Core Principles for the New Economy: Human Agency & Enlightened Self-Interest
Yesterday Stowe Boyd wrote a commentary (Getting to Trust: Better Swift than Deep) in response to my post about trust and collaboration, saying that the way of the future is connectives, not collectives; cooperation, not collaboration.
He goes on to recommend assembling ourselves with swift trust, align professionally around a common goal/vision/alignment, get short-term projects done, and then disband and move on, verse trying to establish deep trust, which is a much stickier, longer and more political process.
I just want to clarify what it is we’re experimenting with, as Stowe hasn’t been the only person lately who misinterpreted it as attempting to form some kind of unified hivemind.
What it’s not:
A sacrifice of self-interest.
What it is:
A collaboratory. (a “center without walls”)
A surrender of attachment to ego. (healthy ego = good. being full of yourself = not so productive)
(I brought this Brian Eno quote up a few posts ago, but I’ll reiterate):
Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.
Individuals immersed in a productive scenes will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenes, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.
The geography of a scenes is nurtured by several factors:
- Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
- Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.
- Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success. (Collective Epic Wins!)
- Local tolerance for the novelties — The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
So, this is really about culture building.
Just like on this blog, where I attempt to host a creative learning environment, where it’s ‘safe’ to be vulnerable and express your opinion and engage in generative dialogue, the idea of the collaboratory is a creative learn/make/do environment as well. (I want to make this happen in an online environment, which we’re doing now using enterprise collaboration software, Confluence Atlassian.)
Its mission statement might be something like:
To provide creative entrepreneurs and business owners the tools and ongoing support to bootstrap their ventures from inception to maturity, so they can have a continuous positive impact on systems and culture.
I also want to make this happen in my local physical environment, via the Beacon Collaboratory.)
And there are two principles I think are really important to put out there that so that the environment continues to be flexible, fluid, and adaptive, instead of rigid, homogenized, or prone to ‘groupthink,’ and these are human agency & enlightened self-interest.
Somehow I never came across the word “agency” until grad school a few years ago, but I think it’s a critical concept for contextualizing growth, empowerment and manifesting your intentions.
“Agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity) to act in a world. Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.”
My interpretation is simply that human beings each have the capacity to make choices and decisions. I’m tempted to go so far as to say we have a responsibility to do so, but then my spiritual training would tell me that we are each on our own path and it’s not my place to determine the moral obligations of others.
A lot of what I discovered in my social theory education enlightened me about the degree to which we are programmed by our environments, culture, and institutions, and especially by the media. I believe we are generally trained to do what we’re told and to not do too much thinking for ourselves. That would be the suppression of agency. I find it dangerous to mindlessly take actions without deeply questioning one’s internal navigation system, and asking oneself if it makes sense or contributes to happiness or well-being.
So becoming consciously aware of oneself and one’s deep values and beliefs help to provide an internal compass towards agency, verse following an externally mandated one. Having the capacity to make your own decisions and choices.
Whereas agency frames the capacity to act, enlightened self-interest frames the rationale of its implementation.
“Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.
Another way to say this is “do well by doing good.”
Another way to say it is “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
And yet another way to say it could be “helping each other help ourselves.”
My interpretation of this phrase is that we still retain our individual expression, we still build our own “brands” and communities, we still create our own customized versions of products and services.
BUT, we do so in a way that is mindful and pie-expanding, not exploitative or creating false scarcity. The idea is that we can create value and wealth for the world, which ultimately serves ourselves, because we live in the world.
If a business is created that links a local food supply chain from farm to table, everybody wins – the farms, the food co-ops and grocery stores, and the people who are able to purchase locally grown organic food.
If a business incubation and mentorship project is launched, everybody wins – the businesses owners who are sharing their wisdom, the budding entrepreneurs who are going to grow the economy, the community/customers that are going to have new ways of being served, and the city that can be proud of the ways they are demonstrating resilience.
The examples can go on and on, but this is essentially the vision I am actively working towards.
I believe in a social and economic future that is convivial, vibrant, thriving, and life-enhancing for all. We live with passion, manifest our dreams, and don’t cause suffering to others in the process. We engage in a process of continuous learning and mutual improvement. We have fun playing infinite games while still getting shit done. We are alive.
The future is now.
responses from the noosphere: