Getting The Universe To Conspire With You

Does the universe seem to conspire with you?  Everything seems to work.  Or does the universe seem to conspire against you?  Nothing seems to work.

Building on our global work of the past twenty years at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, my colleagues and I have been building an understanding of the underlying ecology of consciousness and nature, the reality that humanity is and in which it swims.  The practical application of this ecology is the agreements field.  An agreements field is the energetic field that you experience of a set of agreements, of the reality you experience with a group, in a specific space.  This agreements field–what you unconsciously accept or consciously choose about how you will interact with reality, with each other–includes 10 dimensions of reality.

These dimensions describe the reality of the ecology of consciousness and nature.  That means that they are dimensions of your reality.  By seeing them as dimensions of your reality, dimensions that you can directly experience, this gives you the tools, the choices to change the agreements field, to adjust to the reality you want.  The reality you need to have the experiences you want and to achieve the outcomes that are yours to achieve.  They are all there, for you to choose.  This is getting the universe to conspire with you, because the universe asks this of you.  Decide how you want to agree to enter and relate with each of these dimensions.  Set your intention.

The ten dimensions are relatively straightforward, building on thousands of years of observation across all human cultures, as well as string theory in physics.  In essence, the universe is made up of purposeful energy, energy that transforms to and must serve a purpose.  It is in the very nature of energy.  So here is the first choice–what is the purpose towards which the energy is invited to engage.  A tool for this is the Deeper Shared Purpose.

Then you have to connect to the energy.  This is the choice of how to connect you and others to a purpose that engages them.  This is connection to the source of the energy.  Does your purpose and your process for connecting to it engage?  We call this cohosting.  That’s the second choice.

This purposeful energy comes with many different ways of understanding it, of relating to it.  You can think of this as another multidimensional energy that requires many different lenses for engaging it.  Like an 8-part harmony in a jazz ensemble or the 3 parts of deciding whether you can make money building and selling something (can we make it, can we sell it, can we profit from making it and selling it?).  You need all of the requisite perspectives of that specific purpose to perceive it and engage it.  You cannot do an 8-part harmony with 3 voices.  You cannot decide whether you can make a profit by just knowing how much it will cost to make.  You need all of the required perspectives.  What perspectives are required depends on your purpose.  The choice here is in how you bring in and work with those perspectives.  One tool for this is the O Process.  This is the third dimension of choice.

The degree to which those perspectives engage and share what they are perceiving depends on their experience of trust.  This is reflected in the level of vibrancy experienced in five primary relationships: the relationship to one’s own self, to the other, to the group, to nature’s creative process, and to spirit’s creative source.  When you have generated a space of low vibrancy where the experience is of a weak relationship to these five primary relationships, almost nothing of what the people perceived is shared.  When you have generated a space of high vibrancy, people experience very strong relationships to these five primary relationships, and they share all of what they are perceiving and build on it together synergistically.  From very low energy throughput to very high energy throughout.  This is the fourth choice.  A tool for assessing the level of vibrancy experienced is the Agreements Health Check survey, available free online.

These first dimensions describe whether you were able to engage the purposeful energy.  The next set of dimensions describe your choices in transforming that purposeful energy.

Do the agreements in your group work with the energy engaged?  The engaged energy comes in three forms: in knowledge of what already is, in developing new capacities and relationships, and in seeing new possibilities, accessing new potentials.  Do your organizational agreements, structures, and processes work with all three forms or focus mostly on one?  If you tend to focus explicitly on outcomes, existing capacities, and what is already known, you might capture the energy engaged around the knowledge shared of what already is, but you will lose all of the energy engaged around learning and seeing of new possibilities.  You have to be structured consciously to work with these three forms and not lose them to entropy.  This fifth dimension of choice can be assessed with the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool.

Once you have the engaged energy flowing into your organization, do you know how to transform it efficiently and effectively into something that others want?  This means taking the inputs of raw resources and creative energy and putting them together in unique ways that drive value for others.  This is the crux of the resource-based view of the strategy of the organization.  This transformation works at three levels of leverage: direct, dynamic, and structural.  Direct leverage is working directly with the resources in the most efficient way: knowing what you are doing to transform these enabling resources into value-driving resources.  Dynamic leverage is knowing how to work with the system dynamics of feedback loops that either stabilize towards homeostasis, balancing the local system or grow the system exponentially–balancing or reinforcing feedback.  This requires knowing how to work with the feedback dynamics of functional areas.  Structural leverage is coordinating multiple balancing and reinforcing feedback loops–the organizational system–to achieve the overall desired goal.  Maximize output from minimal inputs, across interacting feedback loops.  This requires knowing how to bring together interacting feedback loops of balancing and reinforcing forces to achieve desired outcomes.  This strategic systems work is the sixth dimension of choice.  The Systemic Leverage Index tool describes the level of direct, dynamic, and structural leverage in your system and how to increase them.

For you to be resilient in your ability to continue to transform the engaged purposeful energy, you need to be able to access the resources you need.  This resilience is a function of inflows and outflows.  To be resilient, your resource inflows must match your outflows.  Your resource outflows are the resources you need to transform the energy inputs into the product or service you are offering.  Think of these as the costs of bringing in people and resources and having facilities.  The inflows are the resources you need to provide the outflows.  Think of these as the money, products, and services required to provide for the people, enabling resources, and facilities.  When your inflows match your outflows, you are resilient.  When your outflows exceed your inflows, you are not.  When your inflows exceed your outflows, you are wasting resources.  A tool for measuring your resilience is the Resilience Dynamics map.  This is the seventh dimension.

These are the dimensions of transforming the purposeful energy engaged.  The third set of dimensions key in on transferring that transformed energy.

Do the people you are intending to offer the transformed energy want it?  Are they ready to receive it in the form offered?  Shockingly, most groups will expend great amounts of resources to know how much money they have (accounting information systems and processes) and how much inventory they have (enterprise management systems), and they will then survey their consumers every couple of years, meaning they spend almost nothing in knowing whether people actually want and are able to receive what is being offered.  When I ask, many, many groups tell me that they don’t really want what is being offered.  This shows in the marketplace, and is harder to see in civil society and government offerings.  And, when they do want what is being offered, it is often offered in ways they cannot work with.  It is too much or too little, or in a form they don’t want.  I don’t need soup, I need clothes.  We want water access, but not through the policies you implemented.  We want to educate our kids, but not your way. But you don’t ask, so you don’t know.  Anther possibility is for the intended recipients of the transference of the transformed energy to be deeply involved in the process, co-creating the forms they most need and are ready to accept of the transformed energy.  This is the highest value they can put on that energy.  The Memetics and Epimemetics tools describe the ability to transfer the transformed energy, your eighth dimension of choice.

Who in the system are you actually serving?  What percentage of the time?  Many groups declare they are serving the entirety of a specific population, when their outcomes show they are not.  Public K-12 education for all citizens.  Serving all sports fans in our area.  Yet, they only reach half the intended population, and the half they don’t reach is predictable, often by zip code.  And, they reach most people in the system some of the time.  The eCubed tool measures the degree to which a system serves everyone in the system (E1), everywhere in the system (E2), everyday in the system (E3).  A system says it is designed for the people it is serving.  This is eCubed (E1 * E2 * E3) equals 100%.  Most systems have an eCubed far less than 100%: they are not serving the system they say they are.  They are not transferring all of that transformed energy to the explicitly intended community, rather a subset of it.  This reflects the quality of the overall system design.  This is the ninth choice.

The 10th dimension of choice is the people you engage.  When you invite people into your purpose, you are asking them to exchange their calorie burning for lumens generating.  They need money, food, housing, etc to take care of their needs.  These are all calorie-equivalents.  Things to provide and protect more calories into their bodies for existence.  When these are covered, these calorie burners become lumens generators.  Lumens are the creative expression of human energy, as people connect to a purpose and the creative energy begins to flow.  This is what you are doing with your organization: bringing in calorie burners to generate lumens.  These lumens generated bind with the inputs of enabling resources to transform into value-driving resources.

You have all of these choices.  Choices that you make every day, whether you do it consciously or unconsciously.  The agreements field of these ten dimensions that you generate directly influences how much of this purposeful energy you access, engage, transform, and transfer and how much you lose to entropy.  In all probability, you are currently losing most of it to entropy, because you have accepted an agreements field and not consciously designed it.  You are expecting the universe to work in a specific way, which sometimes works for you and sometimes doesn’t.  Another way of understanding this is to see that these are all dimensions in a set of choices, an agreements field that you can generate.  They are all there for you to work with. This is how you get the universe to conspire with you.  You tell it to.  That is the choice that the universe expects from you, to know how to breath with you, to conspire with you.

Revisiting Agreements–Are Your Agreements Static-Dead or Dynamic-Living?

Most of us humans tend to act and interact as if our agreements, the guidelines for our interactions, are fixed.  If they are fixed, they are permanent, static.  Dead.  If they are fixed, then they cannot be changed.

And, if they actually are agreements, a mutual understanding, then we can decide what they are.  This means that we can change them.  They are just agreements.  They are changing, impermanent, dynamic.  Living.

If they are living, then agreements are constantly evolving, changing in content as the context changes.  If they are constantly evolving, then it would probably be a good idea to revisit them periodically.

In my own practice, I used to focus on making the best decision.  After all, I have advanced degrees in the decision sciences.  And, once I had followed a good decision making process, and made a good decision, I was done.  Complete.  On to the next decision.  A few years ago, I began to see the brilliance in “rushing to failure,” learning from trying something, making mistakes, and adjusting.  Much more interesting.  And, it was a mind shift to focus on getting to the awareness of the mistakes quicker.  While the rewards were high with this focus on failure, the fail language brought in lots of scarcity and feelings of weakness.  We were constantly asking about and focusing on our failures.  Good learning, and a bit debilitating in the language.

A couple of years ago, a colleague and I started experimenting with the practice of tangibilization.  Through the O Process, we would imagine possibilities, see a pathway of relationships and activities to manifest it, and a tangible outcome.  We would then look for the feedback in the pathway and outcomes, over time.  With this feedback, we would re-envision the possibilities, adjusting the pathways and outcomes we saw.  We were engaging an evolutionary process–learning and adjusting.  Over time, we saw that in this process we were constantly revisiting our agreements, adjusting them based on what we learned along the way.  With this realization, we shifted our language from “rushing to failure” to “revisiting our agreements.”  Now we actively seek and celebrate the feedback, with a reinforcing feeling, continuously evolving our agreements.

At first, this might seem inefficient.  Surely it is more efficient to decide once and be done.  Less time spent on process.  Right?  Back when we focused on making one decision and being done with the process, we observed that we actually ended up spending much more time on fixing the consequences of agreements that no longer worked.  This is analogous to the observation that most organizational work is spent correcting mistakes made from poor planning.  This does not mean spending endless time talking through every agreement over and over.  That IS a waste.

We found that it was far more efficient to continuously iterate the O Process, remembering the potential, pathways, and outcomes we saw, comparing those with what actually happened, and adjusting.  This is also known as the scientific process.  It turns out to be much more efficient and effective to revisit our agreements frequently, adjusting based on the feedback we received from the universe.  We learned that our agreements are dynamic, alive, so we revisit them continuously.

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.]

A Reframers’ Coup — Recommended Readings

Klarman, Michael J. The Framer’s Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution.  2016, New York: Oxford University Press.

Kishtainy, Niall.  A Little History of Economics. 2017, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Are the agreements that we live with today, whether consciously chosen or unconsciously accepted, the only agreements that are possible?  Are they “true,” in the sense that they are the only way that life could be?  While we tend to unconsciously act as if they were given truths, I find that all of these agreements have shifted over time.  Whether the laws of physics, the laws of medicine, the laws of economics, or the laws of politics, they all change, and often by a lot.  This constant reframing of what we “know” to be true intrigues me, so I have been looking into the history of thought and practice in many of these disciplines.

I recently recommended a book that explored the evolution of the modern mind.  A wild ride through the wars and tectonic shifts in how we define what a mind is.  I also recommend two books exploring how we arrived at our current-day understanding of two very influential systems, which we also tend to assume are given facts of reality:  the US Constitution and modern economics.

Professor Klarman, of the Harvard Law School, digs deep into the archives, through hundreds of letters from the framers of the US Constitution to describe, in the words of the framers themselves, the process that the framers went through to get from the Articles of Confederation to a ratified Constitution.  It was not a forgone conclusion that the convention could legally happen, that they would reach an agreement, or that the document would be ratified.  They just knew that the Articles of Confederation were not working, with bankruptcy and civil war imminent, and little else had worked. “By 1787, a decade’s worth of failed efforts at securing incremental reform within the framework of the Articles had convinced many political leaders of the need to pursue more fundamental change–and through other avenues” (p 72).  Where many of the states were moving towards democratic systems of local decision making, and many of the political leaders did not support a strong federal model, the framers were successful in changing the foundations of the USA going forward. To get this highly negotiated document ratified, “invocations of divine inspiration for the Constitution by supporters of ratification, were, at least in part, a conscious political strategy to maximize the chance of winning” (p 2).  While the Constitution has proved to be a very strong document, its framers wanted it to be revisited soon and strengthened, seeing it only as a better temporary solution than the Articles of Confederation.

While Professor Klarman’s archive-rich narrative includes 181 pages of endnotes, making it a long, nuanced read, London School of Economics guest lecturer Kishtainy‘s A Little History of Economics covers a wide spread of history in a few pages, highlighting key thinkers and tinkerers along the way, showing how they took a legacy of key concepts and the pressing issues of their times, to mold a new perspective on how people come together to produce and exchange goods.  It is the idea in a context that made huge shifts that we then consider normal or given today, many years later in a completely different context.  “Before Jevons and Marshall, economists imagined people as colorful characters.  In Adam Smith’s version of competition, merchants haggle and hustle to make the best deals, and Malthus’s poor liked to breed like rabbits.  Now economists place a new character at centre stage: ‘rational economic man,’ a person who decides what to do by weighing up marginal costs and marginal benefits, for example by comparing the price of a spoon with its utility.  The economy was seen as being full of cool-headed people who do all these calculations perfectly.  This kinds of economy looks calm and harmonious, quite different from how earlier economists saw it.  To Marx capitalism was all about the exploitation of workers by capitalists.  Workers create the economic value, but capitalists take most of it as profit.  In the world of ‘rational economic man’ there are simply lots of people buying and selling things.  There’s no such thing as exploitation” (p 65).

Another coup.  Take one idea, add some content and a new context, stir, and change the game.  We then accept the new game, and forget that there ever was a previous game that others previously also thought was true and given.  Two highly recommended books on the history of thought underlying major institutions today.

Hidden Bugs, Hidden Agreements

Like when germ theory replaced miasma theory, the intuition was right, the deeper cause was hidden.  It is in the environment, just not the way miasma theorists thought it was.  New technology made it visible, the microscope.

Likewise, low engagement, low creativity, and higher returns from automation are all signs, correctly interpreted, of a deeper, hidden problem.  Like bugs–the hidden germs and the “undocumented features” in software–the hidden agreements are there too.  These bugs embedded in the social soup, like germ-bugs and software-bugs, can be exposed, understood, and chosen.

The intuition about what to do is relatively right, the understanding of what drives it is being updated.  The bugs are no longer hidden, with the right technology.  The bugs in our agreements no longer need to be hidden either.  We have the technology to see them, and to choose our relationship to them.

Seeing What We See–Another Perspective on The Agreements We Accept

The British philosopher Alan Watts observed, “If I draw a circle, most people, when asked what I have drawn, will say that I have drawn a circle, or a disc, or a ball.  Very few people will ever suggest that I have drawn a hole in a wall, because people think of the inside first, rather than thinking of the outside. But actually these two sides go together–you cannot have what is ‘in here’ unless you have what is ‘out there.’

What agreements have I unconsciously accepted, such as seeing the circle from the inside, that limit my ability to see the circle from the outside?  How many ways have I boxed myself into a corner, from which I cannot see the possibilities I am seeking?  Watts’ observation invites me to remember that I was the one that boxed myself in–with the agreements I unconsciously accepted–so I can remove those boxes I put in place, the constraints on what I can see, consciously choosing the agreements I accept.

Choosing Our Agreements, Consciously — 4 Quotes

A core tenet of my work is that we unconsciously accept most of the agreements that fundamentally influence our experience and our outcomes, and that it is possible to see these agreements and to consciously choose them.  In my recent readings, I came across some quotes looking at this choice.

Nobel laureate in literature, George Bernard Shaw, in Maxims for Revolutionists, wrote, The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Once British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, in Lothair, wrote, “Action may not always be happiness,..but here is no happiness without action.”  I suggest that choice might not always bring happiness, but there is no resilient capacity for happiness or wellness, however one defines it for oneself, without conscious choice.

Nobel laureate in physics, Richard Feynman, in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, wrote, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool” (p 343).  To be okay with unconsciously accepting the agreements that most influence your experience and outcomes is to give over the power of your will, your future, to someone else.

In his bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek, a manifesto on rethinking our basic agreements about working and living, Timothy Ferriss observes, “If everyone is defining a problem or solving it one way and the results are subpar, this is the time to ask, What if I did the opposite? Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work” (p 30).  Just because everyone seems to accept a set of agreements, consciously or unconsciously, does not mean that these agreements actually lead to the experience and outcomes they say they do or that these agreements are right for you.  To know that, you have to ask the question.

A hat tip to Timothy Ferriss for these four quotes.

Deep Agreements We Hold and Can Choose — Recommended Reading

Bishop, Orland. The Seventh Shrine: Meditations on the African Spiritual Journey–From the Middle Passage to the Mountaintop2017, Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books.

Orland Bishop‘s new book, The Seventh Shrine, brings to light the deeper agreements we humans hold and can choose.  Orland, who holds the Institute for Strategic Clarity 2016-2017 Homo lumens Fellowship, has explored agreements in many previous blogs here.

Our awareness of our agreements, of how we interact in community, invites our full engagement.  “Participating is essential to the forming and the sustaining of community.  If we take just the word “part,” it points only to the individual human being.  But we must create this other aspect of “participation,” which is reciprocity, the exchange of the common good.  This is the nature of the community, a process of exchanging with each other and cultivating something that I can’t create by myself.  I can’t create something that complex by myself.  It is a discovery that when we participate, the emergent quality is something that spontaneously reveals itself, that in the act of hosting and being hosted in this improvisation of devotion to some aspect of our human genius, we arrive at something that we couldn’t see beforehand.  You could say that we share this “communion,” this wonderful substance.  This is the “precipitation” of the spiritual substance of human life.  It condenses, it manifests, and it becomes now tangible in the world.  Participation is rain in the world (p. 208).”

I just finished reading this book, and I highly recommend it.

Still Using Your 8-Track Player and Your 1950s-based Agreements?

Are you still using your 8-track player to listen to music or do you stream music online?

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Do you still use a 1950s washing machine?

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While some of you might, most of you are probably not.  Yet, many of you are probably still using 1950s agreements of what human interactions look like.

Why would most of us update our music and laundry technology and not the technology for human interactions?  We update the first, because the benefits of the newer technologies are obvious.  Much cooler and much more efficient access to much more music, or better clothes-washing care for the price.  When it comes to human agreements, we tend not to see the implicit, embedded assumptions in our agreements.  We still unconsciously accept the 1950s idea that most people are cogs in a machine that bring specific, interchangeable capacities to a task, and that they simply need to be contracted and compensated for the pound of flesh exacted from them at work.

Current research shows that, across the planet, people working under these 1950s agreements are disengaged at work and that the costs of this disengagement are huge.  Alternatively, we have documented tens of thousands of cases of groups that are working with 2010s agreements, updated technology, that assume people are quite competent, excited to engage, and ready to learn, all of the time, and that when they are treated this way and invited to contribute their best, they most often do, and that the net benefits to groups working this way are huge.

If you periodically update the technology that plays your music and washes your clothes, maybe you should consider updating the technology for how you interact with others at work.

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.