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About the Author
Neil Richardson is a strategist and a public servant who specializes in smart government advocacy and integral thinking.
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Preparing for a World That Doesn't Exist â" Yet
Creating a Framework for Communities of the Future
By Rick Smyre, Neil Richardson
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Rick Smyre & Neil Richardson
All rights reserved.
Emerging From the Mist: The Rise of a Second Enlightenment
A New Enlightenment
We are in a transition from an Industrial Society to an Ecological Civilization that will transform the fundamental principles of thinking and organization. Although it took 100 years for the First Enlightenment (1720–1820) to emerge, eventually a phrase appeared amongst the moderate thinkers of the time that personified the epoch. That phrase was "the new light," and the term Enlightenment became the historical way to capture the spirit of that age. Today's phrases, equally well known, are the "Space Age" and the "Information Age."
We live in an age of transformation where the concepts that grew out of the Enlightenment and undergirded the Industrial Age are evolving to a new worldview, complete with new fundamental principles, strategies and methods. No one is presumptuous enough at this stage in the historical transformation from one age to the next to think that all the key ideas and concepts can be identified, much less understood and applied. However, because the pace of change is faster and more complex than two hundred years ago, it is necessary for all citizens to begin to think about the implications of basic changes in our society. The change is occurring so fast that we know we are in some stage of transformation, which is different from what we read about previous changes. The universities and taverns of 18th century Scotland were havens of new thinking. Thinkers in those taverns and university salons felt pride and pleasure generating new ideas. One of our challenges is to create 21st century mechanisms, places, forums that will allow us to take enough time to ponder, talk, and ideate about transformational ideas just as did those participating in the coteries in Edinburgh in the 18th century.
We know many of the old ways of thinking already no longer work. Linear thinking grows more limited in a nonlinear world where the use of the Internet provides a matrix of simultaneous connections and disconnections. The one best answer may still be appropriate for an engineering equation, but not for the needs and capacities of a community in transformation. And, what about the capacity to innovate for increased income opportunities? We need to escape the search for standard solutions in order to innovate by seeing diverse connections among disparate ideas.
Rethinking the Obvious – What is Practical and Conservative in a Changing Society
We live in a time of such transformation that the basic ideas and principles that were successful in the past are no longer useful.
By analyzing the following traditional ideas from a perspective of the future, it becomes obvious why they are increasingly less useful:
Let's do what is practical.
We need to be conservative to insure the value of what we do.
Let's decide what we want in the future and plan for it.
Let's do what is practical:
As Einstein said, "one cannot solve new problems with old ways of thinking." What is considered to be practical today was a radical idea sometime in the past ... and traditional ideas are cracking as they always have in a time of historical transition.
We need to be conservative to maintain the value of what we have:
Conservatism is defined as the "disposition to preserve what is established." If an established organization, community and society wants to maintain vitality and sustainability when conditions and context within which each exists change, the most conservative thing to do is to change to insure survival. This is counterintuitive, and it necessitates new ideas in a process of what we call a "futures generative dialogue."
Let's decide what we want in the future and plan for it:
This is the basis for strategic planning. Change is occurring so fast we cannot predict the future. The best we can do is search for trends, weak signals and dialogue about what impact those trends may have. If you were a local economic developer in 1985, a mimeographed newsletter would still be used without realizing that the Internet had been in existence since 1969, and was getting ready to burst into the public consciousness around 1993 once the graphical interface of the Web was developed that allowed people and organizations in the public domain to communicate with one another in varied ways and in real time.
If we think about this implication for the future of our society, we begin to realize that we need to be able to think differently. We need to find connections where none apparently exist from a traditional perpective. We need to look for potential impacts of weak signals (what we call early signs of change) before they create a crisis. We need to think beyond the norm and realize that our context is constantly changing. How we see the world is different from how others see it. How we see the world in ten years will be different from how we see it today. We are facing a dynamic society of constant change while still trying to use the tools of a bygone age.
The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we used when we created them.
What can we do to prepare our communities and society for a different kind of future? We would suggest a counterintuitive idea. Before we "do" anything, we need to think about what we need to do. Think about how identifying emerging trends and weak signals could impact any new plan for the future. We need to build pools of leaders who can think about the future using principles, concepts, methods and techniques appropriate to a society in constant change that is interconnected by technology and that is increasingly complex This pool of leaders will be interconnected by increasingly complex technology. For us to be able to "do" the right thing, we need to think about what the right thing "is" in a changing context. Because so many changes are happening at once, we need to change the very nature of the questions we ask. What are all the things we need to think about and do in parallel to each other to build the capacities for vital and sustainable communities?
Rethinking the Future ... Searching for an Appropriate Framework of Ideas
Everyone knows the future will be different from the past. What we are just beginning to understand is that the challenges of the 21st century will probably require a "different kind of different" ... a future filled with qualitative changes as well as quantitative changes, with new principles that define and organize our society ... with a set of values that are adapted to meet the needs of a constantly changing context.
I first came to the realization that our society was in the early stages of immense transformation as a result of an experience I had in the textile industry in the mid-70s while CEO of a family controlled yarn spinning firm. 1974-75 was a major recession in the U.S. and was, for the textile industry, a mini-depression.
After World War Two, every six-seven years there was a limited recession of six months. Because interest rates were so low, it was standard procedure to continue to run the plants and build up inventory in order to keep the stability of the firm and especially the work force. The 1974-75 recession lasted eighteen months before the market returned to normalcy.
Something happened during this recession which was my first experience with a weak signal. However, my lens or filter of interpreting reality was not able to pick up the weak signal because of my training and the traditions of the textile industry. It was not until two years after the recession that I had an "aha" moment that would not only impact our textile firm, but also, over time, cause me to see the situation as a metaphor for the ongoing transformation of our society and economy.
Although no longer in existence, in 1970-80, Burlington Industries was the most well-known textile firm in the world. Based in Greensboro, NC, Burlington was the largest producer of woven fabrics of all kinds. The yarn that Burlington made was consumed by other divisions of the company as a part of a vertically integrated company. Our yarns were sold to the independent knitting industry throughout the U.S. Yarns that went into knitted fabrics had to be a better quality than those that went into woven goods that were made on a loom. Defects in woven yarns were not readily seen since the yarns were packed together due to the nature of how woven goods are constructed.
During times of recession after the Second World War, the demand for all goods was reduced, especially woven goods. In order to keep the stability of production for their many plants, Burlington had to find other markets for their yarns and sold a significant amount of their yarn production into the knitting goods area. To do this, Burlington had to reduce the price of their yarns by 50% so they could cover their fixed cost.
That is, Burlington did this for all recessions until the 1974-75 recession. In 1975 Burlington sold a yarn into the knitting market whose quality was better than the general quality of the spinners of knitting yarns ... and at a price equal to our firms yarn. I remember calling a colleague of mine in the yarn spinning business and asked the question, 'George, have you heard about this new yarn that Burlington is selling in our market?' My next question reflected my lens or filter of reality in the textile industry. 'Where did Burlington get their source of Mississippi cotton that we do not have?'
I fully expected Burlington to withdraw their yarn from our knitting market after the recession was over. In fact, they expanded their production and the quality improved. For two years, I asked the same question, 'how can Burlington find a better grade of cotton than we can?' When the third year arrived and Burlington continued to sell a better quality of yarn than any firm in the knitting business did, I asked a different kind of question, 'what is Burlington doing that we are not doing?'
In asking a different type of question, I no longer made an assumption based on past experience of our industry. Over the next five months I found out that in 1970 Burlington had approached a U.S. Textile Machinery Manufacturer to transform the way cotton fiber was opened in the initial process of yarn spinning. Over one hundred years, a big, room-filling mechanical machine called a "picker" was standard for all yarn manufacturers. Burlington had the vision to realize that a new type of opening equipment could be designed based on new electronic methods and not mechanical principles.
When the U.S. Machinery Manufacturer expressed no interest in research and development to design a new type of opening equipment, Burlington approached a German manufacturer and spent four years from 1970-74 developing the idea of "electronic opening" which was the reason that the quality of Burlington's yarn in 1975 was better than ours.
From that point in the early 1970s, the paradigm of yarn spinning was transformed. It didn't matter whether we bought new pickers, added skills to the fixers of the pickers or changed the maintenance schedule for pickers. No matter what we could have done, we would not have been competitive unless we replaced the traditional pickers with "electronic opening" equipment.
Ten years later as I became fascinated with the ongoing changes in our society and economy, it hit me that if I had been receptive to new ways of thinking about transforming textiles methods, I would have asked a different kind of question more quickly and made a faster decision to buy electronic opening equipment.
I use this story as a metaphor for our society and economy. In many ways, leaders in local communities are using an out of date lens/filter to interpret and make decisions for the future without understanding that the context is changing. Too many local leaders either use a traditional filter to prepare for the future, or try to make ideas and methods that already exist more efficient ... which is the definition of reforming change, not transformational change.
It was this personal experience that led me to begin to think about the present and future in very different ways as I read books and articles by visionary authors, and as I began to see the value to search out others who were very different in their thinking. This book is about the need to transform and reconceptualize all our traditional institutions, concepts and structures to be able to align with a society and economy in constant change. If each of you look back in your own professional life, you will find your "picker" story of transformation.
With this in mind, we need a new philosophic framework aligned with a society in exponential change. The following offers a framework that attempts to identify a basic shift of principles and ideas that may eventually be seen as important to 21st century society. At best, it is a partial list. Some of these ideas and principles may be seen as quickly obsolete or even irrelevant for the future. However, we are not concerned about rightness at this point, we are concerned about searching for a new way to think about and see the world. We are also concerned about how we prepare ourselves and our communities to function and be vital within a new type of society and economy. Over the last two centuries, it has been sufficient to reform the original ideas of the First Enlightenment. We have continuously improved basic ideas that have stood for more than two hundred years.
The ongoing transformation of our society will be based on different ideas and principles that are just beginning to emerge. As a result, we need to rethink old ideas and search for a Second Enlightenment. This Second Enlightenment needs to reflect the nature of our times as the previous First Enlightenment reflected the needs of the 18th and 19th centuries.
This framework below is designed in a different way. Not only does it attempt to identify the shift of ideas from one age to the next, but it also provides a column to reflect on how both ideas will be a part of the future. There is no right and wrong in these lists, only the best guesses of colleagues associated with the Second Enlightenment Project and the Center for Communities of the Future who have been thinking about transformation in our society for three decades. A key interest is how weak signals and trends will impact each other to create constantly changing contexts for the future. As you think about these ideas, select those most important to your organization and community, be open to all the ideas, and keep track of questions if you don't understand. They may be answered later in the book and if not, then they may contribute to the evolution of our ideas.
Living System Concepts for a Second Enlightenment
Consider the following core ideas as norms for each different age. The third column reflects the fact that both ideas in the first two columns will play appropriate roles over the next half-century, often at the same time in parallel with each other. However, over time, there will be a shift of emphasis from old to new principles. The story here is not that these earlier concepts were wrong, instead their truth was such that evolution reveals itself through adaptation.
Understanding the Genetic Structure of a Dynamic Society
One of the challenges of creating a Second Enlightenment framework is the need to take the time to understand the potential transformation of basic assumptions that is emerging as the society changes. It is as if we were civil engineers trained in concepts of scaffolding, who are now asked to become evolutionary biologists, seeking to understand how new patterns of a dynamic society are emerging. Many of the old assumptions which reflect standard ways of looking at the world are no longer appropriate for a world in constant change.
This section seeks to take each major shift in thinking identified as Living Systems Concepts, provide definitions and offer an example of how each idea will be important in the 21st Century. When the book is finished, you will have a clear understanding of what we mean when we say that a new paradigm is emerging that will transform yourself, your field and our world.
For clarity we believe it is important to define what we mean for each concept. The reader can either work their way through these definitions one at a time, or refer back to them as you encounter them in the book. We do recommend that you be mindful of the Ecological Civilization concepts as they are emergent.
Principle One: Independent, Interdependent, Systemic
The idea of individuals having the capability of being sovereign and having worth in and of themselves was a new idea that developed a tipping point of acceptance in the 18th century. When connected to the idea that people could have a direct relationship with God without the intercession of a priest (leading to literacy, democracy, and classical liberalism), independence became an important principle for the Enlightenment society. Over the years, the original concept of individual rights has lost the idea of responsibility that served as the glue of community. We live in a time of radical individualism in the United States and other Western countries where the market and democracy have taken root. As a result, not only are we losing bonds of connectedness, we are thrown into a cultural conflict as the interacting patterns of our society and the world increasingly require interdependent concepts and methods.
Today the context of our society is transforming and we are seeing a society emerge that is so fast-paced and technically interconnected, that it has become increasingly interdependent. Some will say, "we have always been interdependent" and they would be correct. However, we could always escape physical and psychological nearness if necessary. We could always move "West," geographically or theoretically, and find an environment which fostered independence. However, increasingly we live among diverse people and more of them. Our world economy is connected by greater trade and larger, faster financial flows. Even our ability to vote and eat is interdependent with technology. In an increasingly interdependent and complex world, we will need to help each other succeed.
Excerpted from Preparing for a World That Doesn't Exist â" Yet by Rick Smyre, Neil Richardson. Copyright © 2015 Rick Smyre & Neil Richardson. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Emerging from the Mist: The Rise of a Second Enlightenment 12
Chapter 2 Master Capacity Builders for Community Transformation 60
Chapter 3 Transformational Learning: The Foundation for Future Colleges and Continuous Uplearning 82
Chapter 4 Building a Creative Molecular Economy 113
Chapter 5 The Emergence of Poly centric Democracy and Mobile Collaborative Governance 146
Chapter 6 pH Ecosystem: A Comprehensive Approach to Community-based Preventive Healthcare 175