Yesterday I made my views on making a difference clear in terms of what I valued, what Cognitive Edge is capable of and some of the Cognitive Edge capabilities in this area. One of the things I attacked is idealistic future state definitions which I characterised as a form of neo-colonialism in the development sector. That translates into patriarchy in a wider context, and the behavioural patterns of patriarchy are not confined to the male of the species.
I've also posted in the past on the difference between sidecasting, backcasting and forecasting. That series of posts starts here and the sequence ends here with one interruption for a cautionary tale about Green Pit Vipers. The argument of that series is not to deny the value of forecasting or backcasting, but to argue that casting around in the present to see what is possible is also key. Now the patriarchal neo-colonialism I referenced yesterday should not be read to imply that I don't see value in Backcasting techniques. They use future states not as a mandated behaviour but rather to unblock obstacles in the present and have value.
So the question naturally arises as to how we provide purpose or a sense of direction in any complex system, and in particular in the wider context of social or organisational change. There is always a sense of irony when people ask this question (and they do) as its something we already know how to do in day to day family life. From my perspective the key thing is to understand that a sense of rightful direction is not the same thing as defining an explicit goal. We do that in our families by telling stories, by modifying behaviour through approbation or distaste in the main. We know more of what we don't want than what we do and that has a higher moral function as it allows our children to create their own goals, while learning from our mistakes. A family which has a mission and values statement with quarterly KPIs for their children has lost the plot in a perverse and natural way.
So in our work within Cognitive Edge we currently see three ways to provide direction which can be summarised as follows:
Now all of those methods do not tell people what they should be or how they should think. They provide boundary conditions and catalysts that allow a contextually appropriate solution to emerge and become self-sustaining. All of the above are an important new aspect of our training by the way and I will be teaching them myself in London and Zurich in the next few months.
Its also worth remembering here that all the available scientific evidence shows that when people work for extrinsic, explicit goals they loose intrinsic motivation. Spending a little more time acting for change rather than talking about how people should think would be a good idea: justification is not by with alone.
Finally I chose an alethiometer as the illustration for this post and the heading reflects a key aspect of its use in Pullman's wonderful reworking of Milton. It's worth reflecting on all that reference implies.