Wednesday 30 November 2011

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

Or, as Pirsig says.... 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:

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 USA 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. 
  1. Please don't be put off by the warning below or your initial reaction as the video starts--as the video progresses you will see the case they are making for change is powerful. 
  2. To watch the video click on Watch on YouTube below. 

"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 endeavours 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?

  • 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.
Example Use of Descriptor for Paint
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."

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 worldview? 
  • 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.

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.