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Business and Spirituality – The Pyramid paradigm

Today I received the news that my paper on the “universal working model for sustainable progress” was accepted for the “Sustainability and Spirituality” conference in Hungary on Sept 21-23 2012. It is great to gain some international exposure for a method that I  worked out in theory and also put into practice in my own living laboratory (The city of Eindhoven and the The Netherlands).

Many of the individual people involved in the related processes do it whole heartily. The institutions that I involve have still a strong dependence in the economic world and often lack sufficient backbone to show a sense of value driven responsibility. Here we encounter the true complexity of the paradigm shift from a money dependent society to a value driven one. The first is packed with institutions that have learned to uphold themselves artificially by the chain of financial dependencies, forgetting often the true original purpose of their existence. The value driven community of my model demands from the entities a commitment based on their true identity and contribution through application of competences and responsibility to the results we seek.

There are two moments when institutions become aware of their mismatch with sustainable progress and their confrontation with their lack of genuine and meaningful identity:

  1. When they fall over when their financial stakeholders withdraw their support in a crisis,
  2. When they get involved in value driven, co-creative processes and get blamed of incompetence due to internal bureaucracies, hierarchies and lack of capability to commit to true results.

We see this in most institutions, business, government and public services especially. In the second situation they “may” develop the awareness at senior executive level to transform into something that has a deeper meaning then just financial survival. In fact  they start looking for genuine meaning and purpose, which is spiritual process. To take this executive action out of the sphere of abstraction I created the practical and measurable pyramid for multi-dimensional, value driven identity development and positioning of any institution.

Value driven organization

Modern 21st century organizations are truly value driven along business and spiritual lines.

When a company or institution remains at the traditional ground level in the base of the bottom triangle, it will develop and maintain an old fashioned a deteriorating strategy of financial dependencies. When it starts rising  into the pyramid it will include much more value driven commitments that keep the organization alive and connected to a daily reality. The company become more sustainable if it finds a meaningful link with the surroundings.

To develop a true multidimensional value driven image (i.e. moving up the pyramid) represents a complex transformative process that affects the entire structure of the organization and all people related to it, internally and externally in the surroundings. As the value driven processes reposition the organization in society it will encounter a huge amount of organizations that are trying to do the same. The shake out is intense, driving organization to the kernel of their existence with a challenge to excel in their commitment to values rather than financial growth. Money becomes no issue anymore nor profitability. Profit becomes much more relative to results than just financial benefits.

From a multidisciplinary co-creation perspective only such companies will survive and link with value driven ventures in a sustainable way. It are not the products that make the difference but the set of values the company represents. Since these values represent the multiple inner meaning providing purpose to the commitment there will no customer relationships anymore but partnerships with other competence and responsibility driven institutions compatible with one’s own ideas.

Spirituality involves the profound understanding of a cosmic reality (matter, energy, purpose, finite limitations and abundance, her and now, eternity) and an evolutionary reality (dependence and independence, leadership, adaptability, sustainable progress). Business based on profound spiritual meaning is called multidimensional entrepreneurship. The difference can be summarized as follows:

By Jean-Paul Close

The difference between traditional and multidimensional entrepreneurship is business spirituality

Technology in Content Economy

There are at least two issues that I want to deal with when referring to technology in the content economy. For the meaning and definition of both a content economy and sustainable progress I refer to my previous blogs linked by clicking on the words.  The two points that I want to make are: the role of technology in sustainable progress and the complicated transition for technology driven organization to value driven partners.

Technology in sustainable progress

Key in sustainable progress is not technology itself but the innovation applied to our lifestyle or surrounding introducing an improvement with respect to sustainable progress (human wellness and environment). This gives technology a much larger responsibility that the mere invention, production and sales of goods. The innovative industry take its part in the responsibility of human progress. In the second part of this blog I will explain why this is going to happen across the globe. Right now we should ask ourselves what we would expect from the traditionally competence driven introvert technological organizations when the become active in a value driven environmeny. These points are what we find:

  • Partnership in sustainable progress. Key for the organization is to participate directly in the process of progress in society, not as an isolated, self centered distant actor but as a partner in purpose driven processes. Progress can then be introduced by the company itself through the introduction of new inventions, or by the human world because of changes produced by other circumstances (vision, need, nature, etc). Important becomes the direct participation in the processes understanding that every change introduces the need for new changes, participating not just reactively but proactively using competences to drive progress as much as others use theirs. That is the innovative drive of progress and human dynamics. What historic impact have wheels had on our lives, the structure of society and interaction between human beings or our environment? Or train, airplanes, computers, the internet, mobile telephony, whatever? Every novelty that has been introduced in our lives should have introduced also compensation processes to maintain a balance in our health, vitality or human dynamics. But it did not. We concentrated on providing more of the same in large quantities without even caring of sustainable progress. With the current size of the human population and amount of volume driven excesses we ran into severe trouble. Economic growth was the motor of keeping business alive, not change or a drive to produce value. An content economy is not one of monetary scales but scales of human values and wellness. Successful business organization hence have to extremely entrepreneurial, produce a lot of change and can even have a growth perspective, not by speculating on the volume of their productivity but by the scale of adaptability that they present on the markets and the results they produce by doing so. A technological innovator has to feed its own progress through direct interaction with the market in which it takes co-responsibility for value, through the expertise it has in its specialized field and the level of creativity it displays to create something new, meaningfully, and implements it in a result driven manner.
  • Competent. The organization has to be extremely competent (a top sporter in its technological field) but not at all arrogant. The competence is needed to feel confident in presenting itself flexibly, trusting its organization as master in translating purpose into technology ready for adequate implementation. The success of the company is not driven by its technology but the application of its knowledge and abilities in sustainable progress. That is totally different that before. Key is not what the product does but how it performs in the context of human progress. The bridge between truly perceived value and techniques is called competence, not just the ability to produce any product.
  • Adaptability is probably one of the most complex issues in technology because quality development takes time while value drive expectation never have time to wait. Anticipation is good as long as it does not block adaptability. That is why the ongoing connection between the true value that one wishes to obtain and the translation into technological innovation becomes the distinguishing factor of the organization. One has to be present at the discussion, not just when sales opportunities arise but all the time. We come from a hit and run culture and transform into a culture of shared responsibilities. The technological partner becomes equally accountable for the way it complies with progress. Technological professionalism is its means, not a goal on its own.
  • The new role of technological partners in local coalitions for sustainable progress changes entirely the way the sector is organized. Big centralized corporate structures are far too bureaucratic to perform and smaller units need to be accountable for what the they produce and implement. We see hence a tendency of many small and medium sized technologically focused competence centers take a seat at the table through multidisplinary self employed representatives that pick up the signs and interact with the enormous variety of options that technology displays in a global market of science and innovative creativity. The expert technological organizations do not look anymore for standardization of their competences for massive sales but the modular adaptability of their inventions to be easily integrated in a large diversity of complex structures. The component of increasing local content is organized in the same community where the innovation has to be implemented creating commitment and involvement of all those people involved in the end result.

In the STIR Foundation we create purpose driven environments (s.a. AiREAS) where technology is one of the key players but not the only one. We also have scientific institutions, human health authorities and the regional governments playing an equal role in progress. In the old fragmented world of economies of growth each of these participants is used to think of their own interests, often even with local government in the driver’s seat to determine what is good for the region and with what priorities. Technological enterprises would queue up to see if they could sell as many goods while the local decision makers would draw up public tenders to see what technology and prices there are to choose from. But also the local governments are fragmented when dealing with their responsibilities since they have grown problem oriented and not purpose driven. Such a fragmented society shows clearly in this example, a picture of the garbage bins in a train station:

 There a six different types of garbage bins on the platform each falling within the responsibility of another organization but coinciding on a space of 50 m2. They were contracted by totally different organizations that all had something to do with rail, the platform, human transportation or retail. Each had garbage collection in their responsibilities and were separately accountable for the contract. But they apparently felt no need at all to interact or even think of the need to the total picture. The space ended up with 23 garbage bins of 6 different responsibilities on the areas size of a single living room. Ridiculous? It happens all the time. And it is not the pieces installed. Each also needs to be maintained, emptied, cleaned, etc producing traffic on the small platform of workers, bags, garbage loaders, logistic, etc. All of this may be good for the economy (lots of bins sold, workforce to deal with infrastructure) but totally ridiculous from a sustainable progress point of view. And if you look closely at the picture the only piece of litter visible is not even in one of the multiple bins, it is on the ground! The purpose was to contractually install bins, not to do something about the litter on the platform. When the purpose is wrong the solutions will be equally wrong even if they are contractually within logic.

Complicated transition

When we look at the example it is not hard to imagine that it is in the self-interest of every institution to maintain this situation, despite its lack of functional logic. For the providers of garbage bins the situation is ideal to produce volume sales and even have multiple opportunities on a single platform. It is not their responsibility to question the fact that five other suppliers already equipped the location with equivalent material. They just want to sell.

The same goes for those who take their part of responsibility for the infrastructure that most certainly has some contractual element related to the usage of the platform for particular purposes, each including a contractual obligation to take care of their own litter by facilitating an infrastructure. Instead of making a deal with each other it is much simpler to comply oneself, preferably with an infrastructure with different looks than the others, not for the litter but for the sake of identification of contractual compliance. Do all these fragmented players comply functionally? No! Despite the abundance of services available the litter is still on the ground and without identification to “who it belongs”. So who is accountable for that piece of litter on the ground? No-one.

Train stations are a very interesting example to see how fragmented responsibilities end up into a bureaucratic mess and a total lack of sustainable progress simply because of the immense amount of self interested institutions involved in the management of infrastructures, urban and interurban human mobility, energy,  platform services, city design, etc. If one can solve the complexity of a train station and its functionality in the overall human interest then one can probably deal with most of the complexities in the region.

So when we (STIR Foundation) look at integral human sustainable progress we create value driven communities in which all the stakeholders take a seat and interact with each other based on a definition of progress, not their own interest. And this produces a very intense learning and adaptation process for all involved. In the past they interacted as customers and providers, now they have to learn to behave as partners.

It is the end result that matters in which every one plays a role by positioning competences in the team. In the STIR Foundation we created such purpose driven regional communities that include the four largest pillars involved in the design of society: civil representatives (eg. health authorities), government, technological innovators and scientific experts. The sole responsibility of the STIR Foundation is to define the purpose and sit in the middle of all players to maintain a level playing field based on equality. We invite everyone to participate without exclusions. The union of multidisciplinary participants suffers its own shake out when people cannot deal with the responsibility of trust in this setting by not complying with the competences that brought there in the first place. We have seen large multinationals fail horribly due to the internal, acquisition driven, bureaucratic culture while smaller players started to out perform themselves.  Technology is not owned anymore by any of the large labels as it is becoming available through globalization to anyone. The flexibility to interact professionally in a multidisciplinary, extremely local environment is key, not just at the promising front end but also at the compliance back end of performing according the required speed and adaptability.

The fact that science is available at the same creative table gives the technological participants plenty of inspirational feeds to come up with innovations that are truly out of the box and make progress that rapidly spreads throughout the entire world. This can happen anywhere so one needs to be extremely alert, not protective in self interested attitude but intelligently creative and responsive. As mentioned before, every change induces new changes and in this challenge technological expertise finds chances for continuous renewal providing humanity with progress at all times but within reason, meaningful and contribution to our environment and human wellness as we proceed in sustainable progress.

Finally, when we look at where humankind stands right now the entire civilization has been built around material efficiency for many centuries of fragmented institutional interaction. When we start looking at our own environment through the eyes of sustainable progress, using also our ecological and human wellness inefficiencies in the process, we rapidly come to the conclusion that just about everything that we have today is due for modification. We find that the shovel can go through society at all levels. When we see this we also find the tremendous, never ending opportunity that lies ahead redesigning our presence, behavior and interaction in this world.  It truly is a new beginning.

Paradigma shift

The world has entered a social, economic and ecological paradigma (=complex set of beliefs) shift within society and business leadership too. Such shift does not go without pain since entire nations, political structures, cultures, etc need to be abolished, redefining the way society, welfare and wellness is being achieved and sustained. Each of the countries in the world has entered the world crisis from a different angle and with a different local history, but goes through the same paradigma transformation. We have all seen it coming already for a long time but now it is actually happening. 

The USA has long been a reference point for innovation and the local change of leadership, President Barack Obama, has the task to redefine the national paradigma. All eyes are on him now but the economic injection he announced last week is not transformative and has been drafted from the old paradigma. This indicates that the paradigma shift is not alive yet in the councilors of Obama and they try to solve the local problems “the old way”. We cannot wait for America to understand what is really happening.

So it is time for leadership in Europe to stand up and show that it can lead the way into a new paradigma taking the pressure off the US on critical issues. My vote goes for one of the smaller countries, s.a. Holland, with a highly educated population and a conglomerate of large multinationals to join forces for transformational innovations. I believe that the new paradigma, s.a. the multidimensional model that I presented as new paradigma in summer 2008, can best be tested out in such geographical  confinement and to be deployed in other countries step by step subsequently. Alternatively we could define  a series of key areas around the world, including maybe one or more in the USA where we initiate the paradigma shift with an overall transformational nature and observe the different outcomes due to cultural and innovative valuables. To do that the entire world first would need to be convinced of the steps to undertake. This is unforunately not yet the case which means that the crisis will only deepen and the suffering too.

What ever we do we need to do is, structurally:

  • reduce our dependence on critical resources back to below the critical level, through innovative remodelling of society,
  • vitalize the world population, through poverty, health and incentive programs to concentrate on total re-make of society as we know it,
  • concentrate our business strategies on a sustainability role of added values in local or global society.

We are now 3 billion people running the global capitalist show and we may as well start behaving as such. We feel responsible for the warming up of our climat, the melting of the poles and changing weather. We cannot influence nature other than damaging our own habitat. We have destroyed our economies by holding on too long on an old obsolete paradigma. If we want to learn how to behave we need to shift paradigma fast or else we end up distroying our chances all together with much more dramatic consequences for all.

Business executives can become forrunners of the new paradigma by adopting it at an early stage and creating a multidimensional power well before anyone else.

Obsolete society

The capitalist world that develops welfare through a chain of added values up to the end user with taxes on every shackle has proven its excellence over the years. What has not been so effective is the political capacity to use that chain for permanent social renewal. In fact over the last twenty or thirty years we have sat back and let our western organisation grow obsolete.

When we look at the world wide stress on natural resources, movements for cradle to cradle,  etc we can only conclude that we have used our intellect to cure symptoms without actually addressing the potential problems of old social patterns that we had chosen. That very costly political attitude caused years of inflation and the crossing of existantialist lines of humanity. It is time to do something about it as our society as we now know it is cracking up in all places and needs to be replaced by a new organization .

Roads with individual cars, traffic lights, traffic jams, etc, are a potential hazard to human health, a killer for the environment, a inflationary probem and the most unsustainable solution one can think of. Around 1890, when we started to replace horses with cars for the first time, we could not forsee such problems but in the 60’s and 70’s, when traffic started to pile up and we ran into the first world oil crisis, we could have come to innovative conclusions. We did not because of the powerful rise of the car industry and the economic dependence on this world through labor, oil consumption related to taxes, etc. The more cars the better and politics became the largest ostrich of the world putting its head as deep as possible into the ground. Now the credit crisis has shown the lack of morality of the past by avoiding gradual or in depth innovation and now we have to address issues of severe problems all at the same time and with urgency.

When we look at housing we see the same problems. In many countries houses are built side by side, avoiding heights. The prices of the houses have been artificially pushed up by keeping a calculated shortage and hence stimulating the unreal inflation of economies. But the housing issue is obsolete now because it is also agains any rule of sustainable sensitivity. New innovative housing solutions need to be introduced fast to make sure that we can safely maintain our wealth and health with the available resources. Infrastructures? The same story, etc. etc.

And we can go on like that in every sector that we know. In fact we can only conclude that society is due for a total remake. We need to make a step by step plan to transform and rebuilt society around multidimensional disciplines of sustainability. We have not to worry about money because we have shown that we can create that at will and every investment in innovation of real values will revert directly back into the economies through the capitalist nature of our organizations and the added value of multidimensional innovation. The more we invest, he more we would get back through efficiency, health and wealth development.

But before we can do that maybe humanity has to suffer just that little bit more to become totally convinced that the old ways simply do not work anymore, that the old leaders have to be replaced by new ones or open up their eyes and we all need to get back to work hard to build up the society of our dreams.

Poverty policy is key to capitalist success

Most business policies focus on welfare and growth communities because that is where the money goes around. Hardly any of the business plans involve the markets of the poor. The companies that do actually included those markets structurally in their policies tend to score better on the Multidimensional Index of the 5K Group. Why is that?

There is nothing noble about combating poverty. It is good business practice. During the credit crisis we have seen the down fall of big, so called “solid”, institutions s.a. banks due to a moral crisis rather than financial. Typically this moral crisis was caused over the backs of the financially unstable and unwealthy. Does this indicate a contradiction in my argument? Not at all.

The risktaking of the banks by entering bad credit zones was caused by greed and self interests of high level executives who covered their backs by insuring bad credits with others misplacing the trust relationship in the chain. As the entire chain was based on the same material principles of greed the business was a pure speculation that unnoticed inflated the ballon of risk until it exploded into the face of the world. One can hardly argument that all this was a policy to help the poor.

When we design a policy to develop markets with poor people we do that from the moral multidimensional principle of the ideal market development through healthy and motivated people. To achieve this poverty needs to be eradicated from the entire world. We do not talk only about poverty in complex, unstable, tribe oriented third world countries. We talk also about the growing poverty in the rich welfare countries. When a company decided to address this market too, not just by making products available to it but by truely developing a strategy to address the issue effectively, it shows moral integrity. Nobody will ask the company to finance such development our of their own pocket because such strategies of sensitivity to the reality of the world finds many partners in government, institutions and foundation to join forces for a common goal.

The willingness to address such markets by connecting with other organizations and creating serious policy shows and develops an authentic and responsible company culture that is filled with sense and that subsequently will radiate also into the wealthier markets where competition is strong and one does not distinguish anymore through price or quality but with company integrity and authenticity. And this is the basis of any sustainable success and therefore the reason for a company to score high in our Index.


Multidimensionality means that one thinks and acts within the frame of three pilars:

  1. What can I contribute to create and maintain a healthy and motivated society?
  2. How can I contribute to minimizing our ecological footprint?
  3. What added value do I provide to my community, market, country?

As a person one can act according these values and as a business enterprise one can as well. In that case we call this multidimensional entrepreneurship. A profitable business foundation is created in which money is not the ultimate goal but a means to achieve the above added values. If we all, as a person or as a business behave according these guidelines we will change the world into a better place within a decade.