Is Somebody Else Using Your Will?

“A survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of employees had been bullied at work and another 15 percent witnessed workplace bullying, which was defined by repeated mistreatment and included behaviors such as threats, humiliation, and sabotaging employees’ work.  One of the most disconcerting findings about bullies of all ages is that they are not naive…(B)ullies have a better-than-average capability to mind-read and use their social fluency to manipulate others to achieve selfish ends…(When researchers) investigated the assumption that bullies have poor moral reasoning, which is to say that they have trouble differentiating right versus wrong…(t)hey found that bullies’ moral reasoning capabilities were just as sound as defenders’ and that both groups has moral reasoning scores that were higher than victims’.  However, bullies showed significantly lower levels of compassion and they were more likely to rationalize away their immoral behavior by seeing their selfish gains as taking precedence over the emotional costs incurred by victims” (p99), as described by psychologist Ty Tashiro in his book Awkward.  It is not wise to assume (1) that people do not use other people’s will inappropriately, or (2) that those who do are ignorant.  They are not ignorant.  That does not mean, however, that their actions are good for the group or for the impact the group wants to have.

What is the cost to any group of people interacting with one another in this kind of behavior?  What is the cost of shutting down the creative flow of others?  When someone’s will is used to someone else’s purpose, that FREEE energy is simultaneously highly inefficient and the risk of losing that person or at least their creative contribution to the group is very high.  Why would you invite people to engage in interactions with you, like the work context, to have their contribution collapsed to very low levels of energy, towards someone else’s purpose?  Not very clever.  And, that is from the perspective of the person who has invited people to engage in a group effort.

From the perspective of the person whose will is inappropriately being used by someone else, this is very disengaging, de-energizing, exhausting.  The documented physical and mental effects of this disengagement of the human being is clear, in the form of stress, fatigue, and poor physical and mental health.  Like every other use of your creative, purposeful energy, this is a choice.  Your choice.

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The Costs of Empathic Inaccuracy — Recommended Reading

Tashiro, Ty.  Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome. New York: William Morrow, 2017.  Read an excerpt of Chapter 1 here.

When it is appropriate, most people like being seen.  Seen for who they are, for what they contribute, and for their creativity. Appropriateness depends on the context.  In contexts of trust and support, people tend to like to be noticed and supported.  This seems obvious.  And, in many situations, people do not experience being seen.  They are disconnected from others in those contexts.  Recent global surveys seem to indicate that where people spend most of their time, at work, is one of those contexts where many people experience not being seen.  What is the cost to creativity, to innovation, to organizational resilience and impacts when people are not seen?

To experience being seen, someone else has to be doing the seeing.  What capacities are required for this seeing of another?  What happens when people lack these capacities or fail to use them in specific contexts, like at work?  In his recent book on awkwardness, psychologist Ty Tashiro explores the world of empathy, those who lack capacities for seeing another, and how the particular ways that they look at the world bring other gifts.

The World of Empathy.  “Empathy is defined as the ability to understand another person’s emotional state and to deliver an appropriate response” (p71).  To be seen is to be in relationship, a basic need of humans.  Research finds that “humans’ psychological drive to maintain a few gratifying relationships was as fundamental as physical needs such as food and water…When we satiate our need to belong we feel a surge of positive emotion…The strongest predictor of happiness is not our job, income, or attaining our fitness goals, but rather the presence of gratifying social relationships…People with gratifying interpersonal relationships have better physical health and longer life expectancies” (pp9-10).

Specific contexts, and the ways that we agree to enter them, are making many of us more awkward.  That we are always plugged into our devices, completely oblivious to what is happening around us, we become socially awkward, in a high percentage of the interactions we have with others.

The Costs of Empathic Inaccuracy.  Empathic accuracy is the agreement between (a) what you think another person is thinking and feeling and (b) what they are actually thinking and feeling.  How well are you perceiving what is actually happening in the other person?  This is a critical capacity for being able to interact with others, to seeing and inviting their unique contributions, to being able to collaborate on creating something unique together.  The lack of empathic accuracy leads to the costs of empathic inaccuracy.  When we ignore others or talk at them, we have no idea what is actually happening inside of them.  When this happens, none of their FREEE energy is being engaged towards the purpose we are inviting them into.  Despite the obviousness of this, most people in most processes in most interactions seem not to do this.  It requires curiosity, inquiring into the other, which most people, especially at work, seem not to do.  The costs of this are huge.  The potential energy that is always there does not engage.  People get exhausted, contributing nothing.  The lack of innovation and learning decreases resilience and increases the likelihood of becoming obsolete.  The problem, and the resulting costs, do not seem to be a problem with the individuals, per se, rather with the ways people consciously choose or unconsciously accept to interact–the rules of the game, the agreements field they interact in with others.  This is the good news, because we can agree to change our agreements much more easily than we can agree to change the basic nature of who we are and how we function as individuals.

Other Gifts.  While social awkwardness seems to be increasing rapidly, and its costs are huge, we should not be too quick to judge all awkwardness.  Some types of awkwardness bring other skills.  “If you think about the vibe that characterizes your interactions with awkward people, there is often an agitated energy that underlies the interaction, which can make them appear nervous, irritated, or generally upset.  But if you view the awkward person as someone who is experiencing the interaction as particularly intense, then the unusual vibe they give off starts to make more sense…Avoiding eye contact helps them avoid the strong emotional cues conveyed by faces and especially the eye region” (p75).  This type of awkwardness results from a high capacity to focus, on very specific, reduced sets of information.  One term for this is “localized processing style, which describes people who tend to narrowly focus on some of the trees rather than the entire forrest.  When people are disposed to a localized processing style, they tend to create social narratives that feel fragmented and incomplete…Although awkward people are missing important social information that falls outside of their narrow aperture, what they do see is brilliantly illuminated and this gives them a deep nuanced perspective about things that no one else takes the time to notice.  The parts of the world they can see are seen with remarkable clarity.  They become experts in all things stage left and their clear, focused view on their specialized interests give them a unique view of that part of the world” (pp21-22).

Whether the social awkwardness we might experience in ourselves or in others is due to the way the person is or to the way we agree to interact, greater empathic accuracy can help us.  More accurately interpreting what is happening in the other person’s thinking and feeling has great benefits in both cases, and it greatly reduces the costs of empathic inaccuracy.  It is a choice.

 

 

Confusing the Unfamiliar with the Improbable

“There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable.  The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.”

— Game theorist and Nobel laureate Thomas C. Schelling’s Introduction to, (p. vii, Wohlstetter, Roberta. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1962, p. vii).

 

The unfamiliar.  Just because we have not seen something before does not mean that it is not relevant or that it cannot be seen.  There are a few possibilities for why it might be unfamiliar.  To start with, it could be because of different capabilities, intentions, or attention.

Different capabilities.  I am different today than I was yesterday, last week, last month, last year, and many years ago.  As I have changed, so have my capabilities.  Developmentally, I am able to perceive, understand, and work with things I could not earlier in my life.  I have grown.  Maybe what is unfamiliar now has always been there, and I was just not able to perceive, understand, or work with it before.  Maybe I can now.

Different intentions. What I give my intentions to today might be different than what was important to me in the past.  I have changed what I am in service to over the years.  My calling in the past had me pay attention to that intention and the different things that influenced it and that it influenced.  There was a system around that intention, and I paid attention to that system.  Maybe what is unfamiliar now had little to do with that earlier intention.  Maybe it is relevant in the system around my current intention.  Maybe now I care.

Different attention.  What I give my attention to is greatly influenced by how I see the world.  My worldview, in great part, influences where I put my attention.  What is unfamiliar now might sit outside of my earlier worldview, so I have never given it attention before.  That does not mean that it is not relevant or seeable, only that it was not in my earlier worldview, so it didn’t get my attention, before.  It could now.  I could change my worldview and what gets my attention.

Three reasons, to start with, for why something might be unfamiliar to me.  I couldn’t see it, I wouldn’t see it, I didn’t see it.  I can now.  If I do now, then it isn’t unfamiliar, any more.

The improbable.  Something that is improbable is unlikely to happen, within a specific context.  We often assume that a context is given, as if it is a fact that it is that way, and that it will never change.  And, it turns out that everything changes, eventually.  Everything.  So, it is not whether the context will change, rather when.  If the context can change, then something that was unlikely to happen might become more likely to happen, when the context changes.  It can also remain very unlikely, in a different context.  The challenge here is to see what the context is that makes it unlikely now.  How will the context change?  Will the change in context change the probability that the improbable will happen?

It might seem easier to just assume that something that is unfamiliar is strange and therefore unlikely to happen, it is improbable.  And, if it does happen and impacts us negatively, that is our fault.  We could have paid attention, and we didn’t.  With a little effort, we can consider the contingency we normally would not, the change in context that will definitely happen, and seriously consider the consequences.  At least, then, we are making it familiar, and easy to pay attention to, now.

“Complex Problem Solving” as Top Priority of Leading Organizations

To be successful today and in the future, what is it most critical that you know how to do?  According to the 2018 “Future of Jobs” report from the World Economic Forum, leaders from around the world agree that “complex problem solving” is a top priority.

“With regard to the overall scale of demand for various skills in 2020, more than one third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected by our respondents to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.”

Most people assume that complex problem solving is for people who think long-term and strategically, like an army General or a CEO.   But, before we accept that assumption, what is complex problem solving?  The OECD defines “complex problem solving” as “developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.” This is a practical skill everyone needs for daily living, for consciously choosing the agreements they enter.

To see the embedded choices hidden in our social agreements, and to see how to liberate and engage the vast creative energy we each bring to everything we do every day, we need to understand how to make decisions in the complexity of social systems.  The World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs” report suggests that 36% percent of jobs will require this capacity in the next years.  I believe that everyone everywhere should be able to choose their agreements everyday.  My colleagues and I call this eCubed (everyone everywhere everyday).  eCubed suggests that everybody needs the capacity for complex problem solving everywhere everyday, right now.

The skills for complex problem solving can be developed by everyone.  They include:

  • defining a clear, concise, validated, and mutually owned objective function — this requires knowing what a clear, deeper shared purpose is and how to achieve it
  • defining the system of interrelated people and resources that, together, generate the desired dynamics of the objective function — this requires basic systems thinking skills
  • clarifying the actual values of each stakeholder influencing the desired dynamics, specifying the dimensions and parameters they use to make the decisions that influence actual dynamics — this requires knowing how to inquire, asking questions that identify and validate specific parameters
  • designing agreements based on efficiency, effectiveness, and impact resilience — this requires knowing how to put all of the other elements together, and how to choose agreements that meet these criteria

My colleagues and I, as well as millions of others around the world, have been teaching these basic skills for decades to people ranging in age from 5 to 100 years old.  Everyone can do this.  And, it gives them the capacity to choose their agreements, to decide what they give their yes to, everyday everywhere.

Impact Resilience with Network Power

“Complex systems have somehow acquired the ability to bring order and chaos into a special kind of balance. This balance point–often called the edge of chaos–is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either. The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life,” according to author Mitchell Waldrop in Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos.  What does this mean for social systems, systems of human beings?

As the most complex system that sustains us as human beings, life’s stability is found at the interface of outcomes and development, of the already-finished state of nouns that are balanced by the becoming state of verbs.  Life’s creativity is found at the interface of development and potential, of the becoming state of verbs and the possibility state of light energy.  Finding this interface, where life is creative and manifests, evolving as some innovations work better in the ever-changing environment, is the power of healthy networks.  Embedding a process of evolutionary discovery and alignment with a deeper shared purpose scales network power into tangibilization power, where deep collaboration brings orders of magnitude greater impact and resilience.

Huge Hygge — Recommended Reading

Russell, Helen. The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. London: Icon Books, 2015.

Hygge.  Danish for something cozy, charming, or special.  It is also the art of creating intimacy.   Author Helen Russell explores how hygge might be one of the secrets of Denmark’s perennial position in the top ranks of the happiest countries.  To understand her experience, over a year-long journey of living in Denmark, she shares many funny anecdotes of her daily life, and she uses her journalistic skills to meet and interview Danish experts in the many aspects of daily life that she explores.

She uncovers widespread attention to the environment one creates in one’s home, to being comfortable on one’s own, to being honest with and supportive of others, to respecting and supporting the many contributions people can make to society, to the creative process and getting feedback about what one is learning, and to celebrating the creativity that is everywhere, if one looks.  In ecosynomics terms, these are co-hosting the five primary relationships.  The global Agreements Health Check survey (from 124 countries) shows that as people get better at co-hosting the five primary relationships, they experience greater vibrancy, more hygge.  I highly recommend this fun, well written discovery of the secrets of living vibrantly every day, even where it is very cold.

Energy Innovation Ecosystems in Rural Mexico

Acuña, Francisco, Guillermo Cedeño, Ramon Sanchez, Leith Sharp, John Spengler, and James Ritchie-Dunham. “Energy Innovation Ecosystems in Rural Mexico.” ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America XVIII, no. 1 (2018): 108-09.

This recently published article describes a very vibrant initiative, bringing innovative energy ecosystems to rural Mexico.  To understand the wild success of the initiative, the Institute for Strategic Clarity was invited to use the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool to understand what happened.  In essence (see figure below), by connecting (1) the low perceived value and social impact rural universities with (2) the moderate perceived value and social impact of the rural communities, (3) the academic knowledge and global network of Harvard, with (4) financial capital, they were able to generate a high perceived value and social impact energy innovation ecosystem.

Initially the rural universities are resource poor, providing theoretical, technical education with low practical social impact because of underemployment of graduates, locally. Initially the indigenous communities are rich in social capital, and poor in the financial and intellectual capital to exploit their wealth in natural capital.  The Harvard Applied Leadership in Renewable Energies Program engaged rural universities and local indigenous communities throughout Mexico, where 286 university professors and researchers proposed innovation ecosystems for 93 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that were developed and funded (e.g., wind in Oaxaca and biodiesel in Sinaloa).

A documentary and casebook detail the whole project, and the subsequent social and economic potential impact of these projects, including 953.3 MW of wind energy, 512 MW of installed capacity of photovoltaic energy, 1.36 MW of biomass electricity, 40 million liters of ethanol/year, 7.2 million liters of biodiesel/year and 9 million liters of bio-jet fuel/year. This program proved that shifting away from centralized-only thinking with low ROIC, for high-impact, economically-resilient, national renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Mexico, think massively local innovation ecosystems with a much higher, more resilient, and more equitable ROIC.  This model of social innovation is particularly relevant in the multitude of countries facing rapid rural-to-urban migration in part because of investment inequities.  The project leaders are meeting now with Mexico’s ministers of economy and social development to replicate this.

Acknowledgements.  This project includes dozens of rural, indigenous communities in Mexico, over 100 rural Mexican universities with 286 of their faculty, the Mexican Secretariat of Energy, global investors led by InTrust Global Investments LLC, and the Center for Health and the Global Environment in the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.

 

Honing Our Axiology of Homo lumens — Recommended Readings

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. 1689.

Kant, Immanuel. The Metaphysics of Morals. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 1797.

Lewin, Kurt. Principles of Topological Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1936.

Bauman, Zygmunt. Liquid Modernity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Bartow, Jef. Resolving the Mysteries of Human Consciousness: Volume II God, Man and the Dancing Universe. Sarasota, FL: New Paradigm Publishing, 2016.

What is a human being?  What does it mean to be a human being?  How do we know?  How do we know when human actions are good, beautiful, or true?  Big questions.  Questions the answers to which guide what human beings do–everyone, everywhere, everyday–whether they are aware of this guidance or not.  If these questions so deeply and continuously impact everything, maybe it would be good to be aware of what they are, who is asking then, what answers people are coming up with, and how those answers impact each of us.  Maybe.

The above books, in chronological order, provided a highly recommended excursion through the development of a way of looking at these big questions.  In his political philosophy, Locke provides an early view, in the 1600s, of human beings capable of making healthy decisions on their own, without divine guidance from the king or church.  Locke’s Essay provides the moral-philosophical foundations of this view of the human being–what a human is, how humans understand the world, and how this knowledge influences what humans are capable of deciding.

Kant provides a very logical structure, in the 1700s, for understanding what a human being should do, based on reason, an expression at the end of the age of enlightenment, furthering the idea that human beings are completely capable of developing their own moral philosophy.  Kant explores, through reason, the emerging terms of freedom, the rights and duties of people and of the state, and their relationship to the law.

Lewin applies the emerging concepts of energy fields and topology in the early 1900s to the behavior of human beings, finding that there is both the inner experience and an outer structure or environment, which mutually influence each other, and, to a great part, influence the behavior of the human being.  The human being has its own internal processes and is influenced by and influences its external environment, a region around it, and this interplay influences the human’s behavior.  This takes the purely rational human or the purely influenced human and blends them.

Bauman in the new millennium brings the fluid nature of reality into the question of what humans are and what they are capable of, finding that both the descriptions of humans and the structures that support them are based on static, stable frameworks, whereas reality is fluid, and so should be the understanding of humanity and structures of the individual, work and the community.

Bartow brings back the questions of long ago to today, developing a picture of the human as the natural manifestation of spirit, conscious and unconscious of the reality the human being interacts with and as part of.   This framework blends what is known from modern science and the wisdom traditions about what makes up reality and the role of human beings in it.

Building on the foundations placed by the lines of this evolution of thought about human beings, we are developing today a picture of the human being, of Homo lumensas a being full of potential, a potential that the human being can choose to manifest.  Homo lumens experiences value in life through the vibrancy of five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  We know this from our own experience.  We can also see, from our own experience, which we can validate with external evidence, how well our agreements support the experience and outcomes we want from our efforts together.   We see that most of these choices are unconsciously accepted, and they can be more consciously chosen.  The start of a moral philosophy based on the abundance of potential in humans and nature, towards a more vibrant experience in more harmonic interactions that lead to far more interesting experiences and far more impactful and resilient social forms.  

While these are challenging reads, they are well worth the effort, to see where we have come from in our understanding of being human, where we are now, and where we might be heading.  Honing our axiology of what we are, and how we can live the life available to us.

People Aren’t Dumb. The World Is Hard.

People aren’t dumb. The world is hard.”  So says Professor Thaler, the 2017 Nobel laureate in economics.

From an ecosynomic perspective, the world is hard, for two reasons: the environment and the individual.  The environment is the exterior experience of the embedded agreements we live in.  The individual is the interior experience of our perception of our existence in the world.

Professor Thaler uses this quote to point at what we can do to improve our outcomes and experiences.  It you think people are dumb, then you can either make them smarter or deal with the fact that they are dumb.  If you think people are not dumb, and the world is hard, then you can try to make interacting in the world less hard.  Thaler suggests it is more the environment than the people.  We agree.  

We can understand the embedded agreements, in a way that works with our ability to perceive.  We can develop lenses on our agreements and processes for shifting them, which we can test, to see if they lead to the behaviors (outcomes and experiences) we want to have.

[To hear Professor Thaler describe what he means with this quote, listen to the July 11, 2018 Freakonomics podcast.]

What If You Could Build The Life You Dream

This past weekend, my wife took me to the Tiny House Fest Vermont.  A panel on “Good Design for All” included four architects working in the tiny-house space: John Connell, Mackenzie Stagg, Bill Austin, Bryan Louisell.  One of the questions they explored had an ecosynomic twist.  When looking at the built environment for human residence, there are sheetrock-box shells, living-space interiors, and memory-home life-you-dream.  Commenting on the examples on-site at the fest and in the examples shared, the four architects described what we would call agreements about residence as:

  • just-noun, focus on the outcomes.  Build me a cost-efficient shell, which the panelists observed seems to often end up in sheetrock boxes.  Inexpensive boxes.
  • verb-and-noun, focus on the development of capacities, relationships, and the outcomes.  Build an experience with me, a space where I live, that is also cost efficient.  Beautifully crafted, customized homes.
  • light-and-verb-and-noun, focus on the potential, development, and outcomes.  Build the life I dream, a memory space, that is also an experience and cost efficient.  Living creativity that I creatively live in.

The author of Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, Dee Williams, suggested, in an earlier session, that the questions you ask about your life, how you experience it, and the residence you build are all agreements.  You can live in a box, an experience, or the life you dream.