Positive Deviants Are No Longer Deviants

Fifteen years ago, when I began talking about groups that were achieving high-impact-resilience and having high-vibrancy experiences, it was clear that these groups were positive deviants, doing something very different than the norm, and getting much better-than-normal results.  I have written a lot about the positive deviants we are working with over the past fifteen years.  In 2014, I estimated that there might be upwards of tens of thousands of groups living this way around the world.  When I would say this, people wanted to know what made the higher-performing groups work that way, and I would give examples like firms of endearment and asset-based community development.  Most people seemed to be hopeful that these cases were true, and a bit skeptical.

Now I am having a very different experience when I talk about what differentiates groups with abundance-based agreements, people are now understanding what I am pointing at, trying it out for themselves, and connecting us with groups that they know that are also learning how to act this way.  I wonder if the time when the positive deviants who were working with abundance-based agreements were considered weird and lucky is passing, and now it is becoming more part of the new normal to choose to interact with greater abundance.  I see evidence of this all over the place now.  Not just a few rarified examples, rather millions of them everywhere.

What do these numbers mean?  If there are just 100,000 groups of 100 people like this around the world, then those 10,000,000 people would be 0.13% of the global population or 13 in every 10,000 people, or only 51,000 in each of the 195 countries of the world, or the population of the 89th most populated country in the world, between Portugal and Sweden.  Another way of thinking about this is that 1 in 763 people alive today would be experiencing one of these higher-vibrancy groups.  I think that number is now low.  And, if there are many more than this, everywhere, then we are looking at a phenomenon that is approaching a new normal.  Just a 10-fold increase of this estimate would make it the 14th most populated country, between the Philippines and Egypt.

If this is true, that the experience of how to work with abundance-based agreements is showing up everywhere, it is time for us to being to map this topography of social agreements, mapping ecosynomic deviance and impact resilience, in all of its forms, across the globe.  I bet, if we do, we will find some amazing treasures, right in our own backyards, showing us how to do what we want to do with far greater impact resilience and in a much more engaging way.  That would be good to know.  Maybe then we could figure out how to achieve systemic solutions that work for everyone everywhere everyday.  I wonder.

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The Future Is Already Here

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” said cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson.

Prolific management author Peter Drucker observed, in October 1989 in The Economist, “The trends that I have described..are not forecasts (for which I have little use and scant respect); they are, if you will, conclusions.  Everything discussed here has already happened; it is only the full impacts that are still to come. I expect most readers to nod and to say, ‘Of course’.  But few, I suspect, have yet asked themselves: ‘What do these futures mean for my own work and my own organisation?'”

McGill University professor Elena Bennett has found over 500 vibrant social initiatives, which her lab describes as “seeds.” “Seeds are existing initiatives that are not widespread or well-known. They can be social initiatives, new technologies, economic tools, or social-ecological projects, or organisations, movements or new ways of acting that..appear to be making a substantial contribution towards creating a future that is just, prosperous, and sustainable.”

Through the Institute for Strategic Clarity‘s fieldwork in 39 countries and survey research in 124 countries over the past decade, my colleagues and I have identified 457 highly vibrant groups.  We have worked with 149 of them.

The point is that the seeds of our future are already here.  People are figuring out how to live and interact in ways that are more consistent with their own values, their own deeper shared purpose, developing energy-enhancing solutions that result in much greater impact resilience.  The Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience (MEDIR), working with community leaders, academic institutions, networks, and consultancies around the globe, is (1) identifying these seeds of the future that are already here, and (2) developing agreements field mapping (pactoecographic) frameworks, lenses, and processes to understand what people all over the world are learning about making vibrant, energy-enhancing, culturally-relevant choices within their local contexts.  Learning with and from people who are already figuring out parts of the “how to” can accelerate our capacity to find high impact-resilience solutions, solutions that work for everyone, everywhere in our systems, everyday.  That future that we prefer is already here.  The task now is to find it.

How Do We Figure Out How To Pay Attention To The Needs of Everyone Everywhere Every Day?

Everyone has a different genotype. Therefore, for optimal development..everyone should have a different environment,” according to James M Tanner, an expert on body growth and development  (JM Tanner, Foetus into Man, 1990, Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, p.120).  According to Wikipedia, the genotype is the part of the genetic makeup of a cell, which determines a specific characteristic (phenotype) of that cell/organism/individual. Genotype is one of three factors that determine phenotype, the other two being inherited epigenetic factors, and non-inherited environmental factors.  Not all organisms with the same genotype look or act the same way because appearance and behavior are modified by environmental and developmental conditions. Likewise, not all organisms that look alike necessarily have the same genotype.

In other words, we are all different, so the environment we each have, the systems and agreement structures that support each of us and we each support, should be designed to meet each of us.  Well, that seems like a hard problem to solve.

It seems really hard to figure out how to meet everyone’s needs all of the time.  Philosophers have been worrying about this for thousands of years.  Is it better to let everyone figure this out for themselves, which free-market philosophers love, or is it better to calculate the best good for the most, which utilitarian-collectivist philosophers love, or is it best to make sure everyone gets the same treatment, whether it is great, good, or not so good, which egalitarian-justice philosophers love?  While they all acknowledge that it would be better to satisfy everyone everywhere all of the time, it is just too hard to do, so they have developed self-acknowledged, suboptimal solutions, for which they have to make some rather radical simplifying assumptions.  Well, they say, it works for many folks much of the time, which is better than nothing.

Maybe it is time to let go of this assumption that it is too hard to do.  We have placed the robot Philae on a comet and the New Horizons probe has passed Pluto, while still sending back data and pictures over a very long distance.  We have grown the world economy to over US$100 trillion, we generate about 4 billion tonnes of food a year, and we have created a network of roads extending over 20 million miles across the globe.  These are amazing accomplishments, which we have achieved because people set themselves to figuring it out: they made it important.  It was very hard to figure out, and they did.  It took 100 years for a lot of people to figure out how to test part of Einstein’s theory of relativity, but they did, and for that some of them won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.

So if we can figure out these things, why can’t we figure out how to understand the needs of 7.6 billion people?  They are right here, and we can ask. Maybe it is because we don’t think it is important enough to figure out.  Maybe it is time we do, and maybe we now have many of the tools we will need to do so.  And maybe some people are starting to figure this out, and we should find out what they are learning.  We could start by understanding the memetic code of the agreements fields that most influence each of us, and then, like the influence of the genotype, epigenetic, and environmental factors, we could begin to understand the evolution of the metamemetics and epimemetics of the agreements fields that most influence each of us–how we unconsciously accept and consciously choose the interwoven set of mostly hidden agreements that most influence each of us.  That might be a good start, one we could take now.