Saturday, 10 December 2011

What's the Minessence Group's Take on Memes?

Memes are ideas, tunes, inventions, retorts, ways of doing business, ways of asking for help, and ways of saying hello. (Palumbi 2001, p. 243) 
Over the past few decades there has been a shift in thought concerning the evolution of human culture. Ever since Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, coined the term “meme” as the selfish unit of societal evolution analogous to the gene’s role in the evolution of species, there’s been a groundswell of people focussing on the evolution culture via memes.
     Dawkins suggested that memes, composed of memory and imagination, were the basic replicating units through which human culture evolved. Yet, memes simply do not fit the model of classic Darwinian evolution.
     Ideas are not passed on from one generation to another in a linear fashion as are genes. Most often, each person adds their own slant to an idea or may simply not understand it properly and pass on some distortion of the original (Chinese whispers). Also, people’s values have a profound impact on the transference of ideas. Values filter what people give attention to—people don’t even notice, let alone pass on, ideas which would make no contribution to what they value. People may also deliberately make a conscious choice to pass on, or not to pass on, particular ideas—knowledge is power. 
     The main distinction is: Darwinian evolution is about the survival of the species which, by chance, have adapted to change in a way which avoids their extinction; whereas, the survival of ideas depends on complex values dynamics:
The impact of conscious selection at the stage of idea mutation and transmission blurs the distinction among the three elements of Darwin’s engine and suggests a very different way of looking at ideas than Dawkins’s notion of evolving memes. Picked over as carefully as meatballs at a cheap buffet, ideas are sorted by the finicky process of conscious selection. They are created, used, and discarded by active minds seeking their own advancement or their own comfort. What other element of our lives do we consciously improve for better function and pick carefully among to fill our cultural shopping carts? We can also consider ideas as tools.
     As tools, ideas may be practical or not. They may have general or specific uses. Others may shun them or adopt them with gusto. Sometimes they seem to have a life and independence of their own, like the wooden handle of an axe that becomes polished through use to fit the hands that wield it. But in the final analysis they remain tools, ways of manipulating the world or understanding it. They do not evolve like genes because like tools, they cannot really replicate themselves—they can be made only on demand by brains, and only by this agency can they spread through to other brains. This does not say they always benefit us—akin to the way many of us have tool boxes stuffed full of things not currently doing us any good—and it does not claim that they can never do damage—like an unchaperoned gun. But the function and rapid change of ideas does not require their independent evolution...(Palumbi 2001, p. 252)
Q. If memes are not the mechanism by which culture changes, what is? A. Changes in the culture's values-system, i.e. changes t its strange attractor.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How do I Become an Evolved Person?

People often write about levels of consciousness which is curious, since no one yet even knows what consciousness is, let alone able to define levels of this elusive concept!
     Brian Hall (Figure 1), Clare Graves (Figure 2) and others go so far as to suggest that human development is correlated to levels of consciousness.
Figure 1. Stages & Phases of Human Development (Source: Brian hall)
     Clare Graves goes further than Hall's global consciousness level, seeming to imply there's no limit (Figure 2):
Figure 2. Levels of Human Consciousness Development
Supposedly, any person who has the global level consciousness of Hall's model, or is at level 10 or above of the Graves model, is an evolved person. There are two flaws in these and similar models of human development:
  1. Evolution cannot be tied to growth, development, progress or any other like concept. Identifying someone is an evolved person actually says nothing about who they are as a person, in fact the statement is rather meaningless.
  2. Levels of consciousness cannot be tied to values development.
Let's look at these flaws in more detail...

Evolution Cannot be Tied to Growth/Progress
Figure 3 is a typical technology timeline advertisement which explicitly assumes a link between evolution and progress:
Figure 3. Linking Evolution & Progress
However, Darwin himself pointed out that evolution is only about species adapting to change--those which adapt appropriately survive. It's about the continued existence of the fittest to survive. Those which survive are not better or more intelligent that those which didn't survive. They are simply those which survived because, by chance. they adapted to changed conditions in a way which prevented them from becoming extinct. The current evolution of the human species looks more like that depicted in the two cartoons of Figure 3:
Figure 3. Evolution of Man (Note: Not sexist, just  couldn't find equivalent cartoons with women in too)
If progress really was tied to evolution one would perhaps have expected a result more like this:
Figure 4. An Evolutionary Fantasy (sorry still sexist)
The cartoons of Figures 2 & 3 represent canonical icons--i.e. iconic depictions of an unconscious belief-set (in this case, a false belief-set) embedded in the psyche of Western culture. Interestingly, as highlighted by the side notes in the captions, these canonical icons are also linking males to evolution and progress. Figure 5 is the only one found which did include a female. How do you react to this image? Is it a cynical dig at the male concept of evolution and progress? Or, is it just using sexual imagery to promote something?
Figure 5. What's the Canonical Message?
In summary, there's no link between evolution and progress. In fact, letting this false belief guide our collective behaviour is a form of "cop-out": we don't have to think, put the brain in neutral and let random selection create a better world for us--"Sorry. It ain't gonna happen!"

Levels of Consciousness Cannot be tied to Values Development
What is consciousness? For starters, consciousness is not like an on-off switch where we are either conscious or unconscious. It's more like a dimmer switch, where it can go through a continuum from were you are totally disconnected from the world (asleep or in a coma) to the other end where you are totally pre-occupied with some worldly issue be it operating one someone's brain, repairing a car motor, writing a song, solving the problems of the world with a colleague, landscaping the garden...(Greenfield, 2000)
      Latest neuroscience (Geddes, 2011) has identified that consciousness is correlated with the synchronization process of brain activities. The more our brain is involved in connecting all the dots, the more conscious we are. When we are most conscious, paradoxically, we disconnect from the world around us (our senses are effectively "turned off") and we lose track of time--we are in a state Czikszentmihalyi (1992) describes as flow...


Figure 6 is a simplified version of the diagram Czikszentmihalyi uses in his video.
Figure 6. Commensurate Increases in Challenge & Skills Creates Flow Experiences  
Whereas no scientific research has been uncovered which links consciousness with values development, raised consciousness (flow experience) is linked to skills development. It follows that there is a link of sorts with values, i.e. we will only ever be self-motivated to take on challenge and skills associated with activities which match our values. Click here for a case study where this approach is applied to living the value health/well-being.

So the term evolved person is rather meaningless because there's no link between evolution and progress or development. So lets re-frame the question to,  "How do I use my values to guide my personal development." Answer:
  1. Know and live your own values ("If you are not living your values, whose values are you living?)
  2. Continually seek to increase your skills in living your values using the model given in Figure 6
  3. Because we are part of nature, we cannot live our values any way we want, so live your values in consideration of other life on this planet.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What's the Difference Between Values, Ethics & Principles?

The short answer: "Values motivate, ethics and morals necessarily constrain (because we live in a society, we cannot live our values any way we want)."
     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 desirable behavioural constraints (morals, ethics, rules, laws, etc.).
     "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.
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 lie or 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 matter 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.
To summarise then, values are our measures of importance, whereas ethics represent our judgments about right and wrong. The close relationship between importance and right and wrong is a powerful influence on our behaviour and how we evaluate the behaviour of others.
Q. How does one go about choosing what ethics, morals, rules, laws, etc. are 'right'?
A. By basing them on appropriate principles.
The Principle Centric Approach to Behavioural Choices
Principle is defined in Nuttall's Concise Standard Dictionary of the English Language as, "Principle. 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, 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 example is necessary to illustrate the universal principles.
     Before you raise your voice to 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 of extolling the virtue of progress through unencumbered evolution--guided by the principles made evident by Charles Darwin: we push for free trade with 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. Internalising the principles we believe explain the nature-of-things is perhaps the single most powerful factor shaping society. It is vital that we maintain a continual dialogue around principles to ensure those we internalise and institutionalise are up-to-date and are our current best shot at the truth. We must work hard to expose those who willingly spread misinformation for their own personal gain--our future depends on it.

 We are entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts. 

Some examples of principles are:
  • People become more trusting the more they perceive they are being trusted. 
  • The wealth of countries is directly related to the level of trust within the country. 
  • The greater the trust level, the greater the wealth. 
  • People reject inequality, even if it means walking away empty-handed. 
  • Our brain is dichotomous which leads to the fact that many of people's "weaknesses" are a natural consequence of their strengths--rather than try and "fix" these weaknesses, celebrate them.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nothing Will Ever Change Until There's a Change of Worldview

...to 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:



Two of the most powerful influencers of worldview are emotion and the media:

Emotion
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?

The Media
The video below gives an of of how our Hegemonic society utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression. This sets into motion the subordination of women in our society and that value that they hold as individuals politically and socially. It is a perfect example of how media shapes our worldview and hence our values.



     "We can't be what we can't see." Worldview is everything. It shapes our values. Then, our values determine our choices in life.

In influencing people's worldview, what works best?
What works as both an effective and an ethical means of world-view modification, is the use of a combination of dialogue, experiential learning, and structural change. The key to change is firstly 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 really understand why their values are important to them.

Change = Rapport + Information

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

What's the Link Between Values & Skills?

I shall lead you into some territories you’ll find hard to swallow. One of these is the acceptance of one’s “weaknesses” and the idea that weakness is the inevitable counterpart of strength. This is a view that is alien to our scientific-industrial society, which admits only to perfection. If you have weaknesses, the traditional view is to send you to school to correct them. As a consequence, engineers are berated because they write poorly, artists shamed because they are disorderly, and administrators accused of lacking imagination. All this is unfortunate and blind to human nature. The qualities criticised are innate, a consequence of the dichotomous organisation of the mind. Walter Lowen
The level of motivation or the degree of stress you experience is directly related to your ability to "live" your priority values. When you are unable to live your priority values it is because you lack either the skills, support systems, or both. Skills fall into four basic categories: 
  • Instrumental - tools/hands 
  • Interpersonal - communications 
  • Imaginal - creative 
  • System - making connections/seeing the bigger picture 
To live a value effectively requires skills in one or more of these categories. Support systems also fall into four categories:
  • Peer - people outside your workplace engaged in similar work to yourself, with whom you can share regularly. 
  • Work - people in your workplace who give you sustained positive support and you do likewise with them. 
  • Intimacy - someone to mutually share with at depth on a regular basis. 
  • Resource - access, as required, to the appropriate mix of skills, abilities and other resources. 
It is not a good idea to get peer, work and intimacy support from the same person or group of people. Keep these three support systems separate from each other.
Note: Many values will require one or more of the support systems to be in place in order that you can give full expression to those values in your life.
Through categorising the skills needed to live each of the 128 values, it's possible to produce a chart from your priority values:
Figure 1. Skills Needs--Determined from Priority Values
The person, from whose values the above chart was derived, will need mainly interpersonal and system skills to effectively live their priority values.
In the Minessence Values Framework [MVF], growth is more about how you live your values, rather than about living a preferred (according to whom?) set of values. In the MVF, skills, along with challenge, play a very important role in personal growth and development for growth is defined as continually increasing one's level of sophistication (complexity of skill) in living one's values. 
Skills & Complexity
A complex world is what we are familiar with. Complexity is normal. It is something 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. This reverence for complexity has led us to develop our own complex machinery and intricate social support structures. We fail when we confuse “complexity” with “complication”. To messy minds, complicated things are much easier to construct than complex orderly structures. [Nader 1999, pp. 331-332]
It seems that we have been genetically programmed over the past million or so years to seek happiness. It turns out this is no accident, it is necessary for our ongoing survival as a species. The upshot of this genetic programming is that, through our endeavors to do things so we feel good, we each become more and more sophisticated (more complex) beings. 
Complexity may be the answer to the age old question, “What is the meaning of life?” the answer being, “To decrease entropy—i.e. increase complexity—in the universe.” The arrow of progress and growth points in the direction increased complexity. It is not surprising, then, that we are genetically programmed to only be happy when we engage in activities that lead to increased complexity. 
Csikszentmihalyi (1998, pp. 74-75) describes activities that lead to happiness as flow activities. He believes there is a strong link between flow experiences and the increased complexity of consciousness:
In our studies, we found that every flow activity, whether it involved competition, chance, or any other dimension of experience, had this in common: it provided a sense of self discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person to higher levels of performance, and led to previously undreamed-of states of consciousness. In short, it transformed the self by making it more complex. In this growth of self lies the key to flow activities.
A simple diagram might help explain why this should be the case. Let us assume that Figure 24 represents a specific activity—for example, the game of tennis. The two theoretically most important dimensions of the experience, challenges and skills, are the diagram's axes. The letter A represents Alex, a boy who is learning to play tennis. The diagram shows Alex at four different points in time. When he first starts playing (A), Alex has practically no skills, and the only challenge he faces is hitting the ball over the net. This is not a very difficult feat, but Alex is likely to enjoy it because the difficulty is just right for his rudimentary skills. So at this point he will probably be in flow. But he cannot stay there long. After a while, if he keeps practising, his skills are bound to improve, and then he will grow bored just batting the ball over the net (B). Or it might happen that he meets a more practised opponent, in which case he will realize that there are much harder challenges for him than just lobbing the ball—at that point, he will feel some anxiety (C) concerning his poor performance.
Neither boredom nor anxiety are positive experiences, Alex will be motivated to return to the flow state. How is he to do it? Glancing again at the diagram, we see that if he is bored (B) and wishes to be in flow again, Alex has essentially only one choice: to increase the challenges he is facing. (He also has a second choice, which is to give up tennis altogether—in which case A would simply disappear from the diagram.) By setting himself a new and more difficult goal that matches his skills—for instance, to beat an opponent just a little more advanced than he is—Alex would be back in flow (D).
If Alex is anxious (C), the way back to flow requires that he he could also reduce the challenges he is facing, and thus return to flow where he started (in A), but in practice it is difficult to ignore challenges once one is aware they exist.
The diagram [Figure 2] shows that both A and D represent situations in which Alex is in flow. Although each are equally enjoyable, the two states are quite different in that D is a more complex experience than A. It is more complex because it involves greater challenges, and demands greater skills from the player.
Figure 2. Increased Complexity = Personal Growth
But D, although complex and enjoyable, does not represent a stable situation, either. As Alex keeps playing, either he will become bored by the stale opportunities he finds at that level, or he will become anxious and frustrated by his relatively low ability. So the motivation to enjoy himself again will push him to get back in the flow channel, but now at a level of complexity even higher than D.
It is this dynamic feature that explains why flow activities lead to growth and discovery. One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long. We grow either bored or frustrated; and then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them.
In the video below,  Csikszentmihalyi  gives a more comprehensive explanation of this process.

Tying this all together. The person depicted in Figure 1, to live a happy, meaningful, fulfilling life, must take on ever more challenge in relation to interpersonal and system skills, with a commensurate increase in interpersonal and system skill levels.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Why Value Descriptors in lieu of Definitions?

Example Use of Descriptor for Paint
  • Definition--a concise explanation of the meaning of a word or phrase or symbol.
  • Descriptor--the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something.
The saying, "The Tao expressed is not the Tao," gives a clue to a basic problem with definitions. The very process of writing a definition of anything detracts from the true nature of the entity one is attempting to define. The reality is simply that definitions would be impractical to use if they even came close in their attempt to describe anything comprehensively.
A descriptor seeks only to provide sufficient information about an entity so it can easily be identified when compared to other entities.
An alternate definition of descriptor is: "a piece of stored information that is used to identify an item in an information storage and retrieval system."
So when a descriptor is used with human values: "A value descriptor is a piece of information used to identify a particular value."
Efficacy
When formulating each value descriptor, the Key Affiliate team used a set of criteria to evaluate the efficacy (capacity or power to produce a desired effect) of each.
To create efficaciousness value descriptors one must:
  1. Identify values which have like roles and work with the identified set of values. (For example, control/order/discipline, law/duty, law/guide, accountability/ethics, etc. all have an ordering role within their respective world-view -- each world-view has different beliefs about how the ordering should be effected, therefore, each world-view has a different value giving expression to the beliefs.) In working with the new descriptors for a set of values, we must ensure the role for each value within its world-view is maintained, and each descriptor clearly distinguishes each value in the set from the others. 
  2. Keep the value label and its descriptor simple using more common-usage words. For example, Collaboration/ Subsidiarity could become Collaboration/ Delegation. 
  3. Use word senses which are the most common interpretation of the word. 
  4. Ensure the descriptor of a value makes it simple to distinguish it from other values, particularly from other values which have labels of like-senses such as, for example: Cooperation/Complementarity, Collaboration/Subsidiarity, and Interdependence. 
  5. Not use other value labels within the descriptor. 
  6. Not provide examples of how the value may be lived -- this narrows the descriptor and could bias its meaning. 
  7. Ensure it facilitates the process of people working through the VAK questions to identify how they are living the value in their life.

Thus the criteria for evaluating the efficacy of a value descriptor become:
  • Is it simple? 
  • Is it constructed from common-usage words? 
  • Does it use words such that their most common meaning-sense is the sense intended? 
  • Does it faithfully describe its role in the world-view to which it belongs as a focus value - i.e. is it congruent with the beliefs of its world-view? 
  • Is it sufficiently different from other values whose labels have like-senses? 
  • Is it free of other value labels? 
  • Is it free of examples of how to live the value? 
  • Is it easily used with the VAK questions? 
In IT jargon, a descriptor which meets a set of desired criteria, is be said to be well formed.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I am wondering why people would find some of their chosen values draining?

The way you prioritise your values significantly influences your energy levels. Certain values can be energising, others can be energy draining, and some values will do little for your energy levels. Thus, in terms of our energy levels, values fall into three categories:
  • Energy Giving—Typically, these are the values which energise you. They put you in a “flow state”. Values, such as Intimacy, Sharing/Listening/Trust and Skilful Leisure, are in the energy giving category.
  • Energy Draining—Typically, these are the values which drain your energy. Values such as Care/Nurture, Endurance/Patience and Duty, when they are your main focus, are likely to drain your energy as they can keep you from paying sufficient attention to your energy giving values.
  • Energy Neutral —Typically, these are values which have little impact on your energy levels. In most situations, living these values requires little mental attention/energy to remain focused on ‘the task in hand’. Values such as Work, Organized Play, and Communication/Information fall into this category.
Once a person's value priorities are known, a graph can be produced, see below, which identifies the relative percentage of mental energy the person is devoting to these three value categories. If the graph shows that the person scored significantly higher on energy draining values than energy giving values, this likely indicates a stressful lifestyle. In which case, the person may want to review the way they are currently  approaching life so as to spend more time engaged in activities that will give their energy levels a boost.
Energy Profile
One very effective way of living a more energising lifestyle, is to spend at least two hours per week engaging in creative mode activities.

Monday, 21 November 2011

What is a World-View?

A World-view is your personal model of the world. It comprises your beliefs, your knowledge, and your assumptions about the world.
As your world-view changes, you see the world differently, and therefore your responses to situations and circumstances also alter.
"I have met the jailer and he is I.
We are all trapped by our own world-view."
Paul Chippendale



Friday, 11 November 2011

How Do I Run a "Future Search/Creation Conference"

The world is moving from experts solving problems FOR people toward,
everybody, experts included, improving whole systems.
Marvin Weisbord
In his book, Discovering Common Ground, Marvin Weisbord described himself as an entrepreneur and author. From 1969 to 1991, he worked as a consultant to business, education, government, medical, non-profit and voluntary organisations in North America and Scandinavia. In 1991 he started Workplace Revolution, a non-profit programme to help people apply the consensus-building ideas embodied in Discovering Common Ground. Other enterprises in which he was involved included: being a partner in Block Petrella Weisbord, a firm established to help people restructure their work; and a partner of Blue Sky Productions, a video company documenting innovations in self-management around the world.
Weisbord (1991, p. xiii) describes his personal mission in life as:
...I have a personal mission. There is a growing world-wide interest in improving the quality of life, at home and at work. I believe that represents common ground for every person living. I would like [Discovering Common Ground] to serve as a catalyst for an informal global support network of people exploring and extending the use of [Future Creation Conferences]. We have a unique opportunity to learn from each other and to amplify one another's processes.
...I hope to encourage concerned leaders everywhere to experiment with [the Future Creation Conference] format. I believe that this mode constitutes a learning laboratory for 21st Century strategic management.
The Minessence Group views itself as part of the envisaged informal global support network - his personal mission is completely congruent with our own vision, i.e. "To create a world where life is meaningful."

Basic Structure of the Future Creation Conference

Future creation conferences are based on learning, not teaching. In these conferences, learning is not something participants must "learn" how to do. "They already know how. They just don't know that they know" (Weisbord 1992, p. 7). For many, future creation conferences are unlike anything they have ever experienced due to three intertwined threads:
  1. A much broader cross-section of "stake-holders", than is usual, are invited - a widely diverse group of people who affect each other but who rarely or never meet.
  2. The participants self-manage tasks of discovery, dialogue, learning and planning.
  3. Participants explore together the WHOLE system - its history, ideals, constraints, opportunities, global trends, within and without, rather than just the parts that are closest to home and soaking up the most energy.
The most radical aspect of future creation conferences is how conflict is managed (Weisbord 1992, p. 7):
[During the future creation conference] we will nearly always find unresolved conflicts and disagreements. We discourage conferees from "working" their differences. Instead, we create a figure/ground reversal. We put the dysfunctional "shadow" dynamics in the background. People don't magically get better than they were. Rather, they tune in on different aspects of themselves - the more constructive and cooperative impulses.Indeed, we neither avoid nor confront the extremes. Rather, we put our energy into staking out the widest common ground all can stand on without forcing or comprising. Then, from that solid base, we spontaneously invent new forms of action, using processes devised for that purpose.In short, we seek to hear and appreciate differences, not reconcile them. We seek to validate polarities, not reduce the distance between them. We learn to innovate and act from a mutual base of discovered ideals, world-views, and future goals. Above all, we stick to business. We make the conference's central task our guiding star.
Learn Through Doing: Transform Your Organisation into a Learning Organisation
The best way to learn about future creation conferences is to run one. So here are some guidelines for putting one together. The suggested format is one developed by William Smith (1992, pp. 171-186). Smith's model is specifically designed to promote a horizontal flow of power in organisations in place of the usual vertical flow of power. Having a horizontal flow of power, rather than a vertical flow, is an essential requirement of the culture of any organisation desiring to be an effective learning organisation.
The diagram below (Smith 1992, p. 176), depicts the vertical flow of power prevalent in most organisations:
One typically finds the following divisions of power in large corporations:
  • At the top, the "institutional" level, the appreciated environment is dealt with. They ensure survivability of the organisation through linking to the needs values by society. Their main output is policy.
  • At the "managerial" level, the most influential strategy for the implementation of the policy is chosen. The main outputs are strategy and structure.
  • At the "technical" level - traditionally the level considered to be the most concerned with control - attempts are made to reduce uncertainty through producing concrete plans, rules and regulations.
Smith's future creation conference model is designed to overcome these power differences, and provide each level a chance to influence decision-makers. His model accomplishes this by introducing a horizontal flow of power across the organisation to counterbalance the vertical flow (see the following diagram):
This future creation conference model is designed to take place over three days:
  • Day 1 is devoted to understanding realities and possibilities (appreciative learning). Intended participants asked to gather and research any information they may feel relevant to the main topic prior to the first day. They would also be encouraged to pass this gathered material on to other participants in whatever way they believe will have the most success in transferring the insights they've gained to others. This transference (appreciative learning) continues until the completion of Day 1. By the end of Day 1, common ground is identified.
  • Day 2 is devoted to selecting and debating priorities.
  • Day 3,  guided by the chosen priorities, sets out an action plan to ensure the priorities are addressed in an agreed time line. Action Learning Projects are set up to turn the plans into action.
The diagram that follows, depicts the creation conference design described above:
Concluding Comments
We, at the Minessence Group, are keen to link with others in transforming the world into one where the well-being of as many people as possible is enhanced. The mechanistic model of the universe, developed some centuries ago, still dominates the way we treat each other, particularly in the workplace. 
People are not machines, robots, human resources or valuable assets. What distinguishes people from machines is values. People have values - machines do not. In order to tap into, and to respect people as human beings, we must be sensitive to their values and design our relationships, teams, organisations, society and civilisation to be in tune with these values.
We believe Future Creation Conferences will make valuable contributions to this much needed  transformation.
Let's finish with some more wisdom from Marvin Weisbord (1992, pp. 8-9):
APPLIED COMMON SENSE: The equation goes something like THE RIGHT TASK + THE RIGHT PEOPLE + THE RIGHT SETTING = UNPRECEDENTED ACTIONS. That sounds a lot of applied common sense. Why, in most institutions, is it not commonly applied? I have to keep reminding myself that the (probably unconscious) function of old paradigm meetings is not breakthroughs, but control.
...To implement effectively we need a shared picture of the "whole system" - future vision, values, policies and procedures in a global context. This calls for broad face-to-face joint planning.
...The outcomes can be quite startling. They range from grass-roots community action to stimulate new businesses and jobs, to revitalising a major company's total quality program, to setting future policy for a national banking system, to making policy for whole nations.

References
Smith, W. 1992, "Planning for the Electricity Sector in Columbia", in Discovering Common Ground: How FUTURE SEARCH CONFERENCES Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation. Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, pp. 171-186.
Weisbord, M. 1992, Discovering Common Ground: How FUTURE SEARCH CONFERENCES Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation. Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

If I don't have any values in one or more of the clusters does it matter? Is there something wrong?

To take an actual example, the person below on receiving their Values Map asks, "I have no values in the security cluster. Does this mean I am insecure?"
VMAP Example - No Priority Placed on Security Values
The reverse is true. The Values Map is a chart of value priorities. If you don't place a priority on a particular values such as security, that simply means you don't have the need to. If on the other hand you were feeling very insecure for some reason, then security would be playing on your mind and you would choose security as a priority.
Another common question is, "I've looked through all my AVI Reports and there's no self-worth. Does this mean I have no self-worth?" Once again, the reverse is actually true. If self-worth issues were playing on your mind you would choose statements related to it when completing the AVI. When matters of self-worth are not playing on your mind, you will choose statements related to other values with the result that self-worth, along with many other values, will appear with a priority of zero on all AVI Reports.
This brings out an important aspect of the AVI and its reports. The AVI is designed to elicit priority values from our unconscious. There is a difference between a value being important to us and a value currently being a priority in our life. For example, returning to security. The person who asked the question about their zero score on security probably considered security as something that is very important value in people's lives, it just isn't currently a priority in their life. So it is with all values, we can believe a value to be important in people's lives, however, if it is not currently important in your life it will not show up in your AVI Reports.
Many values will be important in your life, only some will be a priority--the AVI is designed to identify those which are currently a priority.

Friday, 28 October 2011

What is Brain-Preference? How does it impact on our Values and Communication Styles?

Unconsciously, the processes people use to make decisions and to communicate with the world around them, are selected so as to reinforce their identity. A significant part of people's identity is shaped by deep preferences which arise from the way our sensory [S], feeling [F], thinking [T] and intuitive [N] modalities are "wired" in our "firmware". These deep preferences are termed Brain-Preferences.
Figure 1.
Levels of Choice
Using a computer metaphor of the brain (Figure 1) there are essentually three levels of flexibility/plasticity. At the base level is the hardware--the brain we are "stuck" with. This level people, such as William Glasser, argue is the source of our basic needs: fun, love, freedom and the need to feel in control of our life. These needs are common to all humanity--they are hardwired into us.
All computers have essentially the same hardware. The difference between how computers and people operate comes from the "wiring" at the firmware level. For example, what makes an Apple computer different from a PC, or an iPhone different to a Nokia is the basic operating system programmed into the firmware--this programming can be changed but not easily and normally is only changed in minor ways to provide necessary upgrades or to fix issues. Firmware wiring creates basic "personality" differences--an Apple is more intuitive and graphically oriented than is a PC which is more "left-brained" rational. With people the firmware determines whether a person has a preference for people or things and whether they have a preference for dealing with concrete or abstract realities.

Figure 2.
The wiring of our Sensate, FeelingIntuitive
and Thinking circuits, results in us having a
preference for relating to People or Things
and a preference for dealing with
Concrete or Abstract realities.
At the software level reside applications (APPS). Both PC and Apple computers can run sumilar APPS but the firmware determines which computer type is best suited for which APP. In people, it's our worldview which resides at the software level. Our firmware determines how we create this worldview. A person whose firmware predisposes them to talk and listen to people in a detailed concrete way will obviously create a different view of the world as compared to a person whose firmware predisposes them to them to dialoguing with the world via "tinkering" with things and formulating abstract models of how things work.
Figure 3 has more detail about the nature of a person's preferred mode of dialogue with the world around them depending on their brain-preference.
Figure 3.
Modes of dialogue for each
Brain-Preference
There are four main types of brain-preference:
  • Technical Architect [Things-Abstract]. These are people who have a preference for using their hands to "tinker" with or to create things and who use their intellect to develop models or plans. They rely mostly on understanding the world through thinking and intellectual analysis. Their style of Decision Making favors rational analysis. Since they prefer to gather information visually, they communicate best through illustrations and graphic representations.
         Technical Architects seek careers as planners, software developers, composers, architects, etc. They are more likely to be corporatists or independents who see political parties as a hindrance to them following their passion. 
         Technical Architects will often create or deploy new technologies. Those who have this brain-preference are often perceived as Visionary Leaders if the technology they have created is widely adopted. In a sense, this can make them accidental leaders because their passion is the technology, rather than the leadership. 
  • Quality Producer/Crafts Person [Things-Concrete]. These are "hands on", sensate people who like certainty and desire activities/organizations to be well structured. They prefer things that are down-to-earth, rather than abstract and intangible. They prefer having or creating a manual for how things are done. They are uncomfortable around people who seem erratic or chaotic in the way they do things. Their Decision Making Style tends to be prudent and conservative, based on carefully gathering detailed information. Their Communication Style focuses on careful documentation of details and linear, sequential processes.
         Quality Produces gravitate towards careers such as athletes, mechanics, surgeons, gardeners, accountants, farmers, etc. They are most likely to support a political party which puts balancing the budget ahead of social welfare.
            Quality Producers can be excellent Transactional Leaders.
  • People Servants [People-Concrete]. Similar to Quality Producers, People Servants like structure and a degree of certainty. However, they strongly prefer spending time with and talking to people, rather than relating to the world of things. They prefer to communicate via intimate, feeling based language and dialogue and are usually good listeners. People Servants strongly favor a style of Decision Making that considers people’s feelings and preserves relationships.
         People Servants often choose careers as school teachers, coaches, therapists, healthcare and human resource professionals, actors, value consultants, etc. They are more likely to support a political party which puts caring for people ahead of balancing the budget.
         People Servants can be great Facilitative Leaders. In that role they can facilitate the difficult dialogues and mediate conflicts that frequently emerge between the Visionary Leaders and Transactional Leaders in organizations.
  • Social Architects [People-Abstract]. Social Architects, like People Servants, prefer the world of people to the world of things. However, unlike People Servants they tend to work with theories & models to explain people’s motivations and behaviors. Social Architects are comfortable functioning in a world of uncertainty--in fact it's their preference--too much predictability and they get bored. They favor both intuition and intellectual analysis. Because of the influence of intuition, the Social Architect's Decision Making Style tends to be variable: at times deliberatively bold and assertive; at other times perceived as somewhat impulsive. They favor communicating verbally through metaphor, models, “big-picture” visionary images and “fuzzy logic.”
        Social Architects are often society’s "greens", deep ecologists, social-activists, social scientists, social policy planners, organizational consultants, writers, etc.
         They are potential Visionary Leaders in societal and organizational transformation. To be effective, Visionary Leaders, like Facilitative Leaders, understand that the key to change is first gaining genuine rapport with people.
Figure 4.
Example of three people mapped
onto the brain-preference chart
Because 40 of the 128 values are correlated to brain-preference, we are able to map people on a brain-preference chart as shown in Figure 4. As you can see from the legend, person 3 on the chart is me which indicates that I have a strong preference for the abstract and a slight preference for people over things. Person 2 is similar to myself, however, is virtually indifferent as to whether they prefer working with people or things. Person 1 has no strong preference--we usually find people who lack preferences are in a state of transition in their life--in some senses they are in a process of breaking free from the "shackles" of their past and becoming their own person.

"Rather than aim for living a balanced life, live a prioritised life." - Michael Henderson

See also: "Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative"

Thursday, 27 October 2011

How is a Repertory Grid used to Concretize Values?

The Repertory Grid method is part of a widely used set of techniques for studying personal and interpersonal systems of meaning. Repertory grids have been used in thousands of studies of a broad variety of topics, ranging from children’s understandings of physical science principles and consumer preferences, to formal structures of self-reflection within cognitive science and the mutual validation of belief systems between friends.
The technique was initially designed by George Kelly, author of personal construct psychology (PCP), as a means of assessing the content of an individual’s repertory of role constructs—the unique system of interconnected meanings that define his or her perceived relationships to others. In its simplest form, it requires the respondent to compare and contrast successive sets of three significant people (e.g., my mother, my father, and myself), and formulate some important way in which two of the figures are alike, and different from the third. For example, if prompted with the above triad, a person might respond, “Well, my mother and I are very trusting of people, whereas my dad is always suspicious of their motives.” This basic dimension, trusting of people vs. suspicious of their motives, would then be considered one of the significant themes or constructs that the person uses to organize, interpret, and approach the social world, and to define his or her role in it [more...].
A an example blank Repertory Grid for eliciting constructs around values is shown below. Click here to download a blank grid in PDF format.
Example of Repertory Grid Form
  1. Take a Grid Sheet for each of the values you have selected.
  2. Write its name and descriptor into the space provided.
  3. Then think of four people, two who live this value well (put their initials in the space provided above 'good'), two who don't live that value well (put their initials in the space provided above 'poor'). Put your initials in the space above 'me'. The remaining column marked 'ideal' is for reflecting about a person living that value to perfection.
  4. Now take three people at a time (say one good and two poor, then me plus two good, then ideal plus one good and one poor, etc). As you take each set of three in turn, think of what two of them have in common in terms of living that value and how the other person lives that value differently from the other two. Mark 'o' under the two that have something in common and 'x' under the person who is different. In the left column under constructs, write what the two have in common. In the right column under constructs, write how the one person is different. Repeat this step until all possible combinations of three are exhausted (you will need more than one sheet per value) and you have done this for all the values you selected.
  5. When completed, transcribe the construct pairs elicited for all sets of three people for each value onto a separate sheet.
Some sample construct pairs are shown below:
Sample Construct Pairs for the Value: Truth/Wisdom/Integrated Insight

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How can we use values to formulate long-term business strategy?

The CRD Model of Values
Yet another values lens through which organisation can be viewed is the CRD Values Model where C = Control Values, R = Relational Values, D = Development Values. This model is useful in formulating long term business strategy. In a nutshell: if the control values are the highest priority for the group, strategy should focus delivering excellent business systems; if the priority is greatest for the set of relational values, business strategy should focus on customer relationships; if the developmental values set are the highest priority, strategy should focus on developing leading-edge products and/or services:

Values Set Strategic Focus
Control Values
Relational Values
Developmental Values
Operational Excellence
Customer Collaboration
Innovation, Product &/or Service Leadership
  • Control Values are necessary to maintain and bring together various organisational sub-systems. They include values relating to efficiency, discipline, and performance standards. These values guide such activities as planning, quality assurance, accounting and re-engineering. Examples of Control values include: Efficiency/Planning, Control/Order/Discipline, Law/Rule, Management, Rationality and Financial Security.
  • Relational Values guide people’s behaviour in a group setting. These values are based on beliefs about how people should conduct themselves in public, at work and in relationships. Examples of Relational Values are Honesty, Congruence, Respect and Loyalty. Relational Values influence how people behave and relate to each other when living their Control and Developmental Values.
  • Developmental Values are essential to create new opportunities for growth. They are values related to creativity, growth, knowledge expansion and innovation. Examples of Developmental Values include Creativity, Self-Actualization, and Growth/Expansion
In relation to leadership styles, the natural style for people whose dominant values are Control Values, is Transactional. For people whose Developmental Values are dominant, their natural style is Visionary. It follows that people who prefer to put most of their energy into the Relational Values will have a Facilitative style.

The interaction between the Control, Relational and Developmental sets of values has a strong influence on the nature of group and organisational culture:
Interaction Between CRD Values Shapes Culture
Values based strategic planning is grounded in the knowledge that there is a close connection between the successful execution of organisational strategy and the actual values of people charged with its execution.

The Control, Relational & Developmental values sets, when employed in strategic planning, underpin three related types of strategic focus, which, while not mutually exclusive, require very different skills.

We have developed a CRD Profile which enables groups to identify their dominant set of CRD Values. This information enables them to formulate long-term group strategy in a way that is congruent with their values and therefore have the best chance of successful execution.

Below is an example of a Group CRD Profile:

Group CRD Profile

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What is Values Alignment?

The leader's job today, in 21st-century terms, is not about gaining followership. Followership is an outmoded notion. Leadership starts with gaining alignment with the mission and values of the organisation: What are we about? What do we believe as a group? At Medtronic, we aligned around the idea of "alleviating pain, restoring health, and extending life." It was clear that anyone who didn't buy into that could work somewhere else. [Bill George]
Values alignment is an emergent property in organisations that have a critical mass of people with a common language of values and clarity about how their personal values, personal vision/mission and goals align with the desired values, mission/vision and goals of the organisation.
The following diagram illustrates four possible alignment scenarios of its people's values with those of the organisation:
Values Alignment (Source: Paula McHenry)

  • Position #1: Low personal job satisfaction/low job performance. An employee at position 1 is attaining very little personal satisfaction from working in the organisation. Similarly, the organisation perceives the person as under performing.
  • Position #2: Low personal job satisfaction/high job performance. An employee at position 2 is perceived by the organisation to be a high achiever. However the individual is receiving little personal satisfaction from working in the organisation.
  • Position #3: High personal job satisfaction/low job performance. The organisation perceives the employee as under-performing. However, the employee is getting what they want from the organisation. This is an awkward and untenable situation from the organisation’s
  • Position #4: High personal job satisfaction/high job performance. An employee at position 4 is in an optimal position. Their personal values are highly aligned with the organisation’s values, and they are perceived as a high achiever.
Obviously position #4 is the optimal scenario from the individual employee as well as the organisation’s perspective. The key to this position is for both the individual and the organisation to have clarity about their values, a well-defined sense of vision/mission and a set of meaningful objectives. A free survey is available at http://bit.ly/db38j9 for you to explore values alignment within your own organisation.
Creating Values Alignment
The Optimal Performance Model, illustrated below, provides a useful framework for conducting an organisational wide values program for the purpose of setting the right conditions for values alignment to be an emergent property of the organisation.
Optimal Performance Model (Adapted from: Smith, P. & Saint-Onge, H. 1996
Each person and each group in the organisation must give attention to:
  • Concretization. Concretizing their top 10 priority values (using techniques such as: asking VAK questions about each value, concept mapping, and/or Repertory Grid).
    "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - Carl Jung
  • Purpose. Having regard any published organisational values, formulate personal and group values, vision and mission statements. Make statements which are uplifting and motivating.
    "Where there is no vision, the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18
  • Will. Each person reflects on their foundation and vision values, and brain-preference. Vision values motivate so, "Will this organisation enable you to be passionate about and motivated by your vision values?" Foundation values can demotivate if they are not satisfied so, "Do you have strategies and skills in place that turn these values into a solid foundation rather than an achilles heel?" "In this organisation/group, are you able to focus mainly on tasks which match your work-mode brain-preferences and priority values?"
    "How do your top 10 values compare to your group/organisation's top 10 values?" "What common ground do you see?" "If your values are markedly different to the group/organisation's values, can you see a way you could happily live your own values whilst at the same contributing to the group/organisation's values?"
    "How does the group energy management profile compare with your personal profile?"
  • Capability. "Do all in our group have the skills, resources and abilities to live our values in our workplace?" SQ = Spiritual Intelligence, EQ = Emotional Intelligence and IQ = intelectual intelligence, "Do we have the knowledge to develop these intelligences within our group?"
    The group skills profile indicates the skills needs of your group based on the values you all have. "What are the implications of this profile for your group?"
The above program works, and it works very well, because it creates a strong values system (strange attractor) within the organisation based on its people's actual values--self-organisation does the rest. If you are unfamiliar with how self organisation works, the two videos below (the first pertains to childhood education, however, the principles are universal) give a good overview:

Self-Organisation in Education...




The Mathematics of Self-Organisation...