.  They just are.  Most often we are not aware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change.  It seems that life is “just that way.” In our day-to-day interactions, either at work or at home, we are engaging in a set of agreements and relationships, whether we realize it or not.  Sometimes the agreements work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about the lousy outcomes.

In addition to shifting agreements in everyday experiences, many of us work to shift agreements in large-scale social change issues, such as renewable energy, food systems, poverty, climate change, and social justice.  Decades of attempts to address these big and small challenges with approaches rooted in scarcity have proven insufficient to the task.

Research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity (ISC) has identified many groups that are finding success in addressing these issues, starting from a very different perspective, one of abundance in human potential.  Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, offers robust frameworks that take what we have learned in scarcity-based agreements framed by economics and puts it within the much broader, much healthier context of abundance-based agreements.

But how can agreements be made consciously so that people can choose self-determined higher vibrancy in their agreements?  We present a case study from Europe where we are in the process of guiding a group to abundance-based agreements. In doing so, we follow the Vibrancy Living Lab approach, which combines a guiding process with scientific research and social-impact creation to enable a positive contribution to the group and the community where it is embedded.

Starting from a Collapsed State

The example concerns a Community Supported Business (CSB) in a village in Germany; nine people comprising two families and many associates. While the main focus of their work resides on their CSB, they are also engaged in local education and regional politics.

Despite a great vision, the group found itself over the last years in a critical state: the financial situation was getting precarious, the group underwent some hard and energy-depleting times and some were on the edge of burning out. Furthermore, they had already started to lose belief in the meaning behind their venture and to unconsciously accept their scarce reality as given and unchangeable. With those agreements, practices and mindsets they were not able to ensure their private and professional successes.

Based on initial conversations about ecosynomic research, in early 2014, the founders of the community invited us to support them in overcoming their scarcity-driven practices by working out their own abundance-based agreements. 

Raising Awareness for Agreements and Interdependencies

Our first step was to empower them and bring back the feeling of self-determination. We chose two different approaches for this. The first was to stop “just doing” and to start observing. The second was the kind of relationship we entered. In this we decided to step into an unusual role. In addition to being external coaches and consultants, we also agreed to become full members of the group. This gave us more possibility to deeply resonate with them by still being able to mirror them in their dynamics.

The goal of both approaches was to raise the awareness of whether they would rather act out of scarcity or abundance-based agreements and to assess the benefit-cost of devoting resources into the development of abundance-based agreements. The first step into this direction was done through a collaborative Agreement Mapping. This exercise allowed them to understand their unconsciously accepted agreement system and (unintentional) practices leading to perceived scarcity. They were able to do so by tapping into the wisdom of four seemingly very distant fields that humans have used for millennia to understand their interactions, experiences, and produced results:

  1. Resource or economic lens: “How much do we have, of what, to achieve our goals?”
  2. Allocation or political lens: ”Who or what is in power, and who or what decides and enforces?”
  3. Value or cultural lens: “What criteria do they use, and what is important to them?”
  4. Organizing or social interaction lens: “What rules do they apply and how do they organize?”

These currently very distant fields have been integrated by ecosynomic research, allowing a group to understand if it is “stuck in scarcity” or “boosted by abundance.” Why did we do this, and why is this relevant? ISC research conducted in 95 countries proves abundance to be a desired state for any social system. While this seems obvious, direct measurement of this abundance is not. Without measurement, the group could neither take strategic decisions nor convince possible capital providers and shareholders of the importance of “all this fluffy abundance stuff.”

Mapping out the quality of their agreement structure allowed them to create a first understanding of how their embedded and interwoven assumptions shaped their interactions and how those interactions created the basis for the quality of their experiences and results. Understanding that, they started to see that their unpleasant experiences and poor results were a direct effect of the agreements they made on a daily basis in the four fields by (unconsciously) answering the related questions in completely opposite directions. They also started to see that by changing their embedded and interwoven assumptions and agreements they would directly change the experiences they have and the results they produce.

Measuring the benefits of and capacity for abundance gets its inspiration from the quality movement. Initially nobody knew how to assess the benefits of quality programs; this made investment decisions difficult. The innovation was to assess the cost of “no quality.” The insight was that the benefit of quality had to be at least as big as the cost of no quality. Likewise, the benefits of abundance are at least as big as the costs of scarcity, which is straightforward to measure.


After having this higher-level awareness of themselves and their context, we employed embodiment and systemic practices to open up concrete pathways for change.

Consciously Choosing Abundance-Based Agreements

Let’s have a closer look at the groups’ interrelated agreements and practices, as we saw them the day we started to be engaged with them.


After raising awareness of the current situation, the group collectively agreed to allocate resources into the development of abundance-based agreements and to explore practices that would allow them to intentionally start from abundance and collaboration rather than being unintentionally stuck in scarcity and antagonism.

Outcomes and Summary

Through raising awareness, we managed to close the gap between their wishful thinking and currently shared reality–that is, the difference between the espoused agreements and practices in contrast to the ones in use.  Some concrete outcomes are:

  1. They entered a mindset of “we do have more than enough of anything, we just have to find ways of how to manifest the potential we see into results benefiting our business and community.” They are now successfully innovating on their business model by exploring new markets, management, and leadership behaviors.
  2. They have a high-level AND in-depth understanding of their structures and how each individual drives them. Building on that, they realized the interdependencies between the different parts of their “system” and the importance of alignment within it. Both aspects are essential preconditions to relate in an effective, efficient, and abundant way.
  3. They have the awareness that with their scarcity-driven agreements they would by definition neither be able to have the kind of “healthy experiences” nor produce the kind of outcomes they envision.
  4. They are much more conscious and mindful in their daily patterns, leading to more thoughtful interactions. “We now know that we are not yet able to have everything we would like to have, but we also know now what the ground is we are standing on.”
  5. “I learned to respect my own needs and to share them with everybody in our community.”

Engaging with them, you can now a) see and feel the higher-level awareness of “why do I experience what I experience and how I can change it” and b) see and feel the positive energy and motivation to grow into the possibilities they see, which is completely different than the original drive to simply escape scarcity. They are able to do so since they experienced what it is like to work with abundance-driven agreements. Yes, they are now able to work out of this understanding and feeling, rather than just pushing away from something they do not like.

Furthermore, they not only regained trust in their own abilities and goals, but also started to reframe their shared purpose, as well as each individual’s unique contribution to the group.

We think the key learning of this case study is to take time to understand the agreements that (un)consciously drive the behavior of your business. Understanding your agreements builds the basis for lasting success and vibrant interactions, thus, having great experiences and producing above-average outcomes. Awareness, collaboration, and alignment seem to take a lot of time and energy, but there is a massive return for every minute of this investment. During our process the Japanese proverb “If hurried, go around” evolved as our guiding principle, because the fastest way is often not the straightest.