The chart below, as developed by McDonough and Braungart for their book Upcycle, displays the goal of good or positive impacts being more than negative impacts.
Both positive and negative impacts are continually happening and both exist simultaneously. Most important, it is necessary to understand that negative and positive impacts are independent. I discuss how negative and positive concepts impact health in the short video, Create the Life You Want, below.
Decreasing negative does not create positive impacts just as increasing positive impacts does not decrease negative impacts directly. Indirectly however they are related because of time. There is only so much time to do things and if our efforts lead to negative impacts, there is then only enough time to make things less bad, not actually good or positive. For this reason it is important to start with a positive objective instead of one to lessen bad. The goal or aim of creating all good by creating interactions so everyone and everything (all species) benefits is necessary to allow positive impacts to overtake negative impacts. Of course as noted in previous posts, I call this the practice of paneugenesis or selfish, selfless, synergy.
By using the starting point of an idealized outcome or to create ALL good rather than rectify problems, good or positive impacts are more likely to overtake negative impacts. In my discussions, I often point out examples in life when positives have a larger impact than negatives. The positive impact of Deming and his quality management efforts is an example that allowed business efforts to have positive impacts that overtook negative impacts. In health I have documented where salutogenesis efforts enable positive impacts to overtake negative impacts, and in policy the practice of libertarian paternalism has shown that we can “Nudge” society in ways so positive impacts overtake negatives. The most recent example I have come across is that of Upcycling or to create beneficial environmental impacts as outlined by McDonough and Braungart in Cradle to Cradle and Upcycle.
Another powerful example of efforts that result in positive impacts overtaking negative impacts is the work of Carol Dweck in education. Her efforts have focused on the idea of the growth mindset rather than the traditional set mindset. To learn more I encourage you to read her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and listen to her recent TED Presentation below, ” The Power of Believing You Can Improve.”
Each of these efforts are profoundly important and helpful, however, to me what is most important and valuable are the similarities of the many efforts to Create Good, not just cause Less Bad. My upcoming posts will focus on these connections and how our efforts can create more good, not just less bad!
Enjoy – Happy Holidays. I look forward to hearing how you will make 2015 a More Good Year, not just a Less Bad Year!
So often I hear people remark, “Everything Happens for a reason!” as if it were pre-determined that things would happen. If that is so, it takes away meaning from most of our actions since we would therefore have no influence.
As Israel Zangill said,
Take from me the hope that I can change the future and you will send me mad.
Yes everything does happen for a reason but it is the reason that we decide. As William Shakespeare proclaimed.
Nothing is either good or bad, thinking makes it so.
This idea has a special meaning for me as a survivor of a tragic car accident where the driver and other 2 passengers were killed and I was left in a coma and temporarily paralyzed on the right side of my body. Was there really a pre-determined reason 3 young adults should be killed in an accident? As a 17 year old, after months and years of recovery I was left with the difficult question, why I am still here but my friends are not? What made it even more difficult were the caring friends peppering me with the idea that I was saved for a reason.
I had trouble with that idea because if there was such a thing as a higher power, why would 3 people have to be killed to send me that message. As Jonathan Haidt shared, a contradiction in religion is that the almighty cannot be “all powerful, all knowing, and all good”, something has to give. I was able to forge my meaning on life with the help of the wonderful little book by Harold Kushner, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People“. Notice the title is not – WHY bad things happen, just when. For those of you left with these crushing questions, I strongly recommend a read of Kushner’s book.
To create the life we want and to generate interactions so everyone and everything benefits, it seems we must move forth with purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning is something my difficult times encouraged me to seek and it is something I continue to strive for in all I do. Life is messy and unexpected so when things do not work out as planned as often happens. Meaning has helped me and may help anyone move forward toward the goal of a better day and life for all. In these travels, it seems helpful to “forge meaning”, as Andrew Solomon explains in this TED talk. Enjoy.
In other words, we choose what things mean and it is in doing this that we can give our life value.
Good manifests good – we cause good to be and to happen. Technically, Jonathan Haidt described it as elevation, which is an emotion elicited by witnessing virtuous acts of remarkable moral goodness. It is experienced as a distinct feeling of warmth and expansion that is accompanied by appreciation and affection for the individual whose exceptional conduct is being observed. Elevation motivates those who experience it to open up to, affiliate with, and assist others. Elevation makes an individual feel lifted up and optimistic about humanity. (see at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elevation_(emotion))
As shared by Don Ardell, this Life Vest video demonstrates the concept in action – Enjoy!
Psychologically, socially, and even genetically we desire improvement, not just once in a while but always. We always want to improve because we quickly adapt to all new situations. In famous studies it shows whether one wins a million dollars or tragically becomes quadraplegic, their level of happiness or life satisfaction returns to what it was in a years time.
In other words, this is more evidence that improvement means it is not just ending problems but the creation or evolution to a higher state of functioning. This higher state of functioning also must be created from our newly developed skills and increased capacity so this new level of functioning has been earned. It has been repeatedly shown by several experts that shortcuts to happiness, i.e. drugs instead of developed abilities or poor service focus and lower quality produced, generally provides a fast track to depression and lower profits. It is thought that these improved feelings do not last because we know that we don’t deserve improved outcomes.
As I have noted repeatedly, eliminating problems simply brings us back to where we were before, not better. Our constant goal and aim should be to create comprehensive benefits by creating interactions that benefit everyone and everything. Last summer I attended the 2014 UNC Sustainability Summit at Appalachian . At this summit, the difference between maintenance and improvement was noted. Maintenance means to maintain what we have. Of course that is good and better than making things worse and may be needed when something doesn’t work. From another perspective, it may be valuable to not see this as a problem but as an opportunity. These situations are an opportunity to create better if the focus is on true improvement and the aim is to create a +3 so everyone and everything benefits. Recall +3 relates to Exceeding Expectations.
A way to put this idea into practice is to evolve maintenance programs, groups or people to Continuous Improvers. As I have often discussed, the paneugenesis concept and model’s basic aim is to produce gains and make things better than they could be otherwise. As has been repeatedly documented, work groups that are free and able to continually improve a process unleashes creativity, knowledge, and motivation and it is these conditions that create and will often lead to beneficial serendipitous contributions.
The paneugenesis model creates improvement opportunities with its focus on continuing efforts to improve outcomes. Langley (2009) provides an example of how to apply these ideas. As a student of W. Edwards Deming quality management methods, he suggests evolving maintenance responsibilities toward ones that find ways to improve, not just maintain. Maintanence is not improvement because it often means putting out incessant fires or emergencies, which would be a -3 so it can be returned to the status quo (0) or expected levels. The aim should be better or +3 outcomes that exceed expectations.
Therefore, if a Maintenance crew would practice paneugenesis they would evolve into improvement teams. That crew would then move beyond efforts to maintain the status quo toward efforts focused on improvement by instilling the aim of producing comprehensive benefits made possible by using system thinking to generate improved, pervasive results. This improvement approach can be adopted by all, so efforts improve and create a better reality instead of just maintaining the status quo.
UPDATE: In Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, “Thank You for Being Late: An optimists guide to thriving in the age of accelerations” he explains how new, fast, free, ubiquitous and easy to use technology is helping make this happen. He cites QualComm’s maintenance teams who are no longer just janitors but are now building technicians. Not only can they fix problems that arise, because of all the time sensors, they now have insight on how to fix it before it is problem and or how to make it work better than before. He explains they now have an ability to improve their contributions and this has created higher job satisfaction. Now these workers can make improvement because of available intelligent assistance from smart sensors in the building. These sensors complete what would be like an EKG or MRI of humans to their buildings thus giving the maintenance team insight and information on what can be improved.
The paneugenesis model provides a framework or guide for groups to follow to exceed expectations and to achieve improvements beyond the status quo. Focusing on improvement imbues employees with an added opportunity to contribute and this has been shown to not only motivate employee’s and or individuals but also improves efforts. Efforts are improved because this method provides a strategy that uses distributed intelligence rather than centralized intelligence (Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 1999). Practicing paneugenesis at organizations and in society creates smart, learning groups and these efforts are likely to generate improved (+3) outcomes by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
The aim of paneugenesis is to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. This can be done by using this 4 step Paneugenesis Process:
1.Operationalize an Idealized Outcome – make sure all involved parties know what is to be created and be sure that it is better than what can be now. The outcome should have pervasive and reciprocal effects that carry meaning and impact to and beyond the individual.
2. Discover Precursors– what must exist now to make the idealized outcome a reality. Discover what skills, abilities, traits, environments are necessary and or must exist to realize the idealized outcome. These precursors are conditions that must be created and not currently present.
3. Optimize the Process– what must be done to create those precursors that will enable the idealized outcome to be realized – go do that now! Do what must be done to create and put in place the necessary precursors discovered.
4. Plot Progress – find measures that document and demonstrate progress is being made toward the creation of discovered precursors and or idealized outcomes. Progress measures that indicate movement is being made toward the creation of the new, desired reality are necessary to give meaning and purpose to the process and to help participants maintain motivation.
I look forward to hearing how you help make it a Great Week for everyone and everything!
As proposed in the Non Sequitur comic above and by Wegner’s Theory of Ironic Processes of Mental Control (1994, Psychological Review), it seems our efforts to not think of something creates counter intentional effects, or the opposite of what we had hoped. With this understanding, I am proposing a more direct route toward creating what is desired, that is a method to work toward the creation of what we desire. Radical I know, but this is the basis of the Create all Good or Paneugenesis Model (Theory) of Desired Outcomes.
To begin this thought process, we must understand that everything is fine! You may say, wait, there is global warming, people are sick, and there is unrest in the world. While that is correct, these situations do not signify the existence of a problem but an observation of our current reality. If we want things better, this indicates our efforts must be focused on creating a new and better reality that also precludes undesired situations.
As the great management consultant Russell Ackoff explained, improvement of an existing condition or state requires a clear vision of what is wanted, NOT a clear vision of what is not wanted (i.e. Ironic Process). He highlights this point because most efforts to eliminate what we don’t want, rather than working to create what we do want, usually makes things worse. Most of us know when we attempted to rid the US of alcohol with prohibition, not only did we not eliminate alcohol, we also facilitated the development of organized crime. Now we attempt to eliminate crime with more prisons, and we know because of recidivism that also is not working. I suggest these efforts do not and cannot work because those efforts are not designed to create a new and better reality, just a less bad one.
To further illustrate this point, any focus on a problem or problems does not allow us to focus on what we want to create but what we want to avoid. Another hindering factor to improvement using existing attempts to eliminate problems is related to how a focus on problems or difficulties yields narrowed not broad thinking and therefore limits creativity related to the development of better solutions.
UPDATE: Brain research as outlined by Merzenich and Doidge and also seconded by James Clear in Atomic Habits is that we don’t stop eliminate bad habits, we just develop new and better habits to take their place. It is as outlined in the Green Grass Theory, we grow new blades of grass so no room is left for the weeds to grow. We replace bad behaviors with good behaviors.
Brain research shows us that old neuron connections of habits still exist, however when it is not used it goes dormant. New habits are created from repeated actions that require brain neurons to fire together so they wire together. This wiring stays unless actively attempts to unlearn. This also means that when old cues are provided, it can mean resurrection of old unwanted habits. Knowing this means we must continuously and consciously work to create an environment that supports, nurtures, encourages and reinforces desired actions.
Although most assume things can be better if we focus on problems, evidence indicates this is not so because even if a problem is gone, we are only back to where we were, not better. As management expert W. Edwards Deming used to point out, putting out fires does not improve, it just turns down the heat by putting the process back to where it should have been in the first place. In more detail he went on to explain that removal of special causes (outside factors), as identified with statistical process control (SPC) techniques, could at best after the correction only put things back to how they should have been in the first place – not new and better.
While I suggest problems are irrelevant in the title, their irrelevance is only in its relation to improvement. Simply eliminating problems only brings us back to where we were or what I refer to as zero (0), not better. To be able to Exceed Expectations and create a better reality with improved outcomes, we must first develop a vision or picture of our desired or idealized outcome – what I refer to as +3. The short video below highlights this idea:
Even if we focus on eliminating what we don’t want – it in no way means we will get what we do want. To create what we want, we must think about how to exceed expectations and related comprehensive benefits. Comprehensive refers to pervasive or far reaching effects that come about through systems thinking and benefits relates to improved outcomes that lead to an improved reality from generating comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
The steps to test this model are:
4 Steps to Practice and Test Paneugenesis Process
Operationalize an Idealized Outcome
Determine an Idealized outcome that is better or improved from what is possible or able to happen now
Must incorporate Systems Thinking so the outcome benefits are on multiple levels without any seen harm to other levels
Discover Precursors to Ideal and current process
Research to discover what must come before idealized outcome, what must be true for desired outcome to occur
Assess current process to discover and learn current processes used or must be created to manifest ideal outcomes
Develop good practices (append existing or start new processes)
Update unneeded, outdated or inappropriate actions to ones that created idealized vision
Measure and document progress forward toward idealized outcome
Plan and develop next steps to enable continual improvement
A more detailed outline of this concept that has been developed into the Model to Create All Good or Paneugenesis is forthcoming for testing so it can become a model to test into a theory. I look forward to your comments. Thank you.