Posts Tagged ‘presencing’

Evolving Forms of Governance

May 20, 2009

As I type these words I am enjoying the view of Kowloon across the Hong Kong harbour. Beyond Kowloon I can see the distant mountains in the New Territories. Somewhat to my left are the mountains of Hong Kong Island. I can see the moon-shaped Peak Tower on Victoria Peak over the high-rise buildings in Causeway Bay.

Panoramic views from a high place always bring me to a quiet space within me. Very early this morning, in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking, I again experienced an in-flow of new ideas — a process that happens to me countless times before. I am not sure exactly how the process takes place. After I receive them, my mind then shapes and clothes them into words, paragraphs and figures. Today the ideas came at the right time so that they can find their way into this blog. The middle three diagrams below are explicit rendering of the ideas that came to me this morning.

Following the long-term evolutionary framework in the last blog (see “Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations?”), we can see that forms of governance have been evolving also according to the two megatrends (the 3×3 diagram below was first presented to the Futuristics in Education course for Malaysian senior education officers last August 23, 2005 at SEAMEO INNOTECH). Glocality and counter-glocality were discussed in the previous blog on “More Power to Glocals!”

governance 1

The great American democratic experiment can be viewed as a steady movement towards the lower left or indigo quadrant, the direction of the two megatrends (see previous blog). It remains to be seen how it will further evolve in the next centuries.

governance 2

Tibetan Buddhism was never a centralized and doctrinaire religion from the beginning; it has been an independent experiential and learning-oriented practice among generations after generations of lamas or monks across Tibet, Mongolia and elsewhere.

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

Potala Palace (photo credits to Wikimedia Commons)

The political loss of Tibet to the Peoples Republic of China led to the farther spread of Tibetan Buddhism as a personal practice across the globe; from our framework, this is movement towards the indigo quadrant. What has happened is consistent with what Padma Sambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, prophesied 1200 years ago that the Tibetan people “will be scattered like ants across the face of the Earth.”

governance 3

However, we see from our framework that the evolution of Christianity was regressive from Pentecost up to the Middle Ages, and then it reversed back towards the indigo quadrant starting with the Protestant Reformation and continuing with Vatican II reforms.

governance 4

The modern corporation is also evolving (see my blog on “From corporate disregard to corporate embrace of stakeholder capital to socially-embedded corporations”). The advent of knowledge management, organizational learning/presencing, corporate social responsibility or CSR practices, the power shift (see Alvin Toffler and Daniel Bell) to knowledge workers/enterprises and a “flatter world” according to Thomas Friedman, are forces that tend to push the modern corporate practice towards the indigo quadrant.

governance 5

What do you think?

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Q27- Combining Megatrends #1 and #2: the Next Societal Innovations?

May 18, 2009

I introduced trans-societal Megatrend #1 in an earlier blog (“Q14- Naming Trans-Societal Megatrend #1: towards Yin?”). I summarized Megatrend #1 (see blog “KM and trans-societal megatrend #1”) as:


Trans-societal Megatrend #2 (introduced in blog Q26- Information: another Force for Democratization) can be summarized as:

Megatrend #2

If we combine these two megatrends and again use Ken Wilber’s framework, we have a new way of characterizing major societal innovations and anticipating where the next major societal innovations would be emerging:

Combining 2 megatrends

Do you agree with the following observations?

  1. The combined trend is towards the lower left or indigo-colored Quadrant 4 in the figure above. Using simplistic language, the trend is towards the democratization of religions (Quadrant 1 to 4) and the spiritualization of democracy, free markets and science (Quadrant 3 to 4).
  2. There is a mega-tension between Quadrants 1 and 3 which can be seen in the conflict between Western democratic values versus Islamic fundamentalism and theocracy (which underlies the events in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorist attacks in Europe and North America, and tension between European cultures and cultures of Muslim immigrants in Europe), the conflict between scientific empiricism and religious faith (seen in Matthew Fox’s creation spirituality versus traditional Catholic doctrines, Darwinian evolution versus creationism from Genesis), and the conflict between laissez faire capitalism and various economic models that emphasize the humanistic, psychological and spiritual dimensions (such as “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” by Schumacher, Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s “Gross National Happiness”).
  3. Regressive forces are represented by those groups which aim to maintain or go back to communism, dictatorship, theocracy, monopolistic control of national economies, etc.
  4. New practices are emerging in Quadrant 4, which I call “indigo practices.” I will write about this in another blog. The interactive practice in double-loop learning that I am proposing in the last blog (An Invitation to Interactive Practice of Double-Loop Learning) is an indigo practice.
  5. A most interesting convergence between Quadrants 1 and 3 is happening between Tibetan Buddhism and modern science: the Mind and Life Institute. Tibetan Buddhism comes from centuries of learning, experiential studies and applying consensual corroboration in the inner worlds; while modern sciences comes from centuries of learning, empirical studies and applying consensual corroboration in the outer worlds.

interesting convergence

I introduced the ideas in this blog in an earlier paper on “Information Technology and Security in the 21st Century” which I read at the Asia-Pacific Security Forum Conference in Taipei, Taiwan in December 1999.

Please tell us what you think about these.

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Limits of the Possible

February 24, 2009

An hour ago, I saw on television the excited faces of young Mumbai children and the rest of the cast of the 8 Academy Awards winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” They and winning Director Danny Boyle were being interviewed at Hollywood by BBC. “We are on top of the world” exclaimed one of the young boys. The scene shifted to a crowd in Mumbai cheering and jumping as they saw all these on an outdoor TV screen.

Cast of Slumdog Millionnaire

Cast of Slumdog Millionnaire with Director Danny Boyle (reproduced with permission of

Suddenly, the limits of the possible in the minds of many Mumbai slum children have been breached. You CAN become a Hollywood celebrity. You CAN dream greater dreams. You CAN achieve greater things.

Three months ago, the victory of President Barack Hussein Obama triggered a similar breaching of the limits of the possible among African-Americans and among blacks and minority groups all over the world. The color of your skin is NOT a limit to becoming the most powerful person on Planet Earth. Young black children watch on television the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, in the White House. The concrete reality in front of their eyes is changing the limiting assumptions at the back of their minds.

The limits of the possible are not out there. Those limits are inside our heads. They are self-inflicted (or parent-inflicted or teacher-inflicted) limits. And this is very important: they limit our seeing, thinking and deciding in a manner we are often not conscious about. They imprison us but we don’t know it.

This morning I had coffee with an economist of a development agency. For many years, he had been practicing and advocating that the political PROCESS of economic reform is as important as the technical CONTENT of the economic reform. Some colleagues do not see what he sees, and so they do not agree with him. Others agree with him, but because their expertise is on technical content, they are hesitant and unsure how to proceed. Traditional economists hesitate to touch the political economy, yet they know from experience that success of development projects depend on political, socio-cultural, personal and other non-technical factors. They are more comfortable working within their familiar mental boxes. The traditional economists are men and women of goodwill and great intelligence, but their own unconscious limiting assumptions prevent them from seeing more fully. The result: continuing low development aid effectiveness, many failed projects, and projects that wittingly or unwittingly strengthen the ills in a recipient country’s political economy.

“Presencing,” (see Q15) sensing the emergent (see Practice #10) and innovation (see D14 and D19) (and our other important decision making) can better proceed if we first learn how to manage our self-inflicted mental boxes.

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free counters

Your Peak Life Experiences (Hint #13)

February 21, 2009

Let’s recall your most fulfilling life moments and try to learn from them.

Go to a quiet place or wherever you go or do when you wish to be relaxed and quiet. Look back at the ups and downs in your life. Those ups and downs, or those peaks and valleys, have lessons or gifts for you. All you have to do is find them. This time you look at the peaks. Recall a few of the peaks. In each of these most fulfilling moments, recall what happened. What were you doing? being? feeling? What gifts or lessons did you get? What were the outcomes?

Write down your answers for each of the most fulfilling moments in your life before reading further.


From the previous blog post (Q15- Senge’s Journey: from Learning to Presencing?) we saw that for most people, life’s most fulfilling moments are often those times when they are engaged in creative activities. Most people have experienced these happy moments, but they are often unaware that what they went through is a creative process. The result is not always a new physical product like a new culinary dish, essay, DIY cabinet or painting; it can be many other things: a new you, a new relationship, a new idea, a new baby, a new role, a new stage in life, a new enterprise or undertaking, a new breakthrough or solution, a new fruition, a new energy or ambition, a new achievement, a new development in your growing child, a new learning by your student, a new self-image, a new surrounding, etc.

What gifts did you receive from your most fulfilling or peak life moments? What do your peak experiences tell you about what you are most happy creating? Do you think you can repeat them?

Give this exercise a try.

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Q15- Senge’s Journey: from Learning to Presencing?

February 19, 2009

After two of CCLFI clients in the Philippines decided to become “living, learning organizations,” I was pleasantly amazed at how far the influence of Peter Senge’s concept of “learning organization” (LO) has reached. Today, I stumbled upon a 2001 OECD study on “Cities and Regions in the New Learning Economy.” Wow!

The concept of LO did not solely originate from Senge. It was a concept that has been talked about before 1990 by other experts such as Chris Argyris, Donald Schon and David Bohm. 1990 was the year when Senge’s bestseller book came out: “The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” Senge also borrowed ideas from Forrester, Meadows and their colleagues at the systems dynamics group in MIT of earlier “Limits to Growth” fame.

The concept itself is a pregnant one, for it leads to new ways of looking at organizations: that organizations are like living entities. Organizations learn and adapt. They evolve and mutate. They are not like machines that need mechanics, fixers and top-down Taylorist managers; they are more like plants that need nurturing gardeners.

Not all experts agree. For one, David Garvin decries those who see “learning… as a New Age phenomenon, whose goal is releasing human potential rather than improving the bottom line… [whose] discussions of learning organizations have often been reverential and utopian” (see his book “Learning in Action”).

I agree with Garvin that the five LO disciplines are remote from the bottom line. His definition of a LO is more business oriented and practical, which fits well in the context of the Harvard Business School where he teaches. However, I think business is not the only area of application of LO concepts.

Lest “learning organization” remains a “Cloud 9 concept,” Senge and his colleagues came up with concrete tools four years later (see “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization,” 1994).

Despite the criticisms, I think the fundamental basis of LO is solid. Garvin looks at managing behavior and performance (external view) while Senge looks at the mental models that determine behavior (internal view). In the words of Senge, “the central message of The Fifth Discipline is… that our organizations work the way they work, ultimately, because of how we think and how we interact.” The two views actually complement each other, and a mix of the two should be best in real world situations.

Frederick Taylor’s view of organizations is linear and straightforward. It fits well in managing factories that are basically extended machines. However, 21st century service organizations where knowledge workers rather than machines create value are more complex entities. We are just starting to learn how to manage these entities, thanks to Peter Drucker, Peter Senge and a new breed of management gurus. The next book by Senge’s group (“The Dance of Change: the Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations,” 1999) reflects the difficulties faced by this new breed. It was around the same time when a group of management theorists and practitioners assembled at the Harvard Business School and debated on the fixing/mechanic-versus-nurturing/gardener polarity (or the Theory E versus Theory O; see Beer and Nohria’s “Breaking the Code of Change”). After reading the interesting debate I reached the conclusion that it is not an “either/or” choice but more a “both/and”.

The learning process in organizations is one of the features that distinguishes the two viewpoints.

The process of organizational learning and the nature of human knowledge are two great issues at the root of the amusing confusions among practitioners of organizational learning and knowledge management. The book “Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future” (2004) by Senge and his colleagues at the Society for Organizational Learning raises a third great issue: the human process of innovation.

From our workshops in 1999 CCLFI discovered that the most fulfilling moments in a person’s life are of four types, and for some deep and unknown reason, all the four types are fundamentally creative moments. People are happiest or most fulfilled when they perform or participate in a creative process. We are not sure why. Csiksczentmihalyi, after studying these creative moments, observed that the person’s experience is like forgetting one’s self in a process he labeled as “flow” (see: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” 1996). The new field of transpersonal psychology has formed itself around the study of such experiences.

In Senge’s language, “presencing” is the art and practice of consciously entering a creative space and process where innovation can take place. It is “pre-sensing” the future and participating in bring about the future into the present. It is internally sensing what is emergent within and without. It calls forth the intrapersonal and/or transpersonal skill of entering the quiet creative wellspring within yourself: the bottom of the “U” according Otto Scharmer (see his book “Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges”) or the “flow” of Csiksczentmihalyi.

At CCLFI we have experienced these creative moments. We observed in our workshops that almost everyone had experienced this moment at some time in their life, although they may not consciously recognize it as such. Perhaps it is not a largely cognitive process. We are at a loss to come up with words to describe the experience. “The mind is the last to know,” I tell my colleagues.

All these may sound “New Age-y” to some, but in the end, innovation is essential for hard-nosed business survival or even planetary survival. In the end, we must be able to connect the intangible experiential process of creation with its tangible benefits to the rest of the world. Whether businessmen or business school professors like it or not, we must continue to strive to understand the deeper nature of human creativity and innovation — and put that understanding to work in practical problems that confront not only businessmen but also prime ministers, not only factory managers but also peace negotiators.

Let me end with a quote from Secretary General Takenaka of the Asian Productivity Organization:

    “The days when incremental or continuous improvement preoccupied corporate managers are over. It is to innovation and breakthroughs that those managers have turned their attention. For achieving innovation, the most relevant tool is no longer quality control or quality management. It is knowledge management in its broadest sense, which includes value creation or knowledge creation that is the most relevant.”

Tell us what you think.

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