A Metaphor for a Worldwide Paradigm Shift
Creating Learning Organizations Through Core Competence in Community Building
Softstuff: Work Teams in Technical Organizations
From Chaos to Community at Work
Discovering a Generative Path to Organizational Change
Dialogue and Organizational Transformation
The Wisdom Council
Rediscovering the Circle: Community in Balance
A Sense of the Whole: The Essence of Community
The Quest for Collective Intelligence
Principles for Sustainability
My Journey Toward Hope
A Metaphor for a Worldwide Paradigm Shift
by Michael Ray
This document is an extended version of the chapter
"A Metaphor for a Worldwide Paradigm Shift"
in the anthology "Community Building: Renewing Spirit and Learning in Business", New Leaders Press, 1995.
Please do not quote without the permission.
One for the money,
Keep this little jingle in mind as you live through the discontinuous change occurring at the end of the twentieth century. There is evidence that this change is the really big one, bigger than even the Copernican Revolution that started over four hundred years ago. And the four stages of this jingle hold much wisdom about the process of change in the individual, the organization and the world as we go through this period of transformation. Not surprisingly, these four stages occur in community building also, so that, at the group level, this process seems to be not only a metaphor for this change but also a model for how we might get through this time with less misery and more exultation.
For it is in our relationships that this change is going to be played out. We are moving to a mind set of wholeness and systems thinking, at the same time that we have to be willing to play with each other as children. There is a combination of deep knowing and also lightness that is needed. And the general model and practice of community building provides both.
Just as the play poem says, "one for the money," the first community building stage of pseudocommunity happens because people are relating for and on the basis of something as artificial as money seem to be in the new world we are moving into. When we are in the second community-building stage of chaos, we are acting &quo;for the show" as we try to fix other people, show others that we are right, really know something, and that we can help without even having to truly listen to them. When we "get ready" in the third or emptiness stage of community building we are dropping all the pretension and mind chatter to go into a deeper place where the core of true human relationship exists. Then we can glide into community, the fourth stage, where we can "go" not only in terms of our relationships themselves but also in terms of what those relationships can become--a cocreative state of self conscious consensus that is generative for both the individual and the whole and that represents the best of what a new paradigm for the world might be.
When the play poem is recited, each line is said in order. And so too for the process of community-building--each stage has value and meaning and must happen in some way in order to move on to the next. Everything can be grist for the mill. It is dysfunctional to attack ourselves or others on the basis of the stage we happen to be in. We can't move immediately to community any more than we can move immediately to, say, new paradigm business just because we have a concept of it. We have to move through the intervening stages. And we are never at a "destination" of a stage for very long. The achievement is in the process of relationship itself and the creativity that comes from that.
This process happens in the world as a whole, just as it has occurred and must occur in individuals and in groups. In this chapter I explore these phenomena by taking Thomas Kuhn's approach in the realm of history and philosophy of science ( as represented, for instance, in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and applying it to examine the overarching mind set that people of all walks of life have in each historical period, whether they are in science or not. Just as Kuhn says that a particular paradigm or set of fundamental assumptions are what make a science, so too we live in this world with a set of fundamental beliefs that are so ingrained in our society that we hardly know they exist, much less examine them.
Kuhn claims that science moves in infrequent paradigm shifts or scientific revolutions with long intervening periods of normal science done within a particular paradigm. Some argue that this structure for science can't really be applied to the world as a whole. Of course the world isn't really as unified in thought as are those who practice within a science. On the other hand, when you read about the Copernican Revolution in Kuhn's book itself, it is hard not to leap immediately to a consideration of the effect these changes had on the whole world, not just in science.
We regularly recognize periods in the history of the known world in which these kinds of changes occur. For instance Richard Tarnas organizes his overview of Western thought, The Passion of the Western Mind, into four stages: classical (dominated by the Greek philosophers), medieval (dominated by Christianity), modern (dominated by scientific thought, largely the paradigm we are living under today), and the postmodern (the transformation of the modern mind that is the discontinuity happening at the end of the twentieth century in ourselves, our organizations and our world).
In the shifts or revolutions moving the world from one of these eras to the next, there is a mind shift across the world of the time. This occurred, for instance, in what the philosopher and historian Huston Smith calls "the triumph of Christianity" in the fourth century A.D., as the world moved from the classical to the medieval periods. Although Christianity initially borrowed much from Hellenic thought, the shift at that time centered life and all of its activity in a completely different way from the Roman times. The dominating paradigm of Christianity, for instance, considered much of the previous paradigm to be pagan in nature and even punishable by death. This is not to say that in the Western world there weren't those that still practiced the "pagan" beliefs or that there weren't other parts of the world that weren't affected by this new Western paradigm. But in the known world of the time there was one paradigm that dominated.
Similarly, as the futurist Willis Harman puts it in his Global Mind Change, the scientific revolution that followed on Copernicus was so profound that if you could speak to a reasonably well-informed citizen in 1601 and then to the same sort of person in 1701, the fundamental basis of the conversations would be completely different. And today we are still speaking basically with the assumptions of 1701, the scientific mind set itself that says that all knowing comes objectively from the senses, from perceiving the outer world and from believing only what we can see. Since this last change in mind set into the current dominant paradigm, even those not involved directly in science see the world in this way.
Of course those early revolutions in the change in mind set or societal paradigm were confined to what is now known as the Western world. They were not as unified within the whole world as a paradigm shift is unified within a science. But that is the most telling aspect of what is going on now. Both the scientific paradigm that is dominant and the mind shift that is happening now truly do seem to be global because of global industrialization and information technology. These forces can link virtually everyone in the world in a mind set that is controlling the way we try to deal with world problems. And the problems are getting so enormous that they are drawing us together to see if there is a better way, a new paradigm that will be more functional.
Perhaps the most succinct statement of the spread of the dominant, scientific paradigm, the difficulties it has spawned and need to examine it or make a change on a worldwide basis was made by African educator Motumbe Mpana when he said, "The American Dream is the World's Nightmare." Just as the scientific paradigm has produced technologies and societies that have advanced the world in many ways, it is obvious from even a cursory examination that there have also been significant negative consequences. But we are so caught up in that paradigm that even those who are suffering most from it want to emulate those such as the Americans who are benefiting, economically in the short term, from it. And, when we are willing to look at them at all, we attempt to solve problems such as environmental degradation, military conflict and human suffering with the same technology that is causing them. As Einstein once implied, you cannot simultaneously be the cause and the solution of the problem.
In science, Kuhn tells us, paradigm shifts happen when there are anomalies, disparate, odd scientific results that cannot be explained away by inadequate method. When sufficient anomalies occur, those in any science must begin to consider that the paradigm under which they are doing their work is no longer of use or is actually dysfunctional. Today we are faced with the same kind of situation in the world overall, where our paradigm is dysfunctional and a large minority is saying that we have to move to different fundamental assumptions.
When a paradigm shift occurs in science, according to Kuhn, it has the violence of a revolution. The leaders of the dominating paradigm seem to want to kill off those who are proposing the emerging paradigm. And they do kill people, if not physically, then in terms of career, recognition and psychological well-being. Past paradigm shifts in the world have produced actual violence as in the persecution of the Christians by the Romans during the shift from the classical to the medieval mind or in the inquisitions that sometimes involved scientists during the seventeenth century that marked the shift from the medieval to the modern or scientific mind.
We see some forms of violence today as we begin to move into a new paradigm. This is particularly true in institutions like government, education, health care, law, and religion where the restrictions against fundamental change are strong indeed. Such restrictions from the dominant paradigm can be found in business also. However business is seen by many as the lead institution in this paradigm shift, not only because it is the dominant institution on the planet but also because it is an institution that, relatively speaking, seems to thrive on change.
It seems that those of us who work in business organizations have some advantage in getting through the process of change we are going through. There is a survival instinct in business that pushes us toward accepting new ideas and new approaches that can help us to deal with crisis once we recognize it.
Whereas the shift from the classical to the medieval world took some three to four hundred years and the shift from the medieval to the modern scientific paradigm took nearly two hundred years, the shift we are going through now seems to be happening somewhat faster. Of course the groundwork for the current worldwide mind change started around the turn of the century in science with quantum mechanics in physics, in psychology with the recognition of the unconscious, in chemistry with polymers, in biology with hybrids, and in ecology with whole systems.
But the acceleration of change really began in the last third of the century as these ideas began to filter into and intermingle with changes in society. Now there is a vision of what the emerging paradigm might be (even though such speculation must necessarily be tentative and evolving). It seems to include the assumption of consciousness as being causal, a basis of wholeness and system thinking, and a dependence on inner wisdom and authority rather than on the senses and outer proof as in the current dominant paradigm. Rather than believing it only when we see it, the emerging viewpoint seems to be that we will see it only when we believe it--shifting the locus of control from the outside to the inside.
For business this seems to indicate an over-arching purpose of enlightenment for all those in a business and the corresponding service to the surrounding environment and peoples. In other words many now have the hope that the institution of business offers the most fertile ground for application and development of the emerging paradigm. Then business, through the developing individuals in it, can begin to take responsibility for the whole rather than just operating in a competitive market system with its attendant negative externalities.
The key question, then, is how do we get there from here? How can we move from the current idea of business based on the scientific paradigm to something more humane and functional? How we can we start living our deepest held values and beliefs?
Historically, there is not much hope for a smooth transition to a new worldwide paradigm. Not only is there the violence noted earlier, but there haven't existed technologies for making this change. Kuhn seems to offer only one: The leaders of the old paradigm will die off. This is clearly not a viable alternative today since the pace of events is so accelerated and life expectancies are at such a high level and increasing around the world.
The process itself, however, does offer some hope. And this is where community building and related technologies come into play. Over and over we see that the four stages of community building--pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness, and community--are represented in models of the general change process. This implies that the process that we do at the group level is supported by and supports change at other levels.
One of the most general depiction's of the change process in nature and organizations is George Land's growth curve application (see Land and Jarman, Breakpoint and Beyond and in this volume). Like the product life cycle, Land's is an S-shaped curve with four stages. In life cycle analysis these are called introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Land and Jarman make a critical contribution, however, when they point out that the decline part of the process is accompanied by the starting of a new process, a new S-curve, which, when it happens in a worldwide sense, constitutes the start of a new paradigm.
This breakpoint or bifurcation, where the curve of the S for the old paradigm begins to go down and the new paradigm begins the introduction phase of the a new S-curve, is a period of great turmoil, as we seem to be in today. We must live with unpredictability because the new ways may work for awhile and then be thrown back, due to such factors as our not living by our principles, imperfect implementation, and reaction from those holding on to the old, dominant paradigm.
This is what can happen when a group finds itself in the state of community, comparable to the new S-curve that starts at the point of bifurcation in the Land and Jarman model. The experience in a group that has moved into community can be one of uncertainty, especially when they have to get back to work and they forget the discipline it takes to get to and maintain community.
In fact, whenever something new--such as a new golf grip or dance step--is tried, there is a difficult period (the dip in the first part of the S-curve) when only its potential keeps us toward the second stage of growth in this new state. We face that kind of down and up almost every day as we try to live with what is now only a vague indication of what the new paradigm might be. And if these difficulties with implementation get exacerbated by our lack of resolve and attacks from the dominant paradigm, it is not surprising that the process moves in fits and starts and seems to fold back on itself because of negative feedback.
We can suffer depression, confusion and frustration if we don't understand that what is going on is the normal process of the universe. Ancient spiritual teachings tell us that the Universe or God is constantly creating, maintaining, destroying, concealing, and revealing. And this truth is now supported largely by scientific theories and findings: from the dance of elemental particles to the movement of chemical solutions to the synergy of our mental processes to the joys and sorrows of our interactions with others to the rise and fall of organizations and nations to the evolution of galaxies.
The four step process of the Land and Jarman curve is echoed in a number of other conceptual models of the change process. August Jacacci and John Gowan offer the most general and expanding of these. With their "Metamatrix" (See P. A. Galagan, "Growth: Mapping Its Patterns and Periods" and A. Jacacci, "The Social Architecture of a Learning Culture" both in Training and Development Journal, November 1989) they have achieved a dynamic amalgamation of the models that have been used by furturists and others looking at growth and change processes. Their four stages are gather, repeat, share, and transform--similar in many ways to the stages of the growth process and of community building but having special meaning in the way that the evolve.
Jacacci's depiction of the process can be seen in Figure 1, (This is a table, best seen by Netscape 1.1) which was done by general systems theorist John Gowan to show the organization of nature. Any row of the figure shows the process of development for any particular system. Once that level has gone through the gather-repeat-share-transform process, the transform stage becomes the gather stage for the next higher level and so on--from microphysical photons in the upper left of the figure though the biophysical realm in the middle of the figure to astrophysical first cause in the lower right.
Notice that each of the three realms is also a macro-level of the process--microphysical is the gather stage, biophysical is repeat and astrophysical is share. Jacacci and Gowan don't go beyond that to the transform stage in this figure, but it is clear from Jacacci that he believes the transform stage would have to do with the realm of consciousness, precisely the center of what seems to be the emerging paradigm.
Jacacci forms the Metamatrix itself in a way similar to that in Figure 1, except turned on its side so that each of the present rows would be a column and the right side would be on the top. For example the "Microphysical Realm" part of the figure could be a Metamatrix in itself. Then the first or "Gather" column would start with Photons at the bottom and work up to Baryons at the top. Then Baryons would be the bottom "Gather" stage for the second or "Repeat" column an so on. These Metamatrices, which can be constructed for any process, can continually spiral out in a Fibonacci pattern (the same as that for a chambered Nautilus shell, a ram's horn, the formation of a hurricane, or the spiral of water in a bathtub drain). The significance of this is that each sixteen-cell Metamatrix (or, more importantly, the process it depicts) is embedded in the first cell of the next level of process.
The Metamatrix can be used to examine any process, historically and into the future. Jacacci has called it the "periodic table for everything." It allows speculation as to where any process might go into the future. And when it is combined with the model of community-building, it indicates the generative nature of the process if we can stay in it, despite the disruptions and negative feedback situations that can occur as we proceed.
Herman Maynard is one individual who has worked with Jacacci's Metamatrix to look at the development of human consciousness, the "Transform" section not covered in Figure 1. In his "The Evolution of Human Consciousness" (in J. Renesch, ed., New Traditions in Business) he offers a sweeping view that shows the Copernican revolution as just one cell of a sixteen-cell Metamatrix map that is itself part of a larger Metamatrix map showing the whole history of human consciousness. The complete cell of which the Copernican revolution is just one sixteenth depicts where we are now in the world, ready to make the step to the next large cell, the present emerging paradigm. This analysis, based entirely on Maynard's view of course, indicates the enormity of the present shift in comparison to the last major one that civilization experienced.
In Maynard and Susan Mehrtens book, The Fourth Wave: Business in the 21st Century, recent history and the future is put into four stages, roughly the equivalent to the ages of agriculture, industrialization, information, and the emerging new paradigm.
These stages are not the equivalent of the stages of community building but rather call for the use of community building as we move from where we are now (entering the information age) into the new paradigm, particularly in business. Figure 2, (This is a table, best seen by Netscape 1.1), is taken from Maynard and Mehrtens' book and shows how the change that has happened and will happen affects business and society in general.
The message, once again, is that we have to be aware of where we've been and where we're going. And remember that we have to move through these experiences to get to the ideal of our visions.
We see this in dramatic fashion in the psychotherapist Stanislav Grof's work (see his Beyond the Brain: Birth Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy and R. Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, pages 425-33 from which the following account was taken) in putting people through their birth process by use first of psychoanalytic substances and later non drug therapeutic methods to catalyze unconscious memories.
Richard Tarnas calls Grof's contribution, "the most epistemologically significant development in the recent history of depth psychology and indeed the most important advance in the field as a whole since Freud and Jung themselves." He goes on to point out that Grof "has not only revolutionized psychodynamic theory but also brought forth major implications for many other fields, including philosophy."
There are also implications for community building and for our struggle in organizations through the paradigm shift. Once again, a consistent four step process emerged, although the experiences from the thousands of Grof's subjects in Europe and America occurred in a highly variable order. The experience of the perinatal (surrounding birth) sequence itself constitutes a highly effective therapy tool which changes peoples' lives in dramatic ways, not only dropping away psychological problems but also giving them a view of the world that is transpersonal in nature. People saw their birth experience and themselves as representative of the whole of human culture, its evolution and possibilities--similar, it seems, to the community stage of the community building process but also to the paradigm shift revolution of Kuhn's conceptualization, the breakpoint or bifurcation of Land and Jarman, Jacacci's transformation stage, and movement into Maynard and Mehrten's Fourth Wave.
Like community building, the Grof sequence is painful and causes much discomfort along the way but it ends in the sort of exultation can give people a way to move forward with greater humanity.
The first stage of the perinatal sequence is a state of undifferentiated unity. Then in the second stage, just as in the chaos period of community building, there is constriction, conflict, and contradiction with an accompanying sense of separation, duality, and alienation. The third stage, somewhat comparable to emptiness, is like a death. Subjects talk about it as complete annihilation. And then there is a final stage, like community, that Tarnas describes as "an unexpected redemptive liberation that both overcame and fulfilled the intervening alienated state--restoring the initial unity but on a new level that preserved the achievement of the whole trajectory."
Thousands of people like me have had experiences in community and certainly the community building process that bears many similarities to both the heights and the depths of Grof's sequence but in a group rather than on an individual level. The power of the communication, wholeness and creativity that can come from community building and dialogue work is palpable.
At the same time the community level is hard to maintain without effort and discipline by everybody concerned. And this maintenance requires going through painful sequences over and over until the practice begins to envelope everyone in a steady state. Just like the perinatal sequence, the birth of community requires death--in this case the destruction of many of our beliefs, attitudes and opinions; our very identity on a surface level and our cherished and safe ways of relating to others. Just as in the Land and Jarman bifurcation, the way can be rough, chaotic and confusing. But as Jacacci and Maynard and Mehrtens illustrate, this is difficulty we have to go through in order to get through this time.
I have had a personal experience, however, that makes me believe that it is essential that we engage in this process. It started with a colleague who did a study of natural and human-caused disasters over the most recent historical period in which recording was reliable and there hadn't been significant changes in measurement procedures. His conclusion was that there had been a significant increase in disasters over the last fifty years and that the increase was increasing.
As he presented his results, he asked us why we thought this was happening. The human-caused disasters could be explained by population increases and technology changes. But the natural disasters were the major part of the increase, and they had no explanation other than divine intervention. But being a scientific group, we offered plausible rival hypotheses for his basic conclusion and thereby ignored the possible implications.
Then in July 1991 a freight train was rolling through Northern California when it derailed. Coincidentally, part of the train was going over the Sacramento River. The derailment caused a car containing highly toxic pesticide concentrate to fall down the bank, split open and pour its contents into the river, killing all life on, in and around the river for miles. The contingency of so many coincidences that led to that disaster made me think again about my colleague's trend study. Was there some message we were supposed to be getting?
Later I saw evidence that the hole in the ozone layer over the Southern Hemisphere was growing at twice the expected rate and was at that time (1992) about the size of North American continent. Already at the southern end of Argentina, for instance, babies and animals were being blinded, skin cancer was increasing at an alarming rate, and crops were not growing properly.
Of course I attributed this to human-generated pollution. But then I read about another hole in the ozone layer that occurred over New England. The scientific evidence on this one was that it had been caused, not by manmade pollutants, but by a huge volcanic eruption. Again, I began to think of some sort of intervention that was coming from nature herself.
All this was churning in me when I attended the first World Business Academy San Francisco chapter dialogue group on sustainability. We were asked to go into silence and see what question came up for us about sustainability. The question that came to me seemed to be a culmination of all this history about disasters and the possibility of divine messages: "What does God want us to do?"
I didn't have long to wait for the answer. One of the participants in the dialogue, Al Smith, told about his being on Kauai during and after Hurricane Iniki. People had pulled together and helped each other without reservation. After a few days the outpouring of help and caring was so profound that people started putting little handmade thank you signs along the highway and on buildings. You'd drive along the highway, said Al, and you'd see repeated over and over again the Hawaiian word for thank you: mahalo.
That was my answer. I remembered recent disasters, some of which I had been through, and the comparable stories that came out of every one. People pulled together and treated each other with love and respect in these situations. People became more important than anything. Could it be, I thought, that God wants us to behave this way toward each other all the time ?
I don't believe we should wait for more direction on this question. The world is in crisis--filled with danger and opportunity. And we have to get into the flow of the process of the world as it is transformed. Community building is the best way that I know for doing this work, whether it is mandated by God or not. The charge we have now was expressed by Albert Schweitzer in this way:
A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.
And even earlier this charge was given by Marcus Aurelius:
Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist.