3D Tangibilization of Impact Resilience — Recommended Reading

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance2016, New York: Scribner.  Click here for an excerpt.

Duhigg, Charles.  Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business.  2016, New York: Random House.  Click here for an excerpt.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. 2006, New York: Ballantine Books.  Click here for an excerpt.

To make something real, to make it tangible–to tangibilize–takes a potential, an idea that was seen, and a pathway for developing the potential, the possibility, into an outcome.  To tangibilize is the pathway of seeing the possibility, developing it, and completing it.  This is the creative process.  And while this seems obvious, because we all live this process all day long every day, most of the agreements underlying how we interact within and amongst organizations focus predominantly on the outcome, and very little on the potential and the developmental pathway.

And, there are positive ecosynomic deviants who are very focused on this process and its subtleties.  We know about these positive ecosynomic deviants mostly because of the results they achieve–results that shock us, leading us to assume that these outliers are superhuman, achieving extraordinary results unavailable to the rest of us.  They are able to achieve these results, over and over again, resilient to difficulties on their path, over sustained stretches of time.  I recommend three books I have read recently that uncover different dimensions of these positive deviants: their growth mindset; their ability to persevere; and their ability to be much more productive.  Written by three easy-to-read writers, who bring together great stories with lots of rigorous research–all Ds–Duckworth, Duhigg, and Dweck–they dig into what makes ordinary people capable of achieving high levels of impact and resilience.

Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck shares her vast research on mindsets, showing how having a growth versus a fixed mindset enables people to learn, to grow.  Her work shows that the fixed mindset–“believing that your qualities are carved in stone” (Dweck 6)–is predominant, socially embedded in many of our unconsciously accepted agreements.   People with the growth mindset–“the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts…believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training” (Dweck 7).  With many examples, Dweck shows how “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life” (Dweck 6); full of possibility and growth or not.

University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth focuses on what drives people to find their passion and stick with it to find extraordinary levels of expression of that passion.  Duckworth sets the tone of what is possible, quoting William James, a founding father of modern psychology, “‘Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake.  Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.  We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.’  There is a gap, James declared, between potential and its actualization…James asserted that ‘the human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.  He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum‘” (Duckworth 22-23).  Bringing together years of her own experimental research and field experience with that of many of her colleagues, Duckworth has nuanced what grit is–“perseverance and passion for long-term goals“–what it takes to achieve it, and what it does.  Summarizing all of this research, she finds that grit requires a passionate interest, connection to a higher purpose, lots and lots of practice, and an optimistic perspective that deliberate practice will lead to something.

New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg delves into the contextual factors that lead to some people being able to be much more productive than others. He finds that productivity paragons are much more motivated, focused, and tend to work in groups of psychological safety.  “To teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but also as affirmations of our values and goals” (Duhigg 31).  “To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge” (Duhigg, 102).  When people are in groups that “feel a sense of psychological safety…[they] succeed because teammates feel they can trust each other, and that honest discussion can occur without fear of retribution” (Duhigg 69).

The 3 Ds highlight decades of rigorous research and experience that show that the people we most see as exemplars of extraordinary outcomes often are actually ordinary people who have found their passion, spend lots of time applying it, growing in their craft over time, in a very focused, hopeful way, with lots of support from their community.  This might mean that what is out of the ordinary, as the William James quote above suggests, is not that people live into their potential, rather that more people don’t.  What is it that we as humans do in our agreements that shuts down the process of tangibilizing our own unique impact resilience, every day?  I call this negative ecosynomic deviance, and explore what it takes to stop doing it.

Ecosynomics and Why You Care

Ecosynomics

I propose ecosynomics (pronounced “ee-co-si-nom-iks”) as the social science of the agreements that guide human interaction.  The roots of ecosynomics are eco (current usage is “relationship,” historically oikos was “household”) syn (together) nomos (rules): the rules of relationship together or, reworking the terms, the principles of collaboration.[1]   This builds on the billions of human-years of experience in the past century in learning about economics, defined by leading economists, as the social science of the allocation of scarce resources.[2]  To this experience, ecosynomics provides a framework and a research tool for understanding human agreements; agreements people have with their own selves, with others, with a group, with nature, and with spirit. Ecosynomics explains the relationship between the level of harmonic vibrancy experienced in these relationships and the level of scarcity or abundance experienced in a group.

As a framework, ecosynomics shows how a set of fundamental assumptions and the agreements that come from them can explain the extraordinary outcomes being experienced in thousands of groups globally, where these groups are operating with a completely new and emerging paradigm, based on abundance, not scarcity.  As a research tool, ecosynomics suggests, therefore, how to identify groups experimenting with new ecosynomics-based agreements, showing how to discover how their innovations are leading to much greater and sustainable efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.

Why you care

Having looked at three levels – the three circles – of the five primary relationships and how people use these distinctions to describe the difference between the experience of scarcity and that of abundance, you might be asking, “Why do I care?”  This is a great question, as it forces me to pull everything together, concisely.

I will start with the definition of ecosynomics as the principles of collaboration.  Why would you want to collaborate?  Why not just compete?  After all, competition has led to many of the great developments in human evolution.  I take this question seriously.  When I look at “success,” as defined by the “competition” school, I find that the collaborators, as defined in these pages, are much more competitive.  These collaborators play the competitive game much better than do those who focus only on competition.  The collaborators work continuously with possibility, choosing to develop those capacities over time, out of their deeper potential, finding they can bring much greater capacities to the competitive game.  It is not that collaborators cannot compete – they can – rather that they see competition as a much broader game.  They compete with others in the moment of interaction. They also compete with themselves to continuously develop their capacities.  And, they compete with the infinite source to see how much creative potential they can embody.[3]  Thus, collaboration, as defined here, seems to lead to a higher level of competitiveness, especially in the terms of the “competition” school.

I have also found that the freer people are to develop their potential in these five primary relationships, the more abundance they experience.  Why do people want to be freer?  They just do.  Ask.  I suggest that you try asking others, and see what you find.  I too have asked, a lot.  I hear that people want to be freer in:

  • the experiences they have and the choices they make for themselves
  • the support they offer to others, in living into their talents, potential, and contribution
  • the contribution they can make to the group
  • the creativity that shines through them
  • the ability to make real a future they can imagine

In these freedoms, I hear the expression of the freedom to choose what relationships I want to be in and how I want to be in them.  This freedom means that “I choose.”  My relationships are not controlled by someone else.  This is why I think it is so critical to see that my interactions within the five primary relationships are guided by the agreements I accept in them, whether or not I am aware of these agreements.

What do the principles of collaboration (the definition for ecosynomics I gave above) have to do with being freer?  So far, I have found that people that seem to be freer are the same people that collaborate.  There seems to be a strong connection between greater freedom, greater collaboration, greater abundance, and greater harmonic vibrancy.

So, what are the principles of collaboration, as seen so far?  In this first conversation, I have already peeled back four specific principles of collaboration.

  1. People prefer abundance to scarcity, and higher levels of harmonic vibrancy to lower levels.
  2. People need all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).
  3. Higher levels of harmonic vibrancy require higher levels of all five primary relationships.
  4. People make different agreements and interact differently at different levels of harmonic vibrancy.

[1] The word “ecosynomics” acknowledges and builds on the word “economics,” derived from the Greek for rules of relationship, oikos nomos, which originally translated as “household management.”  Back 2,500 years ago, the rules of relationship for a home and a government of the people were seen as the same.  Historian of economic thought Roncaglia suggests that, “in Greek culture we find no contrast between the viewpoint of the family administrator and the viewpoint of the government of the polis.  Xenophon and Plato explicitly stated this fact,” according to economic historian Professor Roncaglia (Roncaglia, 2006, p. 25).  In 390 BC Xenophon, a student of Socrates, writes, “The management of private concerns differs only in point of number from that of public affairs.  In other respects they are much alike.” (Goold et al., 1997, p. 189).

[2] Nobel laureate in economics Paul Samuelson in his popular economics textbook (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995, p. 4) defines economics as “the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable commodities and distribute them among different people.”  In Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw’s top-selling economics textbook, he defines economics as “the study of how society manages its scarce resources” (Mankiw, 2008, p. 4).  How long has economics been around?  While political economic thought dates back to at least Babylon in the 1700s BC, it was only recognized as a discipline independent of other social sciences in the early 1600s AD, and as a profession in the 1800s AD (Roncaglia, 2006, pp. 18, 23).

[3] Michael Porter, one of the fathers of modern strategy, coined the term “competitive advantage.”  Porter describes competition in similar terms, invoking the outcomes, the process, and the possibility (Magretta, 2011).