Archive for the ‘Systems Thinking’ Category

dreamstime_Nature_In_HandsI went to see Spy with a friend the other day. This is not a movie I’d have chosen and truthfully, I knew very little about it, but I loved it! It was funny and clever and it was a very nice model of pushing women forward. The language, however, was full of F bombs. Now that sort of fit the content, but both my friend and I felt the need to comment on the rather excessive use of that word. I, for one, have always wondered why an act that gives such pleasure would be used to show such disrespect.

Impact of Language

Sharon Ellison, in her book Taking the War Out Of Our Words: The art of powerful non-defensive communication gives example after example of how we seek to hide and ‘protect’ ourselves through our choice of words. She demonstrates how our choices of words (tone and body language too) can cause lasting harm, prevent us from achieving what we say we want, and put us on a path of no return as we engage in power struggles instead of co-creation. Words matter!

So many young people use ‘bad’ words to make a statement about their ‘freedom’ and ‘adulthood’. They use the constant stream of epithets to declare that they are big, bad and powerful, at a time when all of those things are up for grabs. I remember doing just that at a certain time in my life. I stopped because I didn’t want people to think of me the same way as I thought about people who used foul language. I also sensed the weakness inherent in using language to demonstrate power when real confidence was lacking. After all, if I was really big, bad and powerful why would I need to use slang and cursing to prove it?

Language Impact Relationships

Martin Buber in his book, I and Thou held a rich discussion on the damage of using ‘it’. He described how distancing that word is in relationships. The word ‘it’ objectifies the world and makes everything an ‘other,’ an other that is less than, one that can be/should be ‘managed.’ Robin Wall Kimmerer of the Anishinaabe tribe makes that same point in a more lyrical and heartfelt way in her article, Alternative Grammar: A new language of kinship in the 2015 spring issue of Yes! Her solution, however, is one I find thrilling and very clever. There is no word for the ‘other’ that is relationship-based, in the English language. We need another word to replace ‘it,’ she writes. Her choice is ‘ki’ to refer to living things. Her example, “Oh, that beautiful tree, ki is giving us sap again this spring.”  Makes me feel warm and close to the tree. For me the difference is profound – and that’s the point!

Language Impacts Climate Change

We ask ourselves what we can do to end global warming and climate change, but language is not the first place we look. Yet we will not make this shift without changing our relationship to the natural world and a good first place to start would be language. I challenge you to take this up in your own life. Replace ‘it’ with ‘ki’ – the plural is ‘kin,’ her example, “Look kin are flying south for the winter, come back soon.” (nice or what?) in your own speech. By doing this you will do a number of things. You will become a warrior for the Earth as you risk the taunting of your friends; you will engage yourself in your own reframing and in a rebuilding of your own awareness of your relationship with life; you will become a bright light – showing the way into the future; and, you will become a model for the kind of deep and lasting change we need to make – as a people – to ensure that we can live on this dear Earth for generations to come.

If you find this small task too daunting, then ask yourself how likely is it others will make the changes you see they need to make? Look into your own commitment and see what it lacks to make the difference that needs to be made. Listen to your own rationalizations about how this is ‘not important,’ too small to make and ‘real’ difference, or what other ‘reason’ you give yourself to not take this very small step.

Climate change requires behavior change, but we won’t change our behavior if WE don’t change our behavior. We gripe about changing light bulbs, about using alternative – anything, and we have ‘real’ and easy excuses about why our actions won’t make an impact, so we can justify our own reluctance to change. At the same time we desperately hope that someone else will make those changes, that someone else will do what must be done, that someone else will save us.

Change your language and change your relationship with all the other beings on the planet. If we can change that, then changing our actions will be a piece of cake. We will find it offensive to do harm to what we love. We will find it outrageous to kill a tree to make a parking lot. We will reduce our own water use so that fish and wildlife may live, as see that action as an obvious one. The first value of the sustainable Values Set is: All actions create the conditions that support Life. Our language should reflect that!

Explore the Sustainable Values Set



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For centuries people have searched for ethical constructs that would be applicable world-wide. Some ethical framework that all people believed in and practiced. That has always seemed like a logical search to me. However even simple ethics like don’t steal and don’t kill generate exceptions, even in my own culture, let alone world-wide.

Paul F. Buller, John J. Kohls and Kenneth S. Anderson in their work “The Challenge of global ethics” think leaders need to begin to create just such an ethic. I smile as I write this, for the idea that a few ‘good’ people can just create ethics is a bit amusing. I can agree, however on the need for such an ethic, especially in this time of global commerce.

The other issue I see is the tendency to create medical ethics; marketing ethics; business ethics; etc. This seems to suggest that there are different ethics for different situations. That’s rather confusing and scary, actually. I believe the confusion comes from our subtle conviction that the world is composed of pieces and parts, so every piece needs its own ethic. It is this very fragmentedness that is at the heart of the problems stated above. The lack of clarity around stealing and killing. We all know that there are times when both of these acceptable, self preservation, for one. Yest we also know that there are times when both of these are very, very wrong. The dilemma is in trying to determine in a fairly clear fashion, which is which.

I think I have the answer to this problem and its been under our nose for the whole time.

The Sustainable Values Set® was ‘discovered’ by looking at how the Earth works. If the Earth was alive and made choices about her actions, what values would she be practicing? Understanding this has opened up a deeper understanding that gets around all of the issues inherent in most ethic systems. It’s that parts and pieces thing. The Earth acts on behalf of the WHOLE system. She’s not into parts and pieces.

Here’s the prime directive: The Earth/Nature creates the conditions that support Life. Sort’a a ‘Duh’ isn’t it? Yet, does YOUR business do this? How often do we create the conditions in which there is NO Life possible? That’s the fodder for another post.

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Ecological Thinking.

Here’s a short video on one of the shifts in thinking that are necessary to become sustainable. Remember the old saw that doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. Hummm, how often do I do that?

One trick is slowing down a tad and actually thinking about things that I have a kneejerk reaction for. That quick response is habit and that habit isn’t going to get me a new result. It’s painful to slow down, and sometimes it makes me cranky…but when I do and I get to a new place it’s VERY worth it!

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This recent article in the Economist gives that old argument new meaning. Japanese scientists have been working to find a genetic link between people and their profession and their satisfaction with their profession. This has come about as scientists have finally discovered that genes don’t act alone, but can be influenced by the environment – well duh!

Our propensity to think of anything as somehow separate for everything else is endemic and responsible for more of the worlds issues than I have time to list. If only we would assume a connection and then look for it instead of the other way around we would be spared considerable pain.

There is a brief discussion of the ethics of all of this.

The third ethical qualm involves the thorny issue of fairness. Ought employers to use genetic testing to select their workers? Will this not lead down a slippery slope to genetic segregation of the sort depicted in the genetic dystopias beloved of science-fiction?

This pass, however, has already been sold. Workers are already sometimes hired on the basis of personality tests that try to tease out the very genetic predispositions that biologists are looking for. The difference is that the hiring methods do this indirectly, and probably clumsily. Moreover, in a rare example of legislative foresight, politicians in many countries have anticipated the problem. In 2008, for example, America’s Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, banning the use of genetic information in job recruitment. Similar measures had previously been adopted in several European countries, including Denmark, Finland, France and Sweden.

The desire to save ourselves from our self is one we have to monitor all the time. The article concludes with this:

There is one other group of critics. These are those who worry that applying biology to business is dangerous not because it is powerful, but because it isn’t. To the extent they are genetic at all, behavioural outcomes are probably the result of the interaction of myriad genes in ways that are decades from being fully understood. That applies as much to business-related behaviour as to behaviour in any other facet of life.

This understanding is closer to the truth, I believe. From a systems perspective the interconnections are at the heart and those are both hard to see and understand and hard to trace and manage. It is one neat way to pass the time , however.

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