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.


Invention of the Modern Mind — Recommended Reading

Makari, George. Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind. 2015, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

What am I as a human being?  What is it to be human?  I find that most of us ask those questions all of the time, thinking that we never ask them.  We often say that these are philosophical questions, of little interest to pragmatic people in the real world.  And, I find that we each carry a picture, often implicitly accepted from someone else, of what we are as humans.  This picture of the human being underpins everything in all of our agreements, whether we have consciously chosen these agreements or unconsciously accepted them.

I have been exploring many different perspectives on this question over the past few years.  These perspectives are fascinating and I find many of them to be very seductive, pulling me into their orbits and convincing me of their perspective; until I dive into the next one.  The realization of this exploratory confusion in me led me to begin to look for people who have mapped the topography of these explorations.

One of the most helpful mappings I have found of this huge space is George Makari‘s Soul Machine, “an attempt to untangle [the apparent] contradictions [amongst these perspectives] by returning to their origins…The emergence of the mind as a formative, if always embattled, belief, cannot be understood outside this historical context…this book recovers a lost lineage, parts of which have been long discarded as embarrassing, wrongheaded, or irrelevant” (pp. xi-xii).  In the question of what is it to be human, Makari explores the evolution of our understanding of the mind (from PIE root *men- (1) “to think”), what is it that we experience that thinks?

“While our own psyches seem abundantly clear to us, attempts to objectively establish their existence have been mired in seemingly insoluble problems.  And so, while the mind remains central to 21-century Western thought, a number of prominent neuroscientists and philosophers inform us that it surely does not exist” (p x).

“The invention of the mind was not the result of sedate academic debate.  The mind was a radically destabilizing, heretical idea that grew out of intense, often violent conflict.  Far from being a story of scholarship alone, this history begins and ends in bloodshed.  Characters in this account include thinkers writing at their desks, but also wild-eyed prophets, doctors whose space rooms were littered with carcasses, political spies, bitter refugees, witches, quacks, and pornographers.  This story takes place in universities, courts, hospitals, London coffeehouses and Paris salons, but also on battlefields, in lunatic asylums, poorhouses, and prisons.  For better or worse, advocates and enemies of the mind were not sequestered in their studies.  Often they could be found at the barricades” (p xi).

“Once modernity gave birth to the theory of an embodied mind, the implications were grave.  If it wasn’t the soul but rather a fallible mind that made men and women think, choose, and act as thy did, then long-standing beliefs were erroneous.  Convictions regarding truth and illusion, innocence and guilt, health and illness, the rulers and the ruled, and the roles of the individual in society would need to change.  Not surprisingly, therefore, from its inception this concept was considered scandalous.  Early advocates surrounded themselves in clouds of ambiguity; they published anonymously and when discovered, quickly fled from red-faced censors and mobs.  Monarchs and theologians decried these heretics and roused their forces against them” (p xii).

This big book of over 600 pages chronicles this human exploration in the Western world over centuries, diving deep into the context of many of these explorers.  Wading through it over the past month has given me much greater context for the Western explorers I have been reading, such as Thomas Hobbes, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant.  It is very interesting to see how they all fit into overlapping contexts with each other.  I highly recommend this deep dive, for those of you who like to dive deep.  It could also serve you if you want to take a quick dive into the context of specific developers of our existing understanding of the mind.

Realizing the Best Conversation Available in the Group — Recommended Reading

Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Maureen Metcalf.  2016.  “Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions,” Integral Leadership Review, (http://integralleadershipreview.com/15209-co-hosting-creating-optimal-experience-for-team-interactions/).

What level of conversation is available, where all participants can engage and contribute their unique perspectives?  One way of understanding this is what Terri O’Fallon calls the “roaming space.”  Extending that concept, my colleagues and I have found that there are two roaming spaces a conversation can play in: one where we find the least common denominator of shared awareness, perspectives, and language; and another where we find the highest available awareness, perspectives, and language we can share.  In the first, we find the overlap in the  awareness, perspectives, and language we share.  In the second, we access the unique awareness, perspectives, and language each person brings to the conversation.

This article highlights the five dimensions of the co-hosting roaming space and the co-hosting process for putting it in practice.

The Reality That Is Always Here, Ready for Homo lumens to Discover — Recommended Reading

Gebser, Jean, The Ever-Present Origin (N. Barstow with A. Mickunas, Trans.), 1985, Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.  

Click here for chapter one.

When you are ready to dive deep into a multi-cultural, multi-millennia, aperspectival exploration of the three levels of perceived reality, as described in ecosynomic terms as possibility, development, outcomes or light, verb, and noun, I invite you to plunge yourself into the world of Jean Gebser.  A philosopher who lived from 1905 to 1973 in Europe, in this book Gebser provides a very rich developmental picture of human consciousness.  This book is so dense with images, examples, etymologies, and explorations of what it means to be human and the evolution of human awareness that I was rarely able to read more than 2-3 pages in a sitting.  This is probably one of the five most dog-eared and underlined books I have: a reference book that I will have to come back to for many years to come.  Too much to ingest the first time around.

While there are many layers of Gebser’s exploration, I will share here glimpses of his descriptions of the human experience of the three levels of perceived reality in ecosynomics.  This is like the 30-second movie trailer that I hope will excite you to see the full 2-hour movie.  It is worth the effort.

In brief, as my colleagues and I have surveyed people in 94 countries and met with them in a dozen countries over the past decade, we find that people describe their experiences through three different levels of perceived reality.  There is the outcome level of material things, the nouns.  There is the development level of building capacities and relationships, of connecting systems, over time, the verbs.  And, there is the possibility level of potential, of brilliance that is yet to manifest, the light.  In this book, Gebser describes each of these levels in great detail, with examples across many cultures and millennia.  I share a sample of these observations.

Vibrancy is a choice.  “Diaphaneity..is..to render transparent our own origin, our entire human past, as well as the present, which already contains the future” (6-7).  The task is to render transparent what is already here, and not yet visible.  This is the purpose of the Agreements Evidence Maps, to see (render transparent) the underlying agreements that shape our experience and outcomes.  “It transforms space-timelessness into space-time-freedoms, permitting the mutation from an unconscious openness to a conscious openness, whose essence is not ‘being in’ or ‘being in opposition to’ but diaphaneity” (436).

Outcome (noun) level of reality.  “This point-like unity…In the spaceless and timeless world, this constitutes a working unity which operates without a causal nexus…Only in a spaceless, timeless world is the point-related unity a working reality…Because of this spaceless-timeless unity, every ‘point’ (a thing, event, or action) can be interchanged with another ‘point,’ independently of time and place..and of any rational causal connection….Nevertheless, precisely this fact clearly reveals the contradiction in the unity concept, namely, the unconscious discrepancy between the parts (i.e., the points) and the actual unity.  Here man, or a human group, is the protagonist, even though this is extremely well concealed.  Although man fits in and merges with the event, this very merger and fusion give the event a definite direction” (48-49).

Development (verb) level of reality.  “‘Structure’ is understood as an expression of the potential, the possible. As Triptych points out, ‘Structures determine not merely the singular realization, as do formations, but various possibilities of any realization. Today we are interested precisely in the possible, the virtually [and potentially] present, and not merely in the temporally-bound, signal event’… The concept of structure..receives..the qualitative emphasis for sociology which allows space-time-free origin to shine through the qualitative potentiality” (429).

Possibility (light) level of reality.  “‘Possibility’ is a potency or a latent intensity, and therefore a quality…a qualitative character in contrast to the spatial emphasis, measurability, and basically quantitative aspects of three-dimensionality…(like) the ultimate consequences of the nature of the electron–one of the elementary particles which are the building blocks of our world and of the universe–indicate that it is without substance.  This means that it is a transparent structure…This de-substantialization ultimately changes the non-visual nature of even the ‘material’ realm into transparency or diaphaneity” (378).

As Gebser describes in great detail, the point is to acknowledge and transcend the apparent boundaries amongst the three levels of perceived reality, what I have referred to as the grounded potential path — “‘The hidden or the possible of the future’ is valued as present in the supersession of the ‘mere now,’ the qualitative moment” (429).

While it is a difficult read, like carefully laying the foundation for your home, it is well worth the effort on which you can build an aperspectival reality.

Why Innovators Misbehave — Recommended Readings

Glennerster, Rachel and Kudzai Takavarasha, Running Randomized Evaluations: A Practical Guide, 2013, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.  See chapter 1 here.

Gneezy, Uri. and John A. List, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life, 2013, New York: Public Affairs.

Schrage, Michael, The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More Than Good Ideas, 2014, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thaler, Richard H., Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, 2015, New York: W.W. Norton.

“When all economists are equally open-minded and are willing to incorporate important variables in their work, even if the rational models says those variables are supposedly irrelevant, the field of behavioral economics will disappear.  All economics will be as behavioral as it needs to be.  And those who have been stubbornly clinging to an imaginary world that consists only of Econs will be waving a white flag, rather than an invisible hand” (Thaler 2015 p358), so says the current president of the American Economic Association, Chicago economist Richard Thaler.

Behavioral economics is the union of behavioral sciences that focus on describing observable human behavior (i.e., psychology, sociology, and anthropology) and economic science that focuses on the process or system by which goods and services are produced, sold, and bought.  What people actually do when allocating scarce resources, as compared to what traditional economics suggests people should optimally, rationally do.  In development over the past fifty plus years, behavioral economics has added great insights and significant refinements to economic theory.  The four books I recommend here both highlight the development of the field of behavioral economics and its current best practices.

Much has been learned about how to bring the experimental approach of behavioral sciences to economics, both in the laboratory and in the field. Thaler’s Misbehaving tackles some of economic theory’s bigger insights, showing how simple lab experiments, designed elegantly, can test grand theories, such as game theoretic assumptions about the ultimatum game, endowment effects, sunk costs, and the efficient market hypothesis.  Showing that “Humans” are triply bound by bounded rationality, bounded self-interest, and bounded willpower, Thaler has studied how to nudge people in directions they would choose if they were as unbounded as “Econs” assume.

In The Why Axis, Gneezy and List add a whole different dimension of experimentation, starting with “natural” field experiments, where life provided an experimental setting where one part of a group received one treatment and the other part another (e.g., a new border was drawn through a town, with different laws imposed on each side), and moving onto designed field experiments, where groups are randomly assigned to one treatment versus another (e.g., schools in a school district getting different funding for special projects).  The trick is how to see the experiment, to see the design, so that it cleanly separates the two conditions with the treatment being the only difference.  The difficulty of doing this in the world, where many things are happening at once, is why the behavioral sciences have focused on laboratory experiments, until now.  Showing how to provide incentives for schools fighting violence or getting kids to eat healthy foods, for companies placing discount flyers in newspapers, and charitable giving, the authors show how clever thinking can rigorously test the impacts of different incentives within existing systems.

From MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Glennerster and Takavarasha provide a detailed, practical guide to Running Randomized Evaluations.  The book is full of examples from the lab’s work over the past decade in testing grand theories for development and poverty alleviation across large sections of the world.  This book takes the mystery in the design of the previous books listed above, and unpacks how to design these field experiments.

Michael Schrage takes the experimental approach to businesses, with the maxim to stop the practice of initiating large-scale, untested implementations of new strategies, and to start the practice of rapid experimentation with the 5x5x5 design.  From his vast experience, Schrage has refined his framework to “5 teams of 5 people each..given no more than 5 days to come up with a portfolio of 5 ‘business experiments’ that should take no longer than 5 weeks to run and cost no more than 5,000 euros to conduct” (p97).  Easy to remember — lots of 5s.  5 teams of 5 people, 5 days, 5 experiments, 5 weeks, 5,000 euros. “A rapid innovation methodology emphasizing lightweight, high-impact business experimentation…creat(ing) a vibrant internal market of business hypotheses and portfolios of experiments” (p96).  This is “designed to make disruptive innovations not just possible but probable” (p97).

Citing Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired magazine, Schrage suggests that “Machines are for answers; humans are for questions” (p197).  These recommended books put humans back in the game, looking at clever ways to see how normal people act, in all of the complexity of everyday life, finding ways to enable these same people to make the decisions maybe they wished they had.

Homo lumens Flys a Horse — Recommended Reading

Ashton, Kevin, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery2015, New York: Doubleday.  

Click here for an interactive companion to the book.

“The question is not whether invention is the sole province of a tiny minority but the opposite: how many of us are creative?  The answer, hidden in plain sight, is all of us…Creating is not extraordinary, even if its results sometimes are.  Creation is human.  It is all of us.  It is everybody” (p. 9)

Kevin Ashton is an inventor and thought leader, who works with brilliant people in industry and at MIT.  He finds that everyone everywhere is creative.  “Creation surrounds us.  Everything we see and feel is a result of it or has been touched by it.  There is too much creation for creating to be infrequent” (10).  “Creation is so around and inside us that we cannot look without seeing or listen without hearing it.  As a result, we do not notice it at all.  We live in symbiosis with new.  It is not something we do; it is something we are” (11).

In Ecosynomic terms, we experience the source of creativity, what people describe as their relationship to spirit, as highly vibrant when we see it in everyone everywhere all of the time.  We feel low vibrancy when we only experience that creativity is provided by the special ones who came before, often received in the form of a guide book.  What if, as Kevin Ashton observes, people are creative, all people?  What if people are built that way?  This is the observation that the human deep relationship with light and the very frequent use of light metaphors might be because humans are light forms, Homo lumens.  If people are light, if people are the creative force, then they experience more of themselves when they experience greater vibrancy in the relationship to the source of creativity (spirit) and to the process of creativity (nature), as it is experienced in the relationship to self, other, and group.

As Kevin Ashton describes it, “We occupy the evolutionary niche of new.  The niche of new is not the property of a privileged few.  It is what makes humans human…Put simply, we all have creative minds.  The human race’s creative power is distributed in all of us, not concentrated in some of us” (12-13).

How to Fly a Horse provides many rich examples of normal people discovering creative solutions, adding on to what others had learned before them, showing that the “creative myth” that only the extremely gifted are creative is patently wrong.  I highly recommend this entertaining and insightful book.

Higher Vibrancy Supported by the Other — Recommended Readings

de Waal, Frans, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, 2009, New York: Three Rivers Press.  Look inside the book here.

Grant, Adam, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, 2013, New York: Viking.  Look inside the book here.

Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others, 2012, New York: Riverhead Books.  

It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others. — John Andrew Holmes, former U.S. representative and senator (cited in Grant 2013 p61).

If higher vibrancy starts with your self, it is supported at the higher levels by your relationship with the other, another human being. I recommend three readings that provide excellent, accessible guides to the relationship with another human being.  A primatologist pointing at our social nature. A business school professor highlighting the importance of reciprocity.  A business writer showing how to engage other people.  All focused on the critical, human nature of being in relationship with another human being, the vibrancy we experience in that relationship, and the importance of that relationship to our being human.

“Don’t believe anyone who says that since nature is based on a struggle for like, we need to live like this as well.  Many animals survive not by eliminating each other or keeping everything for themselves , but by cooperating and sharing,” says Frans de Waal (p6-7), the famous primatologist.  “The problem is that one can’t derive the goals of society from the goals of nature. trying to do so is known as the naturalistic fallacy, which is the impossibility of moving from how things are to how things ought to be.  Thus, if animals were to kill one another on a large scale, this wouldn’t mean we have to do so, too…All that nature can offer is information and inspiration, not prescription” (p30).  “What we need is a complete overhaul of assumptions about human nature.  Too many economists and politicians model human society on the perpetual struggle they believe exists in nature, but which is a mere projection…Obviously competition is part of the picture, but humans can’t live by competition alone” (p7).  “Interest in others is…the bedrock upon which everything else is constructed” (p9). “Bonding is essential for our species, and it is what makes us happiest” (p13).  “The fundamental yet rarely asked question is: Why did natural selection design our brains so that we’re in tune with our fellow human beings, feeling distress and their distress and pleasure at their pleasure?” (p43).  Finally, de Waal reminds that higher vibrancy with the other starts with higher vibrancy with your self, “Advanced empathy is unthinkable without a sense of self” (p121).

Adam Grant shows that success today is more aligned with giving than taking.  Grant describes takers as self-focused people who, “believe that the world is a competitive, dog-eat-god place.  They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others…If you’re a taker, you help others strategically, when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs” (pp4-5).  Grant describes others-focused givers as people “preferring to give more than they get…If you’re a giver..you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs” (pp4-5).  “Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them” (p10).  In the vibrancy we experience with takers and givers, Grant cites research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review on energy experienced in organizations, where “employees rated their interactions with one another on a scale from strongly de-energizing to strongly energizing.  The researchers created an energy network map, which looked like a model of a galaxy.  The takers were black holes.  They sucked the energy from those around them.  The givers were suns: they injected light around the organization” (p53).  Givers realize their Homo lumens nature, bringing light-possibility to the development of potential, relationships, and capacities that lead to greater, more sustainable outcomes.  Looking at the peak and average performance of givers and takers, Grant finds a third style, “matchers” who strive “to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting.  Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity” (p5).  Grant’s review of different professional disciplines, like doctors and engineers, “The worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle” (p7).

Nature has given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak. — Epictetus, a Greek philosopher (cited in Pink 2012 p201)

Putting these ideas into practice, mostly for Grant’s matchers, Daniel Pink enters this question of the relationship to the other from another angle.  “What percentage of your work involves convincing or persuading people to give up something they value for something you have?  The average reply among all respondents: 41 percent…people are spending a decent amount of time trying to move others…Most of us are movers; some of us are super-movers” (p22).  If our relationships with others are so critical today, how would Grant’s “matchers” pitch ideas to others and negotiate with them?  Pink reframes the traditional sales tools of takers in the light of matchers.

Higher Vibrancy Starts with Your Self — Recommended Readings

Ury, William, Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents, New York: HarperOne. Read an excerpt here.

Holden, Robert, Shift Happens: How to Live an Inspired Life…Starting Right Now!, New York: Hay House.

If vibrancy is a choice, you can choose to enter the agreements that support the level of vibrancy you want.  You can choose these agreements in your relationship to your self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit.  To work on the agreements in all five primary relationships, where does one start?  Our global survey research only shows that where one relationship is highly vibrancy, all five are: the survey data does not show where to start.

And, the wisdom of many traditions around the world suggest a critical starting point, where the rest of the relationships cannot work with out strengthen in this specific relationship — the relationship you have with your self.  I have recently read and recommend two books that explore this critical relationship you have with your own self.

William Ury, global negotiator and co-author of the bestselling Getting to Yes, starts his book with a quote from Socrates, “Let him who would move the world first move himself” (p1).  Ury finds that, “Getting to yes with yourself prepares the way for getting to yes with others…(it) is about changing the inner game so that we can then change the outer game” (p3).  “The greatest obstacle to getting what we really want in life is not the other party, as difficult as he or she can be.  The biggest obstacle is actually ourselves.  We get in our own way…We sabotage ourselves by reacting in ways that do not serve our true interests” (p4).  “Underlying our poor reactions in moments of conflict is an adversarial “win-lose” mindset…What sustains this..is a sense of scarcity, the fear that there is just not enough to go around” (p5).

Ury suggests 6 steps to making vibrant agreements with your self.  He qualifies that, “The six steps may at times seem like common sense.  But in my three and a half decades of working as a mediator, I’ve learned that they are uncommon sense–common sense that is uncommonly applied” (p6).  (1) Put yourself in your shoes.  (2) Develop your inner BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). (3) Reframe your picture.  (4) Stay in the zone. (5) Respect them even if. (6) Give and receive.

How do we know when we need to renegotiate with our self?  Maybe we are giving ourselves the signal.  When asked what you think about something, like where you want to go to school, have you ever said, “I don’t know.  I’ll have to ask myself.”  Then you had to reflect on it.  Who were you asking?  What did you say to yourself?  Ury suggests humans have an inner system that gives the feedback we need to know when to enter a negotiation with our self.  “If you listen to your feelings, particularly recurrent ones of dissatisfaction, you will find that they point you in the direction of unmet concerns and interests.  Properly interpreted, they can help you uncover your deepest needs…Feelings of dissatisfaction are the language that your needs use to communicate with you” (pp32-33).  Ury also emphasizes the importance of truly owning your life. “That is the power of self-responsibility when twinned with self-understanding.  Self-understanding without self-responsibility runs the risk of dissolving into self-pity.  Self-responsibility without self-understanding can deteriorate into self-blame” (p47).

In Shift Happens, author Robert Holden provides a very accessible guide to choosing agreements with your self.  Showing why experiencing only the outcomes level of reality is so difficult for people, Holden explores why, “Separation by its very nature is violent.  The moment you believe you are separate from anything or anyone, there is room for suspicion, fear, defensiveness, competitiveness, envy, and attack” (p31).  Ecosynomically, we experience the noun as an it, outside of me.  Separation.  We experience being with and part of the verb and light, inside of me.  No separation.  Holden also takes on the impact on the self of the perception of scarcity.  “To receive, you must be willing to give up all thoughts of lack.  Lack is the great illusion.  In truth, there are no shortages, only a lack of willingness to receive” (p90).  Playing on the same phrasing my wife uses, Holden suggests that, “what once looked like a dead end now becomes a way out, i.e., opportunity is nowhere becomes opportunity is now here” (p224).

Two very accessible reads by two well established writers and practitioners on the path to choosing vibrant agreements with your self, the first step towards more vibrant agreements with self, other, group, nature, and spirit.



A Glimpse at High Vibrancy Leadership — Recommended Reading

Pontefract, Dan, Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. 2013, Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.  

[You can see chapter 1 of Pontefract’s book here.]

With over 2,400 responses to the Vibrancy survey from 92 countries, we find that the quality of leadership in a group is highly correlated with the ability to sustain a specific level of experienced vibrancy in the group.  It is not clear whether leadership leads to the experience or the experience invites the leadership.  And, we do see that they are both present to the same degree.  Great experiences are accompanied by high quality leadership.  Many authors are now pointing at the attributes of this high quality leadership.  One of those authors that I really enjoyed was Dan Pontrefact in his recent book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.  I will pull a few quotes out of the book to show you what Dan has to say about the qualities of leadership that support more vibrant groups.

“DDI’s research indicates that ‘organizations with the highest quality leaders [are] thirteen times more likely to  outperform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction.'” (Flat Army, p. 4, click text for original source of quote)

“If you really want an engaged workforce, treat [people] as fellow grown-ups working together for a shared purpose.” (Flat Army, p. 11)

“cooperating puts things into a whole new perspective…The harmonious state of leadership occurs when both the leader and the team are open.  To achieve harmony in the team or organization is also to act by cooperating with one another.  There must be cooperation between leader and team; harmony is the end destination.” (Flat Army, p. 102)

“In research conducted for her book Hot Spots: Why Some Team, Workplaces, and Organizations Buss with Energy and Others Don’t, Lynda Gratton summarizes a team environment that is effectively cooperative as follows: ‘[T]he energy of the cooperative mindset comes not from a mindset of competition but rather from a mindset of excellence.  The focus is on the excellence toward which people are striving together rather than the competition of beating everyone else to the goal.” (Flat Army, p. 102, click here to see Gratton’s book Hot Spots)

You can read related observations in my earlier posts about engaging people, harmony, cooperation, competition, shared purpose, and energy experienced.


3 Interwoven Realities — Being, Doing, Having — Where Do YOU Start? — Recommended Reading

Fromm, Erich, To Have or To Be?2013, New York: Bloomsbury.  

[You can see Fromm’s book online here.]

“Poverty is when your dreams shift from who you are to what you have.” — Mayan leader in Guatemala.  (from our work with CARE to re-define poverty in Guatemala, click here)

In the thriving success of capitalism, a growing community of thinkers and doers question whether people are better off today because they have accumulated more stuff.  This emerging question is a modern twist on an old question — is human well-being defined by having or being?

In this classic text, Erich Fromm frames the age-old question — “the great Masters of Living have made the alternative between having and being a central issue of their respective systems” (Fromm 2013, 13) — then explores the implications for modern applications of economics, politics, culture, and social interactions, which I refer to as “the four big questions.”

From an Ecosynomic perspective, “having” focuses on the outcomes level of perceived reality where one’s awareness is conscious of the things one has.  “Being” focuses on the potential and development levels of perceived reality where one’s awareness is conscious of possibilities and the pathways for developing those possibilities over time.

“By being or having I do not refer to certain separate qualities of a subject as illustrated in such statements as “I have a car” or “I am white” or “I am happy.” I refer to two fundamental modes of existence, to two different kinds of orientation toward self and the world, to two different kinds of character structure the respective dominance of which determines the totality of a person’s thinking, feeling, and acting” (Fromm, 2013, p. 21).

While the “having” and the “being” schools both acknowledge the importance of the three levels of reality of potential, development, and outcomes, Ecosynomic research shows that the two schools propose completely different starting points, resulting in completely different experiences.

The high vibrancy groups we have met use some form of the “grounded potential” pathway, starting with infinite potential, discovering pathways for developing those potentials over time into sustainable outcomes.  These groups relate strongly to the “being” school.  The more mainstream groups we have studied relate strongly the “having” school.  They prefer the “enlightened matter” pathway, looking to develop the capacities to deliver more efficient outcomes, and the potential to further develop those capacities.

Emerging research seems to show that the higher vibrancy groups following the “grounded potential” pathway achieve much greater results on a much more sustainable basis.  This is the outcome both schools want — one just seems to achieve it better than the other.