Are Things Ever-present or nEver-present?

It is all about things.  The more the better.  This is the art and science of accumulation of things.  More things means better material well-being, more material stuff.  Things are what we have right here, right now, and that determines our ability to act in the world, right now.  So, things are the basic element.

From one perspective, things are important, and worthy of our attention.  Clearly, at a basic level of lack, enough things like food, clotting, and housing are critical.  After that basic level, it is not clear that more material well-being does anything.

Rather than engage in the historical question of how it evolved to today’s definition of the universe from a material-matter perspective, I will simply point out that your own experience shows that there are two very different perspectives on what things are, and that the perspective you use has major implications for the experience you have and the outcomes you achieve.

From one perspective, things are Ever-present.  They are the basic substance of the universe.  They are what matters.  They are what we humans experience: the things in front of us all day.  They are here, they are real, and we interact with them.  How they change over time, and how they come into existence are simply modifications of their existence.  While there can indeed be more or less of the things, at a given time, based on their coming-and-going dynamics, what is important is how much of the thing there is right now.  The real thing.

From another perspective, things are nEver-present.  Out of the infinite number of possibilities of how energy could manifest, for a short period of time, relatively speaking, that energy showed up as part of a tree or part of my liver or as heat in my stove.  Over this short period of time, that energy-possibility takes on a form, maybe the nutrients in the grain that is becoming a piece of bread as it is worked by farm hands and then bakery hands.  At a given moment, when that flow of energy-in-nutrients exists in the form of just-baked bread, if I interface with it and I am hungry (the flow of my energy-use-production system), then it that instant that I consume it, it is bread.  An instant before, it was energy-nutrients in heated-grain form rushing towards landfill (30% of all food produced today ends in landfill).  An instant after, it is transformed into my blood, life-giving energy in my body, no longer recognizable as grain-energy.  Maybe the noun that we call bread exists only at the instant that the life-cycle-flow of grain-energy, from the soil back to the soil, encounters the life-cycle-flow of my body-energy hunger-satisfaction system.  Too early or too late and it was landfill.  A moment before, it was grain-energy, and a moment later it is body-energy.  This suggests that the thing, the noun, is only the instant that the verb of grain-energy overlaps with the verb of my body-energy, and it is transformed from one form to the other.  This perspective makes the noun a very improbable and sacred occurrence.  Of all the possible forms the energy could take and of all the time that verb-flow experienced, it took the precise overlap of two verbs for the noun to occur, for that instant.

While possibly interesting perspectives, does the difference matter?  I suggest that the implications of the two perspectives are dramatically different, as we experience them in our daily lives.

The first perspective focuses on the predominant reality of the thing, the noun.  Changes in the noun (verbs) and the possibilities around the changes are only relevant in the influence they have on the noun, the thing.  From the thing perspective, when we look out into the world, we see that someone has the thing, someone owns it, and someone does not.  There is an explicit scarcity of things.  This necessitates the assumptions of who owns the things, who decides what to do with the thing, who enforces that decision, and how the scarce things are exchanged.  This is one definition of the science of economics.  When starting from the assumption of scarcity, there is a lack, not enough, by definition.  This assumption has major implications for who decides how to allocate the scarce resources, who owns them, the value criteria used to allocate them and to distribute the value generated, and the competitive organizational modes of human interaction to work with the scarce resources.

The second perspective focuses on the predominant reality of the infinite potential, out of which a future outcome and a pathway towards that outcome can be seen.  From this perspective, when we look into the world we see infinite potential and we see how to be in relationship sustainably with that infinite potential.  From the abundance in potential, we choose a pathway to develop specific capacities and relationships to bring that potential into being, and at a specific moment in time that development results in specific outcomes, the noun, the thing.  This perspective starts with infinite potential and seeks to ground that potential in specific outcomes.  Starting with abundance, there is no lack, just different ways of being in relationship and developing the potential into an outcome at a given moment in time and space.  This is the realm of Ecosynomics, the science of abundance.  Abundance as relationship, not excess or waste.

Does it make a difference, in what we experience and the outcomes we achieve, whether we start from an assumption of scarcity or abundance?  In the past five years, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, which I lead, has found hundreds of groups across the world that base their agreements in the assumption of abundance.  They continuously outperform their scarcity-based peers in all metrics of efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, resiliency, and sustainability.  Why?  Because they have access to much greater energy in the same number of resources.  Said another way, agreements based in abundance do not have the same costs of scarcity that agreements based in scarcity do.

What does this mean for you?  If you can see that there are two perspectives on what is primary: things or possibility-development-things, then you can choose whether your agreements are based out of the first perspective or the second.  This choice will lead you down two very different paths.  In this blog and in my book EcosynomicsI provide many examples of groups that have made the abundance-based-agreements choice, highlighting the tools and processes they use, as well as processes we have developed for making the shift to an abundance-based set of agreements.

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To Be or Not to Be, Happy with Money, That Is the Question

Dunn, Elizabeth, & Norton, Michael. (2013). Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Most experiences of money do not increase happiness.  Some do.  So say 2002 Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues (Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2006).  In their new book Happy Money (2013), professors Dunn and Norton show us the research that explains why.  From an Ecosynomics perspective, this research shows that happiness comes from the experience of potential and development and things, light and motion and matterthe interweaving experience of all three levels of perceived reality.  The lack of happiness comes from valuing only the things level of reality.  Dunn and Norton say it so well, that I use quotes from their book to explain the observation.

Only the Things Level.  What happens when people experience money only at the things-matter level? “Material purchases offer clear, concrete benefits, explaining their appeal.  We can see them in front of us and hold them in our hands” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 22).  And the value we experience, in terms of increased happiness, fades quickly with material purchases.  In many cases, we derive more happiness from the anticipation of the purchase than the actual purchase.  “Why do we fail to recognize that consuming later can enhance enjoyment?  Research shows that when something nice is available immediately, the “power of now” dwarfs all else” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 90).  “It’s difficult to overcome the power of now, but it’s possible to harness this force” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 102-103).

Both the Development and Things Levels.  What happens in experiential purchases (over time) versus material-transaction purchases, when both the development and things levels of reality are perceived?  “Research shows that satisfaction with experiential purchases tends to increase with the passage of time, while satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 23-24).  “Because the benefits of experiences are often more abstract than the benefits of material goods, it’s easier to appreciate the value of experiential purchases with the psychological distance that time provides”  (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 23).

And the Possibility Level. “The ability to generate pleasant thoughts about the future is a hallmark of psychological health…Anticipating good things produces a distinct pattern of neural activation in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain linked to the experience of pleasure and reward” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 82; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).  “The same region of the brain that responds when we anticipate something good (the nucleus accumbens) loses interest once we’ve gotten it” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 86; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).

The authors suggest five principles of happy money, making choices about how we spend money on experiences we have in all three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, things), and not just the things level.  They provide the research that shows these five principles will increase the happiness we derive from the use of our money.  I highly recommend Happy Money as a very accessible journey through the research that shows how to get the most value of one’s experiences around money.

References

Kahneman, Daniel, & Deaton, Angus. (2010). High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16489-16493.

Kahneman, Daniel, Krueger, Alan B, Schkade, David, Schwarz, Norbert, & Stone, Arthur A. (2006). Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer?  A Focusing Illusion. Science, 312(5782), 1908-1910.

Knutson, Brian, & Peterson, Richard. (2005). Neurally Reconstructing Expected Utility. Games and Economic Behavior, 52(2), 305-315.

Did you say, “Leading through Listening”?

To lead I must tell you where I am going, right?  Otherwise, how can you follow?

Earlier this week, I had a direct experience of a leader’s role in the harmony experienced in a group.  In an earlier post, I talked about the harmony experienced.  Today I focus on the leader’s role.

Maestro Nierenberg showed us that while talking has its role in leadership, listening has a much deeper and more impactful role.  He distinguishes three kinds of listening: what does not work; what does work; and what could be.  You can listen for what does not work, pointing out what needs to be corrected.  This works best for identifying little changes that might become important.  You can also listen for what does work, recognizing and acknowledging the capacities available in the group.  This listening shows the potential of the talent in front of you.  And, you can listen for what has not yet happened, envisioning what could happen.  This future-oriented listening clarifies your image of what could be.  As we experienced the results of these listenings, as they were reflected in the music that enveloped us from the orchestra he conducted, it became clear that each listening added value.  Maestro Niernberg ended by showing us what happened when he used all three, harmony and vibrancy.

From an Ecosynomics perspective, the Maestro is pointing at the way leaders relate to the three levels of perceived reality.  First of all, he suggests that listening is the high-leverage key for knowing what actually exists in the group.  Second, each listening corresponds roughly to a level of perceived reality.  Listening for the details in what does not work focuses on the things level of reality — what do we not have in the outcomes, yet?  Listening for what does work, the potential of the talent available in the group, focuses on the development level of reality — what capacities are we developing over time and how are we relating?  Listening for what could be looks directly at the possibility level of reality — what possibilities can we see?  Everyday experience suggests we interact routinely with all three.  The trick is how to work with all three at the same time, which we called either the path of enlightened things or grounded potential.  Through our direct experience in the room with the musicians, the Maestro showed that the best results come from working with all three, seeing what could be, and holding yourself and the group responsible for achieving that potential.

Innovations at the Things-Noun and Development-Verb Levels

A huge shift in the abundance experienced in groups can come from working with structures and processes on multiple levels.  To help make this innovation visible, I will remind you that at the things-noun level, one only thinks about what one has.  At this level, groups perceive that they either have resources or they do not, and this perspective makes the resources seem scarce.  People then organize their interactions around the work with those scarce resources.  They find value in having the resources and exchanging them for other resources they also value, but there are “costs of scarcity” associated with operating only at the things-noun level.  For example, by not thinking about the development of resources, organization, and value over time, people operating only at the things level pay higher prices for last-minute purchases, are not prepared for new opportunities, have lots of redundant processes, and feel underappreciated, leading to higher rates of burnout.  Yet that is all that is available when the things-noun perspective is all there is.

In contrast, at the development-verb level, people approach resources, organizing, and value in a very different way.  They think about both how much resource they have and how they can grow or enhance that resource  over time.  In organizing their interactions, groups holding this perspective think about how group members can build their capacities and strengthen their relationships over time.  They also think about the value the development of those capacities and relationships will have, both for those within the group and for those who interact with it.  The “costs of scarcity” experienced when groups operate only at the noun-things level do not occur at the resource-development level, because the benefits of abundance created through resource development have been included.  We can see this dynamic clearly in the innovations I will now describe.

 

Firms of Endearment

In 2007 the authors of Firms of Endearment selected 30 companies that met the criteria for a high level of humanistic performance.[1]  Their success criteria included healthy relationships with employees, customers, investors, partners, and society.  The authors defined a “great” group as “one that makes the world a better place because it exists, not simply a company that outperforms the market by a certain percentage over a certain period of time.”[2]

The authors organize the descriptors of great groups by stakeholders:

  • Employees.  A happy and productive work environment motivates, values, and rewards employees.
  • Customers.  Honoring the legal and unspoken emotional contract with the consumer strengthens the relationship.
  • Investors.  Investors value the financial and emotional relationship with the group.
  • Partners.  A mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship with business partners brings synergies to both.
  • Society.  Communities appreciate the group’s values and outcomes, welcoming them where they operate.  Creating value with government leverages the strengths of both.

I placed these descriptors on a heat map in the figure below.  A glance at the heat map shows groups that live deeply in the verb-to-noun levels.[3]  This is where everything on the heat map is in green, the areas of a high index of success.  The area in yellow needs lots of attention, and the low-index area in red is critical.  This correlates with the experience of living in the inner-to-middle circle of harmonic vibrancy, as captured in the first figure. These firms have found greater, more sustainable success by being healthy at both the noun and verb levels.

The authors discovered that these groups working at the verb and noun levels outperformed the companies in the classic Good to Great study by a ratio of 3.1 to 1 over ten years, a 1.7-to-1 ratio over five years, and were on par in financial performance over three years.[4]  None of these companies overlap with the eleven companies in the Good to Great study, because the two studies defined success at different levels.  The Firms of Endearment have shown success at the verb-noun level, while the Good to Great groups have shown success at the things-noun level.

Before anyone begins to judge the companies in both of these studies, let us be clear that we do not know what practices the companies actually have.  They might be working at a higher level than depicted in the studies.  All we know is what the authors saw through the lenses they used, which focused on verb-noun levels.  Other well known surveys find similar verb-noun-level results, such as the “Great Places to Work” survey highlighted annually in Fortune magazine.  “Great Places” assesses trust in management (the group), pride in the job (the self), and camaraderie with other employees (the other), all noun-verb level characteristics.  And, noun-verb level groups outperform noun-level groups, with the “Great Places” study finding that their “100 Best” outperformed the S&P 500, a barometer of stock market performance, by two-fold between 1998 and 2009.[5]


 [1] For more on the Firms of Endearment study, see (Sisodia, Wolfe, & Seth, 2007).

[2] For a complete description of the companies selected, see (Sisodia, et al., 2007).

[3] The descriptions in the two figures are directly from the book Firms of Endearment (Sisodia, et al., 2007, p. 21).

[4] These data from the authors’ study are provided in (Sisodia, et al., 2007, p. 17).  For the Good to Great study, see (Collins, 2001).

[5] For more detail on the “Great Places to Work” survey and the financial performance of the 100 Best, see (Burchell & Robin, 2011; Edmans, 2011).

 


Organizing the Why, How, and What of Satisfying Needs Now

As I discussed in a previous post, the development-verb level of organizing focuses your attention on the development of capacities and relationships over time, allowing you to step further into the potential seen at the possibility-light level.  The development-verb level does not, though, satisfy the needs for which you organized in the first place.  While you are able to experience greater harmonic vibrancy, as you come together at the light and verb levels, it is at the noun level that needs are met specifically.  The “met need,” in the here and now, is the domain of the things-noun level.

To get to the things-noun level, you filter out the time dimension that is so important at the development-verb level.  Remember that, at the verb level, you have already filtered out the potential that is so important at the light level.  As you transform the verb level into the noun level, you are choosing that specific point in space-time where verbs overlap to meet a specific need.  Earlier I used the examples of the piece of bread and my daughter’s dress.  If the verb that brings either one in front of me shows up too early or too late, or in the wrong place, then it remains a verb, rushing towards landfill and back to its original energetic light-form.  If, however, the verb of the bread or dress intersect in space-time with the verb of my life in a particular way, then both verbs are transformed, at that instant, into a noun that satisfies a need in both verbs.  The verb becomes a piece of bread, a noun, that satisfies my hunger, and it satisfies the baker, who made it to exchange with me for resources he needed.  To get to the noun, we filter time out of the verb, making a choice for the moment in space and time that best satisfies the needs.  It is at the noun level, through this transformation, that an exciting transmutation happens in the light energy, where it passes from one form to another.  The bread passes from grain energy into human blood.  The dress passes from fiber energy into the radiance of the beautiful human.

As you filter potential out of the why of harmonic vibrancy at the light level, you find the leveraging of abundance in the system at the verb level.  As you filter time out of the verb-level why, you find the noun-level why of need satisfaction.  I will now show you how to manifest light all the way from possibility through probability into the directly observable satisfaction of concrete needs.

How do you satisfy these needs, at the noun level of organizing?  Through competition.[1]  Competition results from filtering out time from cooperation.  At the verb level, we were working together, in cooperative-competition, as individuals with different goals for ourselves.  At the noun level, we are in the same point of space-time, working towards the same need.  In this space-time we work at cross-purposes to achieve the same need-satisfier.  At the noun level, the agreements we make are very specific and concrete in their description.  They are manifesting the here-now.  Thus, the individual signs a contract with a very specific job description, clarifying exactly what is expected of the individual’s actions and outcomes, in the here and now.  This has very positive effects in clarifying what is expected right now in the contribution one can make in one’s “doing.”  This also simplifies the finding of someone who can “do” what is necessary to make the contribution right now, independent of the individual’s development process (verb level) or deeper potential (light level).  This also has very negative effects, as the person’s potential and development are contracted into a very specific and limiting dimension, as put forth in the job description.  In this noun level of agreements, your relationship to the other is equally concrete, specific, and contracted.  When you see the other and their specific actions, at the noun level of organizing, you see the need for clarity in roles and responsibilities, who will do what, with what authority.  Your relationship to the group also needs concrete specifics.  This leads you to the need for clarity in who is responsible for the actions of what people and what resources – the need for functional hierarchies.  If you are contracted into a specific, concrete contribution to the group, then you want your responsibility for the group’s outcomes to be equally limited and specified.  You do not want to be made responsible for outcomes you cannot influence directly, under your contracted job description.  The functional hierarchy also necessitates a clear outcome for the hierarchy, often labeled as the group’s mission.  The mission, at the noun level, is very different than the why for organizing at the noun, verb, or light levels.  The mission here is usually a noun description of the specific need that the overlapping verbs are designed to satisfy.  You do this to meet the need of this group in this way.  Period.

The what of organizing at the noun level focuses on the group structures and individual incentives at this very concrete level of manifestation.  The group structures transform from the verb level of “chartered” groups to incorporated groups.  When time is filtered out of the charter a group seeks to serve, what remains is the group’s body, its corpus, thus the term corporation.  This body, the corporation, is designed to serve specific “needs.”  At the noun level, some groups are structured for profits, thus they are called “for profits,” also referred to as businesses.  Business is an odd term, as if its charter is to be busy.  Other groups are structured, at the noun level, for helping others in ways “for profit” motives will not.  They are often referred to as “civil society,” “non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or “non-profits.”  This is also an odd term, meaning that they do not distribute profits to private investors, rather to their direct investors, which in their case is society at large.  Because of their “good works,” they often do not have to pay taxes, which is also odd, as it distinguishes them from “for profits,” which might also do “good works” and pay taxes.  This is less a commentary on who should pay taxes and more a commentary on the rather arbitrary definition of charters and regulations at the noun level.  Yet other groups are structured, at the noun level, to regulate, tax, and redistribute the wealth of the activities of others.  They are often referred to as governmental organizations, which do not pay taxes.  Thus, at the noun level, there are three basic organizing structures for serving specific needs.

Noun-level organizing structures are often depicted with organizational charts that show straight-line responsibility hierarchies, with ever-expanding levels of responsibility for specific areas of the group.  This is the integration of the systemic, process view of organizing at the verb level, filtering out time.

At the noun-level, organizing of the incentives of individuals filters out time from the verb-level of development and relationships.  The residual of this filtering is what economics refers to as labor, the bodies available with a given set of skills to do work.  This is what is seen at any given moment in the development of human beings.  This is the realm of employment, a contract for bodies to make a specific contribution to the group’s needs.

While the noun-level of organizing is the predominant ideological form, it comes with significant costs.  In addition to the costs at the light and verb levels, a focusing narrowly at the noun level of organizing leads to the loss of knowledge and relationship.  By focusing narrowly on labor as a body with skills, learning and development of the individual are lost.  It becomes very easy and normal to make decisions that dismiss, neglect, and minimize the value of knowledge gained from the experience humans have in an activity over time.  Technically this knowledge gained over time is referred to as intellectual capital, a capital that can be used in the future, as I showed you in the chapter on resources.  In the course of human interaction, you meet people and make relationships.  The web of relationships you weave is the network in which you express your light in the world.  This is the group of people with whom the verb flows.  When you ignore the relationships people have, you miss the possibility and the flow possible in those relationships.  Technically these relationships which sustain a group are known as social capital.


[1] The word competition means, in classical Latin, “to strive together.”  It has emerged since the early 1600s, in modern French, to mean “to be in rivalry with another.”  This evolution suggests competition is striving together for the same scarce value, thus requiring that we be rivals, since we want the same thing of which there is not enough for both of us.

What You Have of Value

Verb to noun

To transform the development-verb level of value to the things-noun level requires filtering out time.  You bring the flow of the verb to a particular moment in space and time, to the here and now.  As one flow overlaps with another, you have a moment that satisfies a need, at the noun level.  In filtering out time, you bring the value at the verb level of access to development and relationship into the specific satisfaction you receive from it right now – its utility for you.  Out of the verb level of value exchange, you find the moment of exchange, where you set the specific value you can agree to in the exchange, which you refer to today as the price.  In the moment of exchange, you filter out time from the verb mode of exchange, the value exchange inquiry, to find a mode that captures and retains that value, what is referred to today as money or the currency you use.  It is interesting that currency is a noun denoting the verb of a current.  In the transformation of the verb to noun, you also filter time out of who influenced the resource dynamics around the distribution of the value in the exchange to see what residual remains in the stock being exchanged.  You see here that the verb to noun transformation of filtering out time brings you to the present of what is available here and now.

Noun

At the noun level of value, you experience value as the satisfaction of a perceived need.  This noun is a projection of the shifting verb into a moment in space and time.  This means that it is a choice of where and when to have verbs overlap.  This is a very special instance in space-time, where the energy in the flow of light potential is completely contextualized, and then shifts form.  This is very different than saying that the scarce thing was there and you decided whether you wanted it or not.  From this perspective, choice is drastically limited, as it completely misses the choice in when and where to have two verbs overlap, and only asks if the somewhat arbitrary overlap that we encountered works.  Need satisfaction is the utility you receive from satisfying a perceived need.  This is the realm of utility maximization, as described amply in the economic literature.

Value of exchange

To determine the value of exchange, at the noun level, you integrate the flows of the related verbs, at a specific moment of overlap, in space-time.  This gives you the supply-demand curves of economics.  Supply and demand curves express the rate of change (the derivative) of the value one experiences in the exchange.[1]  Over different prices, the rate each overlapping side is ready to accept and provide changes.  This holds for both the supply and demand sides.  In economic terms, supply and demand determine the price paid for factors of production (land, labor, capital).[2]  This is the noun-level description of value.  The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, suggests the price is a measure of utility, “Nearly all actions of life are governed, at least in part, by desires the force of which can be measured by the sacrifice which people are willing to make in order to secure their gratification: this sacrifice may take many forms…But in our world it has nearly always consisted of the transfer of some definite material thing which has been agreed upon as common medium of exchange, and is called “money.”…Thus then the desirability or utility of a thing to a person is commonly measured by the money price that he will pay for it.”[3]  More significantly, for our exploration of the agreements that guide human interaction, I note that microeconomics starts at the price question, delving into the behaviors of individuals in markets.[4]  This means two things, at this stage.  First, much time and energy has been dedicated to understanding how individuals arrive at a shared understanding of the value of exchange at the noun level – the agreed price.  Second, the microeconomic description of value focuses on the noun level, leaving out the light and verb levels of the human experience of the value of exchange.

Mode of exchange

My colleague Orland Bishop observed that, “Once human beings lose the capacity to give value to something, they have lost the sacred.  They are pursuing something (money) on the planet that others (the Federal Reserve) have said is valuable.”[5]

As time is filtered out of the verb level of the mode of exchange of inquiry in the value exchange, you come to the space-time moment of the exchange itself.  This is where the needs of both parties are potentially satisfied.  The mode you use for this exchange is money.  Money is an instrument that allows the exchange.  Money has a long history of its many, constantly evolving forms, from in-kind exchange to more liquid forms such as the currency you use today.

Interestingly, money is the most taboo topic.  A perceived relationship of scarcity to value, as it expresses in scarcity-based relationships to money, is responsible in our experience for most divorces, family breakups, and community dissonance.[6]  In the scarcity worldview, one’s perceived inner value is an inward projection of one’s accumulation of monetary wealth, a noun.  A projection of a noun is a smaller noun, one’s intrinsic value, which one projects back into the world, unconsciously, as static scarcity.  This is supported by a culture of acceptance of the rules of value generation and exchange as given.  The monetary structures and processes supporting this view of money are defined by scarcity.

Distribution of value in exchange

At the noun level of value, who gets what in the distribution of the value in the exchange focuses on the stock.  At this level, who has something in their stock receives value.  Entering the distribution question from the transformation of light into verb into noun is relatively straightforward.  Entering it from a scarcity-based perspective of the noun is not straightforward.

From the scarcity-based perspective, the seemingly obvious is that who ever has it gets it.  This brings in the question of who has it, which becomes a necessary question of ownership.  While each school of economic thought has the only “right” answer to who owns what, their solution depends completely on the primary relationship they feel to be most important.  For example, in the individualist economics of free markets, the relationship to self comes first.  The individual owns things.  From this perspective, the obvious solution is that whoever has something gets the value generated from that something.  This school of economics suggests, from a theory of surplus, that owners of land are paid rents, owners of labor are paid wages, and owners of capital are paid profits, that which is left over after paying rents and wages.  An innovation that results from this understanding emerged with the perspective on capital describe in the previous chapter on the big questions of resources.  If you have capital, then you can use it to generate more capital.  This is money making money on its own.  Nestled into this example is an assumption of who receives a fixed amount or a variable amount in the exchange.  Typically, rents are paid to owners based on a fixed, negotiated contract over a specified period.  Likewise, wages are paid to labor on a fixed, negotiated contract over a specified period.  These are both fixed, which benefits the land owners and labor, so that they are not at the whims of the manager.  This also allows them to determine whether they are willing to exchange what they have with the managers under the negotiated, relatively risk-free conditions.  The manager has a completely different kind of agreement to value distribution.  The manager’s agreement is variable, based on the net amount of value generated – the value left from what was generated after rents and wages are paid.  This gives the manager the incentive to maximize the value generated, while minimizing the cost of rents and wages, thus promoting efficiency in achieving effectiveness.  Much has been learned from this school.  And, it is not the only school that teaches you something.

The distributive question provides the formal description of what is happening at the noun level of value.  You have an experience of a need that is satisfied here and now.   The formulation is now very simple.  You exchange something (X), thus the formalization of the value experienced at the noun level is:

Value(noun) = X

This formulation shows that whoever has more at the noun level, satisfies more needs at the noun level, and thus perceives more value.  This puts a premium, at the noun level, in having the value – wealth comes from having.  This is the economic formulation of wealth.


[1] For an early description of supply and demand curves, refer to (Marshall, 1890, p. 150).

[2] According to Harvard economist Mankiw, “The price paid to any factor of production – labor, land, or capital – equals the value of the marginal product of that factor…” (Mankiw, 2008, pp. 408-409).

[3] This quote comes from Adam Smith’s famous forging of modern economics, in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Smith, 1976, p. 151).  It is curious, from an ecosynomic perspective of light, verb, and noun expressions of value, that most economists today refer to Smith’s work as “The Wealth of Nations,” erasing the initial eight words of the title describing Smith’s perspective on “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of..”

[4] Economists Heilbroner and Thurow start their explanation of microeconomics, clarifying that “The micro point of view brings us immediately to look into the question of prices” (R. Heilbroner & Thurow, 1994, p. 174).  Likewise, economists Samuelson and Nordhaus write, “microeconomics studies individual prices, quantities, and markets” (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995, p. 382).

[5] This insight is from Orland Bishop (Teague, 2010d).  It is currently perceived that money has to be scarce to be valuable.  This is exactly the opposite of the human experience of flow being what is valuable, not the limiting of flow.

[6] This observation on money and life was made by psychotherapist Aaron Kipnis (Teague, 2010b).

Resources as Nouns — A Choice of Scarcity or Abundance

The noun is the thing that is here-now that you experience.  At the things-noun level, a resource is real when you can touch it.  You can see water, bread, a dress, people, and products.  You use the resources that you have of land, people, and money to do things.  These are the factors of production of economics.  These resources are nouns, because they exist here and now.  You can count them.  You can use them now for an activity.  The more you have, the better off you are, because you have more options for what you can do.  Success comes from how much you have.

As you filter out time from the verb, the noun of the relationship to self, other, and group is what you can do now, right here, which is called the factor of production of labor in economics.  A “factor of production” is the economic term for the resources used to produce goods and services.[1]  Labor is the amount of doing that can get done in a specified period.  It is what is left after you filter out potential and development from the self, other, and group.[2]

The noun form of the relationship to nature, the process of manifestation, that which is available in this moment, is referred to as land, in its raw, natural form or nature elaborated into something else.  It is nature devoid of the infinite potential of light, and the manifestation of interdependent flows over time.  Land is the second economic factor of production.

The noun form of the flow of spirit, the source of creativity, is what economists call capital, the third factor of production.  Capital is the noun residual of the verb inflows and outflows resulting from the creative acts, which are in themselves manifestations of the infinite potential of light.[3]  Another way of seeing this is that people make investments in the future value they see in light-possibility creativity, using currencies to exchange among the flows of creativity in the form of resources, ending up with a positive, net result of more flow in than out of currency, which is capital available for future investment in creativity.


[1] The leading economics textbook by Harvard professor Mankiw defines factors of production as “the inputs used to produce goods and services” (Mankiw, 2008, p. 394).  An interesting predecessor to this neo-classical term comes from James Maitland in the early 1800’s, who called them “sources of wealth” (c.f., Roncaglia, 2006, p. 167).  Nobel laureate Samuelson suggests that “Land—or, more generally, natural resources—represents the gift of nature to our productive processes…Labor consists of the human time spent in production…Capital resources form the durable goods of an economy, produced in order to produce yet other goods” (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995, p. 8).

[2] In his now-classic text on the histories of great economic thinkers, in its seventh edition, economist Robert L. Heilbroner reminds us of the evolution of the very question of land, labor, and capital.  “The Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation – indeed the whole world until the sixteenth or seventeenth century – could not envision the market system for the thoroughly sound reason that Land, Labor, and Capital – the basic agents of production which the market system allocates – did not yet exist.  Land, labor, and capital in the sense of soil, human beings, and tools are of course coexistent with society itself.  But the idea of abstract land or abstract labor did not immediately suggest itself to the human mind any more than did the idea of abstract energy or matter.  Land, labor, and capital as “agents” of production, as impersonal, dehumanized economic entities, are as much modern conceptions as the calculus.  Indeed, they are not much older.  Take, for example, land.  As late as the fourteenth or fifteenth century there was no such thing as land in the sense of freely salable, rent-producing property.  There were lands, of course – estates, manors, and principalities – but these were emphatically not real estate to be bought and sold as occasion warranted…The same lack of salability was true for labor.  When we talk of the labor market today, we mean the great network of job-seeking in which individuals sell their services to the highest bidder.  There simply was no such network in the precapitalist world.  There was a vast hodgepodge of serfs, apprentices, and journeymen who labored, but most of the labor never entered a market to be bought and sold…Or take capital.  Certainly capital existed in the precapitalist world, in the sense of private wealth.  But although the funds existed, there was no impetus to put them to new and aggressive use.  Instead of risk and change, the motto was “Safety first.” (R. L. Heilbroner, 1999, pp. 27-28).

[3] Economists Heilbroner and Thurow ask, “How were the factors of production put to use prior to the market system? …There were no factors of production before capitalism.  Of course, human labor, nature’s gifts of land and natural resources, and the artifacts of society have always existed.  But labor, land, and capital were not commodities for sale.  Labor was performed as part of the social duties of serfs or slaves, who were not paid for doing their work.  Indeed, the serf paid fees to his lord for the use of the lord’s equipment, and never expected to be remunerated when he turned over a portion of his crop as the lord’s due.  So, too, land was regarded as the basis for military power or civil administration, just as a county or state is regarded today – not as real estate to be bought and sold.  And capital was thought of as treasure or as the necessary equipment of an artisan, not as an abstract sum of wealth with a market value.  The idea of liquid, fluid capital would have been as strange in medieval life as would be the thought today of stocks and bonds as heirlooms never to be sold” (R. Heilbroner & Thurow, 1994, p. 15).

Converting Resource Verbs to Nouns

To move from the development-verb level of probability, flow, and relationship to the things-noun level of here and now, I filter out time.[1]  A noun comes into existence when values or verbs overlap to satisfy a need.  When the fibers rushing from the earth through human hands to land fill are seen and taken off the hangar by my daughter, then, at that moment, they become a dress.  Otherwise, the fibers are simply a form of energy being transformed, from sun to minerals to nutrients to silk to fabric to landfill to minerals.  Likewise with the grains rushing from the earth through human hands to land fill.  If they are seen, at a very particular moment in time, they become a piece of bread.  Otherwise they are grains, dough, or stale bread, none of which I want to eat.  The noun expresses when the verb of the fibers or the grains meets the verb of my life at the moment of a “need.”

The point is to realize that most moments in the life of a verb are not recognized as a noun.  It is only when the verb meets another verb in a very particular way that the verb becomes recognized as a noun.  This makes the noun a very special case of the verb.  This deeper understanding comes from seeing that it is the specific overlapping of verbs that brings nouns into being.

To filter out time – to convert a verb into a noun – you look at the changes to the resource over a specific period of time.  As I shared before, this means to add the inflows and subtract the outflows over the same time.  This tells you what is in the stock of the resource at this moment.


[1] To the technically comfortable, to filter out time, we simply integrate the inflows and outflows over a specific period of time.  This simply means that we take what we had at the beginning of the time period, add what came in, and subtract what went out, to end up with the new level of the resource.

The Resource Question of “How Much” with Things-Nouns

Nouns are things.  They are static, fixed.  What happens when you look at the world as made of nouns?  I started out the description of resources by getting clear on what you need – what you need to do something.  This is resource as a means to do something else.  I want to eat, so I need food.  By focusing first on the ends, eating, I look reactively to see what I need to do that, food.  Then I go to see how much food I could get to satisfy the need.  Wealth from this perspective depends on my ability to access what I need.  This method is very direct, and one that people still use for many decisions today.

This is the gift of noun-thinking, as well as its downfall.  The focus on how much is actually early-level verb-thinking, which is a natural state for human beings.  The downfall is over-focusing only on how much there is and not on how to get more.  Another obvious question that arises is, “what we can do with what we have?”  To take advantage of the best that noun-thinking gives us without getting stuck in it, a little technology helps.

I will start with a very common noun that influences my daily life – the amount of money I have.  The technology we will use is that of a “stock” (see figure below).  A stock is how much I have.  At a store, you might hear someone ask, “do we have any more shoes in stock?”  I will use a box to depict the stock of money I have.

 

 

Now that I have a stock of money, as we said, the next obvious question is, “how much is in the stock?”  How much money do I have?  The reason I want to know how much is in the stock is straightforward.  I want to know what I can do (see figure below).  To know what I can do, I need to know how much resource I have.  This question heads me off down the following path of reason.  If I want to do something, I need the resource.  Doing more is better than doing less.  If I have more resource, I can do more.  Therefore, having more resource is better.  This is a very sensible way of looking at a stock of a noun.  Up until a point.

 

 

Do I really want a lot more bread, right now?  I actually only want as much bread right now as I can consume, otherwise it will go bad, and that is a waste of resource.  So the “I want more” logic works, until it does not work.  This logic also does not help me understand how to get more of the stock.  It only helps me see how much I have and leads me to wanting more.  These questions lead us to needing to understand the flow of the stock, what increases or decreases it, which is a verb question.

The Things Level of Reality

The 4th in a 9-post series on Perceived Levels of Reality

A third level of reality I want to describe focuses on what is here now. You experience things. They are everywhere. You depend on them for your existence. In reality, you are also a thing, a noun. You have a body. It is made up of material things, such as carbon, water, and air. You eat food, breathe air, drink water, sleep on beds, walk on the ground, and ride in vehicles. These things are the nouns of language, the subject or object that you relate to, such as people, places, things, states, or qualities. You are a noun, and you need nouns.

You can look at your own self and see what you have. You have capacities; capacities to do something now. You know things. You can use this noun you have. You know what two plus two is. You know how to ride a bicycle and cook a meal. You can apply these capacities now. You can also see the capacities others have that they can apply right now. Whether it is an individual or a group, you know what they can do today, here. This is the world of nouns.

While the apparent tangibility of the here and now of the things-noun level seems to make it more real than the possibility-light and development-verb levels of reality, science is very unclear what here-now actually means. Until the quantum revolution at the beginning of the 1900s, things seemed to be real. Yet, since then physics has shown that, at the very small level of the quanta, there is nothing there. The social sciences have also dealt with this question, divided on whether reality actually exists or is simply created by human intention. For example, by the time you “realize” something is happening “right now,” you are already looking at the past – once you see something, it already happened. Even the term people commonly use “to realize” means to make real, to convert into reality. So, what is real? Even the seemingly tangible is not. The relevance for our exploration is to see that the things-noun level of reality is useful, just like the possibility-light and development-verb levels, and is just as privileged.