Srinivas Venkatram

Founder & Lead Researcher, Illumine

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Freedom Spaces and the Design Response

In any work, one can choose to see the freedom side of things, rather than the responsibility side of things.

We take any responsibility not because we love the responsibility itself, but because we want that freedom that goes with it. There is a deep inner freedom that we experience – in our own ways – where we are not answerable at a very fundamental level.

Therefore responsibility is the opportunity to maximize our freedom space.

A Freedom Space has two characteristics: one is the boundary, which is the responsibility; and the other is freedom. Once seen like this, one understands that design is about maximizing the freedom space.


When we maximize the freedom space we feel more fulfilled and happy, and at the same time we become more inner directed. We also become more responsible, we widen our mind and we are more inclusive.

And because of all this, the design response starts formulating almost naturally.

The need for enabling identity-constructs and recognizing a disabling identity-construct

One of the biggest challenges we face in our evolutionary journey is handling our own identity or ego-space.

Identity is not a simple definition of who I am. It represents, instead, a matrix of attributes about oneself.

This matrix of attributes called the identity may be described thus:
(this is only one of many identity constructs through which individuals describe themselves)


Clearly, this is an extremely subjective construct that is attempting to scope or define an amorphous whole called “me”.

This subjectivity leads us to constantly assess, reassess, and “confirm” our descriptions of self, estimates of capacities, and assessment of possessions with what other people think (about us).

This dependence on other people for feedback leads to several difficulties – a sense of self based on what others think, mismatches between what one thinks and others think (leading to complexes), an estimation of one’s capabilities that is not validated by experience, etc.

In this framework there is no space for human possibility; there is no space for an evolutionary struggle;. There is instead a subtle slavery to what others think and an attempt – conscious or otherwise – to boost/ inflate these estimations of self through presentational methods.

Most identity-constructs, in the final analysis, are subjective, open to constant reassessment, leave us unsure, and keep us bounded.

They are, in short, disabling identities for the evolutionary adventurer.

There is, therefore, the need for new enabling ‘identity-constructs’ that help us in our evolutionary journey and create spaces for the evolutionary possibilities lying unmanifest within us.

Who am I? A knowing individual or a learning individual

Who am I? A learning individual or a knowing individual?

This is the first question in the journey to personal freedom and choice.

At the identity level, there are two alternative identities open to a person: As a knowing individual I am accretive. As a learning individual, I am evolutionary.


Which state do I want to live?
The state of knowing is historical and static. The state of learning is evolutionary and free.

What choices do I make?
In every small action, I can choose “evolutionary discomfort” (learning individual) or choose to live in my comfort zone (knowing individual).

In short, a shift from knowing to learning could potentially impact the core of a human being’s thought.

Future-creating Leaders


In a world full of accomplished people, great thinking is widely found. This is one of the causes of great accomplishment – be it in music, art or science.

High quality thinking is good, but it is not enough. It needs to be combined with an extraordinary desire for the good of all. Only then will the futures you see be truly auspicious futures.

Put differently, auspicious futures will be created by men and women who combine an enormous desire for the good of the world (i.e., expansion of the heart) with an enormous capacity to grapple with and find solutions to the deeply complex challenges faced by society at large (i.e. deepening of the mind).


The challenge facing our leaders is developing this double capacity – expansion of heart and depth of intellect. Let us call them Future-creating Leaders.

A great intellect will find general solutions to particular problems (e.g. a scientist). A great heart will find particular solutions to general problems (e.g. a social activist), but these Future-creating Leaders seek to find general solutions to general problems. They seek, in short, to enable their fellowmen to find answers to their deepest human questions.


How to become such a Future-creating Leader?

This state is not to be learnt or understood, but is to be actualized – everyday. Through the warp and weft of one’s aspiration and action.

Future-creating Leaders steadily work up from the state of finding particular solutions to particular problems, to discovering and grappling with general problems needing general solutions. This is done through the warp and weft of living.

They gradually expand their consciousness through their commitment both – to their field of study and the greater good – until one day they break through into the state of true Future-creating Leadership where their commitment synthesizes into a single whole vision of life.

Evolution through Work – The paradox of “identity with work”

As long as work demands that you engage with who you are, work transforms you. If work does not impact who you are, then work does not transform you.

For example, if you have power and power is part of who you are, then any work where you have to modify your relationship with power will transform you.

Similarly, evolution through knowledge work can only take place if, inside you, there is an ego/ identity of knowledge, and this identity is being called into question in some way in the course of your work.

In short, you evolve through work because of your identity and the struggle of your identity with the work.

Identity with the work makes you strive for excellence. Yet to grow and evolve, one has to transmute that very identity. That is the paradox of “identity with work”.

The quality of purpose

Living purposefully has two aspects to it:

(i) The depth of one’s own engagement with purpose

(ii) The scope or range of one’s purpose

Let us explore both dimensions.

Scope and depth of engagement with purpose can be at three levels:

Level 1:

One can live within the broad framework of a purpose. For example, if a company decides to be conscious of sustainability, then Level 1 of engagement is to operate within structures and processes that support sustainability.

In other words, adherence to a set of socio-ethical norms and processes.

Level 2:

One can engage more deeply with purpose by actively working in and through the purpose. For example, the same company above could innovate and create a range of new sustainability models that transform the way business is done.

In other words, operating with new rules, new models, and new practices that enable emergence of purpose.

Level 3:

At the deepest, most personal level, one can translate purpose into new modes of personal thought and action that demand new commitments, new orders of intentionality, and new identities. In such cases, there is deep, long-term, irrevocable transformation in the people seeking to live by a higher purpose. This means an inner evolution in each individual trying to live the purpose.

This can be depicted as follows:


Knowledge Worker – The Evolutionary Journey


Stage I: Knowledge Worker

Truly working with knowledge means the distinction between input, process, and output blurs and we learn to work with “whole outcomes”.

Knowledge and process – both are objective. The focus is the output being sought of you. The ideal is competence. 

Stage II: Knowledge Craftsman

At the next stage, the goal is the creation of knowledge products which are beautiful, effective, engaging, and knowledge-shifting.

Knowledge is objective, process is subjective. The focus is your inner vision for the product. The ideal is product excellence. 

Stage III: Knowledge Warrior

At the third stage you not only work, but you’re also dedicated to a higher purpose. This is when you pull apart from other knowledge workers and begin the journey of self-transformation.

Both knowledge and process become subjective. Purpose transmutes the objective into subjective. The focus is your becoming. The ideal is evolution. 

Stage IV: Transformed Consciousness

The distinction between knowledge, process, and purpose has dissolved into a new whole called the ideal. The focus is manifesting the ideal. You are the ideal. 

How does an idea become a force? – The value of role models in evolution

Ideas become Forces when they are embodied in individuals.

Character, then represents integrity to this “body of ideas” or ideal.

People with extraordinary character thus embody ideals of a society.


It is through role-modeling by these individuals, that these ideas become worth living for, worth reshaping one’s own identity for.

It is these individuals, and those who they inspire, who become vehicles for the transformation of knowledge into a new society.