Jean Jacques Rousseau - The Opening of the Social Contract
The End of the Machine Age
In 1905, Henry Ford began to implement an idea that was to transform our world. It was to provide expensive and complex objects cheaply and widely to masses of people by organizing people at work as parts of a machine.
The money price for these goods was low but the social price was high. Those that worked in this new system had to give up all independence of thought and behaviour.
For nearly a century, this idea worked well. Unprecedented access to goods and services arose. The physical quality of life improved for most people. By the end of World War II this idea had spread to all forms of organization - not just manufacturing. Now Schools, Universities, Healthcare, Entertainment and, in particular, anything to do with Government, shifted to the model. It became our reality. It became normal. It became the only way.
But, at some time in the 1970's, something began to go wrong.
Some threshold was passed in the 1970's where the ever tightening grip of central control and the ever growing scale of complexity, that had to be controlled, meant that this model hit the point of diminishing returns. Now the system now builds friction and internal stress faster than output. In some cases, all it offers is more stress and dysfunction.
30% of boys in school are on drugs. Is this their fault or the system? Food has never been cheaper but there are clear signs that industrial food is at the heart of a health crisis. Energy in the form of the income of the sun is infinite but our limited definition of energy restricts us to a technology and to a supporting process that may end life as we know it on Earth. Never before have more resources been applied to healthcare and we yet have an epidemic of cancer, depression and of obesity. The US military has never been so powerful and yet it is mired in a conflict that it can only lose. Governments have never had more resources but now seem unable to help people in real need such as post Katrina.
No one can say truthfully that allocating more money to oil exploration, to healthcare, to education, to the military has any chance of making our predicament better. More money only seems to make it all worse.
But Hope is not dead!
All over the world, pioneers have discovered by themselves, and as if by accident, a new model that had no name, but that works.
When I say works, I mean that this model enables the very small, the poor and the dispersed to offer better goods and services than the old system. It also allows people to leave the bondage of the machine system and to find again their voice, their spirit and their humanity. Using this model, we can have it all ways. We can have access to goods and services at low price but with a high utility. Unlike the Ford Model, the social impact is not more depression but more freedom and joy.
So what is this new model called?
In Software, it is called Open Source. In banking it is called Microcredit. In business it is called eBay, or Google, or Southwest or Starbucks. In gaming it is called Second Life or World or Warcraft. In academia it may soon be called Wikipedia. In politics it was the Dean Campaign. On the web it is called Blogging or Web 2.0 or Social Software. In office design it is called the Commons.
As we will see in the stories, all these ways of doing things are at a deep level the same. All these names are really based on one big underpinning idea. So let's name this idea.
The Ford model has a primary metaphor and a primary process. It is the metaphor of the machine and the process of efficiency. Our new metaphor is Nature and our new process is Growth. At the heart of this new metaphor is the truth that Nature has a deep organizing model that she uses in all circumstances.
For Nature is not random. Every component and every entity in Nature has a destiny or a developmental life cycle. Everything in Nature starts somewhere small and then does it best to fulfill this developmental destiny. An acorn seeks to become a forest. Stardust seeks a young sun to form around to become planets. A fawn seeks to become a herd. A lion cub seeks to become part of that herd's health system. A baby seeks to become a tribe and then a society. Inside of this society, a self-aware individual seeks to expand their spirit to include the universe itself.
Every component in Nature has an ideal trajectory that defines its developmental destiny. Each component of Nature has an ideal trajectory that connects with others to fulfill this destiny. For Nature offers no guarantees. Every component does not meet this ideal but the ideal exists.
So what then is the process that can drive an acorn, a baby, a business, a university or a nation to develop along its optimal trajectory for development? There is no secret. There is no mystery. The answer is very knowable and understandable. It is what I call "Trusted Space".
In the last 20 years, the new science of Chaos and Complexity has given us an insight into the world of probability that governs all complex systems. Get the "Initial Conditions" right and your baby will tend to grow up to be a fine self-aware and social being. Get the initial conditions right and suns will tend to form into a spiral galaxy. Get the initial conditions right and the acorn will tend to form a tree, and then a wood and then a forest. Plant your tomato plants after June 8 on PEI and you will likely have fruit in August.
Mother Nature does not micromanage an entity throughout its life cycle. She uses leverage.
She allows for the best beginning to set the best course for the best potential. An entity that has enjoyed the best Initial Conditions will, all on its own, have a high probability of fulfilling its ideal potential. Conversely, if an entity has suffered from poor Initial Conditions, there is little chance of getting back on track let alone meeting the full potential. Nature is neutral. She just sets the rules.
Think about this for a moment. Think about how this will affect how we allocate social resources once we begin to have confidence in how Nature works. Where do we now invest most of the money - early or late? Think then about how well schools are working. Think then about crime and healthcare. Here are the financial costs in dysfunction that a small society like PEI has to carry because we invest late.
We are committed to investing late because we do not yet see the value of investing in Nature's design for development. But what if we could see this better way more clearly? What if we could get help and support from others? Maybe if we could see more clearly and get more support we could ourselves use this model in our own lives.
What would happen if our primary leadership role was no longer to act like a line foreman in a Ford plant but to behave more like a gardener? What if we stopped acting like Firemen and saw ourselves as Fire Marshals? What if we humbly accepted Nature's 14 billion years of experience and did it Her way? What if we stopped trying to control all the transactions and looked instead improving at the social climate instead?
If we were to do this, we would have to know what the best social climate is for humans. We would have to have a simple model to follow and to learn.
Here there is the good news. Nature's models are always simple and research has discovered the simple model for setting the initial conditions for human development for human babies.
So what then is the optimal family culture that sets up the trajectory for optimal human development? The Optimal Culture to set the optimal development curve into play is an "Authoritative" culture.
Authoritative Parents are Parents who establish a warm and nurturing relationship with their children but set firm limits for their behaviour.
This is quite different from Authoritarian family culture, where the parents are highly controlling, requiring their children to meet an absolute set of standards. It is quite different from Permissive family culture, where parents are overly nurturing and who provide few standards for behaviour and are extremely tolerant of misbehaviour. As an aside, can you see where I am going with this as we move into the realm of human organizations?
Babies do best when they find that they live in this optimal culture and where their parents do a lot of two principal activities.
So as with all of Nature's rules, this is a simple equation and is easy to understand. Focus on the first 3 years of life. Embrace an Authoritative Culture and touch and converse a lot. But like all of Natures simple rules it is hard to do, if this is not your norm or your sense of reality
So what is happening to families today - think organizations while we think about children. What happens then if a baby has either the optimal or the less than optimal initial conditions? How does this work out in real life?
Here is a linear view of the difference in outcomes. At 2 the difference appear to be small. The babies that have had Authoritative Parents. Who have had their parents touch them a lot and who have had lots of conversations understand 300 words. Those that have largely experienced Authoritarian or Permissive parenting understand 150 words. But then look at the power of the developmental trajectories.
By grade 10, the Optimal kids have the cognitive ability of a typical 2nd year university student. The less optimal kids are stuck at grade 5 level. This research by Dr Doug Wilms at UNB is focused on cognitive ability but there are social aspects around behaviour and self worth that are tied in as well. It is the full potential of the person that is at stake here. Their health, their ability to get good work, the link to addictions and their ability to parent the next generation are all involved.
This is true in organizations as well. This slide shows the mortality differences inside the UK civil service over a 25 year survey by Dr Sir Michael Marmot. (The Whitehall Project). Here the trajectories are reversed from the Wilms view of Cognitive development.
The lower, you are in the hierarchy the more likely you are to die early.
What is the reason? The less control you have and the more you are treated like a thing and are not allowed a voice, the more you shrivel as a person. You get ill and you die.
The whole search for Work Life Balance inside traditional organizations is false. It is their combination of Authoritarian and Permissive culture that causes the stress.
They tend to minutely control your task and your voice and yet allows very dysfunctional personal behaviour.
I am no longer sure that the traditional organization can be reformed as an act of will. To do so demands that it give up its culture. In most cases the new is emerging de novo
Now with the web as the facilitator, applying these new ideas has become possible outside the old system. The new is now emerging on its own and in some areas has enough scale to take on and to decisively defeat the old.
This then is how the Trusted Space for babies is being applied in many new organizations.
The adult version of Touch is an organizational norm of relationship of empathy. As we will see in the stories, organizations that work well in the new, have the norm of seeing the other as itself.
The adult version of Conversation is well Conversation. This does not mean talk, it means that we all speak to each other as peers. It does not mean that we know the same things, but that we converse with each other as human being who all have a voice and our dignity.
The ideal culture for management is neither Permissive nor is it Authoritarian. It is Authoritative. Leaders establish a warm and nurturing relationship with their colleagues but set firm limits for their behaviour.
Just as the optimal parent does pay attention to the essential hygiene issues, so does the optimal leader. But they know that Job#1 is to set and maintain the culture of Trusted Space.
What happens inside the Trusted Space of your organization is that all the people tend to use the same relational norms that you have set as the overarching culture and that they tend to help each other along their own trajectory to their full potential.
I see this as Einstein saw the potential of the atom. Before Einstein, people thought of Atoms as being components of physical things. So Uranium was only a metal. But he saw that inside every Atom was the potential power of all but unlimited scale.
Inside every man and woman is also the power of the universe. So long as we saw our power as being only physical, that's all it could be. Now, bathed in Trusted Space, we have the potential as self conscious and spiritual beings to unlock the power of the universe that is inside of us.
What organization based only on the physical power of the machine can compete with that?
Enough theory. On with the show. Go to the Heart side of the site and enjoy the stories that illustrate the theory. If you need to know more, then go to the Mind side of this site and I will back up what I have said here.