Thursday, 17 August 2017

Some things we can and should change

In her feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.

Money itself has no value, rather, money is an information system by which we indicate to others what we value. Our current system of economics is flawed in that it caters only for a limited set of values. As a result, we have created a society based only on this limited set, ignoring the others. The most effective way to create a better society is to create a new system of economics.
If we don't like the way things are, we are better off putting our energy into creating new entities supported by new values-systems...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Embrace complexity, it's the key to growth.

A complex world is what we are familiar with. Complexity is normal. It is something we we have grown to respect. We stand in awe of nature's complexity, from the function of the human body to the incomprehensible marvels of microscopic particles...We fail when we confuse "complexity" with "complication"  To messy minds, complicated things are much easier to construct than complex orderly structures. [Nader, pp. 331-332]

Some tips for embracing complexity from Seth Godin:
"The answer is simple" always more effective a response than, "well, it's complicated."
One challenge analysts face is that their answers are often a lot more complicated than the simplistic (and wrong) fables that are peddled by those that would mislead and deceive. Same thing is true for many non-profits doing important work.
We're not going to have a lot of luck persuading masses of semi-interested people to seek out and embrace complicated answers, but we can take two steps to lead to better information exchange:
  1. Take complicated overall answers and make them simple steps instead. Teach complexity over time, simply.
  2. Teach a few people, the committed, to embrace the idea of complexity. That's what a great college education does, for example. That's what makes someone a statesman instead of a demagogue. Embracing complexity is a scarce trait, worth acquiring. But until your customers/voters/employees do, I think the first strategy is essential.
 You can't sell complicated to someone who came to you to buy simple.

Happiness ensues when we take on ever more challenge,
with commensurate skills development,
whilst living our own values.

Nader. J. 1999, HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS & INFURIATE PEOPLE: A CONTROVERSIAL book for thinkers, Plutonium, NSW, Australia.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Nothing Will Ever Change Until There's a Change of Worldview tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motor cycle because it is a system is to attack the effects rather than the causes; and as long as the attack is upon its effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systemic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There is so much talk about the system and so little understanding. [Emphasis added] (Robert Pirsig, 1974, p. 94)
For change to occur, people need to make different choices in familiar situations. Since values lie behind all our choices, this means people need to undergo a values shift. For a values shift to occur, people's world-view must change. The diagram below shows the main things which shape a person's world-view:

The fastest way of shifting people's world-view is through deliberately provoking a "significant emotive event"--brain washing techniques are an extreme example of this. If you think people would never resort to these techniques, think again! The question we must ask is, are techniques which deliberately provoke "significant emotive events", ethical?
The debate around this issue could rage on for years, however, the debate can be completely side stepped. How? Well it turns out that, though creating significant emotive events is a very effective way of modifying a person's world-view, those provoking the event have no control whatsoever over how the person's world-view will change. If you cannot control the outcome, then what's the point of employing the technique?
How can one be so sure that you cannot control the outcome? It's a basic principle of chaos theory. When you provoke a significant emotive event in a person's life, you create a bifurcation in their meaning-system (i.e. the way they'd made sense of the world until that point in time is broken down--bifurcated!). The brain's system of making sense of the world--it's meaning system--is as about as complex as system as you can get --in fact it might very well be the most complex system in the universe. Chaos theory tells us that when a bifurcation occurs in any complex non-linear system (not just the most complex in the universe) no one can predict the outcome.

So this means, if you deliberately provoke a significant emotive event in a person's life in order to impact on their world-view, you have no control over, nor any way of predicting, what new world-view they will have after the event--how useless then is this as a technique make any change?
What does work as both an effective and an ethical means of world-view modification? The answer: "Use a combination of dialogue, experiential learning, and structural change."
The key to change is gaining real rapport with people. For genuine rapport to exist, people must really know that you are able to see the world through their eyes and thus understand why they have the value priorities they have.

Change = Rapport + Information

For more on this and other values related material, please go to our Knowledge Base.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Prosperity Without Growth

Anyone would think the economy is paramount in our society. Just listen to most politicians. Were they were elected to office by the economy? One would think so, as they do everything for the economy--it's their master and they its servants.

It is time we saw the economy for what it really is, and treat it accordingly.

I like to use a metaphor of the human body when explaining how the economy should work:
  1. The role of the economic system in society should be much like the role of the cardio-vascular system in our body—i.e. vitally important to the health of the whole organism.
  2. However, just as humans don’t exist to serve their cardio-vascular system, nor should society exist to serve the economic system—i.e. “we live in a society, not an economy”.
  3. And, just as individuals strive to have a healthy body (which includes having a healthy cardio-vascular system) so they can do what they want in life, so too should society look at their economic system as a means to enable it to do what it wants.
  4. It’s what we do or accomplish as an individual or a society that matters—no one is remembered for having a healthy-cardio vascular system! They are remembered for what they contributed to society. Thus vision, values and mission are paramount—having healthy internal systems merely enables these to be realised more easily.
We need to restructure the economy to be non-numeric-growth-based, see: <= The key concept is to create an economy which enables “prosperity without growth”.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Increase fitness, build muscle bulk, lose weight, look younger and become smarter to boot!

How: For 20 minutes repeat the following on an exercise bike:
  • sprint for 8 seconds
  • cycle relaxed for 12 seconds
This 20 minute routine must be performed at least five days a week.
Source: Research from the Garvan Institute and the University of New south Wales.

Why this works: Chemical compounds called catecholamines drive weight loss. Catecholamines are produced during sprints.


If you'd prefer to get out and about (not use exercise equipment) then Professor Ratey recommends interval training – really pushing yourself hard for between 20 and 30 seconds while running, cycling or swimming, so that you are momentarily exhausted.

Do, say, two minutes of walking, 30 seconds' sprinting, then two minutes of walking again. It doesn't have to be a lot for a long time, but you will really notice the difference. "The side effects on the body aren't bad either - I lost 10 pounds in no time," Professor Ratey says.

  • A bonus! One of the articles on which this post was based says there's evidence that regular physical exercise makes you smarter. More...
  • New research from Tel Aviv University has found that "endurance exercises," like jogging, can make us look younger. The key, exercise, unlocks the stem cells of our muscles:
  • Lacking motivation, if you are over 30 I suggest you join your local Masters Athletics Club--this is our local club --there are clubs like this around the world--their motto is, "If you are old enough, you are good enough."

Monday, 22 November 2010

It doesn't matter what values we have...

However, what does matter, is how we live them. As any beginning student of ethics is told, "even thieves have values."

I am frequently asked, "What are the differences between values, ethics, morals and principles?" My short answer to the question is usually, "Values motivate, morals and ethics constrain." In other words values describe what is important in a person's life, while ethics and morals prescribe what is or is not considered appropriate behaviour in living one's life. Principles inform our choice of values, morals and ethics. "Generally speaking, value refers to the relative worth of a quality or object. Value is what makes something desirable or undesirable" (Shockley-Zalabak 1999, p. 425). Through applying our personal values (usually unconsciously) as benchmarks, we continually make subjective judgments about a whole manner of things:
...we are more likely to make choices that support our value systems than choices that will not. Let us say that financial security is a strong value for an individual. When faced with a choice of jobs, chances are the individual will carefully examine each organisation for potential financial and job security. The job applicant who values financial security may well take a lower salary offer with a well established company over a higher-paying offer from a new, high risk venture. Another job seeker with different values, possibly adventure and excitement, might choose the newer company simply for the potential risk and uncertain future.
Values, therefore, become part of complex attitude sets that influence our behaviour and the behaviour of all those with whom we interact. What we value guides not only our personal choices but also our perceptions of the worth of others. We are more likely, for example, to evaluate highly someone who holds the same hard-work value we do than someone who finds work distasteful, with personal gratification a more important value. We may also call the person lazy and worthless, a negative value label. (Shockley-Zalabak 1999, pp. 425-426)
What then of ethics? Ethics are the standards by which behaviours are evaluated for their morality - their rightness or wrongness. Imagine a person who has a strong value of achievement and success. Knowing only that this value is important to them gives us a general expectation of their behaviour, i.e. we would expect them to be goal oriented, gaining the skills necessary to get what they want, etc. However, we cannot know whether they will cheat to get what they want or "do an honest day's work each day". The latter dimension is a matter of ethics and morality.

Take another example, a person has a high priority value or research/knowledge/insight. They have have a career in medical research. In fact, knowing their value priority we would expect them to have a career in some form of research, however, we do not know from their value priority how they are likely to undergo their research. Will the person conduct experiments on animals, or would they abhor such approaches? Again, the latter is a mater of ethical stance and morality. Johannesen (cited Shockley-Zalabak 1999, p. 437) gives further examples which help distinguish between values and ethics:

Concepts such as material success, individualism, efficiency, thrift, freedom, courage, hard work, prudence, competition, patriotism, compromise, and punctuality all are value standards that have varying degrees of potency in contemporary American culture. But we probably would not view them primarily as ethical standards of right and wrong. Ethical judgments focus more precisely on degrees of rightness and wrongness in human behaviour. In condemning someone for being inefficient, conformist, extravagant, lazy, or late, we probably would not also claim they are unethical. However, standards such as honesty, truthfulness, fairness, and humaneness usually are used in making ethical judgments of rightness and wrongness in human behaviour.

Clearly our values influence what we will determine as ethical; "however, values are our measures of importance, where as ethics represent our judgments about right and wrong" (Shockley-Zalabak 1999, p. 438). This close relationship between importance and right and wrong is a powerful influence on our behaviour and how we evaluate the behaviour of others.

Now let's move to another level. How does one go about choosing what ethics are right? In the next section I describe the approach to answering this question I believe best suited to today’s society.

The Principle Centric Approach to Behavioural Choices

'Principle' is defined in Nuttall's Concise Standard Dictionary of the English Language as, "n. the source or origin of anything;...a general truth or law comprehending many subordinate ones;...tenet or doctrine; a settled law or rule of action;... v.t. to impress with any tenet; to establish firmly in the mind". In this Millennium, perhaps more than ever before, I firmly believe that we need to reformulate a set of principles to guide us. There are two main benefits of taking a principle centric approach to guide all human action: (1) knowing a set of principles concerning 'the nature of things' enables us to make informed choices and judgments as we would know, with a high degree of certainty, the likely outcomes of our actions, (2) knowing even a few principles helps us avoid information
overload. On the latter point, Birch (1999, p. 44) says:
One way in which drowning in information is overcome is by the discovery of principles and theories that tie up a lot of information previously untied. Prior to Charles Darwin biology was a mass of unrelated facts about nature. Darwin tied them together in a mere three principles of evolution: random genetic variation, struggle for existence and natural selection. So we do not need to teach every detail that was taught to nineteenth century students. A mere sample is necessary to illustrate the universal principles.
Before you raise your voice in protest, "What do scientific principles have to do with informing what constitutes ethical and moral human behaviour?" Stop for a moment and ponder the what has been institutionalised into Western society all in the name extolling the virtue of progress through unencumbered evolution - i.e. guided by the principles made evident by Charles Darwin. We push for free trade; level playing fields, argue that cloning interferes with natural selection, push for de-regulation so that competition prevails and only the fit organisations should survive, etc., etc.

But what if we've got Darwin wrong? What if the principles instead were: survival of those who cooperate for the greater good, selection guided by a moral sense, etc. We would have a completely different society from that which we have today. Understanding and internalising the principles that comprise 'the nature of things' is perhaps the single most powerful determining factor in the shaping of the society in which we live. It is vital that we maintain a continual dialogue around principles so those we internalise and institutionalise are up-to-date and are our current best shot at the truth.

Below is a four minute video clip where David Suzuki explains how understanding the principles behind exponential growth should impact on our decisions as to how we live on this planet:

When you have 90 minutes to spare, I highly recommend that you watch David Suzuki's full presentation as it includes many more examples of important principles which should inform human behaviour:


Birch, C. 1999, Biology and the Riddle of Life, University of New South Wales press, Sydney.

Loye, D. 2001, 'Rethinking Darwin: A Vision for the 21st Century', Journal of Futures Studies, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 121-136.

Shockley-Zalabak, P. 1999, Fundamentals of Organisational Communication: Knowledge, Sensitivity, Skills, Values, Longman: New York.

Suzuki, D. 2010, David Suzuki's Legacy: Highlights, ABC Big Ideas

Friday, 5 November 2010

Transformative Leadership

Transformative leadership is a team effort. It requires constructive dialogue between the Transactional leaders (the implementers) and the Visionary leaders (the dreamers).

It's through the dialogue between these two groups that a new tacit worldview emerges.

So who are the Visionary Leaders, and who are the transactional leaders?

From when we are born our interaction with the world around us stimulates our brain. We quickly begin to develop preferences for some forms of stimulation over others. By late adolescence these preferences are virtually "set in concrete" and we have developed a preference for one of four ways of relating to the world around us: things-abstract, concrete-things, concrete-people, or people-abstract. Below, each of these four ways of dialoguing with reality are briefly described along with preferred leadership modus operandi.

Things-Abstract [Technical Architect]

These are people who have a preference for using their hands to "tinker" with or to create things and to use their intellect to develop models or plans. They rely mostly on discovering things about the world through thinking about it and intellectually analysing it. They prefer to gather information visually.  They are the "accidental leaders" because they will often create a technology which everyone else wants. People such as Bill Gates and the inventor of Facebook are examples. People with this brain-preference are not particularly interested in politics, they are the "corporatists" and would be quite comfortable living a totally privatized world.

Those who belong to this brain-preference will be seen as visionary leaders if people like the technology they have created.

Things-Concrete [Quality Producer/Crafts Person]

These are "hands on" people who like certainty and like activities/organisations to be well structured. They prefer things to be down-to-earth rather than abstract and intangible.  People with this preference may be athletes, mechanics, surgeons, gardeners, accountants, farmers, etc. They will prefer a political party which gives them certainty and a sense of security. They will also prefer a party which is conservative in its policies rather than one which comes up with innovative new (never-tried-before) policy.

These people can be fabulous transactional leaders. Those who are masters of their craft will be sought out to teach others the best way to perform their chosen occupation.

Concrete-People [People Servants]

As with the Quality Producers, People Servants like structure. However, their preference is for spending time with and talking to people, rather than relating to the world of non-human things. They will choose careers as school teachers, actors, ethicists, priests/nuns, public servants, value consultants, etc. They will also prefer a party which is somewhat conservative in its policies, however, they will put people ahead of balancing the budget. So, if their party spends too much money on welfare (i.e. caring for those who can't care for them selves), their party will probably be voted out of office and a party supported by the Quality Producers will be voted back in on the promise of spending cuts to bring the budget back into surplus.
People Servants are great facilitators, they are key to facilitating the oft difficult dialogue between the Visionary Leaders and the Transactional Leaders. Without this dialogue transformation is not possible. Understanding the worldviews and values of each group is essential to facilitating effective dialogue. 

People-Abstract [Social Architects]

The Social Architects, like the People Servants, prefer the world of people to the world of non-human things. Social Architects are comfortable functioning in a world of uncertainty--in fact it's their preference--too much of the "same old, same old" and they get bored. Social Architects like to create models to understand how people behave, they like designing new social systems. They are the "greens", social-ecologists, social-activists, social scientists, social policy planners, etc. in our society.
These people are potential Visionary Leaders in respect of societal and/or organisational change. As with the facilitators, to be effective as a visionary leader they must be able to gain rapport with those the desire to influence. Remember, the key is to change is firstly gaining real rapport with people. And, for genuine rapport to exist, people must really know that you are able to see the world through their eyes and therefore understand what they have the values they have.

Change = Rapport + Information