Why We Don’t Innovate

yinThings are the way they are for a reason. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true: If we want to change anything, we need first to understand why it is the way it is. The answer, more often than not, is human nature. Or more precisely, in very large organizations, the collective nature of thousands of people. And in the world as a whole, the collective nature of billions of people. If humanity were but a tiny group, scattered pockets across the globe, and reasonably well-connected, we could and would probably change rather quickly.

Paradoxically, however, if that were the case, we probably woudn’t need to. Our species is like the Titanic or the Exxon Valdez — far too massive and unwieldy for our own (or anyone else’s) good. The more there are of us, and the greater our footprint, our collective action on the planet, the harder it becomes to steer us in a different direction from the one our horrific momentum is taking us in, the harder it begins to overcome the inertia needed to even think about changing direction on a global scale. When our organization or civilization is small, and someone comes up with a credible, compelling model of a better way of doing things, we can simply nod and adopt or adapt that model. That is how most organizations began, full of hope, following one model or another that sounded magnificent at the outset but soon becomes a victim of its own success — the model just doesn’t scale well, and modern humans have this propensity to grow and centralize and increase things until the model becomes dysfunctional and breaks down completely. That’s happened to every organization and every civilization in human history.

If size is the enemy, of organizations and of civilizations, it is also, in the human way of doing things, inexorable. Rather than throwing up our hands and letting the ship crash when it gets too big to handle, we need to understand why it is human nature to demand that perfectly wonderful small organizations and civilizations grow (and, what’s worse, become increasingly hierarchical). And then we need to find some humanly natural way to allow these small organizations to stay small, and to allow large organizations and our Godzilla-sized civilization to become small and workable again. Is that too much to ask? After all, we fancy ourselves pretty smart creatures. And although we do have an addiction to power and wealth and consumption and debt, we also seem to have an instinctive revulsion to other people having too much power, to tyranny, to gross inequity of wealth (aka poverty), to stealing our children’s future, and even to the destruction of nature. Those addictions have been exploited by those with great wealth and power to try to hold on to that wealth and power. That’s not to sat that those with wealth and power are ogres — beneath the apparent greed and paranoia and violent defence of the status quo they are as much addicts of their possessions and prisoners of our civilization as the rest of us.

What is it about human nature that drives us to want to grow beyond reasonable limits? What is it about human nature that makes us so susceptible to addiction to things that are ultimately no good for us? Did nature or evolution screw up in imbuing our species with self-defeating ambition and addiction?

Australian reader and blogger John McCann writes (emphasis, and square-parentheses comments mine):

I am interested in your observations on why there is so little innovation in most organisations today (as someone who has tried to sell innovative ideas from within organisations for several years unsuccesfully). I agree absolutely that it’s not for lack of creative talent within organisations, or information washing around both within and around the organisation. I agree that organisations are not set up to ‘tap’ that creativity, but that is more a symptom than a cause, and the cause I think gets back to the other point you mention – management’s lack of trust, and the ‘steady as she goes attitude’ that says ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

I’ve come to the view that organisations have a natural (and almost inevitable) ‘inertia’ which is (paradoxically) driven by their success. Whatever works very well (some new or cheaper product, or a captive market) tends to, over time, make the the organisation risk- and change-averse. This flies in the face of logic, but while I agree that organisations are ‘not stupid’, they are not always rational. Of course the organisation ‘in crisis’ should (if one accepts this argument) be far more willing to ‘innovate’ their way out of trouble – except that organisational crisis usually results in a very standard response of shedding staff. Time and time again I’ve seen this process ‘depopulate’ organisations of the very best creative talent – even seen organisations ditch these people overboard deliberately as they were seen as ‘non-core’.

At the end of the day I think if we are looking for innovation we’ll find it in the wreckage of companies that have collapsed [they’re once again small], and in start-up companies [while they’re still small] – situations where individual talent and creativity have a chance to ‘stand out’ from corporate mediocracy and aversion to change.

There is now overwhelming evidence that life on our planet, the human species to some extent excluded, operates as a single, coordinated, self-regulating organism. Why should this be so, rather than the savage, selfish and self-interested world most of us were taught we live in? Simple — because it works. As  we are learning, dangerously late, our planet is a hugely variable and often life-hostile place, and the best way to protect and optimize life on this place is to create an atmosphere (in both senses of the word) that regulates the planet’s extremes and gives life more time to adapt to changes. This has taken billions of years of work and careful trial-and-error experimentation to get right, and it is an astonishing accomplishment, sustained only by collaboration, cooperation, and lots of diversity to keep it agile and adaptable when catastrophes like meteor strikes and sun-obliterating volcanic eruptions and ice ages caused by minor perturbations in the planet’s rotation occur.

A species that becomes ambitious, and refuses to participate in this extraordinary and never-ending balancing act, is, like a cancer, a huge threat to the whole Earth-organism, and of course to itself as a part of that organism. A species that becomes addicted to things that are not good for it, to the point it becomes fragile, violently hostile to others who threaten its supply of that to which it is addicted, and disconnected from the Earth- organism, is likewise a huge threat to the whole of life on the planet and to itself.

So how did humanity get to this point? How did the ever-adapting and self-regulating Earth-organism allow itself to create a monster that now threatens its creator’s survival? A number of studies have been done that show, in ant colonies for example, how rhythmic order (in the best interest of the whole) emerges out of (apparent) chaos, and how self-organization and self-regulation (with no need for hierarchy or top-down control) naturally produces the best result for the greatest number. Some companies, like WL Gore and Semco, have replicated this model, and when the embedded hierarchical behaviours humans have learned over the past 30,000 years can be shaken off, it seems to work well. But most people describe such a model, whether for an organization or a state, as anarchy, and they use the term disparagingly. But anarchy literally means ‘without established political control’ — no one in charge, i.e. self-regulation.

What has caused our species to depart from this evolutionary successful ‘rules’ of self-regulation and, along with cancers and a few other rogue species, replace these rules with single-minded, selfish and ultimately unsustainable ‘human-made’ rules, and to continue the folly of following these rules for 30,000 years despite overwhelming evidence still staring us in the face that the much, much older self-regulating rule-set is sustainable and healthier for all? If it’s our ambition, or our addiction, how was this allowed to occur? When Ronald Wright wryly says

If we fail — if we blow up or degrade the biosphere so it can no longer sustain us — nature will merely shrug and conclude that letting apes run the laboratory was fun for a while but in the end a bad idea.

how can we account for nature having such a “bad idea” in the first place?

In Arthur C Clarke’s book and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey he introduces the idea that human civilization was ‘suggested’ to us by an alien ‘monolith’. I haven’t read enough of Clarke’s work to know if there is a reason the monolith — literally a massive, rigid, uniform object — is chosen as the ‘model’ for civilization. Was Clarke saying that size, inflexibility and homogeneity (all of them undesirable qualities in a self-regulating planetary organism) are inevitable elements of any civilization?

I don’t happen to believe that civilization, and humans’ contrarian way of trying to run the world, are the result of alien (or for that matter, divine) influence. The invention of the wedge (the arrowhead and spear) was a perfectly understandable evolutionary adaptation by a species that necessarily had a large brain (without evolving a large brain we would never have survived, since our ‘natural’ survival tools — speed, sharpness of teeth and claws, reflexes, sensory acuity — are pretty pathetic by nature’s standards). Ravens, another species that evolved a big brain because it had to to survive, use curved hooks routinely to dig prey out of hard-to-reach areas. As a consequence of the arrow and spear, we quickly decimated the numbers of the large predators upon which our survival depended (helped in part by the onset of ice ages), and as a result the only alternative to extinction was to invent agriculture and animal farming, which Jared Diamond has sarcastically called “the worst mistake in the history of the human race”.

Agriculture was the genesis of the “bad idea” of civilization, because it wasn’t (and isn’t) suited to a self-regulating, ‘anarchic’ species or a self-regulating world. For agriculture (and the subsequent development of industrialization) to ‘work’ requires that people specialize, and that the land ‘specialize’ in the growing or grazing of one crop or food animal. We had to give up our self-sufficiency, our personal autonomy, and become, for the first time, utterly dependent on many other humans doing other specialized tasks that dovetailed with our own. If one group abandoned their work and returned to an ‘uncivilized’ natural gatherer-hunter lifestyle (which could no longer support the number of humans that were living at that time) the entire pyramid of the new civilization would collapse. Therefore, specialization had to become mandatory. I have written elsewhere how all this led to hierarchy, the genocide of ‘competing’ predators and ‘farm pests’, political states, state warfare, overpopulation and all the other consequences that civilization has bestowed upon us, but it’s not hard to see how, once we started down this path, there was no going back — nor why we had no alternative but to start down that path.

One could speculate that, had we been able to invent the Internet before we invented agriculture, civilization might never have been necessary. When agriculture and civilization began, there was simply no alternative ‘self-regulatory’ way to get large groups of people to cooperate and specialize and trade with others. We had no language to convey this sophisticated need at the time anyway (language and mathematics were invented because agriculture and civilization needed them for hierarchical instruction and centralized planning). Had we invented sophisticated language for self-expression, and communication tools that would allow large and physically disparate groups to network and self-organize much earlier, we might have been able to create a non-hierarchical self-regulating system that would have allowed us to prosper as a species without the need for slaves to work the fields, without the need for political states, without the need for war and laws and prisons and other tools to perpetuate the fragile civilizations that we found counter-intuitive and which encroached so much on our freedom.

We soon found that it was useful (for keeping people in line) that many of the artifacts of civilization were addictive, physically and psychologically. We found that, in hierarchical systems, the bigger the better — more slaves at the bottom to leverage, more built-in redundancy, and less competition. We found, too, that this strange, man-made construct, so different from everything in nature, gave us an evolutionary advantage — it appeared to support more people per square mile than ‘natural’ systems, and power brought more power and wealth brought more wealth, to the point we really believed we had ‘improved’ on nature. And after a few generations, the essential survival skills for self-sufficient living had been lost, so we could not go back to a pre-civilization self-regulating lifestyle even if we wanted to — we were prisoners of our own invention.

It is not surprising, then, that as our economy evolved, economic organizations used as their model not the ‘anarchic’ self-regulating model of nature but the hierarchical, command-and-control specialization model of the political state.

I doubt that we have either the time or, with our current massive numbers, and our civilization’s huge momentum in some areas and inertia in others, the adaptability, to evolve our political system (forward, not back) to a self-regulating, networked, natural model. I am less certain that the economic system we have developed cannot evolve forward to such a model.

There is a lot of attention being paid now to aspects of just such a self-regulating, networked, natural economic model: Entrepreneurship, the starting of one’s own business, is finally getting the attention it deserves (thanks to the fact the corporate giants have, for ROI reasons, stopped hiring) and, as John points out above, innovation can thrive in such businesses, giving them an enormous competitive advantage over the corporate giants, to offset the giants’ enormous political and wealth advantage. The Internet offers the promise of allowing vast self-regulating networks of entrepreneurs to self-organize and collaborate while staying small and agile, and to get their message and products out to billions of customers increasingly dissatisfied with the monolithic (had to use that word somewhere in this essay!), shoddy, remote and overpriced offerings of the giant corporate oligopolies. And the emergence of the Gift Economy, where human generosity and technology are allowing people to provide other people with many things for free, can also powerfully disrupt the ideology that nothing has value unless it is paid for, upon which absurd measures like GDP and absurd prices charged by greedy corporations for essential goods like medicines rely for their perpetuation.

So I see a World of Ends as the future of business, a world made up of hundreds of millions of sustainable (changing but not growing) entrepreneurial businesses giving away and selling at modest prices high-quality, personalized, healthy, socially and environmentally responsible, innovative, mostly locally-made products and services, as part of a vast self-regulated economy where the customers — the people (let’s not call them ‘consumers’) call the shots. It could be the real ‘market’ economy we always dreamed of and have so long deluded ourselves we actually had. And the giant corporations, even with the  subsidies and payoffs from politicians, won’t have the agility to survive it.

I’m skeptical that innovation and technology can get us out of the other messes we’ve created for ourselves (overpopulation, overuse of resources, political subjugation and environmental destruction etc.), but an economy that is resilient, sustainable and really focused on people’s needs would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Things are the way they are for a reason. Yes, we’ve gotten to where we are now because of “the worst mistake” in our history and because of a “bad idea”, but at the time, we had no alternative except extinction. We did what we had to do. But today we do have alternatives. The answer is not to deny that the way we live now is massively destructive and unsustainable. The answer is not to assume that the only way we still know how to live is the only way to live. And the answer is not to try to go back: Neoprimitivism is just romantic folly. The answer, the only real option available to us now, is to evolve forward, quickly, to innovate a whole new economy by merging the empowering new technology of our age with the wisdom of natural models that have always been with us, showing us how to allow egalitarian self-organization and sensitive self-regulation to emerge out of complexity and chaos, for the benefit of us all.

‘Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.
At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: “on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death”óthat is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.
                      O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination.’
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
                                  Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.
    — TS Eliot, The Four Quartets
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15 Responses to Why We Don’t Innovate

  1. I’m not any enemy – but do you think differently than most people do?I think, maybe so.

  2. I like this post. Very much like it. It has the depth and breadth of your other postings on the topic of our collective future, but with a far more hopeful tone.Me, I like the idea of each one of us focusing on whatever it is we do best, mindful of the impact that thing may be making in both a helpful and harmful way on the rest of the world. That way, if you’re being harmful, you scale back, and if you’re not being helpful enough, you step up the activism level.At least, that’s what I’m working on now.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Rich: You’re undoubtedly right. If most people thought like me I probably wouldn’t have any purpose for writing; I’d be out doing stuff with like minds.Colleen: Thanks for the kind words, and for wading through this way-long essay. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get to the point of realizing I am pretty hopeful. ;-)

  4. Rayne says:

    So? Does this mean you are still thinking over the Innovation Project? I don’t get the sense that you’ve completely made up your mind about it from this post. ;-)I think innovation depends an awful lot on the distribution curve, on the unwinding of cellular automata that is our genome and menome. There are fewer innovators than there are folks who demand or need innovation, and people who can realize concepts and bring them to fruition are somewhere in-between in numbers. Everybody can innovate to some degree, but only a small percentage of folks are hard-wired innovators that can’t shut it off. The problem is encouraging innovators — whether the hard-wired-7×24 innovators or the more common occasional innovators and everyone in between to be more fruitful. See the recent FastCompany blog article “10 Faces of Innovation”; you’ll see what I’m getting at. Most organizations systematically squash folks by demanding some sort of conformity, like “follow the chain of command” or “it’s not your job”. What are the cultural problems in organizations that kill innovation? Are they the same cultural problems that demand expansion of systems, reinforcing hierarchies that may not serve the entire system?I suspect that it is natural for there to be both small clusters and large clusters; they are part of a spectrum or distribtution that would naturally occur. Large and small will both collapse and be replaced over time; that’s natural, too. The question now is whether we consciously choose collapse as a means to stimulate innovation; this we have not yet done as humans. Will the rest of the occasional innovators in a population be able to see the need for it, depending on the situation? Or do the individual hard-wired-7×24 innovators simply look like anarchic terrorists to the rest of the members of the distribution curve?

  5. Richard says:

    Some time ago, writing about the death of a dear friend, who had spent her life working as an innovator, I wrote:”The first is that while my sympathies and loyalties are with the innovators, recognising the frustrations and loneliness they often have to endure, the barriers to genuine innovations may be a necessary and desirable thing. We need a measure of stability to be able to lead meaningful lives. If innovation was easier we would find ourselves overwhelmed by change. So it may be that the barriers and obstacles face by people trying to do new things are the filters that enable us to absorb the amount of of deep change we can cope with at any one time.”http://www.purposivedrift.net/archives/000014.htmlI would still hold this to be true and I think, like you, that for innovation to be possible, it is necessary to be sensitive to the possibilities for change and work with the flow, rather than try to force or bully innovation through.

  6. medaille says:

    This was a really good post for me. It meshed fairly well with what has been going on in my own mind, but was still different enough to stimulate new thought. I had two main threads of thought that were stimulated from this post.The first is that it corresponds (especially the first portion) extremely heavily with Ivan Illich’s “Tools of Conviviality.” Illich’s book provides a different insight to a similar problem, he deals with the nature of tools and how it impacts humans, while you were talking about human nature to create tools of an industrial nature that are bad for us. To summarize Illich, tools can either be industrial or convivial in nature (or rather I should say that there is a range of values that can be chosen that lie between industrial and convivial. Industrial tools are defined by the increasing amount of specialization in their design, so that they can do one very particular job more efficiently than other tools. Convivial tools are defined by their ability to offer significantly more freedom in the different ways/jobs in which they can be used. They are less specialized but do can do a variety of jobs well and thus offer the user more creativity in their usage. An example of an industial tool is a pneumatic nail gun. It does a great job at putting nails into wood, but it isn’t really useful for anything else. A hammer on the other hand is less efficient at putting nails into wood, but can be used in signicantly more ways. It can be used to shape metal, in deconstruction, as a weapon, etc. Organizations are also a tool. They can be designed in either an industrial or a convivial manner.Illich noted that there where patterns that were involved with the usage of industrial tools. The main thing he noticed was that there were two watersheds associated with industrial tools that aren’t noted with convivial tools, but I like to think that it is just a set of trade-offs as you travel from having exclusively convivial tools to exclusively industrial tools which is quite common since the industrial revolution. The first watershed is that after a certain industrial tool is first introduced into a community, there will be significant positive effects due to the increased efficiency of the tool. This can be anything from the range of travel that an automobile provides to the curing of disease provided by antobiotics. The second watershed is that with increased domination of the industrial tool as compared to its convivial counterparts comes the drawbacks of having heavily specialized tools. These drawbacks are harder to see for a couple of reasons. The first is that they are often indirect and/or only seen years later after they can influence a community enough. The second is that after having seen the great benefits they initially provided, we as people fail to notice and associate the drawbacks as coming from the tool. For automobiles, some of the drawbacks are that we have developed infrastructures that depend on the automobile and that dooms us to spend time in rush hour/makes it impractical for the mainstream to live a non-vehicular life as well as consuming energy incredibly inefficiently and destroying the planet as a result. For antibiotics, we have seen an increase in the global population and all its side effects such as the increase in scarcity of resources, as well as we now also have antibiotic-resistant bacteria which threaten or oversized population. This is very similar to your link to the sacredbalance website in that it is all about diversity vs specialization. I tend to believe that there has to be a balance between diversity and specialization, with diversity being more important in the long term, while specialization can provide greater benefits in the short term which will be neutralized in the long term.My second thought path was in respect to the portion of the post dedicated to addiction of society. While it is certainly true that we are addicted in the sense that we have built past the sustainable limits available to us naturally and thus find it painful to avoid it, I don’t think that it is necessarily addictive like alcohol or cigarettes are addictive. I think that it is “addictive” in appearance because there are positive feedback loops in effect which reinforce the observable behavior, but the option exists to change society in small ways to change the feedback loops to be negative for undesirable (from the masses standpoint as opposed to the social elite) traits and positive for more desirable influences.I’m afraid of overcommitting to a self-regulating model under the principal that it requires the populace to regulate themselves. This requires that somehow the community becomes educated enough to protect itself from their own power. Completely natural interactions have a couple of implications/prerequisites. The first is that members have no fear of scarcity/death. If you die, big deal. It was part of the natural process and you were returned to the earth. This is a huge fear which is the root cause for civilization. It is the fear that God/Mother Earth/whatever will not provide enough to prevent the awful occurance of death. It also more attuned to working under a sustainable model as opposed to one being fueled by fossil fuels (stored energy).Any civilization requires a structure which must be designed by the creative thought of by people. A self-regulating model must provide the means for positive feedback to promote desirable characteristics, meaning that the people who make the decisions have to be properly educated to make decisions with enough responsibility to act in a manner that doesn’t impede on other peoples’ freedom to do what they want. Our current model (democracy) is very selective in how it determines impingements on other peoples freedoms. Murder and rape are obviously bad, but other things like the freedom to live in a land that was equally as good this year as the last aren’t ensured as much. The laws that we have chosen to enforce promote bad behavior in certain areas, while only limiting the bad behavior in other areas in superficial ways. This allows an unnatural competitive advantage in favor of people who are willing to exploit those loopholes which provide negative effects, meaning the gain they recieve from society outweighs the bad, but society as a whole is worse off. I made some comments in the past about selfish behavior and how we need to switch to more community centered behavior where the good of the whole is more important than the good of the individual. This ties in here heavily.Many people get confused and think that community centered behavior = communism = failed societal structure. Community centered behavior doesn’t work in situations where the system promotes individuals to subvert the system by providing them positive feedbacks for selfish behaviors. The system as a whole must be congruent in this desire, meaning that it must be designed to promote the good of the whole.I have a gut feeling that your “natural” communities and naturalistic economy will be better than what we currently have, but will ultimately not provide what we really need to do. I feel that it will be more natural in the sense that the individual components are smaller and that it will work better to equalize unnatural distributions of resources amongst humans, but I don’t see any means provided in it to equalize the skewed distribution of resources between species. Nature prevents any one population from using too many resources at a given time. That means people must make the conscious decision between trying to outcompete other species like we currently are which will lead to nature reclaiming its resources and trying to self-regulate to allow nature the option to not have to reclaim its resources. Its like a population of deer, without adequate predators, the deer will die due to other problems like disease or starvation.My opinion is that “”the worst mistake” in our history” is only the worst mistake because we are operating under the childish notion that death is bad and that scarcity requires us to hoard resources in order to prevent death. If we were more responsible, we could still live in a civilization that provides us comforts but not at a significant expense to others. Your natural model will provide a more natural means of resource distribution amongst people given that the rules the society creates prevent abuse of the few at the expense of the many, but since humans are up until this point more successful at outcompeting many of its competitors, it will need to find a way to prevent using too large of a share of resources on its own species.I agree that the model should be self-regulating to a certain extent. The current form of democracy shows how self-regulation can easily be counter-productive. What’s missing is a method of educating the decision-makers, be it individuals in small communities or governors of states as to what needs to be done for the good of the whole, as well as a means to prevent individual gain from being chosen over community benefit.

  7. medaille says:

    In response to Rayne’s comment,I think innovaters are stifled at mulptiple levels of culture and different organizations in society. School and work both are organized in a manner that promotes industiralization over diversity. The focus is om promoting one very specific model of specialization at the expense of all other options. The size of the organization is only important in that it is set up in a manner that stifles diversity while promoting specialization. How do you turn that around in an organizational setting? I don’t know, I’m not that experienced in industry, but it must entail the understanding of the organization as a whole that diversity is more successful and stable in the long run and that specialization is only a short term benefit. I think societal influences are more important because they create the rules that organizations play by and they create the people that populate an organization.

  8. Medaille: “What’s missing is a method of educating the decision-makers, be it individuals in small communities or governors of states as to what needs to be done for the good of the whole, as well as a means to prevent individual gain from being chosen over community benefit.” Yes, yes, yes! Decision-makers badly need some basics in… human and occupational sciences!!! Like anthropology, sociology, psychology, occupational medicine, occupational hygiene and ergonomics. Without such input, how could they be able to implement human- and environmental-centered changes (CSR taken as whole) within their own organization. But, instead of being drawn into details, I’d rather follow Joel de Rosnay (1995)’s theory on chaos (translated from French): “The chaos theory defines chaos as being internally self-composed of both balance and order factors, which create stable ‘organizations.’ Equally spoken, excess of order meant to guarantee one system’s overall balance, will ultimately create disorder and provoke its own death. In order to accept such ‘generating-order chaos’ paradigma, WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THROUGH SYNTHESIS INSTEAD OF ANALYSIS.” Decision-makers should thus be excellent in managîng such synthesis of multiple data gathered from the birth of humanity until the dawn of todays’ top-down corporate model.Dave: I sometimes feel pretty discouraged in front of your prolific writings. There’s too much daily interesting stuff to read or to reflect on. Did you ever think of writing one book that could summarize what’s been going on on HTSTW? I’d buy one straightaway :) Or shorten a bit your posts ? Keep up the good work.

  9. Steven Johnson says:

    I was just wondering if you could define any of the value terms used in this article. It sounds like someone wants to reshape the world for the benefit of like minded individuals at the expense of others….typical self love below the neck…also if you cannot define good and bad i.e. the quintessential value terms then how do you know that your new world would be “good”????????? Do good and bad values exist outside of your brain??? Where are they? In the air? Under the bed???? Maybe you just “feel” them so you think they exist somewhere…. Hitler nearly made the world a wonderful place….for who??? for Nazis at the expense of others…..so you want to do the same??? If you use force then it is not to everyone’s benefit is it??? But we have to use force how eles do we determine what is mine and what is yours??? Well when you live below the neck there is no other way

  10. medaille says:

    I don’t know how much this will help you, but this is similar to how I base my opinions.Here is a list of good and evil as thought by many prominent philosophers over time.http://www.crescentlife.com/articles/spirituality/good_&_evil.htmI tend to believe that Happiness is the goal we are all striving for. While many obtain very momentary spurts of happiness, I think that lasting is what we are trying to obtain. I think that happiness is the by-product of spiritual development/self-realization and is a way to guide people down the right path. So for almost all instances, anything that prevents people from experiencing lasting happiness is bad and anything that promotes it is good.So by that definition, I tend to push towards ends that I think will result in an increase of happiness or more so a decrease in obstacles that prevent happiness. I feel happy enough myself, so I don’t really feel a desire to push ends that are good for me only. I don’t think that Hitler made the world wonderful for anyone. Maybe he increased their perceived short term happiness, but in the long-term I don’t think so. Happiness isn’t derived from gaining power over others, so I imagine that their sense of happiness was more from the community spirit in bonding with their neighbors, etc and the appeal that Hitler had was one that appealed to their superego or adult part of their brain and not to their core self.I don’t think anyone on this site advocates using force to achieve anything and instead promotes learning and becoming more knowledgable and aware of our own impact on each other and the earth. I could imagine force being used only in the circumstance where the majority of people became so ignorant that they would fail to comprehend the argument placed before them. Then in order to prevent damage from happening to both the earth and the populace themselves, force might be needed, but I’m still skeptical of using force on anything bigger than a tiny level just because of the negative repercussions it would have in any cause it was used for.

  11. “There’s no way to happiness, happiness is the way!” – Siddhartha Gautama

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Rayne: I think it’s a combination of fear (innovation is unsettling) and rustiness (I think we’re all born creative and imaginative, and get it beaten out of us). Perhaps the combination is a bit of envy for those of us who haven’t lost, or have managed to rediscover, the ability.Richard: Thanks for the quote and the link.Medaille/Yves: Wow, quite a conversation! I agree there are good ‘natural’ reasons for addiction, though I understand that quite a few species we started feeding sugar are now addicted to it, and getting tooth decay for the first time. The problem with addictions is you never quite know where they will lead. I appreciate the clarification that community is not = communism. Deer populations regulated themselves quite well through changes in predator numbers until we permanently exterminated their predators; there is only so much a system can do it restore equilibrium when one of the critical variables is suddenly blown out of the water. People could regulate themselves quite well in small numbers, as long as members could vote with their feet when tyrants tried to impose their will. Now we’re tied to a particular and arbitrary political unit (by accident of birth, or requirement of our job) this becomes harder to do, and in any case the political units we live in now are just too big to self-manage and self-regulate. If only we’d learned early in our history the value of networking small communities instead of integrating into large, unwieldy communities, for mutual benefit. Yves, I think what you advocate is best accomplished by devolving decision-making authority to the front lines, a rarity in modern organizations wedded to hierarchy. I may get around to writing a HtStW book eventually, but my thoughts are still too much in flux (thanks in part to some great new writers, and in part to some very smart readers). As for writing shorter posts, as one wise writer said “I don’t have the time to write more concisely ;-) And Medaille,I agree with your aversion to the use of coercion, even with the best of intentions, until/unless (as with opposing Hitler) all other options have been used up.

  13. James Drogan says:

    I imagine that those who think they are innovators would question the premise of your post. I do. Innovation abounds. It may not be in all the areas that you and I would desire, but it is there.The socio-political-economic innovation I think you are really calling for is threatening to the established order, particularly as seen by those in power. Your criticism is powerful, but where is an equally powerful suggestion of a strategy for transformation?

  14. Bob the Chef says:

    First of all, the view that hierarchy is somehow “bad” is an idea on weak foundations, rooted, I suspect, to some degree in the Protestant Reformation (really, revolution, but I digress) and in certain strains of the so-called “Enlightenment.” The problem is not with a practical hierarchy, per se. The problem is with the way hierarchy is understood, which is a corruption of hierarchy. Both the libertarian and the liberal obsessions with hierarchy as somehow “bad” is founded entirely on this corruption. Hierarchy arises out of need. Even in the ant colony that you describe inaccurately, there exists a hierarchy, complete with a Queen at the head. Among primates, there is often an alpha male (which, btw, is not an undisputed head as once thought, but rather, a servant to his clan). Given any anarchic group of people, you will always, over time, witness the development of some organizational hierarchy. Properly understood, sane people do not wish to ascend to higher levels in the hierarchy because the higher you go, the greater the servitude and the greater the burden. In other words, the king/president/CEO are indeed the servants of those they lead. A smart manager, probably a rare sight in today’s world of stupid, Ayn Rand reading Harvard MBAs, knows that his function is to help his team do what it needs to get done. He isn’t some landed, spoiled aristocrat for whom a faceless mass toils. No! He is indeed bound to serve his team in any way he can. The trouble is that today, managers and executives see themselves as entitled, power-hungry aristocrats, something that naturally arouses the healthy suspicion of their employees. When the manager seems himself as an Ubermensch slave driver who believes the only raison d’etre of the organization is his glory, comfort and spoils, then the organization naturally decays and descends into a stagnant heap of uninspiring crap, where employees do the bare minimum. It’s really quite simple, and no grand theorizing or postulating about the cause of stagnation is necessary. Once the manager begins to see himself as a servant of his staff, in helping them attain their goals, and not as a self-centered boss, then that’s when you see the company come to life. I do agree, however, that smaller groups do function better. I should note that there is a degree of anarchy in hierarchical organizations at each level, but it doesn’t describe the totality of the organization. The association of oppression with hierarchy stems from a personal problem with codependency and a misunderstanding of the limits of the hierarchy, both on the part of the ruler and the ruled.Also, innovation for innovation’s sake is a bit meaningless. Innovation by itself does not have value unless it exists in relation to something, a purpose. In closing, I’d like to include what role the Pope sees himself assuming, and that is the servant of God’s servants. Regardless of what your prejudices or views of the Roman Catholic Church are, the view remains accurate. The day-to-day work of the Pope is far from glamorous, and very tiresome, just as one would expect serving over a billion people would be. The Pope’s jurisdiction is of course limited, contrary to popular belief. Unless he speaks ex cathedra, his statements are not considered binding, which speaks to the little dogma that exists (in other words, all else is mutable and unbinding, matters of tradition).

  15. Bob the Chef says:

    Btw, innovation’s purpose is rooted in need. Need takes priority over capricious, selfish desires.

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