Language as Clue — Part 3

The Effect of Paradigms on Creating Systemic Change in Business

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The Human Potential or Humanist Paradigm

According to Wikipedia, the human potential movement arose out of the counter culture milieu of the 1960s and formed around the concept of cultivating extraordinary potential that its advocates believe to lie largely untapped in all people. The movement took as its premise the belief that through the development of “human potential,” humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment. As a corollary, those who begin to unleash this assumed potential often find themselves directing their actions within society towards assisting others to release their potential. Adherents believe that the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential will bring about positive social change at large.

Core to this movement was the ableness of humans to be aware of and manage not only their own behavior but also their inner mind and motivation. Most of this movement’s emergence was a reaction to the behavioral psychology of the previous decades.

Source of the theory: Great thinkers and teachers of the twentieth century — including Abraham Maslow, Virginia Satir, Carol Rogers, and many others — rejected most of the ideas of the behaviorists. They felt that humans could be completely self-determining and could change themselves in order to achieve change in the world beyond their apparent potential.

Primary Use: The goal of the humanist paradigm is personal and human growth for each individual. As compared to the source of behaviorist theory, the human potential theory was developed by a movement, where hundreds of people almost simultaneously created Humanist Psychology. The ground was the self, the individuated person who is not fixed or limited from birth, who is characterized instead with unique potential that can be realized when it is intentionally developed.

Direction and means of study: The humanistic movement seeks to build programs and practices to realize the unique potential of every human being. Because personal development is the cornerstone of its work, the movement eschews all external motivation in favour of reflective practice, including meditation. Humans are seen to have agency, free will, and self accountability. Personal growth is possible throughout one’s life.

Pursuing potential is motivational, even more so than external conditions of pain and pleasure and can override the control that external force places on humans. In the last decade, it has become increasingly possible to conduct research on inner experiences, through fMRI, action research, and surveys. This research has the potential to move beyond the generalizations of the machine and behavioral paradigms in order to develop more powerful applications for the development of individuals. However, it is also at risk of becoming a resource for the commoditization of individuals, based on the assumptions that motivation always arises from internal sources and that all people respond in similar ways to educational and development processes.

Human Potential Paradigm Language and Business Practices

language clues to the human potential paradigm include speech about family systems, personal interactions, gestalts, mirroring, anchoring, whole persons, uniqueness, self-organizing, self-accountability, and human stewardship for the environment.

Business practices include the development of emotional intelligence, application of neuroscience, leadership for development, team building including survival courses, mentoring and coaching. They often include applications of therapy and counseling, such as defining types and strengths, and even martial arts as a new field of practice.

Effects of Applying the Human Potential Paradigm to Living Systems

Practices of the human potential paradigm tend to awaken personal agency. People feel that they can stretch and grow. They are often invited to be self-initiating, and this further fosters the sense of power over ones future. Maybe more importantly to business, it increases the desire to contribute and make a difference. All persons are seen as growable, and so mistakes are tolerated and often included, even risk taking.

Where behaviorist practices increase external motivation expectations (What’s in it for me? What have you done for me lately?) the humanist practices escalate motivation that is intrinsically evoked by oneself on oneself. Because most of these practices foster teamwork and engagement, along with far less divisive competition, this paradigm tends to create a sense of belonging and to result in far less reactivity. All of the human potential practice effects combined, fostering self determination with personal agency, are more intrinsically motivational and team building, ensure more mental space and will for innovation within an organization.

The Regenerative Paradigm

The regenerative paradigm is based in a living systems cosmology. Humans exist embedded in an ecosystem that is alive with potential at all levels, from microscopic to planetary. They cannot be separated from this system, and they have unique work to do within it. Each entity in the system is interdependent with the greater system. Its work is complex and dynamic and must be studied as a living whole, not broken into parts by dissection or reductionism.

Source: The theory base for all who work in the regenerative world is the study of ecology and holistic sciences. The goal is to reveal and support the expression of the essence of each living entity, whether a person, a watershed, or a business. Each is unique. The method is to learn to see nodes or keystone processes. For example, when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the entire system collapsed, including rivers and the ecosystems surrounding them. When wolves were reintroduced, the system regenerated itself. The wolves were a keystone species, essential to the working of the system. The same kind of effect can be seen in a business’s work system, where customers’ lives are the source of growth and the keystone of responsibility and innovation. Learning this nature of nodal thinking is the ground of the paradigm. A core capability is learning to see nature as a master designer and humans as integral entities that can develop energies to make the system healthier.

Science Direction: Study and validation of the work of living systems is the source of the paradigm. The work of James Miller and living systems points to the overall uselessness of reductionism in understanding of the work of living systems. The evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Sahtouris has also been a major developer of theory in this field, as have James Gleck and his Gaia theory of the Earth as a whole, living organism, and Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring.

Instruments: This paradigm’s instruments include building human capability for the intentional evolution of living systems and exploring nonlinear reciprocity and the capacity for intentional evolution toward the realization of the potential of all entities with systemic stakes in the outcome. The use of technology such as Google maps has enabled time-lapse photography that reveals the changes of in ecosystems over time, making the largest living systems seem less static.

Regenerative Paradigm Language and Business Practices

Language clues to the regenerative paradigm include the terms, working, imaging, and other verbs that end in “-ing” and describe processes; nested wholes, regenerative. Regenerative practitioners use the less anthropocentric term lifeshed in place of watershed.

Regenerative business practices include all that image work as a “value-adding process,” in which value increases and extends as the result of each interaction and transaction and in which systems frameworks reveal the complexity and dynamics of living systems.

Effects of Working Within the Regenerative System Paradigm

Courage in the face of difficulty — one practice that has been very effective, introduced by Carol Sanford Institute, is “promises beyond ableness.” Within the context of a strategic direction, organization members are each asked to find a contribution they want to make that is beyond what they feel they are capable of and their current ableness to deliver. In spite of this gap, those who make promises beyond ableness want to grow and learn in order to make the offering. They are self-directed in achieving the ends they pursue, and they almost always succeed beyond their own expectations and increase their capability for the next round of work and promises.

Another effect is the removal of hierarchies and development of work “self to self,” rather than role to role. People talk to one another without the constraints of rank or authority; only the quality of ideas matters. All parties judge ideas based on the outcomes for a greater whole, and not their own benefit. Without boss-and-subordinate’ roles in mind, creativity grows and the political position disappears.

When intention is focused on producing a regenerative process, global imperatives can be embedded in strategy from the beginning. They are not a separate function of the few, but the pervasive work of all, part of every conversation to determine which the decision and choices are integral with the imperatives of a vital and viable society and planet.

Sr Fellow Social Innovation, Babson | Best Selling/Multi-Award Winning Author | Regenerative Paradigm Educator

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