The Holiday-Break-Sense-Making Experiment

Over the Christmas / New Year break I decided to do an experiment. Instead of aimlessly throwing out things that interested and excited me online (retweet them, post them on to my Facebook wall etc), I decided to save them for after the holiday.

Instead I wanted to try an experiment where I tried to find logic in the combination of this  information, of these thoughts and feelings. Thoughts from others which generated thoughts from me. Generated feelings and intuitions from me. To find patterns and make sense of these social media fragments. To weave them together.

After the break I had collected 15 “scan hits”.

1. An article about how “A New Working Constitution Emerges to Codify a “Liquid Holacracy” Governance Model”. Apparently “Bitnation in partnership with Swarm is developing a proto-constitution, or what it referred to as a holonic contract to govern interactions within its “Slack Community”, which is  a collaborative messaging and sharing platform used globally by organizations for a better workflow, while emphasizing the autonomy of its various holons and individual contributors.”

2. A new book called Platform Scale: How an emerging business model helps startups build large empires with minimum investment.
You’ve heard of it: “Over the last decade or so, we’re seeing the emergence of a new form of scale. Today’s massively scaling startups – which rapidly grow to millions of users and billions in valuation – do not sell a product or service. Instead, they build a platform on which others can create and exchange value.

3. A public policy paper put together by Stacco Troncoso from one of my favourite organisations, The P2P Foundation. Proposal for Public Policy Paper: “From Smart Cities to Smart Citizens: City as a Commons”. A policy advocacy paper to explore and promote the vision for a ‘city as commons. The paper will bring together specialists and advocates in a range of area, including: tax policy, co-working, co-ops, food production/consumption, peri-urbanism, sharing, political space, place-making, cultural diversity, de-gentrification, anticipatory governance, social enterprise and making / industry (to name a few). Overall about 20 authors can be accepted in this first round.

4. A tweet conversation with Nadia El-Imam, co-Founder and CEO of Edgeryders, a online community and distributed think-tank of citizen experts from across the globe. It was spurred by a quote in one of her recent blog posts: “Make relevant art“. This quote felt very important to me.

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5. An article on Salon.com about the rise of the techno-Libertarians: The 5 most socially destructive aspects of Silicon Valley. It argues that the tech industry is morally and ethically bankrupt, and it’s starting to take its toll on ordinary Americans.

6. An old article in The Age, where former US president Jimmy Carter tells how he is losing his religion for equality.

7. A blog post by one of today’s most interesting thinkers and doers Vinay Gupta: Tell Me Who You Are. Identity, institutional memory, and the persistent illusion of the self.

8. Another p2p foundation blog post about living amongst the ruins after capitalism.

9. More doom and gloom in A NY Times article by author Roy Scranton. We’re Doomed. Now What?

10. A third collapsitaritarian post (!) from one of my Facebook friends about the carrying capacity of Earth.

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11. A quote in a TV interview with the master of weird and wonderful cultural production David Lynch. He described his creative process and ideation with a fishing metaphor. Apparently he uses that often, as I found it again online:

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

12. An article about eight New Types of Digital Fabrication Machines from 2015.

13. Another NY times article – How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity.  This one written by Pagan Kennedy, author of the forthcoming book “Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change The World.” I wrote about serendipity a couple of years ago. A concept which is very popular and overused in management blogs at the moment. But I think it’s hugely important and needs to be considered and further explored.

14. A third text from the p2p Foundation by founder Michel Bauwens (actually excerpted from Matthew Heskin): Cooperation is better for innovation, than competition.

15. A tweet from @macroscope_ about how systems thinking can help you become a better person.

 

***

So after putting these themes down on a paper I started to think. I saw a couple of connections and clusters, but nothing interesting. I looked at them with my explorer glasses. Which of these 15 themes would I like to explore further? I ended up with serendipity, ideas as fishing, identity & the self and relevant art.

The next day I looked at my paper again. This time I tried to divide them into three categories: problem, dichotomy and solution. This was interesting and I saw some similarities between the solutions and those I wanted to explore more. Perhaps I am drawn to solutions rather than problems at the moment?

Finally I used Wilber’s four quadrant model, which I find very helpful to check that I’ve taken a broad perspective on something. I placed the remaining five themes in it as per the figure.

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All these quadrants are linked and the themes in one of them will impact on all others. For example an  internal idea in my head (coming from my identity and Self) will lead to external output (art). Serendipitous encounters will rearrange my view of systems. My creations (which can be seen as art) will serendipitously lead me to new people, which will lead me to new ideas and a new identity.

***

Well, this experiment didn’t really turn out as expected. The sense-making became more of a personal guide for my future thoughts and actions. But that’s not bad I guess.

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Understanding our Actions

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In the normal era (now past), the reason for most our actions was clear before and while we did them.

In this new post-normal era, the reason for most our actions will only be understood in hindsight.

This is difficult for those of us who were born and raised in the normal era.

Chaos and Order in Living Systems

 

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A question for systems geeks out there…

I’m thinking about the relations of various bubbles we live in. A bubble with a living system within another living system. I am a living system of cells and organs within a larger ecosystem of other humans and organisms, for example my neighbourhood. And that living system is part of another living system, for instance the city I live in. And so on and so on…

This organisation of “bubbles within bubbles” is sometimes known as a holarchy – and in a holarchy the health or thrivability of a whole nested system is depending on the health and thrivability of each of the levels.

A couple of years ago I tweeted something about Berlin being a living system within the larger living system that is Germany. My interest in this relationship was that Berlin seems quite chaotic, while the larger, surrounding system of Germany is very organised. And that’s probably why Berlin is so attractive to many. The chaotic system within would not be so cool if it wasn’t surrounded and supported by the ordered, structured and über-organised system around. If Berlin would be situated in Somalia it wouldn’t attract many graphic designers.

 

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As a complex systems hobbyist I wonder about the validity of the following statement:

Every second layer of a system must be ordered and every second chaotic for healthy development of the overall system-of-systems.

In my question, I wonder whether the health and thrivability of every-second-layer implies that it oscillates between chaos and order. As a layer in a holarchy (which is self-contained and sustainable) turns towards chaos or towards order, the layers above and below can turn toward the opposite. As a cancer cell turns “chaotic” i.e. out of control, the larger surrounding system and layer above, must structure itself orderly to fight the disease.

For instance; many people see the natural state of the world as chaotic, so we need the sub-system within it to be ordered, i.e. a country, the European union or the United States of America.

If a country is seemingly in disorder, for instance Italy, we need the lower living systems to be ordered, i.e. the family structure within that country.

If a person is disordered and chaotic, she needs to be in an ordered environment in order to develop.

The universe is to most of us very complex, but there seems to be some kind of order, as we don’t see or we’re not affected by any of the challenges or problems in this system.

***

So there might be four relationships:

  1. An ordered sub-system in an ordered system leads to stagnation. Too boring…
  1. A chaotic sub-system in a chaotic system leads to explosion. Too much craziness…
  1. A chaotic sub-system in an ordered system becomes grounded. It hates the structures, systems and rules, but eventually compromises in order to thrive. “They are annoying but we have to play the game to move ahead…”
  2. An ordered sub-system in a chaotic system initially struggles but eventually adapts to the chaos in the surrounding system. It finds patterns in the chaos (increased level of complexity reached). “Holy shit! How will we deal with this chaos? Well, let’s sit down and think about it. We might have to loosen up a bit in order to find the simplicity beyond the complexity. Dance with the system.”

How does that sound?

Do We Need More Professional People?

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A while ago I tweeted the following:

Sometimes people tell me I should be more professional. But I don’t think more professional people is a thing that’s good for our planet.

Professional people get more shit done. No doubt about it. They can influence people, engage people and push people to do things. They have more money and power. They dress sharper, have better social media profiles and attract people, as we trust serious, sharp professionals. They know what they’re doing. They find people to invest in their ideas. They are sometimes ruthless in order to get what they want, but that’s part of their modus operandi.

The thing is; I don’t think the qualities of professional people are what we need in the world right now. I actually rather think that unprofessional people have the qualities we need. Those who don’t focus on money, surface and self-promotion, but rather those idle, slow-living, unorganised people who often give away their time and their knowledge for free.  Those who take a lighter, more quiet approach to life than the high-octane professionals. Those who realize that speed and efficiency only leads to a need for more speed and efficiency.

You get what I mean. Even if we don’t like smelly, naive hippies, we know that they’re doing the right thing. They consume less, care for the Earth and their carbon footprint is lighter than ours. And even if they’re often hypocritical (which we are quick to point out), they are actually better for the planet.

My problem is that in order to get somewhere with my projects right now, I must be more professional. People I work with need me to be this, in order to trust me, fund me, and help me. They don’t want to fund an unprofessional person – a hippie. And I want to move forward. I want shit done. Together with them. So I want to be professional.

And therein lies my problem. I don’t think we need more professional people on the planet, but I want to be more professional myself. A clear contradiction.

This is the classic NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) thing applied to one’s actions. In Holland some years ago they asked people if they thought less people would be better for the planet. A majority said yes. Less people in Europe? Yes. Less people in Holland? Yes. Less people in their neighbourhood and family? No!

The NIMBY logic is clear. The closer we are to a problem the less likely we are to be generous and understanding; the less likely we are to accept foreign and unwanted elements.

And I want less professional people in the world, but want to be more professional myself. That’s not being the change you want to see. That’s not putting your money where your mouth is.

I don’t know how to solve my problem.

I guess it’s the same as my relation to work. I think people in general should work less. But I work more and more for every year. I want my projects to move forward and hence I need to spend more time on them. Most activities I do for this are fun, but some of them are boring, i.e. I must label work.

But how can I reconcile these “be the change you want to see” dilemmas? I can work less and be less professional, or I can change my mind to a belief that professionalism and work are good.

I wonder what’s the easiest.

Three Scenarios for the Future of Capitalism

We currently see many articles about the the evils of capitalism, the end of capitalism and possible post-capitalism futures. I was invited to talk at the One Planet Anti-Conference a couple of weeks ago on the topic ‘whether or not capitalism can be transformed to “realize” that the earth is capital’. I wasn’t well, so couldn’t do the talk, but thought I’d write down my thoughts here anyway.

As a futurist I often think in scenarios, so with this question in mind, I tried to explore three of these.

1.  Capitalism will eat itself

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This is a scenario which probably has been best described by Jeremy Rifkin. Capitalism will eat itself and self-destruct as exponential technology pushes marginal cost towards zero. Rifkin says:

No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.

As we know, capitalists are some of the most excited cheerleaders of exponential technology, and if Rifkin is right this will lead to self-destruction of capitalism.

2. Capitalism will be replaced by something better

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This scenario is popular in leftist and progressive press, which has long anticipated and pushed for a new system beyond capitalism. Most of them have now realised that Marxism is inflexible and won’t work, but that there are other possible futures. Some look at hybrids such as conscious or responsible capitalism (see my thoughts on those here), which still keep elements of capitalism, and some look at completely new post-capitalist systems. The most interesting of the latter is the peer-to-peer movement, which is working on a so-called commons transition, with “policy proposals and ideas to implement a Social Knowledge Economy:

“…an ethical economy, a non-capitalist marketplace that re-introduces reciprocity and co-operation in the market’s functioning, while co-creating commons and creating livelihoods for the commoners. This type of economy and market in which co-operation, mutuality, and the common good define the characteristics of a new kind of political economy, point the way to a new state form, which we have called the Partner State.”

This economic system is already found in some clusters around the world. In Greece, Spain, some American cities etc. where collapsing economies have spurred local peer economies, community exchanges and complementary currencies. The open-source software and DIY hardware movements have always had a peer-to-peer philosophy. And the internet has enabled new global links between these clusters, which now begin to form networked neo-tribes (intentional communities, hacker & art collectives, coworking spaces, grass-roots movements, eco villages, entrepreneurial hubs, etc).

These post-capitalist clusters of people with local-centric AND global-centric values might with cryptocurrencies and local exchange mechanisms, create true peer-to-peer economies, which are more relevant than capitalism in our modern networked societies.

3. Capitalism will be around forever

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We often forget that economic systems are fluid, organic and not fixed in time. No one decides that we suddenly shall have a new dominant global economic system. Sure, they do in China and other totalitarian places, but most systems have historically emerged as various factors have allowed this in a few clusters. And then found relevant in other regions so have migrated there.

I’m not that well-read on the history of capitalism but according to Wikipedia, “Early Islam promulgated capitalist economic policies, which migrated to Europe through trade partners from cities such as Venice.” Industrial capitalism then emerged in England with the industrial revolution, and later global capitalism became the dominant global system, as various countries adopted the gold standard and started trading in the globalized world.

But in most of the world, other economic systems still prevailed. In fact, earlier systems such as slavery and feudalism are still used in many places in the world. Once, systems and practices that were accepted for us in the developed world are now seen as despicable. Values and wordviews shape our economic systems. And vice versa.

So in the same way that bartering, slavery and feudalism are still used in the world (there are between 12 and 30 million slaves working away in the world as I write this), capitalism will likely also be around for a long time.

***

What interests me with these three scenarios is that they all pretty likely will happen. They are not mutually exclusive of one another, and we can choose to step into any of them as individuals, organisations or societies.

So how would you approach these scenarios?

How would you act if these stories of the future would become true?

Some thoughts on the European Union project after the Greek NO vote

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Some thoughts on the European Union project after the Greek NO vote:

1. I voted YES to the European Union myself in the Swedish referendum in 1994. At the time, with the knowledge and understanding of a 21yr-old, it seemed like a logical thing. I loved the multicultural, bridge-building, transnational aspects of the EU, and didn’t understand the economic aspects much back then.

2. I think the EU deserved the Nobel Peace prize for peace it was given in 2012 “for helping to transform Europe from ‘continent of war’ into ‘continent of peace'”. It has been a stabilizing force for the fragmented Europe for a long time.

3. But is the union still relevant? Everything has its time. Today’s challenges are very different from those in 1950, when the EU seeds where sown as the European Coal and Steel Community formed. In today’s truly globalized world; does it make sense to build walls around a chunk of our planet, where only some goods, services, people and money can move freely? Countries have always entered partnerships, collaborations and alliances with each other, but none of these have lasted, so why would this one?

4. Perhaps my biggest concern with the union is the old question ‘Cui Bono?’, i.e. ‘who benefits’? And more importantly ‘who doesn’t?’.

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5. Meso systems such as the EU might be a stepping stone to new global, distributed systems. Many of us work in creating a global connected network of local, thrivable communities. The challenge in that work (to me at least) is that the difference between the micro (local community building) and the macro (global network weaving) seems so huge, and it’s hard to work simultaneously on both (and find sustainable value exchanges in both). Perhaps meso systems like the EU can actually help here? EU for example funds Edgeryders, one of my favourite transnational changemaker communities.

6. Would I vote yes to the EU again today?
Probably. My intuition says yes.

The death of the social entrepreneur?

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Norwegian peace researcher, sociologist and mathematician Johan Galtung has invented a method called TRANSCEND for conflict transformation by peaceful means. According to Galtung (and Wikipedia);

“there are four traditional but unsatisfactory ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:

  1. A wins, B loses;
  2. B wins, A loses;
  3. the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
  4. a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.

Galtung tries to break with these four unsatisfactory ways of handling a conflict by finding a “fifth way”, where both A and B feel that they win. The method also insists that basic human needs – such as survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity – be respected.”

***

I’ve been thinking about using the TRANSCEND method for one of today’s conflicts. The profit vs. non-profit conflict.

We have recently come to understand that for-profit organisations are problematic, as they do not always care about the planet and its people. These are not considered in their model and seen as “externalities” to be cared for by others.

Most non-profits care for these, but on the other hand often don’t care about profit and financial viability. Both these organisational forms are therefore problematic. There has always been a tension between them, which has been seen as good for the evolution of the planet and humanity. If one of them becomes too strong the other will push back through the democratic process.

Some people still think these can co-exist and that the tension between for-profit and non-profit is healthy. Others see a conflict and point out that for-profit, market economy / capitalism itself is actually fuelling the fire of the challenges that the non-profits try to tackle. Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything for instance writes that:

“Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.”

Market proponents mean that the markets will solve this eventually and the planet will survive. Their opponents mean that markets are the underlying problem to the destruction of the planet. We have a conflict.

***

If we apply TRANSCEND to this conflict it could look like this:

(I use for-profit vs. non-profit as the chosen conflict here. It could be capitalism vs. collectivism, market economy vs. peer economy, scarcity-based vs. abundance-based thinking etc etc – you get the point…)

1. A wins, B loses, i.e. for-profit wins, NFP loses. This is what some people think is happening now. The planet is currently being destroyed because for-profit is winning. The tension between the two is out of balance on a global scale. The for-profit model and the organisations which subscribe to it, have much more impact than non-profit organisations. Microsoft has way more impact on the world than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Apple have way more impact on the planet than Greenpeace. They play in totally different leagues. And this gap is growing. Even if non-profits, charitable foundations and cause-driven organisations are growing in size and impact, they are hopelessly behind.

2. B wins, A loses; i.e. NFP wins, for-profit loses. Many argue for this as the way forward and a world where NFPs dominate. Donnie Maclurcan and Jennifer Hinton of the Post-Growth Institute for example write in The Guardian: “We’re witnessing the rise of a workforce increasingly motivated by purpose, and we’re realising the potential of an existing business structure called not-for-profit (NFP) enterprise.”

3. The solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict. There is actually no conflict yet, but if Naomi Klein and others will get their message through, the “conflict” might escalate into something more resembling a conflict. Klein’s attacks on multinational corporations and the negative effects of globalisation (in No Logo) and US “democratization” of other countries (in The Shock Doctrine) have done much to change global opinions. Perhaps her new book, This Changes Everything, will do the same?

4. A confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with. Today we see many hybrids between A and B, i.e. between the for-profit, market-based, scarcity model and the non-profit, purpose-driven, planet & people-including model. Conscious capitalism, for-benefit corporations, responsible capitalism, social enterprise and a plethora of new or tweaked models have emerged in recent decades. But are these only confused compromises, I wonder?
I have noticed others wonder as well:

* In a recent article, Rick Cohen asks the question “Is social enterprise becoming a reactionary force?” and whether “‘benefit corporations’ are “the harbinger of progressive change in the economy, or the soft edge of efforts to conserve the legitimacy of capitalism with a few marginal adjustments?”

* Joe Corbett argues that “Conscious Capitalism is like voluntary recycling, it is a mere gesture toward a more sustainable economic system, and is no solution to the globally systemic crisis of an insatiable drive toward ever increasing profit and consumption.”

* And management guru Henry Mintzberg calls bullshit on all new adjectives latched onto capitalism: “We have Sustainable Capitalism, Caring Capitalism, Breakthrough Capitalism, Democratic Capitalism, Conscious Capitalism, Regenerative Capitalism, Inclusive Capitalism”. “The assumption seems to be that If only we can get capitalism right, all will be well with the world. No doubt capitalism needs some fixing: the short-term pressures of stock markets are encouraging mercenary behaviours that are doing great harm to our democracies, our planet, and ourselves.”

***

I’m intrigued by transcending rather than compromising here.

So which would be Galtung’s “fifth way“? Something, where people who support both A and B, i.e. both for-profit and not-for-profit would feel that they win?

Galtung suggests a pathway: Creativity – transcendence – conflict transformation.

“Transcendence means redefining the situation so that what looked incompatible, blocked, is unlocked, and a new landscape opens up. Creativity is the key to that lock, block. The conflict has been transformed.”

That landscape is still not clear to me. I think there’s something in imagining a new landscape in a collective effort, but it’s way beyond me.

Suggestions, anyone?

Dear Robots. Please take our jobs.

Maslow-hierarchy I’m revisiting Maslow’s hierarchy. And I realise this:

Work is nowhere to be found in Maslow’s hierarchy!

And I also realise what an incredible challenge this is for us in the Western developed world. Many important things are there in the hierarchy – like food, safety, creative activities, friends and prestige. But we have – in our twisted Lutheran minds – somehow created this thing called “work” to replace “life” to fulfil many of the needs included in the pyramid. This might have been fine for a long time. But now we have definitely reached a point in human evolution where “work” as a concept does more harm than good. Some examples (you know them + more…): * We identify to an unhealthy degree with our work, and have problems building other meaningful identities. * We work too much and suffer individual, family and societal consequences of workaholism. * We work hard to gain status, instead on working on the right things to make our world a better place. * We work just for the sake of work.

So our challenge is to replace “work” with something else.

*** These crumbling illusions based on our mental or sociological lives slowly grind down the concept and illustrate its hollow nature. Another factor which rapidly transforms our image of the necessity of “work” is the fact that robots will soon take most of our jobs. And in our twisted Lutheran minds we cry; “No! No!” they’re taking our jobs!” instead of the healthier response “Yes! Yes! They’re taking our jobs!”. We’re scared of robots taking our jobs. But not because we fear the post-work life. No: We’re scared of robots taking our jobs, because we fear the unknown post-work concept – that concept, which will replace all elements in Maslow’s hierarchy (and more) soon. So. Let’s: A. Not fear the robots. B. Stop working. C. Start imagining and creating our personal and collective post-work futures.

Six ingredients for better schools

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Recently I came across two things which I felt are very important in our work to make education better. Whether we work within the existing education systems or outside it, I think it’s worth considering these things.

The first four are taken from a quote from an article written by Kaos Pilot principal Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius:

“If we, as a school devoted to leadership and entrepreneurship, can help bestow a sense of self, a sense of skill, a sense of belonging and a sense of direction, much can be obtained.”

In Otto Scharmer’s Stanford University edX MOOC U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self he began by showing the following image:

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If we put these together we end up with the following (self knowledge and sense of self can be combined…):

Six ingredients for better schools:

1. Provide a sense of self

2. Provide a sense of skill

3. Provide a sense of belonging

4. Provide a sense of direction

5. Link the power of entrepreneurship with passion and compassion

6. Take learning out of the classroom