Kategoriarkiv: Reviews

Book Review: Waking

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence is a book where Matthew Sanford shares his own story without judgment, protection, and sentimentality.1 It’s a book about appreciating and believing in your own experience.2

At the age of thirteen, Matthew was in a car accident that killed his father and sister. It also left him paralyzed from the chest down.3 Matthew met his yoga teacher, Jo Zukovich, twelve years later.4 This changed his life and lead to an exploration of the possibilities of yoga and paralysis together.

Jo Zukovich had the patience and foresight not to force the Iyengar system of yoga onto Matthew’s body. Instead, Jo had faith in the system’s underlying principles. Iyengar emphasizes alignment and precision. Jo and Matthew discovered that alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis.5

The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. Matthew discovered that if he listens inwardly to his whole experience, he can actually feel into his legs. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to a different level of presence, a form of presence that subtly connects the mind to the body.6 Matthew describes this form of awareness a tingling, a sense of hum.7

Although Matthew’s life has taken much away, it has also revealed a powerful insight. The outer layer of Matthew’s legs and torso have been stripped away through the paralysis, but he has also learned to experience a more direct contact with an inner presence of consciousness. The silence Matthew encountered within his paralysis is the nexus within his mind-body relationship.8

Matthew’s memoir is a page-turning story, which I find most fascinating. Life presents its purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways.9 The challenge is to step more deeply into our lives, to stay open to our own experience — to not deny it, but rather to simply have it.

1 Matthew Sanford, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, 2006), p. 245.
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid., p. xv.
4 Ibid., p. 161.
5 Ibid., p. 188.
6 Ibid., p. 193.
7 Ibid., pp. 194, 198.
8 Ibid., p. 200.
9 Ibid., p. 233.

Book Review: Focusing

Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge by Eugene T. Gendlin is a most interesting book. Focusing is a skill which was discovered through fifteen years of research at the University of Chicago. Eugene T. Gendlin studied, together with a group of colleagues, why therapy so often failed to make real difference in people’s lives. And in the rare cases when therapy does succeed: What is it that successful patients and therapists do?1

Seeking the answers, the researchers analyzed literally thousands of therapist-patient sessions. These studies led to several findings. One is that differences in therapy methods mean surprisingly little. Nor does the difference lie in what the patients talk about. The difference is in how they talk.2

The purpose of the book is to teach focusing. Most importantly, not only is focusing an internal act which is useful in therapy. It’s also useful in approaching any problem or situation. Focusing enables you to find and change where your life is stuck. It enables you live from a deeper place than just thoughts and feelings.3

Focusing is natural to the body, and it feels that way. There is an experience of something emerging from the body that feels like a relief and a coming alive.4 A few seem to use focusing intuitively now and then, but it is mostly unused in most people. Some people learn focusing fairly fast, while others need weeks or months.5

Focusing is a process in which you make contact with a special kind of internal bodily awareness, a felt sense.6 The felt sense is a physically sensed knowing. The body knows the whole of each of situation, vastly more aspects of it than you can think.7

body shift is a definite physical feeling of something changing or moving within, a tight place loosening. Often what is next for the body is not what would logically come next. Focusing is unpredictable.8 And it is something to be used every day, as part of the daily existence.9

Just getting in touch with one’s feelings often brings no change. One must let a larger, wider felt sense form, which at first is unclear.10 Intellectuals like to figure things out. What is important is that the body is allowed to take the first steps. The analysis isn’t effective before these steps.11 When your felt sense changes, you change—and, therefore, so does your life.12

A felt sense is a physical experience.13 Since it doesn’t communicate in words, it isn’t easy to describe in words. It is a deep-down level of awareness.14 An emotion is often sharp and clearly felt. A felt sense, being larger and more complicated, is almost always unclear—at least until you focus on it.15 It bypasses your thinking mind. But when you let the felt sense form, then you can work with more than you can understand. And when you attend to the felt sense, it will shift.16

Eugene T. Gendlin divides focusing into six main movements: 1) Clear a space. 2) Felt sense. 3) Get a handle. 4) Resonate. 5) Ask. 6) Receive.17 To think of them as separate movements makes the inner act seem more mechanical than it is. Gendlin starts by giving the focusing instructions in a brief manual style from. He then approaches the movements from several different angels and explains them in more detailed.18 Finally, he reviews the most common problems that interfere with people’s focusing, and suggests ways to get unstuck.19

At the end of the book, there is a Listening Manual which was written for people who simple wanted to help each other with focusing.20 Four kinds of helping are discussed: 1) Helping another person focus while talking.21 2) Using your own feelings and reactions about the person.22 3) Interaction.23 4) Interacting in a group.24

To handle ourselves and our situations, we need to get into more of our own experience. The more deeply we go, the more the unique individual emerges.25 Beyond feelings, there is a holistic body sense, at first unclear, that can form. It is sense of the whole meaning of a particular situation or concern. It is from this felt sense that body shifts can arise. This cannot be figured out. It has to be met, found, felt, attended to, and allowed to show itself.26

A person’s experience is not a pattern. It might seem to fit a pattern just now, but moments later it will fit another or none. In any case, the seeming fit will never be exact, for experience is richer than patterns. Moreover, it’s changing.27 New forms can come from inside each person, instead of being imposed from the outside.28

Focusing lets people find their own inner source of direction. Instead of static structures we need dynamic structure-making. If we accept ourselves and each other as form-makers, we no longer need to force forms on ourselves and each other.29 Adopting patterns, old or new, is not the way. A sensitive focusing approach can eventuate really livable patterns suited uniquely to each of us and our situations.30

The holistic felt sense is more inclusive than reason. It includes the reasons of reason, as well as feelings, and much more. That holistic sense can be lived further, and has its own directionality. It is your sense of the whole thing, including what you know, have thought, and have learned. What is first sensed holistically is more basic than thoughts, feelings, and ways of acting that are already formed, already cut into existing patterns.31

A felt sense is body and mind before they are split apart. Focusing is not an invitation to stop thinking. It begins with the felt sense, and we then think verbally, logically, or with images. When there is a body shift, our thinking come together with the body-mind.32 Thinking put in touch with what the body already knows and lives is vastly powerful.33

Lived experience is more organized, more finely faceted, than any concepts can be. And lived further, experience creates new meanings that takes account of, but also shifts, earlier meanings.34 Focusing is a really powerful skill! It’s a different way of thinking and approaching any situation.

1 Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge (Rider, 2003, first published 1978), p.3.
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid., p.4.
4 Ibid., p.8.
5 Ibid., p.9.
6 Ibid., p.10.
7 Ibid., pp.vii–viii.
8 Ibid., p.14.
9 Ibid., p.16.
10 Ibid., p.29.
11 Ibid., p.31.
12 Ibid., p.32.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid., p.33.
15 Ibid., p.35.
16 Ibid., p.36.
17 Ibid., pp.173–174.
18 Ibid., p.43.
19 Ibid., p.64.
20 Ibid., p.117.
21 Ibid., p.118.
22 Ibid., p.127.
23 Ibid., p.135.
24 Ibid., p.141.
25 Ibid., p.155.
26 Ibid., p.156.
27 Ibid., p.157.
28 Ibid., p.158.
29 Ibid., p.159.
30 Ibid., p.160.
31 Ibid..
32 Ibid., p.165.
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid., p.166.

Book Review: Survival in the Organization

Survival in the Organization: Gunnar Hjelholt Looks Back at the Concentration Camp from an Organizational Perspective by Benedicte Madsen & Søren Willert is a small book and a quick read. The book is about Gunnar Hjelholt’s life with a focus on his time in a German Concentration Camp during World War II. I found the last few pages of the book most interesting.

What strikes Gunnar Hjelholt are the similarities between the concentration camp and organizations in general. ”Every position is connected to privileges. Salaries are dependent on the position in the hierarchy. You lose your privileges, if you don’t do your job. That is, unless you make sure that people below you in the hierarchy do their jobs and do not cause trouble. On top of it all you have the board of directors and the stockholders. In the concentration camp version, they were the SS. Their purpose is setting objectives and defining the task they want done. They determine how many resources can be made available for completing the task and then they appoint someone to be in charge of the operations … The rest takes more or less care of itself.” (pp.86–87).

Unfortunately, the really interesting question how ”a system would look like if God had created it” is saved ”for another time” (p.88).

Book Review: A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry is, in a way, a beginner’s guide to philosopy. I particularly like that Luc Ferry addresses a nonacademic audience. I also like that Luc Ferry tries to place the different philosophical systems in the best possible light, without seeking to criticize.1 I agree with him that we must try to understand before making objections. And by understanding how others think, we get a perspective on our own thoughts.2 That is what I found most valuable with the book!

I’m somewhat surprised that Luc Ferry describes philosophy not only as ‘love’ (philo) of ‘wisdom’ (sophia),3 but also as a road to ‘salvation’ by the exercise of reason – if not from death itself, then from the anxiety it causes.4 Personally, I think loving wisdom – trying to live wisely – is a perfectly valid aim in itself. I also find reason to question reason itself. I have come to believe that reason alone will not save us and the world. Instead, we need to bring our focus ‘upstream’ to where reason and heart may work in common.5

1 Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2011), p.193.
2 Ibid., p.251.
3 Ibid., p.15.
4 Ibid., p.6.
5 The idea of moving ‘upstream’ is from Michael Jones. See Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p. xi.

Book Review: Artful Leadership

Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination by Michael Jones is a most unusual leadership book. Michael Jones is a leadership educator, composer, and improvising pianist. He brings a unique and most profound sensibility to the art of leading in the now. We are all leaders and followers at the same time. This is such an excellent book that I’ve decided to provide an extensive summary together with some conclusions.

We need to play together and to learn to speak and listen to one another.1

The book has the form of a dialogue between Michael Jones and John Huss, a senior leader in a large corporation. The dialogue unfolded over a two-year period. Jones and Huss soon found themselves engaged in a search for different dimensions of leadership and the possibility for creating living organizations.2 I’m particularly interested in the latter. Their dialogue is most unusual in that they discuss the invisible structures that lie in the spaces between our thoughts and concepts. One might say that they bring their focus upstream to where the intellect and the heart may work together. It’s about tuning in to our senses so that we can receive what is coming in. More is given to us, than is created by us, in the abundance of imagination.3 Michael Jones dreams of a place of emergent creation which he calls the commons.4

Conversation is a practice field for finding our voice.5

Leading in turbulent times requires extraordinary presence and adaptability. Only in being alert may we find natural, unique, and unrepeatable ways of dealing with our challenges. The unpredictability of what is emerging suggests a third way of knowing – what David Bohm describes as a subtle intelligence – that reaches out and seeks the wholeness behind all things.6 By developing this ability, we reawaken our imagination, intuition, and inspiration. Together these serve as a counterpoint to the mechanistic view of the world. Technical knowledge is important, but it is only a part of the story. Listening, getting a feeling for things, engaging with others is the larger part of it.7

So much of the leader’s work is not about playing the notes,
but listening for what’s emerging in the space between.8

Connecting leadership to community and the common good puts unique demands on leaders.9 Michael Jones introduces a language for exploring this kind of organic leadership. he uses the following notions throughout the book:10

  • Gifts, which corresponds with qualities of identity, integrity, and being true to one’s self.
  • Beauty, which corresponds to perception and the ability to quickly make finely tuned adjustments.
  • Grace, which is related to the emergence of shared meaning.

Technically based leadership is built around realizing goals. Artful leadership, on the other hand, focuses on the flow of experience that leads towards a sense of wholeness and a less divided life. To find these moments we need to step out of our own habits.11

Acting organically is about being with the other,
sensing into what there is

Inquiring into the moment invites responses that are more reciprocal than those that occur when we simply try to impose our will.13 Planning, control, measurement are skills well suited to stable and predictable situations. These skills, however, keep us from being fully present to the space between.14 This space cannot be planned in advance. It only exists in the moment.15

Too often, we get busier instead of slowing down to reflect and gain a perspective from our own direct experience.16 Curiosity is naturally responsive to what spontaneously arises in the flow of our direct experience.17 By sensing and finding our way together, we deepen our collective awareness of meaning and connection. These, in turn, enable being and acting at the same time.18

We find a more engaging and creative way of conducting business if we can trust the power in the moment. However, this is more challenging since we cannot control the outcome.19 Feeling what is alive now, bringing it into words, makes a crucial difference. Our past experience benefits from a fresh reading of what is emerging in the moment.20 Until we speak, we often don’t know what those words will be.21 Everyone has something we love to do and in which we can be generative.22 When we shift our attention from trying to manage to learning, from coordinating action to sensing what is already forming, we open the way for deeper coherence.23

The basic principle is that creation creates itself.24

As problems and solutions grow in complexity, so does the subtle intelligence need to expand. We need to access the uniquely human ability to find meaning in experiences at the threshold of thought. This happens between when there is space for reflection and deep listening. It’s a movement toward seeing organizations as living communities.25

From the moment we stepped onto the school ground as children, we have unwittingly entered into a mechanistic cage. Many of us have been so long in this cage that we have forgotten that we are in it.26 We have come to believe that this is the true world and that there is no other. These are more than surface beliefs. They make up the deep structures in which we live.27

Michael Jones has identified four central myths that erode our trust in life:28

  1. Ultimate Truth, believing there’s a single right answer, giving up our own voice to experts, allowing others to define us.
  2. Separation, seeing the world, not as an extension of our living, but as a resource for our consumption.
  3. Efficiency, believing that everything will spin out of control unless we use planning and force.
  4. Scarcity, believing that for one person to win another must lose.

It’s the question that frees us, not the answer.29 We forget that there is something deeper that represents our real source of aliveness. We can only live half a life if we leave ourselves behind.30 Being with the question, discovering where it takes us, is what gives us life.31

When we live our gift, the world is fundamentally changed.32

Personal truth is rooted in a coherent presence that actively flows through us.33 The gift is never solitary. It needs to circulate in order to continue to flourish and grow. Creating a circle of those through whom the gift might be shared protects us from abusing the gift.34 Our true gifts are broader and more comprehensive than skills or abilities.35

Just as a healthy organism has a billion different cells, a wise organization knows that its vitality depends upon growing differentiated centers that are autonomous and interconnected.36 While organizations may claim to want innovation and creativity, its leadership and administrative structures often prove contrary. In organizations, we are often expected to dismiss our own inborn sense of what is right in order to fulfill someone else’s mission.37

If we use the garden and soil as metaphors for the soul of an organization, then we can see that what makes the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy organization occurs underground. The equivalence of the soil’s health is the tone, mode, and deeper identity of the organization.38 Being curious and reflective builds the soil. It gives the foundation to express beauty in its many forms. Beauty helps us to live more fully in the world.39 Beauty is transitory and dwells in relationships, in-between meeting places.40

Bringing a sense of aliveness begins with perception,
but it is more than simple observation.41

The root of respect means ‘to look again.’ Our journey into beauty begins with the realization that we must look again at the world. To look again is to value existence on its own terms rather than just on ours. We can’t look again if we don’t value existence and life. It’s hard, if not impossible, to create work environments where people can feel connected and alive without respect.42

Most of us have been educated for a world of separation. We live in an over-or-under world, where everyone is judged according to how superior or inferior they are in relation to others. We all share the responsibility for building our common life-giving soil. In holding the other as part of ourselves we learn respect and compassion for others. This teaches us how to enter into relationships with others without trying to change them. Being with is fundamental to the process of organic change.43 It’s about being with another while keeping ties to one’s own inner humanity.44

An organization’s routine way of doing things is at risk when it begins to embrace life. The real power in the world is beauty and creativity. When we serve beauty we get more beauty. When we judge, we inhibit the possibility for the world to transform itself through us. When we are vulnerable, we are willing to be touched deeply by what we see, feel and hear.45

With vulnerability comes compassion for suffering, and
out of engagement with suffering comes perspective.46

Beauty serves as a guide for living a more real life. It helps us to navigate toward creating a more humane and balanced world. Beauty represents a transcendent value that acts in concert with goodness and truth. If beauty is narrowed by the efficiency of the intellect, without the mediating influence of the heart, its distortion do great damage. Work need to be honest, just, and ethical to carry out its greater purposes.47

Nature is not a resource to be exploited, but a living process from which we can be nourished and enriched.48 Our greatest work is not to separate ourselves from nature or subdue it, but to engage with it in a way that opens a space between us and the other that is emergent and continuously unfolding. This space cannot be clearly defined, nor is it quantifiable, but it’s where beauty happens.49

A dead environment dulls our perceptions and shuts down our senses.
At best we feel bored. At worst we become depressed.50

Feeling bored or depressed is a natural human response for living and working in an environment that feels lifeless and inhuman. This act of separating ourselves from the world leads to a kind of psychic death.51 And we usually don’t know it until it is too late. It is literally the inevitable consequence to seeing value only in the context of economic objectives. It is a kind of denial of our existence.52

In music – and in leadership – you don’t impose a rhythm or order. You feel it coming from within and that, in turn, opens for other things. You stay with it, following that rhythm, and it leads you forward. It doesn’t repeat the past, but expresses its own authentic nature as it evolves and changes over time.53 It is a living structure that needs to feel right, natural, and in harmony with itself. You can’t work it all out in advance. It arises during the act of creation itself. We need to discover how to sense what is unfolding, rather than simply trying to execute a plan.54

Ultimately, it’s beauty that will change our world, not power. Power is fine if you know where you are going. But if you don’t, then it’s beauty that teaches you how to receive accurate feedback and to make the subtle adaptations required as we guide ourselves forward. When we plan, we try to fix things ahead of time. And when the unexpected happens, we just power our way through.55. The more natural living process is allowed to unfold, the more freely beauty flows into the world.56 The search for beauty causes us to see the life behind life, which we have not noticed before.57

The beauty we search for is the beauty of our own song.58

Grace is not in us, but between us.59. We need to listen deeply to each other, not only for the notes, but also for what it evokes in ourselves. By being alive to the situation at hand, we invent and reinvent as we play. It’s a reflecting in action, of being interconnected in ways we may not fully appreciate or understand. Each responds to the other with something that is not rehearsed or prepared beforehand.60 Anything can engage us in this process of constructing and reconstructing what we are doing as we are doing it. The key factor is that we have no other choice than to receive, reflect, and adapt at the same time.61

We depend on each other. As we acknowledge our interconnectedness, we become tuned to those around us in such a way that we can sense and anticipate each other’s movements. As we try to navigate the unknown, this connection becomes even more necessary.62 Musicians, for example, are joined by a common interest, following the leadings of the moment. This skill isn’t intellectual, but it does involve being able to listen for what is moving in the relationship, and building on that.63 This isn’t so much acquired as remembered.64

By putting so much emphasis on efficiency, we have separated ourselves from a more natural way of knowing. We believe that everything is up to us, and that it is necessary use effort and force or everything will spin out of control.65 Maybe we live in a perpetual state of grace despite of ourselves, trying to establish and keep control even as we are surrounded by a perfect order. The paradox is that our most frenzied efforts do not speed up the processes of re-creation but rather slow them down. Almost whatever we do in the name of efficiency interferes with or delays the forces of wholeness working on our behalf.66

Life chooses the timing of our actions.67

Rather than attempting to hold the world together, our most useful work is to hold a space in which creation may enter and fulfill its purposes through us. Many have been educated to value conformity and achievement as the keys to recognition and success. In this rational world the mystery of wildness, play, femininity, flow, and ease are set aside as irrelevant or childish.68

Our inspiration forms the core out of which all movement springs. This feeling-based capacity is not based on mastery over nature, but in attunement with it. This attunement cannot be matched only by the reasoning mind. Reason constructs knowledge through argument. That means it’s likely to diminish any kind of feeling-based relationship it encounters.69 To follow what you feel calls for simplicity and ease of mind and heart. When a plan does not work because the structures that support it aren’t stable, then leaders need to follow what they feel.70

We need metaphors that not only speak of doing but also of being,
of not forcing change but being the change you want to see.71

The idea of being the change you want to see makes room for the unexpected.72 The role is one of following, not imposing. It involves choices that must be made with little opportunity for analysis. It takes attention to follow an impulse without imposing one’s own will upon it.73 In a world where the future can be imagined but not foreseen, the only constant is our responsiveness to all that is changing. Our job is to maintain an attention so we can move in alignment with what is unfolding. We need to be careful to distinguish that which is occurring naturally from what we believe ought to be happening.74

To improvise authentically is a living process where we follow the aliveness that arises from the core of our own being in relation to the necessity of the moment in time.75 That which is most tender and forming in us needs to find its own inner resilience so that it can be soft and strong at the same time. This means staying in contact with the I don’t know.76 We need to learn to serve by yielding.77

Musicians know what potential is lost when one player dominates.
Musicians also know what is possible when they collaborate.78

The question we need be asking is not how to make a system do something that it will naturally resist doing, but how to work together in alignment with what is already emerging. When we align with what is already happening, rather than what we believe ought to happen, our most subtle actions can have significant results.79 So much of what is really important is done for its own sake and for no reward at all.80

The life in language is always between two people.81. Speaking from the space between is infinitely more challenging than speaking from a prepared text. It is to make wholeness visible. Everything of what the speaker is will be revealed in the voice.82 Authentic speech is to engage in the struggle of finding language equal to the meaning we wish to convey. True thinking is often incomplete, and so feels inadequate. In the most important matters, we are speaking of things where words cannot go. This requires the ability to access felt-understanding.83

We have been educated to convert our experience into abstractions, or fixed thoughts.84 Speaking about is objective and habitual. Speaking from is alive and fresh.85 To find an original thought involves being present to that no one expects. We don’t know that it is in us until it appears. It is the distinction between speaking about and from that represents the shift from second- to first-order experience. It is the shift from what I should think, feel and see, to what I am thinking, feeling, and seeing. We cannot speak from first-order experience unless we are in a place in which it feels safe to speak.86

To be present means to be with whatever we are experiencing in the moment. While our mind may fix itself on certain concepts, our inner reality is in a constant flow of experience.87 There will always be something that draws our attention. This something is something we are sensing into. By feeling our way into our inner experience we also acknowledge the body’s knowing. In this way we may discover a new perspective. By not trying to force our experience into existing constructs, we become alive to playfulness and the unfolding of new meanings.88

In a habitual world, we tend to work with finished and repetitive ideas.
In a living world, our experiences are free-forming and fluid.89

By trying to fit people into our organizational structures we have taken flexible human beings, and changed them into something fixed. We have changed ourselves into people engaging in highly repetitive activities with habitual patterns of thought and behavior. All that so we can perform tasks with consistency and reliability. One of the consequences of this is that it has disconnected us from our primary experience.90 Few of us feel safe enough to be generous with our ideas outside of well-defined contexts. As our language becomes dull our world is deadened as well. Given this feeling of absence, we move against the other to ensure our survival. This effect, as pervasive as subtle, creates our daily reality.91

Our living language gets buried in codes and rules that don’t enliven us. We find these codes around us in the form of prescriptive mandates and how to do it guidelines. They tend to suck the energy out of us and yet we overlook how deadening this can be. The question how to takes us out of the experience of the present moment.92 External knowledge may actually limit our perception and ability to see the whole.93

While we have freedom on the outside,
our inner life may be confined

We try to make up for having seen nothing with something. To be separated from imagination is like having a hunger that cannot be filled.95 The tendency to separate the whole into parts means that the world gets seen through eyes that focus on self-interest, defense of territory, and command and control structures.96 The mantra that what cannot be measured cannot be managed has led to the erosion of subjective qualities like courage, compassion, spontaneity, and self-expression. These qualities bring a sense of coherence and possibility to human experience.97 Unfortunately, they have been lost largely because they cannot be seen or quantified.98

Restoring environments in which we can listen for what is unfolding organically becomes more and more vital.99 The absence of such environments has been a source of indefinable but palpable unrest. It is like a hunger for which we can find no cause or cure.100 A story by its very nature is always forming and becoming. A spirit of commons offers a free and open environment where we may come together to speak of who and where we are in a manner that gives meaning to our life and work.101

Musicians listen to one another, and to themselves, sensing where the music is going, adjusting their playing as they go. As musicians feel the music, they make new meanings. And just as they capture it, the music changes. This way of playing, following the leadings of the moment, is a kind of commons space in itself. It’s an organic and feeling-based way of being with oneself and others.102

What needs to be heard now is too large to be heard only by individuals.103

What needs to be heard cannot be heard well until we restore the collective space for deep listening, where we can be fully present to its effects. What distinguishes the commons from the current status quo is immediacy. Most of our ways of coming together today are to fulfill a predetermined purpose or goal. But the commons is an open stage where life happens, for no other purpose than for the expression of itself in the now. Suspended agendas offer a safe vessel for engaged listening and unguarded presence.104

We always become part of what we see. The world does not so much belong to us, as we belong to it, and through it, to one another. This reciprocity is central to any living process. We are so used to taking so that which is received is seldom reciprocated. Our participation includes being attuned to being, including the many ways insight may come to us.105 It gives us the opportunity of bringing new insights into awareness, in real-time.106

As we engage, we also participate in the larger ordering of things.
Dialogue, stories, journaling, reflection, music, questions, being in nature
– all of these tap into collective wisdom.107

We have been programmed to demand clear outcomes that justify our commitments in time and energy. The primary metaphor in an industrial economy is the machine. And, still, the innate gift of presence should be valued more than purely financial concerns. Connectedness, uniqueness, originality, beauty – all need to be kept in balance to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the community. Most of us just consider this to be naïve and soft-minded.108. But if we only are focused on what we are trying to achieve in terms of economic gain and self-interest,  then social cohesion is disrupted.109

Some knowledge, particularly slow knowledge, is knowledge of absorption. It is knowledge absorbed merely by being in another’s company. The way absorption works, and why it is so important, is that it contributes to whole-body learning, an intuitive sense which enables us to be presence. When we do that, learning follows naturally.

Even if we begin with an initial structure, it unfolds within the context of the situation itself. This is why spaces that are already owned or programmed for certain outcomes are not very alive. It is the presence of wholeness that makes the difference in how alive we feel.110 And because wholeness is invisible, we know it primarily through its effects. For example, we may know that we are in the presence of wholeness when we feel ourselves to be deeply heard. This makes room for us to find our own thinking, and to follow our own feeling in a way that is free from any need for defensiveness or self-deception. This in turn makes the fuller experience of wholeness possible.112

Wholeness cannot ever be replicated. It comes to us
in a moment that is unique and unrepeatable.113

The focus is more on allowing each moment to complete itself than on trying to set an agenda. It is this spontaneity of speaking that reawakens our deep sense of wonder.114 The intent is to free us from prescribed action in order to connect with an organic impulse that can lead to more cohesive acting. It means going slowly enough so that we are guided by what feels natural and true. Replacing present-moment awareness with expectations of the future often impedes forward movement.115

It is a subtle but important shift to explore how to be in the moment instead of trying to figure out what to do. This is why it is crucial to notice what latent capacities are emerging rather than being certain of the way forward and convincing others to follow. To be open and accepting of whatever comes is to trust life’s natural forward movement. The reward is that by being open to the changing form of things, we become more and more like ourselves, as living examples of change itself. The primary influences do not come from the outside in, but rather from the inside out. A generative space is not designed to be or do anything outside of what unfolds within the structure itself.116

When we feel at ease, we are likely to sense and follow the seeds of possibility. It is hard for anyone to sense what is needed if the atmosphere is tense and critical.117 Sometimes we may prefer to push forward by ourselves, but we cannot do this independently. The complexity we are engaged in needs others. Whatever we bring into awareness is easily complicated if interventions are introduced that communicate tension or force. Complications also arise when we get ahead of the living process itself. All our engagements in generative processes are fragile. This is partly why we need to bring a more subtle intelligence to the processes we are involved with.118 While nothing may appear to be happening at one level, everything may be happening at another.119

It’s in the space between seeing and
being seen where wholeness lives.120

Wherever wholeness already exists, people will naturally go. The best development is to build on or intensify what is already working.121 We can discern what is trying to happen naturally by removing unnecessary clutter.122 Vulnerability brings us into true fellowship with one another. This means that we listen to the unfolding of the whole without trying to make things personal. By keeping our attention focused on the flow of our inquiry, we create a collective presence that may yield perceptions without precedent.123

The moment in time is enriched when our full attention is given to it. Disinterest is not lack of interest, but the suspension of self-interest, including the promotion of a dominant point of view, in order to create anew.124 Letting something unfold naturally can only occur when there is a shared investment in which no one person holds the sole influence in the possible outcome or end state. While self-interest is aligned with predetermined goals and outcomes, disinterest is more likely to arise in situations where the solutions are vague or unknown, and the appropriate responses seemingly untrainable.125

Set free from previous conditioning, we can create
our own space of presence and belonging.126

We have forgotten how to live in a world in which we do not control as much as we co-participate with the larger dimensions of life. It is based on listening and attuning ourselves to the presence of the larger world in which we are participating.127 There is something much more to learn here – also in our organizations – about the world as a vital force, unpredictable, powerful, wild and loving. To experience its presence is to restore our relationship with wholeness.128

Managing and leading are two different things. Many of us have been educated for a world of struggle and competition. We have been taught that the world is our adversary. And so, the idea of restoring a sense of uniqueness, beauty, and grace is a foreign work, but one worth doing. This is not the time to step back from the world, but to go more deeply into it.129 The greatest challenge is trust – the ability to engage in a process, the outcome of which cannot be predicted or seen in advance.130


This is an absolutely wonderful book! What I particularly like is that Michael Jones reminds us that beyond all techniques, leading ultimately is about being fully human. It’s about recognizing and nurturing what is most personal, while at the same time cultivating our awareness and sense of connection with each other, our work, and our world.

The leader’s work is, as we’ve seen, grounded in presence, deep listening, gifts, beauty, grace, and finding our own voice.131 It’s about becoming present to the ever-present organic flow of learning and change.132 The personal leadership journey is also a preparation for transforming our work environments, and communities.133

It’s worth emphasizing that the search for aliveness is the one thing that may draw us away from the dominance of a mechanistic world view. The search for aliveness can help us to find a more life-affirming way of being and leading.134 Beauty is inherent everywhere. We don’t need to introduce it. We just need to learn how to clear away the obstacles.135

1 Michael Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p.ix.
2 Ibid., p.x.
3 Ibid., p.xi.
4 Ibid., p.xii.
5 Ibid., p.xv.
6 Ibid., p.3.
7 Ibid., p.4.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p.6.
10 Ibid., p.7.
11 Ibid., p.8.
12 Ibid., p.9.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid., p.10.
15 Ibid., p.11.
16 Ibid., p.12.
17 Ibid., p.14.
18 Ibid., p.21.
19 Ibid., p.31.
20 Ibid., p.32.
21 Ibid., p.33.
22 Ibid., p.35.
23 Ibid., p.36.
24 Ibid..
25 Ibid., p.37.
26 Ibid., p.39.
27 Ibid., p.40.
28 Ibid., pp.40–43.
29 Ibid., p.43.
30 Ibid., p.53.
31 Ibid., p.57.
32 Ibid., p.59.
33 Ibid., p.62.
34 Ibid., p.69.
35 Ibid., p.70.
36 Ibid., p.71.
37 Ibid., p.78.
38 Ibid., p.89.
39 Ibid., p.90.
40 Ibid., p.93.
41 Ibid., p.91.
42 Ibid., p.92.
43 Ibid., p.96.
44 Ibid., p.97.
45 Ibid., p.99.
46 Ibid., p.100.
47 Ibid., p.101.
48 Ibid..
49 Ibid., p.102.
50 Ibid..
51 Ibid..
52 Ibid., p.103.
53 Ibid., p.104.
54 Ibid., p.105.
55 Ibid..
56 Ibid..
57 Ibid., p.106.
58 Ibid., p.107.
59 Ibid., p.112
60 Ibid., p.113.
61 Ibid., p.114.
62 Ibid..
63 Ibid., p.115.
64 Ibid., p.116.
65 Ibid..
66 Ibid., p.117.
67 Ibid..
68 Ibid., p.118.
69 Ibid., p.120.
70 Ibid., p.122.
71 Ibid., p.123.
72 Ibid..
73 Ibid., p.125.
74 Ibid., p.126.
75 Ibid., p.127.
76 Ibid., p.128.
77 Ibid., p.129.
78 Ibid..
79 Ibid..
80 Ibid., p.137.
81 Ibid., p.139
82 Ibid., p.140.
83 Ibid., p.141.
84 Ibid., p.146.
85 Ibid., p.147.
86 Ibid., p.148.
87 Ibid., p.149.
88 Ibid..
89 Ibid., p.150.
90 Ibid., p.151.
91 Ibid., p.152.
92 Ibid., p.158.
93 Ibid., p.159.
94 Ibid., p.162.
95 Ibid., p.164.
96 Ibid., p.170.
97 Ibid., pp.170–171.
98 Ibid., p.171.
99 Ibid..
100 Ibid., p.172.
101 Ibid., p.173.
192 Ibid..
103 Ibid., p.175.
104 Ibid..
105 Ibid., p.176.
107 Ibid., p.179.
106 Ibid., p.177.
108 Ibid., p.179
109 Ibid., p.180.
110 Ibid., p.183.
112 Ibid., p.185.
113 Ibid..
114 Ibid., p.186.
115 Ibid., p.187.
116 Ibid., p.188.
117 Ibid., p.189.
118 Ibid., p.190.
119 Ibid., p.191.
120 Ibid., p.192.
121 Ibid., p.193.
122 Ibid., p.194.
123 Ibid., p.196.
124 Ibid., p.198.
125 Ibid., p.199.
126 Ibid..
127 Ibid., p.200.
128 Ibid., p.201.
129 Ibid., p.202.
130 Ibid., p.214.
131 Ibid., p.169.
132 Ibid., p.46.
133 Ibid., p.170.
134 Ibid., p.175.
135 Ibid., p.104.

Book Review: The Future of Humanity

The Future of Humanity: A Conversation by Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm is a small book and a quick read. The book contains a transcript of two dialogues that took place between Krishnamurti and Bohm in June 1983. Bohm writes in the preface that these two dialogues took place three years after a series of thirteen similar dialogues.1

The starting point for the discussion was the question: What is the future of humanity? This question led in turn to the question whether mind is limited by the brain of mankind, with all the knowledge that it has accumulated over the ages.2 The book contains the essential spirit of the whole of Krishnamurti’s teachings, and throws further light on them.3

The book leaves me with mixed feelings. I can see how David Bohm continuously tries to understand what Krishnamurti is saying. Bohm repeatedly asks for clarity, and tries to summarize what Krishnamurti says. I really appreciate David Bohm’s search for intellectual clarity. He is able to pursue abstract thought to a far greater degree than most other people. Bohm also gives the impression of being a very gentle and kind person. Maybe too kind?

Because I can also see a Krishnamurti who I perceive as very assertive and rather evasive. Sometimes, when Bohm comes too close with his questions, Krishnamurti says he talks psychologically, or simply avoids answering Bohm’s question by answering another. I definitely lost confidence in Krishnamurti when he said that the activity of the brain really is like a computer.4 It’s a really poor metaphor! Just because someone gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about it doesn’t mean that he does!

1 Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm, The Future of Humanity: A Conversation (Harper & Row, 1986), p. 1.
2 Ibid., p. 2.
3 Ibid., p. 4.
4 Ibid., p. 54.

Book Review: The Art of Leading Collectively

The Art of Leading Collectively: Co-Creating a Sustainable, Socially Just Future by Petra Kuenkel is a book about the art of collaborating for a sustainable future. Collaboration is a form of co-creation.1 Kuenkel reminds us that everything we do, or do not do, contributes to the co-creation of the world.2 What we need to do is to co-create a better future that is both sustainable and socially just.3

Collaboration & Effective Action
Collaboration is not only paramount, but is the only way to successfully address the challenges we face.4 Isolated action needs to be replaced by collective leadership for the common good.5 We need to learn how to collaborate and take effective action locally and globally. The Collective Leadership Compass describes the competencies needed for successful collaboration. The compass consists of six dimensions and is based on years of experience.6 The purpose of the compass is not theoretical, but practical.7

Co-creation & Aliveness
Collective leadership breaks with the dichotomy of leaders and followers.8 Co-creation works best in a collaborative space where there is ”life” and a sense of aliveness. We all know how it feels to be alive. And we are intrinsically linked to the order of life within and around us. We are continuously being created by this order, as well as participate in creating this order.9

The Collective Leadership Compass
Petra Kuenkel has over the years identified which competencies are needed to shift people into a more collaborative space.10 None of these competencies are new.11 They are as old as humankind.12 It is the combination of them that makes a difference.13 The six dimensions of the Collective Leadership Compass are:14

Dimension Competency Attention
Future Possibilities Shape reality toward a sustainable future. Focus on opportunities, awaken passion, measure progress.
Engagement Build effective collaboration ecosystems. Build engagement, foster cohesion, deliver results.
Innovation Create novelty and find solutions. Nourish collective generation of ideas, pursue mastery, stay open to change.
Humanity Reach into one another’s humanness. Deepen awareness of reality, integrate aspirations, embrace perspectives.
Collective Intelligence Harvest difference for progress. Attend to quality of conversations, foster diversity, reflect into action.
Wholeness See the larger picture and stay connected with the common good. Connect with ourselves and others, enhance strengths, use gifts and assets.

Inner & Outer Paths
In building the capacity for leading collectively we need to travel an inner path and an outer path together with others. Traveling the inner path prepares us for the outer path. Traveling the outer path strengthens the inner path. Underlying both paths are our capacity to love, create, collaborate, reflect, organize, build, and to bring forth the world together.15

Intention & Urgency
Intention driven by urgency creates an energy field that attracts people and organizes life.16 The biggest investment in the beginning is fostering trust and visualizing a common goal. The capacity for initiating, creating, leading, and sustaining meaningful futures is within all of us.17 Collective leadership in work is typically characterized by:18

  • A big challenge.
  • An urgent issue.
  • People with different backgrounds, expertise, and opinions.
  • Conversations about the way forward.
  • Exchange of viewpoints.
  • Careful listening (even to what is not said).
  • Focus on the outcome.
  • Learning.

We operate as a network when we lead collectively.19 Dialogue and acute listening skills increase mutual understanding and respect. Outer action and inner development are dependent on each other and have a reciprocal effect both individually and collectively.20 Decentralized networks with timely access to information are not only able to adapt to change, but also generate change.21

Trust & Cohesion
Trust is co-created22 and helps the cohesion of the group.23 Relationships, communication, and collaboration are cornerstones of sustainability.24 Mental models shift and change through conversations. Awareness precedes insights, and insights precede action.25 Meaningful relationships are a cornerstone for better co-creation.26 Creativity is contagious and self-reinforcing.27

Humanity & Compassion
We are all part of life’s inherent tendency for creative unfolding.28 The future is constantly emerging through encounters among people.29 An important feature of natural systems is the ability to connect in networks with continuous internal communication.30 When people see the humanness in another person, they develop compassion that often leads to change.31  Developing our own humanity and taking care of the whole planet mutually reinforce each other. Our underlying humanity connects us all across the world.32

Mindfulness & Perception
We become more human as we become more mindful of who we are and how we have come to be. It frees our perception when we become aware of our fears, our need for self-protection, and our desire for recognition. And it helps us to relax, respect differences, and deal with conflicts.33 This is about appreciating the human being, the interests and the story. Then we can talk about the issues.34

If problem solving and conflict resolution in groups is increasingly important in our complex world, then the skill of dialogue becomes one of the most fundamental of human skills.35 Dialogue is as old as humankind.36 It allows the integration of different perspectives and interests.37

If we want to change the world: The first step is developing compassion for how people are. The second step is identifying the human competencies and building on their potential. The third step is practicing being together differently.38 The seeds of collective leadership are everywhere. Bringing about change is most often about setting free what is already there.39

Leadership & Values
We are all on a leadership journey that involves deeper values. It’s important that we align our actions with these values and the associated knowing. It’s a knowing which reaches us through people, nature, or whatever which resonates with our hearts. It doesn’t reach us through the intellect. We know it when we feel it.40 We intuitively know the ingredients for leading collectively. We need to live them consciously.41

Rules & Structures
The fact that we create the future together seems self-evident. Institutions, tools, and measurable results are important, but what people do and how they think, feel, work, and communicate are more important.42 Rules and structures are important, but overly formal structures drain the energy.43 Structures become an impediment if they take precedence over content.44 People need to connect and engage with one another in a meaningful way, and not just because the structures force them to.45

The most ignored aspect of collaborative change is the transformation of individual consciousness.46 Collaboration changes the way we see the world.47 We tend to resort to control by establishing structures, and forget that it’s human connection that will create a future we want to live in. Our contribution lack strength and spirit when our passion is missing.48

Creating Life
When passion is lost, we need to be willing to look into what we do not know or understand. It requires courage, and a willingness to listen to ourselves and others.49 Reconnecting with our heart and passion is a journey with no final destination.50 Conscious collaboration is a form of creating life. Whether we manage to bring a sufficient degree of aliveness determines whether we become successful or not.

Petra Kuenkel is very experienced and has worked with helping people to collaborate for two decades. The book is full of real-life stories.51 Petra Kuenkel concludes that we know deep inside how collective leadership works.52 The Collective Leadership Compass is the tool used to navigate deeper into each of the six dimensions of the collaboration journey. I particularly like that Petra Kuenkel not only discusses collaboration in terms of tools and structures, but also emphasizes the importance of creating ”life” and aligning action with deeper human values. Collaboration ultimately rests on our humanness. It’s a great book well worth reading!

1 Petra Kuenkel, The Art of Leading Collectively: Co-Creating a Sustainable, Socially Just Future (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016), p.2.
2 Ibid., pp.2–3.
3 Ibid., p.16.
4 Ibid., p.4.
5 Ibid., p.5.
6 Ibid., p.6.
7 Ibid., p.59.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p.15.
10 Ibid., pp.16, 53.
11 Ibid., p.16.
12 Ibid., p.49.
13 Ibid., p.16.
14 Ibid., pp.17, 60, 86.
15 Ibid., p.23.
16 Ibid., p.27.
17 Ibid., p.32.
18 Ibid., pp.32–33.
19 Ibid., p.35.
20 Ibid., p.41.
21 Ibid., p.227.
22 Ibid., p.47.
23 Ibid., p.46.
24 Ibid., p.42.
25 Ibid., p.45.
26 Ibid., p.94.
27 Ibid., p.97.
28 Ibid., p.50.
29 Ibid., p.51.
30 Ibid., p.57.
31 Ibid., p.64.
32 Ibid., p.66.
33 Ibid., p.102.
34 Ibid., p.106.
35 Ibid., p.107. See also Edgar Schein on dialogue, culture, and organizational learning, Reflections, 4(4), pp.27–38.
36 Ibid..
37 Ibid., p.199.
38 Ibid., p.117.
39 Ibid., p.120.
40 Ibid., p.129.
41 Ibid., p.131.
42 Ibid., p.151.
43 Ibid., p.169.
44 Ibid., pp.247–248.
45 Ibid., p.249.
46 Ibid., p.253.
47 Ibid., p.254.
48 Ibid., p.256.
49 Ibid., p.257.
50 Ibid., p.258.
51 Ibid., p.7.
52 Ibid., p.14.

Related post:
Book Review: Mind and Heart

Book Review: Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order

Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson address facets of (Conservative) Quaker faith and practice. Here is a summary of the book together with some conclusions. I’ve chosen to focus on the Quaker vision of good order, waiting worship, faith community, meeting for business, and leadings and discernment.

Gospel, Right, or Good Order
Gospel order, right order, or good order is the order that exists in every part of the universe. It is the right relationship of every part to every other part. One might say that good order is an organizing principle by which Quakers come to a clearer understanding of this relationship and the responsibilities of that relationship.1 It is the responsibility of Quakers to live in a manner that is in line with good order, even if it means to be in conflict with prevailing norms, values, and laws.2 This has kept Quakers at the edge of human understanding of right relationships.3

Good Order in the Now
Quakers believe that good order is effective in the present moment,4 that it’s always breaking into our lives now.5 Quakers also believe that every person is capable of living in good order. This means that it is necessary for each person to be seeking, trying to discern good order in every situation. The choice whether or not to do so is up to the individual.6

Quakers have discovered and developed a number of practices which are useful in this process of discovering what action is in keeping with good order in a given circumstance. However, it should be remembered that the practices by which Quakers discern good order is a very small portion of good order itself.7 The practices that Quakers follow will not ensure good order if they are followed ritualistically, without an underlying desire to be in good order. Meanings have to be transmitted along with vocabulary.8

Waiting Worship
Early Quakers understood how important the use of language is. The words we use to express our understandings also shape our understandings. The inadequacy of language led Quakers into waiting worship.9 The fundamental means by which a Quaker meeting, or an individual, discerns good order is by centering down, listening, and ”feeling out” what is good order. The process is spiritual, or intuitive, rather than intellectual.10

Good Order in the Situation
Quakers go about answering the question ”What is good order in this situation?” by listening to the Inward Guide. Intellectual, or rational, explanations cannot capture the essence of good order, or the means by which it is perceived. The individual must find out what is good order on her own.11 Good order includes the ability to meet specific needs of a specific situation and time.12 We gain strength, clarity, and harmony to the extent we keep close to good order in each circumstance.13 This is why Quakers try to feel out carefully for good order in each decision, and to follow faithfully given promptings and leadings.14

Quakerism is a gestalt of the community, not the individual.15 A gestalt is an integrated structure which can neither be derived from the parts of the whole, nor considered simply as the sum of the parts.16 A solitary Quaker is an oxymoron.17 A shift to the Quaker gestalt requires inner transformation. It involves a new way of seeing the world and a new understanding of how to move in it.18

Change in Values
When we begin to seek out the root causes for the problems in our world today, we are soon confronted with the need for a society-wide change in values. It involves a new understanding of how we are to live and act in relationship with each other and the rest of nature.19 In order to preserve and sustain the Life which we have been given, it is necessary to sustain and build up the gestalt which guides and nurtures us in our daily lives.20

Creativity and Relationship
The fundamental meaning of any creative act lies in dedicating ourselves before the act rather than after it.21 In this way, we dedicate ourselves in totality and avoid the temptation to hold back some part of our person. As we know ourselves more fully, we are also able to offer ourselves more fully, and thereby enter more deeply into relationship. The only hindrance in this relationship is our unwillingness to accept it fully and openly.22

Knowing Experientially
The signs of true leadings can only be known experientially, not intellectually. A written description can only point toward the experience.23 The responsibility for finding the Truth must be undertaken with the greatest love and tenderness, and a high sensitivity for leadings and guidance.24 The most convincing argument one can humanly give is the simple testimony of one’s own life.25

Promptings and Risks
We all feel promptings and urgings, but being faithful to those promptings feels risky. Those risks include the risk of embarrassment, failure, success, scorn, change, and vulnerability. Success and failure often feel equally risky.26 Personal change is risky. Self-revealing makes one vulnerable.27 The apparent risk of being successful comes when we don’t want the responsibility, or the higher expectations that other people place on us.28 We may also evoke scorn of people who feel threatened or even insulted by our words. This emphasizes the importance of staying close to one’s promptings, making sure not to add or take away from our message.29 For nearly everyone, change is scary. Our current life is known and therefore seems safer.30

Discernment is not automatic. We need to learn it individually. We can also help one another discern as a community. There are three aspects to discerning: observation, dialogue, and testing through experience. If there is harmony in the perceptions of the individual and community, one gains confidence in the validity of the leading. It is very important to help one another.31 Nurturing and encouraging each other to take on the risks of being faithful is vital. It’s necessary to cultivate being open and vulnerable with one another, and to protect that openness and vulnerability with appropriate behavior.32

Quakers decision-making is based on the belief that there is a good order, and that it can be discerned by human beings who seek it out. Quakers experience is that all persons will perceive good order in a given situation when all seek for it, and that the community can come into unity in any decision.33 The task is not to find a decision which all can approve, but a decision where all is in unity. What is required for reaching unity is a personal centering down into that Life which guides us. The process is one of spiritual discernment.34

Meeting for Business
Those Quakers who are not present at a particular meeting for business cannot afterward criticize its actions and decisions, for they were not present. Likewise, those who were present cannot afterward criticize, for they (presumably) did feel the unity. On the other hand, it is very much in order to revisit a decision, to see whether new insight or guidance may change the meeting’s perception.35

Role as Clerk
The clerk has a role to play in helping the meeting find its proper pace and rhythm, by proposing trail minutes, by pausing between speakers, and by proposing worshipful silence when that seems best. If there is a rush to make a decision, it is likely that the right issue has not yet been articulated. The purpose of the meeting is not to make a particular decision, but to discern what is best for the group and this time.36

Sense of the Meeting
As the meeting considers a particular decision one can feel the ”sense of the meeting” accumulate around a particular course of action. From time to time it happens that one, or a few, Quakers are uneasy with the direction in which the meeting seems moving. When this happens, it is important to allow as much time as necessary for all present to feel right about the contemplated decision.37 Sometimes a decision must be postponed for several meetings before the community can reach true unity. The postponement is a continuing of the communal search for discernment. Faithful listening enables greater understanding, and results in better decisions.38

Standing Aside
After listening to the concerns and insights on all sides of a question, there may still be a Quaker who cannot unite with the decision. In this situation a Quaker may wish to ”stand aside” allowing the other Quakers to move ahead. This is never done lightly by any Quaker, and is never accepted easily by the meeting at large.39 For the meeting, allowing an individual to ”step aside” from a decision is to confess failure to reach true discernment. It is far better to be uncomfortable for a while longer in the hope and expectation that a third way will be opened.40

Tyranny of One
A particularly frustrating condition of disunity is when an individual Quaker cannot, or will not, unite with the discernment of the rest of the meeting, and refuses to ”step aside” in order to allow the meeting to move forward. It is easy for such a Quaker to paralyze the meeting, and this must be avoided. In extreme situations of this sort, it is permissible for the clerk to declare the general sense of the meeting in spite of the unresolved opposition of the individual in question. When this situation begins to develop, it is important for Quakers to find ways to help the Quaker in question to feel more trusting of others in the community.41

Unnecessary Speech
When Quakers are in good order, those who speak are simply expressing what others have already felt. The aim of each individual is to help the meeting to hear and to be faithful to the Presence in the midst, rather than to persuade the meeting to adopt one’s own plan of action.42 One should not repeat what has already been said. Unnecessary speech will delay the meeting in its search for unity.43

It is important to compose and approve minutes at the moment unity is reached. Human memory is short and plays tricks. The clerk has the responsibility of composing the minutes. The gifts of clerking the meeting and writing minutes sometimes seem to make conflicting demands on a clerk’s attention. The presence of a recording clerk generally frees the presiding clerk to attend to the meeting itself. When the meeting has come to a sense of unity on a particular decision, it will return to a period of worshipful silence while the clerk formulates and writes down the minute. It is most important that this time isn’t used to discuss other items, since the clerk needs a supportive atmosphere.44

Clerking a meeting for business requires considerable discernment. The influence of the clerk is indirect but substantial. The clerk may never speak to the specific content of a decision under consideration, but has a great influence on the ability of the meeting to achieve discernment.45 The clerk has the responsibility to help the meeting discern the light, but should not to attempt to provide the light.46

The Quakers’ method of decision-making places much power in the hands of each individual. This requires a great deal of trust on the part of all involved. Each individual need to trust that the meeting as a whole is operating with integrity, and the meeting must trust that individuals who express misgivings about a particular course of action do so only from the highest of motives.47

We cannot see anything with clarity until we have faced ourselves and our own condition. Seeing other people’s conditions as they are, or events as they will be, begins with seeing one’s self as one really is with sensitivity and honesty.48 Forgiveness is not something we do, but something we accept. When we have accepted forgiveness, personal dedication is quick to come.49 Our deepest values and aspirations reside below both reason and emotions.50

Outward vs. Inward Change
Outward change and societal reformation are not possible without inward transformation. The true problems are in the hearts of human beings, not in their surroundings. Until there has been an inward change, all our attempts to change outward behavior are doomed to be revealed as false.51 Harmony, community, equality, and simplicity point to inward changes that make new outward behavior possible.52

Harmony is part of the essence of good order. However, there is something about the nature of human beings which seems inevitably to separate us from one another. We seem doomed to live in conflict, even with the people we love most, and with the earth on which we live. The problem results from people thinking that they are separate from other people, and from their environment generally.53 Peace is not simply a denunciation of the violence that is war, but is a more fundamental change which makes war irrelevant.54

All the forces which act to destroy community are present, no matter how much we struggle against them, for example, jealousy, mistrust, covetousness, and all the rest. What redeems the community is commitment to love anyway.55

To be equal does not mean that we are identical or that we should act as we were all the same. The Quaker understanding of equality is that individuals are outward different, but equal in their essence.56 No person has reason to feel superior to others.57

We are pushed and pulled by a myriad of wants, needs, demands, fears, and desires. The simple life is one in which there is always time to remember the deeper purpose behind each task, and to be thankful for each moment of the day. The life that has room to listen and to be thankful is simple, no matter how outwardly busy it may appear.58

The process of keeping open to leadings is close to the heart of the Quaker experience. How we respond to the idea of being led, and to the actual leadings, is closely related to how we feel out our own self-worth. In times when we feel worst about ourselves, we also are about as responsive as a rock.59 Quakers have adopted the view that the inner and outward are being integrally related. Outward actions and activities reflect our inward condition, and what we do outwardly shapes and changes our inward condition.60

There is a continuity of direction and purpose in the leadings that are given to a particular individual. Our perception, or failure to perceive, this continuity is an aide to the discernment process.61 All leadings are reflections of the Truth. The Truth is, furthermore, perceptible to all who truly seek it. This means that the authenticity of any leading will be perceptible to any community who seek to discern it. When a leading will have significant impact on one’s life, it is good order to ask the community for help in discernment of good action.62

Lloyd Lee Wilson’s book is about (Conservative) Quaker faith and practice in general.  I learned a lot. The author is quite concerned about protecting the Quaker gestalt. His view is that external influence regularly has proven to be damaging to Quakerism.63 This leads me to my greatest difficulty with the book. Wilson shares many profound insights, but sometimes I find his views to be too conservative. Try to protect Quakerism from external influence and it loses its vitality.

Wilson emphasizes, on one hand, that discernment of good order in the present situation lies close to the heart of Quaker experience. But he mistrusts, on the other hand, the individual’s ability to choose his/her own beliefs.64 And he distrusts the individual’s ability to discern what s/he needs to learn next.65 I find this contradictory. Wilson seems to trust the faith tradition more than the individual.

From time to time, I also find Wilson’s language awkward. Wilson uses the historic Christian vocabulary of Quakerism. He is fully aware that this may inhibit communication on the deepest levels with people who are unfamiliar with Quakerism, but he still insists on using that kind of language.66 The problem lies with non-Quakers who are inhibited and don’t accept the authentic experience of Friends.67 I find this view simplistic. Wilson seems to value traditional language more than the ability to communicate.

I believe that all human beings have the ability to discern good order. Any group can, for example, search for unity regardless of religious beliefs provided there is trust. I believe, furthermore, that the good order mentioned throughout the book is related to the deeper generative order for organizing, which I’m exploring in this series of posts. A particularly interesting example of communal discernment of good order is, again, in the Quakers’ approach to decision-making.

1 Lloyd Lee Wilson, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order (FGC QuakerPress, 2007, first published 1993), p.10. Please note that the page references are to the ebook version converted to A4 paper size.
2 Ibid., p.11.
3 Ibid., p.12.
4 Ibid., p.12.
5 Ibid., p.13.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p.14.
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid., p.15.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., p.18.
16 Ibid., p.16.
17 Ibid., p.18.
18 Ibid., p.19.
19 Ibid., p.20.
20 Ibid., p.21.
21 Ibid., p.24.
22 Ibid., p.25.
23 Ibid., p.27.
24 Ibid., p.29.
25 Ibid., p.45.
26 Ibid., p.46.
27 Ibid., p.47.
28 Ibid., p.49.
29 Ibid., p.50.
30 Ibid., p.51.
31 Ibid., p.53.
32 Ibid., p.54.
33 Ibid., p.77.
34 Ibid., p.78.
35 Ibid..
36 Ibid., p.79.
37 Ibid..
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid..
40 Ibid., p.80.
41 Ibid..
42 Ibid..
43 Ibid., p.81.
44 Ibid..
45 Ibid..
46 Ibid., p.82.
47 Ibid., p.83.
48 Ibid., p.88.
49 Ibid., p.89.
50 Ibid., p.90.
51 Ibid., p.93.
52 Ibid., p.94.
53 Ibid..
54 Ibid., p.95.
55 Ibid., p.96.
56 Ibid., p.97.
57 Ibid., p.98.
58 Ibid., p.99.
59 Ibid., p.100.
60 Ibid., p.102.
61 Ibid., p.104.
62 Ibid., p.106.
63 Ibid., p.22.
64 Ibid..
65 Ibid..
66 Ibid., p.42.
67 Ibid..

Book Review: The Structure of Value

The Structure of Value: Foundations of Scientific Axiology is Robert S. Hartman’s seminal work on Formal Axiology. Robert S. Hartman was born in Germany in 1910. Seeing the Nazis organize evil, he fled Nazi Germany for his opposition to Hitler. He devoted the rest of his life to organize good. This led him to a life-long quest to answer the question, ”What is good?” and how to apply the answer to help preserve and enhance the value of human life. Here’s an overview of the book together with some conclusions.

Part One: The Structure of Science

Philosophy vs. Science
Hartman starts his book with an examination of the transition from value philosophy to value science.1 For him, the difference between philosophy and science is a methodological one.

  • The method of philosophy is analysis. The concepts are relatively unstructured, in a definite logical way. Analysis not only has relative lack of structure, due to its abstractive nature, but it also has relative lack of relevance to actuality.2
  • The scientific method is one of synthesis. The concepts in science are precisely structured. Axiomatic synthesis gives rise to systems which mirror the total variety of the corresponding actuality.3

Extensional vs. Intensional Logic
Surprisingly, the concept concept has never been fully treated in the history of logic.4 The development from natural philosophy to natural science is based on extensional logic. This is the part of logic which has been determined with precision, for example mathematics. The other part of logic which has been neglected is intensional logic.5

Value vs. Number
A logic of intensions investigates and structures the interrelationships between intensions, up to and including the totality of all intentions. This gives us meaning, rather than just an inventory of the world.6 The definition of Value is the intensional analogue of the logical definition of Number. Inversely, the definition of Number is the extensional analogue of the definition of Value.7

Formal Axiology vs. Mathematics
Formal axiology is with respect to intension what mathematics is with respect to extension. And what mathematics is to natural philosophy, formal axiology is to moral philosophy.8 Extensional logics is applied to mathematics, and mathematics to the natural sciences. Intensional logic is applied to formal axiology, and formal axiology to the moral sciences.9

It is relatively easy to follow an analytic argument, but it is difficult to follow a synthetic one. To do so, it is necessary to think both formally and systematically. It is, furthermore, a true art to find a correspondence between reality and a formal system. This can only can be learned by practice.10

Analytic vs. Synthetic Concepts
The difference between analytic and synthetic concepts defines, as we have seen, the difference between philosophy and science.11 The intension of the analytic concept contains within itself other concepts equally abstracted.12 A synthetic concept, on the other hand, is very different. It consists of terms related to terms. The model of a synthetic intension is a network rather than a nest of Chinese boxes.13 The difference between term and concept is that the term has neither intension nor extension. The term is a constructed variable. All its significance derives from its interrelationship with other terms.14

Part Two: The Foundations of Value Science

Axiological Value
If value theory is to become a science, then Value must be determined by an axiom which identifies it with some notion or application of logic.15 The Axiom of Formal Axiology is the definition of Good:

A thing is good if it fulfills the intension of its concept.”16

This axiom defines axiological Value in general.17 Axiological interpretation is subjective, axiological formalization is objective.18

Exact Value Measurement
The application of combinatorial calculus makes exact measurement of value possible. There are three possible kinds of sets, finite, denumberably infinite, and nondenumberably infinite.19

  1. Finite sets define formal concepts. The things corresponding to them are constructions of the human mind and are called systemic values. Such things either fulfill their concept or they are no such things.20
  2. Denumberably infinite sets define abstract concepts. These properties are denumerable, for they must be abstracted one by one. Fulfillment by a thing of an abstract concept constitutes extrinsic value.21
  3. Nondenumerably infinite sets define singular concepts. Things corresponding to such concepts are unique. Uniqueness is the intensional counterpart to extensional singularity. The fullfilment by a thing of a singular concept constitutes intrinsic value.22

Systemic, Extrinsic, and Intrinsic Value
Systemic value, extrinsic value, and intrinsic value are the three value dimensions. They constitute a hierarchy of value. Intrinsic value is more valuable than extrinsic value, and extrinsic more than systemic value. The hierarchy of value is a valuation of value.23

Part Three: The Structure of Value

Systematic vs. Empirical Import
Both the axiom and the system following from it have systematic and empirical import. The systematic import of the system is its logical structure. The empirical import is its capacity of accounting for the value realm, its applicability.24

Intensional Structures
Formal axiology is based upon the logical structure of intension. Various kinds of intensional structure are arrived at by applying the rules of set theory: finite, denumerably infinite, and nondenumerably infinite. These structures determine systemic, extrinsic, and intrinsic value. The intension, in formal axiology, is an axiometric structure.25

Fact and Value
Formal axiology arrives at value being the reality of which fact is the measure. Fact measures value, but that is all.26 Any value dimension is fact to the succeeding dimension and value to the preceding dimension.27 The relationship between systemic, extrinsic and intrinsic value corresponds to a process of continuous enrichment with leaps from one value dimension to the next.28

World of Fact vs. World of Value
As natural science creates a world of fact, so axiological science creates a world of value.29 The goodness of a thing is not the norm for the thing’s factuality, but for the thing’s value possibilities.30

Measure Value
While the systematic import arises from the axiometric nature of intension, its empirical import arises from its axiometric nature, its capacity to measure value. The value structure is the structure of the value form. The value measure is the measure of the value phenomenon.31

Intensional vs. Extensional Structures
Intensional structures are axiometric in the same fundamental sense that extensional structures are physiometric. The former measure value phenomena in the same sense that the latter measure physical phenomena. There is measurement in all three value dimensions. They have great differences among themselves.32

Dynamic Hierarchy of Values
The hierarchy of values is dynamic. The experience of the value dimensions follow each other in any order. The application of the combinatorial laws to the value dimensions constitutes the calculus of value. Calculus of value is applying exponentiation to the value dimensions.33

Calculus of Value
The calculus of value arises by combining the three value dimensions S (systemic), E (extrinsic), and I (intrinsic), and their arithmetical values. The combinations of these three value dimensions can either be compositions or transpositions.

Value Compositions vs. Value Transpositions
A composition of values is a positive valuation of one mode of value by another, while a transposition is a negative valuation. The most valuable value, that is, the value that fulfills the Value concept most fully, is intrinsic value. It is the positive value of a value.34

Secondary Value Combinations
There are nine compositions and nine transpositions of the three value dimensions.35 Here are the possible value combinations in the order of their axiological rank:

II, EI, SI, IE, IS, EE, SE, ES, SS, S-S, E-S, S-E, E-E, I-S, I-E, S-I, E-I, I-I

The formula II is , for example, intrinsic valuation of intrinsic value, such as valuing a baby. The formula I-E is, on the other hand, extrinsic disvaluation of intrinsic value, such as to regard people as functions. Regarding people as functions has, by the way, the same axiological value as making the worst of a good situation. As is obvious, the value combinations can be combined in turn. Thus arise tertiary, quaternary, etc., compositions and transpositions of value.36

Perversion of Value
Disvalue posing as value is a perversion of value. It is worse than straightforward disvaluation.37 An example is learning children to value not valuing themselves. The value formula (I-S)-S)S covers, for example, any situation where a systemic disvaluation of a systemic disvaluation of an intrinsic value is systemically valued.38 Like a mathematical formula, a value formula is capable of infinite interpretation.39

Robert S. Hartman defines science as the application of a logical frame of reference to a subject matter. Hartman’s specific approach to his value science makes use of combinatory mathematics. This makes an exact enumeration of the different value dimensions possible. Even the most complicated axiological arguments and situations can be analyzed by means of this calculus.40

The book itself is an excellent example of axiomatic synthesis. I found it interesting to see how Hartman constructs the foundations of his value science. He obviously knows philosophy, science, and mathematics very well! The book is well-structured and clearly written, but is also very demanding to read!

Hartman’s own hope is that the application of axiology to actual situations will lead to higher levels of insights into the world of value.41 For example, that axiology will help to expose the real evils of our civilization.42 Hartman’s book is a remarkable achievement and his insights are profound!

1 Robert S. Hartman, The Structure of Value: Foundations of Scientific Axiology (Wopf & Stock, 2011, first published 1967), p. 14.
2 Ibid., p. 46.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid., p. 48.
5 Ibid., p. 49.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 52.
8 Ibid., p. 53
9 Ibid., p. 60.
10 Ibid., p. 65.
11 Ibid., p. 64.
12 Ibid., p. 83.
13 Ibid., p. 84.
14 Ibid., p. 85.
15 Ibid., p. 102.
16 Ibid., p. 103.
17 Ibid., p. 104.
18 Ibid., p. 110.
19 Ibid., p. 112.
20 Ibid., p. 112.
21 Ibid., p. 113.
22 Ibid..
23 Ibid., p. 114.
24 Ibid., p. 154.
25 Ibid., p. 193.
26 Ibid., p. 220.
27 Ibid., p. 221.
28 Ibid., p. 223.
29 Ibid., p. 225.
30 Ibid., p. 226.
31 Ibid., p. 249.
32 Ibid., p. 250.
33 Ibid., p. 265.
34 Ibid., p. 268.
35 Ibid., pp. 272–274.
36 Ibid., p. 276.
37 Ibid..
38 Ibid., p. 277.
39 Ibid..
40 Ibid., p. 280.
41 Ibid., p. 311.
42 Ibid., p. 276.

Related book review:
Freedom to Live

Book Review: A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality

A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality by Donald W. Sherburne is a great guide to Whitehead’s philosophy! Alfred North Whitehead’s book Process and Reality (commonly referred to as PR) is extremely difficult to read.1 PR is rich and suggestive, but its opacity is monumental.2 The text of PR is in very poor condition. Whitehead refused to have anything to do with the publishing process.3

The challenge Donald W. Sherburne faced was to make the philosophy of PR more accessible than it is in the original.4 The book is, however, not just a series of comments about Whitehead. Sherburne makes sure that Whitehead speaks himself by drawing together Whitehead’s scattered observations topic by topic.5 Sherburne doesn’t give an exhaustive account of all aspects of Whitehead’s philosophy, and he doesn’t attempt a critical evaluation of what it does present.6 Sherburne has, however, added many explanatory paragraphs. He has also added several helpful diagrams not to be found in PR.7

Actual Entities
Whitehead presents an organic philosophy where actual entities, or actual occasions, are organisms that grow, mature, and perishes. The whole of PR is concerned with describing the characteristics and interrelationships between these actual entities.8 There is, according to Whitehead, no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. Whitehead’s presumption is that there is only one genus of actual entities.9 An actual entity is furthermore a process. It’s not describable in terms of ‘stuff.’10

Organism and Reason
Whitehead’s doctrine of organism is an attempt to describe the world as a process of generation of actual entities.11 Actual entities are the only reasons. This means that to search for a reason is to search for actual entities.12

Formative Elements
Actual entities emerges from the interaction of three formative elements. The first is pure potentiality.13 The second is the Whiteheadian concept of God.14 And the third formative element is creativity.15

Creativity is the concept that account for the perpetual creative advance into novelty, which is a cornerstone of Whitehead’s process philosophy.16 Creativity is the outcome of the interdependence of actual entities, the Principle of Relativity, and that every actual entity is superject as well as subject.17

Time and Consciousness
Whitehead incorporates the relativity theory in physics into the basic principles of his system. This means that there is no absolute time.18 It’s also important to grasp Whitehead’s analysis of consciousness. Consciousness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness.19

Transmutation and Nexus
Transmutation enables Whitehead to move from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic realm. Whitehead analyzes the way actual entities group themselves into aggregates.20 Transmutation is the operation whereby an aggregate of actual occasions, forming a nexus, is prehended not as a many, but as a unity, as one macrocosmic entity.21

Society and Order
A society is a nexus with social order.22 There is furthermore a hierarchy of societies.23 A structured society as a whole provides a favourable environment for the subordinate societies which it harbours within itself.24 Molecules are structured societies, and so are in all probability electrons and protons. But gases are not structured societies.25

Life and Conceptual Novelty
A structured society may have more or less ‘life.’. The primary meaning of ‘life’ is the origination of conceptual novelty. A society is only to be termed ‘living’ in a derivative sense.26 All societies require interplay with their environment. This interplay takes the form of robbery in the case of living societies.27 Living societies develop together with other societies which constitute an epoch.28

Metaphysics / Speculative Philosophy
I find Whitehead’s In Defense of Speculative Philosophy, in the Appendix, particularly interesting.29 It gives insights into the nature and scope of Whithead’s undertaking. It also gives insights into the subject of metaphysics, or speculative philosophy, itself.

Donald W. Sherburne’s book is excellent! It takes the reader into the heart of Whithead’s philosophy more quickly and easily than would have been possible otherwise. Whitehead is sometimes brilliant, but often incomprehensible. He frequently introduces new bewildering terminology. According to Sherburne, Whitehead is nevertheless often closer to traditional positions than his mode of speaking initially suggests.30 I am grateful for Sherburne’s impressive effort.

Surprisingly, reading Donald W. Sherburne’s book gave me insights into my own metaphysics. I can see that I’m very much influenced by David Bohm, who also thought about mind and matter, creativity and order. Interestingly, I think that Bohm went beyond Whitehead’s actual entities, or process. Order arises from process, but process arises from a deeper order. Active information, rather than process, is constitutive of the world.

This means that my metaphysics is a philosophy of in-form-ed order. Life itself has a complex and subtle order of infinite complexity and subtlety. Life’s various suborders are all arranged, connected, and organized together, clearly inseparable from the greater whole. Life is, therefore, an order of orders.

1 Donald W. Sherburne, A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality (The University of chicago Press, 1981, first published 1966), p. 1.¨
2 Ibid., p. 2.
3 Ibid., p. 5.
4 Ibid., p. 2.
5 Ibid., p. 3.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 4.
8 Ibid., p. 6.
9 Ibid., p. 7.
10 Ibid., p. 8.
11 Ibid., p. 17.
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 20.
14 Ibid., p. 25.
15 Ibid., p. 32.
16 Ibid., p. 33.
17 Ibid., p. 35.
18 Ibid., p. 38.
19 Ibid., p. 69.
20 Ibid., p. 72.
21 Ibid., p. 73.
22 Ibid., p. 78.
23 Ibid., p. 80.
24 Ibid., p. 84.
25 Ibid., p. 85.
26 Ibid., p. 88.
27 Ibid., p. 91.
28 Ibid., p. 95.
29 Ibid., pp. 191–204.
30 Ibid., p. 126.

Book Reeview: A Quaker Approach to Research

A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment by Gray Cox with Charles Blanchard, Geoff Garver, Keith Helmuth, Leonard Joy, Judy Lumb, and Sara Wolcott has grown out of a decade of experiments employing Quaker processes of communal discernment in research.1 The book itself is the product of collaborative work. Here’s my summary of the book together with a few conclusions.

Quaker practices
Quaker practices of communal discernment have been used since the mid-1600s. The tradition of practices have been refined and extended in a variety of contexts over the last 350 years.2 The Religious Society Friends is governed through communal discernment at all levels of the organization. There is no hierarchy that is authorized to provide a definite formulation of the practices.3 The early Quakers found methods that could be learned, open to all, and available at any time. This gave rise to a distinctive, holistic, and process-centered view of reality.4

Quaker faith
Quaker faith is not a set of beliefs, but a series of experiences that provide queries and leadings.5 According to the Quakers, everyone is related to the world, to each other, and to the Divine. This has to be understood in holistic and emergent ways. Rational ideas emerge from felt impulses and leadings. Collective intelligence is emergent and holistic.6

Truth and meaning / Feeling and reason
Quakers view truth as a living occurrence in the depth of bearing witness, speaking truth.7 Meaning is a communal process for the Quakers. It’s like a dance. Individuals are moving, but one dance is occuring. Quakers ask collectively what they mean. They may say different things, and yet somehow speak with one voice. Feeling and reason are viewed as interactive with one another.8

Interdependent becoming
The self is viewed as social and transitional, as becoming. At the heart of the community is a spirit that grows out of each one and into each one. This view means that thoughts and actions are guided by what is best for individuals as interdependent parts of the whole group.9 Concerns are raised, discussed, and subjected to reflection until unity is reached.10

Quaker decision-making
The process of Quaker decision-making can be described as five overlapping phases:11

1. Quieting Impulses. Entering the Silence.
2. Addressing Concerns. Listening attentively, discerning the truth, and how to live in right relationship with others.
3. Exploring Responses and Gathering shared Insights. Seeing things from different perspectives, trying to understand them in a more clear, coherent and complete way.
4. Finding Clearness. Sharing has allowed differences to find an inclusive unity.
5. Bearing Witness. Understanding leads to embodied action in the world.

Here is an example of Quaker decision-making in a secular context.

Quaker epistemology
Epistemology refers to the study of knowledge. Quakers have distinctive epistemic practices that include criteria and methods for how they know.12 Communal discernment is viewed as a human potential in general. It’s assumed that it’s possible to include communal discernment in any practices, methods, or approaches, as long as it’s done from the larger frame of Love rather than competition. A key element is deep listening, which allows tacit knowledge – and doubt – to find expression.13 The silence, the presence of attentive others, can all help to deepen the listening, and the levels of thought and feeling.14

Research as open-ended query
The Quaker process of communal discernment has successfully been adopted to research and sharing its results.13 It’s helpful to frame a research project as an open-ended query. Queries do not ask for immediate and simple answers, but invite extended reflection and questioning.14 The aim is to bring unity to the insight and focus to the analysis in ways that provide the clarity and simplicity that comes from seeing things as part of a whole.15

Observation and critical thinking
Socializing and social bonding are important in building a research community. The more participants are involved and leading activities, the more effective they are.16 Central to communal discerning is working out of the silence and practice deep listening.17 Conviction and humility need to be in constant interplay in discernment.18 Research calls for keen observation and critical thinking, but also an ability to collaboratively seek to discern the truth.19 Communal discernment can be practiced in many ways. It creates shared ownership of understandings, decisions, and actions.

Other traditions / Indigenous cultures
Egalitarian circles in which people speak out of silence are practiced in indigenous cultures around the world.20 Such traditions approach the construction of knowledge and the emergence of guidance through communal process.21 Group silence is one of the keys that underlies collaborative discernment and value-based decision-making.22 The encounter with silence is enriched when in community with others.23 Someone trained in one tradition may bring language, experience, and skills to the study of another.24

Sharing of methods
The Quaker approach to research should be understood as a proposal to enrich methods of modern science, by using open and inclusive dialogue in communal discernment.25 Interpersonal and collaborative methods can be practiced in a wide variety of settings.26 The sharing of methods between mainstream science and communal discernment traditions raises important philosophical questions.27

Common understanding
The Quaker process provides one way to increase impartiality. It is an inclusive approach that excludes no one from the research process. It allows a larger holistic understanding.28 Communal discernment aims at a ”unity” that is grounded in a common understanding and vision.29 It promotes open dialogue and is useful in research that requires collaboration among multiple disciplines. Processes seeking unity offer better prospects for arriving at reasonable and coherent ways of dealing with research issues.30

Exploration of possibilities
Much of human behavior is exploratory and experimental, and is not describable or explainable without the use of purpose, function, and intentionality.31 Adapting lives and improving behavior calls for the exploration of possibilities that are often difficult to discern. Many natural and human processes are full of emergence, non-linearity, chaos and other complex features. Centering down, entering a silence, allows listening and looking more deeply, discerning what’s possible.32

Languages structure social reality
Many social scientists have found it difficult to pursue research on humans within the framework offered by the natural sciences. And many philosophers have argued that there are systematic reasons why studies of humans must be pursued in ways that are different from classical natural science. The languages humans speak structure social reality. Interpreting human activity is more like reading a text than manipulating a mathematical formula. These basic points have been developed in a variety of ways by philosophers, anthropologists, historians, and social researchers.33

Values in-form contexts
Humans have a self-understanding, which is defined by purposes and values, as well as background assumptions they make about the world and their context. Their understanding is part of what constitutes the structure and nature of their actions and the context for such actions.34 Studying people requires learning their language and learning how they describe what they are doing and why.35 The language and practices that structure such activity differ from mathematical and mechanical descriptions and explanations. Human languages must be interpreted in a holistic way. Languages are value laden, and the values in-form and provide contexts. Such language is not reducible to axiomatic expression the way mathematical language is.36

Incoherency creates conflict
Self-understandings are almost always incomplete. And any incoherency in understanding creates conflict. Communal discernment, as a form of participatory research, can be effective toward improving understanding, mitigating in-coherencies, and reducing conflict. A high level of inclusiveness and participation is needed to avoid partisan bias and to advance knowing that includes all possible perspectives.37

Discernment is value in-formed
The functions of quieting impulses, seeking unity, finding clearness, and bearing witness can facilitate research of human social behavior.38 These functions give communal discernment its unique and helpful place in social research. Research on human communities involves studying how they discern and act based on their understanding of where they are, what they are doing, and why. The discerning of potentialities is value laden and value in-formed.39

Experiences and logical definitions
Participatory research begins with empathic listening and observing and moves through to collaborative, critical participation involving compassion.40 People who enter dialogue with each other are not mere things. They are persons who can call themselves into question and critique their entire view of the world in deeper engagement with the reality of the Other.41 They are inevitably called to treat the Other as a You, with whom they can enter into agreements as a We.42 These are vital and real experiences, and yet they elude logical definition. While this can be experienced, it cannot be defined. Attempts to analyze the experience of the lived moment as a Presence, or an ongoing Present, have proved frustrating and perplexing.43

If no one asks me, I know;
if I wish to explain it … , I know not.

– Augustine44

Grounded in shared experiences
There are in fact fundamental aspects of experience that are quite real and of central importance in understanding human life, but which elude the kind of definitions sought in mathematics, logic, and natural science. Quakers approaches such experiences with acknowledging the reality of what is experienced as well as the difficulty in capturing it in words. Their approach is grounded, not in metaphysical abstractions, but in shared experiences.45

Open, dynamic, growing insights
The Quaker experience is that rational beliefs about the world, and wise choices for acting in it, are not arrived at by simply following one’s own assumptions and observations.46 Instead, dialogue with others is necessary. The role of silence is not to shut out the world but to help quiet the inner monologue so that it becomes possible to listen, and to enter in dialogue with others. These experiences are open, dynamic, growing insights into realities characterized by emergence.47

Entering into dialogue with others in the lived moment, and being Present with them as people rather than things, are central to the experience of being human. Quaker experience provides a context that opens the process of communal discernment into broad avenues of application, including decision-making and research.48

Communal discernment methods are useful in the context of discovery. This approach makes the case that seeking unity and truth is better than appealing to interests and powers. Communal discernment can help to create a more complete and accurate understanding for all participants.49 This kind of sharing can result in more authentic and trustworthy knowledge.50

The sixth great extinction of life in planetary history is underway. We are called to act, and to act now. Yet we are also called to pause, reflect, and be humbled by our lack of understanding. A key step towards the humility needed involves questioning our current beliefs.51 We have much to learn about how to practice humility and how to use collective discernment.52

I like the book! I’m very interested in how communal discernment can be used as a practice to enhance collaboration between people. I also think that communal discernment is an example of a deeper generative order for organizing.53 The book is highly relevant to the challenges we now face as a humanity!

1 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment (Quaker Institute for the Future, 2014), p. ix.
2 Ibid., p. xi.
3 Ibid., p. 1.
4 Ibid., p. 2.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid., p. 3.
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p. 4.
9 Ibid., p. 5.
10 Ibid., pp. 5–6.
11 Ibid., p. 6.
12 Ibid., p. 13.
13 Ibid., p. 14.
14 Ibid., pp. 14–15.
13 Ibid., p. 12.
14 Ibid., p. 15.
15 Ibid., p. 18.
16 Ibid., p. 19.
17 Ibid., p. 20.
18 Ibid., p. 24.
19 Ibid., p. 30.
20 Ibid., p. 31.
21 Ibid., p. 32.
22 Ibid., p. 35.
23 Ibid., p. 36.
24 Ibid., p. 37.
25 Ibid., p. 40.
26 Ibid., p. 43.
27 Ibid., p. 45.
28 Ibid., p. 48.
29 Ibid., p. 50.
30 Ibid., p. 51.
31 Ibid..
32 Ibid., p. 56.
33 Ibid., p. 58.
34 Ibid., p. 59.
35 Ibid., pp. 59–60.
36 Ibid., p. 60.
37 Ibid., p. 61.
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid., p. 64.
40 Ibid., p. 65.
41 Ibid., p. 66.
42 Ibid., pp. 66–67.
43 Ibid., p. 67.
44 St. Augustine, The Confessions, Book XI, http://sacred-texts.com/chr/augconf/aug11.htm (accessed 2017-03-01).
45 Gray Cox et al., A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research: Collaborative Practice and Communal Discernment (Quaker Institute for the Future, 2014), p. 68.
46 Ibid., p. 68–69.
47 Ibid., p. 69.
48 Ibid..
49 Ibid., p. 70.
50 Ibid., p. 71.
51 Ibid., p. 72.
52 Ibid., p. 73.
53 For more information on deeper generative orders for organizing, see this series of posts.

Book Review: How Does Societal Transformation Happen?

How Does Societal Transformation Happen? Values Development, Collective Wisdom, and Decision Making for the Common Good is a small 87 page book, or booklet, by Leonard Joy.  Joy has more than half a century of experience of development research and fieldwork, and a long involvement with collaborative decision-making processes.1

Valuing human dignity
Leonard Joy sees individual values development as a prototype for societal transformation,2 and has much to say about collaborative discernment and collective decision-making for the common good.3 He starts with the proposition that we need to accept responsibility for the future of the planet and need to seek a society that values human dignity.4

Living systems
Living system die if they fail to interact adaptively to their environments.5 Living requires continuous structural accommodation in response to interaction with the context.6 Individuals adapt to society, and society to changing individuals.7

Key assumptions
The booklet is based on the view that:8

  • Values are reflected in our choices and behaviors.
  • Values develop (higher values build on lower ones).
  • Societal transformation involves a progressive shift in values.
  • Individuals mature as values develop.
  • Values development is a potential common to all individuals.
  • Individuals, societies, and the human species co-evolve.
  • A minimum level of values development is required to sustain the environment, society, and progress of the human species.
  • Shifts in values supported by organizations depend upon shifts in individual values.
  • Understanding how values shift occurs is helpful in understanding how to promote societal transformation.

All self-organizing living systems change continuously. Leonard Joy’s concern is how to promote transformational change.9 Individual life-changing transformations have relevance for societal change.10 Personal transformation shifts the relationship of the individual to the other. And societal transformation shifts relationships between people, and between individuals and society.11

Reflection is key to change
Individuals change through their lives. Values evolve through experiences and reflection.12 Key metaphors provide the basis for our worldviews and our responses to a wide range of situations.13 Value shifts are themselves a consequence of changes in worldviews.14 Reflection is key to change. Asking why makes values conscious.15

Society as a living system
A society’s development can be assessed by the quality of relationships it supports.16 A good society is one where people relate well to themselves, to others, and to the environment.17 Reliable interdependence of the parts and the whole – and the absence of exploitative dominance by any part – is necessary in healthy living system.18 Society is itself a complex, adaptive, living system.19

The alternative to responding with greater awareness of the interdependence of the parts and the whole, may be regression into xenophobia, paranoia, isolationism, and controlling/aggressive behavior.20 History is replete with societal examples of such regression.21

Values can or should not be imposed. They need to be found by experience and reflection.22 Linking individual and societal change through conversation is particularly important.23 Societal transformation is not possible without personal transformation to self-reflection, inner-directedness, and a concern for integrity.24

Institutional behaviors need to be questioned directly.25 Collective pressures are necessary to change our institutions.26 While personal transformation is essential to societal transformation, it needs to occur in community and be guided by a worldview that understands interdependence and society as a living system.27

Creating space for conversation and reflection
Pathology is found with imbalance of power and a failure of feedback and responsiveness. Its manifestations can be seen in tyranny, oppression, exploitation, and coercion. There are subtler and less obvious forms that still are pathological.28 Public dialogue is necessary to identify and press for needed change.29

Values development is promoted by creating space for conversation and reflection about the way we live.30 A shared concern for human dignity will carry us far in agreeing on what needs to change and how to promote change.31 We need to address those with power in society who continue to make choices based on narrow perceptions of national or corporate interests.32

Developing collective leadership
We need a deliberate, collective, purposeful intent.33 Conversation is essential for creating and internalizing a shared vision, for discovering what we share, and our aspirations.34 There is a ground of being that we share as humans that we can all tap into, and that we need to learn to tap into.35 We will find resonance in our sense of the common good when we are grounded in our humanity.36

We need to learn how to evoke collective intelligence and apply it to responding to reality.37 We need to develop ways in which the unity that is found in small groups becomes a unity of groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups.38

Leadership needs to become a collective process for organizational capacities to advance.39 The development of such leadership and the development of a culture of dialogue need to be given priority.40

Conversations need to impact governance decision-making
Values, worldviews, and operative metaphors are tightly interconnected.41 Embodied metaphors strongly influence behavior and the level of values development.42 The validity of these metaphors need to be examined.43

One challenging aspect is the increasingly disproportionate voice of those with economic power.44 Businesses need to be organized to become more fully human and become responsible for their citizenship in relation to society and the environment.45

We need to see where energies are best focused to be effective for change.46 Public conversations are needed that are informed dialogues rather than adversarial confrontations.47 Above all, such conversations need to impact governance decision-making everywhere.48

Participatory governance is beyond elections
While higher values can be promoted and nurtured, legislation will not of itself change values.49 When various understandings are brought together they create new understanding.50 It is explicit awareness of, reflection on, and engagement with each other around what we believe and value that is key to change.51 Values offer guidance for action.

Widespread awareness of and sensitivity to values and their development constitute a significant shift in worldview.52 Truly participatory governance is beyond elections.53 A living systems understanding of healthy self-organization, co-adaption, and development set ourselves on a resilient and sustainable path of human development.54

Collective intelligence
Skills that can draw upon our collective intelligence are critical.55 The neglect of concerns may be acute when not all voices are equally heard.56 There are many examples of sustained decision making in which collective wisdom prevailed using the Quaker practice of decision making.57 The Quaker practice has evolved over the past 350 years and stands up well in secular contexts.58 The following are the essentials:59

  • Grounding of all participants. Serve the task rather than the ego. Open up to the awareness of the larger whole, hold the meeting community in care.
  • Ensuring that all voices are heard. There need to be no competition to be allowed to speak.
  • Respect for all persons. Respect for both the participants in the meeting and those outside. Move beyond agreement to mutual caring. Name and call hidden agendas into question. Calm underlying fear. All legitimate interests must be heard, respected, and protected.
  • Maintaining community-loving relationship. A decision is never a victory for one view or another. Ensure the articulation of dissent. Make sure that it is fully received and felt to be truly heard. Assess the readiness of the meeting and dissenters to move on.
  • Speaking out of the silence. Silence helps people to ground themselves in what they are feeling and the roots of their feeling. Silence allows a contribution to be fully absorbed, and allows subsequent contributions to flow from a grounded state.
  • Sensitivity to interdependence–open systems thinking. This implies understanding the wider context of a concern, and how it affects the good of the whole.
  • Addressing the clerk not one another. Reinforce the sense that each contribution adds a new piece to the total picture.
  • Speaking simply. Avoid tricks of speech designed to bully or obfuscate. Ask for brevity and avoid repetition. Summarize the essence. Speak one’s truth. Focus on what should be, rather on what is wrong.
  • Commitment to air dissent. Unity is not possible if some withhold dissent. Openness is essential. Truth emerges from consideration of all perspectives. Make it safe to express dissent.
  • Equality of voice. Avoid bias that might come from the influence of status.
  • Being authentic with the expression of feeling. Authentic, grounded expression is key. Simulation of emotion is entirely inadmissible.
  • Threshing meetings. Air major differences of feeling or understanding without the need to make any decisions.
  • Factual and analytical material. Decisions need to be informed by data and analysis.
  • Role of the clerk. The clerk periodically summarizes the collective perception as the meeting evolves. Sensing the willingness of the meeting to proceed is critical.
  • Decisions made by unity. A united meeting is not necessarily of one mind but it is all of one heart. Compromise is only acceptable where legitimate concerns are irreconcilable.
  • Larger organizational structures. It is one thing to secure the wisdom of a group, it is another to find the collective wisdom of many people. The Quaker structure of monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings has proven effective even where large numbers of people are involved.

Individuals and society both advance and constrain each other. Conversations are particularly important in linking individual and societal change. A culture of dialogue is fundamental for discernment of collective wisdom. Dialogue provokes reflection, and reflection supports individual development. The lived values of individuals promote societal change.

The effectiveness of collective decision making is dependent on the participants’ willingness to walk the talk. The behavior expected of those participating is reflective of a high order of values development. This is particularly true for the necessary leadership. The clerk or facilitator needs to secure observance of appropriate behavior and appreciation of its value to all. This requires not only facilitating skills, but also a level of values development.

I think that the individual and societal transformation which Leonard Joy writes about is as applicable to organizational transformation. Organizational development is dependent upon individual value development. Skills won’t help if the individual doesn’t embrace the necessary values, and if the organization doesn’t support them.

It’s a great but small book. I would love if it was turned into a full sized book. Leonard Joy is very experienced, and the topic is important and highly relevant!

1 Leonard Joy, How does Societal Transformation Happen? Values Development, Collective Wisdom, and Decision Making for the Common Good (Quaker Institute for the Future, 2011), p. 7.
2 Ibid., p. 8.
3 Ibid., p. 9.
4 Ibid., p. 10.
5 Ibid., p. 13.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., pp. 13–14.
9 Ibid., p. 14.
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 15.
12 Ibid., p. 16.
13 Ibid., p. 22.
14 Ibid., p. 25.
15 Ibid., p. 26.
16 Ibid., p. 27.
17 Ibid..
18 Ibid..
19 Ibid., p. 28.
20 Ibid., p. 29.
21 Ibid., p. 30.
22 Ibid., p. 31.
23 Ibid..
24 Ibid., p. 33.
25 Ibid..
26 Ibid., p. 34.
27 Ibid..
28 Ibid., p. 35.
29 Ibid..
30 Ibid., p. 36.
31 Ibid., p. 37.
32 Ibid..
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid., p. 38.
35 Ibid., p. 39.
36 Ibid..
37 Ibid., p. 40.
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid., p. 41.
40 Ibid., p. 42.
41 Ibid., p. 47.
42 Ibid., p. 45.
43 Ibid..
44 Ibid., p. 46.
45 Ibid..
46 Ibid., p. 49.
47 Ibid., p. 52.
48 Ibid..
49 Ibid..
50 Ibid..
51 Ibid., p. 53.
52 Ibid., p. 56.
53 Ibid..
54 Ibid., p. 57.
55 Ibid., p. 59.
56 Ibid..
57 Ibid., p. 60.
58 Ibid., p. x.
59 Ibid., pp. 60–66.

Bok Review: If Aristotle Ran General Motors

Tom Morris asks in his book If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soulf of Business what Aristotle would have done to ”create lasting excellence and long-term success in the business world” (p.ix)? Tom Morris believes that ”there are some basic truths … which undergird any sort of human excellence or flourishing” (p.x). ”Regardless of context … the same principles must be used” (p.xi).

Focus on deeply human issues
Tom Morris suggests that ”the single most important factor for dealing with all the problems we face … is our ability to look within” (p.xii). He thinks that it’s necessary ”to focus on the deeply human issues of happiness, satisfaction, meaning, and fulfillment in the workplace” (p.xiv). We need to ”reflect deeply” on some of our ”most basic assumptions” (p.6).

Tom Morris has ”come to understand more deeply than every before the overall importance of work in our lives, as well as the importance of bringing more of life to work” (p.8). People ”will not be able to flourish … in conditions that have not been wisely developed … to what … most fundamentally matters to us all” (p.8). ”People do their best when they enjoy what they are doing” (p.12). ”Happiness is participation in something that brings fulfilment” (p.16).

Four dimensions of human experience
The ”four crucial dimensions of human experience” that structure the book, and all of human life, are (pp.19–20):

  1. ”The Intellectual Dimension, which aims at Truth”
  2. ”The Aesthetic Dimension, which aims at Beauty”
  3. ”The Moral Dimension, which aims at Goodness”
  4. ”The Spiritual Dimension, which aims at Unity”

1. Truth
”Truth is the foundation for trust,” and trust is ”an absolute necessity for truly effective interpersonal activity” (p.30). ”Trust is like a lubricant for human relations” (p.46). Furthermore, ”truth must always be handled in such a way as to be consistent with beauty, goodness, and unity” (p.33). ”We should all strive to create a context in which people are not afraid to share what may be hard truths” (p.35). ”Respecting the truth, caring for it, and nurturing it … is everybody’s job” (p.47). ”No firmer foundation for … excellence can be built” according to Tom Morris (p.47).

”What we do … is a consequence of what we think” (p.48). ”And how we do … is a result of how we think” (p.48). Deep background assumptions ”form the rails along which our trains of thought and action run” (p.49). There may be no better approach to ”the most productive sort of empowerment” than ”collaborative partnership” (p.64). ”Collaborative work requires taking other people’s ideas seriously” (p.65). ”Collaboration is founded on truth” (p.65). And launching ”collaborative ways of working should itself be done … collaboratively” (p.65).

2. Beauty
Beauty is one of the ”aesthetic dimensions of human life” (p.70). ”Ugliness is its polar opposite” (p.70). One way to ”appreciate the role of beauty in human experience” is to reflect ”on its absence” (p.70). Absence of beauty is ”a drain on … personal energy, and a threat to motivation and creativity” (p.71). Tom Morris suspects that ”we are only beginning to understand and appreciate the significant role” beauty ”can play in human flourishing and organizational excellence” (p.78).

”We frequently deal with people on an intellectual level alone” (p.79). We expect people to work with ”machinelike regularity and precision”, but they need more than ”the bare physical necessities for doing their work” (p.79). There is a kind of beauty in ”the act of performance itself” (p.81). ”The relevance of this … is direct and extremely important” (p.81). People need ”to be artists exercising their creativity in any small or large ways” (p.81). This is related to ”some of the deepest issues of human motivation” (p.84).

Tom Morris believes that it’s crucial that ”we understand something important about the meaning of life” (p.86). His own conclusion is that: ”The meaning of life is—creative love. Loving creativity” (p.94). ”Our creative performances are … to be thought of as reflection of the love that brought us into being” (p.95).

The ”challenge of change has always been with us” (p.96). When ”both employer and employees … share” a foundation of basic values, … then they can move forward together with some measure of confidence despite tremendous change” (p.97). Tom Morris believes that ”all the people within a business should be thought of as partners” (p.103).

Ideally, all ”within a business” and others ”affected by its activities” should ”prosper and live better” (p.104). Tom Morris thinks Aristotle would have said: ”Always think of yourself as entering with other people into partnerships for living well” (p.104). ”This highly general truth” has ”deep beauty” which provides a perspective on ”specific decisions we face” (p.104).

People in ”productive partnership” need ”to share purposes which are rooted in their deepest values” (p.105). The shared purposes need to have been arrived at through ”mutual exploration and development” (p.105). The partnership has to be ”a true collaboration,” where all parties bring ”the best of who they are, what they know, and what they can” (p.105). ”For all of human history, something like a neighborhood has mattered greatly” (p.108).

3. Goodness
Goodness may be ”the most misunderstood of all four basic dimensions of human life” (p.115). ”It is also … one of the most unappreciated in business matters” (p.115). It’s undeniable that ”one of the most common ways of departing from goodness is departing from truth” (p.117).

Too often people take ”a negative and legalistic approach to ethics as … no more than a matter of … compliance” (p.120). There are typically two ways of approaching ethics. ”One is to do the right thing” (p.120). The other is ”to camouflage” what you do ”to make it look as if you’re doing the right thing” (p.120). Ethics is ”not just a matter of staying out of trouble or avoiding legal problems,” but involves creating ”conditions under which people can be their best and do their best” (p.122).

”Long-term thinking” has in many contexts been replaced ”exclusively by short-term thinking” (p.132), where ”greed and the lust for power” seem to be driving forces (p.129). In this kind of climate, ”the urgent easily pushes out the important” (p.132). Far too often, ”human values get subordinated or simply reduced to monetary economic values” (p.133). ”In too many businesses the only concern seems to be to make the numbers come out right” (p.133).

A great number of people argue ”that for good ethical decisions, we need rules, lots and lots of rules” (p.142). ”In this view, goodness is a matter of following the rules” (p.142). In this approach, ”the emphasis is on compliance” (p.143). However, ”rules almost never help” (p.143). The ”bad people will find loopholes and other ways around the rules” (p.143). And the ”good people do the right thing anyway” (p.143). ”Rules can be very important, but there are things that are even more important” (p.144). In the final analysis, ”moral interpretation must come from somewhere beyond the realm of rules” (p.149). Rules must be ”rooted in something deeper if they are to bear proper fruit in our lives” (p.150). ”Ethics is not algorithmic; it’s never just a matter of calculating from rules” (p.161).

”People can’t be their best or do their best without relying on both the wisdom to see what ought to be done and the virtue required for doing it” (pp.150–151). Tom Morris has come to believe that ”a person’s character is his or her settled degree of wisdom and virtue, an established pattern of thought, feeling, and behavior that has arisen out of repeated action and reaction in the world” (p.151). ”Integrity does not let you deviate from the wholeness of your values for the sake of temporary gain” (p.152). ”It does not allow you to disregard the demands of truth and goodness in deciding what you will do” (p.152).

Tom Morris writes that it ”sounds old fashioned … , but only the soil of ethical goodness can nurture the human qualities necessary for people to work together well over the long haul” (p.157). The most important thing Tom Morris has learned from studying ethics is: ”Whenever you make a decision, whenever you act, you are never just doing, you are always becoming” (p.164). ”Every decision, and every action, has implications not only out there in the world but in our innermost beings” (p.164). ”From our most fundamental forms of thinking flow our attitudes, our emotions, our decisions, and our actions” (p.168).

4. Unity
Unity is ”the proper culmination of the other three, both undergirding and overarching them” (p.173). ”Work can be satisfying and meaningful only if it contributes to meeting our most basic spiritual needs” (p.173). When Tom Morris writes about ”the spiritual, the spirit, or spirituality,” he is ”not necessarily talking about anything distinctly religious at all” (p.174).

Spirituality is fundamentally ”depth and connectedness” (p.174). It is ”the depth beneath the surface, the meaning and significance that don’t always meet the eye” (p.177). ”At work, it’s the ability to see and do the real job at hand in a way that doesn’t usually show up in the official job description” (p.177). People need ”to have this deeper view of their jobs individually as well as of what the organization as a whole is doing in the world” (p.177).

”The ultimate target of the spiritual dimension is unity: connectedness, or intimate integration, between our thoughts and our actions, between our beliefs and emotions, between ourselves and others, between human beings and the rest of nature, between all of nature and nature’s source” (p.179).

”Fragmentation, … and a false sense of autonomy are modern diseases of thought and feeling” (p.180). ”What affects one of us affects many of us” (p.180). ”We are all interconnected in our past, in our present, and in our future” (p.180). And we are ”essentially social beings who depend on community” (p.180). ”Everything we do should be thought through in the context of its next larger environment, and that in its next larger environment, and so on” (p.181).

Unity is always ”connected with concerns of truth, beauty, and goodness” (p.181). Truth, spoken in love, is ”the most resilient and lasting tie for connecting people and organizations” (p.181). ”Likewise, beauty is an element of … connectedness” (p.181). ”When we connect our work with meanings and purposes … , we find the result to be beautiful” (p.181). ”The greatest beauty in human relations comes about through the …  integration of truth and goodness in unity” (p.181).

”We all have a deep need for” uniqueness, union, usefulness, and understanding (p.183). ”We all need to feel unique” (p.183). ”We contribute best … when we are unafraid of bringing our distinctive perspectives” (p.187). We also have a deep need to feel as if we ”belong to something important, something bigger than the individual self” (p.189). We all have a deep need ”to feel useful to others, and an equally significant need to understand where we are, where we’re going, and why” (p.200). ”We need … some strong sense of direction” (p.206).The ”kind of understanding that is … part of the spiritual dimension goes beyond the merely intellectual” (p.211)

”Organizational success and … personal satisfaction require significant doses of truth, beauty, goodness, and unity” (p.212). These four values are the ”foundations of sustainable excellence and human flourishing” (p.212). ”We have a tendency not to sink our roots deeply enough” (p.212). ”We cannot be at our creative and energetic best unless we are planted in rich fertile soil” (p.213).

The book is full of deep timeless wisdom about human life, happiness, and motivation. However, the book also contains misinformation. It’s ironic that the part on truth in the book isn’t entirely truthful. With the benefit of hindsight, at least one of the recognized ”masters at company renovation” — who were said to have ”a visceral affinity for truth” twenty years ago — didn’t have ”the capacity to handle the truth, the ability to get at it, and the skill to use it well” (p.27).

Book Review: Pathways to Possibility

Pathways to Possibility: Transforming Our Relationship with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World is written by Rosamund Stone Zander, who has ”dedicated the last fifteen years” to understanding ”human growth and expansion” (p.xiv). The book teaches its readers to distinguish between two broad approaches to life: the ”downward spiral” and ”radiating possibility” (p.xv).

Two ways of being
There are two broad approaches to life. ”Each is a way of being” (p.xv). The assumption of the ”downward spiral” is that life is about survival (p.xv). You are ”faced with the fearful prospect that you might … lose” (p.xv).  The assumption of ”radiating possibility” is, on the other hand, that you ”at any time” can adapt to ”the magnificent flow of the way things are” (p.xv). The world will then ”reflect the change in you, … showing you a path to where you want to go and what you want to do” (p.xv). The book has four parts which illuminates ”new pathways for growth” (pp.xv–xvi). Here’s a short summary.

1. The All of You, in Stories
The first part of the book demonstrates how the ”traumas of childhood provoke … rigid patterns of thought and behavior that persist into the future” (p.xvi). The stories in this part shows ”how patterns develop” and how they can be changed ”to reflect life as it is now and ourselves as we are now” (p.xvi). ”Patterns of attachment that remain below consciousness tend to play out … into the future” (p.14).

We have ”no tradition … of identifying patterns that affect us, or … that lead us where we have no intention of going” (p.17). ”The patterns … are sourced from deeper structures … that are not under the control of the reasoning mind” (p.18). Our perception is ”filtered through layers of perceptual twists and assumptions” (p.19). Our actions are ”drawn forth by … [the] story we tell that we are convinced is real” (p.19). And our sense of ”wholeness depends on our achieving some kind of coherent narrative of our lives” (p.21). Change happens in a ”milieu of emotional contact” (p.21). Even ”a conversation alone might be sufficient to cause a transformation” (p.41).

2. You on Behalf of Others
The second part turns ”our attention outward” and enables ”us to see through the … stories and patterns that hold other people back” (p.xvi). We learn to avoid ”being advice givers (at best) and meddlers (at worst)” and to ”connect with others on an energetic level … for realizing our collective dreams” (pp.xvi-xvii). It is ”the quality of our being that is transformative” (p.81). ”Transformation … can be instantaneous where people are engaged in a shared goal” (p99). Small actions ”can birth big accomplishments” (p.111).

One of the lessons is that ”if you open your eyes and heart and assume you can see what wants to happen,” you will ”know when to act swiftly and when to bide your time, and it won’t be a personal thing” (p.123). Seek ”to tune in and increase resonance” (p.135). Articulate what you ”want to see happen, clearly, and without equivocation” (p.135). Speak to ”the human being within who, assured of safety, is naturally cooperative” (p.135).

3. You in Partnership
The third part tells stories of ”accomplishments by people who sought to move in tune with the way things are” (p.xvii). This allowed them ”to enter into [an] energetic connection with life around them” (p.xvii). Everything is dynamically ”making connections, reacting, and changing” (p.143). We are ”part of a greater network, an ecosystem” (p.144). ”There seems to be … a principle of self-organizing emerging systems” (p.144). ”It appears that the wider we extend our frame, the more we understand how deeply patterned is the universe” (p.144).

There are ”no closed systems in nature,” although it is so ”convenient to deal with limited facts” (p.145). The ”more we open our eyes to how things are working within and around us on different scales, the more likely we will get the chance to … dance with it all” (p.146). We can ”enhance the possibility of a particular outcome by doing our best, but we can’t guarantee it because there are always other forces at work beyond our control” (p.150). ”We can think of Nature as a process in flow, … integrating the new into rising levels of coherence” (p.152). We either ”get in tune with her” or, if we don’t, we’re out (p.152).

Being out of touch ”with nature’s processes is related to the carelessness with which we sever connections, even among ourselves” (p.169). As nature’s partner, ”we are in an evolving process, … opening to new information, … searching and listening for evolving order” (p.171). It’s about ”cooperating with rather than opposing the way things are” (p.179). If, for example, ”the musicians and the audience are attuned on all levels, it is possible to feel integration happening in the moment that allows … a new step into unknown territory” (p.185). It’s a territory where ”the distinction between what it is that we want and what life wants fades and ultimately disappears” (p.189). ”We feel whole and in tune …” (p.189). We enter into the territory by ”committing to … exploration” (p.190). We simply ”engage without reservation, without knowing the outcome” (p.191).

4. A Pack of Games
The final section presents  a series of ”infinite games,” where there are ”no winners or losers” (p.xvii). If we ”engage fully,” we may ”become occasional conduits for … attunement with life” (p.xvii). ”The game with no goal and no limits, … has the power to get you back in step, to bring you back to your center” (p.208). This is an exploration ”where you are no longer an individual making it on your own”, but ”where you feel a compelling connectivity to everything around you” (p.212). It ”brings you into a … state of presence where you can optimally interact with the world” (p.217).

”We resists in so many ways” (p.228). When we ”let go” we are releasing the hold that our ”emotions, assumptions, and opinions” have over us (p.229). When we release our resistance, we can notice ”how things are joined in motion”, including us (p.233). There are ”connections everywhere” (p.233). ”Everything changes everything else” (p.235). Nature moves to ”resolve states of dissonance into states of resonance” (p.235).

”Opportunities for getting in tune exist wherever we turn if we look for them” (p.241). Life is ”a cooperative venture” (p.242). ”It takes awareness, rhythm, coordination, and joie de vivre to live it fully” (p.242). There are ”two vast interpenetrated arenas of human experience” (p.242). One is our ”internal life,” and the other is ”the world we relate to outside our skin” (p.242). ”It’s a rhythm thing” (p.242).  We are ”cocreators and coevolvers with Nature” as long as ”we stay aware of the rhythms,” and ”make course corrections when we are off-track” (p.244).

It’s so easy to put all attention on the outside work, and leave out completely the inner work of personal development. Inner work is necessary to keep us in tune with ourselves and each other. Resonance is created when there is an attunement between the outside and the inside of us. And resonance amplifies the energy. Most organizations profess to believe in transparency, passion, and integrity, but lip service won’t do it. The book  encourages us to examine outdated assumptions. It also reminds us of the possible paths going forward.

Book Review: A Mind of Your Own

A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives is written by Kelly Brogan,1 who is a psychiatrist. It’s a book focusing on women’s health, but what Brogan writes about depression and food is applicable to men as well. Brogan is a pragmatist, natural skeptic, and likes to think for herself.2 Part of Kelly Brogan’s motivation in writing the book is to help the reader develop a new watching, questioning eye.3 At the center of Brogan’s message is the relationship between the food we eat and our body and brain’s biochemistry.4

Kelly Brogan highlights the misinformation in industry-funded studies. The Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark estimates, for example, that the suicide rate among antidepressant users is some fifteen times higher than what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US reports publicly.5 The predominant theory behind antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) grew out of preliminary and largely inconsistent observations made in the 1950s and ’60s.6 Six decades of study have revealed conflicting, confusing, and inconclusive data.

There has never been a study that successfully links low serotonin with depression. On the contrarly, high serotonin appears to be a downer, not an upper.7  Antidepressants have repeatedly been shown in long-term studies to worsen the course of mental illness. Furthermore, antidepressants are more difficult to taper from than alcohol and opiates.8 If you think a pill can save or cure you, you’re dead wrong.9

Another example of misinformation is related to food. Since the 1950s we’ve been told that eating fat makes you fat. It all started with a misinterpretation of a manipulated study in 1958. Six countries were selected to show a correlation between the consumption of saturated fat and heart disease. There is no such correlation in the data from all twenty-two nations in the study. The shift from traditional fats to man-made low-fat substitutes has led to ever-escalating rates of chronic inflammatory diseases, including heart disease.10

The cost of data manipulation is the loss of true informed consent. Benefits are fabricated and the risks are covered. Always read the data, not the author’s conclusion. Meditation, sleep, and exercise can accomplish what pharmaceutical companies could only dream about. Also keep in mind that processed food is processed so that it is portable and shelf-stable. These goals do not overlap with yours.

When we disconnect from a sense of inner guidance, we are forced to rely on external constructs.11 Free your mind by cultivating your inner compass. Trust your guide inside.12 I liked the book, although the focus is on how women can reclaim their lives. As a man, I learned a lot too.

1 Kelly Brogan, A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives (Thorsons, 2016).
2 Ibid., p. 2.
3 Ibid., pp. 15–16.
4 Ibid., p. 142.
5 Ibid., p. 36.
6 Joseph Schildkraut, a psychiatrist at Harvard, theorized broadly about the biochemical underpinnings of methal illnesses. See Ibid., pp. 45–46.
7 Ibid., p. 46.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p. 3.
10 The study was done by Ancel Keys. See Ibid., pp. 120–121.
11 Ibid., p. 277.
12 Ibid., p. 279.

Book Review: Future Sense

Future sense: Five Explorations of Whole Intelligence for a World That’s Waking Up is a book where Malcolm Parlett wrote what was inside of him to write. He throws “light on … the usual thinking of society and the assumptions people live by” (p.1). The book is “a stimulant to thinking differently” (p.8). Parlett’s aim is “to aid refection, not to present a condensed argument” (p.55). He seeks “to promote ways to strengthen and support the emergence of more whole intelligence” (p.55).

Guiding Principles
The Five Explorations of the title is “a result of 20 years of investigating these five ‘dimensions of whole intelligence’” (p.9). Malcolm Parlett identifies ”the conditions in which ‘intelligent actions’ are most likely to develop and flourish” (pp.12–13). “Several guiding principles are central to the book” (p.15):

  • Human beings never exist … in isolation …
  • We are all of the same … species and members of … Humanity …
  • People want to discover … or develop … their ‘Whole Intelligence’ …

Whole Intelligence
Malcolm Parlett thinks that we need “a broader conception … of intelligence – something nearer to integrated human competence, overall maturity, and demonstrable good sense” (p.16). Whole intelligence is ”an … inclusive general concept, which attempts to gather together a number of valued human qualities and varieties of capability, … skills, and attitudes …” (p.19). Throughout the book, “whole intelligence” is abbreviated as “whi” (p.19). “Whi exists as a potentiality and is something we can nurture in ourselves and encourage in others” (p.26).

Five Explorations
Malcom Parlett explains how the Five Explorations “arrived rather unexpectedly” in his “working life” (p.28). At first, he saw them as “freestanding and independent of each other” (p.28). Later, he realized that “the boundaries between them were fluid, almost arbitrary” (p.28). Whi cannot be sensibly divided. The Explorations provide “different perspectives on the whole” (p.28). They “appear distinct from one another at first, but later they do not” (p.28). Parlett regards the Explorations as properties which “apply to all human systems and relations” (p.29).

Fundamental Values
Fundamental values are “key to unlocking future possibilities” (p.54). The Explorations and their defining values are (pp.51–53):

  1. Responding to the Situation: … ACCOMPLISHMENT” – Responding to the actual situation.
  2. Interrelating: … FRIENDSHIP” – Relating together well, sharing information and handling differences effectively.
  3. Embodying: … LIFE” – Being in touch with ourselves at a feeling level.
  4. Self-Recognising: … WISDOM” – Learning, or recognizing ourselves, individually and as a group.
  5. Experimenting: … PLAY” – Taking new steps, or experimenting with something fresh or different.

1. Responding to the Situation (ACCOMPLISHMENT) (pp.55–89)
Responding to the situation “embraces all the others” (p.55). The aim is to “move to greater ACCOMPLISHMENT” (p.55). Key elements are “how people and groups organise to make things happen, deal with emergencies, experience their power, take responsibility, exercise leadership, and set new trends in motion” (p.56). Here is more on responding to the situation.

2. Interrelating (FRIENDSHIP) (pp.90–132)
Interrelating is “an extension to the first” (p.90). FRIENDSHIP is “the attracting value” here (p.90). There is “much to discover about how human beings engage with each other constructively rather than destructively” (p.91). Here is more on interrelating.

3. Embodying (LIFE) (pp.133–173)
Embodying “emerges as a key dimension of whole intelligence” (p.133). It helps us “forge a more inclusive connection between ourselves and the rest of life” (p.134). LIFE is “the core ‘value’ underlying this dimension” (p.134). For some embodying is “the most difficult … to comprehend” (p.134).

4. Self-Recognising (WISDOM) (pp.174–214)
Self-recognising is “an essential activity” (p.174). Learning and growing “into greater whole intelligence depend on this dimension” (p.174). The value here is “WISDOM” (p.175). “Perhaps never has it been more imperative that human beings listen and learn from each other’s insights” (p.175).

5. Experimenting (PLAY) (pp.215–254)
Experimenting “represents a means of learning and extending the known, of upturning assumptions, and of making deliberate changes” (p.216). It’s the pleasures and value of “PLAY” that underlie this Exploration. “Experimenting … is a universal feature of everyday existence” (p.217). It is “evident in all domains of life” (p.218).

Generative Ideas
The Five Explorations and their underlying values reveal ”the diverse qualities of whole intelligence” (p.255). They are “intended to be generative ideas – inviting reader’s further inquiries and ways of applying them” (p.256). Any of the five dimensions “can become catalysts in the emergence of the others” (p.260). “A powerful extra comes about when all five dimensions of whole intelligence are … evident at the same time” (p.260). “In all such moments … something emerges that is powerful and vibrant” (p.261). “In each case, … an expanded point of view comes into existence” (p.263).

Waking Up
The book’s title also refers to a World That’s Waking Up. “The currents flowing through the Explorations already run strong elsewhere” (p.273). Malcom Parlett writes that “what seems likely to catalyse significant change is unprecedented public participation and pressure on powerful elites from below” (p.275). He emphasizes that each person ”is a ‘live node’ in the overall network of interlinked human beings” (p.279). “Just as we are affected by others, so also do we affect them” (p.279). We can “be influential in changing the general thinking” (p.281). By acting in “more embodied, responsive, relational, conscious, and experimental ways, we … support others to do so too” (p.283). “Offering what we have discovered, value, and know about, is … another way we can contribute to the … awakening of the world” (p.284).

This book is about being fully alive and fully awake, exercising whole intelligence in our lives – individually and together. I am very glad that Malcolm Parlett did write and publish the book despite his “deep fears of revealing publicly” his “personal ideas and … beliefs” (p.286). The book is full of Malcolm Parlett’s deep humanity and profound experience. He both warms my heart and enlivens my thinking. I love the book!

Book Review: Flourishing Enterprise

Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business by Chris Laszlo and Judy Sorum Brown, with John R. Ehrenfeld, Mary Gorham, Ilma Barros-Pose, Linda Robson, Roger Saillant, Dave Sherman, and Paul Werder, introduces the notion of flourishing. The Foreword is written by Peter Senge. There is also an Afterword written by David Cooperrider. The last chapter is an odyssey of the book itself. Here is a summary of the book together with some conclusions.

Introduction & Overview
Even though sustainability initiatives “are more widespread now than in previous years,“ the initial energy “seems to have dissipated” (p.3). “We must tap into a different level of energy” (p.4). This is why the authors reframe sustainability as flourishing (pp.1–21), provide a historical context (pp.21–34), examine the roots of flourishing (pp.35–67), provide a bridge between concepts and practices (pp.68–150), and invite further exploration (pp.151–157). The authors note that sustainability efforts “often run into trouble when they conflict with current ways of operating and require new levels of collaboration” (p.4). The challenge is “to realize and acknowledge how much we are caged in by ideas that are no longer working” (p.9).

Meaning & Connectedness
The foundation of much of the authors’ work is “the search for meaning and consciousness of interconnectedness” (p.12). The authors define spirituality as “a way of experiencing the world and taking action that leads to caring, based on a personal quest for connectedness and meaning” (p.12–13). The following components are identified with spirituality: “Conditions for Community, Meaning at Work, Inner Life, Personal Responsibility, Positive Connections with Others, and Behaviors Associated with Expressing Inner Life” (p.15).

Spirituality & Flourishing
The authors have “explored the dynamic and complementary relationship between connectedness (… spirituality) and sustainability (… flourishing)” (p.19). Flourishing “cannot be pursued using … reductionist modes of thinking and acting” (p.19). Everyone “will need to develop the capacity to feel, see, and act differently” (p.20). The increasing importance of knowledge, collaboration, and networks “point to the importance of the capacity … to attune, notice, and sense in a variety of ways” (p.26).

Reflective Practices
“To get to … flourishing, we will need to go beyond our usual language and thinking” (p.35). “We will need to tap into … human emotions and motivations grounded in caring and connection” (p.35). “Yet we can see all around us the lack of care” (p.36). The step forward is therefore “to invest time and attention in reflective practices” (p.36). It is only when we have “a sense of connectedness—to our life’s purpose …, to other people, and to all life—that we reacquire … our capacity to think and act in ways that support flourishing” (p.36). “As beliefs are transformed, new habits of thought and action are created” (p.37).

We need “to understand what beliefs are, how they function, and where they come from” (p.38). “Reflective practices … raise our awareness of our … beliefs, helping us to see what we see and why we see it” (p.39). As long as we “operate from … outmoded beliefs, we can no longer hope to bring about true sustainability or … quality of life” (p.42). For example, “beliefs aimed at creating a flourishing world does not hold nature as a bank of resources … to be exploited” (p.43). “Because our places of work play such an important role in all our lives, … organizations must serve the whole human being” (p.44).

To understand “why we hold our … beliefs, we have to dig deeper into our assumptions about the nature of reality itself” (p.49). Our “deeper assumptions … shape the everyday … beliefs on which we base our thinking and acting” (p.49). Though it is tempting “to jump into action” it is important to “unearth these deeper assumptions” (p.49). Reflective practices allow us to “still the mind” and “access our deeper wisdom” (p.55). They enable “a more authentic and deeply human way of being in the world” (p.55–56), and “enable us to grasp an underlying order … of the universe” (p.57). Individuals who “experience a sense of interconnectedness with other and with the world around them are more likely to exhibit care for the world” (p.58).

The Tree of Flourishing Enterprise
“The Tree of Flourishing Enterprise” (p.60) shows “the different factors required to support a flourishing enterprise” (p.61). It shows how many “day-to-day” factors “above the surface” depend on what is happening “below ground” (p.61). “It is only in the nourishing soil of our beliefs and mental models that transformation can take hold” (p.61). “We can’t mandate reflection” (p.62). Reflective practices “must be welcomed rather than imposed or made mandatory” (p.62).

”The Tree of Flourishing Enterprise” (p.60). Source: Charlotte Gorham.

Guiding Principles
The authors have discovered “a core set of guiding principles” in support of flourishing (pp.68–69). The guiding principles are:

  1. “We are fundamentally interconnected …”
  2. “Our beliefs shape our actions …”
  3. “We can choose to act from love and caring rather than from fear.”
  4. “What we focus on expands.”
  5. “Flourishing depends on action coming from deep wisdom.”

Individual Practices
The authors introduce the following foundational individual practices:

  • “Meditation” (pp.78–81).
  • “Mindful Action and Flow (pp.81–82).
  • “Remembrance and Transformational Problem Solving” (pp.82–87).
  • “Journaling” (pp.87–90).
  • “Nature Immersion” (pp.90–92).
  • “Art and Aesthetics” (pp.92–93).
  • “Poetry and Evocative Language” (pp.93–95).
  • “Music” (pp.95–96).

Organizational Practices
Then, the authors introduce the following team and organizational practices:

  • “Story Café” (pp.104–105).
  • “The MetaSkills Wheel” (pp.105–108).
  • “Jazz Improvisation” (pp.108–112).
  • “Dialogue” (pp.112–117).
  • “Shared Values Management” (pp.117–120).
  • “Barrett Cultural Values Assessment” (pp.120–122).

Systems-Level Practices
Finally, the authors introduce the following systems-level practices:

  • “Traditional Systems-Level Approaches to Sustainability” (pp.124–138).
  • “W-Holistic AI – Appreciative Inquiry with Reflective Practice” (pp.138–149).

Flourishing Enterprise seeks to guide individuals and organizations to bring flourishing at every scale. The authors invite the readers to join them in working toward “the possibility that humans and other life can flourish on earth forever” (p.10). It’s a very long-term vision indeed. The reflective practices that are introduced in the book are just the tip of an iceberg. The starting point has been practices that promote flourishing at individual, organizational, and systems levels. The authors believe that the most important shift is one of heart and spirit. This shift is both simple and challenging. It requires us to show up fully as human beings. When we show up fully, so too will our sense of interconnectedness and meaning, and our ability to take action that leads to flourishing.

Book Review: Essays on Life Itself

Essays on Life Itself by Robert Rosen is a collection of essays that were mainly written after Robert Rosen’s other book Life Itself was published. Robert Rosen (1934—1998) was an American theoretical biologist. His research was concerned with the most fundamental aspects of biology, specifically questions about life itself.

Basic questions
Robert Rosen’s main curiosity and research revolved around the question, “What makes living things alive?” (p.iii). Robert Rosen’s view was that this kind of question “becomes unanswerable if we do not permit ourselves a universe large enough to deal with the question” (p.2). Whatever “our world may be, it is not simple” (p.60). The basic questions of life “are not empirical … at all, but rather, conceptual ones” (p.274).

Primitive physics
Both Erwin Schrödinger and Albert Einstein pointed to “a conundrum about … physics itself, and … its relation to life” (p.7). Albert Einstein wrote, “One can best feel in dealing with living things how primitive physics still is” (p.7). Organisms “are more general than the nonorganisms comprehended in the old physics” (p.27). “Contemporary physics … rests on assumptions that limit it profoundly” (pp.255–56). “No amount of sophistication within these limitations can compensate for the limitations themselves” (p.256).

Limits within mathematics itself
Interestingly, Robert Rosen himself pointed to limits “arising within mathematics itself” in answering questions about living things (p.2). He claimed that “an organism … is more generic than an inorganic system rather than less” (p.4), and that “organisms possess noncomputable, unformalizable models” (p.4). The “world of algorithms, consisting of finite-hardware executing algorithms embodied in programs or software” is “a very small world, a world of machines” (p.99).

Mathematics’ wrong turn
Robert Rosen’s “contention [is] that mathematics took a disastrous wrong turn … in the sixth century B.C” (p.63), and that the “impact of that wrong turn … has spread far beyond mathematics” (p.63). It was at that time “mistakes began to be made … which have haunted us ever since” (p.71). Mathematics is “much more than … symbol manipulation” and “transcends algorithms” (p.92). “All the foundation crises that have plagued mathematics … arose from the discovery that set theory was impredicative, that it was itself not formalizable” (p.136).

Limits with algorithms
Problems such as “the mind-body problem appear hard because they involve properties (e.g., life and mind) that depend on impredicativities within the systems … that manifest them” (p.136). “Just as an attempt to break open an impredicative loop in a mathematical system, and to replace it by a finite syntactic … algorithm, destroys all properties of the loop itself, so any attempt to fractionate a material system containing closed causal loops destroys all of its properties that depend on such an internal loop” (p.136).

Organisms have maximal entailment
Robert Rosen argued that “the systems we call organisms are … maximal in their entailment structures” (p.161). They are thus “inherently semantic and contain causal counterparts of impredicative loops” (p.162). Rosen contended that “organisms take us … into a realm where particulars do not necessarily entail generalities and where knowledge of how a system works does not entail how it is created (p.258).

The essence of reductionism
“The essence of reductionism is … to keep the matter of which an organism is made and throw away the organization, believing that the latter can be … recaptured from the former” (p.260). The “fabrication of something (e.g., an organism) is a vastly different thing than the simulation of its behaviors” (p.269). “It takes a lot more than we presently have” to build an organism (p.269). “That is why the problem is so hard” (p.269).

Social vs. biological modes of organization
Robert Rosen believed that “biology provides us with a vast encyclopedia about how to solve complex problems, and also about how not to solve them” (p.271). He believed that “there are many deep homologies between social modes of organization and biological ones” (p.271). One of the “deepest lessons of biology” is that “complex organizational problems can be solved via cooperation and not by power and competition” (p.272).

Machines vs. organisms
The “machine metaphor is false” (p.295) and “leads us in exactly the wrong direction” (pp.254–55). “Machine and organism are essentially different in kind” (p.284). “We generally construct things sequentially” (p.291). “That is how we build a machine” and it is “the only way we know how to construct anything” (p.291). However, we cannot build an organism. The world of “machine and mechanisms” is “a very nice, tidy, orderly world,” but it is also a “closed” and “impoverished world” (p.292). “Machine is simple, organism is complex” (p.295).

Formalism and reductionism
There is “a deep parallel between the formalist view of mathematics … and the reductionistic view of the material world” (p.305). The “reductionistic view seeks to capture all causality in laws that tacitly amount to … computability” (p.305). However, computability in mathematics is “an excessively strong stipulation that characterizes a vanishingly small class of … systems” (p.305).

Simple vs. complex systems
If “we try to replace a complex system by a simple one”, then “we necessarily miss most of the interactions of which it is capable” (p.338). It is possible to “approximate, but only locally and temporarily” (p.338). And it will be necessary to “keep shifting from model to model, as the causal structure in the complex system outstrips what is coded into any particular dynamics” (p.338). “The situation is analogous to trying to use pieces of planar maps to navigate the surface of a sphere” (p.338). A “sphere is in some sense the limits of its approximating planar maps” (p.338).

If Robert Rosen is right — and I think he is — then it does change the way we look at our world. The mathematical machinery is limited in what it allows us to capture about the world and necessarily misses most of what is really going on. Rosen doesn’t say that we can learn nothing from computable models. His point is that inherently computable dynamical systems miss most of reality.

Computability imposes very strong limitations on entailment. It is precisely these limitations that allows them to be expressed as ‘software.’ However, meaningful distinctions cannot be made between ‘software’ and ‘hardware’ in organisms. Almost everything about organisms is entailed from something else. Rosen asserts, furthermore, that organisms and human systems are very much alike.

The ramifications of Robert Rosen’s ideas are very deep indeed. It’s a brilliant book!

Book Review: Future Fit

futurefit_Future Fit by Giles Hutchins is “not a ‘cook-book’ offering a prescriptive methodology,” but “an exploration into unchartered waters” (p.28). The most important challenge, according to Giles Hutchins, is “our ability to embrace a deep and fundamental shift in logic — how we think, perceive and relate” (p.12). “We need to get radical and deal with root causes” (p.13). “Such a shift challenges us at deep and partly unconscious levels” (p.13).

Artificial constructs closes us off from life
“Too many of today’s organizations find themselves caught up in a top-down, hierarchic, KPI-obsessed … and reactive fire-fighting mindset” (p.22).”So often, we find ourselves bound to artificial constructs … that seek to control and manage us, yet actually undermine our vitality and wellbeing” (p.22). The “tragedy of the top-down control-based logic … is that it deprives us of sensing and responding to change” (p.23). “[O]ur search for control closes us off from real life” (p.23).

Embracing natural ways of being and doing
The “’new way’ seeks harmony with life: embracing natural ways of being and doing by resonating with the inter-relational, participatory, co-creative nature of living systems” (p.29). “In short, a firm of the future serves Life” (p.29). Our and our organizations’ deeper sense of purpose is “ultimately to enrich our humanity and the wider fabric of life” (p.33).

Participating in the unfolding of life
“Living systems thrive through relationships” (p.26). “Organizations, like all living systems, are lit up by interconnections and networks of relationships” (p.41). “Control mechanisms … simply get in the way of open, emergent, reciprocating networks” (p.41). “The more conscious we are … the more we can call upon … different perspectives and align them in to our sensing and responding” (p.83). This “greatly enhances … the way we experience, learn and participate in the unfolding dynamic of life” (p.83)

Opening up to ‘all that is’
“Gnosis is a dynamic knowing” (p.105). “It is an alive sense of what is continuously emerging” (p.105). It is an “opening up to ‘all that is’ in our experience of the world” (p.105). “In developing our gnosis … we open ourselves up to a more soulful way of attending” (p.105).”By learning to actually feel … we can more readily tune-in through feeling rather than thinking” (p.107).

Being vulnerable to ‘what is’
It is in the midst of fear and vulnerability that “we need to be ever-conscious of what we are feeling and thinking” (p.108). Through practice we can “begin to trust ourselves to be open and vulnerable to ‘what is’ rather than grasping at the urge to react, defend or control” (p.108). This “deep and intimate self-mastery is paramount if we are to attend to life in a wise way” (p.108).

Deep somatic awareness
“By allowing our awareness to go into the arising experiences within our body, we enter a way of knowing that is … freed from … our thinking mind” (p.120). However, it “takes time and practice to develop deep somatic awareness” (p.120). It is a “cultural-norm” to prioritize “rational-analytical thinking” (p.120).

Staying connected, aligned, and coherent
Studies point to the “necessity for leaders who are deeply connected, aligned and coherent within themselves” (p.127). What is needed is for each of us to start “cultivating our own gnosis so that we bring more authenticity, creativity, connection and wisdom into what we do and the way we do it” (p.127).

Participating in co-creativity
If we try to “control or dominate the flow of exchange during a conversation or emerging situation, we will impede the flow” (p.133). To flow in an open way requires an “attuning of our … awareness … to each other and to the co-evolving movement” (p.134). The dance itself responds to the “ever changing receptive-responsive dynamic” (p.134). All need to be active or “the dance won’t happen at all” (p.134). “Ultimately, life is a dance of co-creativity” (p.135).

Control-based logic stifles life
The corporate culture “over-values short-term quantified financial metrics and personal achievement measured through these performance metrics” (p.152). Too much focus on “short-term financial success” undermines “longer term viability” (pp.152–153). The “prevalent control-based and mechanistic logic” over-looks “inter-relationality … within a wider context” (p.153). Too “tight management and control” stifle, rather than encourage, “collaboration and openness” (p.153).

“Stillness is essential to our receptive quality of being” (p.155). Intuitive awareness needs a “still, calm quality of attention” (p.155). Stillness “allows us to gain perspective” (p.156). It “brings spaciousness” and “open receptivity” (p.156). And it “greatly enhances” our “way of performance” (p.157).

Fear undermines self-organization
“Our personal gnosis … enriches the organizational gnosis … which in turn enriches our personal gnosis” (p. 162). Essentially, it is all about “creating and nurturing … working spaces where we feel safe enough to allow our … awareness to emerge” (p.163). “Fear can be the biggest obstacle to our take-up of self-organizing” (p.165). If “fear is allowed to dominate,” then “our relationships are undermined” (p.165). “One of the most essential human qualities is our heartfelt relating with others” (p.170). “With practice, we learn to replace our defending, judging … or attacking with … compassion” (p.174).

Learning to improvise like Jazz musicians
A “fundamental aspect of all living systems is the emergence of novelty through creativity” (p.229). “The art of leading is an art of hosting” (p.239). We need to “learn to sense the flow within ourselves and … in our teams” (p.239). It is like “learning to improvise with fellow Jazz musicians” (p.239). We need to “sense, tune-in, listen, open-up and emerge with what is best for the situation at hand, learning as we go” (p.240). “In the midst of criticism or conflict, we can bring our attention into the body and sense how we are feeling” (p.241).

Attending to life with love
The challenge is to “remain grounded and centered as situations unfold” (p.257). “A loving interest in each … moment provides for an active creativity” (p.257). “Every moment opens up the opportunity to attend to life with love or fear” (p.259). “How we attend to the world shapes our world in-turn shaping us” (p.259). “It’s time to stand up for what we know in our hearts to be right” (p.259).

This is a well researched book, which contains many examples, practical tips, and interesting references. The over-arching vision of a firm of the future is to be in service of life. I fully agree with Giles Hutchins that future fit businesses require a ”fundamentally different logic” drawing on the deep wisdom of life (p.29). The book can be used both for inspiration and for further exploration. To find out more about the book, visit futurefitbook.com.

Book Review: The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth

_89x120The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems by Christopher Alexander with HansJoachim Neis and Maggie Moore Alexander describes the building of the Eishin Gauken Campus in Japan. One of the “main purposes” of the book is “to demonstrate that the physical-ecological and the mental-emotional-social cannot be separated” (p.86). If the ”purpose of … architecture … is to provide opportunities and contexts which … support and enhance life-giving human situations, then it must be based on a new set of operating principles” (p.7).

The battle
The battle which gives the book its name is the battle which introduces these principles. It’s a battle against ”the present-day mechanical viewpoint that dominate today’s society” (p.9). It’s a battle for ”a worldview … which has life, well-being, beauty, and care for the whole, as its primary concepts” (p.9). Achieving this will ”require so many changes in our idea of the world … that we must … adjust our idea of reality” (p.10). The foundation of these ideas were ”set forth in the four volumes of The Nature of Order” (p.16).

Adaptations binding things together
For Christopher Alexander, the ”essence of all profound techniques of architecture” is to make a world ”which binds things together well” (p.16). An ”environment or community” will only come to life if each part is ”a result of a careful and piecemeal processes of adaptation” (p.19). ”An environment can only be made healthy, and good for human life, if the process mobilizes vital adaptations at many scales” (p.24). Adaptations ”create freshness and uniqueness wherever they appear” (p.41). That is a ”huge step beyond the rigidity of mechanistic components” (p.41). Adaptations ”forge a solid, powerful unity” that ”draws the whole place together, just as a living organism” (p.42). And you ”cannot create real adaptation, unless there is a process at work which permits, and encourages” it (p.48).

System-A vs. System-B
There are ”two archetypal systems of production” (p.49). In system-A, ”creation and production are organic … and are governed by human judgments that emanate from the underlying wholeness” (p.49). ”The quality of wholeness … defines what is to be done” and ”comes into play at every moment” (p.49). In system-B, ”what matters are ”regulations, procedures, … efficiency, and profit: … as if society itself was working as a great machine” (p.49). Wholeness, if considered, is ”left far behind … mechanical considerations that are regarded as primary” (p.49). The two categories, A and B, ”serve to identify a dimension of great importance” (p.49). ”A” is used to refer to ”more life-giving systems” (p.49). ”B” is used to refer to ”less life-giving systems” (pp.49-50). Furthermore, the difference between ”more life-giving and less life-giving environments can be measured by a range of indicators” (p.50). These indicators correlate with physical, mental, and ecological health, and ”the way people are treated socially” (p.50). Certain ”forms of social interactions” and certain ”kinds of positive emotional states in people” have direct ”healing impact on human well-being” (p.51).

Enabling life to flourish
Christopher Alexander states directly that ”we will not be able to make a living world,, unless we put in place entirely new kinds of human organization and new operational assumptions, which … encourage beauty, health, and genuine humanity to be achieved” (p.57). The cardinal rule of A, is to ”Always try, at each moment, … to do that thing or take that action which … increases the life in the place, in the people, and in their environment” (p.59). Alexander thinks it is reasonable to say that ”any useful change in society must show us how to generate life, how to provide the foundational conditions which will enable life to flourish” (p.59). ”If the making process is dead … the resulting product … will inevitably be dead” (p.60). ”If the process of making … is living … the generated forms and places … will … have a very good chance of being alive” (p.60).

Two different worldviews
The clash between A and B is a ”clash between two competing systems of thought, human organization, and social activity” (p.60). ”The two worldviews differ about the ways human society should be organized, about questions of ultimate value” (p.60). ”The effects of the clash between A and B can be found in each one of us” (p.63). A ”comes from inside, from the human psyche … and from human culture” (p.69). B ”comes from the laws, the institutions of society and … mass production” (pp.69–70). ”The use of money to make money,” did ”produce great wealth for a few,” but ”not for most people” (p.76).

Step-by-step whole-making
Years ago, Christopher Alexander introduced the phrase, “the quality without a name” (p.86). It was “very helpful and inspiring” but “it evaporates too easily … to guide practical effort” (p.86). We have all a “tacit obligation to enhance the life in our communities” but it is “difficult to bring it off” (p.91). “The largest driving force in the whole-making and wholeness-enhancing … is the step-by-step process which demands that at each step the configuration be made more coherent” (p.94). It is the “coherence of feeling and function that holds everything together” (p.95). “Creating wholeness is a practical matter” (p.96).

Activating and intensifying life itself
The “need for courage is a real requirement” (p.100). Courage “is absolutely necessary as a practical matter in the world we live today” (p.100), since it is a “battle between two utterly different views of the world, and between two utterly irreconcilable attitudes towards society” (p.109). Christopher Alexander is not interested in “making an image of life” (p.116). He is only interested in “creating conditions that will activate and intensify life itself” (p.116). This requires trying “to help each person reach the deepest place in their own hearts and to help them bring this material out into the open” (p.117). “We tend to overlook the violation of people’s feelings because it happens every day, and we have become accustomed to it” (p.119).

Abstractions vs. reality
“The essence of system-B is that it works with abstractions” (p.185). Plans, money, processes, and the “reality itself is abstract” (p.185). “There are no feelings, no truly human events, only calculations, ink, and paper” (p.185). “The essence of system-A“, on the other hand, is that it is “real“” (p.185). It deals with real people, feeling, and “the three-dimensional reality of buildings” (p.185). “In fact, the very life and wholeness which is aimed at by … system-A are achieved by a … relaxed state of mind,” but it is “not sloppy” (p.195).

Money and efficiency
“The exaggerated precision typical of system-B” is “often done at inappropriate times” (p.195). Furthermore, and perhaps surprisingly, “system-A produces better quality … at a cheaper price” (p.266). Money and efficiency “drive out almost every possible way of allowing human spirit to exist” and, specifically, “drive out … local adaptation” (p.267). “To increase profit there is substantial incentive … to cut corners” (p.270). “Working in a “speed is money” approach, subtleties are not possible” (p.307).

Enhancing wholeness, recognizing destructive actions
[I]t is the creative force we, as human beings collectively possess, that is the most powerful well-spring for the improvement of society” (p.382). “This requires cultivation of a new attitude that both seeks out wholeness-enhancing transformations and recognizes destructive actions” (p.443). “Even when we cannot perfectly define the wholeness, we can distinguish those continuation which are most apt, and most true” (p.452). “Simple beauty and wholeness … heals, supports, and engages life” (p.453).

Profound integration
“Every living entity … has, as its most basic quality, the fact that it is somehow “glued together”” (p.421). When “one part of the system is in trouble, or is damage, other parts which depend on that part themselves become vulnerable” (p.421). What we “see and experience as beauty is a quality in which the world … is profoundly integrated, deeply interwoven” (p.455). A “living environment is at once physical and social in its beauty” (p.458).

Courage and love
It is “within our power to recover the deeper aspects of human nature and work our way toward a compassionate and ethical civilization” (p.475). “It is possible to recover ourselves, our world, and a future for our children and their children — one that is rooted in profound and lasting values” (p.475). “We can begin now” (p.475). And if “we have sufficient courage, we can make a difference in our lifetimes” (p.475). “Any one of us can do it because of love” (p.487). “Not love for this or that person — but love for a small spider …, love for the field …, and the individual grasses that sway as the breeze comes gently across” (p.487). “The most tender wakefulness lies in your heart” (p.488). “At every moment, remain wakeful and aware of your love” (p.488). “It does not need effort. It is already there, in your heart” (p.488).

This is a beautiful book, full of life, which touches me — deeply. I could comment on the book, intellectually, but somehow it doesn’t feel appropriate. I just want to contemplate Christopher Alexander’s message. Yes, the battle for life is a struggle between worldviews. And yes, ultimately, it is a question of love — for the Earth, for our fellow-beings on the Earth, and for ourselves.