From Ego-System to Ecosystem: The Evolution of Capitalism

ImageCan we really open our minds, hearts and will to collaboratively deal with some of our biggest challenges? Well, thousands of people all over the world are doing just that.

Otto Scharmer the founding chair of the Presencing Institute asserts that as consciousness evolves, so will the economy.

Our current “western” economy regulates commodities and achieves high level of productivity through the division of labor, but it also encourages ruthless competition for maximum financial gains with little regard of the environmental or social costs. The new emerging economy cultivates the commons and is based on eco-system awareness, a holistic awareness of the system as a whole.

He makes the logical argument that we need a system that is not organized around specialized interest groups always in conflict with each other, but rather one that acts from the whole and can come together to work towards improvement of the commons.

Scharmer says the 3 most common responses to deal with needs today are more government, more market, or more stakeholder dialogue and none of these work.

The problem is that government and corporations typically use one-way communication with constituents or consumers in the way of commercials or some other kind of manipulation. Two-way communication like elections and voting, and three-way communication like dialogue with stakeholders are not enough.

He suggests a new way of communication that sees economy as co-creation, as the capacity to connect with each other and self in a transformative ways.

To build this movement we need to engage in deep reflection and moments of stillness to imagine and identify the shared intentions we want to create together. Each person and each community needs to connect with what they feel they are capable of creating. We also have to be willing to see the system from the eyes of the most marginalized group.

Scharmer says doing “inner leadership work” opens our minds and helps us suspend our judgments. It opens our hearts to be able to see things from another stakeholder’s point of view, and it opens our will to allow the old self to dissipate and the new emerging self to arise.

Connecting with each other from this deeper level of humanity rather than from the superficial level of institutional interest helps us find a common ground together.

He gives 3 common sources of resistance to collaborative leadership:

1. Judgment, it closes the open mind.

2. Cynicism, it closes the open heart, blocks the ability to empathize and the ability to be vulnerable because you feel like “I can’t make a difference”.

3. Fear, it closes the open will and the ability to let go.

Alicia Gravitz adds that assisting people to identify the roles that best match their gifts really helps to build collaborative leadership.

5 Roles within Collaborative Leadership:

1. Shutting down what’s damaging and suffering: the old systems.

2. Creating and scaling new systems.

3. Building lifelines for people from the old system to the new. For example: there are only 17,000 workers left in the coal industry today vs. 17,000 in Pennsylvania alone just 10 years ago. As that industry is phased out many laborers will retire and others will need green jobs to transition into.

4. Covering new stories about the vibrant economy emerging as an alternative to “doing things the old way” because these stories are not getting attention in mainstream media.

5. Nurturing a consciousness change.

Gravitz goes on to share a few key principles of collaborative leadership:

First, embrace a biodiversity of strategies, issues, and approaches and integrate them towards a vision of a new economy. Be open to many ways and alternatives. Then write out some core guiding principles and have the intention to stick to your principles. Think big; recognize everyone for what they do and celebrate often.

She suggests the best way to get groups of peoples together is where they already gather. Ask them questions to begin a dialogue like “what would a better (fill in the blank) look like?” Focus on areas of agreement and unite around a broad vision so people can move towards that vision in their own way.

Gravitz advises that these exchanges run most smoothly when they are designed for various thinking styles. To prevent people with different thinking styles from triggering each other we should encourage appreciation for the diversity of thinking styles, as different gifts that each person is contributing.

Gravitz and Scharmer pose a question at the end of their talk and I offer it to you to contemplate: “What do you think we, individually and collectively, need to pay attention to for building collective capacity to act?”

Does awareness + knowledge + inspiration = Action, or is there something else we require?

Learn more here: Otto Scharmer and Alicia Gravitz – From Ego-System to Ecosystem


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