Reinventing Organizations


by Ken Wilber

This is a very important book, deeply significant in many ways, as much for the pioneering research, insights, guidelines, and suggestions that it makes as for the many equally important questions and issues that it raises. It is, without doubt, on the leading-edge of a type of work we are seeing more and more of at this time: namely, that concerned with the extremely profound changes in consciousness, culture, and social systems that we are seeing emerge, in increasing numbers, at this point in human (and, indeed, cosmic) evolution. Frederic Laloux’s work focuses specifically on the values, practices, and structures of organizations—large and small—that seem to be driven by this extraordinary transformation in consciousness occurring around the world. He offers a very detailed and practical account—what amounts to a handbook, really—for people who feel that the current management paradigm is deeply limiting and yearn to bring more consciousness to the way we run organizations but wonder if it is possible and how to do it.

The book is highly practical, but don’t be mistaken: it is solidly grounded in evolutionary and developmental theory. Books describing the broader transformation of consciousness, not just in organizations but in society, have appeared for at least three decades now, going back to such pioneering works as The Aquarian Conspiracy, The Turning Point, The Greening of America, and so on. But there is a major, indeed profound, difference: development studies continue to indicate, with increasing certainty, that what has generally been thought of as a single major transformation in consciousness and culture in the last four or five decades actually contains two major transformations, emerging successively, and known variously as pluralistic and integral, individualistic and autonomous, relativistic and systemic, HumanBond and Flexflow, green and teal, and order 4.5 and order 5.0, among many others. And, as developmentalists are increasingly discovering, these two transformations are simply the latest two in a long line of consciousness transformations that, slightly modifying the terms of Jean Gebser, for example, are called Archaic, Magic (Tribal), Mythic (Traditional), Rational (Modern), Pluralistic (Postmodern), and Integral (Post-postmodern).

Each of these stages of development occurred to humanity as a whole, and repeats itself in essentially basic ways in individuals today, with everybody starting at stage one and proceeding essentially up to the average level of development in his or her culture (with some individuals lower, some higher). Each of these general stages has a different set of values, needs, motivations, morals, worldviews, ego structures, societal types, cultural networks, and other fundamental characteristics. The two basic transformations that I referred to above are the last two in the series: the Pluralistic stage, emerging in the 1960s and marking the beginning of Postmodernism, and more recently (and still much more rarely) the Integral stage, newly emerging, and marking the beginning of the phase—whatever it may turn out to be—that is moving beyond Postmodernism and its basic tenets.

The profound difference I was alluding to is this: most earlier books heralding a transformation of society speak from a Postmodern perspective, and have a rather simplistic view of human evolution. Laloux’s book speaks from an Integral perspective and is grounded in a sophisticated understanding of evolutionary and developmental theory and what in Integral theory is called AQAL (all quadrants, all levels).

Postmodernism, as the name suggests, is that general phase of human development that came after, and in many cases strongly criticized, the previous general phase of Modernism, which began in the West with the Renaissance and then fully blossomed with the Enlightenment—the “Age of Reason and Revolution.” What Enlightenment’s modernity brought to the scene was a move beyond the previous mythic-literal, religious, traditional era of development—where the Bible was the one source of literal, uncontested truth; humanity had one, and only one, savior; and “no one comes to salvation save by through the Mother Church,” whose dogmas delivered truth on all subjects, artistic to normative to scientific to religious. With the Enlightenment, representative democracy replaced monarchy; freedom replaced slavery (in a 100-year period, roughly 1770-1870, every rational-industrial society on the planet outlawed slavery, the first time this had ever happened to any societal type in human history); the experimental modern sciences replaced the revelatory mythic religions (as sources of serious truth); and what Weber called “the differentiation of the value spheres” (the differentiation of art, morals, and science, so that each could pursue its own logic and its own truths outside of their fusion in the dogma of the Church; where the Churchmen refused to even look through Galileo’s telescope, researchers by the hundreds and eventually thousands began to do so, with an explosion in all of what are now referred to as the “modern sciences”—geology, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology).

So successful were the modern sciences that the other major domains of human existence and knowledge—from artistic to moral—began to be invaded and colonized by scientism (the belief that science, and science alone, can deliver any valuable truth). The “dignity of modernity” (the differentiation of the value spheres) soon collapsed into the “disaster of modernity” (the dissociation of the value spheres), resulting in what Weber also famously called “the disenchanted universe.”

Such was the state of affairs for some 300 years—a mixture of great advance and stunning discoveries in the scientific arena, accompanied with a reductionism and scientific materialism that rendered all other fields and areas as defunct, outmoded, childish, archaic. “Social Darwinism”—the notion of the survival of the fittest applied to all aspects of human existence as well—began to insidiously invade all the humanities, ethics, and politics of humans, including the two major new economic systems, capitalism and socialism. Scientific materialism—the idea that all phenomena in the universe (including consciousness, culture, and creativity) could be reduced to material atoms and their interactions, which could be known only by the scientific method—and the generally liberal politics that accompanied such beliefs, set the stage for the next three centuries.

Until the 1960s, when not only the reign of scientific materialism was challenged (as being itself largely a cultural construction, not some deified access to universal truths), but also all of the remaining indignities of the Mythic-religious era (some of which were addressed by Modernism, and some of which were exacerbated by it)—indignities such as, overall, the oppression of women and other minorities, the toxic despoliation of nature and the environment, the lack of evenly applied civil rights, the general reign of materialism itself—all were aggressively attacked, and attempted to be remedied, by Postmodernism. What developmentalists have discovered about this new emergence is that it was driven, in large measure, by the emergence of a new and more developed stage of human unfolding (variously referred to as pluralistic, individualistic, relativistic, postmodern). This is not to say that everything Postmodernism pronounced was therefore true, only that it was based on a mode of thinking that was more complex, more sophisticated, more inclusive, and included more perspectives than the typical formal rational structure of the Modern era (and the Modern stage in today’s individual development).

This new, more inclusive stage of development drove the first wave of books maintaining that “there’s-a-great-new-paradigm-and-major-consciousness-transformation” now underway. These books, which began to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s, and a few of which I already named, usually had a very conspicuous diagram with two columns—one was the “Old Paradigm,” which was “analytic-divisive,” “Newtonian-Cartesian,” “abstract-intellectual,” “fragmented,” “masculine,” and which was the cause of literally all of humanities’ problems, from nuclear war to tooth decay, and then another column, the “New Paradigm,” which was “organic,” “holistic,” “systemic,” “inclusive,” and “feminine,” and which was the source of a radical salvation and paradisiacal freedom from virtually all of humanity’s ills. What’s more, these two choices—old paradigm and new paradigm—were the only basic choices humanity had. Its earlier stages (e.g., tribal) were simply earlier versions of the new paradigm, which was repressed and destroyed by the aggressive Modern version of the old paradigm.

In large measure, these books were simply boomer writers documenting the transformation that they had just been a part of—namely, where, to the remains of the Magic, Mythic, and Rational paradigms still in existence to varying degrees, was added the possibility of the newly emergent Post-Rational or Postmodern paradigm, to which the boomers were the first major generation to have access (today in Western cultures, the Pluralistic/Postmodern stage makes up around 20 percent of the population, with 30 to 40 percent still Modern/Rational, 40 to 50 percent Mythic, and 10 percent Magic).

All of these early books had several things in common. By dividing humanity’s choices into just two major ones—old and new paradigms—they blamed all of humanity’s ills on nothing but Modernity and the Enlightenment paradigm, severely distorting the actual situation, which is that a majority of the really nasty cultural problems faced by humanity are the result of the Mythic-literal structure—from ethnocentric “chosen peoples,” to female oppression, to slavery, to most warfare, to environmental destruction. In some cases, Modern technology was added to those Mythic motivations, thus making them more deadly (e.g., Auschwitz—which was not the product of Modern worldcentric morals, which treat all people fairly, regardless of race, color, sex, or creed, but Mythic ethnocentrism, which believes in out-groups of infidels and in-groups of “chosen peoples,” and in which infidels, lacking souls, can be murdered or killed, and jihad in one form or another—from missionary converting to outright crusades—is the order of the day). In many cases, Modernity was in the process of ending these Mythic ethnocentric insults (such as slavery, and using a specific Modern attitude of tolerance, a previously quite rare value), but Postmodernity blamed Modernity (and rational Enlightenment values) for all of it, thus, in many cases, making matters considerably worse.

But in other ways, Postmodernity, with its own higher perspectives, brought not only advances in the sciences, but gave equal emphasis to virtually all other disciplines as well (sometimes going overboard, and claiming that no truth at all was possible, only various interpretations, so of course all disciplines should be included). And in its drives for civil rights and environmentalism and gay/lesbian rights and rights for the disabled, the higher moral fabric at least possible with a higher stage of development came clearly to the foreground. It was these advances that all the “new paradigm” books were celebrating. Who can blame them for getting carried away, and assuming the whole world was headed into this Pluralistic phase, this “new paradigm,” instead of seeing that that phase was simply the fourth or fifth major transformation in human history and would simply take its place alongside the others, not completely replace them? It still shared many characteristics with its predecessors—all of which, together, Maslow would say were driven by “deficiency needs” and Clare Graves’ followers would call “first tier.”

But developmentalists of the time began noticing something initially perplexing, and then outright astonishing: among those that developed to the Postmodern/Pluralistic stage, a small percentage (two or three percent) began to show characteristics that were literally unprecedented in human history. Graves called the emergence of this even newer level “a monumental leap in meaning,” and Maslow referred to it as the emergence of “Being values.” Where all the previous stages (Magic, Mythic, Rational, and Pluralistic) had operated out of a sense of lack, scarcity, and deficiency, this new level—which various researchers began calling “integrated,” “integral,” “autonomous,” “second tier,” “inclusive,” “systemic”—acted out of a sense of radical abundance, as if it were overflowing with goodness, truth, and beauty. It was as if somebody put a billion dollars in its psychological account, and all it wanted to do was share it, so full it was.

And there was something else about it, too. Where all the first-tier stages felt that their truth and values were the only real truth and values in existence—all the others were mistaken, wrong, infantile, or just goofy—this new Integral stage somehow intuited that all of the previous value structures were true and important in their own ways, that all of them had something to offer, that all of them were “true but partial.” And thus, as much as the Postmodern/Pluralistic stage wanted to see itself as being “all-inclusive,” it still essentially abhorred Rational and Mythic values; but the Integral stage actually did include them, or embrace them, or make room for them in its overall worldview. It was the emergence, for the first time in history, of a truly inclusive and non-marginalizing level of human consciousness. And this, indeed, would change everything.

Slowly, but with increasing speed, a whole second generation of “new paradigm” books began to emerge. These included such early pioneers as James Mark Baldwin and Jean Gebser, but then, more recently, books by philosophers, psychologists, and theologians such as Jürgen Habermas, Abe Maslow, Bede Griffiths, Wayne Teasdale, Allan Combs, and my own work, to barely scratch the surface. Unlike the first wave of new paradigm books, this second wave had a much more sophisticated psychological component, including at least four or five stages of development, sometimes nine or 10 (but certainly more than two, the “old” and “new paradigm,” as the earlier wave had it); and—in addition to those developmental levels, a series of developmental lines, or multiple intelligences that moved through those levels (such as cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, spiritual intelligence, and so on). They also found room for an integration of science and spirituality—not reducing one to the other (nor seeing all spirituality as explainable by quantum mechanics or brain neuroplasticity; nor seeing all science as reducible to a mystical ground; but both science and spirituality being irreducible domains of major importance). And they all saw the first wave of “new paradigm” books as describing essentially the Postmodern/Pluralistic stage, and not a genuine Integral/Systemic stage.

Frederic Laloux’s book belongs clearly to this second wave of books. But that is not its major claim to significance. We have been seeing, for the last decade or two, books increasingly focusing on business and some sort of “new paradigm” (mostly still first-wave books, but increasingly some second-wave books as well). But more than any other book that I am aware of, Laloux’s work covers all four quadrants (to be explained later), at least five levels of consciousness and culture, several multiple lines or intelligences, and various types of organizational structures, moving from Magic to Mythic to Rational to Pluralistic to Integral—and, of course, focusing on the last and most recent emergent, that of the Integral stage, and a sophisticated and fairly detailed description of the business organizations that seem built around Integral-level characteristics, including individual worldviews, cultural values, individual and collective behavior, and social structures, processes, and practices. This makes it a truly pioneering work.

A brief explanation of “quadrants, levels, and lines” is perhaps in order. As Laloux indicates, these technical aspects are taken from my own Integral Theory, which, as the result of a cross-cultural search through hundreds of premodern, modern, and postmodern cultures and the various maps of human consciousness and culture that they have offered, has come up with what might be thought of as a “Comprehensive Map” of human makeup, which was arrived at by putting all of the known maps together on the table, and then using each one to fill in any gaps in the others, resulting in a comprehensive map that is genuinely inclusive of the basic dimensions, levels, and lines that are the major potentials of all humans. There are five basic dimensions in this Framework—quadrants, levels of development, lines of development, states of consciousness, and types.

Quadrants refer to four major perspectives through which any phenomenon can be looked at: the interior and the exterior in the individual and the collective. These can introductorily be indicated by the pronouns often used to describe them: the interior of the individual is an “I” space (and includes all the subjective thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, visions, and experiences that you might have as you introspect); the interior of a collective is a “we” space (or the intersubjective shared values, semantics, norms, ethics, and understandings that any group has—its “cultures” and “sub-cultures”); the exterior of an individual is an “it” space (and includes all the “objective” or “scientific” facts and data about your individual organism—one limbic system, two lungs, two kidneys, one heart, this much dopamine, this much serotonin, this much glucose, and so on—and includes not only “objective” ingredients but behaviors); and the exterior of a collective, which is an “its” space (and includes all the interobjective systems, processes, syntax, rules, external relationships, techno-economic modes, ecological systems, social practices, and so on).

Not only all human beings, but all their activities, disciplines, and organizations can be looked at through this four-quadrant lens, and the results are always illuminating. According to Integral Theory, any comprehensive account of anything requires a look at all of these perspectives—the first-person (“I”), second-person (“you” and “we”), and third-person (“it” and “its”) perspectives. Most human disciplines acknowledge only one or two of these quadrants and either ignore or deny any real existence to the others. Thus, in consciousness studies, for example, the field is fairly evenly divided between those who believe consciousness is solely the product of Upper-Right or objective “it” processes (namely, the human brain and its activities); while the other half of the field believes consciousness itself (the Upper-Left or subjective “I” space) is primary, and all objects (such as the brain) arise in that consciousness field. Integral Theory maintains that both of those views are right; that is, both of those quadrants (and the other two quadrants) all arise together, simultaneously, and mutually influence each other as correlative aspects of the Whole. Trying to reduce all of the quadrants to one quadrant is “quadrant absolutism,” a wretched form of reductionism that obscures much more than it clarifies; while seeing all of the quadrants mutually arise and “tetra-evolve” sheds enormous light on perpetually puzzling problems (from the body/mind problem to the relation of science and spirituality to the mechanism of evolution itself).

Laloux carefully includes all four quadrants and a detailed description of each as it appears in different organizational types, focusing, again, on the pioneering or Integral stage. As he puts it, “The four-quadrant model shows how deeply mindsets [Upper-Left or “I”], culture [Lower-Left or “we”], behaviors [Upper-Right or “it”], and systems [Lower-Right or “its”] are intertwined. A change in any one dimension will ripple through all the others.” He goes on to point out that Mythic and Modern theories of organization focus on “hard” exterior facts (the two Right-hand quadrants), and the Postmodern introduced the interiors of mindsets and culture (the two Left-hand quadrants)—while often going overboard, as Postmodernism in general did, and claimed that only culture was important. Only Integral organizations deliberately and consciously include all four quadrants (as Laloux’s book itself is one of the very few to include all four quadrants in its research). Many Integral writers, while fully aware of all the quadrants, focus on the Left-hand quadrants of levels of consciousness and worldviews, and leave out the Right-hand quadrants of behaviors, processes, and practices necessary to help the emergence of Integral Left-hand dimensions. Laloux points out, for example, that Integral organizational culture (Lower-Left “we”) is enacted particularly by Integral role-modeling from those in the organization with moral authority (from the Upper quadrant), and, from the Lower-Right or “its” quadrant, supportive structures, processes, and practices.

As for levels and lines, Laloux states that “In their exploration, [many researchers] found consistently that humanity evolves in stages. Our knowledge about the stages of human development is now extremely robust. Two thinkers in particular—Ken Wilber and Jenny Wade—have done remarkable work comparing and contrasting all the major stage models, and have discovered strong convergence. … The way I portray the stages borrows mostly from Wade’s and Wilber’s meta-analysis, touching briefly upon different facets of every stage—the worldview, the needs, the cognitive development, the moral development.”

Laloux rightly invites us to be extremely careful what we mean by “a stage.” As Howard Gardner made popular, and virtually every developmentalist agrees, there is not just one line of development with its stages or levels, but multiple lines or multiple intelligences, and each of those lines are quite different, with different characteristics and different stage structures. But what’s so interesting is that although the various lines are quite different, they all develop through the same basic levels of consciousness. For the moment, let’s simply number the levels; or, as Integral Theory often does, you can give them a color name (for example, red, orange, or green). But let’s say that there are, in this example, seven major developmental levels through which move, say, a dozen different developmental lines (cognitive, emotional, moral, values, needs, and spirituality, among others). Each line—say cognitive, moral, emotional—evolves through each of the levels, so we can talk about red cognition, red morals, red values (red being level 3). But somebody at orange (level 5) cognition can also be at a red (level 3) conventional moral development. So talking about levels without lines is dangerous.

All of the multiple intelligences in humans develop through actualization hierarchies. Cognition, for example, moves from sensorimotor intelligence, to images, then symbols, then concepts, then schema, then rules, then meta-rules, then systemic networks. This is a point worth emphasizing, because Laloux’s book shows that organizations operating at the Integral or teal stage no longer work with dominator hierarchies, the boss-subordinate relationships that are pervasive in organizations today. But the absence of dominator hierarchy is not the same thing as the absence of any hierarchy. Even if we look at Graves’ work, for example, one of the major defining characteristics of Integral or teal is the return of nested hierarchies, after their almost complete removal at green Postmodern pluralism. (The Postmodernists utterly fail to distinguish between dominator hierarchies, which are indeed nasty, and actualization hierarchies, which are the primary form of natural growth, development, and evolution in the world—atoms to molecules to cells to organisms, for example. Postmodernists toss out all hierarchies as being sheer evil. This is a characteristic of the egalitarian Pluralistic stage and is one of its shadow sides.)

But with the emergence of the teal altitude, hierarchies are all over the place—they’re literally everywhere. As Elliott Jacques’ works have empirically demonstrated, the way most organizations are structured, those at the lower levels of this hierarchy usually work on the floor or assembly line; those at the intermediate levels mostly work middle management; and those at the upper levels work upper management (including CEO, CFO, COO). What these newer organizations do is move all of those levels—the entire hierarchy itself—into teams of usually 10 to 15 people. Any person, in any team, can make literally any decision for the company—and, in fact, virtually all the major decisions in the organizations are made by team members—including sales, marketing, hiring and recruitment, research and development, salary decisions, dismissals, HR functions, equipment purchases, community relations, and so on. This makes each team, and each person in the team, much more Integral—they can operate on any level in the hierarchy they are capable of, as long as they consult with those who will be affected by the decision (although they don’t have to follow the advice), where previously they had been constrained by their place in the pyramid. One of the great findings of Laloux’s work is that actualization hierarchies can flourish when dominator hierarchies are removed. A company of 500 individuals thus has, not one but 500 CEO, any one of whom might have a breakthrough idea and be able to implement it, a true self-management move that is one of the major reasons for the astonishing success of so many of these organizations. What happens to middle and much of upper management? Mostly, it doesn’t exist. Those hierarchies have been relocated.

This work is, as I said, one of the most important books in the entire second wave of “new paradigm” books. As Laloux is the first to admit, we don’t know if all the characteristics, processes, and practices that he describes will end up actually describing the structure and form that teal organizations will take. But this research deserves to be taken seriously by every Integral, indeed every conventional, student of organizations and organizational development. In terms of AQAL (all-quadrant, all-level) sophistication, there is simply nothing like it out there. My congratulations to Frederic Laloux on a spectacular treatise. May it help many readers gather inspiration to create businesses, schools, hospitals, or nonprofits inspired by this emerging new wave of consciousness that is starting to transform the world.

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“This is a very important book, deeply significant in many ways, for the pioneering research, insights, guidelines, and suggestions that it makes, as well as for the many equally important questions and issues that it raises. This is truly pioneering work.” -Ken Wilber, from the Foreword

“People have long asked me what a ‘5th order,’ or ‘high stage’ organization would look like in the flesh. Frederic Laloux’s richly researched book is the closest anyone has come, as yet, to answering this question. This is a stimulating and inspiring read!” –Robert Kegan, Harvard University’s Meehan Professor of Adult Learning, and author of In Over Our Heads

“A book like Reinventing Organizations only comes along once in a decade. Sweeping and brilliant in scope, it is the Good To Great for a more enlightened age. What it reveals about the organizational model of the future is exhilarating and deeply hopeful.” -Norman Wolfe, Author of The Living Organization

“Ground-breaker! Game-changer! Brilliant! The most exciting book I’ve read in years on organization design and leadership models. Sustainability? Employee engagement? Innovation? This elegant, parsimonious way of working realizes those aspirations effortlessly while exceeding traditional bottom-line measures and infusing heart and spirit into work without gimmicks. Like a Zen practice, learning to do less takes discipline, and this book shows how letting go gives back–to you, your organization, your stakeholders, and the world.” –Jenny Wade, Author of Changes of Mind

“Frederic Laloux has done business people and professionals everywhere a signal service. He has discovered a better future for organizations by describing, in useful detail, the unusual best practices of today.” -Bill Torbert, Author of Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership

“A comprehensive, highly practical account of the emergent worldview in business. Everything you need to know about building a new paradigm organization!” -Richard Barrett, Chairman and Founder of the Barrett Values Centre

“Frederic Laloux’s ‘Teal Organization’ is as close a model to what I call a ‘conscious organization’ as I have seen – an organization and a culture that not only thrives in the unfolding paradigm of collective thought but helps in the unfolding. It could serve as the mid-wife for a new worldview that will allow humankind to consciously evolve to a level where the world works for everyone.” -John Renesch, futurist, author of The Great Growing Up

“As the rate of change escalates exponentially, the old ways of organizing and educating, which were designed for efficiency and repetition, are dying. Frederic Laloux is one of the few management leaders exploring what comes next. It’s deeply different.” -Bill Drayton,
Founder, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public



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19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful

Viewing these makes it easy to see evolutionary development in daily life.  Cecile

BY  on  • ( 40 )

My goal is for all of us to be happy, successful and grow together.. you can find more much daily motivational material like this here:

My InstaGram page: @DameLuthas

Twitter: @DameLuthas

Enjoy the list below ;-)

You have to do the hard things.

  • You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  • You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  • You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  • You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  • You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  • You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  • You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  • You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  • You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  • You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  • You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  • You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts.”
  • You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  • You have to try and fail and try again.
  • You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  • You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  • You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  • You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  • You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.

Source Article:

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The Mind Unleashed: Uncover Your True Potential

October 4, 2012 By: Rebecca Gladding, M.D., GuestWaking Times

I realized today that in all my posts regarding the brain and how to sculpt it with mindfulness, I’ve never actually explained how and why meditation works. Specifically, the science behind how your brain changes the longer you meditate. I think this is important for many reasons, but one of the most salient is that this information serves as a great motivator to keep up a daily practice (or start one).

I’m sure you’ve heard people extol the virtues of meditation. You may be skeptical of the claims that it helps with all aspects of life. But, the truth is, it does. Sitting every day, for at least 15-30 minutes, makes a huge difference in how you approach life, how personally you take things and how you interact with others. It enhances compassion, allows you to see things more clearly (including yourself) and creates a sense of calm and centeredness that is indescribable. There really is no substitute.

For those of you who are curious as to how meditation changes the brain, this is for you. Although this may be slightly technical, bear with me because it’s really interesting. The brain, and how we are able to mold it, is fascinating and nothing short of amazing. Here are the brain areas you need to know:

  • Lateral prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a more rational, logical and balanced perspective. In the book, we call it the Assessment Center. It is involved in modulating emotional responses (originating from the fear center or other parts of the brain), overriding automatic behaviors/habits and decreasing the brain’s tendency to take things personally (by modulating the Me Center of the brain, see below).
  • Medial prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that constantly references back to you, your perspective and experiences. Many people call this the “Me Center” of the brain because it processes information related to you, including when you are daydreaming, thinking about the future, reflecting on yourself, engaging in social interactions, inferring other people’s state of mind or feeling empathy for others. We call it the Self-Referencing Center.

What’s interesting about the Medial PreFrontal Cortex (mPFC) is that it actually has two sections:

  • Ventromedial medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) – involved in processing information related to you and people that you view as similar to you. This is the part of the brain that can cause you to end up taking things too personally, which is why we referred to it as the unhelpful aspect of the Self-Referencing Center in the book. (In reality, this brain area has many important and helpful functions – since we were focusing on overcoming anxiety, depression and habits you want to change, we referred to it as unhelpful because it often causes increases in rumination/worry and exacerbates anxious or depressive thoughts/states/feelings.)
  • Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex (dmPFC) – involved in processing information related to people who you perceive as being dissimilar from you. This very important part of the brain is involved in feeling empathy (especially for people who we perceive of as not being like us) and maintaining social connections.
  • Insula: the part of the brain that monitors bodily sensations and is involved in experiencing “gut-level” feelings. Along with other brain areas, it helps “guide” how strongly you will respond to what you sense in your body (i.e., is this sensation something dangerous or benign?). It is also heavily involved in experiencing/feeling empathy.
  • Amygdala: the alarm system of the brain, what most refer to as the “Fear Center.” It’s a part of the brain that is responsible for many of our initial emotional responses and reactions, including the “fight-or-flight” response. (Along with the Insula, this is what we referred to as the Uh Oh Center.)

The Brain Without Meditation – Stuck on Me

If you were to look at people’s brains before they began a meditation practice, you would likely see strong neural connections within the Me Center and between the Me Center and the bodily sensation/fear centers of the brain. This means that whenever you feel anxious, scared or have a sensation in your body (e.g., a tingling, pain, itching, whatever), you are far more likely to assume that there is a problem (related to you or your safety). This is precisely because the Me Center is processing the bulk of the information. What’s more, this over-reliance on the Me Center explains how it is that we often get stuck in repeating loops of thought about our life, mistakes we made, how people feel about us, our bodies (e.g., “I’ve had this pain before, does this mean something serious is going on?) and so on.

Why is the Me Center allowed to process information this way, essentially unabated? The reason this happens, in part, is because the Assessment Center’s connection to the Me Center is relatively weak. If the Assessment Center was working at a higher capacity, it would modulate the excessive activity of the vmPFC (the part that takes things personally) and enhance the activity of the dmPFC (the part involved in understanding other’s thoughts and feelings). This would lead us to take in all the relevant information, discard erroneous data (that the Me Center might want to focus on exclusively) and view whatever is happening from a more balanced perspective – essentially decreasing the overthinking, ruminating and worrying that the Me Center is famous for promulgating. One helpful way to think of the Assessment Center is as a sort of “brake” for the unhelpful parts of the Me Center.

The Brain on Meditation – I Can See Clearly Now

In contrast, if you meditate on a regular basis, several positive things happen. First, the strong, tightly held connection between the Me Center (specifically the unhelpful vmPFC) and the bodily sensation/fear centers begins to break down. As this connection withers, you will no longer assume that a bodily sensation or momentary feeling of fear means something is wrong with you or that you are the problem! This explains, in part, why anxiety decreases the more you meditate – it’s because the neural paths that link those upsetting sensations to the Me Center are decreasing. Said another way, your ability to ignore sensations of anxiety is enhanced as you begin to break that connection between the unhelpful parts of the Me Center and the bodily sensation/fear centers. As a result, you are more readily able to see those sensations for what they are and not respond as strongly to them (thanks to your strengthened Assessment Center).

Second, a heftier, healthier connection forms between the Assessment Center and bodily sensation/fear centers. This means that when you experience a bodily sensation or something potentially dangerous or upsetting, you are able to look at it from a more rational perspective (rather than automatically reacting and assuming it has something to do with you). For example, when you experience pain, rather than becoming anxious and assuming it means something is wrong with you, you can watch the pain rise and fall without becoming ensnared in a story about what it might mean.

Finally, an added bonus of meditating is that the connection between the helpful aspects of the Me Center (i.e. dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) – the part involved in processing information related to people we perceive as being not like us – and the bodily sensation center – involved in empathy – becomes stronger. This healthy connection enhances your capacity to understand where another person is coming from, especially those who you cannot intuitively understand because you think or perceive things differently from them (i.e., dissimilar others). This increased connection explains why meditation enhances empathy – it helps us use the part of the brain that infers other people’s states of mind, their motivations, desires, dreams and so on, while simultaneously activating the part of the brain involved in the actual experience of empathy (insula). The end result is that we are more able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes (especially those not like us), thereby increasing our ability to feel empathy and compassion for everyone.

Daily Practice is Important

Essentially, the science “proves” what we know to be true from the actual experience of meditating. What the data demonstrate is that meditation facilitates strengthening the Assessment Center, weakening the unhelpful aspects of the Me Center (that can cause you to take things personally), strengthening the helpful parts of the Me Center (involved with empathy and understanding others) and changing the connections to/from the bodily sensation/fear centers such that you experience sensations in a less reactive, more balanced and holistic way. In a very real way, you literally are changing your brain for the better when you meditate.

In the end, this means that you are able to see yourself and everyone around you from a clearer perspective, while simultaneously being more present, compassionate and empathetic with people no matter the situation. With time and practice, people do truly become calmer, have a greater capacity for empathy and find they tend to respond in a more balanced way to things, people or events in their lives.

However, to maintain your gains, you have to keep meditating. Why? Because the brain can very easily revert back to its old ways if you are not vigilant (I’m referencing the idea of neuroplasticity here). This means you have to keep meditating to ensure that the new neural pathways you worked so hard to form stay strong.

To me, this amazing brain science and the very real rewards gained from meditation combine to form a compelling argument for developing and/or maintaining a daily practice. It definitely motivates me on those days I don’t “feel” like sitting. So, try to remind yourself that meditating every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes, will keep those newly formed connections strong and those unhelpful ones of the past at bay.

Addendum: For those wanting to start a meditation practice or who might be experiencing emotional issues, memories, etc. when meditating, please seek out an experienced meditation teacher. I have received some comments from people stating they do not believe meditation works (which is likely true for some people) or that it could be harmful if done incorrectly. Obviously, meditation has been very positive for me, but I have always worked with a meditation teacher or mentor and I would suggest you do the same, as a teacher can help you figure out what is right for you and guide you through any difficulties you may be having.

About the Author

Rebecca Gladding, M.D., is an author of the book, You Are Not Your Brain, co-written with Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. Dr. Gladding served as a clinical instructor and attending psychiatrist at UCLA and was featured in A&E’s critically acclaimed series Obsessed. She is an expert in anxiety, depression, mindfulness and the Four Steps. More of Dr. Gladding’s excellent articles can be read on her blog Use Your Mind to Change Your Brain on


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Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid

Cheryl Conner, Contributor   Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker and writer

For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability asForbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker,  that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially aboutother people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?

Cheryl Snapp Conner is a frequent speaker and author on reputation and thought leadership topics. You can subscribe to her team’s bi-weekly newsletter, The Snappington Post.

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What Then Can I Do? Ten Ways to Democratize the Economy

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 10:01By Gar Alperovitz and Keane Bhatt, Truthout | Op-Ed
The richest 400 Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 180 million taken together. The political system is in deadlock. Social and economic pain continue to grow. Environmental devastation and global warming present growing challenges. Is there any path toward a more democratic, equal and ecologically sustainable society? What can one person do?
In fact, there is a great deal one person working with others can do. Experiments across the country already focus on concrete actions that point toward a larger vision of long-term systemic change – especially the development of alternative economic institutions. Practical problem-solving activities on Main Streets across the country have begun to lay down the elements and principles of what might one day become the direction of a new system – one centered around building egalitarian wealth, nurturing democracy and community life, avoiding climate catastrophe and fostering liberty through greater economic security and free time.
Margaret Mead famously observed: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Some of the ten steps described below may be too big for one person to take on in isolation, but many are exactly the right size for a small and thoughtful group committed to building a new economy, restoring democracy and displacing corporate power.
As the history of the civil rights movement, women’s movement, and gay-liberation movement ought to remind us, it’s precisely actions of this sort at the local level that have triggered the seismic shifts of progressive change in American history.
1. Democratize Your Money!
Put your money in a credit union – then participate in its governance.
Credit unions are commonplace financial institutions that typically facilitate loans for everyday purchases like homes and cars. But behind their unexciting veneer lie transformative possibilities. Unlike the large commercial and investment banks responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, credit unions are nonprofit cooperatives that are member-owned and controlled. These democratized, one-person-one-vote banks already involve more than 95 million Americans as participant-owners. They lend to minorities and low- and moderate-income families to a far greater extent than do commercial banks. Taken together, they hold roughly $1 trillion of assets – the equivalent of one of the largest US banks, knocking Goldman Sachs out of the top five.
Credit unions’ direction of capital to community-benefiting endeavors has a long lineage. The Bronx’s Bethex Federal Credit Union, founded in 1970 by Joy Cousminer and the “welfare mothers” in her adult education class, is a good example: it now serves more than 9,000 members, has $16 million of deposits and continues to empower local residents with a wide range of services and loans for students and businesses.
Hope Credit Union of Jackson, Mississippi, has generated more than $1.7 billion of financing for more than 130,000 individuals in the Delta region. Half of its loans go to minorities and women. More than a third of its members were unbanked before joining. Hope’s CEO explicitly states that one of the credit union’s purposes is to ensure that “no one is victimized by the predatory lenders that prey on vulnerable, minority, low-income and elderly residents.” Alternatives Federal Credit Union, in Ithaca, New York, lends to cooperatives, worker-owned enterprises, small businesses and community groups and offers microloans to self-employed residents.
While many older credit unions have become quite cautious, it is also clear that collective efforts to direct capital in their communities can work. In Washington, for example, activists from the small town of Vashon formed an organizing committee that was able to get three seats on the board of the Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) then worked to open a branch for Vashon. PSCCU was “willing to cede substantial control in exchange for new members and deposits,” wrote the LA Times. And, according to the activists, the credit union was “already doing the most aggressive energy conservation lending in the state,” including home weatherizations – a good fit for their vision for a coal-free Vashon. PSCCU supported the idea of nonprofit groups using their own savings to guarantee microlending on community projects. And in its first year, the Vashon branch enrolled 16 percent of the population, with local deposits totaling almost $20 million.
These examples point to an opportunity for activists to build a nationwide, democratic, localized, nonprofit alternative to corporate finance – and, where possible, begin to deprive it of the wealth that has become a stranglehold over our political system.
If you don’t already have your money in a credit union, move it! And if your local credit union isn’t living up to its potential as a democratically owned, community-based financial institution, get involved and organize members to take it in a new direction!
2. Seize the Moment: Time For Worker Ownership!
Help build a worker co-op or encourage interested businesses to transition to employee ownership and adopt social and environmental standards as part of their missions.
Worker-owned co-ops bring democracy and democratic ownership into the economy and into community life. Several older and newer co-ops show what can be done.Equal Exchange’s 100-plus worker-owners, for instance, generate $50 million of annual sales while pursuing an innovative agenda to make international trade in coffee and other food products more ethical. The WAGES-incubated green housecleaning worker cooperatives in the Bay Area provide critical job security for the immigrant women who work in and own them. In Chicago, the New Era Windows Cooperative is saving the jobs of workers who famously occupied their factory on Goose Island. And the United Steelworkers, working with the Mondragón Corporation, has proposed a nationwide effort to create unionized worker-owned co-ops that is beginning to bear fruit in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
The most common form of worker ownership is the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Although there have been difficulties with some ESOPs, research has shown that workers in ESOPs are much less likely to be laid off than those who are not. Furthermore, ESOPs tend to be more profitable, more productive and more efficient – especially with training in self-management – than comparable firms.
An ESOP works like this: a company sets up a trust on behalf of the employees, into which it directs a portion of its profits. The trust uses that money to buy the owners’ shares for the workers, either all at once or over time. Currently, there are 10,000 ESOP firms successfully operating in virtually every sector – 3 million more individuals are now worker-owners of their own businesses than are members of unions in the private sector.
In the next decade, millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. And if they sell more than 30 percent of the company to the employees, the owner may defer capital gains taxes (provided that the proceeds are invested in US companies). This incentive could have an enormous impact on America’s business landscape. Advocacy for such conversions could be a powerful strategy for building more stable, vibrant worker-owned businesses and economies.
Consider the case of Fort Collins, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co., America’s eighth-largest brewery. When chief executive and co-founder Kim Jordan sold the enterprise to its more than 400 employees in 2012, she considered the conversion to 100 percent worker ownership a rare opportunity to “have multigenerational impact.” Soon afterward, the worker-owners met to discuss cutting into the company’s near-term profits to power their entire facility with wind energy. “Within a minute or so, we had decided as a group to become the world’s largest single user of wind power,” said Jeff Lebesch, a co-founder.
New Belgium is committed to open-book management, whereby all employee-owners can review finances and provide feedback. It also became certified as a B Corp, which enshrines in the firm’s bylaws both social and environmental goals as well as profits.
Conversions to worker cooperatives also confer tax benefits to business owners who decide to sell to their employees. Among employee-owned institutions, co-ops allow for the most democracy. Namasté Solar in Boulder, Colorado – a $15 million-plus-a-year solar energy services firm – converted to an employee-owned cooperative at thebeginning of 2011. Its workers own the firm equally and manage its operations on a one-vote-per-person basis. Having also certified itself as a B Corp, Namasté’s missionconsists of creating “holistic wealth for ourselves and our community.” Its worker-owners in their mission statement declare, “We choose co-ownership over hierarchy, democratic decision-making over centralized leadership, sustainable growth over aggressive expansion, and collaboration over competition.” They benefit from transparency of all company information, a 4-to-1 cap on the ratio of highest-to-lowest pay, and six weeks of paid vacation.
If you are in a union, you can encourage your union to promote worker ownership, as some already have done. Within the world of ESOPs and co-ops, the potential for organized labor should not be underestimated.
The Massachusetts-based architectural lighting manufacturer Litecontrol is a 100-percent worker-owned ESOP, and 60 percent of its workforce is unionized through the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Industrial brush manufacturer and supplier Maryland Brush Company, also totally employee-owned, allows United Steelworkers union representatives three seats on its board of directors – the same number of seats as management. Recology of San Francisco, a fully worker-owned business, is the largest ESOP in the solid waste industry and is 80 percent unionized through the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) of the Bronx, New York, is the country’s largest worker co-op (and certified B Corp), consisting of more than 2,000 mainly Latina and black home health care providers. CHCA collaborated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize its workforce, with the broader aim of raising the wages of home-care workers throughout the industry (thereby raising the payroll costs of its competitors to measure up to CHCA’s higher wages). The United Steelworkers proposal for “union co-ops,” which combine principles of worker ownership and labor solidarity, also represents a major step forward in assembling the building blocks of a new economy.
Worker-owned companies deserve your support; the more commonplace they become, the easier they become to launch. Help stimulate the development of worker-owned co-ops and work to encourage retiring owners to sell their companies to their employees.
3. Take Back Local Government: Demand Participatory Budgeting!
Organize your community so that local government spending is determined by inclusive neighborhood deliberations on key priorities.
Participatory budgeting, pioneered in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in 1989, is a bottom-up process through which community members collectively decide how their local tax money is spent. While Porto Alegre’s initiative involved up to 50,000 people and 20 percent of the city’s annual budget, participatory budgeting (PB) has been adapted to the differing contexts of 1,500 other municipalities worldwide, from small towns in Europe and Africa to bustling metropolises like Buenos Aires and São Paulo.
And PB has now arrived in the United States. In 2009, committed organizers partnered with Chicago Alderman Joe Moore to institute the country’s first PB initiative. Following the example of other cities around the world, Chicago residents brainstormed ideas, developed them into proposals with the help of volunteer delegates, voted on the various proposals, and were then able to direct more than $1 million of the ward’s discretionary funds toward their top projects. In New York City, communities and local government officials have followed suit, committing $10 million in taxpayer money to the process. In 2012, the City Council of Vallejo, California, instituted the first citywide process of this kind in the country.
You too can help propel this empowering approach and reconnect politics to concrete human needs like housing, schools, infrastructure and jobs. As the Participatory Budgeting Project argues, the process contributes to more robust self-governance, greater transparency, better-informed citizens, more equitable access to decision making and spending, and real community building in the neighborhood – a central organizing unit of democratic life. And as such efforts grow, the idea of democratic, larger-scale planning undoubtedly will become less peculiar and remote and could evolve over time to manage mass transit, high-speed rail and regional economic development – and beyond.
Lawmakers who have embraced participatory budgeting have found it to be enormously popular with their constituents across the U.S. and the world, so educate and encourage your city council member to take the plunge into direct democracy!
4. Push Local Anchors to do Their Part!
Make nonprofit institutions like universities and hospitals use their resources to fight poverty, unemployment, and global warming.
Hospitals and universities are increasingly recognized as important “anchor institutions” in their local communities. Unlike other large economic actors, they are geographically tethered to their localities. Their missions, invested capital, nonprofit status or public ownership, and other relationships contribute to their permanence. By encouraging anchors to play a responsible role in their local communities, activists often can influence and partner with them to solve social, economic, environmental and health issues.
Higher education as a sector employs a workforce of nearly 4 million, enrolls 21 million students, retains more than $400 billion of assets, and contributes $460 billion of annual activity to the US economy. Universities, spurred by student involvement, can leverage that economic power to go far beyond narrow academic missions. Over the years, university students have won remarkable victories from their institutions – divestment from apartheid South Africa and the cancellation of contracts with retailers engaged in sweatshop production, for example – but there is much more work to be done to push for proactive and positive investment of assets, as organizations like the Responsible Endowments Coalition have argued. There are also opportunities to work with groups like in the effort to push for fossil fuel divestment on campuses across the country. In such campaigns it’s essential to have a clear idea of where university endowments and other resources should be directed; namely, to investments that support not only green energy but healthy local economies.
If you are a student or a member of the surrounding community, you can help organize campaigns to deploy university assets toward local job and wealth creation, education, housing and the provision of healthy food for low-income residents in the area. Promising examples of university engagement are emerging throughout the country. Community investment of university endowments is a crucial field for activist involvement. Schools like Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, for instance, have taken important first steps. By supporting Durham’s Latino Community Credit Union and Self-Help Credit Union with a total investment of $12 million, Duke is aiding the credit unions in their efforts around affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization.
Nationally, nonprofit hospitals report annual revenues of more than $650 billion and assets of $875 billion and can be powerful allies in addressing the social, economic and environmental factors that lead to poor health outcomes in the first place. Bon Secours Baltimore Health System is one of the largest employers in West Baltimore, in a neighborhood where life expectancy hovers in the low- to mid-60s. In 1995, George Kleb, executive director of housing and community development, made a commitment to residents that “there were no longer going to be unilateral decisions: Everything else moving forward will be done in partnership with the community.” A process that involved the input of hundreds of neighborhood residents now guides Bon Secours’ efforts – which have run the gamut from developing more than 650 units of affordable housing and repurposing more than 640 vacant lots into green spaces to getting rid of rats and trash.
You can work in your community to seize on an important provision of the Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obamacare) – Section 9007 – which requires every nonprofit hospital to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment every three years, to engage the local community regarding its general health problems and to explain how the hospital intends to address them. Health is connected intimately to economic conditions. Given that hospitals must now reach out to the community, especially underserved populations, residents can push for community-based economic strategies that fight unemployment, improve educational achievement, foster community safety and build stronger social service networks.
The integration of hospitals, universities and other anchors into a long-term vision for a community-sustaining economy is a significant development. In the University Circle area of Cleveland, for example, such institutions spend $3 billion on goods and services a year. None, until recently, purchased from the immediately surrounding neighborhoods facing high unemployment and exclusion. An integrated group of worker-owned companies has been developed, supported in part by that purchasing power. The Cleveland co-ops offer laundry and solar services and run the largest urban greenhouse in the United States. The aim is to create new businesses, year by year, as time goes on.
The goal is not simply worker ownership but the democratization of wealth and community building in general. Linked by a community-serving nonprofit corporation and a revolving fund, the companies cannot be sold outside the network; they also return 10 percent of profits to help develop additional worker-owned firms. Organized community members can interact with anchors, municipal government and conveners like community foundations, to adapt aspects of the Cleveland modeland an economic development strategy that uses the power of the anchors and builds from the bottom up. Numerous other cities are exploring efforts of this kind, including Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Amarillo, Texas; and Washington, DC.
If your community is suffering while big nonprofit institutions enjoy generous tax breaks or are recipients of public funding, get organized to push these institutions to use their economic power to benefit the community, following models now emerging in many parts of the country. If your university is investing in fossil fuel companies, organize to bring about a major change in investment priorities.
5. Reclaim Your Neighborhood With Democratic Development!
Build community power through economic development and community land trusts.
Unlike corporate developers, a variety of nonprofit organizations manage the ownership of real estate in ways that promote inclusive and sustainable use. The structure and mission of community development corporations, community land trusts and housing co-ops allow them to democratize the stewardship of land.
Community Development Corporations (CDCs) are community-based organizations that anchor capital locally, usually in low-income areas, through the development of residential and commercial property, ranging from affordable housing to shopping centers and even businesses. Roughly 4,600 CDCs operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and they have created tens of thousands of units of affordable housing and millions of square feet of commercial and industrial space a year. Although many are smaller in scale, there are efforts like New Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, which employs 600 local residents, manages 2,000 housing units, has roughly $500 million of assets and owns businesses whose proceeds go toward underwriting such social programs as day care and medical support for seniors. Also important: as a neighborhood-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, at least one-third of the CDC board is composed of community residents, allowing for the possibility of direct, grass-roots participation in decision-making.
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are nonprofit entities that operate in more than 200 communities and have helped produce close nearly 10,000 housing units of low-cost housing nationwide by taking land off the market and placing it in a trust. Most CLTs lease homes to residents. And by retaining the majority of the home equity gained over time, the trust is able to continue to make homes available to new members at affordable, below-market prices. Like CDCs, land trust boards are typically composed of at least one-third land-trust residents.
Organized communities can incorporate CLTs into their broader vision for economic justice. Take the Dudley Street area of Roxbury – one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. Residents of the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood convinced Boston city officials to grant the community the power of eminent domain over 1,300 parcels of abandoned land – an unprecedented step – then promptly established a land trust. Today, the highly democratic CLT Dudley Neighbors Inc. (DNI) ensures “community land ownership, permanence and affordability,” having rehabilitated many of those parcels into hundreds of high-quality affordable homes, along with community centers, new schools, a community greenhouse, parks, playgrounds and other public spaces. John Barros, executive director of DNI (and, at this moment, a candidate running for mayor in Boston), says the initiative counters the narrative of “economic development from the standpoint of a singular individual.” In communities of color, he said, “We need advocacy for collective wealth building,” not simply “individual wealth building.”
You might also build on the some of the lessons learned from another low-income, largely minority community that formed a housing cooperative. The Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) in Springfield, Massachusetts, began as a small nonprofit fighting local displacement – until its members decided: “We want to own stuff too, not just fight people who own stuff.” The organization mobilized renters in a large-scale campaign and bought 1,200 units of housing from private owners, making it the largest block of tenant-controlled housing in the United States. The democratically governed, multimillion-dollar organization subsequently embarked on an effort to build a “community economy,” leveraging its ownership over property to anchor and incubate businesses whose surpluses go back into ADP’s programming – including advocacy on behalf of the whole community.
As communities attempt to carve out holistic economic development, they are incorporating the interests of tenants, homeowners, businesses, workers and families. As ADP Executive Director Tim Fisk writes, “We are attempting to not just push back and improve individual and community standing within an unequal world, we are attempting to build the world as it should be. A world framed by our own definition of community values and shared prosperity.”
Get involved in your local CDC, CLT or housing co-op, and encourage them to leverage their assets to support inclusive economic development. Connect activist struggles for economic and housing justice to institution-building strategies to build up long-term power for such work.
6. Public Money for the Public Good!
Organize to use public finances for community development.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, some cities in Oregon responded to organized constituents and set in motion an effort to keep municipal money circulating locally in ways that help build the local economy. Until this point, cities could make federally insured deposits only up to $250,000 in credit unions. A state-led program now provides regular oversight and insurance, allowing local governments to deposit more than $250,000 safely. Cities such as Portland and Beaverton already have started shifting their money.
In total, ten area credit unions have accepted deposits of more than $27 million since the program began in April 2013 – all of which can be reinvested in the local economy under the purview of community-based democratic participation. Oregon’s treasury holds credit-union securities as collateral, monitors them monthly, and can sell them to recover any funds in case of financial-institution failure. “It makes sense for local governments to move some of their money from Wall Street to Main Street,” observesJohn Trull of the Northwest Credit Union Association, who helped facilitate the program.
Over the longer term, grass-roots momentum is beginning to build around the ideas of shifting state finances away from for-profit banks through the development of public state banks. Activists have been pushing for legislation in many states that would replicate key features of the Bank of North Dakota, a successful public bank founded in 1919. The bank leverages $5 billion of deposits from taxes and public funds, and partners with and backs local banks, which then offer loans to small businesses, farmers and college students. In times of economic hardship, the Bank of North Dakota injects credit into the state economy, providing a countercyclical cushion; it also returns millions of dollars of profit annually to North Dakota’s general fund.
Vermont State Sen. Anthony Pollina is championing the effort to create such a bank for his home state. Pollina, quoted in The American Prospect, expressed frustration regarding the for-profit financial institution that currently receives the state of Vermont’s deposits, TD Bank: “They charge us fees; they lend our money wherever they want to lend it,” but “they don’t do that much lending in Vermont anymore.”
In California, organizations like the Public Banking Institute (PBI) have begun to advocate North Dakota-style public banking options as well, given that the state’s taxpayers pay millions in interest on bonds and loans for their infrastructure needs. PBI’s Marc Armstrong observes that if “California had had a state bank, we could have used the state bank credit to fund virtually all of that debt at very low cost.”
Many experts believe that it’s only a matter of time before the next financial crisis hits – and when it does, a different solution to bailouts for reckless for-profit banks may well be possible at the national level. In a sense, public banking is a very conservative as well as progressive concept: Public banks and credit unions weathered the last crisis much better than private banks, benefiting the communities they served as well. There is a role for action at every level, and especially through institution building at the local level and organized advocacy for state-level democratization of finance.
To build a financial sector that works for the public good, start organizing at the city, county and state level to make sure public money flows through community or publicly owned banks – get involved with one of the many groups dedicated to these efforts around the country.
7. Stop Letting Your Savings Fuel Corporate Rule!
Get your workplace to offer more retirement-plan opportunities for responsible investment.
If you have retirement savings, chances are that they are currently being invested in Wall Street and are thus being invested in ways that work against workers and communities. As British historian and sociologist Robin Blackburn has observed, the “boring world of pension provision now fuels the glamorous world of high finance, property speculation, rogue traders, media and technology mergers, and stock exchange bubbles.” However, socially responsible investing (SRI) is now an important and expanding realm and can increasingly be applied to pension plans. Pushing your employer for more SRI options, and in particular supporting the community-investing sphere of SRI can lead to important impacts on the national and local economy.
Firms and employees in the private and public sectors can learn from the positive experiences with community investing of some state pension funds. Since 1990, for example, Alabama’s somewhat unusual public pension system has invested 10 percent of its resources within the state (including in worker-owned businesses) to enhance economic development, and a 2012 study found that returns on that investment were greater than if they had been put into traditional investment vehicles. California’s state pension fund, CalPERS, has similarly directed almost 10 percent of its investments, or $23.5 billion, to community-building efforts in the state rather than handing them over to Wall Street. Private pension programs also can follow the lead of Illinois-based General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church, which in 2012 invested more than $750 million of its assets in affordable housing and other community-development facilities.
The potential for impact through directing worker pension funds in support of workers’ priorities is enormous, and some have even called for a 21st-century New Deal financed by working people themselves. A Green New Deal leveraging the $4.5 trillion in public pensions and private-sector-union pensions could help maintain public ownership of critical infrastructure and protect workers’ rights while creating well-paid jobs. Such a realignment of workers’ capital would transform power relationships in local communities by creating alliances between state and local governments, public workers and labor unions. The effort could help lay the groundwork for a different pattern of political economy that could address deeper systemic challenges, as union pension funds also could be used to help develop worker-owned, unionized co-ops.
If you have an SRI option at work, use it! If you don’t, have a conversation with your co-workers about demanding investment options that support an economy that you’d prefer to live in. Push public officials to use public pension funds to help change ownership in general.
8. Democratize Energy Production to Create a Green Economy!
Get involved in public and cooperative utilities to fight climate change.
Public utilities always have been important in providing energy to US homes. In fact, more than 2,000 public utilities supply power to tens of millions of Americans. On average, their customers pay 14 percent less than customers of private utilities. One obvious reason: they get pretty much the same work done for far less. CEOs at investor-owned utilities earn on average almost 25 times more than their counterparts at public power companies. State and local governments benefit more too. Although public utilities do not pay taxes like traditional private utilities, they transfer to state and local governments a greater percentage of their median revenues than the median taxes paid by private energy firms.
Public utilities are subject to citizen pressure and involvement and can be recruited to play a powerful role in building a greener economy. In California, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District – one of the ten largest public utilities in the United States – now supplies more than 24 percent of its retail energy sales from renewable sources and expects to reach its goal of 37 percent by 2020. In Texas, Austin Energy providesabout 15 percent to 17 percent of its power from renewable sources – primarily wind – and expects to reach 30 percent to 35 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Electricity cooperatives also serve tens of millions of customers. They are one-person-one-vote institutions owned collectively by their consumer-members. Employing more than 120,000 and generating $45 billion a year in revenues, co-ops are also able to demonstrate the innovative possibilities of green energy. Co-ops in Kentucky and South Carolina are retrofitting homes at no up-front cost to customers, reducing electric bills while conserving energy use dramatically. Others are involved in upgrading their distribution systems to “smart grids.” In Tennessee, one co-op makes direct stakes in a new solar farm available to its members, and a Montana co-op helped rebuild a municipal hydroelectric plant. “Investor-owned utilities are legally required to prioritize shareholder profits,” observes journalist Brooke Jarvis, but electricity co-ops “are required to maximize value for their members. That makes a cooperative potentially more willing to try out a program with an as-yet-unproven effect on the utility’s bottom line, but with the immediate potential to help member-owners and wean the region off fossil fuels.”
Active member participation in co-ops can redirect their priorities dramatically. Philadelphia residents created The Energy Co-op as a simple cost-saving measure to buy heating oil in bulk. Through the vision of its members channeled into the co-op’s democratic processes, the company added sustainability to its institutional mission in the 1990s. Today, The Energy Co-op offers its members 100-percent renewable electricity and has developed Southeastern Pennsylvania’s largest biodiesel distribution business. Using a closed-loop process, the biodiesel is produced, sourced, distributed and used within the state. Regular electronic polls answered by member-owners also guide the company’s long-term policies and everyday practices.
Community engagement in municipal energy can have a tremendous impact on the fight against climate change as well. In Boulder, Colorado, grass-roots activists and the local nonprofit New Era Colorado Foundation have been campaigning to create a new public utility for the city so as to pursue renewable options more aggressively and reduce carbon emissions. In November 2011, two ballot measures narrowly passed that would allow for “municipalization” – the legal process whereby the city can form its own public utility company and purchase the infrastructure of the existing private provider, Xcel Energy – all in spite of Xcel’s massive efforts to stymie that process. This year, Xcel Energy pushed new ballot measures to reduce government debt, limiting Boulder’s effort to move forward with the process. In response, residents have turned to supporters across the country and the world through a crowd-funding campaign that has generated massive solidarity for their precedent-setting effort. “If we can do it, maybe other communities will start wondering what the millions they pay in profits to their power provider can do in their city,” concludes the nonprofit. “If we win, we trigger a national model that can be replicated across the country.”
Cooperatives and municipal utilities already account for more than 25 percent of the nation’s total electricity, representing an enormous arena for democratic involvement and growth. In addition to politically helping achieve greater environmental sustainability, local control can allow these firms to serve as anchor institutions that can support local economies through their procurement, employment and banking decisions. An expanding, democratized energy sector that provides citizens with ever-greater renewable energy can serve as a driving force for the national policies needed to address climate change and keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Participate in your utility co-op’s elections to push for innovative green strategies like those taking place across the country. Organize in your area to press your local government to municipalize private energy. Campaign to make your local public utility provide more renewable energy and use its economic power to benefit the local economy.
9. Mobilize the Faith Community!
Get your religious organization to move its money to a local financial institution involved in community development.
Religious groups and faith-based organizations, often strongly tied to local communities, have been pioneers in the field of community development. Black churches have long been involved in equitable neighborhood development, and much community investing as it is understood today is a consequence of earlier efforts by Catholic women’s religious orders that tied the stable retirement of nuns toinvestment in nonprofit food banks, affordable housing and community land trusts. Today, congregations of the Sisters of Mercy, through their Mercy Partnership Fund, invest directly in nonprofits like women’s and day care centers, as well as cooperative business.
The potential to leverage the capital of faith-based institutions committed to economic justice is immense. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s 300 faith-based investor members boast more than $100 billion of combined assets. More and more religious institutions are beginning to dedicate “1% or More in Community Investing,” as encouraged by the Social Investment Forum, a membership organization advocating responsible finance.
Moving a portion of your religious organization’s investments to a community financial institution involved in improving low-income neighborhoods is a straightforward alternative to patronizing profit-chasing banks. Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), for example, invests $7.5 million in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) – banks with an explicitly nonprofit, community-development mission, often involved in affordable housing, small-business creation and financial services for underserved areas. JFSJ also links its investment to educational efforts, such as field trips for students to participate in and learn from exemplary community-finance initiatives around the country. The effort also offers the nation’s Jewish community “a way to participate in community investment with only a $1,000 minimum.” Additionally, JFSJ, Dignity Health and the Unitarian Universalist Association all invest in Hope Credit Union’s valuable work in the Mississippi Delta region.
The long history of American religious institutions serving as economic and financial bedrocks for their neighborhoods, especially in minority communities, suggests broader possibilities. Consider the Mondragón cooperatives in Spain. Founded in 1956 in the wake of the devastation of Spanish Civil War by Catholic priest Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, one cooperative in the oppressed Basque region with five employee-owners making paraffin stoves laid the foundations for a modern multibillion-euro network of firms employing more than 80,000 community members involved in everything from construction to supermarkets to financial services to high-tech equipment and advanced research. Partlyh the result of community-anchored economic engine of Mondragón, the Basque Country’s unemployment is much lower than in the rest of Spain.
Resources abound for getting a conversation started with your congregation about building a new economy. These conversations can then help you build support for putting your religious institution’s money where it can do more good – and less harm.
10. Make Time for Democracy!
Fight unemployment by joining the fight against work
Even in economic hard times, the United States already has an economy that produces the equivalent of over $190,000 for every family of four. At some point we must ask when enough is enough. Although the economy has steadily been producing more goods and services in less time with less effort, most workers’ wages havelargely stagnated and work hours have increased for the past four decades. The long-term solution is not a dash for growth, imposing a greater ecological toll on the planet. Rather, it is redirecting an already-productive economy toward redistribution and community needs. Also, as sociologist Juliet Schor has argued, one key step toward such a shift is to encourage more leisure time. This can also include taking advantage of opportunities to share work, and – where possible – to work less, discouraging excessive overtime, and pushing employers and legislators for a reduced workweek.
One practical way to get started is by exploring the possibility of work-sharing. The program works as follows: rather than fire one employee, a business can opt to reduce the workweek of five employees by one day each, thereby retaining their skills and the ability to quickly ramp up production in the future. But the employees working four days instead of five will retain 90 percent – not the expected 80 percent – of their wages, because unemployment insurance steps in to cover that gap. In fact, there are already 24 states, including the District of Columbia, that have work-sharing programs of this kind.
In Rhode Island, state officials have promoted their program aggressively to employers and credit it with preventing 16,000 layoffs from 2007-11. As of 2012,according to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), fewer than 40,000 workers nationwide were participating in shorter work programs, mainly because of lack of awareness. “To increase this number,” he writes, “states will first have to publicize the system. Many employees don’t even know that the program exists.” And even states that don’t currently offer such measures “could also receive federal money to establish short work programs,” he added. Companies facing slower demand throughout the country should consider the policy. It can reduce local unemployment and offer more free time to families.
The long-term importance could be tremendous: if we Americans grow increasingly accustomed to working less for only modestly less pay, there could be greater political momentum for guaranteed time off and, over time, for slowly relegating work to a receding portion of life. Questions of leisure, community building, and political engagement may one day emerge as feasible for an increasingly larger portion of society. Furthermore, work sharing can be a potent tool in the fight against climate change. “The calculation is simple,” says CEPR economist David Rosnick. “Fewer work hours means less carbon emissions, which means less global warming.”
Seek out feasible opportunities for work sharing. As you try to make space in your own life for the critical practice of democracy and community building, continue to challenge the unhealthy dilemma of overwork or unemployment imposed by the current economic system.
And There’s More
There are many additional practical precedents to build on, refine and adapt. The examples outlined above aim to encourage thinking about how we move beyond partial experiments toward greater publicly benefiting democratization over time. For many others, see and What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, by Gar Alperovitz. But all of this hinges on the strategic and self-conscious decision to adopt a sustained course of institution-changing action – one linked to movement-building politics and explicitly understood as a way to begin laying the necessary groundwork for something more.

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The Most Misunderstood Aspect Of Great Leadership

Mike Myatt, Contributor
I was recently asked what I consider to be the most misunderstood aspect of great leadership; in other words, what makes great leadership great? What immediately came to mind is not only misunderstood, but it also happens to be the most often overlooked element of leadership, and the one which also affords leaders the greatest opportunity for personal, professional, and enterprise growth. If you want to become a better leader in 2013, I suggest you become comfortable with a leadership practice few are – surrender.
Surrender – not for the faint of heart
You’ll rarely encounter the words leadership and surrender used together in complementary fashion. Society has labeled surrender as a sign of leadership weakness, when in fact, it can be among the greatest of leadership strengths. Let me be clear, I’m not encouraging giving in or giving up – I am suggesting you learn the ever so subtle art of letting go.
A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those whom they serve.

Surrender – control freaks need not apply
If you’re still not convinced the art of leadership is learning the focus point should be on surrender not control, consider this: control restricts potential, limits initiative, and inhibits talent. Surrender fosters collaboration, encourages innovation and enables possibility. Controlling leaders create bottlenecks rather than increase throughput. They signal a lack of trust and confidence, and often come across as insensitive if not arrogant. When you experience weak teams, micro-management, frequent turf wars, high stress, operational strain, and a culture of fear, you are experiencing what control has to offer – not very attractive is it?
Surrender allows the savvy leader to serve where control demands the ego-centric leader be served. Surrender allows leadership to scale and a culture of leadership to be established. Surrender prefers loose collaborative networks over rigid hierarchical structures allowing information to be more readily shared and distributed. Leaders who understand surrender think community, ecosystem, and culture – not org chart. Surrender is what not only allows the dots to be connected, but it’s what allows to dots to be multiplied. Controlling leaders operate in a world of addition and subtraction, while the calculus of a leader who understands surrender is built on exponential multiplication.
I have found those who embrace control are simply attempting to consolidate power, while those who practice surrender are facilitating the distribution of authority. When what you seek is to build into others more than glorifying self you have developed a level of leadership maturity that values surrender over control. Surrender is the mindset which creates the desire for leaders to give credit rather than take it, to prefer hearing over being heard, to dialogue instead of monologue, to have an open mind over a closed mind, to value unlearning as much as learning. Control messages selfishness, while surrender conveys selflessness – which is more important to you?
Surrender – when not to
Keep this in mind – we all surrender, but not all surrender is honorable. Some surrender to their ego, to the wrong priorities, or to other distractive habits. Others surrender to the positive realization they are not the center of the universe – they surrender to something beyond themselves in order to accomplish more for others. Bottom line – what you do or don’t surrender to will define you. Assuming you surrender to the right things, surrender is not a sign of leadership weakness, but is perhaps the ultimate sign of leadership confidence. I’ll leave you with this quote from William Booth: “The greatness of a mans power is the measure of his surrender.”
Follow me on Twitter @mikemyatt

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Selfish traits not favoured by evolution, study shows
By Melissa Hogenboom Science reporter, BBC News

Evolution does not favour selfish people, according to new research.
This challenges a previous theory which suggested it was preferable to put yourself first.

Instead, it pays to be co-operative, shown in a model of “the prisoner’s dilemma”, a scenario of game theory – the study of strategic decision-making.

Published in Nature Communications, the team says their work shows that exhibiting only selfish traits would have made us become extinct.

Game theory involves devising “games” to simulate situations of conflict or co-operation. It allows researchers to unravel complex decision-making strategies and to establish why certain types of behaviour among individuals emerge.

Freedom or prison
A team from Michigan State University, US, used a model of the prisoner’s dilemma game, where two suspects who are interrogated in separate prison cells must decide whether or not to inform on each other.

In the model, each person is offered a deal for freedom if they inform on the other, putting their opponent in jail for six months. However, this scenario will only be played out if the opponent chooses not to inform.

If both “prisoners” choose to inform (defection) they will both get three months in prison, but if they both stay silent (co-operation) they will both only get a jail term of one month.

The eminent mathematician John Nash showed that the optimum strategy was not to co-operate in the prisoner’s dilemma game.

“For many years, people have asked that if he [Nash] is right, then why do we see co-operation in the animal kingdom, in the microbial world and in humans,” said lead author Christoph Adami of Michigan State University.

Mean extinction
The answer, he explained, was that communication was not previously taken into account.

“The two prisoners that are interrogated are not allowed to talk to each other. If they did they would make a pact and be free within a month. But if they were not talking to each other, the temptation would be to rat the other out.

“Being mean can give you an advantage on a short timescale but certainly not in the long run – you would go extinct.”

These latest findings contradict a 2012 study where it was found that selfish people could get ahead of more co-operative partners, which would create a world full of selfish beings.

This was dubbed a “mean and selfish” strategy and depended on a participant knowing their opponent’s previous decision and adapting their strategy accordingly.

Crucially, in an evolutionary environment, knowing your opponent’s decision would not be advantageous for long because your opponent would evolve the same recognition mechanism to also know you, Dr Adami explained.

This is exactly what his team found, that any advantage from defecting was short-lived. They used a powerful computer model to run hundreds of thousands of games, simulating a simple exchange of actions that took previous communication into account.

“What we modelled in the computer were very general things, namely decisions between two different behaviours. We call them co-operation and defection. But in the animal world there are all kinds of behaviours that are binary, for example to flee or to fight,” Dr Adami told BBC News.

“It’s almost like what we had in the cold war, an arms race – but these arms races occur all the time in evolutionary biology.”

Social insects

Prof Andrew Coleman of Leicester University, UK, said this new work “put a break on over-zealous interpretations” of the previous strategy, which proposed that manipulative, selfish strategies would evolve.

“Darwin himself was puzzled about the co-operation you observe in nature. He was particularly struck by social insects,” he explained.

“You might think that natural selection should favour individuals that are exploitative and selfish, but in fact we now know after decades of research that this is an oversimplified view of things, particularly if you take into account the selfish gene feature of evolution.

“It’s not individuals that have to survive, its genes, and genes just use individual organisms – animals or humans – as vehicles to propagate themselves.”

“Selfish genes” therefore benefit from having co-operative organisms.

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Surprises Are the New Normal; Resilience Is the New Skill

The difference between winners and losers is how they handle losing.

That’s a key finding from my ongoing research on great companies and effective leaders: no one can completely avoid troubles and potential pitfalls are everywhere, so the real skill is the resilience to climb out of the hole and bounce back.

Volatile times bring disruptions, interruptions, and setbacks, even for the most successful among us. Companies at the top of the heap still have times when they are blindsided by a competing product and must play catch-up. Sports teams that win regularly are often behind during the game. Writers can face dozens of rejections before finding a publisher that puts them on the map. Some successful politicians get caught with their pants down (so to speak) and still go on to lead, although such self-inflicted wounds are harder to heal.

Resilience is the ability to recover from fumbles or outright mistakes and bounce back. But flexibility alone is not enough. You have to learn from your errors. Those with resilience build on the cornerstones of confidence — accountability (taking responsibility and showing remorse), collaboration (supporting others in reaching a common goal), and initiative (focusing on positive steps and improvements). As outlined in my book Confidence, these factors underpin the resilience of people, teams, and organizations that can stumble but resume winning.

For anyone who wants to get beyond adversity or start over rather than give up, America is the Land of Second Chances. According to Jon Huntsman, former US Ambassador to China, getting back on our feet is an American strength widely admired in China. And everywhere, rapid recovery from natural disasters is increasingly a key to a robust economy. Entrepreneurs and innovators must be willing to fail and try again. The point isn’t to learn to fail, it is to learn to bounce back.

Some stumbles are due to circumstances outside of most people’s control, including weather events and geopolitical shocks. But while people might not control the larger problem, they control their reactions to it — whether to give up or find a new path. Recession in Europe is an example. I recently spoke to European audiences at public conferences and within companies about cultivating resilience in their businesses even when markets are shrinking, so that they hold their own as recession continues and are well-positioned for recovery. A German machinery company showed resilience by growing its service contracts when demand for machines slowed, and it mobilized employees to find new service possibilities. An Italian cosmetics firm grabbed talent from job-shedding multinationals and increased its international marketing tied to both health and fashion; new sales followed. In both companies, like others described in my book SuperCorp, such initiatives were made possible by a strong sense of purpose that drew members together and motivated them to take responsibility to help the companies survive and thrive. Employees were resilient because they cared, and that made the companies resilient.

Complacency, arrogance, and greed crowd out resilience. Humility and a noble purpose fuel it. Those with an authentic desire to serve, not just narcissism about wanting to be at the top, are willing to settle for less as an investment in better things later. Raymond Barre, former Premier of France, after being defeated for reelection at the national level, ran for a lesser office as Mayor of Lyon and became a hero of his region. That’s the strategy Eliot Spitzer is taking by running for a lesser city office after having been governor of a state. He showed remorse quickly when scandal surfaced and then reentered the public conversation talking about the issues, increasing his comeback prospects.

Some observers say it is harder for women to stage comebacks. Still, consider Martha Stewart. She served prison time for insider trading rather graciously, showing remorse, and that graciousness restored much of her fan base afterward. In a more positive vein, Hillary Clinton was not a sore loser to President Obama in 2008 (though some of her followers were) and accepted his offer to become his Secretary of State. She’s now perhaps even better-positioned for a 2016 Presidential run. In the long term, graciousness beats sour grapes.

Resilience draws from strength of character, from a core set of values that motivate efforts to overcome the setback and resume walking the path to success. It involves self-control and willingness to acknowledge one’s own role in defeat. Resilience also thrives on a sense of community — the desire to pick oneself up because of an obligation to others and because of support from others who want the same thing. Resilience is manifested in actions — a new contribution, a small win, a goal that takes attention off of the past and creates excitement about the future.

Potential troubles lurk around every corner, whether they stem from unexpected environmental jolts or individual flaws and mistakes. Whatever the source, what matters is how we deal with them. When surprises are the new normal, resilience is the new skill.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and theauthor of Confidence and SuperCorp. Her 2011 HBR article, “How Great Companies Think Differently,” won a McKinsey Award for best article. Connect with her
on Facebook or at

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Seven Theory U Leadership Capacities

Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time–an executive summary of the book by Otto Scharmer: Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges (

The journey through the U develops seven essential leadership capacities.

1. Holding the space of listening.
The foundational capacity of the U is listening. Listening to others. Listening to oneself. And listening to what emerges from the collective. Effective listening requires the creation of open space in which others can contribute to the whole.

2. Observing.
The capacity to suspend the “voice of judgment” is key to moving from projection to true observation.

3. Sensing.
The preparation for the experience at the bottom of the U – presencing – requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole.

4. Presencing.
The capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will allows the future to emerge from the whole rather than from a smaller part or special interest group.

5. Crystalizing.
When a small group of key persons commits itself to the purpose and outcomes of a project, the power of their intention creates an energy field that attracts people, opportunities, and resources that make things happen. This core group functions as a vehicle for the whole to manifest.

6. Prototyping.
Moving down the left side of the U requires the group to open up and deal with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side requires the integration of thinking, feeling, and will in the context of practical applications and learning by doing.

7. Performing.
A prominent violinist once said that he couldn’t simply play his violin in Chartres cathedral; he had to “play” the entire space, what he called the “macro violin,” in order to do justice to both the space and the music. Likewise, organizations need to perform at this macro level: they need to convene the right sets of players (frontline people who are connected through the same value chain) and to engage a social technology that allows a multi-stakeholder gathering to shift from debating to co-creating the new.

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The Capitalist’s Case For A $15 Minimum Wage

While this position may seem somewhat new and radical, it can also remind one of the story of Henry Ford’s recognition of the need to pay employees enough so that they could buy a car.  That decision had wide impact. cgb  

Bloomberg View

June 20th, 2013 3:17 pm Nick Hanauer

June 20 (Bloomberg) — The fundamental law of capitalism is that if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. That’s why the extreme, and widening, wealth gap in our economy presents not just a moral challenge, but an economic one, too. In a capitalist system, rising inequality creates a death spiral of falling demand that ultimately takes everyone down.

Low-wage jobs are fast replacing middle-class ones in the U.S. economy. Sixty percent of the jobs lost in the last recession were middle-income, while 59 percent of the new positions during the past two years of recovery were in low-wage industries that continue to expand such as retail, food services, cleaning and health-care support. By 2020, 48 percent of jobs will be in those service sectors.

Policy makers debate incremental changes for arresting this vicious cycle. But perhaps the most powerful and elegant antidote is sitting right before us: a spike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

True, that sounds like a lot. When President Barack Obama called in February for an increase to $9 an hour from $7.25, he was accused of being a dangerous redistributionist. Yet consider this: If the minimum wage had simply tracked U.S. productivity gains since 1968, it would be $21.72 an hour — three times what it is now.

Traditionally, arguments for big minimum-wage increases come from labor unions and advocates for the poor. I make the case as a businessman and entrepreneur who sees our millions of low-paid workers as customers to be cultivated and not as costs to be cut.

Here’s a bottom-line example: My investment portfolio includes Pacific Coast Feather Co., one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of bed pillows. Like many other manufacturers, pillow makers are struggling because of weak demand. The problem comes down to this: My annual earnings equal about 1,000 times the U.S. median wage, but I don’t consume 1,000 times more pillows than the average American. Even the richest among us only need one or two to rest their heads at night.

An economy such as ours that increasingly concentrates wealth in the top 1 percent, and where most workers must rely on stagnant or falling wages, isn’t a place to build much of a pillow business, or any other business for that matter.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would inject about $450 billion into the economy each year. That would give more purchasing power to millions of poor and lower-middle-class Americans, and would stimulate buying, production and hiring.

Studies by the Economic Policy Institute show that a $15 minimum wage would directly affect 51 million workers and indirectly benefit an additional 30 million. That’s 81 million people, or about 64 percent of the workforce, and their families who would be more able to buy cars, clothing and food from our nation’s businesses.

This virtuous cycle effect is described in the research of economists David Card and Alan Krueger (the current chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers) showing that, contrary to conventional economic orthodoxy, increases in the minimum wage increase employment. In 60 percent of the states that raised the minimum wage during periods of high unemployment, job growth was faster than the national average.

Some business people oppose an increase in the minimum wage as needless government interference in the workings of the market. In fact, a big increase would substantially reduce government intervention and dependency on public assistance programs.

No one earning the current minimum wage of about $15,000 per year can aspire to live decently, much less raise a family. As a result, almost all workers subsisting on those low earnings need panoply of taxpayer-supported benefits, including the earned income tax credit, food stamps, Medicaid or housing subsidies. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government spent $316 billion on programs designed to help the poor in 2012.

That means the current $7.25 minimum wage forces taxpayers to subsidize Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other large employers, effectively socializing their labor costs. This is great for Walmart and its shareholders, but terrible for America. It is both unjust and inefficient.

A higher minimum wage would also make low-income families less dependent on government programs: The CBO report shows that the federal government gives about $8,800 in annual assistance to the lowest-income households but only $4,000 to households earning $35,500, which would be about the level of earnings of a worker making $15 an hour.

An objection to a significant wage increase is that it would force employers to shed workers. Yet the evidence points the other way: Workers earn more and spend more, increasing demand and helping businesses grow.

Critics of raising the minimum wage also say it will lead to more outsourcing and job loss. Yet virtually all of these low-wage jobs are service jobs that can neither be outsourced nor automated.

Raising the earnings of all American workers would provide all businesses with more customers with more to spend. Seeing the economy as Henry Ford did would redirect our country toward a high-growth future that works for all.

(Nick Hanauer is a founder of Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital company in Seattle specializing in early-stage startups and emerging technology. He has founded or financed dozens of companies, including aQuantive Inc. and, and is the co-author of two books, The True Patriot and The Gardens of Democracy.)

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool


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