Emerging Science

Royal Society of Arts Journal - Article

I was recently invited to write an article for Royal Society of Arts Journal - Green Economy - September 2015 edition. 

This was a great opportunity to share my learnings of leading the Finance Innovation Lab and showing how we have used complexity science in designing and implementing our strategy for change.  

Enjoy! 

This article was originally written for and published in The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Journal – September 2015.

 The Finance System – It’s Complex

By Jen Morgan and Chris Hewitt of The Finance Innovation Lab

Cast your mind back to 2008. We sat at the table, poured our morning coffee and read the headlines: “Banks hit by $5.9bn fine for foreign exchange rigging.” A few weeks before it had been “Deutsche Bank fined £1.7bn for LIBOR failings and misleading the regulator”. And before that, “HSBC bosses very ashamed and humbled as bank faces criminal probe threat over its tax dodging”. We may have been shocked but we had grown to expect such news. We were surprised, yet unsurprised, as to how quickly this news came and went. By lunchtime, the headlines were usually off the front page of websites and caused little in the way of political comment. In fact, in spite of the huge impact of the 2008 financial crisis, we seem to have accepted this dysfunctional financial system as a force of nature, rather than a market shaped by human values and intention.

Finance is a complex system. One of the reasons that it has not been dramatically reformed since the crash is that its very complexity has made it hard to sustain public discourse. Citizens, politicians, journalists, civil society and most people who work in the financial services sector –

apart from the few who have exploited it – are intimidated by this complexity. As a result, we feel ill equipped to advance the sort of systemic solutions that are required. But in order to create an economy that will enable us all to flourish, it is essential that we understand the truth: that we are all part of a complex interconnected financial system. Embracing this fact can empower us to take new and diverse approaches to change that will lead towards a financial system that is democratic, responsible and fair.

To do this, we need an appetite to deal with the root causes of this serious dysfunction. That requires new, long-term and systemic approaches to change; fresh approaches that The Finance Innovation Lab and a growing number of organisations are pioneering. Established in 2008, we empower positive disruptors who are enabling a democratic, responsible and fair financial system.   We work at multiple levels to connect people who seek to change the financial system, as innovators and entrepreneurs, civil society advocates, or ‘intrapreneurs’ within their own organisations. Our approach draws heavily on systems thinking, complexity science, values-based leadership and action learning.

Understanding Complexity

It is understandable that our society, our government and UK plc have failed to transform the financial system. For the most part, we are trying to fix a problem with mind-sets and strategies that aren’t fit for the job. We have commonly seen the finance system through a mechanistic lens of solid hierarchical structures, with efficient intermediaries that maximise financial returns. And similar to a mechanic, we think we can ‘fix’ the machine with the existing tools in our toolbox. Common tools proposed include ‘getting the regulation right’ or ‘encouraging challenger banks and letting competition and the market do the rest’. But time and time again, we find ourselves trying to deal with the never-ending breakdowns and broken parts.

Many of us are now starting to wake up to the reality that we are working with a complex and dynamic system rather than a machine, and that responses need to be designed accordingly. Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England has been a pioneer in helping to reframe how we see finance. In a recent speech at the Lorentz Conference on Social Economic Complexity, he explained:  “Modern economic and financial systems are perhaps better characterised as a complex, adaptive ‘system of systems’. Global economic and financial systems comprise a nested set of sub-systems, each one themselves a complex web. Understanding these complex sub-systems, and their interaction, is crucial for effective systemic risk monitoring and management”.

So what exactly is a complex system? Complex systems, such as social and natural systems, all have their own unique intention and purpose. They are dynamic and formed by relationships. They are emergent and unpredictable. They are non-linear and the whole often behaves very differently to the sum of the parts. They have many feedback loops and information flows around the system. They are adaptive, constantly learning and evolving.

Purpose, Values, Power

How can we best catalyse change in complex systems like the UK financial system? In her seminal thinkpiece 12 Leverage Points to Intervene in a System, Donella Meadows, systems thinker, futurist and author of Limits to Growth, maps 12 leverage points of how to catalyse change in complex systems. The most influential leverage points include: tackling root issues such as purpose and values, shifting power dynamics; and changing the structure of the system such as the rules and standards; and opening the feedback loops of information.

How does looking at finance through the lens of complex systems shed new light on the challenges we face? Firstly, the predominant purpose of the finance system has become self-serving rather than serving ‘the whole’ (that’s us and our environment). There has been little meaningful conversation about the purpose of the financial system, either in its current form or its aspirations. It presents itself as a sector that is maximising profits for the UK economy. But others might feel it should primarily serve the needs of the rest of the economy and society. Before we start redesigning the system we need to ask this question about purpose.

Secondly, our current financial system is underpinned by values and cultures that are extrinsically motived such as competition, hedonism and conservation. Research from the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) shows that extrinsically motivated values are less open to change and reinforce individualism. the ‘self’. Yet as our economies and societies become more interconnected, we need our institutions to display values that are intrinsically motivated such as kindness, creativity and responsibility. So a pertinent question becomes: How do we cultivate a system that promotes intrinsically motivated values?

Thirdly, the system is controlled by a powerful minority who hold the vested interest and is not accessible to those who have an interest in creating a more human-centred financial system. The UK finance sector is the biggest UK lobbyist in the EU. This is a powerful force that is holding the existing system in place. It is preventing more radical and deep rooted change to emerge. We need a new enabling power that serves society and the environment.

Envisioning a Human-Focused Finance System

In 2008, the anger of society at the consequences and causes of the financial crash was given a powerful voice by the Occupy Movement. This discontent resonated across whole swathes of UK public sentiment. But what was missing was any kind of strategic and systemic approach on creating the long-term enabling conditions for change. With no real strategy in place, any kind of public dialogue over the future of the finance system was quickly swamped by the complexity which served to keep the vast majority of fearful policymakers, public and media disconnected from the system, and thus unable to be open to see how change could happen.

Since then, however, there has been a surge of enthusiasm from outside the traditional finance sector, partly spurred by new technology, which has sought to deliver some financial services in a way which is more connected to people. Peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding and values-based banks have flourished where the high-street banks have continued to stagnate. New products, such as climate bonds, have been developed to stimulate long-term investment in socially and environmentally useful projects, such as sustainable energy infrastructure.

At the same time, civil society groups, such as The Finance Innovation Lab, ShareAction, New Economics Foundation (nef) and Positive Money have been quietly co-creating a vision of a finance system that is democratic, responsible and fair. This vision has four  Leverage points for change.

 First, a banking system that has a diversity of business models, offering more genuine and fair competition for savings, business loans, mortgages, payments and support in financial management. The globally focused, shareholder-owned high street banks have failed to deliver this. We need more mutuals, credit unions, innovations in payments, locally focused banks, peer-to-peer lending and other creative ways of providing these services.

Second, an investment and capital market that is shaped by the long-term interests of savers, from whom most of the capital originates, in the form of pension funds, insurance or other savings. Our policy framework must reward long termism, transparency and valuation of social and environmental risks. It should, correspondingly, penalise excessive speculation, extraction of rent through hidden fees and a discounting of long-term risks like climate change.

Third, a system of monetary policy intervention, which takes fully into account the social, environmental and economic consequences of those decisions. This would require that we move away from seeing monetary policy as a technocratic activity free from ‘interference’ from politicians, towards one where there is real public and democratic debate and oversight into the use of such tools.

And lastly, active encouragement for innovation and creativity in financial services that increase accessibility and transparency, provide benefit to the whole of the economy and are socially useful. This will require regulation to be more flexible, with fewer barriers to entry, but also placing the responsibility on the innovators to prove their worth to the rest of us.

This transformed finance system should have an explicit purpose to serve society, the environment and the wider economy. This will require leadership from government and, within finance institutions themselves, a rediscovery of the ‘service’ in financial services. We must not continue to see the sector as an ‘industry’ whose profits are a key driver if the UK economy. Research from the Bank of International Settlements, the global ‘Bank’ of Central Banks, shows that if a financial sector becomes too big as a proportion of a national economy, it starts to damage the rest.

The values of its participants will need to reflect that new purpose, both as an explicit intention and in response to market and policy pressures. Competition will increase from innovators who are not afraid to use greater transparency as a means to attract market share and reduce costs to consumers, rather than as something to withhold in order to protect profits and create barriers to entry. Those who cling to the latter will look increasingly outdated and irrelevant.

A more diverse ecosystem of market players will also help to dilute the power of vested interests to shape policy in their favour. One of the roles that The Finance Innovation Lab has played is to bring innovators together with policymakers, in order to build trusting relationships and host in depth conversations about creating a more diverse market. As part of our strategy, in 2012, we held a summit with peer-to-peer lenders, the Treasury, European Commission representatives and others to focus on why and how the new sector should be regulated. We have also held workshops with senior staff at the FCA and Bank of England focusing on the needs of new business models and removing barriers to entry. All of this, combined with the work of many others, has resulted in new regulation for crowdfunding and other models of financial disintermediation, building the market for democratic finance.

Accelerating change
Changing complex systems is a long-term game and we need to build our change strategies to reflect this context. The Finance Innovation Lab has established the infrastructure for systems change that will enable collective impact at multiple levels in the financial system. This infrastructure allows for the ongoing experimentation and practical application of new approaches, builds capacities and cultures of creativity, learning and evolving, and cultivates strong communities of influence.

What we have learned in the Lab is that there is no ‘one’ solution and that change takes time. This is especially true when working with deep-rooted issues of purpose, values and power. Multiple approaches of change across the finance system are needed, including amplifying a narrative for finance, evolving approaches of current mainstream practices, advocating for structural reform and cultivating the niches of positive disruptors[A1] .  Positive disruptors who are all actively working towards ‘repurposing finance’.

 

Ultimately, we are all part of the financial system. There is no system ‘out there’, separate from us. How we choose to relate to money and our finances will directly influence how effectively we can scale change beyond ourselves. Will we choose for finance to be an enabler of a human-purposed economy, or will we choose for finance to remain the dominant force in a self-serving economy? Seven years after the start of the crisis, with banking scandals still hitting the headlines, there is no better time to make your choice.

 

 

Rupert Sheldrake - Revealing the Nature of What Is

Pioneering Deeper Truths

What is so attractive about pioneers?    Perhaps it is because they are seeking deeper truths of what is possible, what is real, and what is true.  And what it means to be human.  For me, Rupert Sheldrake is a real pioneer.

For most of his 70 years, he has been seeking the truth of science.  He has challenged Dogmas. Ideologies. Norms.  Habits.  Assumptions.   He has been rejected by his peers as a result and is often seen as a ‘heretic’ by the what has become the ‘institution’ of science.  To me he is a bit of brave hero that we should all pay attention to – especially those of us who are thinking about the power of aligning human cultures and behaviours to the natural rythyms of the universe, the planet and its life forms.

Here are five things that struck me about Sheldrake’s Pioneering Work:

1) Everything has a purpose, intention and consciousness  - Appreciate it!

Everything, even the Universe, the Solar System, the Earth, electrons, has its own purpose, intention and consciousness – otherwise they would not be what they are.  So, in this context how does the Earth’s conciousness shape our consciousness?  How do we shape it?    What if we saw organisations, projects such as the Finance Innovation Lab – as bodies of intention and consciousness?   If this were the case, I think that we’d pay much more attention to the true inheritent nature of things and what it is naturally intended to be.  We would judge less.  We would have less expectation of others.  We would appreciate more.  We would be more intentional.  Maybe we’d be more curious about our inter-relationships, our interdependencies and our place in the world.  And thus, most importantly, perhaps we’d respect and love each other a bit more.  We would live our full potential.

2) Life is full of attraction and repulsion – get over it!

Electrons do it.  Planets do it. Humans do it.   The fundamentals of life are based on attraction and repulsion.   So with this truth, how can we learn to appreciate the things in ourselves that both are attractive and repulsive.   How about also those things we see in other people? Other cultures?  Other religions?    If this were the norm, I have a sense that we would not be so hung up on ‘what we lack’, ‘what we need’ and given our need to consume natural resources to deal with our repulsiveness –  I believe we would ultimately consume less material goods.

3) There are other forms of energy – tap into it!

The Chinese know this in Ch'i. The Indians know this in Dharma.  Scientists know this in the Dark Energy that exists in the Universe. Given the scale of our ecological and societal challenges, I wonder what potential would be unlocked if we were tapped into other forms of energy?  Is operating from the limitations generated by our rational mind enough?  Don’t think so.  Linking multiple energy sources to the power of intention and aligning to purpose fundamentals, I believe we would achieve, what Thomas Berry calls The Great Transition.   Harnessing the full human potential is essential, and we should explore the full potential of tapping into various energy sources, beyond our rational and physical bodies. 

4) The Laws of Nature are Not Fixed- flow with it!

Nature is always changing and nothing is ever fixed.  Sure there are continued habits of solar systems, ecosystems, species, and humans which continue over time, giving the delusion of set ‘Laws’.  However these, as Sheldrake points out, are merely repetition of habits.   So how can we tap into these habits and when these habits are counter life thriving- how can we interrupt them and redirect them in a way that supports life.  And how about human laws?  Well of course, they are not fixed and are constantly changing too with the shifts of culture and habits.   I wonder how, when it comes to laws that are no longer serving us - such as fiduciary duty-  (which says its prudent to maximise financial returns even if this means maxing out our ecological capital upon which all life depends) we can interrupt and redirect these unhelpful habits?  And even wider what are the general habits of the financial system that are deeply rooted which need attention?

5) Possibility is Impossible to Measure – so don’t smother it!

One of Sheldrake’s biggest challenges to Science is the need to constantly provide evidence to what is ‘real’.  However for me, this is a great tension, especially if we are seeking to ‘create the new’, imagining future scenarios, exploring assumptions, staying open to what spontaneously pops up- all of what is needed to support transformational change and great breakthroughs.    I don’t think Americas would have been discovered if Amerigio Vespucci was asked to evidence the fact that the America’s existed before he left.  So if possibilities and potentials are not observable yet, how can we hold space open for inquiry, curiosity, and not knowing?  How can we protect possibilities from the ‘lock down of knowing’ so that something becomes real?   How can we appreciate the things that we can’t measure like personal chemistry, soul, and spirit?  For me, it is the possibilities that give us the most hope in moving beyond our engrained (and often destructive) personal and cultural habits, behaviours and norms.

So thank you to Rupert for being the pioneer that you are – and for helping me see some deeper potential of the fundamentals of existence.  Those of which will support me as a change agent to help align humanity to the natural pulses and flows of life.

Quantum Science and Leadership

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The Starlight of Intention

When you look up in the sky and see the light of a star, there is a good chance that it has died out long ago and what you are really seeing the remnants of its existence.

What if our thoughts and intentions were like that too?  And that our thoughts left light trails which influenced everything in their path?  If this was so, then perhaps people would feel more empowered, engaged  and responsible in life because what they said and did had a VERY significant impact on the world around them.

Well, recent quantum physics is showing us just this – that the ripple effects of our thought and intention are much more powerful than we think.

Lynne McTaggart’s book, The Intention Experiment, (theintentionexperiment.com) has really made me think about this subject and how I can build this into my own life as well as my work within the Finance Innovation Lab – an experiment in its own right seeking to enable a finance system which sustains people and planet.

Relationships & Interconnection – the fundamentals of life.

For the last several hundred years and in our own lifetime of grade school science classes, we have been taught that everything exists independently of everything else and that matter ‘is as it is’ – not volatile and fixed with its own set boundaries – unless there is a force or a collision which makes things do something else.  Freezing, melting, dying, vaporising, burning, breaking. We humans behave in the same way- going about our business as busy molecules – waking, working, sleeping, eating- trodding on believing that life and all of its activity carries on despite what we do and think.

However, quantum physics is teaching us that the tiniest foundations of life are not fixed or staid but rather a gigantic moving web of interrelationship and in constant intercommunication.  Unlike billiard balls bouncing around hitting each other the tiniest of tiny molecules act rather like waves of light influencing each other in their path.

 So how do we, as leaders and citizens, really prepare ourselves to engage in the world which is all about relationship and interconnection?  What type of skills do we need to build for collaboration, trust, communication and understanding?  How can we provide spaces and opportunities for people to develop these types of leadership skills?

Multiple Truths- accepting everything as a relevant truth.

What I find most fascinating about quantum physics is that things are moving so fast and are so interrelated the only real truth is what is perceived by the observer at that very nano-second of observation.   This means that nothing really exists as a thing independently of our perception of it.  This is mind blowing as it suggests that really there is no one truth given that the observer will always look at different things, at different times, from a different perspective.

So how can we all loosen up a bit and not be so stuck on our own truths?  Because really – it’s all perceived anyways!   How can we hold it all a bit more lightly and learn to appreciate and be curious about other people’s truths.  How do we hold spaces for multiple truths to be heard, appreciated and put together as a melange of multiple solutions for change?

Everything is open for influence- so let’s get to it!

More widely,  what quantum physics show us is that nothing is fixed and that everything is open to influence.   Molecules exist in a state of pure potential until we the observer put it into actuality.  Quantum physics also shows us that our consciousness can also directly affect matter rather than mind being separate to matter and locked in the brain.  In our act as participator and ‘setter of reality’ in the quantum world, we are also an influencer as well. We are influencing every moment of life no matter what we do. This has great implications as it suggests that we have a choice on what, who and how to influence and for what purpose.

  If we are more influential than we thought, does that bear a certain responsibility upon us to be intentional for the benefit of life on earth and the greater good of human evolution?   How can we cultivate the intrinsic values of community, benevolence and love in order to drive our positively intentional evolution?

 Go where the energy is- here, there and everywhere.

Humans are natural receivers of energy – for example, if you stick your finger in the TV antennae socket, you will act as the TV antennae and pick up waves and improve the TV’s reception.  Simple movement of our hand creates an electrical charge and most importantly,  it creates a relationship. The composition of water’s molecular structure is even shown to be changed by a healer’s energy. Every movement we make influences the people and life around us.

Experiments also show that the electrostatic energy of someone standing still is 10-15 mill volts, the electrostatic energy of someone meditating is 3 volts and experienced healers in practice emit 190 volts. Interestingly, most of the pulses of energy were coming from healers abdomen and energy remains even after the healing is given.  The most influential and most efficient flow of energy is light as they are the most organised forms of energy in nature.

One of the strangest things about quantum physics is the feature of called ‘non-locality’ or ‘quantum entanglement’- once sub-atomic particles are in contact they remain in contact despite external factors coming into play which might separate them.  Invisible connection occurs between molecules at a quantum level that even heat or a push cannot influence.

So human beings are both receivers and transmitters of quantum signals.  Directed intention sends both electric and magnetic signals.  Our intentions operate as highly coherent frequencies changing the very molecular makeup and bonding of nature. Like any form of coherence in the subatomic world, one well directed thought might be like a laser light illuminating without every loosing its power.

 How can we become more aware of our energy transmission?  If energy transmission (and the intention behind it) can positively influence- how can we develop skills and opportunities for people to improve their cultivation techniques?  How can we open our eyes to the realisation that our energy connects to others even when they are at a distance?   Might this suggest that scaling out change initiatives and ‘working at a distance’ is easier than we think it is?  How can social media accentuate our invisible ‘distant energetic’ connections?

 Positive thinking –  lighting up life.

 Korotov’s conducted an experiment with plants, hooking them up to a lie detector and projecting positive and negative thoughts to them, the plant would react accordingly – either perk up or wilt.   He stumbled across evidence that all living things engage in a constant two way flow of information with their environment enabling them to register the most nuanced of human thought. When you set an intention, every single major physiological system in your body is mirrored in the body of the receiver.  Intention is the perfect manifestation of love.  Two bodies become one.  And every last thought appears to augment of diminish something else’s light.

 How can we more fully light someone up through our positive and compassionate intentions?  What is the cumulative effect of secret negative intentions, wishes, powe- play upon each other (and the natural world) and how does this really manifest itself?  Would the world be a better place if we could all improved our positive thinking and started from a place of possibility and appreciation?

Entrainment and Resonance – we’re more powerful together.

“Entrainment” is a term in physics which means that two oscillating systems fall into synchronicity.   Such as two swinging pendulums falling into motion as one.   Tiny exchanges of energy that are caused by non-synchronicity causes one to slow and one to speed up until they are both in phase.  It is also related to “Resonance”, the ability of a system to absorb more energy than normal at a particular frequency.  Every vibrating thing has its own frequency where it finds vibrating the easiest.  When it listens or receives vibrations from somewhere else it tunes everything else out and tunes into its own resonant frequencies.   The seas, the planets, mothers and babies all work to the rhythms of resonance.

What is fascinating about quantum physics is that when things are entrained and march to the same cadence, together they send out a stronger signal than they do individually.  You can feel this when you listen to an orchestra vs. a single violinist.

 So what if we all tuned into each other more and really worked from a place of resonance and entrainment.  How can adapt to become more synchronized to people we may be out of synch with or with whom we have different world views?  How can we find and connect with more people with whom we share a great resonance?    How can we create spaces and places for us to work together inpowerful resonance so we can create greater impact together than what could do alone?

Heart and intuition - as the greatest intelligence.

 Experiments by McCraty show that participants who are hooked up to equipment and are expected to be shown emotionally charged photos react to the photos before they are actually shown them.  And in these experiments it is proven that the heart reacts even before the brain does.  These types of experiments show that the body has certain perceptual apparatus that enables it to continuously scan and intuit the future, and that the heart may hold the largest antennae. McCraty’s experiment showed that the heart is the largest brain in the body and influence aspects of higher thought in the brain.

 How can we build our intuitive skills and rely more on the intelligence of the ‘heart’ more to guide higher thought and decision-making?   How do we help people get out of their head and give them the chance to practice being more in the heart?

 Principles for intention

McTaggart shows that many varying experiments conducted with cancer patients, Buddhist monks, athletes reveal that there are certain principles which enable intention to be conveyed and received.  These include four key things:

  • Motivation (a sense of urgency)
  • Attention (via meditation for example creates more coherent brain waves)
  • Compassion (dissolve boundaries between self and sender, letting go of ego)
  • Belief (confidence in sending info across a distance)

 So this makes me think – in developing new business strategies, new change processes, new personal development goals – what if we use these four ingredients and principles as a guide for realising our intentions?  Would we be more successful in calling in the universe to help us with our aims?

Are you a good intentionalist?

 Experiments also show that ‘thin boundary people’ are better transmitters of intention.  These are often people who are open, unguarded and undefended.  People who are also sensitive, vulnerable, creative and get quickly involved in relationships are also ideal people to transmit intentions. These people do not repress uncomfortable thoughts nor do they separate thought and feeling.  These people are often found in the creative or arts sectors of society.

Most healers, or powerful intentionalists, are good at what they do because they are not just compassionate but they also get themselves out of the way – and they surrender to a healing force. They frame their intention as a request- “please may this person be healed” – and then allowed the greater force in.  None of the successful healers believed that they hold the power themselves.  When healers are healthy their light signals are stronger.  The most effective healer may be the ones that have been healed themselves.

 So how do we cultivate these types of skills in ourselves and in others?  How can we learn more from the creative sectors in order to open ourselves up to be better intentionalists?   How do we get ourselves (and our EGOs) out of the way and let the wider order of things step in to do the rest?   How do we ensure we cultivate our healthiness and happiness so we can be better healers for the planet and its people?

 

Places and timing for best intention

Intention has a wider relationship to the cycles of sun, stars, and circadian rythmns. Every living thing is synchronized not internal rhythms but rather by patterns of the planets, sun and circadian events.   For example, solar cycles which happen about eleven years and are equivalent to 40 billion atomic bombs,  rip apart magnetic fields of the earth.   When this happens it is shown that solar geomagnetic patterns effect the heart and heart attack patterns rise and fall. It is also shown that mental issues and conflict also rise during these solar events.

It has also been shown that there is higher residual energy registered at places like Queens Chamber at The Great Pyramid or Wounded Knee in Wyoming.  In places like this there is a lingering vortex of coherent energy from all people who prayed and died there.   This suggests the lingering effect of intention when waves of an ambient field become more ordered an intention may ripple through it like one targeted bullet.

 So when we aspire to set intentions or if we are hosting important large gatherings it feels important to pay attention to timings of the wider universal cycles as well as to pay attention to the place in which these gatherings are called.   What if change agents continually met at certain place?  Would this increase the intentionality success? 

Visualising and Feeling our Future

 Intention techniques are very successfully used in sports or artistic performances.   It has been proven that simply thinking about something produces the same mental  instructions and doing the action itself.  Even thinking about building muscles builds the muscle capacity to 33% of what it would do if you actually physically worked that muscle on a regular basis! (I am thinking about doing sit ups now).   Mental rehearsal lays down the neural tracks just as physical rehearsal does.  It is shown that it is even more impactful when it includes all five senses and when one visualises the moment of achievement.

 So what if we were to start visualising a better world in which humans lived in harmony with each other and all other forms of life?  How can we ‘sense into this’ and create spaces in which lots of people can imagine, see, touch, believe, feel the positively intentional future that we all aspire to?

So now what do I intend?

 All of our major human achievements have been derived from asking an outrageous question.  What if stones fall from the sky?  What if there is no end of the earth to sail off of?  What if giant metal objects could overcome gravity?  What if time was not absolute but depends on where you are?  What if our thoughts really could affect the things around us?

I really loved Lynne’s book as it reminded me of the power of our intentions given our interconnected world, that we have a responsibility to all life on earth to convey and cultivate positive intentions, that we can build our own skill in being more masterful in intention – including using our heart and intuition, we can be  more intentional if we work together with others with whom we resonate and that through visualisation and feeling into the future we can literally pave the way for our success.

Her book, which tells the story of the fundamentals of life through quantum physics, was more evidence for me in my role as an intentional evolutionary in that I have the ability, responsibility and potential to help align life to the foundational truths of life on earth and in the universe---relationship, interconnection and co-creation.

Fish, Pandas and Finance - Applying Complexity Science as an Everyday Practice

 

We gathered in a semicircle in a classroom at Regents University - sun streaming through the windows.

Orit Gal, Professor of the Complexity Studio at Regents University, beamed with her red hair and big smile at the front of the room: “I want to share with you that fish are not a species. In actuality there are certain fish that have more DNA similarities to a banana than they do other types of fish! Their ‘sameness’ is defined by the constraints of their environment.

I’d like to ask you – what are the constraining factors of the ‘ecological diversity’ of the finance system? How are you growing new niches in finance? What ‘fitness’ criteria are needed for their growth? Where is there movement for change in the system?”

Understanding complex systems is essential if we are going to address today’s ecological, economic and social challenges. For too long we have seen the world as a machine. For too long we have attempted to solve our problems in this way. If we are going to radically change our systems we need to understand and align to how the world really works and design our change strategies accordingly. And we need to learn from complex systems that work well - like nature.

Working in partnership with The Complexity Studio, The Finance Innovation Lab and its’ community are building their capacity to apply complexity science to practical action. We gathered specifically to talk about ‘How do we grow new niches in the finance system’? We are particularly interested in this question as The Finance Lab gears up to launch The Finance Foundry in 2015. The Finance Foundry is 9 month incubation programme that will help to grow and scale new business models in finance that have a positive impact.

So what did we learn from Orit and the Complexity Studio that day that we will apply to our work? What new questions do we have that we’d like to explore further?

A better understanding of a complex system

So what is complex system?A complex system is any system whereby:
• There are many simple actors who together make the whole
• There is no one central controller or ‘set design’
• There are many interactions between actors and some interactions may have surprising effects
• The actors learn and evolve over time which leads to all kinds of dynamics
The financial system is a complex one. It has no one ‘designer’, it is prone to unexpected outcomes from small perturbances and there are many actors working at a local level.To understand complexity, one needs to comprehend dynamics, relationships and patterns . Understanding ‘process’ is as important as understanding ‘content’ in complex systems.
The reality is that we can’t control the financial system. The best we can do is to ensure that we nurture diversity in the system – and diversity that has the qualities that are relevant to today’s context – such as social, ecological and economic fairness, equality and responsibility.
Andy Haldane of The Bank of England speaks of the need for a diverse system in this FT article and in The Transforming Finance Video – “In complex systems, diversity matters more than diversification”.

There are multiple players making local decisions
It is impossible to ‘work at a systemic level’ because a system is made up of a collection of all local actions. This means that no one person is really to blame for financial system failure and dysfunction. We all make up the system. And we all have responsibility to take for our local actions.

However it is true to say that in complex systems there are ‘nodes’ or ‘super-spreaders’ of influence and power that influence a system in unique ways. In the financial system this could be actors such as investors, media, civil society entrepreneurs and policy makers.

Key Questions:
• What responsibility do we have for our own role within the system?
• Who are the key nodes or super spreaders who can positively or negatively influence systems change?

Thriving species need to be able to fit within existing environment
What are the fitness criteria of ‘species’ or organisations who thrive in an ecosystem? As Orit explained, Panda’s actually have a very low fitness criteria. They should be extinct as they have not been able to evolve fast enough to cope with the pressure on their habitats. However they have been able to survive because of their ‘cuteness’ (and thanks to WWF’s work!). This is their new fitness criteria.

As we have seen in banking, the large banks are scurrying to adapt their business models or ‘fitness qualities’ in a rapidly changing landscape. In a world which is seeking values of responsibility, relationship and relevancy we are seeing those banks such as crowdfunders, peer to peer and local banks thrive. They have fitness qualities that have opened new opportunities for expansion and growth compared to thebig incumbent banks.

Key Questions:
• What is the new fitness landscape of the financial system?
• What qualities do leaders and organisations need to evolve the new AND work within the existing reality?

Constraints on ecological diversity
As we saw with the fish analogy – the water that the fish swim in is the constraining factor in their development. In complex systems it is important to pay attention to the constraining factors and to understand the emerging niches unique role in that system.

For example, Ryan Air is a great demonstration of how a new niche has developed a unique role in the system and has worked within current ecological constraints. At the end of Cold War there were many Airforce bases that were close to London but were left as an underutilised asset. Many of the big incumbents like British Airways or Virgin could not take advantage of this untapped resource. One reason being - - these airports were too small and far away from city centres to be meet existing client expectations from major airlines. This opened space for the low cost carriers, or new niches like Ryan Air, to take advantage of this valuable resource in the ecosystem. This led to the complete disruption and shift in the aviation sector.

Key Questions:
• What are the key constraining factors in finance – the equivalent of water?
• Where is the potential for new niches to grow within these constraints?

Evolution is constrained by existing conditions and propelled by emerging ones
It is important to look at the political (power), cultural (attitudes), economic (prices and values) and organisational (infrastructure of system) dynamics that are changing over time in a system. Where are the shifts occurring? In the workshop with Orit we mapped systems conditions and came up with some interesting insights around the technology boom, housing needs, decentralization, increasing inequality, vested interest of UK power brokers – all of which are influencing/have the potential to influence the financial l system.

Key Questions:
• What are the new emerging conditions that are supporting a more diverse finance system?
• How can a cultural awakening to ‘values based banking’ spur change in the financial system?

How will we apply complexity science to practical action going forward?
We will to continue to develop our application of complexity science in our strategy development and our learning and evaluation. This will help us make better decisions on how we can help our community intervene and accelerate change. In particular, we will be paying close attention to the ‘fitness criteria’ we need to incubate in the new business models through the Finance Foundry as well as what conditions are needed ‘to scale’ these new niches.
So keep an eye out for more activities in the future including workshops and talks that The Finance Lab and Regent University’s Complexity Studio will be hosting around the application complexity science.

Orit’s top tips for learning more about complexity science
Adapt – Tim Harford
A New Philosophy of Society- Assemblage Theory And Social Complexity: Manuel Delanda
Complexity: A Guided Tour - Melanie Mitchell
History of Future Cities - Daniel Brook
Santa Fe Institute (free online course on complexity) http://www.complexityexplorer.org/home

Expansion, Light and Harmony.....

                 and expanded upward….

        danced harmoniously……

      radiated light…..

  The flames they…….

…..And we gathered around them in the warmth of a home on a cold winter’s eve, together, to make meaning for ourselves, for each other and for the world we live in.  We are a small group of people, friends and peers, who have intentionally come together over the past 12 months to learn how we can live in presence with the fundamental principles of the universe.    There was a richness in our time together and here are 10 gifts of insight that were given to me:

We are living amongst a dying ideology that lives in fear, control and pain – this is vividly seen and experienced through the stories of our parents.  How do we hospice those who still live with this dying worldview?

We are experimenting with and creating new forms of relating, partnering, working, birthing, parenting, hospicing and dying.   How do we look after ourselves in what can often feel as a liminal and ‘in between’ place?

We are discovering what it really means to be whole – body, soul and spirit.   Living here on earth, whilst living in heaven too.    How do we practice living wholeness?

What does it mean to die?   Relationships die.  The ‘will to live’ dies for some people.  The body dies.   How do we know when something is dead, and how do we best mark death in order to give birth to the new?  How can we recognize the ‘seasons’ of life and relationships?

We are discovering how to commune with each other- ‘to be in a state of intimate heightened sensitivity with another’.    Communing is made easy with people who share a common purpose, values and culture.   And the creation of a safe and intimate space is also important – how can we create sacred places for communing with each other? (fire, food and furry animals help!)

As we become more awake in the world, we become more aware of behaviour.  Our own behaviours and ways of relating are a reinforcing factor in anothers'  behaviour.  How can we take responsibility to redefine how we behave, as a means to inspire new behaviours and relating with others? How can we be compassionate, without being ‘idiotically compassionate’?

It is often from our stories of darkness that our beauty is born.    Do we prevent ourselves from fully appreciating the beauty, if we don’t fully appreciate the darkness?

One of the great capacities needed in the world is to sit with, engage and work with the messiness, complexity and conflict that exists in the world, in our lives and in our relationships.   How can we build our capacity for this?

We make meaning in our lives through the stories we tell.   Those who make meaning have power (highly resonating definition!), so story = power.   How can we tell coherent stories of who we are, what we do and our vision for the future?

We live in a world that is expansive, light and harmonious.  Our universe is abundant.   How can we, who are intentionally creating ‘systems change for higher consciousness cultures’, attract abundance for our collective work?    How do we strategically weave our work together for greater impact as a collective field whilst cultivating our unique experiences, gifts and perspectives?

Fields of Resonance - A New Form of Organising

flowers.jpg

 

In embarking on setting up a new business, I’ve been thinking a lot about organisational form recently.

Why?

Our world is interconnected, emergent and increasingly complex. Common sense suggests we need a radical rethink of our current form of organising.

Having  worked for several large organisations– I can say they are not fit for human flourishing. And they are no-where near enabling the human genius, creativity and energy that is needed for our Great Transformation.

So then, what is the ideal form that supports the flourishing of life?  What is the form that brings forth the co-creation of an abundance of possibility?  What does organising for the 21st Century look like?

I am always inspired by how creative and economic nature is.   If nature was in the business of business – what would its form look like?

For this vision, I am inspired by the wisdom of Rupert Sheldrake.   Sheldrake in his recent book “The Science Delusion’ describes the world as an organism – and not as a machine- as all of our current worldview and thinking assumes.

A big part of his thinking demonstrates that the natural world organises itself in ‘fields of resonance’.

So what is a field?

In my interview with Rupert earlier this year as part of the Tasting the Future Programme, he defines a field as a ‘region of influence’.

A field self-organises around a group of highly resonating members.  There is a certain energetic quality that brings them together which is beyond the tangible.

A strong field is one that has a clear and deep common purpose and intention - an ant colony, a flock of birds, or the amazing human body and its trillions of cells.

Each individual in the field is in tune with each other- there is a sense of awareness, interaction and trust.

And whilst there is high level of interdependence and collaboration, the individuals are able to fully self-actualise to become who they were meant to become. Nothing holds them back. No ego, no fear, no judgement.

There are patterns of behaviours and habits that define the shape and boundaries of that field.  A field has a strong culture, which shapes how it operates.

So, if we are seeking to build influential organising for good –maybe we are moving more towards a model of creating ‘fields of business’ rather than individual organisations.

Radical I know, but What If??