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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
As the last example illustrates, they are quite prone to hallucination, to saying things that sound plausible and authoritative but simply aren’t so.
Because such systems contain literally no mechanisms for checking the truth of what they say, they can easily be automated to generate misinformation at unprecedented scale.
When I started using ChatGPT, I completely missed the fact that it can’t go out and read article links on the web. But when I asked it to summarize article links initially, it actually did so with some accuracy. Once I understood it couldn’t go out and read article links, I realized what it was doing and created a false article link…which it proceeded to summarize because it was using the keywords in the link itself to imagine what the article was about.
BTW I only realized that it couldn’t go out and read articles on the Web, when I asked it to provide three of the best articles on vertical development. What it provided was three article names and links with notable authors in the vertical development field for each. When I clicked on them, they went to the appropriate site (i.e Harvard Business Review) but no such article could be found. It was then I realized that not only was it making the article and links up, it was making up the fact that it was reading the links I had asked it to read earlier.
These bots cost almost nothing to operate, and so reduce the cost of generating disinformation to zero.
Nation-states and other bad actors that deliberately produce propaganda are unlikely to voluntarily put down these new arms. Instead, they are likely to use large language models as a new class of automatic weapons in their war on truth, attacking social media and crafting fake websites at a volume we have never seen before. For them, the hallucinations and occasional unreliability of large language models are not an obstacle, but a virtue.
While I’m enjoying using ChatGPT myself, there’s something evident about it when you use it. If you don’t understand and comprehend the deeper meaning of what you’re asking from it, all you’re doing is highlighting your ignorance rather than hiding it. To use it critically, you need to comprehend what it’s communicating, so that you can alter the prompt parameters more effectively and thus get it to communicate more clearly and accurately.
For example, imagine people relying upon it so much in the future for their work that they begin to fear talking to other real people about their work because it will quickly become apparent to others that they don’t understand the deeper meaning of their work.
I think this is part of the problem of the world we live in right now, which is why tools like ChatGPT are kind of exacerbating the misinformation issue. Most of us don’t understand things because we misperceive the meaning of things. But we like to bolster our ego and portray ourselves as knowledgeable “experts” on the subject matter, having perhaps read a snippet from an article or two on the subject, because it helps meet our base psychological needs.
So no one wants to be ignorant but most of us are in one way or another. Until we can get over this hump and let go of this facade, we won’t be able to truly collaborate on the serious issues before us and make any serious headway. In effect, we can’t learn and grow, if we don’t accept that we don’t understand something and begin to question it to better learn about it.
So this is so much more than just about people perhaps misperceiving knowledge, this is about people misperceiving information which they use to live and navigate their daily lives. And what’s scary about this is that people in power are aware of this and using it to their advantage.
All of this raises a critical question: what can society do about this new threat? Where the technology itself can no longer be stopped, I see four paths. None are easy, nor exclusive, but all are urgent.
Fourth, we are going to need to build a new kind of AI to fight what has been unleashed. Large language models are great at generating misinformation, because they know what language sounds like but have no direct grasp on reality—and they are poor at fighting misinformation. That means we need new tools. Large language models lack mechanisms for verifying truth, because they have no way to reason, or to validate what they do. We need to find new ways to integrate them with the tools of classical AI, such as databases, and webs of knowledge and reasoning.
The ending of this article completely misses the bigger picture here though. It’s not about coding new AI to help us fight other AI, thus making us reliant and dependent upon it.
What we need to do is recode ourselves. We need to level up our consciousness, helping us to become more self-aware and more capable of dealing with complex issues. This is why helping people with their personal development using vertical development is to me the number one way to do this. It actually transforms and upgrades their perceptual interface of reality and helps them to see past their previous misperceptions as the illusions that they are, helping them to navigate the ever increasing complexities of life today in a whole new way.
There’s something I continually keep looping back to and reflecting upon within my life’s work and that’s “Why even use roleplaying games, such as MMORPGs, as a metaphor for vertical development at all?” I mean why not just explain vertical development directly without the metaphor?
The obvious answer of course is that these metaphors are what I’m most familiar with and thus will see the most. For the first forty years of my life, roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and later MMORPGs like World of Warcraft formed the foundation of my life, regardless of what I was doing professionally with regards to work. They did so because these gaming environments provided the psychological needs and values I was looking for, particularly with regards to collaboration and teamwork, but often wasn’t finding in my work environments.
But beyond that though, hopefully it’s obvious that roleplaying games and MMORPGs are going to probably be the most familiar metaphors for my target audience, that being gamers, especially younger ones. And for a metaphor to work effectively for its target audience, it has to be a familiar frame of reference for them. And right now, I think a lot of teenagers and even young adults are going through an extremely difficult time and probably using video games as a coping mechanism to meet their needs in a similar way that I did when I was a young adult.
Most important of all though is that the similarities between the elements of roleplaying games and vertical development are so uncannily similar, I felt I couldn’t ignore it because above all else, the metaphor helps package all of this complex knowledge into a simple narrative that most gamers will probably be able to understand and make sense of versus just communicating it directly in a less “digestible form.”
Although information overload is frequently discussed in the media—which help cause it—our dilemma is not that we receive too much information. We don’t receive anywhere near the quantity of data it takes to overload our neurons; our minds are capable of processing and analyzing many gigabits of data per second—a lot more data than any of today’s supercomputers can process and act on in real time. We feel flooded because we’re getting information unfiltered, unsorted, and unframed. We lack ways to select what’s important. The design task is to make information digestible, not to keep it out.
How could it possibly be that true perceptions could guide useful behavior? And fortunately we have a nice metaphor with the advent of computers and laptops and user interfaces that I think can help us to see what’s going on here.
The whole point of the desktop interface is to hide the truth and to guide your behavior.
So what you want is an interface that hides the complexity that you don’t need to know so that you can do the things you need to do… It’s not lying to you; it’s actually helping you. But it’s helping you by hiding the truth.
So evolution has done the same thing for us. It has given us perceptions that are like a user interface…
So I’ve used Evolutionary Game Theory to conclude that everything that we see around us in our perceptions is not vertical; it’s just a user interface, okay. and that means I have to go back and rethink what do
Consciousness didn’t emerge from a prior physical process of evolution. Consciousness is fundamental and so we have to rethink the whole history of the universe actually from this point of view, from The Big Bang up through evolution. We have to rethink it in terms of how to rewrite that story, consistent with all of our current science but understanding that it’s … consciousness is fundamental, not the physical universe (7:23)
And, you know, one thing that comes out of this as well is, no one has been able to give a reason for why consciousness would evolve. What is it for? And so my attitude is, it didn’t evolve. It’s the ground from which evolution occurs.
When I find articles like this, I get this immense feeling of elation because it verifies what my intuition has been trying to tell me over the past decade or more. That being that the evolution and transformation of our perception through vertical development isn’t just like a computer getting a new operating system / user interface but it’s more like a video game whereby when you level up your level of consciousness, your perceptual user interface improves in turn. And just as quoted above, this newer perceptual user interface empowers you and gives you the capacity to work with and understand complexity at a greater level.
This is the meaning behind my description of myself as “playing at a whole new level” right now in my life. In effect, when you level up your level of consciousness to a new stage of psychological development, you’re effecting playing within a whole new game and perceiving reality in a whole new way.
So no, consciousness doesn’t evolve, as noted above, but rather consciousness is what allows us to evolve in turn, gaining a greater understanding and clarity of it as we level up in life.
My quote above was written from the perspective of how to overcome the current issues within an MMO game I had previously been playing, as the developers of the game weren’t meeting the needs of the players within it.
What’s remarkable about these words though is that they also perfectly describe what happens when we undergo vertical development in life. The game you’re playing is your current mindset and worldview. The new “game” that you create within the old game is a new mindset and worldview, one that broadens your perception and space of possibilities.
And in a similar fashion, the reason for the leap between the two is often necessitated by your current needs not being met by the existing game due to the way it was created.
It’s funny. My last post has made me realize that I’m effectively being a gamemaster and world builder in trying to encapsulate my work within a narrative package that someone can understand and make sense of in turn. But the essential trick to it is laying a solid, believable foundation that I can then build off of and scaffold other aspects of this bigger picture upon it.
In a nutshell, this bigger picture is about “how play creatively leads us to our authentic selves” which embodies my Be Real Creative mantra and how I see The Future of Work as “being nobody-but-yourself.”
But to understand what this actually means on a visionary scale, you have to understand the practical psychological aspects of how we don’t see reality directly but instead are perceiving it as a constructed mental map that helps us navigate our lives. This is the essential foundation I’m talking about. If you can’t make sense of it then everything else that is scaffolded on top of it won’t make sense either. So you have to start with the foundation and work your way upwards.
In a sense, a lot of this is like wayfinding. But instead of exploring and navigating the world around us, we’re exploring a whole new world within us which in turn transforms the way we perceive our world around us.
Just stumbled across an article talking about how the end poem within the game Minecraft has been released into the public domain. I’ve never played Minecraft, so I wasn’t familiar with it. Reading the last few words of the poem though, as mentioned in the article, took me aback.
And the game was over and the player woke up from the dream. And the player began a new dream. And the player dreamed again, dreamed better. And the player was the universe. And the player was love.
You are the player.
Minecraft End Poem/Credits
Deciding to read the poem in its entirety, I was even more blown away by what I read and what Julian Gough wrote as the poem’s creator.
The core of what this poem is trying to articulate, and even the metaphor it’s using of the “player,” mirrors the same metaphor I want to use myself to explain everything I’ve learnt and still am learning about vertical development, how it relates to psychology and even potentially quantum mechanics, and how using a gaming metaphor can help us understand it in a simpler way (even though the actual workings of it are still a mystery).
The best way I could articulate this in my own words would be to say that we are living in a “simulation” but it is one of our own creation. But I emphasize the word “our” because it’s the first thing to understand about who we are as “players.”
When we make this radical shift in understanding the larger context of our reality and apply a gaming metaphor to it, suddenly we see how the soul that I am is effectively a “player” inhabiting a body as a “character” which we are playing within a simulated “game” (see the featured image at the top of this post to grasp the awareness of this).
BTW for those familiar with Plato’s Cave, this perfectly relates to it as well. Think of your “character” as your ego, a constructed sense of identity.
Now here’s where it really gets interesting. Once we lay this base foundation, we can then begin to work off of it and understand how others things in life relate to it and fit within this larger context. For example, vertical development helps us to understand how to “level up” within this “game” which improves our perceptual “interface” for it, thus empowering us to perceive it in whole new ways.
Note how this ties into the mention of the “interface” within the Minecraft poem, as well as the mention of getting to “highest level,” as well as mentioning how this is achieved within “the long dream of life” and not “the short dream of a game.” In effect, if we look at Life as a larger, role playing, infinite game, each level of consciousness within it effectively feels like it’s own “short game,” with the player’s character having different roles, needs, and values at each level.
Now once we understand this, we can also build off this in turn and understand how our immediate needs today fit into this larger context. For example, the research I’ve been doing the last two decades around The Future of Work, social innovation, and creativity, as well as the people I’ve connected with online who are working within these areas, all relate to how we are effectively striving to level up to our next level, both as individuals and collectively as a society.
All said and done, this is a glimpse of what I’ve been struggling to articulate. But as I’ve realized recently, the struggle isn’t as much in articulating it, as in having the courage to articulate something so seemingly crazy to the average person that it almost seems heretical. But then again, hasn’t society undergone a monumental, radical shift of perception like this in the past, at a time when we once believed the Earth was the centre of the universe but only to discover that it revolved around the sun instead.
Update: I’ve been reflecting on this and I think going forward I’m going to focus more on the psychology of this rather than the quantum mechanics aspect of it. The main reason is that the quantum mechanics side is pretty much bleeding edge and still a work in process. The psychology side has been more researched over the past decade, with a lot of neuroscientists (such as Beau Lotto) substantiating that we don’t see reality directly.