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Social innovation and paradigm shift

In times of crisis, such as a recession or a depression, people talk about social innovation a lot. Other words that are being heard are civilian participation, social responsibility, etc. In fact, what we see happening is that the old dominant institutional world is calling out for help. When we look at my blog about the Kondratieff sinus we see that at the peak of an economic hype the conservative dominance of risk avoiding governance is blocking all kinds of social innovation. When the people are happy, get what they want, have nothing to complain about, few stand up to become creative with a desire for change. The social cash cow of conservatism in a peak economy is not the best basis to introduce social innovation. If you would want to do that you would need the Otto Scharmer U-Theory to simulate chaos and get people to become artificially creative. It is not the same as a genuine crisis.

A depression seems to get the best out of people in terms of adding true and lasting value to their community, especially when it collapses. Now why is that? There are a few reasons to mention:

1. Creativity needs stimulus

When a communities enters a recession is wakes people up to look at their own reality in a different way. Previously wealth was a matter of fact, now it is not anymore. Old securities disappear and people need to find access to new ones. They are obliged to think, triggered by their intense emotions. Fear for shortages, the pain of loosing previous wellness, the need to find a way out of chaos, the worries about their operational wellness, it all opens up peoples mind to change. It triggers a whole series of reactions, from complaints, aggression, suicide, etc, but also a boost of creativity in many.

2. Change needs to be “different”

In a recession people tend to do the same things over and over again to try to regain their old securities. They do not want to acknowledge that the crisis is caused because the “old ways” simply have become obsolete. You can’t take them for granted anymore, not matter how well they worked in society, business or family life before.  When the markets shrinks one needs to adjust, not in the shrinking but bailing out by being different. When an economic peak gets people to copy each other to benefit from wealth without any new creations, a dip gets them confronted in competition. It shakes up their similarities and stimulates the search for renewed uniqueness. Pioneers appear who propose new things and a sense of social innovation invades the surroundings. This stimulates others to do the same.

3. Change needs freedom

When you wake up at 7 in the morning to start the day, bringing the kids to school, go to work, worry about the bills, the shopping, the taxes and a personal career, to get back home at 18.30 tired, feed the children, take them to bed, crash on the sofa and watch the telly……. Then you have little time or interest to even think of social innovation or whatever. Your world turns around your daily responsibilities and that is type of worldview you have.

When however one has enough freedom it is much easier to find inner strength to overcome the burden of a daily routine and become creative. Need combined with available time gets people to experiment with innovation. Some do this by discovering new abilities or pick up old forgotten talents (they start to act, dans, sing, play a musical instrument, paint). Others start doing voluntary works and start meeting totally different people than before. New ideas are born, some are actually tried our and can even flourish. In freedom people disconnect from old structures and mingle with new connections, developing new communities and change happens organically.

4. Innovation needs to be seen

During peaks of abundance there are also people who have a creative nature and develop social innovations. They are however hardly visible because no one seems to be on the look out for inspiration. When a recession wakes up people the sensitivity for innovation grows and all kinds of inspiring novelty get the chance to be highlighted or “discovered” for public enlargement. Someone who has the creative urge to create innovation may lack the managerial leadership to outgrow it to make it a new social standard. The interaction of an institutional world in crisis with a new dynamic world of creativity in purpose driven freedom can boost any novelty to huge proportions. Visibility of inspiring innovations is hence a double sided phenomena. On the one hand it is the creativity of social innovation boosted by a recession that wants to be seen, and on the other, the open attention of crumbling institutions that need innovation fast to renew their expectations for survival.

Paradigm shift

A paradigm shift is not the same as social innovation. Can social innovation produce a paradigm shift? Or does a paradigm shift cause social innovation?

A paradigm is defined to be “a specific way of looking at a reality, determining the way one makes decisions and acts in accordance”. This means automatically that there are different ways of looking at a reality, challenging the way people make their decisions. In our current social paradigm the consumer based capitalist economy has a dominant position, determining the way governments, business, public in general, institutions, etc interact. Social innovation at an individual level generally may change the texture and coloring of the paradigm but will not change this overall paradigm.

So when we address the issue of climate change, global warming, global pollution, new possible global diseases, etc and attribute this to the dominant paradigm then social innovation within the reigning paradigm may address these issues from a consequences point of view but will not solve them from a cause point of view. To do that a paradigm shift is needed.

Sustainocracy is a paradigm shift

Sustainocracy was idealistically conceived when I decided that I did not want to pass the old paradigm on to my children because of the negative consequences it causes. Of course I did appreciate the positive elements of this paradigm but realized that we had reached a point that the balance had tipped over to the accumulation of negative effects, creating permanent instability also at the positive end. So in a way my decision early in the 2000’s was a social innovation. Back then my surroundings had no desperate feeling of a crisis yet even though the signs were abundantly present already. The establishment was still confident that change could be done from within the reigning paradigm. In fact, the established power structures were also an inherent piece of that paradigm and gained their existence from it. It was not up to them to challenge their reason to be. The only one that could challenge the paradigm is the one who has eyes to see and awareness to distinguish between realities. And that is the human being itself, because we are the ones that create our instruments, even if we allow them to reign us for a while. We have come to point that we need to redefine the usages and positioning of those instruments. And that is what we do in Sustainocracy. We respect the instruments as human creations and reposition them around a new paradigm in which the human being is placed at the center of sustainable human progression, not the financial systems.

With this simple change in mindset and observing the world, the world itself learns to see itself differently and starts to reshuffle their power positions accordingly. Slowly the two paradigms become visible to everyone and so does the choice everyone has. Social innovation then gets an entirely new dimension that changes everything simply because of the way we look at things. We live in a unique time-era in which we see a new paradigm arise, co-exist with an old one for a while, interacting probably with certain conflicts and eventually take over. People in next generations will read about this era in their history books but will look at society from that new dominant paradigm without the challenging adventure of living through the transformation, or even playing part in defining it. This era is therefor unique in the history of humankind and referred to by me and some others as “the quantum leap in human evolution”.

Open up your mind and be part of it. It is exciting, challenging and rewarding to be a pioneer of a new world.

Otto Scharmer (U-Theory) versus Jean-Paul Close (Human Complexities)

This is the second in my series of comparing commonly used methods and models in current human organizations (business, government, society, etc). The first reflected about Kondratiev and Close.

Today I try to compare the “U-Theory” of Otto Scharmer with my model of Human Complexities and its phases of Fear for Change, Paradigm Shift and the positioning of Sustainocracy. (Watch a short  11 minute explanation on Sustainocracy via YouTube here)

The U-Theory

The U-Theory has become a popular tool for trainers and coaches as well as executives teams in organizations to develop new, innovative ideas in a co-creative way and bring them into practical reality.

The U-Theory of Otto Scharmer

The U-Theory of Otto Scharmer

We see a U shaped model with five key points for progress: Co-Initiation, Co-Sensing, Presencing, Co-Creation and Co-Evolving.

When I compare this with my own model of Human Complexities there are of course striking similarities but also some curious differences to think about.

The cycle involves: organization, regression, collapse and recovery

The Human Complexities cycle

The four arrows (regression, collapse, enlightenment and co-creation) in the model of Human Complexities represent the movement between four states of evolving communities (greed, chaos, awareness, wellness) using the complex psychology of people and ways of structuring organizations and communities. It is always cyclic in a clockwise manner. After ever cycle the community has gone through a learning process. When we place the cycles one after the other in history and over time we can see an evolutionary path resembling a spiral, producing a line from chaos into sustainable progress.

The representation of human complexities in a crosslike drawing has to do with our perception of progress and organization by drawing a line from left to right. Right to left meaning just the opposite, a regression. Up means an increase or growing awareness and down the decrease or disappearance thereof. In the middel we see the crissing of the lines “to be” (search for unique edity and universal ethics) and “to do” (our actions and organization). The cross shows the continuous conflict between these two issues that produce the self aware learning curve. In each of the four resulting quadrants the overall dominant human culture is different and so is the intrinsic motivation or fear for change.

Fear for Change

Inside the model of Human Complexities I use the concept of “Fear for Change”.  This is needed to show people near or within the stress of a crisis that this a normal path of letting go for renewal. Once aware of this they can face a crisis with more confidence. The current global paradigm shift from economic societal collaps to sustainable human progress  is my main concern. In my approach I tend to focus on the side of transformation from collapse via chaos towards renewed wellness in the model. My approach is holistic inviting the entire society to become co-creative.

Schwarmer does exactly opposite, working from with the institutionalized fragments of society.

The psychology of change in a paradigm shift is the true transformative challenge of humankind

The psychology of change in a paradigm shift is the true transformative challenge of humankind

Human Complexities (J.P. Close) & Fear for Change

Important differences between the U-Theory and Fear for Change

When we look at the U-Theory and the path of Fear for Change in the model of Humian Complexities we see that both use exactly the same processes to get people to activate their inner energy for creation and co-creation.  Despite the different names the steps and significance are the same. Still there is a huge difference…..

U-Theory versus Paradigm Shift

U-Theory versus Paradigm Shift

At first sight both methods look and feel the same

In reality the creators of the U-Theory did a very smart thing. They created a sense of simulated chaos within the comfort of a running business.  Getting people to step out of the running business of greed to undergo the intense process of reflection and finally reach a state of co-creation is in reality the application of the chaos theory and human psychology in exactly the same way, yet without the need of a formal crisis or fear for change.

Drawing the U-line from left to right (against the stream of human complexities) gives a sense of a deepening spiritual experience within the context of financial recovery, enhancement or growth (greed). The smart thing is that the U-Theory gives innovative meaning to economic systems that have the tendency of becoming bureaucratic an reluctant to change (seeing themselves as eternal cash cows, which they are not).

The paradigm shift and its related fear for change is known for thousands of years already. The first people to describe this intense fear and its process of freedom when one finds a new route by letting go, were intellectuals like Dante (13th century) and later the psychologists and anthropologist of the 19th and 20th century, s.a. Steiner, when the hierarchies started to grow in magnitude and with it the complexities of organizing people and emotions.

The natural process of a system to collapse into chaos, like the Roman Empire and so many other civilizations before and after, is well documented. The intense learning curve through fear, pain, letting go, etc. is also well known now and well positioned, with logic, along the modern cycle of Human Complexities. It is typically applicable in these days of pain, chaos en crises today that are affecting everyone. People start to look at two ways to address the problem:

  1. How to avoid collaps by applying timely renewal and innovation (U-Theory)
  2. What to do when inside the collaps to get back into co-creative wellness (Fear for Change)

These are the two routes of least and most resistance, as written before in a previous blog.

This blog also introduced the law of opposites and we can see many in the Human Complexities model (transition quadrants, poor and rich, complex and simple, warm and cold cultures, spiritual and possessive  etc). The smart thing that was done by Otto Scharmer and his people was to turn the model of the paradigm shift, including the fear for change, around (fear avoidance).

Just observe the logic:

The model of Human Complexities follows a cyclic route clockwise. The segment on the circle that refers to the paradigm shift starts at the left hand side almost upon the line between chaos and enlightenment, when people let go of old security and become aware of the need of renewal. It continues all the way up to the state of co-creation for wellness. The shape is more line a big “n”.

Positiong of both theories

Positioning of both theories

When we look at the U-shape of Scharmer it starts at the same (virtual) point but travels down and to the right to end up on the line of wellness through greed. The psychological effect of visualizing this direction is that fear is eliminated by connected the process to greed (desire for unlimited prosperity). The process of the U-shape is to avoid jumping into the unknown by simulating it within the comfort of an existing organization that looks for renewed innovative or inventive success without the immediate need of a paradigm shift. It is a method for smart executives to transform an organization within its normal operations without the traditional reorganizational stress. This is brilliant.

So the method and knowledge of the Fear for Change within the need for a Paradigm Shift positions themselves essentially in left hand quadrants, the areas of poverty, chaos, illumination and experimentation with survival. The method and knowledge of the U-Theory positions itself in the rich areas of wealth and greed where enterprises want renewal, revival, inventiveness without disputing their reputation nor their original positioning. It is a protected environment for efficient creativity to enhance a competitive position.

Positioning application of the methods

Positioning application of the methods

The model of Human Complexities helps us to clarify the particular use of both models and in which situation they should be used. In fact, it is not just applicable in business, it can be applied to the entire society too. Sustainocracy is an example of jumping the state of chaos by inviting executives to co-creative renewal in a multidisciplinary setting that eventually will feed again an obsolete economy with true innovation.


The application of both theories is of interest. Sustainocracy positions itself in the wellness quadrant from a societal point of view.  In most occasions the paradigm shift through chaos is needed  in society due to the different power positions that try to uphold themselves at the expense of the others in the same community. Within each of the institutional pillars the U-Theory can help leadership to progress in such competitive environment. However in a multidisciplinary setting such a Sustainocracym where everyone has a co-creative mission at societal level, the combination of both can lead to remarkable results for the entire society.

So while the executives may be confronted with the own fear for change, within their own leadership, and the intense process of undergoing the risks of re-positioning a company within the context of sustainable progress of society as a whole, the organization itself may well be served through the techniques of the U-Theory that do not include this fear or risk. Knowing about the emotional difference between the two models the executive teams and participating consultants can create programs that are as effective as they can be in turbulent times, producing progress even in crisis with both societal and institutional success.

It would be very interesting to develop situations at regional level to experiment with this.

Effective keeping of human beings

Now that Sustainocracy is positioned and put into practice as new paradigm of societal complexity, affecting everything, it becomes interesting to reflect openly on the different ways of reasoning from the different worldviews.  This may be a critical view because paradigms are based on totally different values. Someone who has lived both (money driven economics and value driven sustainocracy) can distinguish by experience and choice. Yet someone active without point of comparison inside the old paradigm will consider his or her views as the only truth.

Let us take this article for instance, that has been tweeted around the world today by many people, published by Forbes on Nov. 21st, 2012, written by a SAP specialist, Ray Rivera. It is titled: 5 Myths Of Human Resource Management (even though the link to the article refers to Human Capital Management) http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/11/21/5-myths-of-human-capital-management/

The article is a valid reflection about general practices in traditional business hierarchies. Seen through my old eyes of chief executive officer in a multinational I would most certainly review our internal policies with my HRM after reading the article. I remember our internal global policy back then to provide 10 training days per year to all our personnel. It was a hell of a job to find those days and get people motivated to do something with it. From a performance point of view it was useless, cost a bucket full of money and created constant absence in departments that needed to be filled up with people doing overwork.

All other remarks in the article are also valid. Take those of the financial incentives as perceived motivators. I remember sales people that tried to  trick the system by submitting fake orders at the end of the year to collect their bonus. The fake orders were cancelled early the next year. In times of a crisis taking away any of the incentives becomes a burden. People leave a company simply because another one offers a nicer car. There is no commitment nor loyalty, just self interest. In fact, that is exactly what such hierarchies and policies attract: people with an individualistic, opportunistic, selfish attitude, equivalent to that of the company itself.

In a previous lifetime these issues were indeed of my concern. That was 20 years ago and they are still being published as novel and tweeted around as of general interest. Now, after crossing over to a new paradigm, the entire article becomes a reflection on what a Dutch author called “effective keeping of human beings” in a similar way as keeping chickens, pigs or cows. A particular sentence in the article struck me especially:

“How human capital becomes transformed into business value is still a black box”

When we look at the current world of business entities, performing around financial goals, we can easily recognize the “human farming” attitude. In the traditional paradigm this is normal and even worshipped by media, trading floors and governments. Human resources is a modern way of slavery where the business value of a human being is expressed by turnover per person or something equivalent. Such organization does not get the best out of people but the worst. Surrounded by short term financials, greed and more greed one becomes greedy and selfish automatically. 

In the new paradigm there are no financial goals but purpose driven objectives. It is not the workforce that is asked to take responsibility, the company does, providing some kind of true added value to society. People do not come to work, they contribute. They do not need training because they train themselves. They do not need an incentives because the work itself and the achievements are a driving force already. People do not work in a hierarchical structure, they have a functional responsibility in a result driven team. The goals of the company are measurable through external progress. New people in the group assume responsibilities but change when the balance of the group requires the repositioning of the members, even when dealing with functional leadership. Leaders step back into the pack when they are done or when the group takes another direction for the benefit of the company and the purpose in persuit. There is equality and trust, no judging departments just connecting values among professionals for effective teamwork.  People correct eachother.

Now that I know that such different types of organizations exist it is my choice to decide where I feel safest. Even if a sustainocratic organization is not yet functional in my neighborhood I can still behave accordingly and become the change that I want. I can also decide that I prefer such culture of hierarchical demand on me. Important is that one has a reflective choice when one knows.

Just like the other tweet today of someone claiming that it is nice to know that he didnot know certain things. One only knows that it would be nice not to know when one knows. This phylosophical reflection in reality states that when you do not know you cannot be held responsible for your actions seen from another paradigm. When you do know you may wish you didn’t, just to avoid responsibility. Now you know that different paradigms exist. What do you do? What responsibility to you take?