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Reflections 30th May

N JEFFREY/DARK ENERGY COLLABORATION / BBC

On my mind this week.

This week, the emerging potential information on Dark Matter and its mapping have intrigued me. Here is something that we think comprises eighty per cent of the Universe, which we do not understand, and on which our day to day existence depends. I have massive respect for the scientists pursuing this who are quite prepared to say that everything they have believed up to this point may be wrong and who are quite ready and excited to start over.

It led me to think about the dark matter of business. We have a traditional view of what it looks like, with many theories about how it works and innumerable models to show us the structure. Despite that, it still doesn’t work how we believe it should and regularly behaves in a way we think it shouldn’t – economically, legally and socially. Our ability to predict business is way behind our ability to predict the weather, and we are reduced to after the event examination in search of lessons to learn. 

I suspect that we have clouds of dark matter in business; we focus on what we can measure and assume that is the totality and that what we understand is a fraction of what makes business work.

Perhaps the dark matter of business exists in the clouds of unexpressed ideas, kept private by those afraid to express them and bother the status quo. There are observations and insights about the longer term that get sidelined by pursuing goals and the inconvenient truths of unsustainable practice. It is there in the diminution of communities starved of tax revenue diverted to places sunny and professionally blind. 

I suggest that the amount of dark matter in a business increases disproportionately to its size, and that corporations have far more dark matter per head than smaller, owner-led ones. Given the dominance of corporates in our economy, the amount of dark matter is enormous.

I also suspect that the pandemic is calling into question the traditional physics of business and that more and more of us are looking at it and recognising its deep flaws. 

If the reality of the Universe resides in dark matter, then so does the generative nature of business, and it is there that we need to look for what comes next.

Suppose we could release the energy of that dark matter that exists in powerful ideas suppressed, connections curtailed, intellectual property buried in vaults and the enormous amounts spent on tax “management”?

We could transform what happens next. 

Our current business structures and associated rights have long passed their use-by date. It is unlikely that corporations will reform themselves – if they could, they would have by now. Legislation and regulation also seem unlikely to do the job. The sheer complexity, collusion and overweight infrastructures involved to overcome it and reshape it by force would take forever and consume even more energy.

The answer then lies with each one of us. Becoming aware of what we let go or bury. The ideas, observations and opportunities not realised in even the smallest amount of action. Not servicing the more egregious transgressions that keep the beast growing and, perhaps most importantly of all, finding places where we can share our ideas and observations with people who will listen. 

In the times we are in, generous agenda-free conversations can inspire and encourage us to make small movements away from the bindweed the corporates have become. Such conversations are the seeds that grow into better ways of working and living and a counterbalance to the river of social media rhetoric that we allow to run through our day.

It is not some daydream. Increasing numbers of us have been doing it for over a year and recognise the power inherent in them. They are the polar opposite of the “organised”, “peer group”, “performance-oriented.” varieties beloved of consultancies, and they cost nothing other than time and generosity of spirit. 

If you want to organise your own or perhaps join in one that already exists, drop me a line. Conversations, just for the joy of them, can change your life.

Books that are inspiring me

Design as Art. Bruno Munari. A classic work. We have made much of business functional, grey and uninspiring. It doesn’t have to be that way. As Picasso said, we are all born artists; the challenge is to stay an artist as we grow. Business has enough mechanics; we need more artists.

Finding the Mother Tree. Suzanne Simard. Suzanne’s name is one I have known since her work on the “wood wide web” and a BBC video that inspired my grandchildren. I find her work a rich source of metaphor, and I am looking forward to this.

Essentials. David Whyte. Much of business literature has moved to serve the status quo rather than what might be. For that, we need to look elsewhere, and I’m grateful to Sue Heatherington for introducing me to this.

Articles

Daydreaming. When we spend our days locked in logical, evidence-based duelling, daydreaming is a powerful tool that gives us access to those ideas that can’t find room in logic land. I’m looking forward to an experiment in this with Dan Lawrence next week.

When Scientists bump into the Mystical. Edge Magazine. For the last year, I’ve been hosting conversations with scientists and mystics about how they understand what is happening around us and finding they have far more in common than I has supposed. 

How do teachers find time for their students to think? UofSC centre for teaching excellence. We only have to look around us to recognise how little real thinking people do at work as they spend time producing. It’s a real issue for teachers, and I enjoyed this piece. It’s an hour, but worth the time. There is a lot we can learn from it.

Medicine and Magic. Psyche Magazine. We limit ourselves when we only consider evidence-based input. I liked this article that looks at the role of magic in the pandemic.

A quotation to reflect on.

“Mind thinks in images but, to communicate with another, must transform image into thought and then thought into language. That march, from image to thought to language, is treacherous. Casualties occur: the rich, fleecy texture of image, its extraordinary plasticity and flexibility, its private nostalgic emotional hues – all are lost when image is crammed into language.”

Irvin D. Yalom, Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

People to thank.

It is difficult to reflect without raw material. I’m grateful to these people for the conversations and connections that gave me the raw material. Thank you to Daniel Doherty, Paul Levy, Sue Heatherington, Caroline Guibert-Pavillet, Laurence Barratt, Francesco Boccioni. Dan Lawrence

If anything I write resonates, check them out.

Looking out of the window, I’m also grateful that summer may be putting in a late appearance. I’m off out to enjoy a walk without a coat. I hope you can too.

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