Guest post — Similar Fundamental Assumptions Found in 17 European Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm (#4 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

In earlier posts, I shared observations from 17 European groups living the Ecosynomic paradigm about how they were similar in outcomes and experiences, and in processes and structures.  In this last post, I will share some of the similarities I have found in their fundamental assumptions, trying to highlight similarities that distinguish them from their peers.

One of the patterns I saw underlines one of the major research findings of Ecosynomics. It is closely connected to the story I shared in my first blog; groups with high levels of harmonic vibrancy (HV) often collapse when working with lower HV groups. One expression I hear, over and over again, “After listening to your research findings, I finally understand why our project costs always explode when working with certain groups. With other groups it just works fine. I now see the obvious. We are working on the basis of different agreements.” This insight is also underlined in their practices of recruiting. “I now also see why our very strict recruiting process is vital for our future success. We would rather invite an interested person into an ongoing dialog and lasting relationship than just looking at her current abilities, skills and past achievements.”

To understand this expression I had to first understand one of the unique practices, structures and processes: in these high HV groups it is not possible to apply for a job. They do not “sell positions,” as they describe it, rather “the right people with the right competences grow into a specific organizational need.” Their recruiting and matching process is more one of growing together over a period of time by creating relations. This period can last from several months to a year. When I asked one of the group’s leadership why they do not solely focus on job interviews and or assessment center techniques, they nearly laughed at me and said, “How will you ever really grasp a person in her full potential, her drive to do things, and her actual capabilities to work, if you create a competitive, resource limited and transactional setting?” I asked “So what do you do?” They replied, “We start to build relationship with as many people as we can… the best of them stay. It is as easy as that.”

Other patterns I see include:

In all of the high vibrancy and some of the high to medium vibrancy groups, I found a collective willingness to work on agreements. One of the most striking examples is the case of a 25-year old NGO based in Germany. Their survey results reflect a group suffering the costs of sub-group competition as well as medium effectiveness in using and developing existing capacities to enact higher level outcomes in their projects.  The data in this case is based on the responses of more than 90% of the group members. All of them validated and agreed with the diagnostic results in a two-day strategy workshop.

Despite my experience in other medium vibrancy groups, the members of this group described many experiences of high levels of Harmonic Vibrancy in temporal and spatial pockets, leading me to an understanding of what this might look like. This created a very fertile ground for a fast-paced process. Our common analysis brought us to the understanding that the group suffered a collapse in vibrancy due to collapsing the agreements that enabled them to realize a balanced interplay of the five different allocation-mechanism relationships.  They noticed that, some years ago, they started to focus on the OTHER as the dominant mechanism for allocating the resources they need to generate the outcomes they want. Thus, they unintentionally collapsed the primary relationships to SELF, GROUP, NATURE and SPIRIT. To make the next steps and to move to higher levels of vibrancy, we started to walk through the first steps of the O-Process.

    1. We started by making visible the current state of their shared reality, in their underlying agreements and costs of scarcity.  All of the group members agreed that they would want to let go of the scarcity-enacting agreements, in order to be able to enact new, more abundance-based agreements.
    2. By applying collaborative inquiry techniques, the group created an alignment about the deeper shared purpose of their NGO. They made explicit that they could not reach this purpose with the old agreements. “We agree that we have to change our agreements, and we collectively decide to change the agreements that will lead to the reality that we experience.”
    3. The very self-reflective leader of the group started the next step by sharing her deeper values, needs and possible contributions. It was amazing to observe that, despite the presence of very strong personalities, no aggressive egos mutilated this invitation. By making this first move, she opened the space for individual reflection and inner stillness to happen. Every single member of the group started to share his and her deeper values and possible contributions to the deeper purpose of the organization. Since all of them aligned in step one and two on the deeper purpose of the group, it was a straight forward move to bring their intentions and possible contributions into alignment as well.
    4. Due to the alignment on the deeper purpose of the group and of the individual values, needs, and possible contributions, they all started to create a first understanding of the possibilities they have to make that move. This happened during the second day of the workshop and was a very intense process. People started to let go of the old. Afterwards they said, “It felt like a healing or cleaning process… amazing.”

Their journey is not yet over: it just begun. And, what makes all the difference, they now share a space of possibilities they all see and relate to together. They have to find ways to transfer the existing commitment into shared actions. This workshop happened nearly one year ago. Just three days ago, I received a message stating, “Thanks again for the process we started. We made big moves and the doors you started to expose to us are still wide open. We are on a good path.” I was very touched by this e-mail since it reflects why I am doing this work: “Support groups to move into abundance-based agreements.”

Finally, another very simple but obviously powerful assumption can be framed as, “As long as we can laugh about our self and our ego, we are fine.” In all of these vibrant groups, I found a very strong sense of self-humor.  In German we would call it “Selbsthumor.” To me it is amazing to see that this kind of basic principle serves as a cleaning mechanism for the group. It helps them stay focused on the issue and the common purpose and not get lost in energy-depleting structures that emerge when single egos are way too dominant. Self-humor nearly always helped to equalize the energies in the room and to bring all into one movement, a movement towards the shared purpose.

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Guest post — Similar Processes and Structures Found in 17 European Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm (#3 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

Building on my observations from 17 very different European groups, I shared in an earlier post about the similarities I found in their outcomes and experiences.  In this post, I focus on some of the similarities in processes and structures I found.  These processes and structures support the outcomes and experiences I described in the earlier post.

I find that it is important to realize that your processes and structures are different and what makes them different from groups experiencing lower levels of harmonic vibrancy.  In many groups I have visited this awareness is somewhat unconscious, described as “the magic that makes us so successful” or something like that. As I said in my last post, despite the presence of my kids, I do not believe in “magic” or things that cannot be understood and explained. And, most excitingly, this is something I have in all groups at high levels of Harmonic Vibrancy. I also find that those groups state, after mirroring back their diagnostic results, that for the first time they understand their magic. One team member literally said, “I have my bookshelf full of cutting-edge leadership and management literature, and I was always frustrated since I found no answer to the question of what makes us different. I could never really grasp it and make it manageable. For the first time, I start to see what it is that makes us so extremely efficient and effective (successful). I also start to understand that it is possible to multiply our success, which I never thought it was AND I understood that living into the harmonic and vibrancy we experience on a daily basis is continuous and it is hard work on a daily basis.”

To support this experience of “magic,” another interesting aspect I found was they have structures and processes that allow the emergence of a balanced amount and interplay of male and female leaders/drivers. These groups are very clear that it is not the mere fact of having a quota of woman or men (this is a big topic now in Germany), rather it is much more about the kind of energy and impulse or gesture that we still attribute more to male or females, such as the suggestion that males are more dominant and polarizing and women more balancing and harmonizing. In these highly vibrant groups I have identified, those abilities and competences are both present, in the men and in the women. For me this was enlightening, since I understood that while important and crucial for the future success of Germany, part of the discussion we have in Germany is not relevant. It is not about men and woman, rather about the ability to live masculine and feminine energies at the same time. Here is the point that the experience of these high vibrancy groups make so clear: we have to differentiate between a) the fairness aspect of giving men and women the same chances, b) the competences and abilities to enact one’s feminine and masculine energies, and c) the processes and structures one needs to create a high performing social system.

I also see that these groups tend to share a very strong agreement on the deeper common cause and vision/ mission. These groups have a wide variety of practices and processes to ensure that everyone can step into the shared vision and purpose. They range from massive online and offline network events, and changing focus topics every year to “simple” structures, such as selecting somebody in the company you will do something good for within a given time frame.

These groups deeply value new contributions, as long as they align with their mission and vision. In this way, they are able to integrate innovations and new practices and stay focused. One particularly intriguing process is to give employees 10-20% free time to develop anything they like and contribute to the bigger idea of the company. They get the possibility to do this work together with external persons and are invited to combine efforts with other employees, to augment their time budgets. As soon as the employee or the group of employees (including the external persons) are ready to share what they have developed, they have the possibility to invite an “internal pitch meeting” to present their product or idea. Members from all levels of the organization then decide whether resources and structures will be made available.  To ensure compliance with external stakeholders, top management has a veto right.  I myself was just part of such a process and it is mind blowing how fast and easy it was to manifest an innovative product and integrate it into the business model of the organization.

In my next post (#4 of 4), I will talk about some of the similar fundamental assumptions I find in those groups.

Guest post — Similar Outcomes and Experiences Found in 17 European Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm (#2 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

As I shared in my last post, I have identified and studied 17 European groups to understand if and how they are living the Ecosynomic paradigm.  As I reflected on what they are learning with them, starting with the basis of the “Ecosynomics Survey of Harmonic Vibrancy,” I found striking similarities in their outcomes and experiences, processes and structures, and fundamental assumptions.  In this post, I will focus on the similarities I see in their outcomes and experiences.

After each group took the survey, I shared Figure 1 with them, to give them a point of comparison for their outcomes and experiences. In most cases, the group starts to have a conversation that could be condensed as follows: “Ok, if this is our profile, and there are organizations with similar and different profiles, what practices allow them to live higher levels of harmonic vibrancy? What can we learn from groups with lower levels of harmonic vibrancy?”

 

Figure 1: Overview of diagnostic results from 17 European groups

Figure 1: Overview of diagnostic results from 17 European groups

Let’s have a closer look at the case of a globally operating NGO.  It provides management and leadership solutions in the field of nature conservation.  Since their founding 10 years ago, most consider them the unbeaten champion in the arena.  Success means that they surpass their goals, and that they are on their way to redefining management and leadership principles for nature conservation on a global scale.  They are very effective, with recognized success, while very efficient at how they do it.  They have been successful in responding to high demand from the big players in their field, while working with a core team of around 10 persons, scattered around the globe.

About 90% of the team members took the survey. The team members describe their experience in this organization as very vibrant and harmonious, where harmonious means the balanced and constructive interplay of discordance and accordance.  After analyzing the survey data, I led an in-depth reflection about the results with the whole team, starting with the graphic in Figure. It shows the average rating (A) of the different experiential dimensions, with a 5 as a high rating and a 1 as a low rating.  For example, for Process of innovation, the summary values ranged from 1.74 to 5.00, averaging (A) 2.92, with a variance (V) of 1.18.

Figure 2: Harmonic Vibrancy profile with average rating (A) and variance (V).

Figure 2: Harmonic Vibrancy profile with average rating (A) and variance (V)

The group found two interesting aspects in Figure 2.  First, the variance over five of the dimensions is very low, meaning that the organization as a whole agrees very closely on them.  Second, even though the group wants to be highly effective, it is still relatively weak at integrating new perspectives and at seeing value in things they still cannot see and grasp, the other two dimensions.  When reflected back to them, one of them shared, “After finishing the conversation on our ability to integrate new aspects into our organization, we are still not at a final point. But, a) we all started to agree that we are facing a challenge, and b) we identified some of the major roadblocks that we have to get out of the way. We never had such a focused conversation about the elephant in the room.”  As they worked further with this insight, they realized that their own success makes it difficult for them to integrate new perspectives. Meaning, because they are so convinced that their practices, processes, business solutions and value propositions are cutting edge, they forget to lift up their heads and look for new possibilities. This insight was striking to them: they saw that their competitive advantage might vanish very fast if others were to develop similar products.

What strikes me in this case study is that they are aware of their success and that they are different from the status quo. Regardless of perceiving themselves as positive outliers, they are very humble in living into this. They keep a high level of openness to change and constructive input, which is a pattern I found in all of the groups until now.  I will dive into those patterns in subsequent posts.

Another aspect that intrigues me, in this case, is that all of them agree and openly speak about the following sentence: “We agree that our ‘magic’ makes us special and successful.” It was interesting to witness that after our workshop they still believed in this phrase but had concrete words and a concept that explained their “magic” to them.  They understood that their “magic” is sustained by the agreements they live that are based in abundance rather than scarcity.  The dialog made it tangible, enabling them to sustain and multiply it in a conscious way.

In my next blog post (#3 of 4), I will share some of my findings on similar processes and structures found in the 17 European groups living into the Ecosynomic paradigm.

Guest post — 17 European Groups Living Into the Ecosynomic Paradigm – Initial Insights (#1 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

In this series of 4 posts, I will share initial insights from research with 17 groups in Europe.  Covering seemingly different sectors (5 in business, 7 in civil society, 4 in global networks, 1 in academia), I find similar underlying patterns, innovations and dynamics in all of them.  My main diagnostic tool was the “Ecosynomics Survey of Harmonic Vibrancy” from the Institute for Strategic Clarity.  I was able to follow up on the survey with some of the groups, interviewing individuals, observing group processes, and offering workshops with selected members.  To protect their confidentiality, I changed the names of the groups.  While they are not all high-vibrancy groups, they all present interesting insights from an Ecosynomic perspective.

Figure 1 shows the general level of perceived Harmonic Vibrancy in each of the 17 different groups, using a scale of 1 to 5 for seven dimensions – the five primary relationships, the quality of leadership, and the group’s overall outcomes (group well-being).  These ratings are outputs from the 57-item Ecosynomics Survey of Harmonic Vibrancy, which you can take for free online.

Figure 1: Overview of diagnostic results from 17 European groups

Figure 1: Overview of diagnostic results from 17 European groups

As captured in Figure 1, some of the groups describe their reality as very vibrant and collaborative (depicted by the outer lines). Others describe their reality as more scarce and competitive (depicted by the inner lines).  While the results might seem very similar, since the lines are all very close and no group has very low levels of harmonic vibrancy, the practices, agreements, and outcomes are very different between low and high vibrancy groups.

In the early stage of this research, the similarities I have found have led to three initial insights: 

1) Similar outcomes and experiences

While the groups come from different sectors and cultures, they describe similar experiences and outcomes in their work.  When describing experiences of low harmonic vibrancy, the group members showed how the outcomes of their value-creation processes mostly met the industry standards. And, when describing experiences of high levels of harmonic vibrancy, they showed how their value-creation processes led to outcomes that exceeded industry standards.

2) Similar processes and structures

I started to find and identify reoccurring practices in groups describing similar levels of harmonic vibrancy. They range from having a radically different understanding of recruiting to innovative ways of organizing to letting go of standard leadership models, as well as structures that engage customers and employees at a very high rate.

3) Similar fundamental assumptions

Finally, I found that groups with higher levels of harmonic vibrancy start their interactions from a different set of fundamental assumptions. A friend and colleague of mine just teased me and said, “So do you propose that they are better or more advanced human beings? You know you should be careful with such an assumption, especially in the German context.” No, I am not proposing that. What I observe is that they are ordinary people, like you and me, doing very ordinary things – like writing project proposals to get funding. And, I observed that they start from assumptions of possibility and abundance rather than from scarcity and limitation.

I will frame each of these three insights and illustrate them with one of these cases in my subsequent blog posts.

Guest post — My Journey of Finding Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm

A guest post by Christoph Hinske, ISC Fellow

“Am I just a dreamer or is there another possibility for how we interact than the current one? Isn’t there another paradigm than economics, which is based – by definition – in scarcity-driven agreements? If I look around, I cannot believe that organizations and human beings have to compete to be better off!”

It has always been hard for me to believe that the current and predominant mode of human interaction – based in fear, distrust and competition – is the only way it works. This is what I was told by my teachers in grade school, my social-economic professors in university, and my bosses in most of the places I worked. The answer to my questions, were always some form of, “This is just the way it works. Human beings are hardwired to compete. Look around Christoph. Any socio-political system believes in the economic ideology… so it cannot be wrong. And by the way… you do not have an alternative either.” That was right; I could neither see nor come up with an alternative. I could not see beyond my own limitations. I was raised in the economic ideology and I was unable to transcend neither my mental model nor the agreements I was taught.

So I started to look for answers, and I found Ecosynomics. I now know that my “crazy visions” of agreements based in collaboration, trust and interdependency are possible and being lived in thousands of groups organized in many different ways, on a daily basis. It is thrilling and fascinating to find that they are ordinary people, doing ordinary things in a completely different way. In the last year, I have visited with 14 of these groups in three different European countries, spanning from study programs in academia to global networks, civil society organizations and companies [see the pie chart below]. In this blog post, I provide a general overview of my work. In future posts, I will dive into specific cases, sharing the practices and agreements – based in abundance – that lead to their extraordinary levels of performance.

Christoph Guest Blog Stats 081913

I was most thrilled by the different “natural abilities to perform” that I observed. Listening to these groups, they described their community as vibrant, creative, and “just great.” They talked about how their agreements were based in collaboration, possibility, creativity, social cohesion and innovation. For example, the members of a global network re-defining the management and leadership standards in their industry always spoke about … “our magic enables us to be high performers.” Since I do not believe in magic (except when I am with my kids), I dug deeper. When I mirrored back to them what I observed about the magic in their agreements, using my words from the Ecosynomics, they told me, “For the first time we have a framework that explains why we are so successful… and it all makes sense.”

Just a few days ago I met a 65 year-old German IT engineer, an entrepreneur who just sold the shares of his successful company in order to build up a new Internet-security company. He asked me what I am working on and I shared my passion for the Ecosynomic research. He got very excited and shared the following story: “I once worked in a company producing engines. Besides other things I was responsible for the performance of the different teams working in shifts. Here comes the connection to what you shared with me. There was this one team, which despite having the same pre-conditions, resources and possibilities at hand always… literally always was half an hour faster. Since I am an industrial engineer, I tried to understand why. How is it possible that they are always faster? Even working with them, we could not figure it out. Finally we mixed the high performing team with the low performing teams. It was a disaster. Every single team now was worse off. Listening to what you just shared, I think I start to understand the why. It had to do with the kind of agreements they came up with for themselves, the other, the team, their creativity to modify given processes and the firm believe that their way of doing will shift the performance of the whole. Hmmm… it is really interesting that it was the principles of collaboration that drove their performance.”

From this abundance-based framing, it is very interesting to observe reactions from organizations and groups that describe their reality as very competitive, scarce in potential and possibilities, etc. To these groups, the insights from Ecosynomics seem to be very unreal. After mirroring the results back, I often hear expressions like, “Yes, but…” “It is not possible to be better…” “Let’s be realistic, this is not logical. Let’s focus on the real stuff.” “Our employees are not ready yet.” “The older generation will not use it.” “It might work in other places, but not here.” “Something like this only works in volunteer contexts, but not in the real world.”

Have you heard expressions like these? Do you think you are a dreamer?

Christoph Hinske is an ISC Fellow, leading ISC’s work in Europe. He is the author of “Core Resources of Paradigm-Change Facilitation,” published recently in The Systems Thinker.  He is also a consultant at IFOK. He lives with his extraordinary wife and daughter in the beauty of a forest outside a small village in Germany.