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.

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.

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.

Choosing Your Agency, Everyone Else Is: Recommended Podcast

Your Yes!  It is yours.  With it you can align what you pay attention to, what you care about, and what you do with your purpose. You can choose to give your will, your intention, attention and action towards a future you love.  

To be clear, your will is being used.  Always.  The question is who is using it, towards what purpose.  

If it is being used towards your Yes!, that’s good for you. If you are unaware of this use of your will, it can still be somewhat impactful, towards your Yes! Being aware of this allows you to align your attention and action with your intention towards it, reaping far greater results, in a much more engaging way, for you.  If it is not being used towards your Yes!, then it is being used towards your No!  That is not good for you, as the net result is always negative.

In this episode of the podcast Choiceology, Prof. Katy Milkman explores who usually controls your decisions, your actions.  It is still a choice, one you can make or let others make for you.

Ecologies of Sacred Hospitality – Massively-Leveraged, Scalable Impact

Braden, G. (2007). The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief. New York, Hay House.

Chopra, D. (2019). Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. New York, Harmony Books.

Clouse, C. (2016). Making It Home: Finding Your Power and Purpose. Bloomington, AuthorHouse.

Dispenza, J. (2017). Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon. New York, Hay House.

Downes, K. (2000). Sacred Spaces: Restoring Harmony. Melbourne, Lifetime Publications.

McTaggart, L. (2008). The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe. New York, Harper.

Are very high-performing individuals and groups supernatural or normal?  Are they doing what very few of us can do or not doing what most of us do?  The authors of the books listed above describe a way of understanding our common experience about what our reality looks like.  What’s new isn’t their description of our experience, rather what they describe of what we can see once we acknowledge this experience.  They begin to integrate into one experience many different aspects of our experience.

An Ecology of Nature. What is nature, how are we part of it, and how do we relate to it? In The Divine Matrix, Gregg Braden brings in physics to show that our daily experience might be a “Projection of things happening in another realm that we cannot observe..from a higher vantage point” (p.xii).   He reminds us of Nobel laureate Max Planck’s 1944 observation, “There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this minute solar system of the atom together” (p56). In The Field, Lynne McTaggart brings together a wide variety of rigorous disciplines robustly describing the energetic field that manifests reality, whether we experience this as matter or as energy. Bringing in research by the biophysicist Popp, “all living things—from the most basic of plants or animals, to human beings in all their sophisticated complexity—emitted a permanent current of photons, from only a few to hundreds” (p49). Literally beings of light. The universe of mass is a universe of of energy, of light, of an energy field. In Sacred Spaces, Karen Downes gives daily practices that help us remember this relationship we have with and as nature.  We can set up the conditions to support our continuous remembering of this.

An Ecology of Consciousness.  What is a human, what is our potential, and how do we participate in our humanness? In Metahuman, Deepak Chopra interweaves cosmology and medicine to explore the greater potential of what humans are.  “There are ways in which outer reality is much more malleable through consciousness than anyone supposes. Since consciousness is the foundation of reality, we shouldn’t set down any absolute limits… in the inner domain of consciousness, the possibilities for new thoughts, insights, and discoveries is already unlimited…infinite possibilities are part of our makeup.  But something inside us resists believing in infinity as a human quality. Edited reality feels more comfortable” (p77).  “To take advantage of infinite potential, you must accept that reality is open-ended, capable of taking subtle, invisible impulses and turning them into mind and matter” (p79).  In Becoming Supernatural, Joe Dispenza shows us that everybody is nature and above nature, natural and supernatural.  Everyone, by definition.  We are energy, “all energy is frequency and all frequency carries information…The only way we can change our lives is to change our energy–to change the electromagnetic field we are constantly broadcasting” (p 34).  When looking at the full spectrum of electromagnetic frequencies, “The majority of frequencies are beyond our perception, and therefore most of our non-reality in this universe cannot be experienced by our senses. So aside from our ability to perceive light being absorbed or reflected off objects and things, the truth is that we are able to perceive only a very small spectrum of reality. There’s a lot of other information available to us besides what we can see with our physical eyes” (p86). In Making It Home, Chris Clouse brings practices to strengthen our ability to work with our different nerve-ganglia-brains throughout the human body as a geometry of energy wave patterns that we call awareness.

An Ecology of Consciousness and Nature.  Putting these two together, what are we, as simultaneously nature and consciousness?  Our research explores what an ecology of nature might look like, what you see as your basic nature, and how that combines with an ecology of consciousness. Basically, we are energy. All of it. And, the energy field that is each one of us exists within a field of energy. Understanding this gives us access to great amounts of power. Not understanding this blocks much of the energy already available for us, both as individuals and as groups. Accessing it is a matter of understanding it and working with it, a gift these authors give us.

Talent Management or Talent Witnessing?

What do you observe? Do people have talent because an organization gave it to them? Or, do people have talent, and they develop it? Talent is defined in the OED as a natural ability. It comes from PIE *tele– “to lift, support, weigh. It might derive from the value you bring, the wealth you have in what you can contribute.

If talent is a natural ability, is talent something for an organization to manage, to control, or is talent something to invite and witness? Do only a few, special people have talent, or is talent something that everyone has? In an interview with Claudia Tate, Maya Angelou observed:

I believe talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it. Electricity makes no judgment. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. Electricity will do all that. It makes no judgment. I think talent is like that. I believe every person is born with talent.

Tate, C. (1985). Black Women Writers at Work. England, Oldcastle Books, p.7.

In our ecosynomic research, in 125 countries over the past 16 years, we find many descriptions of people with a very wide variety of talents, unique gifts they have developed. The highest performing groups we have found, large to small, are clear on the purpose they are serving and how to invite and deeply engage the many talents they need to achieve that purpose, in a collaborative way.

In many languages, people around the world describe the experience of these talents in terms of brilliance, of shining examples. Expressions of a person’s inner light, shining out. The term Homo lumens has emerged from this observation to describe a being of light, expressing itself through talents.

If everyone has innate talents, and everyone’s efforts need multiple talents of different types, maybe the task is to find out how to discover the treasures everyone has. That probably starts with asking and listening, with authentic curiosity and respect–the key that unlocks the code of the talent map, showing you where the treasures are. The treasures you seek, and maybe already have in front of you. Just ask.

What Work You Agree to Do: Recommended Reading

Suzman, J. (2021). Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots. New York, Penguin Press.

You can hear a sample from the book (here).

Why do you work? Who are you working for? What, even, is work? In the book Work, anthropologist James Suzman takes us through a deep history, back to the early days as hunter-gatherers, looking at how what we consider to be work has shaped what we think it is today and how that determines, in great part, what we agree to do. Maybe it is all a choice. A choice that different peoples across the globe make differently, based on different assumptions that evolved from different circumstances.

The work we do also defines who we are; determines our future prospects; dictates where and with whom we spend most of our time; mediates our sense of self-worth; molds many of our values; and orients our political loyalties.

Work, p2

From an ecosynomic perspective, Suzman’s simple observation, from scanning anthropology’s observations of thousands of groups over the history of humanity, includes the 4 big questions of how much resource we have (the economic lens), who decides and enforces the allocation of resources (the political lens), the criteria used to decide what is valued (the cultural lens), and the rules of the game of how we interact (the social lens). How we understand what work is and what we agree to with work influences all of that. That seems like a significant choice: one we seldom are aware we are making.

One of the key factors in determining what we seem to accept in the definition of our work, through these 4 lenses (economic, political, cultural, social), is the underlying economic assumption of scarcity. Suzman points out that, according to the economist Keynes, the most pressing problem of the human race is the economic problem of scarcity–“there are simply not enough resources to satisfy everybody’s wants, everything is scarce” (p4).

But the problem of scarcity offers a bleak assessment of our species. It insists that evolution has molded us into selfish creatures, cursed to be forever burdened by desires that we can never satisfy.

Work, p5

While mainstream thinking suggests this scarcity-based view is the only one, Suzman observes that anthropologoical studies now show that “hunter-gatherers had few material desires, which could be satisfied with a few hours of effort. Their economic life was organized around the presumption of abundance rather than a preoccupation with scarcity. And this being so, there is good reason to believe that because our ancestors hunted and gathered for well over 95 percent of Homo sapiens’ 300,000-year-old history, the assumptions of human nature in the problem of scarcity and our attitudes of work have their roots in farming. Acknowledging that for most of human history our ancestors were not as preoccupied with scarcity as we are now reminds us that there is far more to work than our efforts to solve the economic problem” (pp6-7).

When economists define work as the time and effort we spend meeting our needs and wants, they dodge two obvious problems. The first is that often the only thing that differentiates work from leisure is context and whether we are being paid to do something or are paying to do it [for example, painting, gardening, writing]…The second problem is that beyond the energy we expend to secure our most basic needs–food, water, air, warmth, companionship, and safety–there is very little that is universal about what constitutes a necessity.

Work, p7

Suzman then defines work, “the closest thing to a universal definition of ‘work’–one that hunter-gatherers, pinstriped derivatives traders, calloused subsistence farmers, and anyone else would agree on–is that it involves purposefully expending energy or effort on a task to achieve a goal or end” (p8). This gets us to the choice of who is engaging your will, your purposeful energy, towards what purpose.

To understand how we got here, Suzman then takes us on the long journey of two pathways. “When it comes to charting the history of our relationship with work, there are two intersecting pathways that are the most obvious to follow. The first maps the story of our relationship with energy. At its most fundamental, work is always an energy transaction and the capacity to do certain kinds of work is what distinguishes living organisms from dead, inanimate matter. For only living things actively seek out and capture energy specifically to live, to grow, and to reproduce…The second pathway follows the human evolutionary and cultural journey… The journey down this pathway reveals how, as our ancestors developed the capacity to master many new different skills, our remarkable purposefulness was honed to the point that we re now capable of finding meaning, joy, and deep satisfaction in activities like building pyramids, digging holes, and doodling…But it is the points where these two pathways converge that are most important in terms of making sense of our contemporary relationships with work” (pp9-10). Suzman identifies four such convergences: when humans mastered fire; started storing food and farming; gathered in cities; and industrialized work in factories and mills.

In trying “to describe, measure, and compare accurately the capabilities of things like water wheels, cart horses, steam engines, and human beings” (p26), Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis coined the term “work,” and developed equations to describe it, basically as the transfer of energy. This solved the hard problem of being able to characterize and compare different forms of transferring energy, whether people, horses, or machines. This form of work is measured in joules or calories. And we see another form of energy, in our minds. The mind uses a different form of energy, according to George Armitage Miller. “‘Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy [free energy].., so the mind survives by ingesting information…(It) is now clear that all living things, from prokaryotes to plants, are informavores…Much of the energy captured by complex organisms with brains and nervous systems is used to filter, process, and respond to information acquired through their senses…With our super-plastic neocortices and well-organized senses, Homo sapiens are the gluttons of the informavore world…Our brains only constitute 2 percent of our total body weight but they consume around 20 percent of our energy resources…for most other mammals it is between 5 and 10 percent” (pp87-88, 104).

As you can tell, from the extensive quoting from this book, I found this to be a fascinating look at why we see work the way we do, how there are currently on the planet many different, evolved forms of how people see work, and this gives us the chance to choose how we engage with work. There is not one right answer for everyone. That would be a law of physics. Suzman shows anthropologically that there are many different answers, depending on your context, and what you choose to include in your context. Your choice.