Indeed, the world is full of monologues but dialogue is nowhere to be seen.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
To clarify the thought behind the various types of systems and their change patterns, I open the concepts a bit (based on Isaacs and the article Taking the Teeth out of Team Traps by Slobodnik and Wile):
- Main purpose: stability granted by tradition
- Characteristics: hierarchy, official authority, control
- Leadership: steering striving for the benefit of the whole
- Motto: organization comes first
- Limits: Tyranny of the tradition, new possibilities are not paid attention
- Examples: military, old industrial companies, states
- Main purpose: learn by participating
- Characteristics: democracy, pluralism, cooperation
- Leadership: balance between the benefits of the whole and the individual
- Motto: process comes first
- Limits: tyranny of the process, nobody decides anything
- Examples: representative democracy, meetings
- Main purpose: reflection based on improvisation
- Characteristics: official structures don’t limit creativity
- Leadership: quick innovations
- Motto: individual comes first
- Limits: tyranny of the anarchy, instability
- Examples: entrepreneurs, enthusiastic individuals in all systems who challenge the status quo
- Main purpose: strong feeling of purpose and vision
- Characteristics: aligned values and beliefs, harmonious interactions
- Leadership: efficient and effortless teamwork, leadership rotates between situations
- Motto: value comes first
- Limits: tyranny of the cult, low tolerance for ambiguity
- Examples: friendships, non-governmental organizations
It is interesting to notice that these four types actually fluctuate all the time based on the influences, context and composition of the system. The typical path goes from a closed system to an open one, and when the limits of the process emerge, the system seeks to return to a closed state. (An example: the crisis of the representative democracy.) This same tendency is in synchronous systems during crises.
The random system is unscalable because of its instability; this is why they usually transform into open or synchronous systems. Startup companies are examples of this process.
Inspired by the development pattern of dialogue Isaacs presents in his Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, I started wondering what kind of picture could describe the process. Here’s what I came up with:
On page 256 there is a graph that shows the different fields of dialogue according to Otto Scharmer. Isaacs emphasizes that the purpose of the dialogue is the movement between the fields. Some people think that the purpose is to experience so profound a discussion and connection to other people that entirely new kind of realizations and actions emerge; however, if dialogue is considered to mean only the fourth field, it becomes an elusive fantasy which prevents actual, continuous change.
I added to the picture the various crises that emerge in different stages of the dialogue; in the thought bubble is the thought that releases the tension and makes the dialogue to move forward.
If one considers a dialogue community as a flowing system, the equivalences go something like this:
- Field I: closed system
- Field II: random system
- Field III: open system
- Field IV: synchronous system
I’m currently reading William Isaacs’ Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. Isaacs introduces a thought of a container which needs to be created in order to enable open dialogue. Isaacs writes (and I translate starting from page 240 of the Finnish edition):
The idea of a container is based on the fact that people need a space in which they can express their intense feelings, thoughts and actions. Usually there are few of these kinds of spaces. People react to each others’ actions but they cannot function as each others’ containers. The effect of circumstances often seems to be bigger than the effect of people.
There are different types of containers. Our own body is a container that contains us. Also a close relationship is a container – in it one can say and do things that cannot be said or done elsewhere. Also teams and organizations are containers. These kinds of containers are usually incoherent: they include internal conflicts and inconsistencies, and their volume is limited. When the container is filled, listening and absorbing abilities are lost.
For dialogue to take place a clear and sufficiently wide container – that is, an invisible space – is needed. Dialogue is impossible unless this kind of space is consciously formed. In the course of time, when the dialogue space becomes more stable and the participants become more aware of its existence, the space stands more and more pressure. It seems that some pressure is needed before people start to think together. When the debaters raise dissenting opinions, the pressure increases. If the space can take the pressure, dialogue can get started. On the contrary, if the space cannot take the pressure, the participants shun problems, blame each other and inhibit the progress of the dialogue.
The space can be created to take the creative fire. Then the participants of the dialogue don’t feel that they are in hot water. They are in a tight place, but feel a sense of safety and belonging.
I’m fascinated about systems thinking; when you start to see life as constant emergence, flow and disappearance of systems (creatures, objects, situations, phenomena etc), old concepts and debates like reason versus faith become much more interesting.
From a systems approach, what is self-reliance? It is when a part of the system becomes aware of itself and the meaning of its being-in-the-world, from which agency emerges.
Reason, on the other hand, typically refers to making sense of the current state of the system based on past states.
This iron cage reason is characterized by the refusal to take a stand on the future state of the system. It is caused by the lack of self-reliance to one’s own understanding (as described by Kant). Hence the iron cage reason – which never creates, but only seeks to understand and thus only preserves – breaks when it comes to building and running random or synchronous systems (see table on page 5).
The answer to this dilemma is systems reasoning in which the actor understands that its reasoning isn’t separate but that it also alters the system in question.
(Picture from SystemsWiki.)
As any informed observer can see, the justice system works less and less well in a global world. From tax havens to insulting Thai royal family, the current law system with their jurisdictions just breaks down when it comes to foreign land.
This should be seen as an opportunity to rethink global law. It shouldn’t be built on the same bureaucratic basis of several courts that now clogs the society up with constant legal battles. So here is a few points that I see necessary in the new system:
- Clearly written constitution that states the general principles that should not be violated: defining roles between individuals, states, businesses and NGOs
- Restructure publicity so that there are proper grievance channels for different type of matters; the old courts become virtual in a sense and don’t necessarily require large buildings to be upkept
- Harness democracy in running the system; all information is open and easily accessible for anyone, and balanced channels exist for rational discourse
These changes, again, have already been going on for a long time. Especially in the Internet era the publicity point of view has been more and more emphasized; the public already actively participates in the court cases claiming this or that punishment. This should be made an official process, with the “guilty” given possibility to tell their own story in the publicity. At the same time widening the scope of “punishments” could make them more effective. The old “punish to destroy life” paradigm should be transformed into “intervene to teach”.
The current Western societies are deeply in love with holy texts. This can be seen in the way making legislation in centralized locations such as parliaments is seen as the main political function, and in how the society then constructs itself around interpretation of those texts in courts, bureaus, businesses and everyday life.
This reverence is also reflected in the way the actions of the state are respected (they cannot be criticized) and that even the state does what it can to circumvent law when it sees it requires self-protection.
Take Guantanamo Bay prison. How come locating it “outside US jurisdiction” suddently makes its existance “ok”? This can only be explained by a firm belief to the law as the word of God, and the inability to see the law as practical codified rules of the society that are ever changing along with the society. Then outside jurisdiction means “out of scope”, and therefore acceptable.
On the other hand, this act of sanctification of law makes government easier, since bureaucracies and public servants can claim their divine authorization. This gets one thinking: What has changed in a few thousand years?
If one looks across the expanse of history, one cannot help but notice a curious sense of identifiation between the most exalted and the most degraded; particularly, between emperors and kings, and slaves. Many kings surround themselves with slaves, appoint slave ministers… Kings surround themselves with slaves for the same reason that they surround themselves with eunuchs: because the slaves and criminals have no family or friends, no possibility of other loyalties–or at least that, in principles, they shouldn’t. But in a way, kings should really be like that too. As many an African proverb emphasizes: a proper king has no relatives, either, or at least, he acts as if he does not. In other words, the king and slave are mirror images, in that unlike normal human beings who are defined by their commitments to others, they are defined only by relations of power. They are as close to perfectly isolated, alienated beings as one can possibly come.
David Graeber in Debt: The First 5000 Years, via An und für sich.
How is it possible for the unique to unite so that their uniqueness both conjoins and remains? This is a question Giorgio Agamben asks in his Coming Community.
The only cure for the spectacular community – that is, one that is based on illusionary common identity created by leaders and mediated through images – is a community without fixed identity. Such community is divine in the way that the members’ answer to the question: “Who am I? What shall I be?” is self-referential as in
I am who I am, and I shall be what I shall be.
Identity becomes constantly flowing: sometimes I am this, sometimes that and I am constantly evolving. “What I am” is an enduring mystery, and there is no principle that unites these identities except the fact that it is ‘I’ who is being and becoming.
Where epistemological anarchism states that there “are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge”, philosophical anarchism declares that no such rules can be found for an individual or a society. As we can see from the multitude of both, the only such rule is indeed: “Anything goes.”
This is not a statement of right and wrong or that when it comes to societies, everything is morally acceptable. The point is that no permanent rules can be established, and thus the process of morality should be recognized as the always present meta-level of negotiation in human actions.
This has practical implications: if permanent rules cannot be established, why even try to make all governments, cities, communities and individuals look alike? Why not allow evolution to decide what is best for each one of them? Perhaps that community votes on matters like A, but we don’t have to; they act as they wish and so do we. Perhaps that school uses methods that others don’t use, but what is the problem? Does “equality” really have to come down to each and every practical solution? The fact is that not all teachers are alike, so there you have inequality right there! Not all parents are alike, not all families are alike, not all cities are alike. Why not embrace creativity instead of trying suppress it until the last minute in the name of common values, the American way or equality?
In their book On Justification: The Economies of Worth (2006, French original: 1991), Boltanski and Thévenot argue that modern societies are not a single social order but an interweaving of multiple orders. Boltanski and Thévenot identify six “orders of worth” or “economies of worth,” systematic and coherent principles of evaluation. These multiple orders (civic, market, inspired, fame, industrial, domestic [and ecological]) are not associated with particular social domains but coexist in the same social space—as Boltanski and Thévenot persuasively demonstrate through a content analysis of texts used in managerial training in contemporary French corporations.
Based on this framework, Eeva Luhtakallio and Tuomas Ylä-Anttila have developed a research method, analysis of public justification that focuses on exploring these justifications.
Inspired by the orders, I started imaging them on the layer approach. I understand them as the intertwined spheres of society of the late modernity that have their own value systems that are referred to in the public discourse.