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A failed atempt (for now)

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, one of the aims for this study is to develop an analytical tool for individuals and organisations to better evaluate their decisions concerning the transition. The following article is about my first attempt at such a tool which is a (hopefully useful) failure.

If I know this tool does not work why bother showing it? Well this is a year of study and experimentation and it is important to try things, fail and learn. It is the only way forward and I said previously, this year is forcing me to be very honest about my ignorance. Moreover, it is a way to share with you what I am thinking about and how I am thinking about it.

WHY A TOOL AGAIN?

While working in innovation I learned that, when facing novelty or any change, depending on your aversion to risk, your reaction will differ significantly. If you are an entrepreneur at heart, the mere mention of a problem will start you off in finding a solution. If you are an early adopter, the mere mention of a potential solution will get you to try it out; for novelty's sake sometimes. If you are like most people though, you need to have some idea of what will happen once you make a decision.

If I believe that humanity needs to embrace this transition and change in a pretty massive way (which I still do at this point of the study, short reminder below), there needs to be a way to convince that large group of people (by far the largest group of us) to change. That implies reducing risk associated with change. For that, there needs to be some way to explicit the implications (both positive and negative) of a decision, to project oneself convincingly in both futures (where the change is adopted and where it is not). This is why I wish to create an analytical tool at the end of my study.

I should mention here something quite obvious: in no way does this tool tell the future. It is no crystal ball. Nobody knows the future and anyone pretending to do so is a liar and a fraud. What is important is to reduce the unknown of a decision or more accurately, to feel that one has. If a decision feels thought through, one feels the decision less risky. This tool is here to help adopt a more complete perspective on the implication of a decision, enable the user to create a satisfactory narrative which enables action (going through with the decision or staying put). It is a projection tool and in no way manipulation.

TOOL DESCRIPTION AND USE

So this is what I have come up with at this stage. And yes, I know it is wrong, but I will explain the reasons why further down. For now, I should start describing the ideas that lead to designing this as is so far.

As I said the tool is used to explore the consequences of taking a specific decision / adopting a new policy. This is why the title of the tool is "Policy/Decision to be analysed". An example could be "implementing a local currency in a community", "reducing office space in favour of co-working spaces for employees", or at an individual level "becoming vegan". The more specific the decision the better. "Post-industrial transitioning" is not a good example.

The second thing to decide is whether or not you are reducing the analysis to a specific target group (centre of the triangle), for example "upper management", "the poorest 25% of the population", etc. Though this tool is supposed to help explore exhaustively the consequences of a given decision, it may be helpful to start with a reduced perspective and grow from there. I see this as optional at this stage.

The third aspect one needs to fill out (top right of the tool), is to define who the analyser is. This in itself is not important for the analysis part of the policy but for the implementation phase (that should come after the use of the tool), it is important to know what the user of the tool has the ability to change or not. After filling in the tool, the user will use it to define change implementation.

Once these three points decided on, one can start filling in the rest of the tool.

THE THREE SIDES OF THE TRIANGLE

As written previously, the hypothesis I have at this point in the study, is that the successful objective of the industrial revolution was to address the basic material needs of the masses to insure survival. Another way of looking at it is to say that the Industrial society was organised to address the two lowest levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Physiological needs and part of the Safety needs for the masses.

As I said the tool is used to explore the consequences of taking a specific decision / adopting a new policy. This is why the title of the tool is "Policy/Decision to be analysed". An example could be "implementing a local currency in a community", "reducing office space in favour of co-working spaces for employees", or at an individual level "becoming vegan". The more specific the decision the better. "Post-industrial transitioning" is not a good example.

The second thing to decide is whether or not you are reducing the analysis to a specific target group (centre of the triangle), for example "upper management", "the poorest 25% of the population", etc. Though this tool is supposed to help explore exhaustively the consequences of a given decision, it may be helpful to start with a reduced perspective and grow from there. I see this as optional at this stage.

The third aspect one needs to fill out (top right of the tool), is to define who the analyser is. This in itself is not important for the analysis part of the policy but for the implementation phase (that should come after the use of the tool), it is important to know what the user of the tool has the ability to change or not. After filling in the tool, the user will use it to define change implementation.

Once these three points decided on, one can start filling in the rest of the tool.

THE THREE SIDES OF THE TRIANGLE

As written previously, the hypothesis I have at this point in the study, is that the successful objective of the industrial revolution was to address the basic material needs of the masses to insure survival. Another way of looking at it is to say that the Industrial society was organised to address the two lowest levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Physiological needs and part of the Safety needs for the masses.

As written about in another article, the main result of reducing income inequality is to increase community cohesiveness (1), but increased community cohesiveness in turn increases a number of other social aspects in healthcare, safety, social justice, the environment, etc. (2).

As written about in another article, the main result of reducing income inequality is to increase community cohesiveness (1), but increased community cohesiveness in turn increases a number of other social aspects in healthcare, safety, social justice, the environment, etc. (2).

Let's look more closely at each side of the triangle.

THE BASE OF THE TRIANGLE: SURVIVE & THRIVE

At the base of the triangle, are the basic needs: Food and water, shelter, safety, health, justice and sustainable resource management. There is a difference in nature between the first five and the last category. For the first five categories, the impacts of starvation, cold, war, sickness and slavery to give a few examples, are quite direct but I would argue that on the long run, mismanagement of resources will have the same outcome. So though, the time scale of our environmental impact is different, I decided to place it along these basic needs because in the long run, mistakes in this category will surely kill us just as much as not having any food to eat.

There are two levels to this side of the triangle: "Basic" and "Advanced". This is why the subtitle is Survive and Thrive. Though we must be vigilant new policies do not undermine access to basic needs (this might seem trivial but are we really avoiding this when subsidising the oil industry?), we must also continuously strive to improve the quality in all these categories. This is not a linear process and we are constantly facing decisions that could undermine the progress attained. Here are just a few current illustrations from this side of the pond : water quality in Flint, MI, fighting the minimal living size of apartments in New York City, Black lives Matter, not allowing gun violence to be studiedLGBT rights.

After filling in the base of the triangle, the left side is inward facing (Self) and the right side is outward-facing (Community).

SELF

This is one area, I do not feel as of yet comfortable enough with my knowledge. I am still working on the subcategories that the self needs to be completely but not redundantly described. For now these are the aspects I feel best cover what is sometimes referred to as Self-Actualisation (realising personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences), the personal aspects that contribute to our well-being. They are organised from the most inward looking to the most outward looking:

  • Mastery: A sense progress, not just in our work, but our capabilities (for now I am placing improvements in education here, but I am not satisfied)
  • Autonomy: Having control over how we work. That includes what we work on, when we work on it, how we perform the work, and who we perform it with.
  • Creativity: The use of our imagination or original ideas.
  • Aesthetics: Appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  • Purpose: The sense of contributing to something bigger than ourselves.
  • Transcendence: Helping others to achieve self actualization.

COMMUNITY

The outward facing side of the triangle is called "Community" and is sub-divided into two large categories. One category is divided between one's personal and professional life (which in a globalized world does not necessarily have a geographical logic), the other category is geographical in nature (local, national and global). "Local" is whatever makes more sense to the studied group (neighbourhood, municipal, regional, etc.).

WHY THE TOOL DOES NOT WORK (YET)

Well there are three main reasons besides the validity of the hypothesis that drove me here:

1. As I mentioned previously, I am not sure that my subcategories fully cover all aspects of well-being and do so without redundancy. I will have to try out my tool on several policies and personal decisions to refine it and find out. Right now, for example I am not sure where to put increase/decrease in revenue (Yes, I forgot money!) or education.

2. Though I think it is very important to place the secondary impacts of the decisions, it poses the question of clarity. Will the tool be readable once filled in? It also means, like many tools that filling it it will be an iterative process. How many iterations would be ideal?

3. This leads me to my third point: quantifiers. Obviously, not all aspects are as important but how do you compare them? How can you "objectively"  compare and chose between two decisions that would for example, strengthen your ties with your neighbours on one hand and reduce your annual carbon footprint by 1000 tons on the other? For now, this is just a qualitative tool but the question of quantitativeness and indicators will have to be addressed before the tool will be usable.

 

Any thoughts?