Building & Igniting The Trinity

Things seem to be falling into alignment. I picked up a revised edition of Margaret J. Wheatley’s book entitled Leadership and The New Science the other day and I’ve been devouring its contents with relish. There is so much in this book that relates to my research that it’s almost uncanny. In particular, one chapter entitled Change: Capacity of Life resonated with me quite deeply because the three critical areas of the system that she mentions seem to match with the three goals of my greater vision that I have laid out for myself.

My colleagues and I focus on helping a system develop greater self-knowledge in three critical areas. People need to be connected to the fundamental identity of the organization or community. Who are we? Who do we aspire to become? How shall we be together? And people need to be connected to new information. What else do we need to know? Where is this new information to be found? And people need to be able to reach past traditional boundaries and develop relationships with people anywhere in the system. Who else needs to be here to do this work with us?

As a system inquires into these three domains of identity, information, and relationships, it comes more self-aware. It has become more connected to the truth of who it is, more connected to its environment and customers, more connected to people everywhere in the system. These new connections develop greater capacity; the system becomes healthier.

Identity to me is the cornerstone of the system. It allows an individual or organization to know and stabilize itself in chaotic times. In effect, it defines your passion and purpose, the ship with which you sail upon and the star that guides you. It is the context within which all are choices are made. I feel like I need to help both individuals and organizations discover their true identities. What I’m finding surprising about this though is that figuring out individual identities is extremely difficult, probably because people have a hard time observing themselves from a third person perspective. Organizational identities, in comparison though, seem much easier to decipher, probably due to multiple perspectives within the group, which is why I’ll probably focus on them first initially.

Relationships are the foundation of life itself. In effect, the interaction of the parts is actually more important than the parts themselves. I feel I have the knowledge contained within me to help organizations run radically different and better than they do now. What’s more, I don’t even have to prove it because I’ve already seen it done elsewhere and I’ve seen aspects of it work with my own life, both online and off. What I do need to do is to simply document how this new way of working works and explain how it directly relates to relationship building. This of all three is the most clear to me, as I’m even using these principles within my own work life right now for my day job.

Information is what flows between the structured relationship of identities within these systems. Yet today, these information flows are completely inadequate due to them being all dumped out in a single bucket, rather than channeled into different filtered streams or orbits that can be more easily absorbed based upon the context within which they are viewed. I feel that I need to build something like a content management system that is much more than a content management system, yet at the same time something much more simpler than a content management system, giving it an almost playful yet powerful flexibility to it (i.e. a sandbox). It would be something that would both distribute and aggregate information, not only upon a single site but between sites, so as to relay distributed contextual awareness between all nodes of the system. At this point, I have started working on this conceptually and what I’m finding is that it almost has a fractal nature to it. The trick I’m finding is not to focus too much on the details themselves at this point but to understand them within the greater context and patterns of the system first.

So that’s where I’m standing right now with my vision and its three primary goals which woven together would hopefully provide a new way of self-organizing society, thus allowing us to do things collectively that would seem almost impossible to us now under our existing world view. Again it’s important to realize that no one single goal itself is sufficient to initiate the change but it requires all three working together as a trinity to kick start and be a catalyst for the change to occur. In effect, it is the interaction or relationship between the three goals that ignites things.

The Cultural Designer

David Trubridge gets it. He has an essay on his site that talks about a type of designer called a Cultural Designer.

All of this means that a new type of design must be created. I call this Cultural Design — design as we have never known it, at least for a very long time. The cultural designer will primarily design abstract lifestyles and rituals that allow us to lead a sustainable life. For the few objects that are needed, they will have much less to do with the physical workings of objects, and more to do with their effect — how they nourish us.

In rereading the function and purpose of this type of designer (as I remember reading it a year or two ago), I’m struck by the similarities that I feel I need to express now in my own life and work. Not only is culture a foundational element of this work but there also seems to be a spiritual aspect to it as well when he talks about the need for these objects to “nourish” us. Even his points about “rituals” seems to touch home on Alain de Botton’s Athiesm 2.0 message about the need to create rituals in our own lives that gives us a sense of connectedness with each other and the world and universe around us.

There is no cultural dimension,
nothing that creates a sense of identity
and above all there is no nourishment.
David Trubridge

Most important of all though he talks about existing design lacking the ability to create a sense of identity which he believes cultural design can help with. This struck home very deeply for me because not only do I feel this within my own life but also I know of other people who feel this same very way. In effect, while technology is helping us to connect with one another, it’s not really helping us to connect with one another, if you get what I mean. We need something that goes deeper than just functionality. It has to have a purpose and cultivate something meaningful within our lives. Right now, a lot of the technology that we utilize seems empty and lifeless to me. It’s not connecting us at a level that we need to be.

That said though, imagine the depth, complexity, and understanding that a Cultural Designer would need in order to pull something like this off. It would definitely require a lot of time and couldn’t be done quickly because you have to observe and test for more than just a functional capability but also a cultural capability. While one could be observed quickly after each iterative test, the second would require at least moderate long term usage to fully see its effects.

The Science of Spirituality

Alain De Botton has some interesting ideas that I think touch upon similar thoughts of my own. Below is a video of his TED speech last year in which he talks about Atheism 2.0 and how it should try to utilize the methods of religion to be more effective.

When he speaks about how we should utilize arts to help cultivate our lives, I couldn’t agree more. I keep seeing all of this amazing and incredible talent out there, like on Dribbble, and yet most of it seems wasted on marketing things that don’t have much meaning or structure in our lives. It would be cool to see wealthly patrons, like in the times of the Renaissance, hire artists and designers to create works that cultivate and uplift us, reminding us of our true potential, as individuals and as a group.

Even our deep and spiritual connection to nature seems severed, as many of us live within cities where nature is almost all but hidden from view. Luckily living within Vancouver, the mountains and oceans around me are a constant reminder of nature that it always prominent. That said, I still feel dramatically disconnected compared to my youth when I was growing up on an acreage outside of Edmonton, Alberta. You were immersed within nature and the natural laws and beauty of it. You felt and knew the rhythms and cycles of the earth, seeing their importance all around you, especially during the autumn when the farmers collected their harvest. Again, I feel like I need to create something that reminds me of this natural connectivity within my home or work, so that the cycles and important events of nature aren’t lost from view.

Even in my own work relating to passion and purpose, I feel there is something deeper that I’m trying to help express universally for all. The best way of describing it would be the science of spirituality. In effect, I’m trying to make the nature of spirituality, this feeling of connectedness, something that is accessible and understandable to everyone in a simple yet profound way. Obviously as yet, it is still a mystery to me but I feel like the key has to do with our structured interaction with one another. In effect, once I understand this pattern or structure between each of us, I feel like I can create an interface that will help people both see and understand each other better within the context of the world we live within.

You Are Me

I think there might be something that may not be so evident to people who read my journal. When I say “you” within my posts, I’m primarily referring to myself. In effect, as a journal, I’m talking to myself. I’m basically trying to reinforce what I know through repetition (writing it out to myself), so that I’ll remember it later when I reflect upon my journal.

The problem with this tone of writing though is that when I talk to others about their struggles, it comes off as very preachy or commanding. “You need to do this” or “You need to do that.” This is a huge flaw in my communications that I’m fully aware of, yet I’m still trying to figure out how best to circumvent or correct. For example, within the writings of others, I notice they utilize words like “one” or “oneself”. “One needs to remember to play daily.” This removes the direction of the message and doesn’t put any command on the individual listening to it.

Other than that, my final option would be to completely change my writing so it is clearly evident that I’m writing to myself. So instead of saying to myself “You need to do this”, I instead would say “I need to do this.” This actually isn’t as bad as it seems because I know that in helping myself, I’m helping others. Thus by utilizing “I”, I’m making it evidently clear to even myself, that I am the one who needs to work on living what I already know. In effect, just knowing isn’t enough. To fully complete the circle (i.e. live to play, play to learn, learn to work, work to live), I need to be able to fully work on living what I have learnt through play. Only then will I be able to truly lead by my actions, rather than by my words.