Brian McConnell has extended a "challenge" to local leaders (and community members) as moderator for Roanoke's U.Lab Hub, a satellite classroom beginning in January as an independent extension of MITx's "massive open online course" (MOOC). Presented by senior lecturer Otto Scharmer, the U.Lab will afford participants an opportunity to "(l)earn how to create profound innovation in a time of disruptive change by leading from the emerging future"
(edX). This article is also a synoptic overview of Brian's recently published "Toward Integral Economic Democracy", reflecting aspects of metatheory related to U.Theory.
"Roanoke's U.Lab Hub: Leading Innovation from an Emerging Future" (McConnell, U.Lab Hub)
Sustainable Ecosystems and Capitalism's Decline
In preparing to facilitate our local U.Lab hub, I authored and published a paper entitled, "Toward Integral Economic Democracy
". Consequently, and beginning with an overview of Robert Ulanowicz
and Bernard Lietaer's
efforts to better understand "how" (or "why") "certain ecosystems
proved more vibrant, robust, or sustainable than others" (McConnell 1), I also included a composite diagram (see Fig. 1) comparing a resilient
network (System 1 - below) to one that was by contrast, highly efficient
(System 2). Somewhat surprisingly however, and contrary to popular thought perhaps, the researchers found System 2
"proves far more susceptible to dysfunctional pathology or failure due to the greater likelihood of disruption of its single strong-stream (e.g. efficient
) path, than does System 1
" (Ibid. 2).
Consequently then, and "as a former Belgium central banker himself, Lietaer expressed a well qualified assertion lamenting humanity's struggle to "create sustainable economies" and the resulting implications for global society"(Ibid.). For these reasons though, he concluded that "(t)he urgent message for economics from nature is that the monoculture of national currencies
, justified on the basis of market efficiency
, generates structural instability in our global financial system" [emphasis added] (Lietaer 2).
Along these same lines too, the English publication earlier this spring of Thomas Piketty's
, Capital in the Twenty-First Century
provided unprecedented evidence of how imbalanced the flows of "income and wealth" have actually become (Lloyd). Consequently, where the current gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" in the United States (see Fig. 2) has begun to exceed that peaking with the Great Depression
of 1929 (Piketty 24), Piketty's research has served to prove "irrefutably and clearly, what we've all suspected for some time now--the rich ARE getting richer compared to everyone else" (Foroohar).
Likewise, and in his recently published, The Zero Marginal Cost Society
, economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin
explains why he believes the "capitalist era" is waning (Rifkin 1):
"Ironically, capitalism's decline is not coming at the hands of hostile forces. There are no hordes at the front gates ready to tear down the wall of the capitalist edifice. Quite the contrary. What's undermining the capitalist system is the dramatic success of the very operating assumptions that govern it. At the heart of capitalism there lies a contradiction in the driving mechanism that has propelled it ever upward to commanding heights, but now is speeding it to its death" [emphasis added] (Ibid. 2).
Sleepwalkers, MEMEnomics and "Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction"
From a purview of history over the last century however, these patterns nevertheless impel concerns for global humanity's overall well-being. Or at least this is the inference conveyed by a prominent academic at MIT. Recounting his most notable impressions following attendance of 2014's World Economic Forum
, Otto Scharmer
shared his insight in respect to Christopher Clark's
writing of The Sleepwalkers
. Citing the fact that because European leaders involved in analyzing "the larger situation" of events just prior to 1914 did so "from a narrow, shortsighted, self-interested perspective that didn't anticipate the long term consequences of their individual decisions for the whole system", they couldn't foresee outcomes that resulted in "World War I
, the Versailles Treaty
, the rise of Hitler
, World War II
and, the Cold War
"David Harvey and Gar Alperovitz on Cooperation and Capitalism" (Flanders)
Similarly however, the "inconsistencies" to which both Piketty and Rifkin point in respect to capitalism are nothing new but have in their own way, been reasonably evident for decades. In fact, Jeremy Rifkin's words quoted above are resonant with those of Joseph Schumpeter
(see quote below) more than 60 years earlier in reflecting his own understanding of what Karl Marx
referred to as "creative destruction
"Capitalism's prospective demise is not perceived to emanate from "its breaking down under the weight of economic failure. . ." Instead, "its very success undermines the social institutions which protect it, and 'inevitably' creates conditions in which it will not be able to live and which strongly point to socialism as the heir apparent" [1950, p.xiv]. In short, the "paradoxical conclusion" is not the result, but the process: "capitalism is being killed by its achievement" [1950, p. xiv]" (Elliott 45).
As Said Dawlabani
so astutely notes in MEMEnomics
though, "(t)he premise of Schumpeter's theory" as a strong proponent of innovation
and central inspiration for innovation economics
, "is that in free market economy
, entrepreneurs with technical know-how will always introduce innovation
that is disruptive
to the existing economic model, but which will improve productivity
and that in itself will sustain economic growth"
[emphasis added]. As he further explains (see Fig. 3), "the value systems
that create innovation
and most innovative thought processes
" however, "including those about economic theory
, are born out of a utopian ideal
that starts with a noble purpose"
(Dawlabani 22). Yet, and from both Robert Kegan's
and Scharmer's vantage points, "blind spots" inevitably underlie these shared dimensions of consciousness (Scharmer, Grabbing the Tiger
). Thus, it's "when the exploitative element of our culture reinterprets the intended use of that innovation
through a different prism of values
that it turns into a weapon against its creators" [emphasis added] (Dawlabani 22).
"We will now define innovation more rigorously by means of the production function previously introduced. This function describes the way in which quantity of product varies if quantities of factors vary. If, instead of quantities of factors, we vary the form of the function, we have an innovation" [emphasis added] (Schumpeter 84).
"Although neoliberalism has had limited effectiveness as an engine for economic growth, it has succeeded in channeling wealth from subordinate classes to dominant ones and from poorer to richer countries. This process has entailed the dismantling of institutions and narratives that promoted more egalitarian distributive measures in the preceding era" [emphasis added] (Ibid.)
Dating back to the "mid-nineteenth century" then, this "shift from a purely market-exchange economy
" of "the late medieval era" to that of our current capitalist economy
, has effectively left the world's laborers "stripped of their tools" and subsequently able to reclaim "only a portion of (the) labor" they expend "in the form of a wage" (Rifkin 61). Consequently too, and even under neoliberalism's well disguised "antidemocratic" blueprint, the "more neoliberalism is recognized as a failed if not disingenuous
and utopian project
masking the restoration of class power
[see Key Terms: "power elite"], the more it lays the basis for a resurgence of mass movements voicing egalitarian political demands
, seeking economic justice
, fair trade
, and greater economic security
" [emphasis added] (Harvey 42).
"U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self" (edX, Transforming)
Conscious Practice in an "Age of Disruption": From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies
"The gist of this framework is simple: The quality of results produced by any system depends on the quality of awareness from which people in the system operate. The formula for a successful change process is not "form follows function," but "form follows consciousness." The structure of awareness and attention determines the pathway along which a situation unfolds" (Scharmer and Kaufer, 18).
What's becoming increasingly evident in this Age of Disruption
however, is an unprecedented emergence and intermingling of human spirit
across a vast array of cultural lines including gender
. Consequently, but as Jeremy Rifkin sees it, the emergence of this co-creative
potential is manifesting itself in a "new economic system" entering "the world stage" triggered by "Zero Marginal Cost". Yet at the same time, "(c)ompanies never anticipated . . . a technology revolution
that might unleash "extreme productivity" bringing marginal costs
to near zero, making information, energy, and many physical goods and services nearly free
, and no longer subject to market exchanges
" [emphasis added] (Rifkin, Say goodbye
Furthermore, but by way of example, it's nonetheless remarkable within this new economic system
that "6 million students are currently enrolled in free Massive Open Online Courses
(MOOC)" operating "at near zero marginal cost" and being "taught by some of the world's most distinguished professors" [emphasis added] (Ibid.). In this same regard though, while the U.Lab
represents "a new type of learning environment that is personal
", it will also extend an opportunity for learners to "engage in a deep dialogue-based peer coaching session with five fellow Lab participants
" [emphasis added] (Scharmer, U.Lab
Along these same lines too, and in an article entitled, "Collective Mindfulness: The Leader's New Work
", Scharmer explains the importance of mindfulness
to the leadership function
in "transforming stakeholder relationships that operate based on transactional ego-system awareness into relationships that operate based on transformative eco
-system awareness." Consequently, and where "(e)go-system awareness means paying attention to the well-being of oneself", eco
-system awareness on the other hand "means focusing on the well-being of oneself and of the whole (all the stakeholders in the system, including nature)" (Scharmer, Collective
"Wisdom practices such as awareness-based meditation facilitate surrender from conventional separate-self sense to a more subtle, distributed experience of one's self as a part of the underlying ground of presence of our original nature. Ongoing meditation practice familiarizes practitioners with this tacit dimension of self and develops the attentional and know-how ability to surrender at will into these deeper states of being. To support an optimal engagement with this phase of practice, we recommend combining regular meditation with we-space practice" [emphasis added] (Gunnlaugson 111).
Likewise, Gunnlaugson and Moze's paper "Surrendering Into Witnessing
", outlines a five-phase approach
(see Fig. 4) for working directly "with inter-subjective field dynamics in groups" to "more effectively discern and engage complex emergent collective-intelligence processes". In this same respect though, "engaging [this] we-space
for the purposes and outcomes of collective intelligence
, such as solving difficult social
or organizational problems
or bringing about new creative discoveries
in different domains of knowledge, continues to remain a comparatively uncharted region of research and inquiry" [emphasis added] (Ibid. 105).
Conclusion - The Challenge of Leading from an Emerging Future
Consequently, and from an evolutionary perspective, although it remains unclear what the future holds in terms of humanity's unfolding narrative, it's fairly evident at this juncture that doing nothing
, other than remaining subject to the imposition of a New World Order's centralized control
, "for profit" debt-driven operating system
, and duplicitous political machinery
, won't adequately secure a global citizenry's well-being. As a result however, and in light of these actualities, Gar Alperovitz
has subsequently posed the question, "What Then Must We Do?
" (Flanders, What Then
"Our hope lies with the growing millions who work to heal our human relationships with one another and nature in a bold effort to turn the human course. Through thought and deed, they are authoring a new story of meaning and possibility. It is a story with ancient roots and profound implications for our economic relationships" [emphasis added] (Korten 22).
In conclusion then, but for these same reasons, a key premise of "Toward Integral Economic Democracy
" is anchored in the supposition "that by better attending to the conscious processes
by which we derive meaning
. . . co-creative awareness" is capable of birthing "remarkably new modes of thought
and system design
across multiple disciplines including learning
, and governance
" [emphasis added] (McConnell 1). And therein lies the challenge
. . . can we talk about it?
Korten, David C. (2015): "Chapter One: Our Story Problem
." Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth
. pp. 21-36, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2015. Print.
Rifkin, Jeremy (2014): The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014. Print.
Ulanowicz, Robert E., Sally J. Goerner, Bernard Lietaer, Rocio Gomez (2009): "Quantifying sustainability: Resilience, efficiency and the return of information theory
." Ecological Complexity: An International Journal on Biocomplexity in the Environment and Theoretical Ecology
, Vol. 6, Issue 1, pp. 27-36, Mar. 2009, Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Brian McConnell, BA has worked with the underpinnings of Integral thought and theory, primarily in the fields of education and psychology since first introduced to Ken Wilber's, Eye to Eye in 1997. His background in contemplative practice stems from (more...