Vertical Development

Chris Do Helps Explain Vertical Development in a Very Relatable Way

A little over a week ago, I noticed Tiago Forte mentioning on Twitter that he was interviewed by Matt Gray. Not familiar with Matt, I decided to check out the video because Tiago had mentioned that this year he was going to start focusing more on deeper wisdom work and I though it was going to focus on that specifically. While it did touch on this a bit, it didn’t go as deep as I wanted it to though, although it was still very revealing of Tiago’s everyday life and the struggles he’s going through.

What really surprised me though is when I started perusing Matt’s other videos on YouTube, I stumbled across another one entitled How To Make $100,000/Month Doing What You Love. I laughed when I saw this titled because these click bait titles are common all over the Web, trying to entice people to watch or read them, with the content often being quite shallow. Not wanting to click on this one, I nevertheless decided to trust Matt and clicked on it and was proceeded to be completely blown away by the person he was interviewing.

Chris Do is “an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO and Chief Strategist of Blind and the founder of The Futur—an online education platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion people how to make a living doing what they love.”

What amazed me about Chris and the interview is that it had very little to with showing someone some formulaic steps to making $100,000/month and more about teaching people the foundations of vertical development which in turn helps you to discover who you truly are, thus releasing your potential in the process (and thus as a by-product, helping you to making $100,000/month). So resonating very closely with my belief that “The Future of Work is about being yourself.”

But what’s even more amazing is that I’m not even sure if Chris is fully aware of the larger context of vertical development, even though he has an amazing grasp of the foundations of it and is able to articulate them in a very simple and relatable way.

First off, here’s some quotes by Chris that kind of set the stage for understanding why vertical development is important because it can give us the capacity to tackle these things.

3:20 / So here’s the real challenge then, to find things that give you joy, that spark your inner curiosity, the things that make you get out of bed, that propel you forward versus to push you. And I think this is a really interesting phenomenon for all of us to solve whether you’re 12, 22, or 99 years old, to find work that you love that gives you meaning, to give you purpose, and when you find that, to figure out a way to make money from it.

7:05 / …but that inner creative voice and you need to fight all those external voices so that that creative person can be allowed to explore and find something. So when you do things that give you joy, that you do with relative ease where you lose track of time, is a pretty good indicators to what you should be doing.

7:50 / The world does not need another commercial or a music video. We have to be honest with ourselves when we say like “yeah, it serves a very specific purpose” but it’s not elevating humanity.

8:55 / I think it is sometimes misleading to look at what somebody’s doing today and assume that that’s the way it always was.

9:53 / So what I want to do is to tell everybody, it’s very important for you to learn how to articulate your thinking your ideas and your opinions to other people but it’s more important that you practice articulating thoughts because you gain clarity through articulation.

Now where Chris begins to start talking directly about vertical development is when Matt asks about him about limiting beliefs and how to overcome them paradoxically. And what’s interesting here is how our limiting beliefs are often entwined with how we believe the world should work, like a script or a narrative. This is more commonly referred to as your worldview, as it filters the way you look and perceive the world and yourself, like a lens.

What’s also amazing here is that I’ve said before that I see so many notable authors talking about vertical development but not knowing it exists in this larger context, so they often name it something else, something that’s relatable to them and their unique story.

12:14 / Yeah this is going to be a big reframe and I’m working on a series of ideas called the Paradox Principles. I think Paul Arden already wrote or already figured out the best title for a book and the book is called “Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite” and I really believe that. Like we think the path to getting our fame fortune, and whatever it is we want in life, is to take this express bullet train elevator up to the top and skip all the necessary steps.

But I know this. People who are in love with the journey in the process will go much further and farther than people who just want the result. Because what happens is when you don’t get the result that you want, in the timeline in which you figured out for yourself, which is artificial to begin with then you get frustrated and you get discouraged and then you stop and you try something else. And you can spend 5, 10, 15, 25 years of your life going from one thing to next never finding a thing that you’re good at and becoming a jack of all trades and not being valued by the world.

So I think what we have to do is take a big step back.

Chris mentioning the need to step back is quite poignant because it gives us the ability to become aware of ourselves and how we are perceiving the world with our beliefs, thus allowing us to step out our worldview (as we step back from it) and begin to step into another unknown large space of possibilities. Again not just in terms of how we perceive our world but also how we perceive ourselves, because the two are entwined.

This process becomes a journey of self-discovery, as he describes below. One in which we experiment with our identity, often playfully exploring beyond the borders of it, but keeping a journal of our explorations so that we can navigate between these emerging aspects of ourselves and make sense of a larger self emerging which in turns forms the foundation of a larger worldview we can live by.

14:42 / So I think the way to go is to make the commitment to yourself that I’m on a journey of self-discovery of personal development and this is just my form of public journaling and it’s important for me to share my thoughts just so I can learn about myself.

In relationship to this, Chris then refers to Vinh Giang, who teaches public speaking, and something notable he said about storytelling. Why this is important is because our worldview is effectively a story, more specifically a narrative of belief because while stories usually have a beginning, middle, and end, narratives are open ended. More importantly, if we have our own narrative / worldview that we’ve self-authored and constructed ourselves, we can navigate our life much better because we have something to compare it against.

15:09 / He said that we all need to practice storytelling. And why is that? Because we need to have a strong story of ourselves, so that when someone else tells us who we are, we have something to compare it against.

Now where Chris really dives deep and gets to the heart of vertical development is when he begins talking about “the forest” as a metaphor for the different types of “typography” of life in response to Matt noticing how Chris’ approach to life sees more of an organic process versus something that is “written down and stuck to.” Chris further elaborates on this by providing an example of how both he and his business transformed, evolved, and grew over time.

19:42 / Yeah, so what I think people think about is there’s this giant forest and that the forest is always one type of tree and it’s always going to be one type of density. But we know this is not the case. When you reach the edge of the forest, you’re going to enter into a different topography…

20:17 / The example is this. When I started out we talked mostly about design and typography. And then as we evolved, I found that there were a lot of creative people who were saying to me “I know what to do with design. There are many resources out there for me to learn that better, faster, cheaper, and I accept that. Teach me about business. How to run a design business because I’m not finding that anywhere.”

So then we’re at the edge of one forest, at the edge of the circle, and now we realize there’s a whole different world and we start to make more content teaching people about how to run a design business. And to my surprise, there are a whole lot of people who started showing up saying, “We really need this. No one else is doing this for us.”

20:57 / But then we run into a new problem and the problem is this. And you’re pointing to it right now. And if people haven’t figured it out, it’s like I can teach you all the tools in life and you will not be successful, if you first do not believe that you could do this. So there’s a belief system that I have to dismantle, in limiting beliefs, scarcity mindset, those are the things I need to solve. And once I work through that then people are asking me, “Well how do I teach this to others, Chris?” So now I have to like, “Okay, what’s the next edge of the forest?” And you’re going to continue to grow and evolve, or you’re not and that’s okay too.

This directly aligns with vertical development in how there are stages of development, much like inner terrain that we have to traverse through, and when we are able to map the next unknown edge by exploring, navigating, and understanding the whole story of its typography, we can then “level up” (our consciousness) and operate with a much larger worldview and a much larger sense of Self.

This is why taking Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which describes how to psychologically level up in life, and embedding it within a larger MMORPG context, helping us to understand that there are many levels to life, seems so perfect a pairing to understand vertical development as a whole (well at least from a gamer’s perspective, who can relate to it).

Anyways, more on this later when I continue talking about the second half of the interview, when Matt and Chris both talk about the love of “playing the game” as its own reward itself (which poignantly fits in with seeing life as a MMORPG as well).

Vertical Development

Supporting & Integrating Higher Stages of Psychological Growth in Our Newer Institutions

I was having a conversation with my wife, giving examples of the early stages of vertical development and how our worldview changes as we psychologically mature, when she replied “Well that’s just growing up.”

I kind of laughed at her response and said she was right but the problem is that a lot of people’s physical growth and psychological growth may not always align. In effect, someone may grow up physically and look like an “adult” but they may have experienced trauma and thus may not have psychologically matured.

Beyond this though there is an even greater problem. Society only knows how to support your growth up to a specific stage, conventionally known as an “adult” but there are more stages of psychological growth and maturity that one can evolve beyond that. It’s just that society, in a conventional sense, isn’t aware of these additional stages of psychological growth, so you have to find someone often outside the mainstream who is aware of this and can help you with your growth.

To me, the present work today is about making people aware of these higher stages of psychological growth, so much so that vertical development becomes embodied in the newer institutions emerging in our world today and thus becomes the foundational backbone of institutions in the future.

Within The Future of Work domain, these organizations are often referred to as learning organizations. But I think they will go beyond work and beyond learning to integrate playing as well. Not “playing” in the conventional sense but playing with regards to loosening the conventional social structures and identities that rigidly define and limit ourselves, our organizations, and our world today, and stepping beyond them, imagining and roleplaying something completely new and novel.

General Vertical Development

The Uncertainty You Feel…

…is just the recognition that you are on your own path, rather than following someone else’s.

If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.

Joseph Campbell
Life Challenges Trigger Stage Growth Vertical Development

Recoding Our “Internal Model of Reality”

When reflecting upon the words of Dee W. Hock, the founder and CEO of the VISA credit card association who passed away last year, it becomes evidently apparent to me that what’s missing in our world today is a concerted effort to communicate and explain what we are feeling right now (i.e. fear, stress, anxiety) and how it relates to the psychology of change. In effect, to change our world around us, we need to begin by changing our world(view) within us. And even to consider that means realizing that we’re not seeing reality directly in the first place but rather just a construct of it.

At a much deeper level, usually without awareness, we inevitably construct a concept of reality—a world view, an internal model of reality— against which we compare current experience in order to create meaning. It is how we make sense of the external world, our place in it, ourselves, and our actions. It is, or at least ought to be, the home of wisdom.

When there is an explosion in the capacity to receive, store, utilize, transform, and transmit information, the external world changes at a rate enormously greater than the rate at which our internal model evolves. Nothing behaves as we think it should. Nothing makes sense. At times the world appears to be staging a madhouse. It is never a madhouse. It is merely the great tide of evolution in temporary flood, moving this way and that, piling up against that which obstructs its flow, trying to break loose and sweep away that which opposes it. At such times, we experience extreme dissonance and stress.

At the heart of that dissonance and stress is paradox. The more powerful and entrenched our internal model of reality, the more difficult it is to perceive and understand the fundamental nature of the changed world we experience. Yet without such perception, it is extremely difficult to understand and change our internal model.

This is precisely where we are today, and it is rapidly getting worse. Deep in most of us, below our awareness, indelibly implanted there by three centuries of the Industrial Age, is the mechanistic, separatist, cause-and-effect, command-and-control, machine model of reality.

Dee W. Hock, Internal Model of Reality

When it becomes necessary to develop a new perception of things, a new internal model of reality, the problem is never to get new ideas in, the problem is to get old ideas out. Every mind is filled with old furniture. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. We hate to throw it out. The old maxim so often applied to the physical world, “nature abhors a vacuum”, is much more applicable to the mental world. Clear any room in your mind of old perspectives, and new perceptions will rush in. Yet, there is nothing we fear more. It is our individual perspective, the view from our internal temple of reality, that constantly discolors and distorts our perception, blinding us to how things might become, or conceiving of how they ought to be. Perspective is the Achilles heel of the mind.

In a very real sense, we are our ideas, concepts and perceptions. Giving up any part of our internal model of reality is as bad as losing a finger or an eye. Part of us no longer exists. Fortunately, unlike most organs of the physical body, internal concepts of reality can be regenerated, although never as they were. It is a joyful and enervating in the end, but frightening and painful in the process. I was a long time realizing I had one. Even longer realizing how mechanistic it was and how archaic it had become. Oh, how I hated to give it up.

Dee W. Hock, Perception and Perspective

Note his emphasis on the primary problem being “getting old ideas out” which resonates closely with what Alvin Toffler said below. And again, note Alvin is not referring to technological skills here (as some people might believe) but rather the ability to transform our perception and worldview (so more about unlearning deeply engrained beliefs and organizational cultures).

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

I think this is why even though my initial passion emerged around The Future of Work, social innovation, and creativity (because work wasn’t working for me at the time), vertical development became all consuming for me when I encountered it and began to understand it because it was the foundational core that unified all of these things together into a larger, relational narrative. It also helps to explain why after two decades of people trying to transform and change business mindsets, very little headway has been made.

Vertical Development

Investing In Time & Space for Self-Development

Tiago Forte gives an excellent and extensive overview of his work on Building A Second Brain in the video above but what I found the most revealing was the latter part talking about the benefits of it (starting around the 1:33:00 minute mark in the video), particularly these two quotes.

In order for you to self-develop, you need free time.

You need an open space to explore yourself, to explore your psyche, to explore your emotions, your relationships. 

It’s interesting because earlier in the video, he indicated how there was some economic impedances to achieving this but near the end he indicated how professionals (who are obviously financially well off) seem to be the main people lacking in mental bandwidth to develop themselves nowadays because they have no free time.

Therefore to me, the primary impedance isn’t so much a lack of economic resources but rather a lack of mental resources. Self-development requires time and space which in turn gives you the ability to focus your attention and increase your awareness.

The number one problem with this though is that our current conventional way of working takes most of our time and space. And today, as many people will attest, it’s even worse than it used to be. For example, my wife as a school teacher has said her workload has increased dramatically compared to before the pandemic. Yet she knows of other teachers whose workloads have increased even more than hers, whereby sometimes they have to work till 9PM in the evening before they can return to their families and deal with their responsibilities at home.

Therefore, one of the quickest ways to increase our mental resources would be to stop working conventionally and start working more “productively” (as per the way Tiago sees it using a “second brain”) which is almost counter-intuitive to how people conventionally approach their work. In doing so though, our life’s work naturally arises and emerges from our ongoing learning and self-development, with the potentiality of who we are being released like a building tsunami in the process.

Vertical Development

Understanding The Deeper Connection of This “Thing” Called Vertical Development

Something has happened in the last 24 hours, due to a serendipitous collection of articles read (both old and new), that has made me step back, reflect, and realize something that I’ve known for a long time but have not really “known” in terms of deeply understanding it. Well, that is until now.

I’ve repeatedly said over the years that there are number of notable people all talking about the same thing but from different disciplinary perspectives and languages. This “thing” I’m talking about is vertical development.

And what’s important to realize about this though, because of the complexity of understanding what vertical development actually means, is that many of these notable people talking about it, may not even be aware that they are talking about it.

The reason for this is that vertical development is like a narrative which has many elements to it. One notable person may be talking about one aspect of it (i.e. creativity), while another person may be talking about another aspect of it (i.e. social innovation). The thing is though is that if you go below the surface of all of the different words used from all of the different disciplinary languages, a deeper unified meaning will reveal itself, that is an undercurrent to everything these people are talking about.

David Suzuki

In reading some recent articles by David Suzuki, I’ve realized that he is finally begin to understand the deeper problem with his work in environmentalism. That being that he has to go beyond environmentalism into the realm of vertical development to actually make an impact in his work.

Global conferences and agreements are necessary, but we need far more ambition and action — and humility. To fulfil our potential as a species, we need a paradigm shift, from an archaic consumer mindset to a wider vision that encompasses nature and recognizes the values and connections that will help us live well.

Paradigm Shift Needed To Halt & Reverse Biodiversity Loss

What interesting about this is that I actually applied for a job with the David Suzuki Foundation a decade or more ago but never got the job. I was actually something thankful that I didn’t get it though because I realized I probably would have been frustrated within the position. That’s because I knew back then that they needed to widen their scope as an organization but I didn’t have the capacity to articulate this clearly at the time and thus I’m not sure if they would have comprehended the bigger picture at the time.

Today, I would have described to them that until they can help people understand and see the deeper human nature within themselves (which our current society’s culture is alienating us from), they will continue to have a hard time making people see how humanity is embedded and integrated with nature.

Gabor Mate

This also directly relates to Gabor Mate’s tireless and amazing work on trauma, addiction, stress, and childhood development which his website encapsulates as “human development through the lens of science and compassion.”

Therefore our true nature is to love, and love is required for our species to exist. If we live in a society that does not provide or support our most basic needs then our society will adapt and our behavior will not reflect our true nature. Today’s modern societies are incredible and it’s amazing to witness our innovation, ability to control our environment, and experience advances in medicine; just to name a few. However, it’s evident that our innovation and focus on material resources has out paced our biology and basic needs. Therefore, despite many advances, we will see illness, dysfunction, and trauma persist until we are able to truly understand what our most basic needs are and how to provide them to one another.

Human Nature

In effect, because our base needs are not being met as children and, even more so, as adults, we are experiencing widespread trauma and addiction in our society today. To put it another way, due to our basic needs often being unmet, especially in our workplaces, we are addicted to trying to meet them in any way we can.

And until we can create a society and a cultural environment where meeting people’s needs is a basic human right of their well-being, people, organizations, and society will be unable to experience any vertical development growth in the process. Something that is essential if we want to psychologically adapt and meet the wickedly complex challenges of our world today which are actually caused by our own existing systemic behaviours and mindsets.

Brené Brown

And a way we often get stuck focused on our basic needs is the subject of Brené Brown’s foundational work on shame. Once we can get past beating our selves up and giving ourselves some space just to be, we can connect with the vulnerability of who we are which can help us to take leadership over our lives.

And this is something that relates to vertical development intimately, as Brené herself discovered within her recent podcast with Lisa Lahey, the co-author of the book Immunity To Change with Robert Kegan. During the podcast, Lisa actually stepped Brené through the process of making invisible assumptions and beliefs in her own life visible. In doing so, she helped her to objectively see and relate to how her past identity was competing and conflicting with a larger identity of herself that was trying to emerge, mainly due to these assumptions she believed.

In particular, two quotes by Lisa Lahey really stood out for me because they relate to my metaphor of vertical development being a roleplaying game which involves not only adventuring within the dungeons of yourself to levelling up but also participating within guilds to get the support to do so. These guilds of the 21st century though will be one’s where we can “craft a different possibility of reality”, letting us to “play” a larger “role” beyond the identity of the one’s we’ve been conventionally expected to fulfill by society. So just like Brené needs to role-play and test out a newer, larger sense of Self with her team, others will be able to do so within these 21st guilds as communities of practice as well.

LISA LAHEY: But if I don’t, if I can change that assumption to see where its edges are, and I can explore the possibility that the world is not so black and white.  Where’s the gray? Then I’m in a position where I can begin to craft a different possibility of a reality where it’s possible to be both disciplined and be a creator. And that’s what the work ahead would be. How do you test out that big assumption? And for me, the way to go about testing any assumption is try to really stack the deck in the direction that shows you the ways your big assumption may not be correct. Because it’s very easy to show how it’s correct. It’s way harder to show yourself how it isn’t incomplete. It’s just not seeing all of the way the world can be.

BRENÉ BROWN: God, Lisa, this is hard. It’s a lot of excavating. But it’s also really powerful to understand that there are legitimate important commitments that are working against the change that I know is also an important thing and having to understand what the assumptions are behind those existing commitments and challenge those. I mean, would you tell the folks listening that this is the heart of the process?

LISA LAHEY: I would say the heart of the process is to start with that map, those four columns, and to be in it in the way that I’ve experienced you today, which is to let yourself go to places that don’t feel very comfortable. They feel uncomfortable, but they feel real. They feel true. And if you can let yourself just see what is and work at the not judging yourself to just allow yourself the humanity of… This is what we all do. Every single person’s got an “immunity to change” map. If they want to take on some really good reach goal for themselves, we all have this stuff going on. So, if you could let yourself just be with that, and that’s one big step that has to happen because it gives you a map in some way around what you do need to actually address in this deeper landscape that’s going on inside in order to change your external behaviors. And then the next big heart of it all is to actually engage in some pretty active testing of your big assumptions so that you can learn the ways in which it isn’t accurate or there may be times it is accurate, but you’re having a much more rich data informed understanding of how the world works and how you also work in the world. And you let your bigger self actually be more in charge of seeing that world and not the self-protective, more scared part of us, which tends to more often be in control.

Harold Jarche

These communities of practice are something I’d like to see more people doing but specifically in the sense of delving deeper into our selves. For example, Harold Jarche has his own community of practice which he indicates is a “trusted space” but I’m unsure if they go that deep in their sessions, trying to put into practice and work on living what they are learning.

It would be interesting to find out because the deeper intention of Harold’s work again touches upon vertical development at its core, as this older post of his reveals.

The job was the way we redistributed wealth and protected workers from the negative aspects of capitalism. As the knowledge economy disappears, we need to re-think our concepts of work, income, employment, and most importantly education. If we do not find ways to help citizens lead productive lives, our society will face destabilization. This is a challenge for government, as our institutions are premised on many assumptions that are no longer valid. Changing the worldview of politicians, public servants, and citizens will be a key part of addressing the issue of wealth redistribution. Old mental models will not help us much.

Democratizing Distribution

I could go on and on describing many more people who are all talking about vertical development but probably aren’t aware that they are actually doing so. The important point I’m trying to make here though is that there is a collective movement of people striving for change but this movement probably won’t achieve any traction and serious momentum transforming society until they can begin to start seeing each other and connecting up the different aspects of their work collectively. When that happens, that’s when we’ll start seeing massive change.

In effect, the potential is already there and already in process, it’s just not being seen and recognized. Pretty much the same thing that’s happening with the potential of people not being seen and recognized within organizations and society as a whole.

If these “walk-outs” remain isolated from one another, nothing happens. The dominant system will crush, absorb, or coopt the pioneers because every living system is inclined towards self-preservation. But if they get connected to one another, exchanging information and learning, then their separate efforts can suddenly emerge as a powerful system capable of disrupting the old order and giving birth to something new.

Deborah Frieze
Vertical Development

Seeing Intrinsic Motivation In A Newer Way

While doing some research today to understand the relationship between play and intrinsic motivation, I was dumbfounded to see the words “belonging” and even “recognition” within the description of intrinsic motivation. To me, this seemed absurd, since I always believed that intrinsic motivation was doing something for its own reward rather than for an external reward and doing something so that you can “belong” or get “recognition” from others seems to me like that’s an external social reward.

Digging a bit deeper, I discovered that intrinsic basically means “naturally” and it also relates to our psychological development. When I read that, it suddenly made me realize that “intrinsic motivations” are our basic psychological needs and values that we strive to meet as we grow and develop through our different stages of development.

So when we’re younger, play (which is intrinsically motivated) helps us to develop our social skills, including a sense of belonging with others. But as we get older, we “level up” and “play” within newer roles (i.e. job, career), seeking a sense of self-esteem and recognition in our work as well.

If this is accurate though, then intrinsic motivation goes beyond belonging and recognition and includes many more mature aspects of growth like freedom, autonomy, creativity, and meaning. In effect, we are naturally drawn to these newer needs and values as we mature and evolve, just as we are drawn to belonging and recognition in our younger years.

Levels of Consciousness, Barrett Academy for the Advancement of Human Values

Most people have no concept of where their motivations come from, what stage of psychological development they are at, what stages they have passed through, or what stages they still need to master to find fulfilment in their lives. The only criteria they have for making choices are: what makes them feel happy in the moment, or what gives their life a sense of meaning and fulfilment.

Happiness, meaning and fulfilment are not synonymous. What makes us happy is the satisfaction of our ego’s needs, and what gives our life meaning and fulfilment is the satisfaction of our soul’s needs.

Richard Barrett, Evolutionary Coaching
Vertical Development

Conflicting Visions, Values, Mindsets, & Languages of Meaning

It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation. It’s time for a #ReOrg « Chris Heuer’s Insytes

As I said then and as I believe more than ever today, the principles aren’t wrong or misdirected. However, in the war of words that is central to the battle for the soul of our organizations, fighting under the banner of social business is a losing proposition – the modern equivalent to knowledge management. It’s just not winning the hearts, minds and slices of the budgetary pie necessary for our shared vision to become reality as quickly as we need the change to be the reality.

Unfortunately I have come to feel the same way about the “Future of Work” discussion and movement, despite the fact that it is the direction where my social business cohorts have headed. It’s hard to talk about the future of something when you haven’t created a shared vision upon the present that is emerging and what distinctions must be embraced and elevated.

So what are the words that will serve as our campfire around which we will gather for camaraderie and warmth? What is the language of the movement that encapsulates the multiple distinctions and insights that collectively are driving us towards a future free of today’s most commonly accepted defects? I don’t think it’s social business, I don’t think its future of work. I’m open to other suggestions, but for now I’d like to start this conversation focused on what I have consistently heard as the most fundamental change we must realize – a change in organizational structure and governance. A re-imagination of what an organization looks like and a rethinking of what we mean by work.

While we may not yet have adequate language for what we envision, I submit for your consideration that we are talking about a widespread #ReOrg. The reorganization of our mindsets, methods and measures about the organization, about our relationships to them as humans and about the fundamental practice of management as the underlying operating system that governs its behaviors. It’s time to create a more holistic view of how we create value, and especially with a focus on how we can optimize our ability to create shared value that benefits society as a whole instead of just those who have won the war for control.

Yes, it’s time for a #ReOrg. Are you ready? Let’s talk about it.

The Future of Work Requires New Mindsets, Methods and Measures « Chris Heuer’s Insytes

In order to even get started on a journey to a New Way to Work, we need to embrace new mindsets that give up on “doing things the way they have always been done”. As I’ve stated in my post “It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation“, we need to rethink, reimagine, redesign and #ReOrg our entire approach to organizations and their culture.  A lot of people have been spreading the meme that “Culture eats strategy for lunch” but too few people really understand what culture is and even fewer understand what must be done to shape it and how leaders are negatively reinforcing it with their own behaviors. The challenge is that there are so many contributing factors that go into culture, getting to the root causes, language and actions that create it and reshape it can be a daunting task. There are no standard best practices for fixing a broken culture, though there are some common insights that may be applied to your unique situation. As I see it, the first thing that must change is a need for REAL Relationships in the workplace as much as we need them for success in the marketplace.

REAL is an acronym as well as an intention – it stands for Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic and Long Lasting. We all need to get something out of our time together. Despite your title or position, the employees are not only there to be subservient to your will. For many senior leaders this may in fact be the most difficult insight to accept, but the performance improvements to be gleaned have already rewarded those bold enough to embrace this reality. When leaders embrace the fact that we are all in this together and support a deeper sense of TEAMWORK, costs go down, opportunities increase and employee engagement dramatically improves.

New mindsets are more then the foundation of a team based, collaborative culture. They are also about the shift in what we value, what we are willing to accept and what we are not willing to accept. Do we tolerate assholes simply because they are high performers? Do we only care about profit? or do we care about people and planet too? Increasingly market leaders are the one’s who understand that money is only one measure of success. Yes, it is an important measure of success, but as consumers and even corporations are shifting their mindsets, there is a greater realization of the benefits of serving the whole of the market. This is resulting in more leaders and more organizations discarding institutional thinking focused on capturing maximum value for shareholders and instead optimizing to create maximum shared value for all stakeholders.

Quotes from these two posts by Chris Heuer relate to what I said in my last post about the importance of understanding the bigger picture and narrative of vertical development. It helps you to see how each stage of development and level of consciousness is like its own world(view) and reality, with it’s own vision, mindset, values, and meaningful language.

It also explains why there is so much conflict in articulating a shared vision for The Future of Work because leaders are often operating from different stages of development and thus from different mindsets and values. In fact, this is the same reason why there is so much conflict in the world as a whole today and why so many of our political leaders are unable to deal with the wickedly complex problems that are emerging.

Vertical Development

The Great Arc As The Larger Narrative of Life

Taking my last post a step further, I’m realizing that my work isn’t just about showing other people the larger context of vertical development within the world’s events, such as The Great Resignation, but more importantly it’s about showing how my all of the research over the last two decades fits within the larger context of vertical development as well.

This is something profoundly important to recognize because the reason I kept researching new and larger things since 2001 is because no singular thing I researched seemed to be able to contain the meaning and understanding of everything that I was looking for. When I finally grasped the meaning of vertical development though, I began to realize it not only provided a larger context of life but it provided a larger context and container with which to organize the knowledge I had been researching for the last two decades of my life.

An easier way to understand this is to view each aspect of knowledge as a stepping stone contained within a larger narrative of wisdom that helps one gain a broader understanding and meaning of what’s going on.

So for myself, I indicated previously that I’ve been “Researching The Future of Work, Social Innovation, and Creativity” over the past two decades, describing it linearly as I learnt it. But if I reflect back upon my research and rearrange the knowledge I’ve learnt into a narrative format, I’d describe it as “Researching how Vertical Development helps us to understand the Creativity needed to achieve the Social Innovation to step into The Future of Work.” But it even goes beyond this because it is play (at a higher conceptual level) that makes this creativity possible.

But to put this within the context and reality of our world today. Many people are feeling like work is no longer working for them and perhaps even feel like it’s working against them. This is why The Great Resignation isn’t over but it is evolving into something larger.

Initially these people will be just be angry and depressed, grieving at the way things used to be but also frustrated at seeing no way forward. Eventually they may learn about The Future of Work which makes them feel hopeful, like they aren’t alone, as other people are looking for a new way of working as well. But then the question arises, how do we get to this new world of work? They may learn about the social innovation required to do so but will then learn about the (social) creativity which what makes this possible.

Very few people will probably learn about vertical development though which again helps you to understand all of these things within a larger narrative arc of life. In effect, individual and societies are continually evolved and changing, although many many not perceive that. The Future of Work is just the current name (albeit a poorly named one) for the social innovation needed for us to continue evolving and growing as a society.

Vertical Development

Seeing The Great Resignation Within The Great Arc of Life

Something has shifted within me the last few days that is making me consider doing a complete pivot with regards to how I approach my work and market myself. It arose after reading an extensive article that was written by McKinsey & Company in 2022 that talks about The Great Resignation (aka Great Attrition, Great Renegotiation) and the new talent pools arising from it.

While the paper was an amazing read (because it highlighted how workers are not just quitting jobs but they’re quitting entire industries to move to other ones), what really caught my attention was the latter part of it. It describes how the current workforce talent pool has splintered and becoming more complex by shifting into two primary groups: traditionalists and non-traditionalists. When reading this, I was basically dumbstruck because what it was describing sounded very similar to the difference between Socialized Minds and Self-Authoring Minds as described by Robert Kegan’s work.

For example, while it broke down non-traditionalists into four personas (i.e. Do-It-Yourselfers, Caregivers, Idealists, Relaxers) of different age groups, a common characteristic of these people is that they seem to be all valuing more freedom, autonomy, flexibility, and purpose in their work, not too mention wanting a greater focus on their health and well-being in their career development. In comparison, traditionalists often aren’t willing to strive or bargain for these things because they’re more risk-averse, thus they’re happy with just having a decent salary, good job title, and status at their company.

To understand the shift that’s occurring here in greater detail, it helps to focus on the values that people feel like they need to progress further in their work and development (as noted by this quote from the article below).

To navigate this new playing field successfully, hiring managers can look beyond the current imbalance in labor supply and demand and consider what different segments of workers want and how best to engage them. 

To do this, employers should understand the common themes that reveal what people most value, or most dislike, about a job. For instance, it cannot be overstated just how influential a bad boss can be in causing people to leave. And while in the past an attractive salary could keep people in a job despite a bad boss, that is much less true now than it was before the pandemic. Our survey shows that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying

Why this is important is that it directly correlates with vertical development and how our values change as we “level up” our consciousness and move from one stage of development to another. Richard Barrett has an awesome chart that shows this in greater detail below. Not only does it show the newer positive values one desires as they level up, it also shows the limiting values at lower levels that one is looking to step away from. Note how this corresponds with what people are looking for within organizations right now and what they wish to avoid in companies now (often represented by potentially toxic leaders and culture).

Levels of Consciousness, Barrett Academy for the Advancement of Human Values

And what’s most remarkable of all is how this chart and its attributes correlate with what I said above about how traditionalists are like Socialized Minds and non-traditionalists are like Self-Authoring Minds. In effect, traditionalists as Socialized Minds would be those who have reached level 3 (recognition, self-esteem) above. In comparison, non-traditionalists as Self-Authoring Minds would be those who have stepped beyond level 3 and are now desiring the values associated with level 4 (freedom, autonomy) and 5 (meaning).

This is why this extensive article seems so profound to me. For the longest time, I’ve been harping that we need to help people to “level up” their consciousness, awareness, and perception, thus enabling us to collectively tackle the more complex issues arising within our world today. But what’s happening here is almost the reverse. The increasing complexities and challenges within the world of work are causes people to seriously question the way that work works and making them desire to “level up” and strive for something better.

To put it another way, I believed my challenge before was trying to make people understand the deeper complexities and paradoxes of vertical development. What if it isn’t? What if my work is simply making people aware of the vertical development that is going on all around them and within their lives already? In doing so, it can help them to see a larger context and framework to life that they can begin to navigate with beyond their current limited frameworks or mindsets that often don’t describe what’s off the unknown, uncertain edge of their worldview and beyond the horizon of their mind.