Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 8 May 2009

While on jury duty…..

So yesterday, I had a great day at jury duty! Nothing to bother me as I read several articles that I had on my pile for ages. I revisted Thierry Pauchant’s 100 books project website and spent some time thinking about my dissertation. He and I had talked about three different ideas for dissertations, and of course, he was trying to steer me to the model he’s using for his 100 book project on integral leaders. It wasn’t appealing to me until yesterday. The idea is to take one person who fits the following three criteria and study them in-depth:

  1. Has the leader had an impact on a large community during his or her life time?
  2. Is the leader admired by a diverse population over a long period of time?
  3. Has the leader been publicly recognized as having achieved a self-decentered consciousness (meaning they’ve been described as a saint, elevated soul, spiritual, enlightened, divinely inspired, selfless, etc.)

Other criteria include:

  • was this person actively involved in the world or did she live remotely on the margins of society?
  • is the data available on this person rich enough to understand her epiphanies, her different levels of development and their relationship with the notions used in the research?
  • is an autobiography or biography available? Other articles or papers about this person?
  • can this person be interviewed? Their associates?

So I started thinking about who would be good to study.  I thought about studying Jane Goodall, since a close friend of mine works for her and can get access to a lot of information and possibly interview her, but it appears that another student is already writing about her.  My other ideas are Pema Chodron, Barbara Marx-Hubbard or Frances Hesselbein.  I have access to interview Barbara and her associates. I have no known access (haven’t explored 6 degrees of separation yet) to the other two but a great interest in especially Pema Chodron’s work because of the buddhist teachings and meditation research that I’m doing.  I would like to study a living woman leader.  Someone who is making an impact on the world. That’s why Jane Goodall was so attractive to me as I’m very familiar with her Roots N Shoots program and other work. What do you think?

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 11 April 2009

Breakthrough

I just came back from a Human Development intensive training with Susann Cook-Greuter, who developed a maturity assessment profile (MAP) test that extends Loevinger’s stage-theory work with well-defined descriptions of higher stages of development (and has conducted research to support them). Susann is one of the founders of the Integral Institute and a close colleague of Ken Wilber’s. The MAP measures the level of complexity of meaning making.

This was an amazing, humbling and transformative experience for me. The students were a mix of younger master’s degree students and older professionals. The master’s students were in the Integral Psychology program at JFK University and blew me away – they were all at more advanced development levels than I (that was the humbling part).  The seminar was a combination of experiential, theoretical and applied learning.  I’m now certified to use the MAP in my professional consulting and coaching practice, and I’m considering using it in my dissertation research.

The seminar contained a wonderful group of people – each unique and it was so easy to enter into deep dialogue with each person.  At one point, we were put into coaching pairs and my coach, a twenty-something young man was my partner. We were sitting in Starbucks, and the first part, when I coached him, went well and I felt he had gotten something of value from it. Then it came to my turn and after a couple of minutes, I burst into tears as I realized how uncomfortable I have been feeling in the developmental space that I’m in currently.

Without boring readers with too much detail, I tested at the first postconventional stage, which is callled “Pluralist/Individualist.”  What came out of the assessment is that my conventional self, called “Achiever” has been battling with my Pluralist. As a pluralist, I feel that there is no ground beneath me, I can no longer rely on my rational mind, everything is context-dependent, and truth is relative. However, I functioned as an Achiever for so long that it is disturbing and uncomfortable to leave the solidity (even though it was an illusion) of my former life. I also worry that I won’t be able to function in the work world as a Pluralist. There was a lot more to the discussion, but it would take too long to write it all down.

The emotional acknowledgement was HUGE for me. I cried all night, but felt a great sense of release and a shift in my acceptance of being in this postconventional meaning making place. Earlier in the week, we created a life story picture to illustrate our personal developmental path. I drew the picture before I had this epiphany. I would draw a very different picture now….

Susann Cook-Greuter, myself, Beena Sharma and my life story poster

Susann Cook-Greuter, myself, Beena Sharma and my life story poster

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 29 March 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson – was he a pragmatist?

Besides being a student, I have a family, do consulting work 25 hours per week, and am a licensed prayer practitioner of the Center for Spiritual Living in Simi Valley.    As part of my continuing education to maintain my license, I took an eight-week course on Emerson’s essays.  I found his writings to be fascinating and relevant to the current times, though his writing style is very flowery and sometimes difficult to decipher.  I needed to translate his use of idioms to 21st century prose in order to gain understanding.

So, a question on my mind about Emerson; he’s considered to be a “transcedentalist“, but is he also a “pragmatist?”  I’m interested in the question because I’ve just had exposure to the pragmatists through a short seminar on Social Constructionism through my doctoral studies.  According to Wikipedia, “pragmatism is the philosophy of considering practical consequences or real effects to be vital components of meaning and truth.   Pragmatism is generally considered to have originated in the late nineteenth century with Charles Peirce” and was expanded through the work of  William James and John Dewey.  I believe that Emerson was also focused on the practical consequences of meaning and truth.  Yet he wrote his essays at least 50 years before the pragmatists came onto the philosophical scene.

Here are some ideas from reading some of Emerson’s essays (1926):

In the first half of Self-Reliance:

Our words and beliefs create our reality. “The inmost becomes the outmost” (p.31). We must become sensitive to and aware of our intuition and creative thoughts. We should pay attention to them and give them value. We must embrace our divinity and consciously and courageously use our minds to create good in our lives. We should think and express original thoughts without apologizing for them “. . . that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide” (p. 32) .

We have created norms and values in our culture and chosen conformity over independence. Self-reliance is the opposite of conformity.  When we conform to standards of society, we lose the truth of who we really are. We stop thinking for ourselves and take on the majority viewpoint and belief system. “This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every truth is not quite true” (p. 39).   Emerson also claims that man is “clapped into jail by his consciousness” (p. 34). We imprison ourselves because we worry about what others think of our opinions and ideas.  Emerson says to be unique. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind” (p. 35). We must challenge the external status quo and learn to know and trust our internal wisdom.

Value judgments of “good” or “bad” depend on one’s perspective and biases. We must stop giving value to “badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions” (p. 36). Most people act out of guilt or beliefs about what they should or should not do. They act out of fear; they are generous or helpful in order to earn a place in heaven. Emerson argues that he has a right to heaven and his good and doesn’t need to do or be anything other than himself to receive good. “My life is not an apology, but a life” (p. 37).


It is a challenge to be true to oneself when surrounded by a world that has set expectations for behavior. Don’t do what others expect – do what is right for you. “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think” (p. 38).  We want to appear predictable to others. Perhaps we are justifying our sanity by thinking sanity is defined as “consistency.” By placing our focus on appearing consistent to others, we lose trust in ourselves.  It takes a lot of psychic energy to remember our past in order to appear consistent to others. Emerson suggests we listen to our inner voice. “Trust your emotion” instead and live in the moment (p. 41).

A person’s character is revealed through words, action and being. Being is the essence of a character and it shows itself consistently if we pay attention. “A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; – read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing” (p. 42).  When we stand back and see ourselves and others from a distance, we see the authentic person. “The force of character is cumulative” (p. 43).

By allowing the true thinker/actor to express, we allow creativity, greatness and newness. “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age . . . an institution is the length and shadow of one man” (p. 44). We have the power within to transform the world if we remain true to ourselves.  You need not live a public life for your actions and opinions to have great impact and importance.

Instinct is “primary wisdom” and we are a conduit for Truth if we allow it to express through us freely. We must trust our intuition as Truth. “We lie in the lap of immense intelligence . . . When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams” (p. 47).  Emerson is saying that God or Spirit is infinite and available to us. By recognizing Spirit, we recognize the sacred in all. There is no time and space in Spirit. History obscures the light of the soul. “The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and majesty of the soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye maketh, but the soul is light; where it is, is day; where it was, is night” (p. 48).


We must live in the present moment. When we live in the past, we question ourselves and insert doubt and worry. We tend to quote others from the past rather than speak our own minds and thoughts. “There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. . . But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future” (p. 49).  By changing our thinking, we can let go thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve us. “If we live truly, we shall see truly . . . When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburthen the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish” (p. 49).


Emerson, R. W., & George, A. J. (1926). Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York,: Y. Crowell.

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 10 March 2009

Why Fielding?

My University (Fielding Graduate University) just implemented a new website.  I recommend a visit to explore what FGU has to offer distance learners.  On the right side of the “Why Fielding?” page is a box titled “Research at Fielding is MINDFUL” – it has a link to a page about my first research project on meditation.  It was a nice surprise for me to see my research highlighted on the new site.

My personal answer to the question, “Why Fielding” is:

The faculty are excellent – they come from many disciplines and have had distinguished careers at noted universities around the world.   FGU has a focus on bridging social research and practice.  They have an important objective to make the world a better place through active involvement in communities around the world as a key element of its research.  The faculty and students are mindful and interested in personal growth and evolution for all.  The program is self-directed, meaning I have lots of choices in how I approach each of the knowledge areas for my required course-work.  This approach doesn’t work well for those who like lots of structure.  The people I have met, whether faculty, students or alumni, have all been interesting, thoughtful, loving people.  I am very fortunate to feel that I have found my home here because the doctoral program journey is not easy.  You really have to love it or it isn’t worth the time, money and hard work.  I do love it.

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 13 February 2009

The Wonderful World of Peer Review

I just completed reviewing six paper submissions for the Academy of Management conference coming up in August 2009.  Though it took some time to complete the reviews, I found it to be a rewarding and educational experience.  I believe that most of the papers were submitted by my peers (meaning PhD students).  A couple were really well written and the rest were so-so.  I was concerned that I would not be able to critique them, but found the process fairly smooth after the first paper.

This experience will help me in the future when I submit papers for conference presentations.  The best papers clearly stated the research literature gap that was being addressed by the paper.  They also provided a complete set of definitions and theoretical background to set the foundation of their research question.  The worst papers meandered, had grammatical errors or failed to address the promise of their introduction.

These are the reviewer guidelines provided to us by AOM.  I recommend anyone who is preparing to submit a paper to a conference apply these guidelines while reading their own paper.  Better yet, have one of your friends or colleagues read your paper and use the guidelines.

Introduction: is there a clear research question, with a solid motivation behind it? Is the research question interesting? After reading the introduction, did you find yourself motivated to read further?

Theory: Does the submission contain a well-developed and articulated theoretical framework?  Are the core concepts of the submission clearly defined?  Is the logic behind the hypotheses persuasive?  Is extant literature appropriately reflected in the submission, or are critical references missing?  Do the hypotheses or propositions logically flow from the theory?

Method (for empirical papers): Are the sample and variables appropriate for the hypotheses? Is the data collection method consistent with the analytical techniques applied? Does the study have internal and external validity? Are the analytical techniques appropriate for the theory and research questions and were they applied appropriately?

Results (for empirical papers): Are the results reported in an understandable way? Are there alternative explanations for the results, and if so, are these adequately controlled for in the analyses?

Contribution: Does the submission make a value-added contribution to existing research? Does the submission stimulate thought or debate? Do the authors discuss the implications of the work for the scientific and practice community?

The above guidelines came from the Academy of Management reviewer website (this may be a member-only site).

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 23 January 2009

Publishing in a scholarly journal…

I recently received a not-so-nice rejection of my paper “Higher Consciousness Through Meditation: Phenomenological Explorations” from the Journal of Consciousness Studies.   On the bright side, the reviewers sent back in-line comments which were very helpful.  For that I’m grateful.  Some of the comments appropriately reflected the values and requirements of the journal’s readership.  Some of the comments reflected personal opinion on the part of the reviewers.  Some of the comments were just plain “rude” (a term supplied by my writing partner).

Here’s what I learned from this experience:

Read several articles from the journal in question to become familiar with the writing style and formats of the authors.

I only skimmed a couple of articles posted to the journal’s website before submitting my paper.  I didn’t take the time to read and think about the approach the authors/editors take in their writing.  I would have gained valuable insight into the requirements and criteria for publication had I spent more time reading the journal’s articles.

Ask the editor (in advance of submission) if they accept student papers and what criteria they use to evaluate them.

It turns out they do accept student papers, but possibly only within certain topics or research approaches.  Again, I would have gotten some good advice had I had the courage to send an email to the editor first.  I think I just said a prayer and sent the article off to get it done.  Talk about consciousness….I could have taken a more conscious path in this endeavor.

Carefully edit and/or re-write your paper to fit the requirements of each journal to which you are planning on submitting.

I did carefully edit my paper to fit the formatting specifications on the the journal’s website.  However, format is only a small part of the requirements for publication.  Had I known what I know now, I would have added back some parts of my paper that I had taken out when I presented it to the Society for Phenomenology and Human Sciences conference.  Specifically, I took out my scholarly critique of the consciousness theories that I used for the paper.  I did this to shorten it for the purposes of the conference.  The journal reviewers wanted to see the critique and it was missing.

Develop a thick skin and keep on writing and submitting.

Hey, this was my first rejection and I’ve learned a lot from it.  This paper will be published.  I may even re-submit it to the same journal if I think it’s appropriate after following my advice above….


Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 16 January 2009

What is Social Constructionism?

Fielding University has a Winter Session in Santa Barbara each year for a week and a summer session in Kansas City. These sessions are filled with many choices of half day sessions, small “tastes” of topics that might be of interest for in-depth study. Faculty also may conclude an online study course by having a day or two with students face to face (F2F) to conclude the course.

My two favorite sessions were: “Social Constructionism” and “Becoming an Inclusive Scholar.” This post focuses on social constructionism. The presenters were Dr. W. Barnett Pearce and Dr. Frank Barrett.  Dr. Pearce is the “father of Coordinated Management of Meaning” (more on CMM in a future post) and Dr. Barrett is one of the originators of Appreciative Inquiry. I feel very fortunate to have them on our faculty.

What is Social Constructionism?

Most simply, social constructionism is a philosophy which contends that we create our reality through our thoughts and beliefs.  Language is the medium of thought.  According to Heidegger, we “speak things into being.”

A very brief overview

The seminar began with a “history of ideas” leading to social constructionism. We began with the Greeks, followed by St. Augustine’s “City of God,” the “Great Chain of Being” and then Descartes’ positivist ideas. Hume, Kant and Locke, who were philosophers of the “enlightenment” espoused dualism and the concept of a separation between mind and body (inner/outer). In the centuries that followed, the prevalent view as that”true knowledge” needed to be expressed through mathematical and scientific language. Vico, an Italian philosopher began to challenge the Cartesian vision.

What follows next almost reads like Genesis – it’s the geneaology of social constructionist philosophy.  Weber, the father of social organizational theory, focused on understanding people’s values related to their actions.  Husserl, the father of phenomenology, focused on the internal experience of knowing and understanding.  Schutz, who also wrote about phenomenology, was Husserl’s student.  Heidegger, founder of existentialism, was influenced by Husserl.  Gadamer, who was a student of Heidegger, made a significant contribution to hermeneutics, which focuses on interpretation of text.

According to Hubert Dreyfus, a professor at UC Berkeley, Heidegger defined the notion that we are totally embedded and engulfed in the world and therefore have access to all knowledge.  This idea reminds me of my consciousness studies – where especially in non-Western theories, our individual consciousness is embedded in a Universal Consciousness.  Gadamer said that “knowledge is dialog.”  The world projects its horizon toward me and I project my horizon toward it.  Knowledge occurs in the middle, where there is a fusion of the horizons.

Eventually, the post-modern philosophers have added their ideas to this set of ideas.  Though Foucault and Derrida did not give credit to Heidegger during their lifetimes, just before each died, they said something to the effect of “I owe everything to Heidegger.”  Here are some further notes from the seminar:

  • If we accept that we are always living in a world of our own making, we have to give up any sense of certain reality.  The world is unfinished and continually changing.
  • We are imprisioned by our language.  The limits of one’s language are the limits of that person’s world.
  • If you want to change the world, change the way we talk

Key criticisms of social constructionism

  • The concepts are not “provable” in the language of science and mathematics
  • There is an implied revolution to the dominant world view – to accept S.C. you need to give up the idea of certainty
  • Social constructionism does not distinguish between the moral and ethical values
    of various courses of action (per Peter Marshall – 16th Australasian Conference on Information Systems,  Social Constructionism & Pragmatism in IS; 2005)

I find these ideas challenging and exciting.  I look forward to taking a detailed course in the topic to gain further understanding.

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 19 December 2008

Organizational ethos and the string quartet

Some might ask, what does the string quartet have to do with organizations.  My answer is “plenty!”  I just wrote a 30-page paper entitled Transition from Rehearsal to Performance: the string quartet as exemplar of organizational form. I dug deeply into the topic of organization studies, studying the string quartet as an organizational form and applying my personal experience as a professional musician and as a Fortune 100 company executive.

The paper contains a broad set of topics:

  • Roles, including the leader-democracy paradox and the paradox of the second violinist (Murnighan & Conlon, 1991)
  • Interdependence and interaction
  • Self-management
  • Rehearsal and learning process: knowing the musical score, creating a balance, reading each other’s cues, interpretation and decision processes
  • Performance: interdependence and trust, state of mind and spirit, and musician as simultaneous performer, observer and audience

My favorite part of the paper is around the performance topic.  There is some recent research and writing on organizational aesthetics and the application of concepts from the arts to business organizations.  Here is an excerpt from my paper on the topic of performance – I believe it provides a lot of food for thought regarding how we approach our work in organizations.

During a performance, quartet members are hyper-alert, using their senses in a very deep and intense way.  Arnold Steinhardt describes the concert stage as “colored more vividly, another state of mind, fabled” (1998, p. 100).  The musician’s mind processes huge amounts of input information while she simultaneously plays her instrument.  Hours of rehearsal allow the music to flow seamlessly through all dimensions related to the musical performance.  Malhotra (1981), in her phenomenological study of symphony musicians, said “musicians are involved in multiple acts of consciousness, which are layered, shaped, and pulled together in the joint act of making music” (p. 123).  Analogies can be drawn to other professions, such as military SWAT operations, air traffic controllers, space missions and surgical teams that also require multiple layers of consciousness combined with intense action.

Awareness extends beyond normal visual and auditory inputs.  A quartet musician must also sense the energy of her or his colleagues.  Schutz (1962) refers to this process as a “mutual tuning-in relationship” through physical proximity, intense listening and response to non-verbal cues.   Davidson and Good (2002) contend that musical performance is a product of socio-cultural factors and interpersonal dynamics of the musicians.  They leveraged a conversation analysis framework (Clark & Brennan, 1991) to evaluate interactions between players during a performance.  Through observation and interviews, Davidson and Good found that conversational dimensions of co-presence, visibility, audibility, co-temporality and simultaneity apply to small-group musical performance.  I suggest extending the meaning of co-presence further than the standard definition of “sharing the same physical environment” (p. 189) to include sensing non-visual and non-auditory energy movement within the physical space.

Otto Scharmer (2007) describes the five steps in his “theory U” as co-initiating, co-sensing, presencing, co-creating and co-evolving.  Co-sensing involves listening deeply with both the mind and the heart.  The string quartet develops and ingrains this process as they work and perform together.  Scharmer suggests that people within business organizations develop this ability in order to set the stage for innovation and creative problem-solving.  Presencing is the process of allowing an “inner knowing to emerge” (p. 7).   The individual lets go of their small-self or ego and opens up to transformation.  This concept is similar to the experience of “letting go to become the observer” during meditation (Cotter-Lockard, 2008, p. 10).  According to Scharmer, as individuals go through this process in an organization, the group begins to function at higher energy levels that invite new possibilities (2007, p. 7).

Performing in a string quartet demands intimacy and it results in personal transformation.  In a study on collective virtuosity in organizations (Marotto et al., 2007), a violinist in the orchestra, relating a peak performance experience stated, “we were all like a single heart, we were connected to the same heart, the same pulse, the same thoughts and we were all one” (p. 395). Steinhardt states, “It is on the concert stage where the moments of true intimacy occur.  When a performance is in progress, all four of us together enter a zone of magic somewhere between our music stands and become conduit, messenger, and missionary” (1998, p. 10).  Marotto et al.’s study explored this intimate and magical connection, claiming that “individual virtuosity becomes collective in groups through a reflexive process in which group members are transformed by their own peak performance” (p. 389).   One of Scharmer’s (2007) key leadership capacities is the ability to play “the macro-violin,”  which includes the music hall, or environment surrounding the performer.  Applying this concept to the business organization requires seeing the creative context from a macro perspective.  Scharmer calls this “seeing and acting from the presence of the whole” (p. 12).

References:

Clark, H. H., & Brennan, S. E. (1991). Grounding in Communication. In L. B. Resnick, J. M. Levine & S. D. Teasley (Eds.), Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Cotter-Lockard, D. (2008). Higher Consciousness States Through Meditation: A Phenomenological Study. Paper presented at the Society for Phenomenology and Human Sciences.

Davidson, J. W., & Good, J. M. M. (2002). Social and Musical Co-Ordination between Members of a String Quartet: An Exploratory Study. Psychology of Music, 30(2), 186-201.

Malhotra, V. (1981). The social accomplishment of music in a symphony orchestra: a phenomenological analysis. Qualitative Sociology, 4(2), 23.

Marotto, M., Roos, J., & Victor, B. (2007). Collective Virtuosity in Organizations: A Study of Peak Performance in an Orchestra. Journal of Management Studies, 44(3), 26.

Scharmer, C. O. (2007). Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time. from www.theoryu.com

Schutz, A., & Natanson, M. A. (1962). Collected papers. Hague ; Boston: M. Nijhoff : Hingham Distributor for the U.S. and Canada Kluwer Boston.

Steinhardt, A. (1998). Indivisible by four : a string quartet in pursuit of harmony (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 16 November 2008

Random thoughts about systems thinking

The title of this post seems like an oxymoron, but perhaps a pattern will emerge as I write my random thoughts down.  What follows are some “aha’s” that came out of the past week in my Systems, Communities and Culture readings and intensive session.

  • systems thinking changes our decisions, actions and consciousness
  • knowledge is embedded in relationships – by studying relationships within the system and between systems, we come to understandings and possible solutions
  • autopoeisis: ‘auto’ – self; ‘poiesis’ has Greek root of ‘poetry,’ which means ‘making’ – the network continually makes itself
  • pattern, structure and process are three separate but inseparable perspectives on the phenomena of life
  • an organism in equilibrium is dead (all systems oscillate around a state of equilibrium, but some mechanism, such as a thermostat regulate the system)
  • Systems Thinking Concepts:
    Shift from thinking about parts to the whole
    The web of life: interwovenness and interdependence of all phenomena
    Shift from thinking about objects to relationships
    Relationships: between parts of a system and between systems
    Shift from measuring to mapping
    Perspective shift from contents to patterns
    Sift from quantitative to qualitative analysis
    Includes both contextual and process thinking

These thoughts all support my personal philosophy of life and align with ideas about consciousness that I have written about in this blog.  A most interesting part of our discussion was around how to help people who have been enmeshed in non-system perspectives be able to consider a systems perspective.  This process of learning and discovery is where I see my consulting practice heading.

Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 13 November 2008

Systems thinking – it’s all connected

Here the beginnings of my mind map of systems theory topics.  The knowledge area (KA) of systems is HUGE.  I got a little taste of it the past two days during a Fielding Research and Practice (RaP) intensive session.  This session was taught by two faculty members from different disciplines; Dr. Fred Steier, who’s focus is Systems and Dr. Christine Ho, who is an anthropologist.  The class was small, which afforded deep discussions relevant to world issues from a systems perspective.

For example, we talked about the current world food crisis.  In the 1960’s – 70’s most developing countries were self-sufficient in their basic food supply.  In the 1980’s, the World bank implemented policies based on their definition of successful countries, based on the premise that countries should import their food and export their crop production.  Therefore, they made loans in Mexico to support large-scale farming of commodities to ship to the U. S.  as well as the investment in supermarkets and stores like Walmart that would import mass consumption goods to Mexico.  Corn was imported from the U.S. and produced by farms that were subsidised by the U.S. government.  The small local farms that produced corn in Mexico went out of business and people moved to the cities for work.  Mexicans are now eating more processed foods with a resulting huge increase in heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  Now that the corn prices have risen dramatically due to the shift toward biofuels, food prices have risen by 60% in the past two years and wheat/rice prices by 80% in the last year.

What does this have to do with systems?

Each aspect of the world food crisis is a sub-system connected to other sub-systems connected to larger systems.  The above discussion involves economic, food, health, and political systems (to name a few).  How do we understand and solve these problems?  Needless to say, much of the discussion was depressing.

But there’s one obvious conclusion from this one example: everything is interconnected and has impacts (visible and not) on all parts of the system and other systems.  By changing our perspective to viewing these problems in a systems viewpoint, we have opportunities to find creative solutions that have more chance of success than by only focusing on one symptom of the problem.  Over a year ago, I posted on the topic “You can’t solve the problem at the same level of thinking that created it” – seems like this idea keeps returning to my awareness.

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