A portion of the population has always been inclined to compete and to dominate. Sometimes its friendly play. Other times, its serious – very serious.
In bygone days of competition between tribes this was important in gathering the team for combat to preserve your hunting grounds from invading neighbours.
The hierarchy model adapted to commerce, the production of value. The dominators lead and manage teams and organizations, communities and nations. When raised to management, former line workers undergo a transformation. The promotion of social status with power triggers a hormonal change, promoting higher testosterone levels. This hormone makes one more competitive and, for many people, increases the desire to dominate others.
Today we have a world of abundance, yet some continue to want to hoard and dominate. Unfortunately, Mother Nature designed us this way. Its in our genes. Its in our hormones (mainly testosterone). We need leaders and managers, but they need to remain in scope. Nature’s way of managing dominators can be a bit extreme. Can we reel them in judiciously?
Today we don’t really need to compete and dominate on a grand scale when our advanced technologies and practices produce such unimaginable abundance. At the same time, we have the technology to manage our population growth (on the demand side of the equation).
Today, as life becomes more complex and anxieties rise, we push these top dominators into top leadership roles. Their lens puts them at the centre of everything. They can point to any invader and gain a mindless following. They come in all political colours, all points on the rainbow spectrum from left to right, from Hitler to Stalin, Castro to Duterte (you can fill in the blanks).
Of course this never ends well.
Hysteria sets in.
Lines are drawn.
You are with us or against us.
War drums pump the hormones.
The evil ones must die!
The background anxieties of modern living are funneled into the purposes of the fearless leaders. The dominators point fingers of blame, use whistle calls, draw clear lines between good (us) and evil (those people). It is simple and clear and our follower instinctskick in. You are the righteous. You would put down your own life for what you believe is right. And maybe you really would.
But the Alien from another planet looks down and sees a very different story. The Alien sees the species Homo Sapiens with DNA and hormones designed for a foraging society acting as a cancer in a land of plenty.
Should we allow our evolved DNA and related hormones dictate the shape of our civilization, our future together as a species? Even though our world is fundamentally different? Can we manage the tendencies toward domination judiciously? Awareness is the first step.
I have come to believe with increasing conviction that to continue drawing all political positions on a bipolar spectrum is a gross oversimplification of our reality. The world is not so simple as left and right. We are more different than that and so are the public issues.
The science of psychology has clearly demonstrated that there is a strong link between our inherited personal dispositions and our political and moral values. But any one of these tendencies might be considered ‘left’ and another ‘right’. On top of those inherent dispositions we trigger one or another latent attitudes when our conditions change.
For instance, you may generally feel a strong sense of empathy with other people. However, if you feel sufficiently threatened, your empathy will likely dissipate and be replaced by a stronger defensive posture.
You may feel quite egalitarian until you are promoted to a management position. When promoted you start to feel justified to use your position of power and over-ride others’ votes.
You can reverse these as well. When a threat is removed, you can afford to be more empathetic. If removed from a position of power, you are likely to become more egalitarian. Your sense of fairness changes.
Underlying many of these dispositions is your hormonal balance. For example, high testosterone levels make you more competitive and feel a sense of dominance. High oxytocin levels make you identify with others and feel more compassionate. You have a natural baseline for these and other hormones that changes with your perceived circumstances (e.g. opportunities/threats).
Where did these core personal differences come from? The diversity among us cuts us across all races, cultures and religions and is rooted in our genetic evolution. We have personal differences (diversity) because it helps us survive in the long run as communities. We each have big brains, but not so big that we can be equally excellent in all skill areas. We need each other and to share our strengths.
Society is ever-more complex. To continue down this simple and artificial bi-polar construct will lead to our doom. The two ends of the spectrum beat the war drums in a call to war with the demonic others. It seems that each year the resolve to destroy the other gains fervor, bringing us closer to the brink. They both claim there is no middle ground. You’re either with us or against us.
Many people are identifying left or right as their tribe in defense against the evil others. Their tribal bond (empathy) is growing while their hatred of others (defense) grows. Their sense of party affiliation is becoming stronger than their sense of affinity for community or nation.
Social science also tells us that there are two moral codes, one for how we threat our group members, and a different one for how we treat members of other groups. This means we can think of the others as lesser animals or even evil. It also means we can treat them accordingly without remorse or penalty.
‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’
– Albert Einstein
Unfortunately, what is driving this tension is not simple either. There is a general background anxiety in our world precisely because our civilization is becoming so complex, chaotic and unpredictable. We suffer from information overload, fear of missing out (FOMO), decision fatigue, distractions, rumors and propaganda. We seek the comfort of black and white, good and evil solutions. With more pressure we become more sharply defined tribes. The emotional quotient rises.
Yet, at the same time, public policy issues are not necessarily aligned with either left or right ideologies. Are these clearly and inherently left-right issues: freedom of speech, abortion, gun control, public assembly, public education, liberty, separation of state and religion?
Many policy positions have been identified with left or right, but if you look carefully, you’ll see there is no necessary logic flow from core ideologies. The positions may simply be legacies of some long-forgotten political debates when opposition parties had to oppose legislation because of a sense of duty. After making a position, its all about rationalization.
Remember that the modern political party system arose in Britain and Europe as a simple way to manage public debate. It was an artificial construct from the start that depended on our natural human tendency to form tribes. At that time the big debate was about supporting or rejecting the crown. It got embedded in practice, locked in and rarely questioned!
Now, to disagree with your party position is heresy, treasonous, and subject to ostracism.
There is a wider range of potential solutions to public issues. We need to invoke our personal differences in order to match the diversity of issues we face today. As long as we line up behind only two positions we are missing out on far better solutions to our very complex world.
“Where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks as much.”
We need to recognize all our differences as strengths if properly managed. The personal traits which make us appear inclined to one pole or the other on different issues are needed for our mutual survival and prosperity. We need to respect and embrace our differences, not demonize them.
This means being ready to let go of your assumptions. This is particularly difficult when we’re under pressure. People tend to hang onto their beliefs with greater rigor when they feel threatened – and we are under greater pressure than ever!
What we’re going to have to do is cut the crap!We have to get past these archaic lenses and drill down together to find our common humanity beneath our differences. We have to understand that our genetic diversity is there for a reason. It is there to enable us all to cope with a wider range of challenges and opportunities.
Simply put, Nature, including Human Nature, and our civilization are far more complex than the left-right spectrum. We need to be inclusive of all our personal tendencies if we are going to survive as a civilization and as a species.
The Journey | Sorting out the causes of business success/failure in so far as Small & Medium Sized Enterprises go, is not easy. Whether you’re looking into the reasons for success or failure, the causes are of the same sort. If you can address the problems leading to failure then you have a success. If you fail to address the causes of success then you are likely to fail. One thing to address up front is attitude.
Positive Attitude | Your attitude is most important for success. Studies in psychology show that a good degree of optimism makes you more creative. There is no success without first believing in your success. Think back on all your successes to date. These are your assets going forward. You are a goal-oriented problem-solver!
Framing | Rather than asking “how do I avoid failure?” ask “how do I succeed?”. This
may be true even when facing impending failure. Doubts have a way of shutting down
creative problem-solving. Don’t be overwhelmed or you’ll face a tendency to give up.
A bit of self-deception can be constructive. No matter what opportunities and challenges
you face, you will first face them with familiar lenses. We need to develop constructive
habits, making a conscious effort to be a bit more positive when you wake up in the
morning and prepare for your day. Last thing at night, remind yourself of how grateful you are for the blessings of the day. Even if you had a bad day, focus on the positive and
you’ll get better at it. Attitude frames everything.
Capacities | It is also important to distribute your assets, efforts/time in a way that
sufficiently covers all your business requirements. The word sufficient is key; you
don’t have to use some mathematical optimization algorithm to get the distribution
perfect. You will never get it perfect. You just need to cover requirements sufficiently to
get the job done. What does the job need?
Essentials | Have enough cash in the bank to cover expenses; enough paying customers; set prices high enough to cover product costs plus admin costs; hire enough human resources to get the work done; pay them well enough to keep them around long as they’re needed (and back again); make a product that people want at a price they’re prepared to pay; share your vision sufficiently with your people so they can work with you effectively; respect people and the fact that they all have something different to offer; build lasting and trusting relationships so your transactions become easy and automatic; explore new options routinely and remain somewhat open-minded and inquisitive.
Learning | Learning takes place in goal-plan-action-review cycles. The loop involves continuous goal-setting, planning, action, results, and a review that produces lessons for the next round. Take the time to prepare a solid business plan, implement it, track outcomes and repeat the process in a positive feedback loop of continuous improvement – from bottom to the top.
Business Plan | The plan is key part of your learning loop and is often overlooked. Some research shows that a business plan has questionable value for a brand new business because the plan will likely change quite a bit at fist. But you need to plan. Writing the plan forces you to think things through and minimize the things you might miss. Understanding comes at the point of articulation. Keep in mind that not all entrepreneurs are the same. Some naturally learn more in the action part of the cycle. This is okay as long as the failures along the way are bite-sized and manageable. Prepare a sufficiently comprehensive yet detailed plan to get all your team onboard, including the bank and investors. Plan sections: mission, vision, goals and strategy; market research, products, operations, human resources and finance.
Scaling | Many businesses fail when they try to grow to fast. Others avoid trying because scaling up is different, and sometimes more risky, than getting established. In some industries, however, competition demands that you reach a certain size and economy of scale in order to offer competitive prices and product range. You may need to grow. However, as your business grows you need to scale your plans/processes in proportion to requirements. It isn’t just about increasing output with your existing setup. Build a set of tools that make sense for the level of complexity you need to manage. It starts with foundations. Often, getting a bookkeeper is an early first step in small business. You learn how to assign tasks to others. Then maybe outsource marketing, etc. To really scale up you need to hire managers and learn to let go of everyday details.
Failure & Success | The causes of business success and failure are interdependent. One could use the Five+Why approach. Ask ‘why?’ to at least five consecutive answers to the initial question of “why did the initiative fail?”… For example; there’s not enough cash coming in: 1) Why? A: Not enough customers. 2) Why? A: Not enough promotion. 3) Why? A: Not enough cash to purchase promotion. 4) Why? A: Didn’t invest enough. 5) Why? A: Investors were not confident. 6) Why? A: Didn’t have a detailed business plan. Solution — work on your plan!
As for the study of success, it may not be enough to look at a business success and say “they didn’t make any mistakes”. What did they actually do when they faced opportunities and when they faced threats?
We think of distractions as someone interrupting you as you’re watching a TV show or reading. But really, distractions run at all levels of everyday experience. You distract yourself by breaking focus for fear of missing out (FOMO).
You go to the FB postings, turn on the hourly news, you follow stories and people that have nothing to do with you. We all do this to varying degrees.
We follow people who are doing things, and making the news, vicariously empathizing with their joy in their wins and their pain in failure.
But we are all together distracted by owning things that make us feel powerful, by doing things that get social status, by keeping busy to avoid facing the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing in the longer term. More is not always better.
Life has never been so good. Our grandparents could never have instructed us on how to live the good life in an age of such abundance. What’s next?
These distractions keep us from a greater purpose. I believe a growing number of us are in fact value generators without a cause. We were designed by evolution to serve up our diverse natural talents for the common good. That is key to our species’ survival strategy.
What do we give the people who have everything? Another hat, tie, puppy? We have to get better at stretching our imaginations. Everyone wants to be somehow special. But if one person on the planet makes something unique we are all surprised. Wait a couple years and you can get for a couple bucks at Dollarama. We are becoming accustomed to being surprised. Eventually nothing surprises us. Maybe we need to give to those who don’t have everything (an after-thought?!).
Nevertheless, we should not be distracted from our instinctive purpose — to generate value! Beyond generating value, we should not be distracted from the joy of merely being and becoming… something better.
When my father was a young farm boy back in the 1920s the family wanted to establish a flock of domestic ducks. Next spring they got a dozen eggs from a nearby farm and switched them with eggs under a nesting chicken hen. She accepted the eggs with no hesitation. They look very similar. The little ducklings hatched, imprinted on the mother hen, and all was fine as she proudly walked them around the farm yard. That is — until she walked them toward the shore of the little lake! That’s when the ducklings scrambled directly into the water! The mother hen immediately flew into a terrible squawking fit at the sight of her babies splashing in the water!
Every personal journey really begins quite early in life. As a child growing up your parents tell you what to do. They have to. That’s their job. They train you for a certain amount of choice, obedience and self-discipline. You learn about both freedom and constraints. If they are good parents they love you and so you learn to love yourself.
Then you go to school and the teacher tells you what to do. If you want to succeed you pay attention, work to get better grades, and you’re rewarded with a feel-good. Its been said many times that our education system is designed as a factory to produce workers, not entrepreneurs, leaders or even citizens. Maybe its just easier to manage kids who all act the same. School has tended to train-out the mavericks and misfits in us and train-in the conformists. Those with strong entrepreneurial tendencies get restless in the routine of school programs. They get into trouble when they try to do something different. They may even drop out to explore the world.
If you stay in school long enough, the school program becomes your life script. It is largely written by your culture. You follow that script and maybe do a little editing along the way to make it yours.
When you graduate from formal schooling you get a job. The boss tells you what to do and, if you work hard, you get paid, sometimes promoted. You make something, or provide a service that people want, and you get a sense of pride and self-worth.
But as time wears on you may begin to think, “I know this stuff better than my boss. Why am I taking orders?” You’re striving for mastery of your craft. You want to actualize your potential. Maybe you just need to do your own thing, unencumbered by other people’s goals, rules and restrictions. Unless you come from an entrepreneurial family, you’re unlikely to get much encouragement to do your own thing and manage your own time. If you’re going to swim, you’re on your own.
Along the way you meet people who left school to do their own thing. They aren’t cut out for school, even though they’re pretty smart. They find out they aren’t cut out for the nine-to-five job either. If you watch their career path it likely goes from sales to running their own business by the time they’re 25. These people are different. They’re restless. They thrive on risks. They learn best by doing, and maybe they make a lot of bad decisions along the way. But they are also quite resilient and they do learn. They’re ducks!
These people are natural entrepreneurs. They don’t know anything else. They hate being trapped in someone else’s plan and they always have. “Don’t fence me in!” They may tend to be more outgoing, and are quite comfortable quickly reassessing a situation and changing their minds. They make up a minority of the population. But when we hear the word “entrepreneur“, this character comes to mind.
So maybe you’re not one of those natural born entrepreneurs. All your life you heeded people who told you what to do. You mastered your craft as far as you can take it. Now you’re on your own. Maybe you just had enough of that and want something new and challenging. Maybe you got laid off and you’re sick of depending on other people and letting them decide when you leave.
For the first time ever, perhaps now in mid-life, you realise you’re free to define what kind of duck you are and what you will become. You’re on a learning curve like you have never seen before. It’s something like coming of age and leaving home, something like getting married, or becoming a first time parent. You must experiment, test and learn, but where do you start?
You discover something new about yourself — you’re a wayfinder! — and you are not alone.
Let me know if you see any signs or symptoms of reaching a threshold capacity for managing complexity, disruption, chaos, uncertainty, etc.. Network effects predicts a continuing acceleration of civil complexity and chaos.
Psychologists and anthropologists say the human brain has a cognitive surplus. But surely there is a tipping-point at which the way we use our brains falls behind the growth rate of shared public information and knowledge. Our dashboards run out of space for monitoring what’s going on.
But maybe we deceive ourselves in the same way we think we are successfully multi-tasking while clinical studies show that we actually fail at it. Yes, when disrupted from tasks male IQs can drop by 15 points, women – 10 points! And it can take up to 20 minutes to get back into task after being distracted.
Do we know how much we have forgotten in order to make room for new information? Studies show most people think they have above average IQ (think about it). Its easy to fool oneself – what’s your objective baseline?
Are we being systematically trained by our frantic lifestyle (not evil genius) to constrain our thinking into tight patterns? Maybe we are losing ability to be reflective or to consider broad and long lasting implications of our actions.
How do we know if we are successfully adapting to the accelerating pace of disruptive technologies? Its not like we have traditional benchmarks.
I want to know what you think. We stopped talking about information overload long ago. Are we getting worn down by change fatigue? Choice fatigue? Are we slowing acclimatizing to a state of confusion and disengagement? Is it unfashionable to ask these questions? Uncool?
Shall we pretend there is no dancing elephant in our cyberspace?
It was on my 20th birthday in 1975 that my father unexpectedly asked me what I wanted to do with him for the day. “I’m yours”, he said with a big grin. This was highly irregular for my father, whom I shared with my four brothers, to make himself available exclusively to any of us for a whole day. “Wow!” I said eagerly, “anything?” My heart was pounding. I instantly knew there was only one answer, a canoe trip to the big Hay Point.
Hay Point was an enormous, mysterious and wild place I had only known through my father’s stories. It was more than a thousand acres of marshland on the southwest shores of St. Joseph Island in Lake Huron, not far from old Fort St. Joe. You can’t drive there and its really too far and rugged for a walk.
Mom’s and Dad’s romantic stories of an earlier time always struck a chord with me since they had moved us to nearby Sault Ste Marie when I was just a toddler. They knew a different world. My childhood saw the country-side on the family’s weekend nature walks, spotting lady-slippers and picking morels. The canoe was a recent addition to the family. Today would be a double treat, a canoe adventure and to set foot on the great untouched wild marshlands I had never seen.
Dad’s invitation was particularly unexpected since I was back home for the summer from university and he was rather unsure about the whole idea of advanced education. I was the first in my extended family to go to university and Dad had preferred that I follow in his footsteps and learn a trade. That was something he knew about. It was Mom who encouraged me to go for the education. It was a kind of leap of blind faith on her part that maybe something magically would happen and I would either become some kind of professional or just find the meaning in life that I was so desperately seeking.
But on this happy birthday I took the bait and didn’t give Dad a chance to change his mind. We packed a lunch, threw the canoe in the back of the pickup and headed off for Hay Point.
Dad talked about Hay Point many times over the years. In the Dirty Thirties he and his brother Roy used to go there to hunt geese each fall to supplement the sparse farm harvest. “There were thousands of geese as far as the eye could see, and they made a heck of a racket,” he would say. “When they flew together they made the sky go dark.”
The family had also gone there to harvest the marsh hay when the farm’s hay fields were so dry they wouldn’t produce any hay worth cutting. On the farm the livestock had to eat, so Dad and Uncle Roy took the team of horses with the hay mower along the miles of shore line to the marsh. The grass was tall, over their heads in fact, and even though it was a tough grass for the livestock, it was better than none at all.
Dad also told us about the time he and Roy decided to take a canoe to join a group of locals at Old Fort St. Joe for a Dominion Day (July 1st) celebration. Fort St. Joseph was the most westerly British fort during the War of 1812. It was eventually burnt to the ground, but as a young man, Dad was active in promoting the stabilization and preservation of the historic site.
When Dad and Roy got out on the lake the swells began to rise four feet, five feet, and then six feet high! People gathered on the shore and watched with baited breathe as the two in the canoe appeared and disappeared from sight with each heave and dip of the white caps. They wondered where the canoe would come up next, or if it would come up at all!
We were lucky this morning of my 20th birthday. The August sky was clear and bright, the water calm and warm. Here I was in the bow of the canoe with Dad in the stern. I was a novice but Dad was an old hand on the water. His father had been a commercial fisherman on the Great Lakes until the Smelts (fresh water Herring) invaded in the Depression years and ruined the commercial fishery. Dad knew everything about the water.
We easily paddled with a gentle breeze on our backs from the launch at end of the “A” Line to the north end of Hay Point. We shared the channel of the St. Mary’s River with great ships from as far away as China and Russia, though we stayed closer to shore and the freighters stayed close to the centre of the channel in the deepest water. I could see the long shore of the marsh off in the distance but it was quite a while before we got close.
As we approached Hay Point, we manoeuvred the canoe up a small quiet stream that turned into a beaver canal. When we were able to step ashore I found myself surrounded by the tall Grass that lined the banks.
This being mid-summer, there were no migrating geese to be heard, but there were Mallard Ducks, Red-Winged Blackbirds and other marshlanders calling near and far. From an old mound of grass I was able to glimpse the vast territory of pristine wilds. I could imagine those thousands of honking geese, and maybe a nearby browsing moose. This was the story land world of my father’s youth! My eyes and my imagination were filled with the vast wildness of the wetland space.
When it was time to go, we turned the canoe back to the lake. It didn’t take long before we realised the waters had changed. It wasn’t the wind, but the rising swells. I was again in the bow as the waves crashed against the front corner and soaked me. The water splashed high in the air catching sunshine and sparkling! The canoe dipped and tossed in, at first, three foot swells, then four. It was the most exhilarating roller coaster ride I could imagine! I felt perfectly safe, though, despite the depth of water beneath us and the fact that I couldn’t swim very well. The life preserver and Dad were all I needed.
I paddled hard while Dad both paddled and steered straight into the waves. If he had not kept us square to the waves we probably would have been swamped! Crash, came the waves. Crash, and crash again! Each crash quickly vaulted the bow high and then dropped us back down into the trough where we crashed again.
The spray over the bow was wet and warm and I laughed from the bottom of my stomach. Dad, normally a fairly quiet stoic man, was grinning ear to ear and had to let out a few hearty laughs now and again. I imagined, had there been some people on shore, if maybe they would wonder where we would reappear after each dip, or if at all.
It was, I would later learn in psychology class, a peak experience. I was totally engulfed in the moment of ecstasy, one with my Dad, one with nature, one with myself.
When we got back to the “A” Line, and heaved the canoe back into the pickup, I knew that I might never again feel such total joy to the core of my soul. And I remember this special day now that my Dad, Russell Adcock, is gone. He and this memory will always be with me. He educated me on the important lessons of life, on history, in nature, first hand.
The last time I saw him, I knew it would be my last. That was in late February 2007. I was visiting from far away Edmonton, Alberta. My brother Grant drove me and our Mom to visit Dad at the extended care facility in Sault Ste Marie. Dad was then living with a form of terminal Parkinson’s disease with advanced dementia. As we turned the the final corner for the last stretch of road, I braced myself, and then thissong came on the radio – In The Living Years, by Mike and the Mechanics!
I was in deep trouble. Of all the songs in the world to be playing at this precise moment! It could not possibly be just chance. It was a sign, a signal to prepare! The song ended at the exact moment Grant pulled into the parking stall at the facility. It was a long moment before I was ready to go in, knowing it would be my last visit. But we went in for that painful final visit. As I was leaving, and there was no one left in the room but me and Dad, I leaned over, choked up, hugged him and told him, “I love you, Dad“.
My Dad, Russell Adcock, died April 22, 2007. He sails now to his heart’s content.
One of the biggest questions facing the 21st Century civilization is “how are we going to manage the escalating automation of our world so we continue to live safe, prosperous, and fulfilling lives?”
In general, naturally, we are going to manage intelligence with intelligence. The intelligence we are going to use will be some combination of personal (cognitive and emotional), social or collective, and artificial intelligence. Of course it all derives from natural intelligence, something we see every day in such things as fractals in plant leaves and blood vessels, or in the balance of species in an ecosystem. Think of AI as a new species arriving in our civil ecosystem we call civilization. How do we accommodate and use it for our highest purposes rather than compete with it?
We struggle with other seemingly insurmountable issues such as climate change, the growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else, the concentration of corporate control, and the polarization of political, ethnic and religious populations. In this context the continued penetration of AI into our lives becomes more challenging. AI can be a spoiler in the hands of those who acquire it first.
We need not examine in detail all the various approaches and applications to artificial intelligence, such as robotics, neural networks, deep (machine) learning, forged labour or synthetic intelligence. Many AI professionals like to make sharp distinctions, but for those of us who are going to have our job descriptions radically altered, have our security seriously challenged, and maybe get attacked by smart weapons, maybe its all the same stuff. There are opportunities and threats for all of us on many fronts. We each and all need to be strategic, individually and collectively.
One thing is for sure, as far as I am concerned. We need to think big, long and hard about how our world is systematically migrating to a different platform as we live and breathe. The AI professionals have told us for years, “don’t worry, AI won’t be around to bother you in your lifetime“. Others have been hitting the hype buttons. Meanwhile, most AI professionals have been sprinting a marathon in hopes of getting in on the one breakthrough that is the real game-changer.
Now many of them are telling us that significant breakthroughs could happen in the next five to ten years. And the common public response is, “we’ve heard that nonsense before“. Someone cried ‘wolf’ one too many times. Meanwhile, robots continue to infiltrate the manufacturing lines and now the service lines. Algorithms chase down meaningful patterns in millions of data points. Watson out-smarts our greatest knowledge keepers, and a robot actually passes a college entrance exam. And, yes, one AI system can read the expressions in human faces better than many people can.
Public policy is notoriously reactionary and delayed. While our governments are a nerve centre for our nations, they are not well prepared to anticipate emerging needs and lead discussion and action. They react to lobbyists, disasters and voters at election time. There is nothing stopping ordinary concerned citizens from becoming informed , holding their own discussions and coming up with their own plans and policy positions.
We will need to structure the public dialogue to deal with complex issues such as the impacts of AI on modern civil systems (society, economy, culture, and politics). We have had many brainstorming tools in practice for longer than my lifetime.
More recently we have seen growing popularity of approaches such as systems and design thinking, strategic foresight, behavioural insights and predictive analytics. We can start with a simple SWOT analysis, and look at the emerging Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Let’s put these smart methods to good use. As we begin a local conversation we can exchange our best ideas and methods and learn how to make progress against this impending behemoth of change. Then scale up.
With wise use of artificial, cultural, collective and personal intelligence we may soon be able to co-ordinate efforts around the world to develop a shared vision of what we want to be when we grow up. I suggest we start using smart methods now.
To register for the Rising Stars Symposium workshop on Designing Our World for Life with AI September 26th in Edmonton go to:
When we individuals have difficulty managing the complex challenges around us, we have always turned to collective and organizational intelligence for assistance. It’s as ancient as we are. We call it community. And when life seems so busy that we want to retreat from community, we need to reinvent community so it continues to work for us. No one finds his own way without help from others. The collective does not find its way without individual leadership and initiative. We are all wayfinders together.
Scott Peck, the famous author of The Road Less Travelled and A Different Drum, said if you have ever experienced ‘authentic community’, you will continue to seek it out and recreate it wherever you go — for the rest of your life!
Sadly, many people today feel something is missing. Something bigger than themselves. They don’t know that the human heart has a vacuum in it the size and shape of community. It needs to be filled. Community is something that nature has given to us social animals as a birthright.
The authentic community fills that inner void. It provides a sense of belonging, identity, loyalty, security and shared purpose – things maybe you didn’t know were missing until you find them. It is an experience that transcends personal differences, and not only tolerates, but embraces and puts our differences to good use for the good of the whole. We are all different for good biological reasons. Our personal strengths were meant to be shared. That’s a higher order natural intelligence at work!
Healthy communities do not segregate themselves but are open and engaging, adaptive and even innovative. They seek to grow and develop appropriately to serve the needs of their members. Healthy communities get good at helping their members find their best strengths and place in the bigger picture. They draw out that natural talent, nurture it and support it for the common good.
Community intelligence is related to what is now called collective intelligence and crowd-sourced wisdom. In the early days of the scientific revolution kings offered prizes for the best scientific proposals. Collective intelligence is not new but it’s being rediscovered and modified for the 21st century. One person in a million may have a solution to a problem. Now, if that inventor wants to share it, we can all benefit from that solution. If the inventor can protect the intellectual property then he or she can charge for it and make a profit. The inventor may alternatively choose to make a free contribution to the sharing economy.
But while collective intelligence draws on the talents of many individuals, this by itself does not produce new ideas or solutions. Another important aspect of community intelligence is what organizational behaviour theorists are now calling organizational learning, and organizational or collaborative intelligence. This is not your grandad’s staff training. It’s about optimizing patterns of communication and control in the organization to maximize organizational performance. In any well-managed dialogue, committee or work group, for example, new ideas emerge that no individual member could have come up with on their own. In poorly managed or dysfunctional teams, the output group IQ could actually be lower than that of any member.
Community intelligence has what chaos theorists call emergent properties. The parts, together in particular relationships, produce new properties that do not exist in the parts themselves and usually would not be predicted. Others call it synergy, in which the intelligence of the whole community is greater than the sum of the members’ intelligence. Whatever you call it, the phenomenon is ubiquitous throughout nature but is only recently being recognized, studied and understood. The patterns of relationships among the members of a community add significant value that serves each member.
Community intelligence building is a key purpose behind the new social enterprise, Wayfinders Business Co-operative. It’s not just about business, but about how we all work together organically in an ecosystem of trusted intellectual and economic transactions. Wayfinders incorporates both collective and collaborative intelligence, guided, of course, by human values.
Balancing the Self-Other Orientation
Nature has given us the genes to work both as individuals and as groups or communities. Each of us has some natural disposition for one end or the other of the spectrum — self or other. People are asked to ‘carry their own weight‘ but also to ‘serve others‘. Most people find a balance somewhere between the extremes. Using statistics you can see that there is a ‘bell-curve’ normal distribution of people along the continuum, with extreme loners at one end and extremely gregarious at the other end. Most find a balance somewhere in the middle.
Neither end of the spectrum is solely correct, but both poles will surround themselves with people who feel the way they do. Like attracts like. People at both ends will develop worldviews shared among those with similar sentiments. Over time, we see ideologies emerge which solidify the polarities and bring out our sense of competitive tribal allegiances and territorialism.
When a natural neighbourhood has no sense of community, communities of interest come in to fill the void and play a bigger role in your life. That may mean membership is no longer as open, diverse or inclusive. They can become closed to outsiders. Religious orders, political ideologies, scientific disciplines, and intellectual camps can progressively become disengaged from the general population, displacing the organic community and thereby restricting community intelligence.
Some will say the adversarial polarity of politics is good for shaking out the issues. However, under competitive pressure to win the popular vote, people find more reassurance in their tribal alliances than they do in seeking facts, logic, truth or the ultimate welfare of the community as a whole.
You can see the evolution of party politics since the beginning of the British parliamentary democracy. But on a bigger scale you can contrast western liberalism that favours the individual and eastern collectivism that favours the whole. Within boundaries, both civilizations can survive and thrive. But there are limits and tipping points at which civil stability is threatened.
Personally, I favour an overall balance as I believe nature intended. I think it is not only possible to reconcile left and right, but it is imperative. The strengths of the individual and the strengths of community intelligence need each other. The work of sociobiology supports this position. There are mathematical algorithms that describe social interdependence in many other species as well as our own. I believe we should use management science to optimize the balancing of competing priorities in our civil systems.
The challenge is to assume conscious, deliberate and rational control of our civil guidance system. No one wants to have someone else do ‘social engineering’ on us. We need to develop a new platform with good ‘organizational DNA‘ and values aligned with basic human needs. The platform would promote active member engagement, hence, a cooperative governance model is proposed. Each member gets one voting share. Each member is educated in the co-operative and management science principles.
Whether anyone is aware of it or not I cannot say, but there has been progress over the past few decades that holds the key to our personal and common futures. The key lies in the domain of those sciences variously called information theory, systems theory, cybernetics, operations research, chaos theory, decision theory, complex adaptive systems, AI, and so on. I prefer the term ‘management science‘ for convenience. To me every living thing is managing its life. That’s what we all do with our intelligence.
Essentially this cluster of related sciences is evolving a unified explanation to encompass all life and intelligence. Management science finds ways to optimize performance or production lines, business processes and organizations of all kinds. It results in giant economies of scale in mass production, for example, so you can buy goods for cheaper. It can also be used to assist less formal organizations such as communities. If we prefer to think of communities as natural and organic, then we can refer to optimized communities as intentional communities.
Again, call them what you may, but we have a cumulative cultural deficit or growing cultural lag across our global monoculture. This is manifest differently in many quarters. The advances of technology leave advances in politics, family and community in the dust. As biological organisms, we pay more attention to tangible things than abstract or invisible things. We can adopt electronics faster than we can change religions. We quickly introduce cars and cell phones, then we take years to effectively regulate them.
In other words, our civil systems are not carefully optimized. The soft culture of values and beliefs is becoming the important critical path on the journey we call progress. Soft culture is the aspect of community and civilization that slows everything down or even disrupts technology. This soft culture needs a paradigm shift to catch up. In order to do this, the social sciences and psychology need to be firmly placed on the management science platform.
Civil and Psych Science
Our 200-year-old legacy social science has been largely marginalized. There is little money to incentivize serious civil research and development beyond academic exercises. Political animals, entrenched in legacy ideologies, often pay little attention to independent research on sociocultural matters. They generally believe they have the truth in their ideologies and party platforms. Much of the useful progress has come from organizational theory that emerges from management practice.
Psychology is refining us. Advances in psychology are among the most profound of all advances in the last 150 years. But this kind of progress plays too close to the human heart, and at heart, we are creatures of habit, not inclined to change behaviours until we have to. So while we have a better appreciation of mental health, there is a growing concern over mental illness. Meanwhile, there are probably a lot more psychologists in the marketing and sales industry than there are in clinical research and practice.
Part of the problem of the various social sciences and psychology lies in the fact that each has evolved into their own separate disciplines. But reality is not disciplinary. Management science, on the contrary, views the real world as made up of tightly integrated and embedded systems. This is a far more realistic worldview.
Governments are known to be reactionary, rarely getting ahead of public opinion. Public opinion is also lagging well behind the futurists and thought leaders. The best thought leaders have been quite surprised by many recent events on the global stage. We need to understand that with the very unpredictable nature of our current human condition, we must get back to some basics while we are capable of being rational and thoughtful.
Can we afford to allow a generation of our human family to wander off course amidst the dizzying accelerating rates of change, exponential growth of civil complexity and compounding chaos? As people cope with the mounting pressures and distractions they will inevitably disengage and lean on more primitive tribal instincts for protection.
As Wayfinders Business Cooperative sets out to bring forward the best in humanity, the best of our intellectual and technological heritage, we need to be smart about the new synthesis of these traditions, and be conscientious about where we are heading. We need to draw on management science and practice to develop the best science and practice in community intelligence.
Moreover, we must be cognizant of the fact that with each decision we make we add to the definition of humanity. We must find a way to remain true to our most positive nature while navigating an evermore complex global civilization.
I came across this article (linked below) in the Toastmasters international magazine and thought I should share it. I believe we can gain better insights into personal and shared worldviews by studying the worldviews from other cultures. This awareness and wisdom then enables us to better understand people of all kinds of backgrounds, including personality types, different genders, sexual orientations, professional disciplines, political ideologies, socio-economic classes, languages and religions.Understanding and appreciating different cultures is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. Few people who have not experienced life in two different cultures really get it. Visiting a foreign country as a tourist is only a brief wake up call. I fear that some people who have lived in two cultures feel that they are disadvantaged and down-play the true value of a multicultural perspective. I want to tap into their life experiences and garner the wealth that lies within so I can be richer, smarter and more adept.
Civilization is an ongoing experiment and if we can cross-fertilize our worldviews, we all benefit. Compare and contrast the lessons learned, rolled up and brought forward over the centuries around the globe. Explore the similarities and differences. I see this as a way to getting closer to the truth and goodness that lie beneath culture and personal experience.
“No one has a monopoly on truth!“
Moreover, how are we going to make progress as a species unless we learn how to share, harmonize and build on our worldviews rather than entrench and defend our values and beliefs? There is a learning curve in acquiring the skill, but, like any other learning, we can get better at it , get good at it, even master it.
“A survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 90 percent of leading executives from 68 countries identified cross-cultural leadership as the top management challenge for the next century. Cultural intelligence is no longer just a “nice-to-have” skill set; it’s become a critical capability for leading in the 21st century world.”