[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he word “sustainable” has acquired many meanings in recent years. However, in essence, the word means “able to keep going” and it is with this meaning which it is here applied to organisations and individuals as well as to their physical, social and cultural environments.
The challenges we face in our economies and societies in our divided unsustainable world are perhaps greater than at any other time. These challenges have arisen because of how we have been trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we have applied this training to the way we organise and govern ourselves. We have thought, planned, organised, governed and acted as though our world is comprised of parts which can be separately exploited by humans and managed by us from one stable state to another. We have forgotten we are just one species in a complex natural world. We have tended to act without a sense of wholeness – without integrity. Meeting these challenges will require new approaches to how we are trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we are trained to organise and govern. These new approaches will need to be based on our current scientific understanding of our world and the human mind.
How we think is not how we are trained to think!
Broadly, we tend to be trained in critical thinking. In educational institutions, at work and even at home we train what may be called our Critical Mind. We train people to reason in a disembodied way as though our minds were symbol manipulators like computers, unconnected with the remainder of our bodies and our physical, social and cultural environment. We train them to break problems down into parts, to put these parts into rigid categories with shared properties and to manipulate symbols representing these categories. We train them to hypothesise using these rigid categories ( thereby excluding all other possibilities) and look for a grain of the “truth” about these categories which is imagined to be “out there” in the “real” world and to justify that “truth” with propositions expressed in words or mathematical symbols joined together in accordance with the rules of logic. We train them to think in a straight line towards a conclusion. We train them as though the way we justify our thoughts – in logical statements – is the way we think. In short, we train people to think “inside the box”. We dehumanise reasoning.
The effects of this on our lives and work include:-
• People who are predisposed to be less comfortable with manipulating symbols tend to become alienated from the better justifiers.
• As justifications become more specialised the difficulty of communicating increases and trust decreases.
• We tend to become locked into our justifications.
• We make a habit of being critical first and thinking constructively second or not at all.
• We continue doing what has worked in the past even when circumstances change.
• Critical thinking based on different, crude and rigid categorisations often leads to unresolved conflict in groups and organisations. This unresolved conflict can surface later and undermine the group or organisation as may be seen in organisations in which management does not consult meaningfully with staff.
• Similarly, as individuals we can be left with unresolved internal conflict. This can damage the individual and others and lead to poor relationships and unhappiness.
• All this unresolved conflict leads to cruelty, unhappiness and inefficiency and hinders our creativity and performance as individuals, in groups and in organisations.
• Overall, this “parts” thinking is not compatible with the thinking necessary to achieve sustainable development, as explained by Paul Weaver in “The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century” (pp.246-253).
For instance, he states:- “In the process of breaking down real world systems into parts, most of the links and relationships that are the central concerns of sustainable development – the links between the natural and social systems or between levels in hierarchical structures or between time periods – are severed and are not studied by the specialized disciplines. Relatively new academic fields such as resilience and complex systems theory seek to address these issues by integrating the social and natural sciences.” (p.250).
Critical thinking has produced and will continue to produce much knowledge of parts of the world around us but it is inconsistent with the integrative way in which nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. There is mounting evidence in our increasingly interdependent world that in addition we need to be trained specifically in something like NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT) which is consistent with the integrative way nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. While continuing to train in and employ critical thinking we need also to train what may be called our Integrative Mind of which our Critical Mind is a part.
NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT)
NEW IT is based on extensive research in Mind Science in recent years. Mind Science draws on work from the brain sciences (which include neuroscience, immunology and endocrinology); biology; ethology; computer science; social, evolutionary and cognitive psychology; physics; anthropology; neurophilosophy (a new science established with a view to building a unified science of the mind and brain); linguistics; systems theory; complexity science including self-organisation, chaos, uncertainty, and emergence; the philosophy of mind; the philosophy of science and evolutionary epistemology (a branch of philosophy concerned with the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge). Based on this work the human mind may be defined as the process of the living human brain interacting with the rest of the human body, which is interacting with its physical, social and cultural environment.
Among other things this research has shown:-
• Our mind and reasoning are inherently embodied, that is, shaped by our bodily interaction within itself and with its physical, social and cultural environment.
• Most thought is unconscious and much of our reasoning is done when we are not conscious of its being done.
• Over a lifetime of experiences we develop a number of prototypes in our minds which are reflected in patterns in our brains.
• It is difficult to change these prototypes so solving novel and complex problems in a creative way usually involves redeploying prototypes from another domain to the novel or complex domain.
• The more prototypes we have (the broader and deeper our knowledge) and the greater our ability to trigger those prototypes, the easier it is for us to creatively address novel and complex problems.
• We tend to be simplifiers because we can keep only about four items, plus or minus one, in our short-term memory while we are working on other information.
(For a concise introduction to the Mind Science which underpins my work please see the interview with leading cognitive scientist George Lakoff about his and philosopher Mark Johnson’s book “Philosophy in the Flesh” at http://www.edge.org/discourse/lakoff.html. For an annotated bibliography relating to Applied Mind Science in the field of Integrative Thinking please see NEW IT Module 1 at http:www.integrative-thinking.com.)
While encouraging and applying critical thinking when appropriate, NEW IT is a process of habitually and almost automatically making connections to create a whole new picture rather than habitually and almost automatically breaking down an old picture into its parts. NEW IT may be thought of as a more comprehensive successor to lateral thinking and using multiple intelligences but, not surprisingly, is fully integrated, not an add-on extra. It is a practical application of Mind Science so is a form of technology but it is human-based rather than machine-based technology. It is a NEW way of thinking which helps us think “outside and inside the box” and integrate the two as we plan and act.
The process of NEW IT may be thought of as our wondering (W) about a situation, creating a narrative (N) connecting our wonderings and managing our experiences (E) in acting out our narrative. It is distinctive in that it helps integrate intuition, reason and imagination. It involves understanding and learning what our basic human needs and aspects of our human will are, what guides us in balancing those needs and will, clarifying what we have and what we want to set our goal, exploring possible connections when relaxed, arriving at a strategy to negotiate the change from what we have to what we want, devising tactics to advance the strategy, taking bold, assertive and timely action to achieve our goal, reviewing and evaluating our performance.
Becoming an Effective NEW Integrative Thinker (NEW IT) Is Not Difficult
For example, the SOARA (Satisfying, Optimum, Achievable Results Ahead) Process of Integrative Thinking in NEW IT includes a comprehensive set of aids to memory to help trigger connections in our minds, help us see analogies in unrelated fields and provide a way of self monitoring our thinking and acting. All these aids to memory are joined together in a meaningful sentence so the Process as a whole can be learned in about the time it takes to learn to drive a car (about twelve hours) and is easily remembered. With practice its application can become almost automatic. At all stages of the Process provision is made for learners to record their reflections and possible actions based on those reflections. People can be introduced to the basic concepts of the Process at almost any age. The Process is culturally neutral because it accepts the uniqueness of each human being.
With practice, applying the SOARA Process of Integrative Thinking becomes a habit which empowers people and makes easier our struggle to achieve successful outcomes on a life-long journey among possibilities. It helps us refine our perceptions, expand our horizons, sense and respond successfully to emerging trends and events. By helping us to make analogies from other domains it brings out and enhances our creativity. By helping us to always consider a comprehensive range of variables it ensures we always take others into account including our “customers” and stakeholders. NEW IT helps us and our enterprises thrive.
By helping improve our creativity and performance NEW IT helps us gain a sense of meaning, a sense of belonging and a sense of personal power. This is because NEW IT helps us reconcile our needs and wants and balance and integrate our thoughts, feelings and actions in harmony with our physical, social and cultural environment. In this way NEW IT helps us to a self-reliant state of mind from which we can work towards uplifting sustainable development and the better linking of life and work.
In all contexts NEW IT provides an essential ingredient for sustainable successful connections, relationships and interactions – a common basis for communication between individuals.
Against this background, the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project directly addresses our challenges in a novel way. It is designed to improve the well-being of people and their physical, social and cultural environments through low-cost adaptive diffusion, refinement and implementation of a unique bottom-up Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.
II emphasises dynamic connections, relationships and interactions in line with our current scientific understanding of the world as tending to be self-organising with human beings whose minds are naturally integrative. II improves in a balanced, integrative and sustainable way the lives people already have. II involves training individuals in NEW Integrative Thinking and encouraging and facilitating Integrative Governance enabled by technology in all government, business and civil society organisations. II progress is measured by a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
The project is at the stage of seeking people and institutions which would like to advance Integrative Improvement in the world. In line with the adaptive tendency inherent in the Integrative Improvement approach, the current draft plan is designed to adapt as other catalysts join as one of a maximum of seven founding members of the Federation Integrators Team of the first Integrative Federation (IF) or in other roles as the project evolves. Alternatively, start-up or existing business, government and civil society organisations may like to apply the Integrative Improvement approach in their own organisations now.
The current draft project plan is as follows:-
Aim:- Improve the well-being of people and their environments through low-cost diffusion, refinement and implementation of the Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.
Strategy:- Establish an adaptive networked Integrative Federation (IF) of largely virtual Integrative Improvement Institutes (IIIs)) in a number of countries using the training modules and templates at http://www.integrative-thinking.com and complementary tools for uplifting sustainable development.
Outline plan:- Have one IF website for teaching, research and consulting in Integrative Improvement with a page for each Institute, for each tool and for research related to NEW Integrative Thinking, Integrative Governance, Integrative Improvement, Integrative Capitalism and Integrative Democracy. A catalyst in each of 7 countries would attract and train 7 people to be the IIIs Integrators Team (IIIsIT) in their country. Each Institute would attract, train and license 7 people with experience in 7 industries to provide personal contact in 7 local areas to further diffuse Integrative Improvement and, for a fee, train successive groups of 7 people from government, business and civil society organisations based on material on the IF website. These trained people would implement Integrative Improvement in start-up and existing organisations and help in the further diffusion, refinement and implementation of Integrative Improvement in line with the model outlined here.
Tactics:- Sense and respond adaptively to other catalysts and end-users/citizens as the Integrative Improvement Institutes “virus” spreads.
Other relevant project information is as follows:-
Catalysts:- A provisional list (this and the whole project is designed to adapt as catalysts join) of the sort of catalysts needed is: a) people from a range of countries and practical settings; b) people committed enough to obtain all the modules and learn about the processes; (Money raised goes to advance the Project.) c) people with institutional bases which would lift credibility and lower overheads; d) web builder and webmaster to provide and maintain the virtual presence of the Federation and its Institutes as per the outline plan; e) facilitator for meetings – mostly virtual; f) executive secretary; g) people to seek content for and coordinate the pages on the website under the headings “Institutes”, “Tools” and “Research”. Overall, fields, interests and skills will need to cover Planning; People; Market; Product; Money; Physical, Social and Cultural Environment.
Affordability:- The basic modules offered at www.integrative-thinking.com may be purchased and learned one at a time so they should be affordable by even the smallest and poorest organisation.
However, if even the existing low prices are not affordable one copy of each module and template can be provided at whatever price an organisation certifies it can afford. Special arrangements can be made if multiple copies are required so all involved in the organisation can learn the processes and thereby acquire a common basis for communication – essential for success in any relationship or organisation. Each organisation is invited to suggest the financial arrangement that would suit it best.
Time:- The material is in easily digested small “bites” with a page at the end of each group of “bites” on which the learner records reflections and possible actions. In this way busy people can keep track of their learning. Moreover they can retain what they have learned because there are aids to memory and revision sections built-in.
Practicality:- The material is designed to be learned by each learner applying it to a problem of their own so each needs a copy of all the material to retain and refer to in future. It is designed to be accessible to people whose frontal lobes are more or less developed (mid-teens onwards) but the concepts could be taught to young children too.
Applicability:- To meet the many challenges we all face as individuals and in groups we all need integrative problem solving skills. This is what learning NEW Integrative Thinking teaches quickly, economically and permanently. Moreover, every organisation needs good governance policies. Douglas Integrative Governance 247 templates help organisations produce them quickly, economically and permanently. The potential market for a licensee would be huge as the material is applicable outside formal education channels and to people in the existing economy.
Joint venture basis:- Joint venture agreements are used to record contractual arrangements between all parties.
Uplifting sustainable development
Implementing the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project would be uplifting and sustainable for individuals because it would provide them with integrative problem solving skills to enable them to be self-reliant, innovative and reach with more confidence their full potential in the face the realities of life in general and the labour market in particular. It would be uplifting and sustainable for organisations because it would help them be adaptive in rapidly changing market conditions and assist their employees to contribute most to the organisation. It would be uplifting and sustainable for economies because all people would have an understanding of the need for and means of achieving sustainable development and economic activity would be generated by more people. It would be uplifting and sustainable for the global community as all could have a common basis for communication and problem solving.
Do you want to be involved in this uplifting project? Please contact Graham Douglas at integrative[at]optusnet.com.au