Human fulfillment – critical constructs

Can ‘fulfillment’ be converted from a fuzzy & vague idea into a set of precise constructs & tools, using which people can make specific & measurable changes in themselves?

I

Human Fulfilment is a complex subject when seen from a point of view of a world teeming with aspirations, desires, conflicts, and challenges of living.

II

However, when seen from the point of view of an individual’s own interior, then fulfilment suddenly becomes a more comprehensible subject.

III

Let us begin by defining the word fulfilment. Fulfilment means realization or actualization of one’s goal or purpose.

To be fulfilled means that all of ones’ goals or purposes – diverse as they may be – are realized wholly – and one is in a position to enjoy wholly the fruits of this multifaceted realization of one’s purposes.

IV

This raises the next question: what constitutes goals or purposes worth realizing. In other words, if one’s purpose involved harming others and if such a purpose was realized, would one be fulfilled?

The answer to this question is – yes, one would feel partly fulfilled but there would be many other goals and purposes that would remain unfulfilled leading to a state of partial fulfillment – one that almost all human beings experience.

V

Would it not be true that this would be the fate of all human beings?

Every one of us has numerous goals – personal, interpersonal, social – on numerous dimensions of life – material, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. All human beings are trying to meet or realize many of these goals simultaneously or at least concurrently in different aspects of our life. Hence, every one of us would face a situation where one or a few of our goals are realized while other goals remain unrealized – leading to partial fulfillment.

VI

This raises a further set of questions

  1. Is there a way to organize or classify goals in some hierarchy such that realizing a few master goals would automatically lead to realizing subsidiary goals?
  2. Is there a strategy to efficiently and effectively realize these goals so that we can be more fulfilled in our lives?
  3. Is there a way to obtain fulfilment by not following the strategy of realizing goals? i.e., can human beings be seen as something different from goal-realizing entities and is this a wise-strategy?

VII

In short, the challenge of fulfillment in one’s life is a challenge that can be organized into four problems

  1. The problem of identity – who are we? Are we goal-realizing entities or something else?
  2. The problem of engagement – how do we optimally live our lives so that we are fulfilled?
  3. The problem of purpose – is there a way to hierarchize and organize our goals so that we can focus on a few essentials in our quest for fulfilment?
  4. The problem of meaning – How do we measure our progress towards fulfilment so that our day to day actions may be judged to be meaningful or otherwise in the context of a total fulfilment?

VIII

Fulfillment can then be seen in terms of a language comprising a set of four critical constructs:

  1. Meaning
  2. Purpose
  3. Identity
  4. Engagement

This is the first step toward exploring the interior landscape of humans.

 

(Originally written in 2014)

Collective Aspiration

What is collective aspiration and why is it such a fundamental driver in change?

1.0One of the most talked about and least understood dimensions of business and institutional thinking is the dimension of “collective aspiration”.

2.0The current language of business for example, is limited to terms such as strategy, mission, vision, values, etc. While these terms are valuable, at their core lies a widespread recognition that words and reality mean two totally different things in the corporate world.

3.0This ‘gap’ between words and action is attributed to the impracticality of these ideas (or concepts) or is attributed to the lack of sincerity on the part of those implementing these ideas in following through.

4.0Is it not possible that this gap between words and action is born not due to poor quality of thought nor is it born due to lack of sincerity, but is born of a misreading of a critical driver of human action – which is aspiration?

5.0Aspiration represents the joy-seeking, affirming, dimensions of an individual. It demonstrates human hope, man’s desire for growth and change, and man’s engine for self transformation.

6.0Aspiration is therefore an individual’s best friend – providing him/ her with a tomorrow, generating possibilities, defining new energy-sources for himself/ herself, and creating the ineffable “positive buzz” that is infectious and inclusive.

7.0Collective aspiration is the collective manifestation of individual aspirations. It is very difficult to say whether individuals together created the aspiration or whether the aspiration self-selected the individuals who are working together.

8.0Whatever or wherever be the origin, collective aspiration is a real entity – it determines the capacity to bridge the gap between ideas and action – not just in terms of distance between the two – but, more important, the choices of ideas and actions that will be bridged.

9.0In other words, collective aspiration represents the “reality” of fulfillment for a collective. There is ‘real pain’ only if aspirations – and ideas embodying those aspirations are not met in terms of action and results. The rest is simply irrelevant at a fundamental level.

 

(Originally written in March 2005)

The collective act of individualized seeing

How do you scale vision in an organizational collective? For example, how do you keep the torch of customer-service burning bright in every employee’s mind?

This very short essay of  7 insights was born of a struggle with the question of “vision enablement”– i.e. how to keep the vision of customer satisfaction burning bright in every employees mind.  This “essay” defines “vision sharing” as the “collective act of individualized seeing” which implies that vision cannot be “given” it must be “owned”.

I

Why should everyone perceive value creation? 

So that each one feels valuable.

But in order that each feels valuable, one must not only define global “value” but also local/ located creation of value.  i.e. each one must feel, we have created great value and I have contributed genuinely to this act of creation.

This is human fulfillment at work.

II

So how to define global value creation?

We have tried out two distinct approaches:

One, we asked whether value resides in what the customer ‘received’ i.e. I am as valuable as what my customer perceived. This is limited as an approach.

Two, we also asked whether value resides in the ‘act of creation’ – the how? Primarily because human fulfillment is itself a two part journey, one creating value as a group (what the customer received) two, contributing as an individual (act of creation).

III

So the question becomes:

How to combine ‘customer value’ creation with ‘individual contribution to value’ into a integrated definition of value. i.e. value is neither ‘outside’ in the customer’s world, nor ‘inside’ in my mind, it is in the integrated ‘whole’ that transcends both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.

This integrated ‘whole perception of value’, we call enablement – both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and more…

IV

How to ‘uncover’ or ‘unearth’ this value?

If it is located in the totality of ‘engagement’ (both act of creation and customer value delivered) then it cannot be mechanistically or logically isolated.  It is not a product of reasoning.  It is a ‘collective act of individualized seeing’.

V

This is what leaders do

They enable “collective yet individualized seeing of an emerging whole”.

VI

This is what every person  must do in the world to unfold.  Each one a leader. Each one a follower.

VII

It is this ‘collective act of individualized seeing’ that results in

  1. purposive behavior in system,
  2. the ‘owning-up’ of responsibility by each individual to a common purpose, and
  3. the ‘agreement’ – tacit – among all that each will do what it takes to make it happen.

 

(Originally written in October 2004)

Invoking and Sustaining Excellence

How do you invoke excellence in people? One of the ways is through role modeling excellence.

I

In almost every community we have worked with or visited, there has been one common problem, one theme, that has run through all developmental efforts.  The problem of excellence.  A company seeks to introduce Quality Programs, people ask why.  A leader wants her team to learn more and adapt to new technologies, people silently resist it.  A government seeks to lay out an exciting vision of global leadership, people (in their minds!) wonder if it is possible.

II

In other words, people are finding it difficult to relate abstract ‘good ideas’ like excellence, quality, faith, growth, achievement with the day-to-day personal and professional concerns that constitute their lives.

III

On deeper thought, it can be seen that the same issues underlie the problems faced by three distinct groups of people (i) those who are seeking to build superior institutions, (ii) those who are seeking to compete better, or (iii) those who are simply trying to question and challenge the status quo in their individual areas of endeavour.

IV

What is the bridge between excellence and one’s own life? It appears that the bridge cannot be “external motivation” but is “internal motivation”.

V

Put another way, one becomes excellent because one chooses to be excellent. When one chooses to be excellent, the result is an interest in all things associated with excellence.

VI

When do individuals choose excellence in their lives? When they see the relationship between quality of output and significance of life, when they recognize the meaning of performance, and when they come to recognize that learning and growing is an end in itself.

VII

What then is the “trigger” that enables individuals to embark as this cycle of growth and excellence?

VIII

The trigger appears to be an encounter with quality: when individuals come face to face with people or situations or events where the value of great performance, of raw professional competence, of true meaningful effort, becomes obvious to them.  This encounter could be with role models or aspirational figures, with people who are known to have excelled, or even with powerful books or films.  The important thing is the encounter.

But the encounter is not enough.

IX

What is also needed is reflection, (the availability of conceptual models and frameworks of learning that allow these encounters to be truly assimilated)

X

Equally important is the necessity of practice. The opportunity to test and refine ones own understanding withinn the warp and weft of real world action. Put another way, there must be at least one or more “zone of excellence” in one’s life where one is willing to make the choices and sacrifices needed to encounter and realize excellence.

XI

Finally, what is also needed is a group of people who are willing to provide the moorings for the emotional and self-esteem related changes that such a journey involves – the enabling environment.

XII

Putting these four elements together – the encounters, the tools and models for reflection, the opportunities for translating these ideas into action, and the enabling environment of role-models – constitutes the ingredients of excellence in human systems.

XIII

Most important, these four elements – the presence of encounters, the opportunities and models for reflection, the availability of “zone of excellence” and the presence of an enabling psycho-social environment – are seen to be mutually reinforcing if we seek sustainable interest in human excellence from ourselves and our people.

Creating universal cognitive access – The last 12 inches problem

It is a widely known fact that more information does not lead to better understanding and more ‘informed’ action. We now face the new challenge of making sense of all the knowledge available to us at the press of a button.

I

The central challenge facing most knowledge-based institutional systems – education, health, knowledge-driven industries, communications, etc., is the paradigm shift in man’s relationship to knowledge and its use.

For nearly 500 years now, there has been an increasing distribution of knowledge: first in the form of information embodied in newspapers, books, magazines; second, films & television, and finally, internet & mobile-based communications. This 500 year march has been marked by an increasingly intense drive to reduce communication costs, increase reach and lower the cost to user of entertainment and information.

In the past 20 years, with the rapid growth of the internet, the quantum and range of information available to users has gone up dramatically – leading to a new situation unseen in man’s relationship with information before – too much ‘access’ to knowledge.

It is at this juncture, that man faces a new challenge, which he has not encountered meaningfully in his history. The challenge of making sense of it all: the challenge of meaningful utilization of knowledge for productive use – the challenge of assimilating information not at a societal level alone, but also at an individual level.

II

This challenge – the challenge of assimilation – can be called ‘the last 12 inches problem’: the distance between the personal computer screen and the user’s head.

This is the ‘cognitive distance’ between information and understanding which needs to be crossed after crossing the ‘geographical distance’ between creator of knowledge and user of knowledge.

III

This is a new problem.

Man has never faced the problem of use – whether food, clothing, shelter or even primary education. Availability has implied use of these resources.

For example, if food is made available, then it follows that people have the ‘capacity to consume’ it. If clothing is made available, it is taken for granted that people will be able to ‘use’ them.

In fact, these are all physical access goods, wherein, the problem of ‘capacity to use’ is never brought up as an issue in distribution.

At a superficial level, information is perceived as no different from these physical access goods. If there is more information distributed more widely, then it apparently follows that it will be used effectively by receivers of that information.

But study after study, notable among them being the work of Paul Strassman (a leading analyst of the cost-effectiveness of IT Systems) and Richard Saul Wurman (who coined the term Information Anxiety and defined it as the black hole between data and knowledge) have shown this is not necessarily true. More information does not lead to better understanding and more ‘informed’ action.

For example, in the context of communicating information to customers Strassman emphasizes that, “The guiding principle of the approach to designing information work should not be inward-looking but customer-oriented”.*

Wurman asserts that information anxiety is produced by the “over-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It happens when information does not tell us what we want or need to know”.**

IV

Physical access to information, like access to roads, is a necessary ‘physical’ infrastructure that must be laid as a foundation for man’s progress.

But the real challenge before mankind will be in creating universal access to understanding – ‘cognitive access’ – i.e., enabling the common man to fruitfully and meaningfully use information in a manner that will result in tangible improvements in the way he works and the way he lives.

Creating cognitive access is not an easy terrain to cross.

Assimilating information depends upon the users’ ability to understand, the context for the information, and the link between the new information and the existing knowledge base already in the head.

Creating cognitive access is clearly an ‘individual-centric’, ‘difficult to measure’, ‘complex’ concept. It is related to creating the optimal conditions for users to understand and assimilate knowledge easily.

Correspondingly, creating ‘universal’ cognitive access, i.e. creating optimal conditions for the easy and effective use of available knowledge by all those who receive it is the key challenge intrinsic to the goal of creating universal access to knowledge.

V

If we are to be content with allowing each individual to gain cognitive access based only on his or her individual capability, then we are opening the doorway to a problem that has already ravaged this country once, and has the capacity to destroy it again: the ‘understanding divide’ – which creates a ‘knowledge-rich’ ruling class that controls access to the very source of all progress!

Only this time it will not be physical access to information, but access to the benefits of that information.

As more and more information is made available as a result of fiber-optic highways and the widespread availability of communication infrastructure, we will see the contours of the ‘understanding divide’ become clearer.

Those who understand will benefit immensely from the investments we are making in information and its availability. Those who don’t will be left further behind than they were before!

 

(Originally written in 2004)


References:

* Paul A. Straussman [1985], “The Transformation of work in the Electronic Age” [pg.27, 170, 184], Free Press.

** Richard Saul Wurman [1989], “Information Anxiety”, Doubleday [1st edition].

Knowledge for enablement – the birth of a practice

How can the information explosion lead to improved human capacities? How can people be enabled to respond to increasing change with the knowledge now available? How can we secure the evolution of human systems in the age of knowledge?

PREAMBLE

1.0Over the past 500 years the availability and quantity of knowledge produced in human society has increased dramatically.  This prompted Carlos Fuentes, the Nobel Prize winning South American author to comment that “the greatest challenge facing modern civilization is the structuring of available knowledge”

2.0The rate of change of creation of knowledge has also increased dramatically. Wharton professor Bruce Merrifield reports that 90% of the world’s codified information has been produced since 1960. This is staggering.

3.0Simultaneously, the scientific and technical possibilities that allow this knowledge to be commercially exploited have gone up exponentially – though very clearly lagging the growth in availability and the increase in the rate of change in creation of knowledge.

4.0This “Transformation of Possibilities” for Knowledge can be perceived in two distinct areas:

–     One, the growth of computing has meant the application of knowledge in different areas ranging from an ordinary schoolchild’s project work, (which due to the Internet has become a sophisticated knowledge seeking activity), to the ratio of information-workers to workers in the services, industrial, and agricultural sectors (from less than 15% of total work force to more than 60% of total workforce).

–     Two, the growth of communications technology has meant that the use of ‘ transient knowledge’ in society has increased dramatically – in terms of e-mails which are stored on machines, SMS messages which are sent, stored, and/or deleted on mobile phones, data “crunched” in corporations being stored either in data form or as analytical reports. This use of transient knowledge has meant new possibilities for the sharing of thoughts, the cultivation of relationships, the management of work, etc. which were hitherto carried out in the form of oral/personal interactions and communications.

5.0This, in short, describes a world exploding in the quantities of knowledge being produced, being codified, being shared, and also being used. A world in which “knowledge” in its infinite variants and forms has extended the notion of human communication and human possibilities.

6.0The contours of this new world, has taken the best part of 50 years in the making, from the advent of solid state computers for commercial use in 1960 to the present day when the terms “computer programming”, “knowledge management”, and “information overload” appear as part of the intellectual toolkit of a young engineer or technologist; and words like “computer”, “cyber café”, and “SMS” are part of the use-vocabulary of most urban and semi-urban youth with access to education.

7.0The central question, after this half century of growth is “Have these new words and vocabularies really meant a change in the way we work and the way we live?”

The answers are not easy to find. At the obvious level of human access and use of communications and knowledge there are no doubts about the answer.

The questions become more specific when we ask:

  • “Has this evolution meant an increase in human learning?”
  • “Has this growth in knowledge meant a transformation in practice?”
  • “Has this growth meant a fundamental shift in society’s evolutionary dynamic that involves learning to doing and to learning again?

It is while answering these questions that the contours of the new challenges facing us become clear.

Has access to knowledge meant an increase in human learning?

8.0Mankind’s ability to create rich symbolic representations of the world has increased, but this improved ability to “map out process flows” and interactions” for the purpose of programming has not filtered back into the way we write and think in our schools and colleges.

9.0Mankind’s ability to “configure commands” on computers has not meant a corresponding increase in his capacity to “configure new solutions” to the challenges faced in society. The responses to challenges faced by leaders have continued to remain embedded in the habits and imperatives from across the ages.

10.0Mankind’s ability to represent knowledge through “interfaces” and “taxonomies” has not yielded a new logic for communicating to people in ways that enable them to understand freshly and act in ways they would not have imagined before.

11.0In other words, the advancements in “thinking technologies” such as abstractions of concepts, configurations of solutions, and “representations of knowledge”, which have yielded vast new machines and networks, have remained the promise of a few people.

12.0The western world, with its enormous production and marketing capabilities, has mass produced knowledge, but has not mass produced the “thinking methods” that made such progress possible.

13.0Thinking, and therefore the quality of our cultural, emotional, and day to day problem-solving thought remains encrusted in a previous age, without reference to the quantity of new raw material available at its command.

14.0Consequently, society’s capacity to assimilate new ideas, manipulate them for his own benefit, and progress – not as a knowledge worker, but as a human being, remains where it was before the “information technology revolution”.

Has this growth in knowledge meant a transformation in practice?

15.0A study by Paul Strassman showed that the speed of simple arithmetic has improved by 65% using a programmable calculator. Similarly the average time needed to deliver a budget proposal in the offices studied by Strassman was found to come down by 36% (from an average of 34 days to an average of 22 days). This improvement primarily was due to the efficiency improvements in drafting on a computer, typing, editing and distribution of the reports and drafts.

16.0However, there were no tangible improvements found in the study, in the effectiveness of knowledge work done. The quality of “presentation” had improved but the quality of thought applied were found by the experts to be the same, or perhaps worse (due to the new emphasis on speed and the complacency deriving from better “look and feel” of the reports).

17.0This “crisis of effectiveness” is shrouded by the fact that the cost of computing and access to data has been falling dramatically over these years.  It is now widely recognized that the real cost of doing is the cost of people and not the cost of computing infrastructure.

18.0Nowhere is this “crisis of effectiveness” more apparent as in mankind’s ability to do the “right things” instead of “more things”.  Information and its availability has only meant that we work and rework more data. (A KPMG survey found that an average Fortune 1000 company spends an average of $12,500 per annum per employee on reworking information already worked on by others. An IDC study estimates losses in Fortune 500 companies due to information rework to be more than $31.5 billion a year).

19.0The “crisis of effectiveness” is most felt by those who are the new “professionals of knowledge” – software engineers, content creators, database producers, credit analysts, sales people selling on the basis of superior access to knowledge and so on. These professionals are proficient in the use of new knowledge tools but often ineffective in their capacity to use these tools, most tellingly in the context of their own work.

20.0In short, proficient use of the tools of knowledge and unlimited access to knowledge itself does not automatically lead to an improvement in the effectiveness of work done by individuals or in the quality of their contribution to the worlds they live in.

Has this growth meant a fundamental shift in society’s evolutionary dynamic?

21.0The central challenge of the knowledge age appears, however, to go far beyond the lack of democratization of new methods of thought and the poor effectiveness of knowledge-based work, in spite of, or because of the efficiencies in knowledge access.

22.0This challenge may be described as follows: how to put into place the ‘link’ the ‘transformation function’, between learning and doing, and between doing and learning. i.e. our ability to assimilate knowledge such that we work better; and our ability to work such that we evolve and grow as human beings. We appear to have all the ingredients of a great meal but seem to have lost the recipe book for cooking and eating the meal.

23.0This dynamic between learning and doing is not something we want simply because there is knowledge and we could use it better.  It is something we need, because if men and institutions do not adapt in the present age, they face the prospect of severe economic and personal costs.

24.0The very forces – computing, communication, codification of knowledge, etc. which created the vast funds of raw material for human thinking and doing, have also created an environment which demands much more from human beings (complex variety in the availability of goods, new demands on the capabilities needed to act effectively, the complex environment in terms of changing boundaries of markets, customers, production lines, boundaries of firm etc.)

25.0In simple terms, we have the inputs for new thought and action; we also has the environment which demands such thought and action, but we don’t yet know how to think differently and act differently so that the cycle of change is completed.  He is in short, facing the enablement challenge.

The Challenge of Enablement

26.0The challenge of enablement through knowledge – how to use available knowledge in order to respond effectively to the challenges facing man, is not a trivial challenge.

  1. The forms of knowledge available to man are new and many. We have gone beyond the comfortable world of books and newspapers to numerous forms of online and offline communications including chat-rooms, discussion boards, “blogs” and other forms of websites.
  2. The challenges man faces have also multiplied over the past century – not just food, health, housing, transport – but also new challenges to communities from the environment, challenges to organization from globalization & competitive market places, etc.
  3. The complexity of scientific and technological thought has meant that the domains of practice where challenges such as these were to have been met effectively have also begun to undergo, one after another, crises of identity.  A single domain like physics or even mechanical engineering or biology cannot take the entire responsibility for the solution to problems whether in a narrow technical sphere or in a larger knowledge sphere.
  4. Most important, the individuals who ultimately have to engage with these challenges will need to have the sense of ownership for the collective, the sense of responsibility to their communities, and the “capacity to respond” not just at an intellectual level but also at the level of “living responses” to the challenges they face.

In short, the challenge of the knowledge age is not a problem of too much information or too many challenges, it is a human problem.  How can people be enabled such that they can respond successfully to the new age?

 

(Originally written in 2003)

The Challenge of Collective Enablement (old)

Society is facing a dual challenge.
On the one hand, it is facing the challenge of transforming the conditions in which it lives – poverty, hunger, infrastructure, roads, sustained economic and social transformation, dealing with the effects human prosperity such as climate change, rising inequality, etc.
On the other hand, it is facing the challenge of ‘internal transformation’ – creating the human capacity to deal with these challenges.

Society is facing a dual challenge.

On the one hand, it is facing the challenge of transforming the conditions in which it lives – poverty, hunger, infrastructure, roads, sustained economic and social transformation, dealing with the effects human prosperity such as climate change, rising inequality, etc.

On the other hand, it is facing the challenge of ‘internal transformation’ – creating the human capacity to deal with these challenges.

None of the external challenges can be addressed unless individuals and groups (communities and institutions) develop the intentionality, the will, the self-confidence, the capacity to work together, to be able to deal with these challenges.

abcIf individuals or communities remain indifferent to a challenge – they may be unable to even recognize its ramifications or awaken to its consequences in time.

If individuals do not develop the will to deal with a problem, then they will not do what is necessary to solve our problems even if they recognize it and appreciate its importance.

If individuals or collectives do not have the self-confidence or belief that they can indeed solve a problem then they will wait for solutions from outside – become dependent on aid or foreign help or on “leadership” and “technology” to solve their challenges.

And if individuals and collectives don’t learn to overcome their narrow self-interest and come together, work together, accepting a shared destiny, then many problems will remain unsolved even if the recognition/ intentionality, will, and self-confidence exists within specific stakeholders or members of a group.

Thus, the challenge of external transformation can be solved through leadership, innovation, resources and engagement.

abcBut, mankind will not even harness its assets and deal with ‘external transformation’ because it is disabled
– by absence of shared recognition and collective intentionality
– by absence of collective will that transcends preoccupation with personal objectives alone
– by the lack of the self-confidence or self-belief – not necessarily in the leaders – but deep within the collective, leading to excessive dependence on the ‘other’ to solve the community’s own challenges
– by the unwillingness to bury egos, personal agendas, groupism, and a ‘not invented here’ attitude in order to solve a common shared challenge.
These disablers together represent the challenge of internal transformation that faces mankind.

abcIt’s time we wake up to this enablement challenge if we are to address our external challenges effectively.

Combining Craft with Scale– The notion of Integrity to Method

World-class knowledge organizations attempt to address a unique dichotomy – between great pride of personal craft and demonstrable logistical/ service delivery assurance.

The dichotomy between knowledge craft and delivery assurance is non-trivial. Craft is born of the personal. Assurance of the impersonal. Integrating the personal and impersonal into a single “whole” is not possible without a complete transcendence of both.

How does this transcendence – leading to integration of the personal and impersonal actually take place?

The answer lies in the concept of “Integrity to Method”.

“Integrity to Method” is the master idea of a scalable, world-class knowledge organization. It represents the integration of a “way” into the warp and weft of one’s work and life context.

“Integrity to Method” is the essence of the entire scientific community and its long term capacity to include and evolve globally – across cultures, motives, and contexts.

What is “Integrity to Method” in terms of day-to-day action?

“Integrity to Method” represents not adherence to process but adherence to model. In any “model of living” lies inherently a set of sustainability measures. Identifying those sustainability measures and ensuring that all actions support and reinforce the model and its success, is the key task of the leader – from the business success point of view.

The notion of an enabling economy

While the production roles in an economy are well understood, the enabling roles of the economy are not well understood, and in fact, many of the enabling roles have themselves become production roles instead of remaining enabling roles. The challenge before us is how do we create systems that combine economic value-addition along with enablement of the individual.

The two building block ideas (i) socio-economic deliverables having two kinds of value (economic and enablement value), and (ii) enabling systems which look at creating both economic value-addition combined with enablement of the individual, together point to a new vision of the enabling economy.

Let us understand this idea a little differently. The more industrialized a country gets, the more production and value-addition capacity an economy creates at a scale level, the more we will face a situation of ‘growth without jobs’. Technology innovations such as AI, for example, may relentlessly replace human activity so that productivity improves without corresponding growth in jobs.

Yet we see even in industrialized nations, a huge number of ‘vacancies’ in enabling roles such as childcare, healthcare, personal counseling, etc.

All these enabling roles have high enablement value but often very low economic (and in some cases societal) value, leading to these roles being played by individuals who seek to ‘serve’ or earn a little extra, or individuals less ‘qualified’ for more value-adding activities.

This happens primarily because of a blind spot in the collective mind that places a greater price-tag on economic value than on enablement value.

Similarly, in the Indian context, we find that there are a range of enabling roles – some of them physical enablement, functional enablement, knowledge enablement, (such as nurses, physiotherapists, gym trainers, household help, etc. etc.), all of which provide help in various ways to other human beings.

Put another way, an economy has two types of roles

While the production roles in an economy are well understood, the enabling roles of the economy are not well understood, and in fact, many of the enabling roles have themselves become production roles instead of remaining enabling roles. And the reason for this is because we know and understand economic systems, the importance of economic value-addition, and the relative importance of various roles within these systems, while we do not know much about, nor do we understand how enabling systems are designed, the importance of enablement value to human beings and to human collectives, and the fact that many enabling roles are not played in society.

University of the Future Some Initial Ideas

What is the (i) role of university education, (ii) form of university education in terms of structure, process, and content, and (iii) integration of the university into an evolving society?

The role of the university over the years has been studied extensively – whether as a provider of the ‘knowledge craftsmen’ to society, or as a center for new knowledge creation, or as a vehicle for cultural and social evolution in society.

Be it as it may, the university has all along been seen as a distinct institutional form that performs the ‘knowledge’ function in society as much as the modern corporation performs the ‘wealth and product creation’ function of society.

What if the university is no longer seen as an entity ‘away’ from life and is instead seen as ‘deeply embedded’ into the architecture and flow of social, cultural, and productive life of society?

What if we envisage a new role for the university as a research design lab embedded right in the heart of community and economic life,

  • providing a new ‘response capability’, a new ‘self-awareness capability’, and collective engagement capability to society,
  • and at the same time performing the ‘universalization’ function –deriving insights from its deep engagements with context, and universalizing them,

so that society can evolve more fluidly instead of lurching from one crisis to another.

We envisage, therefore, a university in a radically  different form – deeply rooted and contexted in communities enabling them to face challenges, engage with new realities, create a new breed of ‘knowledge craftsmen’, and yet capable of economies of scale and scope – straddling geographies, domains and disciplines, and integrating the best thinking and research around a challenge.

But this will not be enough; the output of the university of the future may not be limited to knowledge. Rather its primary output will need to be human beings who are capable of facing challenges dynamically, capable of real-time innovation and response, capable of self-awareness and growth; capable, in short, of far greater dynamism and resilience, integrity and change, reflection and action, than what we are producing today – individuals who can envision and actualize a new society, instead of ‘conforming to and confirming’ an existing world.

This means new curricula, new pedagogies, new teaching paradigms; this means new relationships between local community, university, and institutional structures in government and business. This also means rethinking the notion of an academic, as a new kind of ‘evolutionary catalyst’ in society.

This university of the future is not located in the future but needs to reorient society from past to future.

This reorientation of society is not ‘out there’ in the realm of technology, innovation, and ideas; but is ‘right here’ in the realm of community life; transforming ideals, and building society’s immune system so that it is able to not just cope with a new world but transcend it in fresh new ways.

Developing Love of Knowledge

What is love of “knowledge”?

1. 0  Love of knowledge means to love knowledge for its own sake, without seeking any external or material benefit from that knowledge.

2.0  Such ‘love of knowledge’ is very rare. It is associated with a sense of discovery, wonder, a seeking for truth, a quest for a greater understanding of the universe, a yearning for a deeper perception of reality.

3.0  When such ‘love of knowledge’ is awakened within us, we learn go to beyond the material four-dimensional existence we live in, and learn to see life as a vast, multidimensional universe with infinite possibilities beckoning us.

4.0  With ‘love of knowledge’ is born the attitude of a seeker, an explorer, an adventurer – an individual who wants something beyond acquisition and experience of life.

How to develop this ‘love of knowledge’?

Love of knowledge is developed through four means:

First, love of knowledge is born when we seek to discover the underlying ‘order’ or ‘structure’ beneath life and all we experience.

Second, love of knowledge is awakened, when we recognize that concepts, ideas, words, stories, etc. silently shape everything around us – science, technology, human relations, our thoughts, feelings, culture, society, everything.

Third, love of knowledge comes when we recognize that in the final analysis, what we think determines what we see.

Fourth, love of knowledge comes when we appreciate that the whole universe is the nature of consciousness. Then knowledge becomes nothing but consciousness revealing its contents and secrets to us.

This “revelatory” nature of knowledge is one of the most enticing and beautiful aspects of knowledge.

What is knowing?

Knowing means many things.

At the primary level, knowing means “being aware of” – the light of knowledge dispels the darkness of ignorance.

At the next level, knowing means “recognizing, classifying, naming, relating” – the sense-making function of the human mind that helps us find order and meaning in the world around us.

At the third level, knowing means “engaging with knowledge” – manipulating, shaping, narrating & re-narrating, presenting, communicating – the ability of the human mind to use knowledge as a means for interacting with and modifying the world around us.

At the fourth level, knowing means “going beyond” – the ability of the human mind to seek new possibilities – to go beyond what we ‘know’ already and create new worlds, new realities, new visions of life to be pursued by us.

At the next level, knowing means “evolving our state of understanding” – to come face to face with deeper and deeper truths about oneself and existence – and thereby transform ourselves and our vision of life forever.

Finally, knowing means “becoming” – to know means to realize a new state of being and experience that state in all respects.

Thus, knowledge (seen from these perspectives) provides us with profound benefits

  1. It enables us to become “aware” of things – both outside and inside
  2. It helps us sensemake the world around us and the word within us
  3. It helps us – using knowledge as a resource or a tool – understand and manipulate the world around us. It further enables us to ‘respond’ to the challenges we face and find ways in which we can overcome these challenges.
  4. Knowledge helps us go beyond our current reality and create new worlds, new possibilities, new visions of life.

 

Knowledge is that which leads a human being from the “darkness” of being lost in a confusing world, to becoming a creator of his or her own destiny – a creator of new possibilities – a creator of a world beyond that which is known today.

Love of knowledge is therefore the love of this extraordinary freedom that is conferred upon us by knowledge – the freedom to live in the world around us – not as animals but as beings with a greater destiny.

This love of knowledge we all seek when we sincerely desire a life beyond the cage of our sensory existence.

The Collective Act of Individualized Seeing [old]

I

Why should everyone perceive value creation?
So that each one feels valuable.
But in order that each feels valuable, one must not only define global “value” but also local/ located creation of value. i.e. each one must feel, we have created great value and I have contributed genuinely to this act of creation.
This is human fulfillment at work.

II

So how to define global value creation?

We have tried out two distinct approachesa.

  1. We asked whether value resides in what the customer ‘received’ i.e. I am as valuable as what my customer perceived. This is limited as an approach.b.
  2. We asked whether value resides in the ‘act of creation’ – the how? Primarily because human fulfillment is itself a two part journey, one creating value as a group (what the customer received) two, contributing as an individual (act of creation).

III

So the question becomes:
How to combine ‘customer value’ creation with ‘individual contribution to value’ into a integrated definition of value. i.e. value is neither ‘outside’ in the customer’s world, nor ‘inside’ in my mind, it is in the integrated ‘whole’ that transcends both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.
This integrated ‘whole perception of value’, we call enablement – both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and more….

IV

How to ‘uncover’ or ‘unearth’ this value?
If it is located in the totality of ‘engagement’ (both act of creation and customer value delivered) then it cannot be mechanistically or logically isolated. It is not a product of reasoning. It is a ‘collective act of individualized seeing’.

V

This is what leaders do
They enable “collective yet individualized seeing of an emerging whole”.

VI

This is what every person must do in the world to unfold. Each one a leader. Each one a follower.

VII

It is this ‘collective act of individualized seeing’ that results in 

  1. purposive behavior in system,
  2. the ‘owning-up’ of responsibility by each individual to a common purpose, and
  3. the ‘agreement’ – tacit – among all that each will do what it takes to make it happen.

The challenge of collective, self-serving behavior in India

Why is there so much resistance to a positive, developmental approach to the country and economy?

It is obvious to all of us that the cause of this resistance is a deep self-serving behavior that pervades all parts of our society.

This deep self-serving behavior – a collective selfishness – must be seen in the light of the ideals that this country stands for. Such noble ideals, and so much resistance to living them in our personal lives!

Is this self-serving behavior born of our utter lack of faith in our collective ideals? Does it come because our civilizational ideals have been systematically questioned by the alternative ideals proposed by waves of conquerors over the past 1000 years?

Is this self-serving behavior born out of several generations of slavery and a sense of scarcity and submission that came out of a nation living under the rapacious control of generations of rulers who came to take and not to build?

What is the way forward? The experiencing of abundance through economic growth? The willingness of our intellectual class to examine their own frames of thinking, so that the space is created for new ideals to emerge? And the willingness of a new generation of people to put the past behind them and commit to new ideals?

Is this the shift we need to make?

The enabling societal infrastructure for the awakening of individuals

This article outlines the 6 trends of the 21st Century (including ‘Localization & Tradition, “Ideas to Ideals, etc.) that herald a world where the individual is awakened to his or her own possibilities in the context of a dynamic environment. (2014)