Nounifying a Verb

As described in an earlier blog, recent research shows that the mindset of scarcity has a very significant impact on the experience of lack that people have.  The mindset generates the experience.  I have spent much time over the past few years observing the language people use to describe their reality.  I also observe that sometimes these people are conscious of the language they are using, and most of the time they are not.  In the groups experiencing greater scarcity, I find that the language they use leans very heavily on nouns.  To the point where they create nouns out of verbs.  The focus is on the outcomes-things level of perceived reality, and the language of nouns supports and reenforces this level of focus.

I believe that most of this languaging is unconscious.  It is simply an implicit part of the agreements we accept within a given culture: it is the way people talk about their experience.  To understand this phenomenon better, in the field, I ask people about their favorite experiences.  In one group in Mexico City, they talked about how they love the beach.  A noun.  Great! So what is about the beach they love?  They answer, “The sand, water, heat.”   Okay.  So I put a bucket of sand in water with a heat lamp on their desk.  Three nouns.  “Is that the beach you love?”  They look at me surprised, “Of course not!”  I ask, “Then what is it about the beach that you love, if it is not what you told me–the sand, water, and heat?”  “It’s the heat of the sun and sand as they penetrate my skin, and it’s the power in the waves in the ocean.”  “Those are verbs,” I say.  You told me that you loved a noun (the beach), when what you loved was the experience of the verbs.  They agree.  Another suggests the same happened when she said she loved the river, a noun, when in fact she loved the powerful flowing of the river, the verb, not the water sitting in a riverbed, the nouns.

The observation is that we tend to replace the verbs that actually describe the experience we enjoy at the development level of perceived reality, a verb, with nouns.  We take out the “over time” factor, collapsing the experience into an instant–a verb into a noun.  As I have suggested in other blog posts, this invocation of the outcomes-things level of perceived reality by using nouns limits our ability to work with and experience the development level of perceived reality.

In observing lots of groups lately, I find that this “nounifying” of verbs happens unconsciously in many spheres of our daily lives in organizations.  A few examples, from the perspective of the five primary relationships, highlight how widely spread the nounifying is.

  • Self.  We talk about an individual’s capacities, gifts, development, and potential, when we mean the experience of their ability to bring what they are learning to an effort, the  talents they are developing and so uniquely present to the world, their learning over time, and the possibilities in their future that we can see.
  • Other.  With another person, we experience their recognition and support.  Nouns for the actual experience of recognizing and supporting each other over time, not just once.
  • Group.  We see the contribution of individuals to the group, and we look for alignment.  These are both nouns for the ongoing experience of what individuals contribute (a verb) and how we are continuously aligning with each other, an active process, not a one-time event.
  • Nature.   As with the examples I gave above, we talk about mother nature as trees, beaches, oceans, wind, and rivers.  We talk about human nature as education, process, possibility, transformation, and reality.  We even talk about our relationship to nature as nature.  All nouns that try to describe our experience of the interweaving of three levels of perceived reality (light, motion, and matter).
  • Spirit.  Even in our experience of the source of creativity, we use nouns.  We talk about received wisdom, creativity, inspiration, and spirit.  All nouns for a much richer experience of the intermingling of possibility, development, and outcomes.  We experience and love the mystery of the movement among these three levels, and we name it with a noun.

In the book Ecosynomics: The Science of AbundanceI explore the deep implications for many of our hidden agreements that this nounifying of verbs has on our experience of life and the outcomes we achieve.

What other examples of verbs do you see people transforming into nouns by the very language they use?  What effects do you see that this nounifying has on their experience?  Please share in the comments section for this post what you see.

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Innovations Integrating the Three Levels of Perceived Reality

To the verb-noun innovations we saw in earlier posts, the possibility-light level adds an additional dimension of potentiality, opening up even greater choice, freedom, and flexibility for responding to the conditions and demands life presents.  Said another way, if what is possible is not visible, and if there is no sense of how capacities and relationships can develop over time – that is, if one is stuck in a noun-things perspective, or even a verb-development perspective – then the options for how one responds are limited.  The innovations I will now share illustrate how some groups and individuals are able to hold all three perspectives together and what they can accomplish by operating at all three levels as part of their work.

Groups that operate at all three levels take a distinctive approach when looking through the four lenses.  They think first about what they would like to achieve. Then they consider what resources would support them in achieving that objective and how to develop those resources over time, so that they can have what they need when they need it.  In organizing human interaction, these groups look for, recognize and invite in the potential they see in the people they work with and in their relationships.  They choose the capacities and relationships to be developed over time and in this way are able to bring out the best at any given moment.  Finally, they think about value in terms of their vision of what is possible, including the benefits to be enjoyed by both the people within the group and those who interact with it as the result of the development of their capacities and relationships.

This three-level approach both envisions abundance and takes the steps needed to bring it into reality.  In addition, it avoids the “costs of scarcity” experienced at the things-noun and development-verb levels that are not experienced when simultaneously engaging all three levels together.  I will share some examples I have found in the next posts.

What Do We Agree to in Our Money System — Complementary Currencies

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend about the beauty of the paper currency in some countries.  He showed me a BerkShare.[1]  At first I thought it was play money.  Assuring me it was real, he told me about a community in the western part of Massachusetts that had created its own complementary currency.  In the moment, this sounded like a great innovation.  In all of the economics classes I had taken, and after years as a business professor, I had never heard of these complementary currencies.  How many could there be?  Two to three?  I then found Bernard Lietaer’s writings.[2]  He identified two complementary currencies existing in 1984, growing to 200 in 1990.  He has documented over 4,800 in existence today![3]

These are called complementary currencies or alternative currencies, because people use these currencies alongside the national currencies – they complement the national currency.

This verb-level innovation speaks directly to the nature of agreements people make around the value questions: what is the value of an exchange, what is the mode of the exchange, and who participates in the distribution of value in the exchange?  To see the innovation in complementary currencies, I will start by describing the currencies we all know, national currencies.

Most countries have their own national currencies, the money people can use to buy stuff in that country.  Governments decree the value they place on a piece of paper they call their national currency.  For example, Japan has the yen, and Mexico has the peso.  With approximately 195 countries in the world, there are about 180 “national” currencies, allowing for some shared currencies like the euro and the dollar.[4]  Economists describe three functions this form of money has: medium of exchange; unit of account; and store of value.[5]  These three functions described the things-noun levels attributes of value, as seen through the value lens of “what criteria.”  The paper the currency is printed on has no value of its own, and it symbolizes a liquid form of something that does have value.  This liquidity makes it easy to exchange, and the paper form makes it easy to keep track of and store for awhile.  This money is designed to be scarce.  Governments and banks carefully control who gets to print it and who decides how much there is.[6]

Complementary currencies shift the things-noun level assumption of scarcity into a development-verb level assumption of abundance by changing the agreements that back up the currency.  When looking through lens #3 of “what critieria,” I showed how the three value questions look quite different at the light, verb, and noun levels.  The three questions address the value, mode, and distribution of exchange.  The verb-level expands the “what is of value?” question to include both the things we pay for and the things we do not usually pay for in our experience of the journey of life and our own development.  Examples include our time taking care of family and volunteering at the local soup kitchen.[7]  The verb-level also expands the “mode of exchange” question to include a broader definition of how we might exchange it, bringing into question noun-level concepts such as interest rates (e.g., positive, neutral, negative) and what is being exchanged (e.g., paper, time, bartered things and services).

The distribution question at the verb level suggests that the person who is doing something perceives the value, in addition to the noun-level fixation on value goes to the person who has the money.  One way this is done is by keeping the currency moving locally.  Economists use the “velocity of money” to determine how much a currency is exchanged in a given period of time within a given geography.  Simply defined, the amount of value exchanged equals the amount of money times the velocity of money.  This means that when $100 comes into a community, it is available for increasing the total value exchanged in the community.  National currencies promote coming into the community, say via wages and then being spent at a large store, which usually takes the money right back out of the community.  It was exchanged once for a total value to the community of $100.  A very different approach uses complementary currencies, such as the BerkShare to local use.  A consumer buys $1 of BerkShares at the bank for 90 cents of USA national currency.  This BerkShare can only be redeemed at the bank by local businesses.  This design promotes that same $100 to be used a dozen times locally before it comes back to the bank and leaves the community.  This would be $1,200 of total value exchanged with that $100.  This greatly increases the local output.

Each complementary currency decides which of these verb and noun-level features it designs into its complementary currency.[8]  In the case of time banks, a complementary currency now if effect in communities across the globe, people create their own “currency” by giving hours of their own time to an activity that someone else wants and receiving credit they can use to obtain services they need.  For example, I can give a day of management consulting to a local business, knowing I can get two weeks of daycare for my child with the credit I create.  This is different from having to work under a contract for a national currency, in which case employers tend to have the upper hand in determining how much they will give you for how much time you give them.  With the time bank, you as an individual decide how much currency you want to create.

As you can see from these examples of ABCD, town meetings, cooperatives, and complementary currencies, many groups around the world, involving millions of people, have succeeded in making agreements that bring greater abundance into their lives.  So far we have looked at how this can be done by shifting from a things-noun perspective to embrace the more dynamic perspective of development-verb.  I now want examples of innovations that generate much greater abundance by including those two levels and, simultaneously, taking on the perspective of possibility-light.


[1] For more on the story of BerkShares, visit (berkshares.org) or see (Barry, 2007).

[2] Bernard Lietaer has documented the development of complementary currencies, which you can follow at (lietaer.com) or read in (B. A. Lietaer, 2001).  Bernard co-designed and implemented the convergence mechanism to the single European currency system (the Euro) and served as president of the Electronic Payment System at the National Bank of Belgium (the Belgian Central Bank)

[3] For the number of complementary currencies, visit the Complementary Currency database or see (B. Lietaer, 2003, p. 12).  Bernard Lietaer estimates there are over 5,000 community currency systems in operation, as of 2009, as cited in (Gelleri, 2009).  Another estimate in 2006 was 4,000 (Wheatley, 2006).

[4] I say that the number of countries in the world is approximate, because it depends on who is counting, and the criteria they use, which are mostly political.  The CIA’s World Factbook counts 195 countries (The World Factbook 2011, 2011).  There are 193 member states in the United Nations.  One source for the number of active currencies in the world is (The World Factbook 2011, 2009).

[5] For standard, economic descriptions of the functions of money, see (Greenwald, 1983, p. 300; Mankiw, 2008, pp. 642-643).  For economic and anthropologic perspectives on the historical development of money, see (Ferguson, 2008; Galbraith, 1975; Graeber, 2011; Needleman, 1991).

[6] Currencies also have specific dynamics designed into them, which influence who has it, who does not have it, and who accumulates it.  For example, inflation is designed into national currencies, with money losing value over time – the costs are higher tomorrow, so the dollar you earned in 1990 will buy you less in 2000.  To compensate for inflation, people loan money to others with a requirement that they pay it back in the future, with interest.  While this interest covers the risk involved in loaning the money, the interest rate is higher because of inflation.  Because this national money is both scarce and inflationary, people require a positive rate of return for the use of their money – this means that their money makes money.  Once someone has surplus money, more than they need, then their money can make money on its own.  This feature is designed into the currency.  For more on the dynamics of money, see (Ritchie-Dunham, 2009).

[7] Riane Eisler, Lynne Twist, and colleagues have written extensively about the “caring economy” and new models for incorporating it into what is counted in the economy (Eisler, 2007; Twist, 2003).

[8] For recent descriptions of complementary currencies in use, see (Hallsmith & Lietaer, 2011; North, 2010).

Agreements about Purchases as a Consumer and as a Cooperative

Cooperatives are everywhere.  They specialize in commercial sales and marketing for farm supplies, biofuels, groceries, and arts and crafts; social and public services, such as healthcare, childcare, housing, transport, and education; financial services, like credit unions, farm credit, mutual insurance, and cooperative finance; and utilities, such as rural electric, telephone, and water.  Just to name a few.

The United Nations defines a cooperative as an independent, voluntary group of people who come together to satisfy their shared economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations.  They typically do this through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.[1]

One historian suggests some weavers started the first cooperative in Scotland in 1769.[2]  240 plus years later, the cooperative movement is huge. The International Co-operative Alliance has 240 member organizations in 90 countries, representing 800 million individuals.[3]   In Europe, there are 58,000 cooperatives with 13.8 million members.  In the USA, 14 federations represent 40,000 cooperatives with 75 million individual members.  Americans hold 350 million memberships in cooperatives.  These cooperatives have over $3 trillion in assets, bring in nearly $654 billion in revenue, and provide two million jobs with $75 billion in wages and benefits paid.[4]

Cooperatives add the power of the development-verb level of relationships to the individual’s experience of the things-noun level purchasing transaction (see Figure 26).  When acting on his own, the individual requests a relatively small volume in the transaction with the supplier.  Basic supply-demand economics suggests that the supplier will tend to charge a higher price for lower demand, in order to cover production costs.  When purchasing together with other individuals, the volume requested in the transaction with the supplier increases.  Economic power comes from changing where the supply and demand curves meet to determine the price paid – by increasing the quantity demanded, by aggregating many individual buyers, the cooperative moves down the demand curve, looking for suppliers who will offer a slightly lower unit price for the guarantee of a much higher volume of units.  The buyer gets a lower price, and the supplier increases profits by greater economies of scale.

This increase in purchasing power through aggregation of individuals has a double impact.  The cooperative brings a development-verb level to the relationships among individuals, inviting them to act both individually and as a group and to enjoy the benefits of both positions.  The individuals act together through shared ownership and increased demand and on their own through individual choice.  This individual and group impact increases the choices and power of individuals.  Shared ownership brings the individual into the decision making process about what the cooperative does.  Within the cooperative, individuals have greater bargaining power, increasing the choices they can make for themselves individually.

This innovation shifts from thinking that one has power as either an individual or as a group to having power as both an individual and as a group.  In addition to the economic power I just described, social power comes through democratic participation and community-relationship development.  In a study of Latin American cooperatives, Professor Albert O. Hirschman, an economist at the Institute for Advanced Study, described the social impact of cooperatives, “For many groups, the fact of joining forces, be it even for a modest purpose, such as setting up a cooperative consumer store, has a great deal of symbolic value.  It is an act of self-affirmation that fills people with pride and may even be felt as a beginning of liberation, particularly by long-suffering and long-oppressed groups.”


[2] History professor Brett Fairbairn places the first cooperative in Scotland in 1769 with the forming of Fenwick Weavers Society (thefenwickweavers.coop), see (Carrell, 2007; Fairbairn, 1994).

[3] These are the co-operative principles, as described by the International Co-operative Alliance.  The United Nations documents 800 million people globally belonging to cooperatives. The UN named 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives.

[4] The National Cooperative Business Association conducted research with the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, which was funded by the US Dept of Agriculture to assess the economic impact of cooperatives.

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).

 


Developing Human Interactions at the Verb Level

To begin to manifest what you started with by organizing at the possibility-light level, you need to transform the light into verbs.  When you integrate light, you filter out possibility.  You choose the verbs that develop and emerge over time.  Of the infinite possibilities you see at the light level, you choose what we want to manifest and begin to pay attention to its development.  The critical steps in transforming light into verbs are to maintain the connection to the light you see and to agree on how to begin to manifest it over time.

The Big Questions of Organizing at the Verb Level

In the why question, the light to verb transformation grounds the harmonic vibrancy in specific, developmental processes.  This transformation adds life to the possibility seen in the potential.  It also filters out possibility.  In the how, this transformation acknowledges where the five relationships are, where they can be, and the harmonic vibrancy move available to shift the harmonic vibrancy experienced in each relationship.  In the what, the light-to-verb transformation separates the incentives and structures for the different relationships, bringing in more focus and a paradoxical set of tradeoffs among them.

From the possibility-light level, a potential was seen in what the group could be and do, and in what the individuals coming to the group could be and do.   In transforming the organizing from the light to the verb level, a choice was made out of all the potential to manifest something specific.  The verb level of organizing focuses on the processes for developing that potential of the people and relationships in the group.  The verb level is where you experience the excitement in seeing the change over time in your own capacities, those of others and the group.  This is growth.  You enjoy learning and increasing your ability.  You also strengthen your relationships, for the sake of the relationships alone and because you can more efficiently achieve your goals when you work together with others more harmoniously.

Why

In essence, the organizing principle, the why, at the verb level is to leverage the abundance in the system, the abundance available in the processes, people, and relationships in the group.  At the light level, we saw the infinite potential, which we leverage in the verb level.

How

The how at the verb level is cooperative-competition.  Cooperative-competition is when people bring different, unique contributions to the group in a coordinated fashion.  While in collaboration, people work together towards the same potential they see, the same light, in cooperative-competition, people work together towards different potentials.  This is the filtering out of the light you collectively see, as you transform the possibility-light level into the development-verb level of organizing.  In cooperation, you step further into your relationships with the self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  For your own self, the focus is on the gifts you bring, and how you can specialize in specific work to move up the learning curve, getting really good at specific tasks.  This improves your efficiency and consequently the efficiency of the whole group.  Specialization like this is critical, as it is the focus on specific activities, over and over again, over long periods of time, that enables people to reach high levels of proficiency.[1]  For the other, cooperative-competition highlights the relationship to the other, how you and the other influence each other, and how you can support each other in that relationship.  For the group, cooperative-competition is about the coordination of alliances of people with different contributions in a harmonious way.  This asks, who needs to do what, when, and with whom?  Coordination comes in many flavors.  A major distinction among the different flavors is about where to emphasize structure.  One way of looking at this distinction suggests that individuals with clear decision criteria interact.[2]  Over time, the dynamics of their interactions form emerging structures of agreements.  For example, in a market, some individuals show up to purchase food for their own weekly needs, and others show up to provide them what they request, changing the offer as the demand shifts, based on who shows up wanting what.  This leads to cooperation among self-interested individuals.  A very different way of understanding cooperative structures of agreements starts with the group-level of structured agreements, showing how they influence the emerging dynamics of interacting individuals.[3]  For example, the incentives given to different groups in a process motivate them to act in specific ways.  As they act in these ways over time, they begin to influence each other and the overall results.

These two perspectives focus on the individual’s agency, the ability to make a decision for themselves, and the group’s structure, the agreements about interactions.  The first example suggests that it is more fruitful to understand how structure emerges from agency.  This leads to a focus on the individual’s decisions, and then what emerges.  The second suggests that is better to understand how agency emerges from structure.  The agency-structure issue is an old one, with different practices promoting one or the other.  We can see from the ecosynomic lens that both perspectives reflect important dimensions of the verb-level manifestation of the light – the individual’s agency is important as is the structure of the group’s agreements.  It is not an either-or choice among the two schools, rather an integration of the two.

What — The Group’s Charter

Let us now look at the what of development-verb-level organizing.  This is the what of organizing the group’s charter, of developing people and relationships, and of motivating and coordinating individuals.  The group exists to achieve something the individuals cannot achieve alone.  I showed that the why is to leverage the abundance available in the people and relationships in the system.  At the development-verb level, groups define what they do, their specialty, by their charter.  The group’s charter defines what they agree to do, how they agree to do it, and the structures they can use to achieve it.  While at the possibility-light level, the inspirited group seeks higher harmonic vibrancy, at the development-verb level, the chartered group seeks to fulfill one dimension of harmonic vibrancy.  From the ecosynomics perspective, as reflected in the fundamental assumptions and agreements, a group’s charter is to grow its potential, its abilities over time, and the value they generate.  The group does this through building cohesion within the group, and with other groups that interact with them.  This is all done to increase the well-being of both the community the group serves and the community where the group resides.  This is a charter for growth, for social cohesion, and for societal well-being.[4]  These different dimensions of the group’s charter highlight different processes within the group.  These dimensions are required for the verb level to be able to manifest the potential seen at the light level.  While all groups, to exist, inherently have this multi-dimensional charter, current systems tend to define themselves by one of the dimensions, and in turn minimizing the value of the other two.

Groups today tend to take one of these dimensions as its charter.  Many legal structures and regulations exist to define and control these charters.  Those that identify with the for-growth charter tend to be great at identifying self-reinforcing structures, which lead to the ability to support their own growth.  These people are often very entrepreneurial.  The existing fiscal and regulatory systems support this seeking of self-growth mechanisms with incentives and controls that emphasize the business corporation.  They focus on the growth of value generated over time, giving great latitude to the dimensions of social cohesion and societal well-being.

Other people identify more with the charter of social cohesion, seeking to build stronger relationships and community through their work.  They look for stabilizing structures, which lead to a greater balance in relationships and less vulnerability to shocks in the system.  Some societies believe in the importance of these efforts and support them through a legal charter that focuses on the benefits of social cohesion, giving latitude to self-supporting growth and societal well-being.  Some of these charters even strictly restrict self-funding growth.  These groups are referred to as civil society or non-profits, as they are designed to not distribute profits from their growth.

As groups come together, they often discover that some services they want or need fall outside of their individual charters.  When it turns out that many groups want something that nobody wants to provide, a new group can be chartered to serve the well-being of everyone.  These groups are chartered to provide services for everyone, focusing on societal well-being.  These groups are legally structured to take a little from everyone for the benefit of everyone.  Often referred to today as government, the fiscal and legal structures promote redistribution of resources to the overall benefit, while minimizing the focus on self-funding growth and social well-being.

While there are many groups with these focused charters who do well, many more do not.  Why?  The study of ecosynomics suggests that it is the focus on one dimension and dismissal of the others that requires legal and fiscal control of these imbalanced forms.  These current structures all require legal charters and strong regulation, to make sure that their imbalanced structures do not hurt themselves and others.  Furthermore, ecosynomics suggests that the current “charter” focus not only promotes unhealthy structures, it also improperly names what is actually happening in those groups.  The fundamental assumptions of ecosynomics suggest a very different model of health for organizational forms.  While a multi-charter focus acknowledges that there are different perspectives of how to intervene in the world, it improperly labels them depending on whether one comes from a corporate, civil society, or government perspective.  Multi-charter thinking suggest the corporation focuses on growth of capital, civil society focuses on social cohesion, and government focuses on group health, through management of the commons.  The harmonic-vibrancy focus shows that there are not multiple perspectives, rather one intention, which is expressed as for growth (≠ corporate), for social cohesion (≠ civil society), for societal health (≠ government), for transcendence (≠ religion), and for balance (≠ ecology) – the inspirited organization.  Your health depends on your strength on all dimensions of relationship – they are all important.

How did this single-charter focus happen?  One possibility is that over the last two centuries, a strong distinction was made among groups that focused primarily on growth and accumulating wealth or societal health and bureaucracy – business and government.   When these groups did not meet other core dimensions of human health, such as social cohesion, transcendence, and eco-balance, civil society began to grow.  This led to a “moral clash,” among axially defined groups, which are actually just specialized forms of inspirited organizations.  Recent advances that have seemed to blur the lines among business, civil society, and government have actually only been stepping further into their implicitly acknowledged charter as a full-relational, inspirited organization.  Examples abound, with social entrepreneurs bridging the for-growth to for-social-cohesion gap, and with corporations and cooperatives bridging the for-growth to for-societal-health gap with extensive benefits.

What — Developing People and Relationships

So far we have seen the what of organizing the group’s charter.  I will now look at the what of developing people and relationships.  The potential seen, at the light level, in the individual, the relationships, and the group, are dynamic resources at the verb level.  The potential is the resource.  The resource dynamics influence how much of the potential is being brought into existence and into relationship with the group.  If you saw in me the ability, in the future, to be a good cook in our family, then this ability becomes the resource.  The inflows might be learning through books or classes and learning through experience.  The outflows might be forgetting, or obsolescence of things I learned that are no longer relevant, such as cooking meat if we become vegetarians, or cooking eggs if I become allergic to eggs, which actually happened to me.  Thus, what we saw about resources in previous chapters helps us live into the verb level of organizing.

The what level of developing relationships looks at the structures of influences among the motivations and actions of the different individuals in the group.  This works whether looking at a small family, a work group, a large community, a company, an industry, a nation, all of humanity, or the planet.  Resource maps, like the ones I developed in the “resources” chapter, show how the motivation of the individual influences the actions they take on the resources they use to achieve their desired outcomes.  For example, I gathered ingredients and used them to make a loaf of bread, as seen in Figure 14.  You can also see how my actions influence the actions another person can or needs to take to achieve their own desired outcomes, with the resources they influence.  So, in the same example, if my wife wanted to have bread for dinner, and did not know that I was making bread, she might gather the money to purchase a loaf.  We now have more bread than we need.  What I did influenced her ability to be successful – we were now collectively wasteful.  With the resource maps, you are able to see how a structure of agreements about your relationships influence your individual and group ability to achieve your goals.

What for Individuals

Both the consideration of a group’s charter and of developing people and relationships ask group-level questions.  Now I transition to the individual’s side of the same questions – the what of motivating and coordinating.  You first need to remember that the individual has this amazing capacity to be a holon, playing a functional role in the larger whole of the group while simultaneously being a whole onto herself.  You can contribute to the group’s needs, while meeting your own needs.  I will take that even further.  Throughout this book, I have suggested that the human being has to be able to simultaneously be a part and a whole.  It is in human nature.  This means, then, that any organizing that does not acknowledge this holonic nature of humans works against it or will be suboptimal, at best.  It will be fighting against the integrity of the very way of being human.  Key to organizing at the verb level for people’s motivation is understanding both their contribution to the group and their commitment.  The contribution needs to consider the flow, over time, of what each person contributes now and in the future, as well as how they can grow to be able to contribute from and towards the deeper potential seen at the light level of organizing.  You could organize the family kitchen for you to make scrambled eggs for everyone, all of the time.  That is the contribution you can make, now, in the beginning.  You could also organize to learn about and experiment with more advanced forms of preparing eggs, working into fried eggs, poached eggs, omelets, and quiches.  While you might not be able to do all of that in the beginning, organizing for your development, you could within months.  This difference steps toward the possibility-light-level potential seen earlier, as it manifests over time.  Another key to organizing at the verb level of motivating people is your commitment over time.  It is now becoming clear that a person’s commitment to making their contribution to the group is another way of understanding their relationship to their own self, the other, and the group.[5]  You make a commitment by stepping into a relationship, with your own self, with me, and with the group.  Part 3 provides a process for deepening and sustaining commitment.

Costs of Scarcity

While many groups work consciously with the verb-level of organizing the development and relationships of individuals and the group, some feel it is an unnecessary luxury.  Three direct costs at the verb level of organizing are: an incomplete or imbalanced charter for the group; the lack of cooperation; and the lack of a health work environment.  Having an incomplete charter means that the group thinks it is only about a one-dimensional charter and dismisses the rest in the way it organizes itself.  For example, if you only focus on growth, you will have an unhealthy organization (low social cohesion) and a weak to poor relationship with the greater community (low societal well-being).  Ultimately, this imbalanced focus is unsustainable.  You will literally wobble yourself out of existence.

The lack of cooperative-competition leads, in every case, to redundancy and to a massive waste of resources dedicated to infighting and correcting internally generated mistakes.  Redundancy means that you both accumulate resources to do your work that you could have shared with no additional costs to your individual or group efforts.  If you only use the kitchen to cook eggs in the morning, you can share the kitchen with me, so that I can make lunch.  If we do not cooperate-compete, then we both have kitchens that are very underutilized, for no reason other than our inability to cooperate.  Estimates of the amount of time and resource spent in groups correcting internal errors range from 60-90% — most of what you do on a day-to-day basis could be avoided by not making the mistakes in the first place, the first step in cooperative-competition.

Another major cost of ignoring the development-verb level of organizing is the lack of a healthy work environment.  The verb level is where you focus on development of the potential and ability to contribute seen at the light level.  In environments where you are not developing your potential and your relationships, you find it difficult to shine.  When you experience the continuing inability to shine, your light fades and eventually you leave.  It is not surprising, therefore, that many groups that miss the development-verb level of organizing experience very high levels of turnover and all of its associated costs, of constantly training new people, the lack of experience, and an environment that higher potential people avoid like the plague.  These are very tangible and measurable costs.


[1] Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the understanding of what happens when people spend many hours working on a task (Gladwell, 2008).  The 1978 Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon initially described this phenomenon.

[2] A large body of work, called chaos theory or agent-based theory, has emerged recently, studying the interaction dynamics of structured agents and the structures of agreements that emerge (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1998; Levy, 1994; Strogatz, 1994).

[3] An equally large body of work, called systems theory, studies the how structures of agreements interact to form emerging dynamics of interacting agents (Forrester, 1971; Senge, 1990; Sterman, 2000).

[4] In systems parlance, the three charters focus on self-supporting growth through the identification of reinforcing feedback loops that grow, social cohesion through balancing feedback loops that stabilize, and societal well-being through distribution of wealth among the other two systems.  For more on reinforcing and balancing feedback loops, see (Sterman, 2000).

[5] The word “commitment” comes from the Latin for uniting or connecting, with com being “together” and mittere being “to put, send.”

Development-verb Reality of Value

Light to Verb

Filter out possibility from the experience of the infinite to get the manifestation of what you can develop in relationship over time.  In value, this means that the experience of the invitation that most enlivens you now comes into relationship with the living into that invitation through the development of specific dimensions of possibility.  In the transformation from possibility-light to development-verb, you see what you can do to maximize the harmonic vibrancy you seek, and how to develop in relationship capacities needed to step into those possibilities.

Development-Verb

The development-verb experience of value is value exchange.  This is what remains from the possibility-light-level experience of invitation – what of the invitation is to be developed, in relationship, for your experience.  At the development-verb level, you experience value as the flow of light, which shows up in the five primary experiences of relationship.  While it is clear that at very low levels of economic wealth (money), more money increases the sense of well-being, it is also clear now that above a minimal level of monetary wealth, increases in well-being are unrelated to increases in money.[1]

In the development-verb level of value, you seek to manifest access to what you choose in your experience in the light.  This is what you see when you take out possibility from light.  In the verb, you experience the light in fewer dimensions.  The light is still there: you only experience part of it, in the verb form.  This means that the infinite abundance of value in its light form is still there.  You are just experiencing the aspects of it that you are giving your attention to.  As you begin to develop specific potentials in yourself, such as your ability to play soccer with your nephew, does not mean that the light value has gone away now – all of the value you experienced flowing through you by being in a clearer invitation with the potential is still there.  In this moment, you are living the manifestation of it, in specific dimensions.  Understanding that the verb level of value is a geometric projection of light and all of its infinite abundance, reminds you that you are experiencing the abundance of the infinite.  This is completely different than thinking of the verb level of value as an expansion of the noun level, which starts from scarcity, which is the perspective of the scarcity-based approaches that add process and relationship to the allocation of scarce resources.

Value of exchange

What you experience of value at the verb level is access to development and relationship.  This is the excitement of learning, of the new, of deepening your understanding, of curiosity, of ever better relationships, of great times that make your friendships stronger.

Mode of exchange

As you experience value at the verb level, you exchange it in your primary relationships.  As you enter these relationships, the sages of thousands of years have prepared a reminder, a warning.  They called this monére – a warning or reminder.[2]  This early word became the word used today, money.  They warned that, as you enter the primary relationships, you must remember that you are experiencing the verb level of the infinite flow of the light level, in a particular way.  Thus, you should celebrate it, looking for the abundant beauty and truth in what is manifesting of the infinite.  You needed, and still need, a warning to remind you of how easy it is to forget this.

Exchange at the verb level is a special case of being in relationship to the flow of light in all five of your primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  You do not exchange what you pay for what you experienced when I did something.  It is not $5 for every smile that you get from every moment of my creative brilliance on stage.  This would be: a flow in me – ka-ching! – results in a flow in you – ka-ching!  For $50 you expect 10 smiles, thus I better give you 10 brilliances.  Rather it is the gift you give me, to take me out of the exchange world for a few moments to be in the flow of possibility-light, so that you can be in the free flow of my creativity.

Value exchange is simultaneously the fantastic experience of the actual flow of light through your life and one of the subtlest, complicating factors of your life.  How you enter the flow, through the agreements you accept, consciously or not, influences whether you experience abundance or scarcity.

Communities worldwide are experimenting with the underlying assumptions of money in their communities.  They are doing this through complementary currencies – monetary currencies that are used as a complement to the national currency.  They typically remove the interest associated with national currencies.  These complementary currencies are often designed to increase the local velocity of money, linking unmet needs with unused resources.  The velocity of money is how much a currency is exchanged in a given period of time within a given geography.  Simply defined, the amount of value exchanged equals the amount of money times the velocity of money.  This means that when $100 comes into a community, it is available for increasing the total value exchanged in the community.  Most currencies promote coming into the community, say via wages and then be spent at a large store, which usually takes the money right back out of the community.  It was exchanged once.  That was $100 within the community.  However, local communities that promote local use might cause that same $100 to be used a dozen times locally before it leaves the community.  This would be $1,200 of total value exchanged with that $100.  This greatly increases the local output.

Bernard Lietaer documents over 4,800 complementary currencies globally since 1984.[3]  This includes the exchange of hours for national currency, hours for hours, local exchange trading systems of interest-free money, and systems that put a premium on the flow of money, penalizing the store of money.[4]

As an expression of the five primary relationships, complementary currencies engage the development of the individual’s unique gifts, recognition of the other’s gifts, and the benefit of local circulation for the group.  They also specify what is important within the local currency, promoting the flow of that value in the community.  These systems also acknowledge the high leverage of being explicit about what the group wants to promote, why people should exchange value in a particular way, and making that way most efficient.  Most complementary currencies focus on increasing the sufficiency people experience in their lives, which is a deep move from the scarcity invoked by national currencies.

From the harmonic-vibrancy move perspective, complementary currencies move one’s relationship with their own self from taking jobs for fiat currency to engaging in the flow of creativity through unique services provided.  While the fiat currency promotes self-interest, complementary currencies promote relationship building through value exchange networks.  They also promote and acknowledge contributions to and the health of the group.  One’s relationship with nature and spirit are not directly acknowledged in most of these systems.

Distribution of value in exchange

At the verb level, the distribution of value generated in the exchange focuses on who is participating in the development and relationships in the verb flow.  Simply put, who does and has gets a part of the flow.  Those who participate in the inflows and outflows perceive some of the value.

In economics, capitalism is privately owned land and capital, with capital being everything that is not land or labor.[5]  From an ecosynomic lens, capital is the accumulation of the net-flow – inflows less outflows, which are the manifestations of possibility-light flow, in and out.  Possibility flows through me in the act of creating something someone else needs.  When this creative value is exchanged, when the individual “pays” you, value flows in for you (money in).  When you “pay” for a need you have that someone’s creative flow satisfies, value flows from you (money out).  The net difference of the flow in and the flow out is the “capital” you are accumulating.   If what flowed in and what flowed out were symbolic representations of the flow of light-Spirit (creativity), what does it mean to accumulate the net-flow of light-Spirit?  Massive experimentation is exploring the localizing of agreements of what is valued and how it is exchanged.

There resides within the living of agreements a particular human sense of relationship seldom captured by the rules of economics.  Nobel Laureate Stiglitz describes this, “Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.”  The last two words were the key.  Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now!  Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest – in other words, the common welfare – is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.  de Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook – in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul – it’s good for business.”[6]

The distributive question highlights the formal description of the verb level of value.  As you live into the increasing development of the potential value you saw, you begin to perceive that value.  You perceive it through both the flow and the change in the accumulation.  This describes your verb-level formulation.  The something you experience changes.  It increases from one level (X1) to another (X2).  The difference you experience is the change in that something (dX).  The change you perceive happens through development, from one time (t1) to another (t2).  The time elapsed between the two is the time to develop, in relationship, the new something you saw (dt).  This leads to the formalization of the value experienced at the verb level:

Value(verb) = dX/dt

This formulation shows that whoever influences the inflows and outflows, through their development and the relationships that influence them perceives more value.  This puts a premium, at the verb level, in being the value, doing the value, and having the value – wealth comes from all three at the same time.


[1] These findings are described in many forum lately.  See the “Happiness (and how to measure it)” cover story of The Economist in the December 23rd 2006-January 5th 2007 issue.  For a summary of this research, see (Kahneman & Krueger, 2006; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2006).

[2] The etymology of “money” is uncertain, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, with possible connections to the Latin monére, which means “to warn, remind,” see (“money, n” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 <http://dictionary.oed.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/cgi/entry/00313968&gt;.).

[3] For an in-depth study of complementary currencies, see (B. A. Lietaer, 2001; Teague, 2010a) and visit spiritofmoney.net.  For the number of complementary currencies, see www.greenenergyinvestors.com/index.php?showtopic=5274 or (B. Lietaer, 2003, p. 12).  Bernard Lietaer estimates there are over 5,000 community currency systems in operation, as of 2009, as cited in (Gelleri, 2009).  Another estimate in 2006 was 4,000 (Wheatley, 2006).

[4] For more on complementary currencies, see www.transaction.net/money/comp/.

[5] This definition comes from Nobel Laureate Samuelson (Samuelson & Nordhaus, 1995).

[6] This quote comes from Stiglitz’s writings in (Stiglitz, 2011).  Economists Heilbroner and Thurow describe the limitation of the free market system of determining who gets what part of the value exchanged, “the system has the defects of its virtues.  If it is efficient and dynamic, it is also devoid of values.  It recognizes no valid claim to the goods and services of society except those of wealth and income.  Those with income and wealth are entitled to the goods and services that the economy produces; those without income and wealth receive nothing” (R. Heilbroner & Thurow, 1994, p. 183).

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.

Developing Resources Over Time

At the development-verb level, you know that you are in a continual process of bringing in new resources and of using up resources.  It is the balance of the bringing in and using up that tells you how much you have now.  If you start with five pieces of bread, make three more, and consume four, you end up with four pieces of bread.  This reality focuses you on both how much you have and the net effect of how much you bring in and use up.  If you want more in the future, you need to bring in more than you use up.  This is verb thinking, understanding the flow over time.  A vast field of thinking has developed around this framing of resources in the past fifty years, calling itself the dynamic resource-based view of strategy and system dynamics.  From this perspective, you can think into the future about what you do, as well as count how much you have.  Here success comes from how you understand what you do and how much you have, giving you more options for when and what you do to have more at a given moment in time.

In the verb you experience yourself developing your expressed capacities.  You are in school, you are learning, you are getting better at understanding something you do.  In the verb, you experience the same development in me in my capacities.  I am changing over time, and you can tell.  You notice the shift.  I am able to do something in a different way.  In the verb, you experience that we each do our part in the work of the group, and the group’s appreciation of these capacities.  We say that the group feels different, that we are getting stronger as a group.  These verb relationships to self, other, and group describe the verb form of the noun called labor.  This is the development of the contribution human capacities make to production.  The flow-stock technology makes explicit the development of capacities over time.  This is the accumulated value of human relationship to self, other, and group.

In the verb you experience the relationship to nature – the process of manifestation – through the process of the interrelated flows of resources.  This is the realm of everything that exists, from land to ideas to physical bodies.  While many people tend to think of nature as animals and trees, it includes everything that exists.  At the verb level, you work with both the qualitative vitality of nature and the quantitative volume of nature.

In the verb, you experience the source of creativity, the flow of creative source in you, in the creative ideas you bring to what you see.  This is the verb form of the creative source flowing that is capital.  As creativity flows through the system, sometimes more flows in than flows out.  You might accept more acts of creation into your pantry than you consume.  The realization here is that the act of creation manifested resources and brought them to you, and that the act of creation consumed them.  Thus, what seems to be accumulated in the net result of resources flowing in and out, is an accumulation of acts of creation, of light-Spirit.  This is a “stored” potential of light-Spirit.  What you need to ask here is, “What does it mean to store light-Spirit?”  Is that even possible?  Does something happen to light-Spirit if it is not flowing?  I suggest that, in fact, it is flowing, since all forms of light are always flowing, and that it is only your perception that you have stored it.  This means that you need to understand how to work with capital that seems to be accumulated in something, if it is actually in flux.  This is the verb realm of your experience, as seen through the five primary relationships you have with the flow of harmonic vibrancy.

From the ecosynomics perspective, the verb level of resources connects the system of people in the group, their expressions of and needs for harmonic vibrancy, and the resources that sustain human life.  This verb understanding of resources shows what resources you will need at what time, for future opportunities, and what dynamics of inflows and outflows are required to get you there.  This helps you see how to accumulate the level of resources required in the future, so that you can attempt to get there in an efficient way.  This understanding helps you avoid the verb-level costs of scarcity.

Converting Light-Resources from Possibilities to Probabilities

To move from the light level of possibility to the verb level of probability, you filter out possibility.  This is the same as saying, now it is real.  It has a life.  It is in a process of maturation, of development.[1]  The process is one you experience all of the time.  You can see a possibility, a potential.  You can agree on it.  You can give it your attention, making it explicit.  It becomes real, and you can step towards it.

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.[2]

You know this happens when you experience the moment of transition from possibility to probability, when it becomes real, when you can actually see it with others, often way before it has a tangible form.  For example, when you throw around ideas of where to go eat with friends, these are possibilities.  At some point in the exploration, everyone all of a sudden seems to converge on a shared seeing, when they all see the same thing and agree.  It becomes real.  Long before they are actually sitting in the restaurant together, they begin to move resources to get there.  In a way, they can all see themselves there already.


[1] For the technically comfortable, we will “filter out” possibility by integrating the possible life process (dX/dt)/dp over possibility (p).  This means that we will have a “snap shot” in possibility of a flow over time.

[2] This quote is the from the play Back to Methusaleh by George Bernard Shaw, where the snake is interacting with Eve in Part I, Act I (Bernard Shaw, 1974, p. 70).