Arthur Dahl is one of the speakers from over 15 countries who engaged with the diverse global audience during a recent international ebbf conference (more info on the event here) . He offers this article to introduce our understanding of diversity, main theme of the event.
“Diversity refers to the variety of different thing in an assemblage. We may use the metaphore of a beautify garden with many different varieties of flowers, with different colours and shapes adding to the visual interest. But is that enough? If it was just the gardener who planted them all side by side or in some aesthetic arrangement, how long would that beauty last? Over time, would some die out and others take over?
Suppose that you put in the same community people of a wide variety of races, cultures, languages and classes, all of whom though that they were from the superior group. What would that diversity contribute to efforts to build a sense of community? Quarrels and boycotts, or worse?
Imagine a zoo, with all kinds of animals in separate cages, fascinating to admire perhaps, but far from being a harmonious ecosystem and totally dependent on the zoo keepers for their survival.
Systems science can help to explain these phenomena. What is important in a complex system is not just the number of different entities and their distinct qualities, but how they interact. Will they simply fight until one comes out the winner? Or do they have a common purpose, with an organization that is more than the sum of the parts?
Fortunately we have examples from the natural world that can illustrate what is necessary beyond diversity. They show that diversity is the dynamic driver for greater systems complexity, integration, efficiency and resilience. Through long processes of evolution, and both individual and group selection, interactions are selected for that enhance the interrelationships beneficial for all concerned. The greater the number of potential interactions among diverse entities, the greater the capacity of the system to evolve higher levels of complexity.
In a coral reef ecosystem, full of life in the biological desert that is the tropical sea, it is the increasing cooperation among the thousands of species expressed in mutual assistance and symbioses that make such high levels of productivity possible. Corals themselves are already a community of colonial animals living in symbiosis with tiny algae inside of their tissues, fertilized with their wastes and producing much of their food. Among the many kinds of fish, each has a special role in the community. Damsel fish cultivate seaweeds in their garden for food. Parrot fish bite off chunks of coral, creating bare areas where the larvae of other corals can settle, increasing coral diversity. Clown fish attract predatory fish as food for their anemone. Cleaner fish pick parasites off the skin, teeth and gills of big predatory fish at cleaning stations. Everything has its place and function, and together they create one of the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems.
Unlike the present economic paradigm, where increasing productivity means keeping only the individually most productive and discarding the rest, on the coral reef, the gaps between the most productive are filled by slightly less productive forms, on down to the only marginally productive, because the sum total of all of these is far more than the most productive by itself, not to mention variations in productivity and comparative advantage under different conditions. Different life forms perform different services, all contributing to the overall productivity, resilience and well-being of the community as a whole.
We need to look at human diversity, both individually and its various collective forms, in the same way. Every human being has some capacity to contribute to the material, social, intellectual and spiritual wealth of the society, if we can discover and cultivate those qualities and find the right place in society for them. Our tragedy at the moment is that this rich human diversity, unaccompanied by values of justice, cooperation and reciprocity, can produce the negative reactions and phenomena we see today.
The Institute for Studies of Global Prosperity has described the systems perspective on diversity this way: “Much like the human body, the interdependent body of humanity is composed of diverse elements whose well-being can only be achieved through integration and coordination. No cell or organ lives apart from the human body, and the well-being of each derives from the well-being of the whole. At the same time, it is the unity and interdependence of the body’s diverse cells and organs that permits the full realization of the distinctive capacities inherent in each. The organic unity suggested by this analogy does not imply uniformity. On the contrary, the diversity of the component parts of an organic body permits the full realization of its collective capacity. Within human societies, diversity is a source of inspiration, creativity, productivity, resilience, innovation, and adaptation. Only when diverse segments of society are able to contribute appropriately to the governance of human affairs, within a framework characterized by unity and integration, will real prosperity and well-being be achieved. Such unity can only be achieved, however, as justice becomes the guiding principle of governance at all levels. An essential expression of justice is the desire to ensure that every individual and group has the opportunity to develop their full potential in order to contribute to the betterment of society. A concern for justice is thus an indispensable compass in collective decision making. In the design and implementation of plans, programs, and policies, justice is the sole means by which unity of thought and action can be achieved and sustained among diverse peoples.” (ISGP 2012)
Civilizations have always experienced rise and fall, and ours is no exception. But the decline of an old bankrupt system creates the opportunity to build a new one. Recent historical research by an avowed atheist has suggested that higher levels of ethnically-diverse civilization are catalysed by ethical values from religion, building trust among otherwise competing groups, increasing the level of altruism among leaders, and providing the foundation and energy for new levels of organization and efficiency (Turchin 2016).
Rethinking the economic system
This systems approach is beautifully illustrated in the recent message to the Bahá’í World from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme Bahá’í administrative body, dated 1 March 2017 (UHJ 2017), parts of which are summarized below. It starts by describing the social conditions today, in which the prolonged suffering of so many is evidence of deep-seated structural defects in society causing system failure. It makes the classic systems statement that the welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole.
The dominant forces of materialism are in fact a negation of the systems perspective, glorifying the individual at the expense of collective welfare. This is obvious in beliefs that:
– happiness comes from constant acquisition,
– the more one has the better, and
– worry for the environment is for another day.
These seductive messages fuel an increasingly entrenched sense of personal entitlement, which uses the language of justice and rights to disguise self-interest. Indifference to the hardship experienced by others becomes commonplace. Entertainment and distracting amusements are voraciously consumed to cover up this reality. This enervating influence of materialism has seeped into every culture.
The message warns that:
– unless you strive to remain conscious of its effects, you may to one degree or another unwittingly adopt its ways of seeing the world;
– very young children absorb the norms of their surroundings;
– for junior youth, the call of materialism grows more insistent;
– adulthood brings a responsibility not to allow worldly pursuits to blind one’s eyes to injustice and privation.
Conscious of this state of affairs, we need to see past the illusions that, at every stage of life, the world uses to pull our attention away from service (the systems perspective) and towards the self, and to manage our material affairs in keeping with spiritual principles and what systems science says is needed for integration.
How anti-systemic it is for each group to think of its own well-being in isolation, to pursue economic gain without regard for the natural environment, and to allow avarice and self-interest to prevail at the expense of the common good. The extremes of wealth and poverty in the world are becoming ever more untenable, with unconscionable quantities of wealth being amassed, while income and opportunity are spread so unevenly, deepening the fractures that affect societies large and small. These are clear signs of systems failure. The message states that there is no justification for continuing to perpetuate structures, rules, and systems that manifestly fail to serve the interests of all peoples.
Behind this systems failure is a moral failure, since morals, in a systemic perspective, can be considered the principles on which social systems are founded and which create their evolutionary potential. There is an inherent moral dimension to the generation, distribution, and utilization of wealth and resources.
The vision of Baha’u’llah highlighted in the message challenges the materialistic assumptions that self-interest, far from needing to be restrained, drives prosperity; that progress depends upon its expression through relentless competition; and that the worth of an individual is chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others.
What, then, are the systems requirements for a new economic paradigm capable of meeting the material and social needs of all people, leaving no one behind as the UN 2030 Agenda calls for? Wealth must serve humanity and be used in accordance with spiritual principles. “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it.” (Baha’u’llah)
The message calls for the reorganization of human society. Collective prosperity can be advanced through justice and generosity, collaboration and mutual assistance, qualities that are essential to integrated and productive human systems. Every choice we make—as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary—leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims.
At this ebbf event in particular, we each need to consider how we can make our own individual and collective contributions to economic justice and social progress wherever we reside. We have the responsibility to find ways of addressing the root causes of the poverty in our own surroundings.
Underlying this, we must acknowledge the spiritual reality of humanity, and the nobility inherent to every human being, one of ebbf’s core values. Economic life is an arena for the expression of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, generosity, and other qualities of the spirit. The individual is not merely a self-interested economic unit, striving to claim an ever-greater share of the world’s material resources.
“Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue, and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.” (Baha’u’llah)
“Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.” (Baha’u’llah)
By consecrating oneself to the service of others, one finds meaning and purpose in life and contributes to the upliftment of society itself, a complete systems frame of reference.
In this way, we raise economics out of the slough of materialism, and recognize the higher purpose of economic activity. We can see that ordinary economic activities have the potential to add to human welfare and prosperity.
“Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft, so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
“Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts… in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
“Wealth is most commendable provided the entire population is wealthy.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha)
An important theme in the message is the need for learning based on practical action. We do not have a complete model of an alternative economic system, but only some spiritual principles that should be reflected in systems to emerge in the future. What we can do now is experiment, in our businesses, workplaces and communities, with alternatives to the present ways of doing things, and through action, reflection and consultation in a humble posture of learning, try to take some small steps towards a new vision of the economy.
I hope that, at the end of this event, you will go away with feelings of contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the divine will, as we work from the bottom up to transform the economy and society.”
ISGP. 2012. Reflections on Governance. Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity, Bahá’í International Community. Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 21 July 2012. http://www.globalprosperity.org/documents/ISGP_Reflections_on_Governance.pdf
Turchin, Peter. 2016. Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth. Chaplin, Connecticut: Beresta Books.
UHJ. 2017. Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of the World, 1 March 2017. Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa.
#ebbfmember Henrik Mitsch was looking for ideas to co-implement at Mozilla a new organizational and leadership structure based on trust rather than on old strict reporting lines.
He came to the ebbf community, interacted on this topic with the likes of Arthur Dahl, Sjoerd Luteyn and Daniel Truran on “Levels of Trust”, on how these can be built, on the necessary processes and mindsets to implement them.
From that he came up with a “brain model” which was then presented at a Mozilla All Hands session in December.
It was remixed with other input and they arrived at the “Community Garden Metaphor”.
You can see the outcome of this Mozilla sessions in this article here.
Henrik has asked :
“I would be very happy if some of you could have a look at this and let me know your thoughts.”
Jeff Lynn will be offering the “Transformational Leadership as a tool for exploiting diversity” learnshop during ebbf’s annual conference and offers these initial thoughts on the theme of the event.
“I’m no artist but I’m guessing that a palette of just one colour would constrain one’s ability to produce great art. Even Malevich changed the colours that he used for his monochromes.
Now, by the very fact that you found this article, you probably see human diversity as a good thing in itself – mainly because you see a lack of diversity requiring exclusion – and that just isn’t just.
However, we are diverse in our experiences and thinking and we currently live in a world where profit and results are the main drivers for most organisations. Diversity will be seen as desirable by some or by others as an imposition. Either way it is usually seen as an add-on. I learnt very early on in my Business …
Gary Reusche sends a suggested read, mindsets and attitude to help us cope with global population of 11 billion people.
One of the longest serving ebbf members,Gary Reusche, sends his suggested read and whilst we have not read nor can vouch for the contents of this book, thinking of the right mindsets, attitudes and actions that will allow the planet to prosper with a population of 11 Billion people looks like something worth reading about.
“I know Paul Hanley for a number of years as I contributed a chapter in his book “Sprit in Agriculture” published in 2005. Still, when I read the promotional material about “Eleven” I had my doubts about liking the book. I was of the opinion that my view of world events was too radical. Perhaps, I thought, I was becoming cynical, especially of do-gooders espousing feel-good solutions to the ever growing list of catastrophic issues facing the planet. Increasingly believed that “unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behavior” was the direction the world was inexorably heading.
We share with you an example of the kinds of local ebbf events, that bring to various parts of the world the learning and exploration of new ideas through ebbf’s meaningful conversations.
This time it is the ebbf Sarajevo team who shares the learning from on of their series of local ebbf events where these five questions were covered:
. What are the differences between ethical and non-ethical businesses?
. In what ways can a company create a good reputation?
. Why is multiculturalism beneficial for an organization?
. Why is it important for people to know the purpose of an organization and their role in it?
. What are the benefits to companies for providing a service to the community?
Vahid Masrour who works for the Wikimedia Foundation led the pre-learning online event ‘Rethinking Organisations and Capacity Building with a View of Abundance’ to give a foretaste of the adventure the ebbf #BuildingCapacity International Learning Event, Bucharest 6 – 9 October is fast becoming.
Participants from Sweden, UK, Romania, Ecuador, Italy, USA enthusiastically discussed their insights of Vahid’s myth-busting accompanying presentation “From Crisis to Abundance: Exponential Organisations” in which he quickly demonstrated how people and organisations unwittingly hold themselves back from creating the adaptive and meaningful workplaces that they seek, by unwittingly maintaining a scarcity mass consciousness mindset.
It turns out, the way we use our own media spaces actually drives our views on scarcity and therefore our views on Abundance too. We have this tiny amygdala in our brain which triggers reactions to what surrounds us and to what we witness such as impulsive need to fight back, flee danger or become frozen to the spot. By our daily consumption of ‘bad news’ distributed in mainstream channels and, if we are not careful, our own social media channels we become hooked into media consumption, and unfortunately for us the viewer, we innocently keep ourselves wired into a negative feedback loop through the constant retriggering of the amygdala by consuming stories that reflect and trigger our ‘survival’ instinct states.
Fit for the 21st Century
Good news on the other hand, decouples us from the negative feedback loop and instead takes us back to the present moment, bringing us face to face with the immense possibilities standing before us in this 21st Century.
To illustrate, Vahid opened up the parameters of what becomes possible when we begin to appreciate stories of progress
#BuildingCapacity in a Collaborative Culture - what traits are required and what are the results? with Valerie Davis
Here at ebbf, we are fortunate to have access to Valerie Davis who shared the findings of her PhD research, studying the specific ways in which leaders apply collaborative leadership and the consequences of that mindset in their companies. Earlier this year, she was awarded a Doctorate from Fielding Graduate University for her contributions to research in Human Development and she will be one of the speakers at ebbf’s next international event taking place in a few weeks.
Launch of ebbf Research Group for Collaborative Leaders
During this ebbf online leaning session participants from Romania, Italy, Switzerland, China, United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland and United States explored the role of collaborative leaders.
It was a two-fold opportunity, firstly to hear Valerie Davis share her expertise in creating the space for leaders to gain a critical perspective on their goals, vision and effectiveness and secondly to begin the very exciting process of launching a Research
In this insightful article published in South Africa’s The Conversation, ebbf member Leyla Tavernaro offers new ideas on how to create enriching as opposed to destroying talk shows, thus offering new ways to use these very influential media opportunities.
Below a couple of excerpts with some of her views:
Denouncing the ‘other’
Talk shows exemplify one prevalent way that communication pans out, particularly in the West. Often, two or more camps are formed. Each side presents and defends its position while challenging or even denouncing the “other”.
For example, “stay-at-home moms” are pitted against “working moms”, implying an inherent conflict of interest between “equality” versus “child care”, as an episode of the “Tyra Banks” show once did. This adversarial model of communication is often replicated in other parts of the world, including the Middle East.
This type of what journalist and scholar Deborah Tannen calls “argument culture” became influential with the ascendancy of Western liberal thought. According to her, it has successfully challenged and confronted oppressive, authoritarian systems but may not be entirely unproblematic.
Addressing full complexity
Its agonistic emphasis excludes many less aggressive or argumentative voices. It reduces issues into binaries, failing to address their full complexity. It also obscures facets of discussion where common ground often does exist. For example, in many cases talk show guests do agree and game show contestants suddenly cooperate. This became particularly apparent in the first season of Endemol’s “Survivor South Africa”, where contestants took a significantly more collaborative posture towards their tasks than their American counterparts.
It would then be compelling to explore what would happen if we engage in a form of public discourse that deliberately draws out collaboration. What if there were common ground between “stay-at-home moms” and “working moms”? As a mother who spends a lot of quality time with her child and still manages to carve out a meaningful career, I am compelled to investigate the efficacy of such framing.
In many such societies like South Africa, globalisation has involved bringing in Western liberal democratic values and systems. They include discourses on human rights or justice that are at odds with local realities.
Want to join Marjo Lips-Wiersma taking you through a "map of meaning" helping you create a more meaningful workplace?
ebbf member Marjo Lips-Wiersma was one of the participants at the recent ebbf annual conference and also a world expert in the area of Meaningful Work. She will now run a one-off three day workshop on meaningful work in the Netherlands together with Lani Morris (Msc in sustainability and action inquiry from Bath University) Their book on meaningful work, The Map of Meaning has just sold out and they are working on a second edition, which will include case studies of the implementation of their work by many of the participants of their workshops.
We asked Marjo, what are some of the key findings about Meaningful Work?
1) Blue, pink and white collar workers have the same desire for meaningful work.
2) Leadership, as it is presently done, does not create meaningful work.
3) Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility does not, in itself, create meaningful work.
4) Meaningful work does not only require consultation, but also the power to change one’s circumstances (the culture and structure of the organisation)
5) Given their innate spiritual capacity, human beings know what is meaningful (but forget or have too many obstacles put in their way
6) Creating meaningful work is a bottom up rather than top down process
7) Meaningful work is holistic concept and as such is much more than making a difference, or finding one’s life purpose, alone.
Do you want to know how to co-create meaningful work based on solid-peer-reviewed research findings and ongoing action learning from our by now hundreds of workshop participants? Do you want to immediately apply the workshop knowledge/together with your own expertise and wisdom ? Would you like to generate a case study for the second edition of our book? Would you like the opportunity (but you can decide post-workshop) to become a certified Meaningful Work practitioner through and action learning/reflection/accompaniment process? If so join her workshop.
To see if this one-off opportunity is for you, please go to: http://www.inpractice.nl/agenda/10-06-2016_introduction+to+the+map+of+meaningful+work/
Marjo is New-Zealand based where she is a Professor/Hoogleraar in Sustainability and Ethics Leadership. She works in the US, Scandinavia, UK (Oxford) and Europe. The workshop material is designed to be immediately actioned and to be used in multiple settings – personal, group, community and organisation.
#ebbfmilan - how a design engineer became a global leader using trust, democracy and comfort with uncertainty
We interviewed Ana Saldarriaga keynoter at ebbf’s annual conference, fifth AIESEC international female and first Colombian president of this global Organization activating the potential of young leaders leadership in over 125 countries. Ana’s keynote and ebbf’s own keynotes at AIESEC’s international and national events continues a 15 year-long active relationship between these two networks that started when ebbf organized one of the first microcredit summits inviting then little known Muhammad Yunus and AIESEC to be protagonists there.
QUESTION: Ana where did your journey to become AIESEC’s global president start?
I come from Medellin in Colombia where I was studying product design engineering. Eager to broaden my experience abroad, I was searching for an exchange program when I came across AIESEC. I went to some of their intro talks at my university and found that this Organization could offer me much more than that.
At University I learnt methodologies to create physical products, in AIESEC I have become an engineer of social change, learning to solve complex problems, solutions oriented approaches to developing people and ideas, instead of products.
The kind of ideas that can transform the lives of people.