Value systems and cultures
The highest leverage point that exists to shift a human activity system from a degenerative, exclusive to a regenerative, inclusive way of being, resides in the shared mindsets people use to develop their visions, goals and collective actions.
When those mindsets shift, the rules and incentives that enable structural change can shift. Underlying shared mindsets, we find value systems and cultures that are deeply rooted in one of four Eras and the three transitions between them:
- the shift from Era 1 foraging to Era 2 settled farming, led to large-scale hierarchies supplanting small-scale egalitarianism in economics, organisations, politics, and religion.
- the shift from Era 2 autocratic dominance hierarchies embodied in cities & Empires to Era 3 corporations & nation states based on a blend of authoritarian and strategic hierarchies and networks that is now known as globalisation.
- the current shift from Era 3 globalisation to Era 4. This transition embodies many different elements, from a fourth industrial revolution to a sharing economy and global commons based on breakthrough synergistic innovations between natural, human, social and technological capitals.
As we enter this fourth Era of humankind, the potential to change what it means to be human in many beneficial ways rises dramatically. In more technical terms, what we see emerging are fractal-like clusters of thriveable entities at all scales (whether communities, small/medium sized businesses, local/regional/central governments, civil society organisations and/or thought leaders as well as global organisations like the UN and its agencies).
that are activated in clusters of networks to deliver thriveable outcomes. The evidence shows that thriveable organisations and investments deliver superior returns , and this is gradually shifting the focus of major investors toward what look like increasingly thriveable investments and organisations.
In the developed world which is moving from Era 3 to Era 4, the big divide is between the educated “elites” who are able to get jobs and start companies in the Era 4 knowledge and service economy, versus those with high school education or less who are losing their jobs as the Era 3 Industrial Economy declines. There is a geographic effect too, as urban dwellers generally have better access to educational and job seeking resources than rural folks, as well as sharing value systems and cultures better adapted to the Era 4 economy of networks and networking. For example, those people who live in rural areas and have not travelled further than a few hundred miles/km from their homes in their lifetimes, were the core base of the Trumpist movement that elected and continue to support Donald Trump, while the urban elites generally voted for the Democrats.
We need to apply what we have learned so far to ensure that we do not attempt to meddle with changes in rules and incentives without considering the way in which value systems, cultures and mindsets align, clash and shift.
In other words, the way we design our governance systems, our organisations and our economic and socio-technical systems must take into account the realities of how our value systems, cultures and mindsets align, clash and shift.
Attempting to impose changes in taxation, regulation, legislation, organisation and sociotechnical systems without a prior understanding and evaluation of how our natural human energy and priorities can help or hinder such changes, is one of the chief causes of the mess we are in.
The world is weary with the attempts by successive governments and management teams simply trying to squeeze more out of the same old systems everywhere we look. We can better appreciate how value systems, cultures and mindsets align, clash and shift in two ways- we can:
- better understand the internal conversations and shifting priorities in those value systems, cultures and mindsets (sometimes referred to and discovered as “dominant discourses”).
- also observe the external interactive feedback systems that help the socio-technical system in focus to react, adapt to and shape its environment.
If you seek further detail on these cultural and systemic transitions, see the book "Synergise!".