I was recently struck by a friend’s article in which she offered a sort of “taxonomy” of change, innovation, and human capability. I’m paraphrasing her: If you want change and innovation, you need teamwork and collaboration, which is based on authentic connection between people, which in turn requires self-awareness, which requires, underneath it all, ongoing personal development of core human capabilities. Here’s her diagram:
I’m reminded of Donella Meadows’ “higher leverage points” — changing paradigms and, above all, the power to transcend paradigms. If you want to change a system, change the rules and, if you want to change the rules, you have to dwell in a space beyond rules.
Because whether it’s “going deep” (e.g. Blumenthal’s drawing, Otto Scharmer’s U-Theory, the systems theory iceberg) or “transcending” (Meadows), the most interesting questions (for me) begin at this threshold. What does it actually mean to transcend paradigms, to develop human capability at the root level — to tap into, as Scharmer puts it, Source?
For those of us who spend our days helping others fight the dragons of our time (stuck, important, messy challenges at any scale), this isn’t an indulgent question. It’s almost a technical question: how can I demonstrate, invite, propagate the kernel of new thought, fresh feeling, willingness for a new path, here and now with the people I’m supporting?
So there is a need to crack this open, to make the esoteric plain, to articulate and provide a clear, objective, doable path to developing creative consciousness.
I call it “creative consciousness” because beyond that threshold — the threshold of paradigm, mental model, belief, etc., is consciousness, i.e. the source of all paradigms.
Consciousness is, in turn, “creative” insofar as as it is not already predetermined, habitual, “already filled.”
In my own work, I’ve found that going there again and again, into empty consciousness, for example in meditation, is extremely fruitful. One encounters, at length, an inexhaustible source. Creative consciousness is not merely empty. It is more than empty.
I think of it like this: imagine a blackboard full of writing and scribbles. That is consciousness. With practice, we can wipe it clean. Now we have a blank blackboard. But with more practice, consciousness begins to be extra sensitive or receptive — not to more information from the world, i.e. through the senses, but from another direction. At this point, the blackboard is not only empty of content; it’s full of potential.
Or a large space with dust and noise. We quiet and clean it (first step), and with extended effort, it goes beyond being “empty” to being radiant.
The animation I used in the banner illustrates this experience. Here it is.
In my experience (I’m describing an experience, not an idea), this is then the beginning of a new frontier. Said another way, consciousness has no limits. Going into it in this particular way moves one progressively closer to a living source. All esoteric traditions speak of this, and methods to experience this change over the ages and across cultures. My point is, it is not only possible today; it is, moreover, necessary.
Because this is not indulgent; it’s not about self-development. As we learn to participate in this “self-supporting source” within consciousness, we become increasingly capable of doing so in service of others. This is the “two or more” principle: the observation that, through dialogue and authentic meeting, new shared reality is born.
The essence of Nonviolent Communication, Presencing, and other “social technologies” is, if they are genuine, to enable this meeting between two or more people who, with present and “empty” attention, see or even better said, “behold” each other anew.
Why is this so important? Because we are fighting the dragons of our time. We need 4th dimensional solutions to three dimensional problems. We cannot untangle the Gordian knots; we need to cut them. We need to co-create new social realities — and the kernel or essence of that act is an ability — one that, like everything else, is developed with know-how and practice.
This “true meeting” or, as it once called in ancient Europe, the “Holy Grail” — is the source of new, fresh, living, shared reality. In that space, all new things are possible.
I know so many leaders who simply ignore this — while for me, this is the starting point. There is no sense in trying to change big problems if you simply bypass this. Sure, you might make a lot of noise and dust, or implement a new program, or design a new machine or a new widget — but that is not a new reality, even if it seems so. A new reality emerges when two or more people see with fresh eyes and generate fresh understanding.
I wrote this piece because I want to connect with entrepreneurs and change makers who might intuitively “get” that creating new realities — in their companies, for the clients, in their teams — begins with them. They can reach into the “highest leverage point” and bring it to life within and around them. In my view, this is the source of the new — and we need to get very, very good at bringing it to life everywhere we are trying to support change.
To conclude, a small work of art, the “Glowing Skeleton (sketch).” An image of a person who, humbly walking in the world, glows with the invisible light.