So how did America manage to get it so right? And why has it gone so wrong?
We ordinary Americans now stand red, white and screwed for this reason: because of a powerful, winner-take-all, all-controlling elite centered in this unholy trinity: big government, big business and big religion.
The fingerprints of this hyper-powerful, hyper-wealthy aggregation of “elite deviants” turn up repeatedly at the site of America’s economic disasters, societal imbalances and crimes against the republic’s ordinary people and their surroundings. The very rich and powerful now largely control our economy and corporations, our politics and our government, our media and many of our other institutions, including the so-called spiritual. The naked truth is this: to an ever-greater degree, America’s wealthiest and most pythonic have been running this country like it was their own personal Monaco-on-the-Potomac instead of supposedly the world’s most visible (and once most viable) democracy.
And more and more Americans are beginning to understand something else—something that the elite deviants don’t. And that is this:
Once upon a time, a parade of experimenters that stretches backwards into the mists of antiquity (and includes America’s founders) spent three or four thousand years trying to figure out how to make a society come together. And hang together. And thrive and strive always to do better for its citizens.
And figure it out they did!
They pretty much solved the big equations and argued out the fine points. They wrote it all down and passed it on. As a consequence, an extraordinary place called America appeared on the scene. This neophyte of a polity across the ocean blue—this outlander to the world’s established orders—had its ups and downs. Its doubts. Its discouraging moments. Its brushes big-time with disaster. And yet, by the second half of the 20th Century, America had proved something more convincingly than any other major society before it. America proved that the great theorists and experimenters of human organizing over the eons had, indeed, gotten it right.
And then what did we do?
National amnesia and broken pottery
In a mere heartbeat in historical time, we promptly forgot nearly everything we’d learned! This is such an astounding demonstration of national amnesia and irresponsibility that it bears repeating: we humans spent thousands of years figuring out how to create the best large-sized, self-renewing, fairest-to-all-concerned, ever-improving society the world had ever seen. And then, in a few short years, we Americans promptly forgot nearly everything the risk-takers and civic savants of the ages had taught us!
Squandered our advantage, debased our achievements. Thumbed our noses at our planetary neighbors. Ignored our most vulnerable and poorest. Mechanized the “bio-cide” of our other earth-mate species. And then left our covenants and promises strewn across the commonweal of our once great land like so-much broken pottery, the needs, dreams and esprit of the majority of its citizens callously thrust aside.
We elevated corporations over individuals (by abandoning our anti-trust laws and watering down our laws and regulations and turning a blind eye to the egregious and never-ending misdeeds of giant companies).
We sold out our workers and their families (by allowing our unions to be destroyed and our companies to be sold to those with no interest and no stake in our country’s well-being and opening our borders profligately to predatory importers).
We thumbed our noses at poor people (by cutting or failing to fund the programs they depended on to stay healthy and try to improve their plight).
We made higher education ever more expensive (by letting college tuitions and fees soar and refusing to adequate public funding).
We permitted the dumbing down and debasement of our news media and what they report (by allowing extreme consolidation of ownership, allowing the media’s owners to meddle in the newsroom and removing requirements for fair use of the public’s airways).
We forgot what religion is really supposed to be about (by politicizing our religious institutions and building the walls between us and our neighbors of faith and unfaith ever higher).
We let our public places and shared spaces go to pot (by failing to maintain our infrastructure).
We poisoned the immense good will that many other peoples of the world held for us (by acting the bully and petulantly telling everyone else it was our way or the highway).
Repeatedly, endlessly, in public arena after sometimes not-so-public arena, egregious act after egregious act, farcical pseudo-drama after farcical pseudo-drama, we allowed the sharks of big business, big government and big religion to usurp our rights. Steal our money. Debase our heritage. And acutely endanger the possibility of seeing our national progress continue.
This is so unspeakably strange that we say it yet a third time. There were all these covenants, contracts, treaties, pledges, accord, concords, pacts and promises that have been honed and refined in the fires of history. They had passed the test of humanity’s accumulated wisdom. We had used them to create the framework for America. They became the basis for how we should treat each other—how we could and should live as a good, decent, free and just society. They were all in place, carved in stone, treasured, honored and working to an extraordinary degree. Then, in a few decades, they were nearly all tossed away. Ignored. Dishonored. Shat on.
Another empty promise … to our progeny
Above all, there was that one contract that was the most consecrated and most dear: our agreement with our children and our children’s children.
This was an idea that arrived very late in that multi-millennia journey of human and social development. It first required Western civilization to view its children differently. To view them as something other than as an asset to be used or a part-time amusement to be seen and not heard. Nowhere did the idea take deeper root than in America. Both soft-spokenly and full-throatedly, we, as a nation, pledged to our children that they would have a better life than have had we. They would inherit the fruits of our labors and our love. They would have more opportunities than had we. And they would go on to make something of themselves and be contributors to society and make life better for their children, too. That was our promise, our pledge.
And our pledge to them had always taken center stage in our society! It had been our greatest national pride. It had served as our most prized national mantra. We repeated it so often and so convincingly that it inspired hope and excitement for generations in peoples great distances removed. They may not have spoken our native tongue. They may not have known much about our geography. They may have only seen our movies and tasted our fast-food exports. But they understood our native pledge. They believed in the promise. And they responded time and again to its beckoning quality. This pledge, of course, was at the heart of the American Dream. A few short years ago, all that was in place and functioning well. Now, like all the others, this covenant, this promise, this ideal lies empty and despoiled.
THE BREAKTHROUGH-MINDED DOLPHIN
© 2014 Brain Technologies Corporation
In the 1950s and ‘60s—in retrospect, America’s Golden Age—a single full-time wage earner could support a family of four. Today, mom and dad both have to work, if there is work to be had; the percentage of permanently unemployed, long-term unemployed and underemployed in the U.S. today has edged past 45 percent.
Wealth is again centralizing to a dysfunctional degree. Public education is increasingly lackluster and underfunded. Healthcare is mediocre and overly expensive. Ordinary Americans are up to their necks in debt. To the extent that it has one, America’s social “safety net” is on life support and is constantly under attack as a “socialistic plot.” There is no longer a “Great Compression” replacing memories of The Great Depression with an expanding middle class but rather the Great Sucking Sound of money, jobs, opportunity and the American Dream fleeing the confines of our failing country. As Elizabeth Warren once noted on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “This is America’s middle class. We’ve hacked at it and pulled at it and chipped at it for 30 years now, and now there’s no more to do. We fix this problem going forward, or the game is over.”
Incoming: A Leviathan of Change
So, yes, indeedy. Your author is mad as hell! And, yes, I want to help initiate—and I want your help in initiating—a turnaround, a rebellion, a mutiny. A mutiny in the interest of returning to radical normal in America, the way we were when we had it right. A mutiny with a goal of reestablishing the kind of America, complete once again with The Dream, that you’d wish to bequeath to your children and grandchildren. An America that can once again endure, inspire, protect and demonstrate the best ideals and ideas of a civilization as a beacon for humankind everywhere.
As we’ve already argued, to have a prayer of achieving such an outcome, this country is direly in need of the counsel, inventiveness, ingenuity and leadership of a new kind of mind—that of the dolphin thinker.
Because there is no way to fix America—return it to radical normal and move it forward—without jolting it to its very core.
It will require spiriting sizable numbers of its people into a future they don’t yet fully understand. Using technologies and methods still being invented. Making wholesale changes in this country’s priorities and public choices. Triggering prodigious shifts in where power resides and how it is deployed. Inviting minds of all persuasions and beliefs—carp, shark, Aquarian carp, dolphin—to think of themselves as Americans first, with common needs and interests and responsibilities. And, critically, shoving this whole protean enterprise in the right direction in a way that will not only make America whole again but prepare it for a new technological juggernaut now gathering force on the near horizon!
Such a tsunami of change has the potential to literally free humans worldwide of their enslavement to scarcity, hunger, poor health—and oligarchies of “elite deviants.” It is just the kind of gathering, massively reordering force that is America’s best hope for regaining its political, economic, cultural and even its spiritual footing.
You can help by calling our jeremiad to the attention of others and urging them to share links to it in their own blogs and emails. And using every means available, and especially your ties to social networks to issue your own clarion call.
Let the Wave of the Dolphin begin (with you and me)!
My thanks to Dr. Paul Kordis, my collaborator on Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World and other works, for sharing his thoughts on many of the above topics.
Suddenly, there are no more guarantees—and no more hidey holes. No one is vouchsafed a free ride in today’s juggernaut of change. Who really knows whether they’ll still have a job come Monday morning? Those skills you’ve spent a lifetime polishing—will they be nearly enough? Health care? Gasoline? A decent vacation? How long can you afford them? The American dream for your kids? Going, going, gone! they say. And is it even reasonable anymore to dream about retiring?
Questions. Questions. Questions. The books we’ve written at Brain Technologies for thinking about and dealng with contemporary times, issues and challenges all revolve essentially around the same question: “If you specifically designed a new kind of mind to help you deal with a future going bust, what would that mind be like?”
Your author says it should be a mind passionate at pursuing the next right, smart, good thing when it needs to do something different. Do anything less and the chances markedly increase that you’ll find yourself dueling with the sharks and giving blood at the feeding frenzy with the rest of the bait fish. Do anything more and you risk tilting at windmills and wasting badly needed resources, time and energy.
To be good at repeatedly discovering what works best in a change-crazy world, you need to challenge millions of years of conditioning in your brain. And welcome a mostly new kind of thinking that in these works we call “the dolphin mind.” (And, more and more, leave behind the shark, carp and not-quite-flying fish (or pseudo-enlightened carp) minds that humans have been using since Day One).
Thinking like a dolphin requires
• being the most observant creature in “the pool.” And paying close attention to who’s thinking how—and thinking what.
• knowing how to find the “new simplicities” on the other side of complexity.
• being passionate about acting pragmatically (ideologies, conspiracy theories, pet spiritualities, utopias and rigid dogmas must be checked at the door.)
• realizing that life is mostly about “the game”—about how to win, how to lose, how to decide when it doesn’t matter.
• wanting the best times to be ahead, not behind. Wanting the benefits to go to everyone, not just a few. And wanting people everywhere to have a fair chance at being what they were meant to be.
I’ve sought in our dolphin-thinking books to weave a unifying vision of how the post-postmodern world works, and how you can become the solution when your part of that world ceases to work well or well enough. Drawing on decades of breakthrough insights from brain studies, systems theory, game theory, cosmology, psychology and other social sciences, as well as its own Twenty-First Century wisdom, all of our dolphin-thinking books aim at getting you ready for future super-tsunamis of uncertainty and the unknown, whether you need to search for a new job tomorrow or rescue your favorite part of the planet the day after.
This is because the burning question of the hour is this: “In today’s demanding times, do you plan to be part of the speedboat or part of the Titanic?” As lawyers sometimes say, our works want you ready to reply, “Asked and answered!”
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If the language you prefer to read isn't seen here, then please help us find a translator and a publisher!
There is much that takes getting used to when you start thinking like a dolphin.
You’ll quickly discover, if you haven’t already, that swimming in dolphin “brain waters” produces patterns of thinking that tend to become identifying, status-alert signatures for you. Suddenly, something within your awareness clues you to the reality that more is going on than merely thinking outside of the box. During these peculiarly dolphin-type moments, it is more accurate to suggest that you are outside the box and experiencing existence in a way that is radically different from others around you.
You learn, for example, to recognize that thinking like a dolphin can make you restless in ways that are unique and strange to your apprehension in other thinking modalities—and you come to realize that you are being privileged to tap into the telltale “tectonic shifts” of the mind. Deep down, something seismological is going on, like those little pre-tremors that sensitive earthquake-sensing equipment can pick up, not to mention the animal creatures of the field and air, prior to a genuinely felt temblor. In dolphin thinking, when sensations quicken, you rapidly learn to say to yourself: Pay attention. Something is coming up. You begin to monitor events more closely. You start assembling scenarios to see if any fit. You ask: What is morphing, disintegrating, metastasizing, mutating? What am I in touch with that could be nearing a point of no return—or a tipping point?
And then there is the connectedness factor. Whereas in carp, shark and Pseudo-Enlightened Carp waters, it is possible for you almost to totally shut yourself off from the rest of the world, this kind of compartmentalization isn’t really possible for you any longer. It’s a sure bet that the other thinking/valuing/deciding styles frequent “just slam the door in the rest of the world’s face” tendencies have deep roots in our oldest epigenetic rules for survival.
For most of our species’ history, it has been more necessity than luxury to live in the equivalent of today’s gated community: to be able to pull up the drawbridge and depend on the moat to keep predators and other ill-wishers at bay. Even when it is not a literal reality, “going gated” still tends to be a much too common emotional reality in pre-dolphin waters. Not, though, post-LEAP! waters. The realization that there is heart-stopping need, pain, danger, intrigue and potentiality for the irreversible confronting much of living creation at any given moment—for the dolphin thinker, this thought is a mental cloak that is never really removed. It is a constant governor on your hubris, your impatience or any desire you feel to censor or disdain others for their stupidity or inattentiveness. Dolphin thinking’s constant reminder: it isn’t always easy to stay alive, much less be alive.
Thinking like a dolphin is even going to affect how you react to react to the news, wherever you get yours in these news-around-the-clock times. We might call this The Consequentialness Factor. Personally, I find this to be one of the most consistently startling of dolphin thinking’s signature processes.
News tumbles in of an unexpected development—a slip of the tongue or a revealed moral turpitude by a politician, a dreadful natural disaster, something new in consumer technology, a scientific breakthrough, a counter-intuitive voter polling result, a counterfactual argument challenging the general consensus of how things are: you can never quite know what it will be. Your dolphin thinking mind sees most of most of every day’s news as routine. Then something happens that shifts it into analytical hyperspeed, and suddenly you just simply know.
✔ I can usually tell from the first news report about a politician’s missteps if their career is over.
✔I knew from the start that Bill Clinton would not be impeached.
✔I knew that Colorado was going to turn into another California.
✔I knew—almost immediately—that the 9/11/ tragedy would produce a psychological retreat for the American people from which it may never recover, appointing 9/11/2001 as the end date for America’s global dream of unending universal progress.
Or rather my dolphin mind knew. It is not always correct, of course. But when it pounces hyperspeed, it is very, very good, and even yet, when it pounces, because the experience is so pronounced, I still take pause to process—and marvel at—the process.
I think you will marvel, too, at your abilities as a dolphin thinker to just say no. One quick upfront “no” is usually worth a dozen or more “learning experiences.” This may involve a fast dismissal for telemarketers or squirrelly advertisers. Or not getting involved with a deal, a potential partner, a flaky customer or a too-good-to-be-true investment and thus, since there will never be anything to end, never having to face the pain of drawn-out personal recovery. Other times, you will understand immediately that you shouldn’t lend your influence or endorsement, intuiting that all is not as has been described.
On still other occasions, your dolphin mind will flash you a “go,” then soon turn around and renege. When using these thinking skills, your mind can be lightening-quick to size up whether promises are being kept, the truth is being told, anticipated gains are happening or whether you are being made privy to the total picture. Having you hang around to see if you can spot an insider’s advantage even if there is skullduggery afoot simply isn’t the dolphin-thinking brain’s typical style. Remember you read it first here: The dolphin thinker’s decision to disengage when it assays that something may be rotten in Denmark can be bone-rattlingly abrupt.
There are many of these kinds of signature thinking patterns for the dolphin thinker, and for the moment, I’ll mention but one more: The dolphin mind’s tendency to propel you into the thick of anything that effectively captures your interest.
This isn’t to say that you won’t ever be a foot soldier or a bystander, content to go with the flow. The dolphin mind’s overweening expectation of human enterprises, big or small, is that they be functional: is this working? If it is, you may stay close but not really be influential. Projects, opportunities or enterprises—especially complex ones—that genuinely challenge you are a much different story, however. In these instances, the dolphin mind nearly always wants the conn or at least a seat at the decision or planning table. It may or may not receive it. Much faster than most anyone else, you are going to find yourself asking significant questions or, even more jarringly to any pre-dolphin minds present, quickly pointing to solutions. This seldom sits well with the accomplished gamesmanship players of the organization—any organization. You may or may not be invited to stay. Accept that this is now part of your nature: your dolphin thinking nature. And you should, and most times will, enjoy the ride. You’ve earned it!
It’s time, I think, for us to revisit the idea of The Ghost in the Machine. To get a firsthand sense of what this widespread dogma that colors so many of our assumptions about ourselves, our perceptions and our decision-making is about, you and I must visit the Great Swami, renowned reader of minds. First item of business: revealing what you, longsuffering reader, at this very moment are experiencing in your own head.
Before the Swami starts, I’ll let you in on a secret. This is going to be an inside job. The Great Swami is owner of the same kind of three-pound, grapefruit-sized, near-pudding-like, enzyme-controlled brain used by everyone else on his block, and he is actually about to describe how his brain seems to be experiencing the outside world. Unless you haven’t slept for the past 72 hours or have inhaled or imbibed something really squirrelly in the past few minutes, your brain is almost certain to be providing you with a similar experience.
And so The Great Swami begins:
“The first thing you are noticing is that it seems to you that you are gazing out the front of your face through a couple of holes in your head. Am I correct? … Ah, I thought so.
“And these vantage points permit you to see, continuously, except when you blink, just about anything you choose to see in roughly a 145-to-160-degree arc aligned center-on with your nose. Is this not right? … Yes! Yes, I thought so!
”And if you blink your eyes a couple of times and look for it, it even seems that you can actually detect the region where the dual images provided by your camera-like eyes merge their observations. That is to say, the view of the external world you get when you close one eye while keeping the other open and the view that you get when you do the reverse appear to be pasted together—when both eyes are open—in the vicinity of your nose. Now admit it? Is this not for you the truth? Yes? … Yes, it is as I had believed.
“Of course, your nose itself is a bit of a will-o’-the-wisp. Sometimes you actually seem to be seeing, if only in the faintest, gauze-like fashion, your nose in that shared viewing area between your eyes (and of course you can see your nose if you cross your eyes and look down) and sometimes it seems like you are also seeing right through your nose, with no discernable loss of vision. But one thing is very clear: everything you see is arriving in your head as a full-formed image, is it not? I mean, Holy Madagascar, just look out there! Images everywhere. It’s all images. All the time, seen from the inside of your head, isn’t it a certainty? … Yes! Absolumento!”
Along with the Great Swami, all of us all are but certain that our eyes are continuously recording—with indisputable fidelity—fully formed pictures of a rich, vivid world right there in front of our noses, and it may be difficult to convince us otherwise.
For example, after tracing what happens to a photon of light as it winds its way through the construction processes involved in producing what we think we see, one observer has summed up our abilities of vision as the “end product of chopping, coding, long-distance transmission, neural guesswork and editable cut and paste.” He adds, “What we see is not the product of direct perception, but of a reconstruction which borders on fragile artistry.”
At this juncture, and with apologies to the Great Swami, we can be absolutely sure that our vision isn’t television. Philosopher Daniel Dennett reminds us that much of our vision’s eventual “products” aren’t imagistic at all but are such things as guided hand and finger motions, involuntary ducking, exclamations of surprise, triggering of ancient memories and sexual arousal, to cite a few. Assuming that the results of our vision started out as pictures—images—“is rather like assuming that power from a hydroelectric plant is apt to be wetter and less radioactive than power from a nuclear plant. The raw retinal data are cooked in many ways betwixt eyeball and verbal report (for instance),” Dennett says.
As for that chief or central executive, that Ghost in the Machine that supposed is “up there” consciously watching the movie and providing us with a sense of self, well … youse pays your money and youse makes your choices when it comes to which theories, and which theorists, of consciousness you choose to follow.
Perhaps when it comes to helping us understanding how our custard-like brain works, how mind and brain relate, what an odd phenomenon consciousness is and so forth, the brain is just being shrewd . . . crazy like a fox . . . intuitively sensing just how bizarre this whole subject actually is. To my knowledge, no one has made this “bizarreness business” more entertaining than science fiction writer Terry Bisson. One of his Omni Magazine stories contained this exchange between an alien explorer who has just returned from a visit to Earth and his commander. Apparently, several versions of this dialogue have shown up on the Internet, but this is the one I like best:
[Explorer] They’re made out of meat.
[Explorer] There’s no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.
[Commander] That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars.
[Explorer] They use radio waves to talk, but the signals can’t come from them. The signals come from machines.
[Commander] So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.
[Explorer] They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.
[Commander] That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.
[Explorer] I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they’re made out of meat.
[Commander] Maybe they’re like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.
[Explorer] Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take too long. Do you have any idea of the life span of meat?
[Commander] Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.
[Explorer] Nope, we thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddelei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.
[Commander] No brain?
[Explorer] Oh, there’s a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat!
[Commander] So … what does the thinking?
[Explorer] You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.
[Commander] Thinking meat? You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat?
[Explorer] Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?
[Commander] Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.
[Explorer] Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.
So Archie Bunker turns out to have been a sharp-eyed neuroscientist, after all!
What is the bottom line, the moral, if you please, for this clever piece of sci-fi dramaturgy? How about this one: whether you are on the outside looking in (Sisson’s alien) or on the inside looking out (us Sisson meatheads), the brain is always central to understanding what’s happening, no matter discombobulatingly circuitous the route between what’s out there and what we actually conclude is happening. It may be meat but as Dr. Steven Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, observes, it’s a choice cut. “The human brain,” he says, “is probably the most complex structure in the known universe.” Its one hundred billion neurons are, or would be were they to be struck end to end in a continuous thread, more than two million miles long.
Neuroscientists suspect that each neuron is directly connected to an average of about ten thousand other neurons. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, notes that this makes the brain home to about one million billion of these links. “The number of possible ‘one-off’ patterns of neuronal firing is immense, estimated as a staggering ten times ten one million times (ten to the millionth power),” he marvels.
More than that, we’re stuck with the brain’s “my way or the highway” centrality to what’s going on. Edward O. Wilson, the renowned pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, reminds us, “Everything that we know and can ever know about existence is created there.”
Wilson continues, “The human brain bears the stamp of 400 million years of trial and error, traceable by fossils and molecular homology in nearly unbroken sequence from fish to amphibian to reptile to primitive mammal to our immediate primate. In the final step the brain was catapulted to a radically new level, equipped for language and culture. . . . The result was human nature: genius animated with animal craftiness and emotion, combining the passion of politics and art with rationality, to create a new instrument of survival.”
Thinking about how best to help you perform in dolphin-thinking waters, we need to do a reality check on our views about human nature. Older theories about human nature are proving tenacious in the pre-dolphin-thinking mind, but in the minds of people paying serious attention to what we are rapidly learning about the way the world really works already know better. One of our key assignments as dolphin-styled thinkers is to utilize the full powers of our new ways of thinking about human nature becomes second nature.
As readers of this blog, readers of my books, participants in any workshop longer than 30 minutes that I’ve designed and anyone who has ever asked me who the most seminal influencers of my career have been know, I have an outsized regard for the intellectual skills of a most remarkable, if often underappreciated, researcher and theorist named Clare W. Graves. He was a psychologist, and a very unique one.
Like another iconoclastic psychologist of his generation, the late George A. Kelly, in the 1950s, Clare Graves was coming to suspect that the differing psychological systems of the era were multiplying rapidly because “the people who developed them were focusing their attention upon somewhat different events.” (Kelly often referred to the theories of psychoanalysis and behaviorism as the Conventional Wisdom of the Dominant Group, a designation that one of his followers later shortened to COWDUNG!)
I’ve also been a fervent admirer of the work of two of the most competent academicians using Dr. Graves’ theory in their personal research and writing: Christopher C. Cowan and Dr. Natasha Todorovic, of Santa Barbara, Calif.
DR. CLARE W. GRAVES
(Photo courtesy of Christopher Cowan; used by permission)
Cowan was the primary creative wellspring behind the writing of a tour de force
for academicians and other serious scholars attracted to the Graves theory: Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change/Exploring the New Science of Memetics
(co-authored with Dr. Don Edward Beck), published in the mid-90’s. Cowan was a confidant and close colleague of Clare Graves in the final decade of his life and for nearly forty years has done extensive applied research into uses for the Graves model.
If not the first, Dr. Graves was one of the first visionary actually to see and to cite hard evidence of a revolutionary new way to describe human nature. In doing so, he was one of the very first challengers of the late Abraham Maslow’s idea that there was a ceiling to we humans’ psychological development, one that Maslow called “self-actualization.” Once fully self-actualized, we supposedly had nothing new to add to our mental, emotional and spiritual toolkit of personal developmental possibilities. Graves torpedoed that idea by doing research that turned up people who, as he phrased it, had made “a monumental leap.”
I once asked Cowan and Todorovic what we should expect to see in the way of personal characteristics in individuals who are approaching the point where they might be candidates to make that Gravesian leap, and they provided this list:
• Relativistic: situationalistic and context-dependent behaviors.
• Attracted to religion (again).
• Many alternatives and each to his own.
• Many alternatives—choice made on the basis of feeling, not knowledge or rules—service to others.
• Considers intellectually, but conclusion does not follow logic.
• Negative sensitivity to control by authority; sensitive to peer group and situation.
• Tendency to criticize but not cynically or snidely in a way to lead to change.
• “Each to his own, others have their way, we have ours, not mine to judge.”
• Chameleon-like character: when I FEEL this way I do this.”
• Centrality of life is people and friends.
• Superficial approach to solving problems of the world (they go away).
• Shows negativity around only one thing—hurting other people.
• “Things should be different, but I’m not the one to change them.”
And here’s what the Santa Barbara researchers say they would expect to see in someone who has made the leap:
• Relativistic: situationalistic and context-dependent.
• Conclusions follow logic.
• Do not stop from doing something even if it may hurt someone’s feelings or people are hesitant.
• Matter of fact responses which describe reality of what “is” in a detached though interested and concerned manner.
• Allow other person his/her point of view and still have his/her own point of view.
• Impulsivity and compulsivity are absent.
• Absence of fear.
• Ability to be critical without rancor.
Few things are more inspiring than listening to the great man himself as he described what he believed he was seeing in folks who have made the transition to this new level of maturity. Here is a snippet of his observations on how ethics change for us when, as we like to say around Brain Technologies. one of us succeeds in entering dolphin-thinking waters:
“Ethics that are good for man in his life, not after life; that are good for him, not his superior; that are good for him, not his group; that are good for him, not his ego … no bowing to suffering, no vassalage, no peonage. There will be no shame in behavior, for man will know it is human to behave. There will be no pointing of the finger at other men, no segregation, depredation or degradation in behavior… a foundation for his self-respect, which will have a firm base in reality [in an] ethical system rooted in human knowledge and cosmic reality.”
From Chris Cowan, email@example.com:
Wow . . . And thanks! You continue to impress with your generous tone and writing, Mr. Lynch.
Looking at the word Wow—probably a mind worm wriggling—likely came up because we returned last week from the WOW5 conference at the U. of Indiana: “Workshop on the Ostrom Workshop #5″. It was a gathering of political scientists, many social game theorists, who assemble every five years to compare notes. Most were trained by Elinor (Nobel prize in economics) and Vincent Ostrom at the Bloomington school. We . . . found that all these global scholars tend to miss the human factors in analysis. They look at ethnography and demographics, but do not delve deeper into why participants in social games make the strategic moves they do. An exceptionally collegial and welcoming bunch.
We were invited to attend by [a Brasilian consultant] who did a couple of our courses and whom we let use assessments to see if there was a relationship between game performance (most of theirs are build around CRP—common resource pool—decisions such as managing a fishery, distributing water rights, dealing with forests, now atmospheric carbon, etc.) and levels of existence. Surprise! The more F-S [Level 5, or shark] the more collaborative and willing to compromise for win:win solutions. The more D-Q [Level 4, or carp], the less willing to bend. They’ve been largely discounting the personality dynamics of the players and are now scrambling to fill in the gap in their analyses.
If you missed out on our initial roll-out and are wondering what the hubbub is about, you can find a quick fly-over introduction to our new soft-skills-building training format here and here.
What has really been rewarding about our unveiling of a new “play book approach” to using dolphin thinking insights and methodologies in times of declining corporate training budgets has been the spontaneous upwelling of approval and enthusiasm the idea and our approach have generated. It turns out some of the friends of “59 Minute TeamBuilding” are new to the scene; others go way back. Some we’d lost touch with. And with a good many, we were never in touch to begin with personally, at least not until now.
To those below and the others who have volunteered their thoughts, please know that you have our profound gratitude for getting in touch for the first time and/or staying in touch:
DR. GIUSEPPE PLATANIA, creator of the Ideodinamica brief-therapy method and professional life coach, Turin, Italy, www.ideodinamica.it
Today I finished reading your awesome book. I want to express my sincere admiration for the importance, completeness and usefulness of this work. The learning process is designed with extreme care and attention in order to protect the investment of money and time spent by the participants. It has absolutely practical applicability, distinguished from too many theoretical courses that plague the world!
GARRY ADLER, Owner, TEBU TeamBuilding, Sydney, Australia, www.teambuildingactivities.com.au
I think Strategy of the Dolphin was one of the first books I bought and it sits on my bookshelf. I still pick it up the book and read it from time to time and enjoy the read. It has stood the test of time!
DR. SEAN BROPHY, Organizational Behavior Consultant and Life Coach, Dublin, Ireland, www.seanbrophy.ie
Congratulations on your scholarship and the enterprise revealed in your innovative approach to team building. I’m enthused to find so many useful slants on the various instruments, especially on PathPrimer. Aside from team building, your guide is excellent as an adjunct to a coaching engagement. I wish you continued success with all your endeavours, you mighty man!
DAVID PATIENT, Owner, Empowerment Concepts, Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, South Africa, www.empow.co.za
We have used Strategy of the Dolphin for years. It is a brilliant tool. In a South African context, it is even more relevant today than it was 20 years ago.
RUTH LOGIE, Enterprise Architect at Standard Bank of South Africa, Johannesburg
I’d first like to tell you that Strategy of the Dolphin was a mind-opening book for me, and I thank you for that. There is an enormous amount of work that has gone into this [new] concept.
ADAM LINDEMANN, Managing Partner, Mind Fund Ltd. Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, Hong Kong
I first read Strategy of the Dolphin as a young man of around 20 years old. It was funny the other day, an entrepreneur said to me that he was initially not sure whether I was “New Age” and then he realized I was too practical to be so, but that he realized that I was not a selfish or a predatory shark. I explained confidently that I was a Dolphin and showed him the toy Dolphin in my office. For now, I would just like to say thank you from both sides of my Dolphin mind and heart for helping me to demonstrate that a Dolphin can not only succeed in the world, but that indeed the future of civilisation depends on us succeeding.
Cartoon courtesy of Thomas Karlsson,
Agile Coach at Softhouse
If you yourself aren’t involved in big-time software development or don’t, say, have a serious client or close friend who is, you may not be aware of some of the latest organizing concepts in this highly influential technology sub-specialty.
I’m referring particularly to the kind of ideas that often travel under one (or all) of these identifiers: lean, agile or scrum.
You’ll get a far more nuanced introduction to these buzz words and the sacrosanct workplace practices they represent from people who closely track them. Sinan Si Alhir, who blogs here, is a worthy example. Consider this enthusiastic sentence he uses to introduce the agility model to his blog readers:
We live in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world where we are challenged to be thriving on chaos in an age of discontinuity — where the past is plagued with incoherence & inconsistency, the present is plagued with chaos & ambiguity, and the future is plagued with unpredictability & uncertainty!
Alhir also has an excellent PowerPoint presentation I’d recommend to any newbie to the lean, agile, scrum scene. In it, he provides us such tidbits of context and history as these:
Lean has its roots in the Toyota “just in time” production system of the late 20th Century. The idea is to identify value and strive for perfection in producing it. Si Alhir recommends James Womack’s and Daniel Jones’ book, Lean Thinking, as good background reading.
Agile practices stem got their start in the design of high-performance fighter jets. Chet Richard’s book, Certain to Win, is a go-to source for details on agile approaches. Since these ideas are from the military’s neighborhood, it’s no surprise that they are usually described in slam-bang fashion: Observe, orient, decide, act.
Scrum refers to a way of designing the work. In Si Alhir’s words, it refers to “a simple team-based ‘inspect and adapt’ framework to organize work around ‘complex’ systems and products.” Its insider’s vocabulary is well stocked (and stoked!) with terms like ScrumMaster, Burndown Charts, Daily Scrum Meeting and Information Radiator.
I like the sound, the vitality and the no-nonsense character of all this because much of it closely tracks with the dolphin thinking qualities I’ve been advocating now for about a quarter-century.
For example, I’ve been telling folks that there is a kind of automatic problem-solving quality residing in our heads that, if we can activate it, will leave us reluctant to go to conventional workplace meetings any longer. Why? Arrogant as it sounds, in 95 meetings out of a 100, once you activate these thinking qualities, you will know a lot of that what needs to be done next not long after you walk in the door, if not before.
You might want to ask, “Why not go anyway and share your insights?”
Because the dolphin thinker quickly comes to realize that business meetings are mostly attended by three kinds of people: those who don’t want the problem solved, those who don’t want the problem solved on any terms but their terms and those who don’t want to hear any possible solution until they have had a chance to explain—and often argue strenuously—why they don’t think there can be one.
Dolphin thinkers would much prefer to invent new circumstances where old problems simply can’t find their way back in. Rather than attending meetings, they would much prefer to be busy instituting change.
This explains why dolphin thinkers have so often kept themselves in the background unnoticed, knowing that “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should remain silent”?
“You have read Wittgenstein, I see,” I can hear you saying, dryly.
Not really that much. I often find the enigmatic Viennese philosopher virtually unreadable. I think many individuals who have picked up a copy of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus will agree with me.
But I like his whereof/thereof quote. And I like his comment that his philosophy is intended to “show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.”
I don’t yet know enough about the progress of the lean-agile-scrum movement in software development to know whether this is actually turning out to be a dolphin-thinking-like idea or not.
My suspicion is that the “push for speed” ambitions of this movement without concomitant attention to some of the so-called soft-skill needs of the workforces involved in the end often leads to the same old, same old.
If that is the case, then there is a set of ideas that travels under another four-letter buzzword that I heartily recommend be added to the mix.
Nevertheless, I get excited when I come across folks who are saying things like this: “Simplicity‒the art of maximizing the amount of work not done‒is essential.”
That’s from The Agility Manifesto. You can read all 12 of its principles here, and if you are involved in training, coaching, leading or seeking to influence teams responsible for producing complex outcomes in fast-changing environments, I’d really recommend it.
From Brian Branagan, firstname.lastname@example.org:
Thanks, Dudley, for opening the conversation about the need for bringing “soft-skills” to those working with Agile/Lean/Scrum methods for delivering value to customers. I enjoyed reading about “The Agility Manifesto” since I’ve been introducing these practices to teams for over 10 years.
In addition to the books Sinan Si Alhir recommends on his site, I highly recommend that “emissaries” bring along the “Language of Business” skills you describe in your book, Evergreen: Playing a Continuous Comeback Business Game, and a knowledge of Clare W. Graves work you describe in LEAP! I also recommend Dr. Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business and Denning and Dunham’s The Innovator’s Way.
I’ve relied on these books as a resource to deal with the breakdowns I’ve encountered after introducing Scrum methods to teams.
The first breakdown was with the Daily Standup ritual where a team stands around a board with three columns: Work to be Done, Work in Process and Work Completed. On the board, there are Post-its describing tasks that take anywhere from one day to three days to complete that are moved from the first column to the third column over the course of a focused two-week period of work called a Sprint.
In a Daily Standup, each team member declares their progress. They commit to doing something by a certain date, they assess their progress for work they are doing or they say they have done something. If anyone needs help, this is the place to ask for it.
Sounds simple enough, right?
What I saw occur in the first few iterations were people who had difficulty in declaring commitments, making assessments or making requests as described in Evergreen. I realized that this is a core human skill that is probably not taught in computer science classes. I was able to provide some one-on-one coaching to team members so that they could move from needing to be seen as an Expert to becoming recognized for their ability to be a Learner.
The second breakdown I saw was between the Scrum team and the stakeholders of their work. It was not uncommon for a “Shark” stakeholder to demand the team take on an additional work item in mid-Sprint. Sometimes this could be handled by simply substituting it for a task of comparable size that had not yet been started. There were other times, however, when the stakeholder said that that was simply not possible.
This is where the “Language of Business” skills described in Evergreen and Dr. Kofman’s book can be useful so one can stay engaged with a frustrated person without being overwhelmed by their negativism. I’ve found Denning and Dunham’s book and their Eight Essential Practices for Innovation to be very helpful here, too.
Again, thank you for opening up new possibilities for bringing your ideas into new worlds of work and life.
Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung would have called it synchronicity. I call it downright irritating.
Less than 24 hours after our talented graphic designer delivered Brain Technologies’ new “59 Minute TeamBuilding” logo (below), an American tire company began promoting a national TV advertising campaign called “59 Minute Quick Tire Install™.” And If that wasn’t already one synchronous step too far, there was also the tagline I had created for the logo: “Where tomorrow meets the road.” I will cheerfully admit that I based this idea on a tagline that has long been associated with—yes—tires (“where the rubber meets the road”). You can forgive me for thinking that no good idea goes unpunished.
Nevertheless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the several months I’ve spent producing the facilitation guide for “59 Minute TeamBuilding.”
As is explained elsewhere on this website, the idea behind the concept is about as simple as making biscuits with Bisquick®.
THE IDEA IS GROWING
YOUR TEAM'S CAPABILITIES
STEADILY AND ECONOMICALLY
It doesn’t have to break the bank or crowd the schedule for you to “grow” your people and your teams. It doesn’t even require your to be a seasoned training, coaching or HRD/OD professional to pull it off.
And this isn’t merely another simplistic do-si-do around the training room dance floor. It’s an exhaustively tested, carefully syncopated, professionally coordinated week-to-week “game plan” for getting everyone on a work team deeply involved in the task of getting better and delivering more with the natural thinking skills they possess. And doing it collaboratively and with a reasonable amount of ongoing enthusiasm.
Putting the sinews of “59 Minute TeamBuilding” together sent me searching my files and my memory for “the best and the rightest” from more than three decades of facilitating team-building sessions.
Money-wise, benefitting from what materialized from my quest requires the investment of a ridiculously small amount of corporate or organizational pocket change. All that is needed to get started is to place an order for enough of our BrainMap® self-discovery assessments to supply everyone on your team with their own copy. That order also qualifies you for an e-mail copy of our 125-page “59 Minute TeamBuilding” facilitation guide and script free of charge.
After that, you simply need to find “an hour, less a minute” each week for as long as people are saying “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?” and let the valuable learning times roll!
ONE OF OUR EMAIL PROMOS
ON OUR NEW TRAINING CONCEPT
My favorite exercise is probably the one I suggest for Week 6, which is the second session (if you follow my suggested schedule) using BTC’s mCircle Instrument®. The activity is called “Win As Much As You Can.” I certainly didn’t invent the game and by no means was I even an early user. But I’ve been using it for nearly a quarter-century and have always found it an effective approach for providing my participants with new insights about the value of cooperation.
Well, nearly always.
Not long after the government broke up AT&T, I was asked to spend a few hours in Miami Beach with a group of managers and employees at one of the company’s surviving fragments. The HR people who invited me wanted the conference attendees to explore new ways to cooperate. I thought this might be a good opportunity to use “Win As Much As You Can.”
The changes and upheaval within AT&T at that point were too much to permit this group to generate any serious interest in cooperating even if they were merely play-acting.
Quickly, the room dissolved in riotous pandemonium that refused to be calmed. Not even the bosses on hand could restore order to the room.
As I remember, we simply abandoned the exercise and broke early for dinner.
Moral of the story: Be sure you get people to commit to making good things happen together before you ratchet the drama too high.
“59 Minute TeamBuilding” shows you how to quickly get a team focused on the things that matter, and the effect just builds and builds and builds.
I have a set of bowl-like items—some plastic, some metal, some actually food bowls from the kitchen—that I’ve taken with me all over the world.
Customs officials have looked at me strangely but have never asked why I carry around the basins or what they are used for. I think they may assume that I’m another oddity collector, one with lamentably poor eyesight or strange tastes.
If they ever want a demonstration, I’d have to line up my basins on the customs counter and then find my marbles, which can be anywhere in the jumbled contents of my materials trunk. I can just picture the snickering as the word spreads in the customs house: “Guy’s lost his marbles, too!”
By the time we earthlings reach the thinking level that, more than a quarter century ago, Dr. Paul Kordis and I named the dolphin level (as opposed to various earlier varieties of mind that we called carp and shark thinking levels), we generally know where our marbles are—and those of the people we deal with—to an unprecedented and amazing degree.
Demonstrating this is the purpose behind my basins and marbles. I use them to help people visualize how the mind matures.
The marbles are reds and blues. And the basins come in ascending sizes. The first is quite small, no larger across than a silver dollar. The next one is more the diameter of your average citrus orange. Then comes one that is the width across of, say, a Frisbee. And so forth, each one larger than the one before. Seven in all, all of which I keep under wraps—under a cloth, actually, like a magician does his or her props—until I’m ready to bring each one into view.
It is the final moments of my hour-long demonstration that usually bring a “you can hear a pin drop” quietness to the room. My first six basins are now out in full view. The three on the left contain a red marble. Those on the right, blue marbles. Each of these basins represents a stage, a stopover, for the mind, I’ve explained.
Red-marble stages are strongly individualistic. I put the bowls for those on the left side of the table. Blue ones are strongly oriented to the family, community or other groups. The bowls for those go on the right side of the table. And the bowl pattern is a zig-zag one because, as the creator of this model, the late Dr. Clare W. Graves, the gifted American psychologist, suggested, the dominant geometry of the mind’s development has been a spiral. The larger the basin, the more complexity and mobility, the more realness, the more knowledge, the more cosmic reality . . . the more functionality and flexibility our mind is capable of mobilizing and utilizing.
Until a few decades ago, every human alive and every human of history had assembled a mind for themselves from this grouping. There didn’t seem to be any other choice. Some individuals stayed at early stages and built worlds for themselves where technologies were simple and the emphasis by necessity was on simply surviving. Others moved on, diminishing some of the dangers and expanding others, making more sophisticated tools, adopting more and more sophisticated ideas and systems and ways to interact.
For the longest time, this was it. There were no other options for fashioning a mind.
Then, bro, nitro!
Suddenly, not long ago at all, just a few decades, we humans appear to have experienced our own Big Bang. Of the mind.
At this point in my demonstration, I reach beneath my prop cover-up and bring out another basin. Instantly, it is obvious that we are in another dimension. This basin is huge, dwarfing all the others. I set the new entry down some distance away from the original six.
“Dolphin waters,” I announce.
I do not know who the first dolphin thinker was. But I believe I’ve talked to more than a few. In my books, I’ve sought to augment their insights with personal experiences of my own.
I’m very fortunate in that, as an itinerant philosopher and instructor of thinking skills, I get to commingle regularly with ambitious souls who want to “be the best they can be,” always searching, probing, inquiring . . . always thinking about how most effectively to discard the old and move on to the new.
I have no scientific survey of the world’s seven-plus billions to offer (and know of no way to structure or finance one anytime soon). And I freely acknowledge that my personal universe is a long way from reflecting the whole. But I offer this educated guess: that 5 to 8 percent of the adult population of the world’s economically advanced countries are capable of making the momentous leap to dolphin waters.
Those who succeed don’t regularly make the headlines or the talk shows or otherwise stand out in the media because their serious thoughts about issues and solutions typically find few hospitable receptors in the brains of interviewers or reporters—being too broad, early, radical, difficult, complex or indecipherable, or some mix of all this. But, if nothing else, the explosive rate of change in the new millennium is one indication that a growing number of these kinds of minds is around.
At the end of my demonstration with the bowls and marbles, I give all my participants a marble of their own and invite them to place it in my out-sized bowl.
“Something new is here,” I observe. “And given what’s happening and what’s needed in our world, the arrival of dolphin thinking skills is very timely.”