Thoughts on the purpose of this gift called life

     Throughout history humans have pondered the question “What is the purpose of this gift call life”. Speculation on the answer forms the basis for numerous religions and political movements and has been embedded in human culture in many ways. I offer these notes as a record of my own search for an answer to this question. My simple answer is that we are called to evolve and partner together to build a happy, peaceful, and just world and a healthy planet for us all to share.

    An important concept expressed in many different ways on the nature of humankind is that males and females both have masculine characteristics and female characteristics. The psychologist Carl Jung called these characteristics the animus and anima.

    Mental wisdom is considered to be part of our masculine characteristics and have enabled us to increasingly develop an understanding of our world and the universe we are a part of. Inner wisdom is considered to be part of our female characteristics which guide our search for the deeper purpose of our gift call life.

    There are over 4000 recognized religions in the world with variations of the answer to the purpose of life. My intent in this document is not to express opinions on the religious views of others but rather to share my own personal view of the evolutionary purpose of humankind based upon my knowledge and personal experience and possible ways to enable this evolutionary process.

    This document provides information on what I refer to as a “shared purpose” which I believe humankind is called to achieve My colleagues and I, supported by so many others, have developed, tested, and validated methodology for building a visionary learning organization with a process-based partnership culture. A methodology that enables organizations traditionally based on the top-down domineering culture to develop a partnership organizational culture which has a high level of employee engagement as well as world-class performance. W Edwards Deming the renowned management consultant expressed the opinion that without a theory we are just messing around. The theory associated with the methodology we have developed, tested and validated is not only valid to help develop and sustain prosperous and healthy organizations but also applies to the opportunities for humankind to evolve as we participate in our life’s journey. We are committed to sharing our knowledge and experience with those who wish to receive it.

    When I was putting together the thoughts I plan to share in this document, I asked myself the question when in my life was it that seeking my own answer to this question became important to me. There was a turning point where I shifted from focusing on being successful in my career and my well-being and security to having a deep concern for the health and well-being of others, our environment, and the planet. I concluded that it was in 1973 when my wife and I attended a retreat in California and I learned about the writings of the visionary Dane Rudhyar.

    We were given a small booklet he had written called A Seed. This document is available on this website. My wife and I went and sat by the Pacific Ocean and read it together. The wisdom in his words touched my emotions and from that moment forward I have sought to understand the knowledge and wisdom needed to be what he referred to as a “seed person.” Having gained valuable insights, I have decided this is the right time to share my understanding of the knowledge and wisdom I have gained. I believe these resources will help seed people partner with others to help in building a happier and healthier and just world.

    An important concept needed to achieve a desired change is a Shared Purpose. The components of a shared purpose are 1) what is to be achieved 2) why achieving that is important 3) how it can be achieved. There needs to be clarity and understanding of what change is to be achieved, a deep sincere belief that it is important to achieve the desired change, and an established and proven methodology for achieving the desired change.

    For many years I have pondered the question on how the desired change can be achieved. I have been asking myself what is the essential wisdom needed by seed people to help initiate the transformation of today’s troubled society to a happy, healthy, and secure future society; a society which can be established and demonstrated that provides a positive role model that, each in their own way, others can emulate in nations throughout the world. The how I will share in this document has been developed, tested and proven to be successful with my partners in our small management consulting company. I realize that worldwide there are many people seeking and exploring a pathway for building a healthier human society. The information I’m sharing in this document should be viewed as a contribution to this worldwide effort.

    One of the most respected management theorists in the world is W Edwards Deming. One of his central beliefs is that without a theory for what you are trying to achieve you are just messing about. Our small consulting company has developed a theory of “How” to facilitate the development of a partnership culture while concurrently improving the prosperity of those in the partnership. Later in these notes I will discuss the implications of applying this theory worldwide, in all walks of life, to building a happy, peaceful, and just world and a healthy planet for us all to share.

    Understanding and addressing the root cause of the symptoms of ill health in our society

    I will start this section of my document by acknowledging a few of the many individuals who helped me learn and grow as a human being over the past decades and develop the insights I plan to share. First and foremost I wish to acknowledge my wife Annie my partner for over 50 years. Another important person in my life was Russell Tompkins who was at the retreat, when I learned about Dane Rudhyar’s booklet. Also, Tom Smith and Jeff Johnson, power plant workers who participated in and helped develop the theory and practice for establishing process organizations. In particular I wish to acknowledge Laura Uden, Carrie Cabak, Ron Murata and the other members of our management consulting team, who have been my partners in developing and testing the tools and methods we have found to be successful in helping realize the paradigm change we sought. I also wish to acknowledge the organizational leaders and frontline workers in the organizations who partnered in our pilot projects who recognized our shared purpose was not only to help them revitalize their organizations but also in doing so contribute to revitalizing our society and the health and well-being of our planet.

    Evolution is a process it does not take place everywhere at once or at the same rate but rather in special environments where the conditions are available to build a higher level of unity. Life was formed on this planet in such a special environment. We are challenged to become true partners with each other and build unity between us in such a manner that we do not lose our identity but achieve so much more by becoming partners. This is the state of being that was achieved by the partners in our pilot projects. They became true partners committed and engaged in succeeding together in their daily work.

    In a recent publication Gallup reported that low employee engagement costs the global economy $17.8 trillion a year. An important question that all organizations need to answer is how to successfully improve employee engagement. The methodology we developed and tested in power generation plants provides a proven pathway for improving employee engagement which can be emulated by others.

    Throughout the world people are concerned about the health of their society. These concerns include the opioid crisis, the suicide rate, the reduction in life expectancy particularly in the young, alcoholism, broken families, access to health care and high levels of anxiety and stress. There are many people committed to addressing these symptoms. Yes, it is important to do what we can to address the symptoms and to reduce, in the short term, the pain in our society. However, it is my belief that by understanding the root cause of the symptoms and addressing them that we will build a happy and healthy society for ourselves, for our children and for our planet.

    In this document I’m going to use some analogies that I hope help illustrate the challenge we face in understanding the root cause of ill health in our society and suggest a theory and strategy for addressing it.

    Not too many years ago in the journey of Homo sapiens, intelligent humankind believed it was possible to save a witch’s soul by burning her at the stake. This was the prevailing wisdom supported by the church. In modern times we can see the falsehood in this belief. The question I believe we are challenged to ask ourselves is are there any established beliefs in our society today that are analogous to the ignorance of the witch burning consciousness of the past. It is in accepting that possibility exists and considering it that I believe we can understand, perceive and recognize the established thinking that is the root cause of the symptoms of ill health in our society.

    Leaders in all walks of life have been successful under the old paradigm, a hierarchical paradigm where those in power at the top influence and control those who provide the support for the leaders to achieve their goals. I refer to this as the domineering paradigm. The domineering paradigm is prevalent in business organizations, religious organizations and in all walks of life (and too often in the family). It is the dominant organizational paradigm in the USA and worldwide and has been inculcated into the consciousness of leaders in society by their life experiences.

    The emergence of a new paradigm is challenged by the existing establishment. Galileo, who was an advocate of the Copernican view that the Earth rotated around the sun, was tortured to force him to recant his views. The establishment wishes to sustain the status quo and can ostracize those who don’t embrace the mainstream belief.

    Those at the top of the food chain are doing well and those lower down are doing increasingly poorly. This has been exacerbated in the USA as we have been faced over the past decades with increasing competition from a rebuilt Western Europe. Now all traditionally called advanced nations are challenged by a rapidly developing cadre of developing nations which has resulted in the so-called advanced nations trying to sustain our standard of living by assuming increasing amounts of debt.

    Thomas Kuhn wrote a book The Structure of Scientific Revolution in which he documented the challenges that scientists and others have in seeing information that is inconsistent with their existing theory. In his research he found that often scientists ignored or were unable to recognize information that was inconsistent with their existing theory/constructs. This behavior also occurs with individuals who have established inflexible construct/principles for the way they live their life.

    The primary challenge faced by myself and my colleagues over the past 50 years has been to develop a methodology to help organizations transform from domineering organizations to organic partnership organizations and demonstrate from practical hands-on experience with front-line workers, supported by organizational leaders, that the transformation process works. The concurrent challenge has been to find a way to communicate to organizational leaders, who are ready to listen, the validity of the transformation process and the value of the associated tools and methods we have developed.

    One important factor we’ve learned is that change does not come from study and contemplation but rather from real-world experience that convinces us of the benefit of the change. This approach is called learning by doing.

    In his book Memory’s Voice (Deciphering the mind-brain code), Daniel Alkon shared findings from his research. He found that the way the brain works is not like a computer that can be reprogrammed after the deletion of the old program. Existing beliefs cannot be overridden or eliminated through an act of will or a day spent in training but rather by understanding a new model and its underlying theory and experimenting with it and the new theory becoming proven to those involved to be more valid than the old. We will not evolve to a happier and healthier society through debate and intellectual political or religious persuasion but rather through experiential learning on how to build a happier, healthier world.

    One of the many beliefs widely held by people in the USA is that America is the greatest nation in the world. Recently, we have heard a lot about fake news. In a recent TV program, Will McAvory challenged the view that America is the greatest nation in the world by offering the following thought:

    There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that the USA is the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality. We spend more on defense than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.

    The information I have provided so far has been background to help me in sharing my view on the root cause of the ill health in our society. One resource that helped me clarify my view was a book by Riane Eisler called The Chalice and the Blade. Her book shared information on research she performed to understand how societies around the globe and through history had organized together for survival. She found only two survival models that had been successfully implemented throughout human history. One she referred to as the domineering model and the other as the partnership model. Western society has been very successful by adopting the domineering model. Powerful leaders in kingdoms, tribes, industry, politics, and religious orders have sought to dominate the masses. Often from a very altruistic perspective, but in doing so have required allegiance to the principles of the leader and the leadership group, stifling the initiative and creative contributions of the followers. Those who failed to provide allegiance to the leaders found themselves being ostracized within the organization. The domineering model was embraced in human culture as it was proven to be effective in competing for resources, in the ability to succeed in wars and conflicts, and in early industry with success in directing a relatively uneducated workforce to perform repetitive monotonous tasks i.e. the automobile production line.

    One analogy I’d like to share here is the boiled frog syndrome. This idea is that if a frog is placed in a pan of cold water on the stove and the water is slowly heated; the frog gets acclimatized to the slowly increased change and eventually finishes up getting boiled. However, if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water it will immediately jump out. My analogy is that the building of and commitment to the domineering model has been similar to the boiled frog syndrome. Today’s prevalent domineering paradigm has been built up and sustained as a fundamental construct of Homo sapiens. I suggest that the belief that the domineering model is the most effective way to organize today’s society is today’s fake news and analogous to the witch burning views of the past. It has created a non-egalitarian society within which the 1% are doing well, the contribution of women is undervalued, and we are experiencing an increasingly impoverished middle-class and draconian challenges for those at the bottom of the social hierarchy to survive and care for their children. The symptoms of ill health in our society arise from our continued adherence to a domineering model that belongs to an age that is passed. Those in power in all walks of life mostly do not “get it” as they try to make the old ways work and the voices of those who hear a different drumbeat are dismissed as inconsistent with the constructs, beliefs and principles of those with power.

    The world has changed, and the aspirations of people have changed and particularly the desire of educated and mature human beings to have a creative and meaningful life.

    The domineering model belongs to an age that has passed, and I strongly believe that it is the root cause of the ill health in our society.

    My colleagues and I have been performing applied research for many years with an understanding of the challenges our leaders, organizations and institutions face in transitioning to what I refer to as an organic partnership culture. There have been limited examples that provide role models of a partnership organization succeeding and prospering long-term in the sea of a domineering cultural paradigm. Communes, new age groups, back to the earth movements and cooperatives have all been experiments in building partnership organizations.

    I am part of a small consulting group, and our applied research has enabled us to gain an understanding of how to build a partnership organization from the bottom up. We have conducted numerous projects throughout the USA to help test our theory and have had outstanding success. We have developed insights into the primary challenges of groups who sought to form partnership organizations in the past. The size of the groups and the diversity of the participants made it difficult to achieve the alignment of personal beliefs and the unanimity needed to achieve and sustain the partnership model. We found that, given the chance, a small group of workers can synergize their energy, learn how to operate as one, achieve improved performance levels, and find greater joy in work. Once a front-line process team is established, engaged, and committed it becomes a positive force in the body of the organization and by inspiring the development of additional process teams in the organization an organic process organization can be built.

    So the bottom line in addressing the ill health in our domineering culture is by building partnership organizations from the bottom up.

    This is not a simple process. Building the partnership organization requires the support of insightful management, a knowledgeable internal coalition of people who have a clear vision of what they seek to achieve, and the ability to build the trust necessary to engage front-line workers.

    We found the foundation for success was to find champions in the management team who were ready to risk pilot projects that gave front-line workers the opportunity to own and improve their own work processes and in doing so demonstrate the value of the partnership paradigm to their organizations. Equally critical was to have an internal coalition of mostly front-line workers who had the vision to facilitate pilot process definition and improvement projects, and who could support and train those involved in the process improvement project. We found that at least a one-week training course was necessary to get the internal coalition up to speed and excited about what they could do to help the organization prosper. It was also essential to provide skills training to front-line workers on how to define, analyze and develop cost-benefit solutions that would be instrumental in improving the way work was done and gain the approval of management., and also to develop a strategic planning method which helped align process improvement goals with organizational strategy.

    My hope is that this document will provide information that will inspire those who read it to become seed people in helping build a happy healthy world. There are numerous pathways to contribute as seed people. However, I believe it’s important to be able to have a valid response to W Edwards Deming’s assertion, which is that it is not only essential to be clear on your purpose and why it’s important but to have a theory on how the positive change you seek can be achieved. The methodology we developed, tested and validated on the 6-year EPRI program can be applied wherever a group of people have a shared purpose. The important message is that participants need to be committed not only to achieving their shared purpose but also to learning together to act as partners and contribute to the health and well-being of each other, our society and our planet.

    My colleagues and I have called the methodology for transforming a predominantly domineering organization to a partnership organization, the 5-phase approach. In our research within an organizational environment the 5-phase approach began with gaining management support for the pilot projects and providing training to the internal team of front-line workers who will facilitate the pilot project. The theory and methodology behind the 5 phase approach is not only applicable to business organizations but all organizations in all fields of life in which we seek to achieve a shared purpose. It is in learning as we partner together to achieve our shared purpose that, individually and collectively, we evolve.

    Each of us has spent our life conditioned by a culture committed to the domineering paradigm which has influenced the way we perceive new information. The darkest night is just before the dawn and I believe that the pain we are suffering from the ill health in our society will give us the motivation to seek, understand and believe that our evolutionary destiny lies in finding ways of becoming partners, yes, loving partners, with each other and all of nature.

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