Over and over it seems I have heard that the smartest person in the room is the best listener, and they say you can’t learn anything from others while talking, etc. In a recent post, Trust but Verify, I noted that sometimes the universe seems to be sending messages. The message last week that the universe kept sending, but it took time for me to hear, was that I should Trust but Verify. This week I am finally hearing another message the universe continues to share over and over, but for some reason, I was hearing it without fully internalizing it.
This idea that “nature knows best” was also captured by Amory Lovins in the 1976 article, An Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken. The article described the options as a soft versus hard path. See post: Policy for Comprehensive Improvements. The soft path worked with and facilitated what would happen and did not force outcomes as in the “Heat, Beat, Treat” traditional method. As he demonstrated, the soft path was a better path economically, environmentally, and concerning the quality of life.
The Soft Path by Amory Lovins, The Gaia Hypothesis, and Deming’s System Appreciation and System of Profound Knowledge all replicate nature’s methods and call for engaging in net positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic actions so everyone and everything benefits. It is what I call the Paneugenesis Process.
As we build a better system, this new system must build a green economy that works with our environment, not against it, by using the soft, not the hard path. Our traditional, thought to be a clever method of “Heat Beat Treat’, or forcing nature to comply, was not as good as we thought. A better way works with nature as Janine Benyus, of Biomimicry fame, made these methods much more popular.
A better system has been shown over and over to us by the universe as one that works with nature to generate comprehensive benefits. Better listening skills would have helped me hear this message more clearly. Listening has helped me understand that pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions, a soft path, will also benefit the environment and enable us to thrive from our actions.
Act Now – Act to Think
Although these actions seem obvious in retrospect, my slow understanding means we must Act to think and not wait to believe it before we act. Huberman’s research supports this approach.
Beliefs do not change our actions, Actions change our beliefs.
Andrew Huberman, PhD – Stanford
Other benefits follow, as noted by Dr. James Lovelock and his Gaia Hypothesis:
…if the Earth improves because of our presence, then we will flourish.
What is the Moral?
Messages are out there. We must listen by seeing what works without forcing it to happen. The soft path, not the hard path, as described by Amory Lovins, will help. It is not about forcing an outcome. It is about not getting in the way and helping it happen. If we listen to and work with nature, thus making life more livable, amazing things are possible for everyone and everything because of it.
What is the universe telling us that you have not internalized? Please share what you have learned and how you worked with nature to generate comprehensive improvements.
Hurricane “Ian” ravaged Florida and the east coast in September 2022. Some were fatally trapped because they stayed in their houses when the storm hit land. Although most would “trust” weather forecasts, they could not “verify” it would be that bad until it was too late. That is often the issue. Timing delays our ability to “verify”.
“Trust but verify” became famous, according to Wikipedia, when Ronald Reagan used it during nuclear disarmament talks with the Soviet Union. Ironically, at least according to Wikipedia, it s a Russian Proverb. This saying has become relevant in my life, can be related to actions with hurricane Ian, and may benefit your life.
At least for me, it seems the universe can talk to me. This time it was about the Russian proverb, “Trust but verify”. Of course, it became relevant because I also read Malcolm Gladwell’s provocative 2019 book, “Talking to Strangers“.
Gladwell’s book was very enlightening (I recommend the book and summary). With research, “Talking to Strangers”, in Gladwell’s trademark neutral method, documents how we are good at understanding others when they act as expected, but bad at discerning the truth when they do not act as we think they should. He even suggests it could be because of the “Friends” effect. In the sitcom “Friends”, the actor’s emotions, expressions, and actions are all consistent and support what they will do.
In “Friends”, if they are smiling, they are happy. If they are trying to cheat or trick someone, they act suspiciously. In real life, that is not always the case. Only sometimes are we transparent such that our actions match our intentions. Gladwell explains the “Friend’s” effect to Jimmy Kimmel for about 2 minutes in the interview below. He also summarizes so much more. I strongly encourage you to listen to this 8-minute interview and read his book.
To demonstrate this conundrum, Gladwell documents other experiences in the book. One story discusses how Penn State’s University President, Graham B. Spanier, was fired for endangering children when Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of child abuse. He contrasts this to parents who were in the room when Larry Nassar abused their kids, and yet they were not thought to be negligent. Life is ambiguous…
Default to Truth
Gladwell suggests and suspects this happens because people will automatically default to the truth, or believe what is best when people act as expected. In other words, we default to “Trust”. It is hard not to, and it takes extreme risk and difficulty to go against the tide when others trust. The second part of the proverb, “Verify”, is what we should do, but it is complicated by timing and effort.
This is a proverb because we want colleagues and supervisors to think the best of us, or to Trust us. Think how horrible it would be if people automatically assumed the worst in each situation. In other words, we should “Trust”. If we didn’t trust, Gladwell seems to justifiably suggest without implicit trust, the world would be a less desirable place for us all.
Verification takes extra effort, and those steps may also cause us to discover things we do not want to know. This happened during the pandemic when people stole funds, as highlighted in this NYTimes Daily Podcast, Why Was Pandemic Fraud So Easy?
Recently, I did not adequately “Verify”. The “Friends” effect impacted me. I didn’t adequately verify people because I could not imagine why a group I was working with would not be telling the truth. Unfortunately, my “default to truth” and failure to adequately “verify” has slowed and damaged progress on plans I had to Practice Paneugenesis on a much bigger level.
Though this attempt to “Optimize the process” did not work, I am finding a better way to reach my idealized outcome so we can generate comprehensive improvements by being nudged to create pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefit.
We want to provide people with a GPS for life that will nudge them to efficiently use resources to lead a fulfilling, regenerative life that will also create regenerative communities. This BeWell’r Web will work like a forest’s mycelium in the roots of plants and trees, enabling plants to be healthier through efficiently using the forest’s resources.
This function of nature through the root network in a forest was dubbed to be the “Wood Wide Web” by “Nature”(August 1997).The “Wood Wide Web” is a communication network that shares information through its fungi with all in the forest about how to best use its resources so the forest can thrive. The video below shares the vision for our BeWell’r Web that will help create healthier people and thriving communities:
In 2014 I wrote this post, Dad Our House is on Fire!…People are Amazing! I wrote this because I was in awe of the amazing generosity we experienced after our house burned down and we lost most of our belongings. As I noted in that post, despite the awful news we hear 24/7, I believe most people are good. I also believe people want to help others. Scientifically this makes sense because it makes us feel good.
To my delight, I once again was in awe of amazing generosity of others. As I noted in 2014,
“… my belief that people are amazing has been confirmed.” Again!
My belief that people are good has been confirmed again – people are amazing! This time it was confirmed when my wife and I went Lowes to pick up some lattice for our yard.
I have a Prius which has a hatchback and almost everything fits. This time however we were about 2 inches shy of being able to get the lattice into the hatch. As we picked up the lattice to return it to the store. a gentleman, with broken English gets our attention and says, “do you need help?” We explained we did and he then offered to carry the lattice pieces in his truck to our house. People are amazing!
We loaded the lattice in the back of his truck and asked him to follow us. Of course, if you believe the news, he would have driven away with the material. He did not. He kindly brought the material to our house, helped us unload it and said he was glad to help. We offered to pay him, but he refused. People are amazing!
Overall, it was a nice, net-positive pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interaction. This is a way to practice paneugenesis because it helped generate more good, not just less bad. That act encouraged me and my wife to pay it forward, thus causing a positive pervasive ripple, as it also reinforced our belief that most people are good and kind. People are amazing!
Make it a great week by being the amazing person you know you can be. Also please share your stories of yourself or others paying it forward!
Findings from science should be objective, that is they can be replicated by others and they represent reality. While earning my PhD I remember a simple and powerful statement that described the scientific process that helped me and I thought it could help others.
Science DESCRIBEs, so it can PREDICT, which means you can then IMPROVE and then based on what you learn, you can EXPLAIN phenomena. Each level forward builds on the previous.
DESCRIBE: Tell us what happened based on influencing interactions
PREDICT: Be able to say what will happen when variables interact
IMPROVE: After understanding the situation, or being able to describe the phenomena based on related interactions – then it can be predicted what will happen. This knowledge enables the future to be altered or improved. Improvement can happen by manipulating some of the variable interactions described.
EXPLAIN: Knowing what did or did not improve the outcome enables an explanation of our reality. For example, I ate excess calories than I used so I gained weight.
Kahneman and Tversky explained this by suggesting giving money to poor people was not seen as help, but just a chance to catch up. This then was not improvement but helping level the playing field so improvements could be made.
For instance, my organization is BeWell’r, LLC and our work focuses on helping people(college students right now), organizations and society not just be well, but to be Well’R. This means better than they could have been before. We help people make better choices by efficiently nudging them, via the BeWell’r Web, to use community resources such that they can lead a regenerative lifestyle that helps them become better as they simultaneously also build a stronger, regenerative community, meaning everyone and everything benefits. The BeWell’r Web works like a forest which uses the “Wood-Wide Web” as discovered and explained by Dr. Suzanne Simard. (see Strategic Alliances are Powerful)
Stability then Improvement
As Dr. W. Edwards Deming explained in his quality management seminars. The first goal is to lessen the variance so stable outcomes can be produced. Once a consistent process produces a similar outcome again and again over time, then improvement can be made. If improvement attempts are made prior to stability, it is hard to know if the improvement can last or if it was a real improvement and not just chance. He used simple process behavior charts to document stable processes.
What Does this mean? Scientifically
This means science should first provide a DESCRIPTION of an occurrence or a phenomenon by understanding how it happened. The description should describe the interactions that created that occurrence. Based on that understanding of the situation, a PREDICTION about what will happen can be made. If one does not like the prediction, an IMPROVEMENT can be made by altering some of the interactions described.
As an example my daughter wants to run a marathon. She first had to be able to describe her current state and ability by reviewing the interactions that led to her current reality. Knowing she wants to have more endurance she studied training methods and changed her workouts to hopefully improve her running ability. If she is able to complete a marathon she will be able to explain by saying doing these type of workouts and having good nutrition improved my ability beyond what it was before, even in the best circumstances. In other words, this improvement would be better than she would have been even on her best day – that is true IMPROVEMENT.
I use science to generate comprehensive improvements by discovering and engaging in net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. When I discover these interactions that generate comprehensive improvements such as An All Good Simple Clean Up,A Way to Practice Paneugenesis, and others I share.
Please share how you use science to generate true comprehensive IMPROVEMENTS. I look forward to hearing from you.
The book fascinated me because it highlighted and clarified why We are Just Talking Apes and how There is Only US, There is no Them, as I attempted to suggest previously. I loved Zoobiquity because it documented how similar all living things are on earth and that “we should be looking at the overlap rather than the differences” between species due to our shared ancestry.
I was fascinated as they demonstrated how other animals also have foresight, regret, shame, guilt, love, and revenge. I thought I saw these things in our dogs, but I thought I was anthropomorphizing their behaviors. I guess I was not.
Examples of similarities in the book included how all animals, like humans, can Faint when scared. This led to a better explanation of our instincts that are generally only described as Fight or Flight. An accurate description of our reactions is “Fight, Flight, or Faint” when startled. As they documented, faking death, like when we Faint, had survival benefits and may be why it lasted through our evolution.
I thought most interesting was how they showed behaviors that many attributes to bad character, which also exist in the animal kingdom. For instance, a section describes eating disorders in the animal kingdom that mirror human eating disorders. (see Intriguing links between animal behavior and anorexia nervosa by Treasure, Janet & Owen, John) Other behaviors such as homosexuality, trans sex, and even sex between species exist in other animals, meaning they evolved for survival and are still in our DNA.
In other examples, they document the proliferation of STDs in the animal kingdom. After all, they don’t have antibiotics or any type of protection. In another similarity, they demonstrate how teenage animals act similarly to human teenagers. The similarity relates to their behaviors. As explained, adolescent brains don’t register danger as adults do, and this may be why they take what seems to be “stupid” or unwise actions. They, however, explain, “These risky behaviors can encourage encounters with threats and competitions that may hurt them but actually end up being helpful for success later in life.” They even suggest it may be more dangerous when adolescents don’t take risks than if they do. If risks are avoided, they are not prepared for life.
Overall, these many comparisons and similarities indicate that what happens are not necessarily flaws or problems of humans; it is hard-wired into us. These actions are just part of our shared DNA. Those actions, however, can also be influenced by our environment.
Sex, Drugs, &…
They also showed how animals in the wild sometimes get hooked on drugs. Who knew? They also explained that animals have varied sex drives, high or low, and some animals even use some of the same techniques to attract mates, as seen in humans. It was amazing to learn. They even suggest that an “Orgasm is not the byproduct of sex, it is the bait from erotic ancestry” that enables or supports reproduction.
There were some unpleasant things in the book. A disturbing section explained humans believed animals did not feel. This existed until fairly recently — though some still believe this, especially about fish. Humans had a false belief that animals could not feel because we could not understand how they thought. Animals react differently to pain. Some withdraw rather than vocalize it, at least that we can hear. They relate this to how many thought babies did not feel pain until the 1980s.
The author’s discussion of pleasure and then drugs was also enlightening. They explained how pleasure and rewards initiated behaviors that helped us survive, and negative emotions altered behaviors when survival was threatened. They then relate this to drugs by explaining people become addicted because drugs can falsely signal we are doing something beneficial to our fitness that helps our survival. They also provide an enlightening discussion about how this relates to and feeds addictions.
Nature or Nurture??
An insightful point they demonstrated was that it is not a Nature or Nurture answer but a dance between each. As was explained, Nature & Nurture are not a divide but an endless feedback loop of information enabling adaptation. For example, they document that animals, like humans, can get fat when there is abundant food and no predators. They also note that animals, like humans, will consume processed foods to their detriment because of the false signals created by these ultra-processed foods.
Overall, again and again, from drugs to sex, to relationships, they document how these are issues for all in the animal kingdom, not just for humans. It had a copyright of 2012. However, it is very current. The most current part was how it seems to have led to the developing of the new World Health Organizations initiative, “One Health.”
‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combatting antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat)..
Many of the same microbes infect animals and humans, as they share the eco-systems they live in. Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent or eliminate the problem. For instance, rabies in humans is effectively prevented only by targeting the animal source of the virus (for example, by vaccinating dogs).
Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.
We can Do More
One Health is a great start. However, it seems to only focus on how to avoid, treat, or prevent problems. I believe it does not emphasize how health is created and improved.
From my reading, it became even more vital to work towards generating comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and EVERYTHING benefits. All living things are connected, and the aim of all living things must be to live in a way that makes life more livable.
Natterson-Horowitz & Bowers seem to agree. In the end, they explain:
The fate of our world health doesn’t depend solely on how we humans fare, rather it will be determined by how ALL patients on the planet live, grow, get sick and heal.
Natterson-Horowitz & Bowers in “Zoobiquity”
Let’s create all good. We can’t wait for people or animals to become patients. We must proactively work to make life more livable and better for all.
This post was co-written with Quality Management and Deming expert, Allen Scott who also used information gained in personal communication with quality management and statistical expert Don Wheeler, PhD.
There are many great ideas contained, most specifically about why ventures may not scale. For instance, he emphasizes it is important not to be misled by false positives. This is when good results happen but it is not with a representative sample, thus falsely showing the idea may be successfully scaled. He documents how this happened with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, explaining why it was not as successful or even validated. He also explained the importance of knowing the intended audience. Here he cited an example where McDonalds had sampled devoted McDonald’s customers to test the new “Arch Deluxe” rather than testing it with the typical customer. He explained this was why the “Arch Deluxe” was not a successful new product and why it was important to use true customers, not devotees.
He also explains that when scaling it is important to know if it is the chef, the leader, or the ingredients that make the product successful. As he explains, it is easier to scale ingredients than people. Here he also explained the importance of spillover effects. As he made clear, small issues become more prominent when ideas are scaled. This can be documented from “General Equilibrium Effects” based on the theory. This theory explains how expectations can be disrupted because when one area changes, all areas change to adapt to that change. As an example he explained how when Uber raised driver salaries in hopes of helping them earn more take-home pay, more drivers then drove for Uber. The increase in salary increased the number of drivers and this led to less rides being given per driver. This meant the drivers did not earn the desired raise. This was a great example of General Equilibrium Effects.
He also explained that intervention spillovers can be positive or negative. As a positive example, he explained the spillover of Herd Immunity happens when many people in the community are vaccinated. He also warned that if costs were too high, it cannot scale. While many ideas were good, as I kept reading something was nagging at me and something seemed off. It was not until I got to Chapter 7, and when he began to focus on how to scale, that I realized what was nagging me.
What was nagging me was that the book was about improving the parts without accounting for the whole system and the dynamic interactions or “Systems Appreciation” in Deming’s Profound Knowledge. To compound his inattention to the whole system, he also failed to account for environmental impacts of any venture. It was as if he equated the impact on the environment at a cost of 0. The environment must be accounted for because the environment is an asset upon which every venture and all of us are dependent. Treating nature with no value encourages its misuse. Ventures should operate such that it supports regeneration because this can be the only way to ensure true value and improvement as it supports ongoing viability and profitability for everyone and everything.
As Dr. Ackoff explains, (see this powerful presentation titled, “If Russ Ackoff Had Given a TED Talk“) a system is not a sum of its parts but a product of its interactions. Further he explains if improvement of a system is done by improving the parts taken separately, you can absolutely be sure the performance of the whole will not be improved. This is what I believe is the fatal flaw in List’s book. He discusses methods to improve the parts without improving the system. In Dr. Deming’s terms, he does not have an “Appreciation for a System”.
One example he discussed in the book was about investing on marginal returns or the area that had the biggest return on the last dollar spent. This may work sometimes, however it mistakenly encourages management by results or managing by watching the scoreboard rather than continually improving the process. Managing by results will result in higher and higher variance, higher costs and lower profits. (see Red Bead Experiment) In the book Dr. List even relied on a faulty example, explaining hiring more people did not produce the same returns because the new group was not as productive. This mistakenly placed responsibility on the people, rather than the system from which results are generated.
UnderstandingVariation – Contribution from Allen Scott which also cited information obtained in personal communication with quality expert Don Wheeler, PhD
Their writing seems to suggest more than experimental methods are necessary. Their concern, relying only on the scientific method can lead to a vast waste of resources, a missed opportunity to improve peoples lives, and a diminution in the public’s trust in the scientific method’s ability to contribute to policy making.
Dr. Walter A. Shewhart in 1924 at Bell Labs developed process behavior charts to determine when evidence becomes actionable. These charts could identify appropriate statistical evidence by separating the noise from the signal. These charts provided an observational improvement method that plotted data over time.
In Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos, by Dr. Donald J. Wheeler he documents that process behavior charts work and have been thoroughly proven. Further, it seems hard sciences can use the experimental methods and hold many variables constant, however social sciences must deal with unknown cause and effect relationships. These unknowns make the decision to scale problematic without more information. In such an environment, observational studies are needed rather than experiments. If a test program is broad enough and predictable, reliable evidence will be gained about scaling. If however the evidence is localized and unpredictable, the evidence will be problematic.
As explained earlier, List suggests this in his book, “Voltage Effect”, when he explains misleading evidence and false positives lead to misinformed choices to scale. As he explains, observational studies can be better than experiments when deciding to scale if they are representative enough to be predictable.
The problem as I see it is the assumption that we will know all of the important factors. Experimentation cannot identify the unknown factors, only observation does this.
Don Wheeler, PhD
For example, despite experimental evidence about the value of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), observation studies of over 8000 women over ten years showed that post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy changed the likelihood of heart-attack from 2% to 3%. This study made it clear that HRT benefits did not outweigh the risks.
Another concern I had with List’s book related to quitting. Dr. List emphasizes the need to get better at quitting and the need to quit. I am not sure why he chose to describe it as quitting. He was equating quitting with failure, but failure doesn’t exist (see Failure Doesn’t Exist…). The drive to succeed and do well for most entrepreneurs would stay the same, thus the aim would not be consistent with quitting. This is why the idea of quitting is a confusing reference. For instance, using his personal example, he explained that he chose not to make a difference by being a professional golfer, but as a professor in academics. Thus by his own admission, he did not quit wanting to make a difference, he just pivoted.
To me pivoting, a term used often by the NSF iCorps program and others, is a better way to encourage entrepreneurs and is a method to help them succeed and scale. A pivot should occur when an entrepreneur discovers, after researching the idea, the market and customers, that the idea is a no-go, or not a good idea to scale. After discovering the idea may be problematic, it is recommended they pivot to a variant or alternative. From my perspective, this is better terminology than quitting and allows the entrepreneur to carry forward the many assets and skills gained toward the pivoted aim of the venture.
As Russ Ackoff makes clear, simply improving the parts cannot improve the system. As we all seek to make our contribution toward comprehensive improvements, it is recommended we focus on creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Please share how you practice paneugenesis.
“It’s the economy stu**#?!” was a famous catch phrase when Clinton ran for president and in a book by Paul Begala about George W. Bush’s presidency. As the title states, “It Still the Economy, Stupid”.
This idea seemed to catch on because the economy seemed to be instrumental in peoples lives. Most people cared about the economy because they thought the state of the economy would have an impact on their lives.
Research continues to document that the things around us, such as the economy, greatly impact what we do and what we think. From a more general perspective, it’s not the economy, it’s the environment that is most influential.
Social Cognitive theory (also referred to as Social Learning Theory) explains how thoughts (cognitions), behaviors, and the environment continually influence one another. As any one of these factors changes, so do the others. Therefore, when we alter the environment, our thoughts and behaviors will also change, reciprocally. It is what is referred to as reciprocal determinism. If you are interested in learning more, you can watch this short video.
The power of the environment drives many recommendations. The simplest recommendation is to have healthy food in your house, prepared, and it will more likely be the food you eat. This simple point was driven home for me when I saw how we changed our home environment for our new puppy. For some reason he liked to play with our bolt cap covers on the bottom of the toilet (see pictures). To solve the problem, we put out toys and removed the bolt cap covers. He now plays with better toys and we don’t have a problem. All of this happened by “simply” changing the environment. How can you change your environment to get the outcomes you desire?
Simplicity, however is sometimes overrated, there is always more than one causal factor and this alone make simplicity incomplete. Still, Einstein was a fan,
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Preparing healthy food and having it available in my home generates a health promoting environment that makes health more likely. Making healthy food available is a time multiplier (see Be Fruitful and Multiply – Time That is…) I find myself, upon reflection, using time multiplier options all the time. Many actions, that take time initially, can create an environment more likely to generate desirable outcomes. For instance my wife and I share the notes App on our iPhones. It took time to set up, however now whenever we run low on things, or need to get something, we put it on our shared list and we are more likely to get and have things in our environment that we need. In this way, our digital environment helps our home environment.
Idea from this post: Design your environment to make your desired outcomes more likely. The environment enables or inhibits desired outcomes. Though it will take some work initially to create the environment you want, the time spent creating that desirable environment, will save your time – as Rory Vader explains, it is a Time Multiplier.
Behaviors Become Habits
It is important ot remember that any action taken sets the foundation for a habit. (see What We Do Without Thinking, Sharing “Atomic Habits” Wisdom from James Clear … and more. The environment we live in determine if engaging in that behavior will be easy or more difficult. Understanding this means we should design your environment to make desired behaviors easier so a better life can take care of itself because as behaviors become habits, it will be what we do without thinking. Habits are also great time savers, or time multipliers.
Please share how you design you environment to generate comprehensive benefits by enabling more net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
To enlighten means “(to) give (someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation”. Upon further reflection, I realized that we learn more by asking questions, often unexpected, questions that may seem to be off the topic at first.
An example of asking a different and somewhat off the mark questions happened when Marshall & Warren discovered that it was a bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, not stress and lifestyle that caused peptic ulcers (see this 1984 Lancet article). This amazing discovery was possible because they asked good questions. That paradigm improving work helped them to eventually win the 2005 Nobel Prize.
As I attended a fantastic 2022 Appalachian Energy Summitt presentation about how North Carolina was going to get to net-zero carbon with transportation, a question broke our rabbit hole thinking. The discussion was about electric cars and continued with a discussion about the need for a recharging infrastructure, fast charging stations and or battery exchanges, and the need for policy. As we learned, despite available technology, without supportive policy, change is unlikely. As we continued down the rabbit hole of electric cars and their benefits, then infrastructure, fast chargers, and exchange batteries, someone asked a question: What about trains? High speed rail?
It stopped us in our tracks (pun intended). As he stated, even if we have all this, we still must drive, ugh… If we had trains, we could arrive rested, socialize, read, do work if desired and travel easily. He also pointed out the possibility of trains helping NC get to net-zero emission if done right. As I reflected, I realized how different our conversation would have been if we would have thought about what the best way would be to travel, rather than how can we just convert what we currently do toward something better. This question enlightened.
A Problem focus is limiting
Questions enlighten. If we start with the understanding we want things to be better and deprivation will never work for the long term, it will help. Deprivation means doing without. Unless we have a better substitute, it will not be desired. Seeing the new way as better requires framing and promotion. Simply eliminating a problem is less bad, not more good and it limits our thinking toward the problem, not a possible paradigm improving solution as documented by Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotions (see Build a Net Positive Life for ALL).
This is important because we always move towards what seems better. But to get us to move in that direction, the good must be 3x better than the loss is bad (refer to Critical Positivity Line or the Losada Line). The positive must be 3x more beneficial than the loss because evolution taught us to be oversensitive to losses. We function with what experts call loss aversion. Loss aversion is part of us because it enabled us to survive. Therefore, if we want paradigm improving answers, we shouldn’t ask, what is the problem? As Einstein explained:
Asking a different question enlightens because it can enable us to use different thinking. In health we seem to only ask, what causes sickness? Why are we asking that question when we want to know, “What causes health?” Asking the right questions can help us think about how to create comprehensive improvements that are much more than just not bad.
Prevention benefits mean nothing bad happens, it does not necessarily create more good. By definition, it will just get us back to where we were before. Of course this is good, at least not worse, but why not create better? Time and again we look for errors that could have been eliminated, suggesting less errors is higher quality. Unfortunately, less errors only mean things are less bad than they could have been, not truly better. To me that type of thinking sets the bar too low.
Dr. Deming often explained it doesn’t make sense to focus on getting better at things we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Inspecting at the end of an assembly line, he would explain, could not produce higher quality products, it could only catch errors. Quality management meant focusing on doing all the steps better, through informed decisions made possible with process behavior charts. Process behavior charts also enabled better connection between the steps so all could be done better. It matters more how things work together than how anything works independently. A continually improved process is far more effective than an improved ability to find errors at the end.
Isn’t searching for and finding errors what we usually do. We measure for errors rather than showing what could be. I thought of this as I listened to the June 3, 2022 NYTime Daily Podcast, “The Cost of Haiti’s Freedom“. I encourage you to listen here.
It wasn’t so much about what they lost that sparked my interest, but later in the podcast the information they calculated about what good could have been created. If rather than paying the “double debt” back to France, Haiti could have invested in themselves and could have had a thriving island of educated citizens who would have had a better opportunity to live up to their potential and contribute. Nothing says it would have happened, but it could have…
It seems this linked Mother Goose and Grim comic strip, posted the same day as this post was attempting to make the same point. How much better can that camel perform??
As was explained in the NYTimes Daily podcast, at about minute 12, Haiti paid France $560 million dollars. Then they said, if that money had stayed in Haiti, it would be worth $21 billion dollars to Haiti which could have been used for schools and roads. That was in raw dollars, according to calculations by economists, they determined that it could have been worth $115 billion dollars if the money was used wisely. They explained that this was the opportunity cost of the money that went to France. In other words, it is what Haiti could have been – a country with electricity, water, schools and health care.
They suggested that it was magical thinking. Is it magical thinking, or is it seeing a future that we want to create and then working to make it so? According to John List in his 2022 book, “The Voltage Effect: how to make good ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale“, this type of thinking is what was the best chess players do. They use backward induction to figure out how to create the best outcome. Is that magical thinking? No – it is backward induction or Prospective Hindsight (see Use Prospective Hindsight to Create a Better Tomorrow) It is what is used by everyone who creates better outcomes than what currently exists. It is also what I suggest we do with the Paneugenesis Process by first creating an Idealized Outcome, an outcome that cannot be now, but could be if we redesign reality to make it so.
John List explained, this evolved from Zermelos Theorem. According to what is posted on Wikipedia, backward induction is:
…is a process of reasoning backward in time. It is used to analyse and solve extensive form games of perfect information. This method analyses the game starting at the end, and then works backwards to reach the beginning. In the process, backward induction determines the best strategy for the player that made the last move. Then the ultimate strategy is determined for the next-to last moving player of the game. The process is repeated again determining the best action for every point in the game has been found. Therefore, backward induction determines the Nash equilibrium of every subgame in the original game.
Although life does not allow perfect information, shouldn’t all of us use backward induction to determine our next move? My point, in simplistic form. If we want to improve, we must start with what we want, i.e. a regenerative world, not just a sustainable one (see Getting Better as We Fix What we Broke).
We can live a lifestyle that not only makes our lives better by living it, by eating a plant strong diet, by being active with friends and family, building our minds be cooperating, and by learning and creating new methods to generate comprehensive improvements through the creation of net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic benefits so everyone and everything benefits. This is the Practice of Paneuegenesis.
This can be made more likely by measuring for benefits, rather than problems to avoid. Dream of a better future not possible now, an Idealized Outcome seen through Prospective Hindsight. Then use backward induction to figure out how to create that desired reality. It will be exciting work to generate and contribute toward creating a better world for everyone and everything. Please share how you are using the same strategy the best chess players use, backward induction, to create a desired outcome that helps generate comprehensive improvements.
As I took out my compost this morning, I noticed more growth under a tree my wife had me clear last week. I didn’t want it to become a big problem, so I pulled these small growths out before they got established. As I pulled out these small plants, I found that the roots were long and connected. Wait a minute???
We, homo sapiens, the human race, are nature (We are Just Talking Apes). Shouldn’t we act like nature? It seems we can trace our successes to when we collaborate like the late Ray Anderson demonstrated at Interface, where he boosted profits as he made life better for everyone and everything (see We Must Make It Better – Saving the Planet not Enough!, Did we give up? Hospice for Earth? We Need Better! and others) and we can trace our problems of waste and environmental degradation to times when we fail to act like nature. Acting like nature means we should make life more livable for everyone and everything, which also means we are living a good, vitality-generating life. Personal and planetary health are connected, interdependent and necessary.
According to my weeding this morning, nature seems to be telling us that LOUD and CLEAR are stronger when we cooperate and work together. Being strong means finding things we can cooperate on and using that part to create a connection from which we can grow strong together. To generate the comprehensive benefits we all desire, we must create net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions from which everyone and everything benefits.
I had been trying to push this positive agenda for much of my career with intermittent partnerships. I now have a great team of advisors and collaborators, and the progress has accelerated tremendously. Like the plants I picked this morning, my experiences have demonstrated I am stronger when I cooperate with others. Please share how you found a way to collaborate and how that can strengthen us.
We need to reinvigorate what it means to have something positive happen. Having something positive happen means something good happens that would not be present otherwise. A good feeling, a good deed, making others happy, developing new skills and abilities. Making new connections to others with similar interests or better yet with people that have different interests. Learning something new, and so much more.
Unfortunately, many now associate positive to mean something bad does not happen. It can’t just mean something bad does not happen. That sets the bar way too low. We must do better and we should strive to do and be better.
This idea was captured by Patrick McDonnell’s May 18, 2022 Mutts comic here. Please take a look. For me a positive means to generate comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Please share how you generate something positive.
Lets reinvigorate what positive means by causing things to be better for everyone and everything than they could be otherwise.
In baseball, the 4th hitter in the line up is called the clean-up hitter. The clean-up hitter is often one of the best hitters on the team. Most coaches adhere to the idea that the first 3 hitters in the lineup will be those with high on-base percentage so the fourth hitter, can “clean up” those runners on base and score runs. The hope is doing this will mean the team will not waste any opportunities to score due to the higher probability of the clean-up hitter “hitting” them in.
Of course life is already busy, nobody needs more responsibilities so this is a simplifying suggestion that provides multiple benefits and is a time multiplier (see Be Fruitful and Multiply – Time That is…. As Einstein explained,
Here is the suggestion or recommendation, when we clean up, use bar soap. Yes there are body washes, shampoo, conditioners, and more, but they are all soap. With regard to the lasting impact of soap, it is generally considered negligible because it breaks down quickly. However “…although the impact of soap itself is supposedly next to nothing, the packaging can actually make a difference, according to Conservation.” Logically, bar soap has less packaging, is lighter to transport, easier to store and has less disposal issues since it does not come in a plastic bottle. See more here.
Overall, in a civil of society we should be clean, however these efforts should not harm or harm other forms of life. Using bar soap helps us be in line with nature, is simple, eliminates complexity, a key driver of quality improvement as espoused by Dr. W. Edward Deming, and therefore can improve our lives and that of everyone and everything else.
It is almost like being a clean-up hitter, using bar soap makes life better, enables us to save money and also helps us contribute toward making life more livable. In other words, using bar soap is a way to create all good, or is a way to practice paneugenesis because it generates comprehensive improvements from a net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interaction from which everyone and everything benefits. Please share your thoughts!
COVID has changed us forever. Never did we believe a virus could change our society as dramatically as it has. COVID has caused us to quickly move even faster than we thought possible. Unfortunately, in some ways we could be accelerating forward faster.
Our justified fear of the spread of the virus and problems associated with COVID has overly emphasized prevention by crowding out the promotion and improvement of health BEYOND the absence of disease. We can be and do better. Improved well-being amplifies the power of prevention. Prevention has been wonderful, but as I noted earlier, Prevention Can’t Work and Problems are Irrelevant!or at least it is insufficient when health improvement is our objective. Positive health amplifies prevention so we can accelerate forward faster.
Health is the PRESENCE Of WELL-BEING, it is not the absence of problems. Think about it, you feel good and have joy when you do things that make you feel good and or do good. Avoidance can only lead to temporary relief, not well-being.
Well being is caused by interactively developing physically, mentally and socially through conscious actions. Prevention efforts keep us from doing things. The BEST WAY TO PREVENT PROBLEMS is to be as healthy as possible. Prevention is a by-product of improved well-being. Study after study shows those engaged in health causing behaviors and thoughts in multiple dimensions, which my studies have labeled as social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, vocational and environmental, benefit with improved well-being and higher life satisfaction due to the cumulative effect of these multiple well-being enhancing actions. There is no magic bullet.
To be able to prevent bad things, we must be strong mentally, physically and socially resulting from the development of those assets. Prevention, if taken alone, encourages us to isolate and become stagnant. Only when we take action can we get healthier and stronger. If you are interested and have time, I detail this in this Creating Better presentation.
Another factor related to our difficulty, as Michael Lewis describes in The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, is from our problem understanding exponential growth which explains the rate a virus can spread. After all, isn’t it hard to believe a penny doubled every day for just 30 days would amount to over $5 million dollars? Even crazier, folding a typical piece of paper 50 times would end up being over 7 million miles long???? HUH?
Of course this is hard to believe, see the videos below that attempt to help us grasp the concept of exponential growth:
Overall, we should be taking actions to enhance our well-being which will amplify our ability to prevent problems as a by-product of improved well-being. In other words, we can accelerate forward faster and experience better well-being with a side of prevention. This future will happen when we work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions from which everyone and everything benefits. Please share how you make your life better do everyone and everything benefits!
Mr. Stotz indicated how Deming’s work had impacted his thinking and career. Deming also provides a solid basis for all I do with health. His ideas about continual improvement of the process so the product takes care of itself and systems appreciation are at the basis of all I have done. Personal and planetary health are interconnected and as we continually improve the lifestyle process with an understanding of how it impacts everyone and everything – we can achieve the desirable aim of regenerative communities by living regenerative lifestyles. You will see Dr. Deming mentioned often in multiple posts on this blog and he has also been a basis for many of my peer reviewed published articles.
The part that caught my attention in the recent Deming institute podcast was when Andrew Stotz, despite being a financial analyst, said, “Finance adds no value” He went on to explian:
“Finance adds no value….Ultimately it’s the products and the service, and finance is a support function just as human resources… it’s when finance starts being the head of the business that you get into trouble…Never make the right finance decision over the right business decision.”
This may be a stretch, however, to me his statement that finances cannot provide value is similar to how I have adopted what I learned from Dr. Deming. As I have noted, Prevention Can’t Work and Problems are Irrelevant! if improvement is the goal. He even states, good finances are a by-product, and cannot be the aim, just as research has shown prevention is the by-product of good health, not its aim. Prevention and problem solving only stop bad things from happening but do not make things better than where we were before the problem occurred. We could not get healthy after COVID occurred, we had to create a better life first and the protection against COVID from good health was a beneficial by-product. Those without co-morbidities have done better.
Mr. Stotz comments about finances by explaining that money desires should not drive actions, because earning money is the necessary result or by-product. These ideas were outlined in this post, Money Is a Lagging Not a Leading Indicator which demonstrated that
Money must follow, it cannot lead.
Businesses, as Kevin Cahill explains, often want to just seem to be keeping up so they go with the new management fads or “the flavor of the month” rather than maintaining a constant aim. As he notes, this does not work out well, especially over the long term. This linked 4/24/2022 Close to Home comic humorously captures this idea about just doing something because it is a current idea.
Mr. Cahill then provides a great example of the outcomes from a focus on value or money when he contrasts Apple and Enron. One company was guided by financial statements while the other was guided by providing value. Apple, which he cites from Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve Jobs, says Apple had the aim or mission to create “insanely great products”. In contrast, the now defunct Enron’s mission was to make more money. The result: Apple is worth a trillion dollars and Enron went bankrupt.
In looking back, I realized I have cited Steve Jobs and things he has done almost as often as I have cited Dr. Deming. To me both provide great examples of how we can help generate comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
I hope you listen to the Deming podcast and that it motivates you to study Deming’s methods. Deming was my inspiration and it has helped me a lot in my career. Please share what you learn and how you implement his ideas to benefit everyone and everything so “everybody wins” as Dr. Deming used to say!
For the millions (well not yet) of you that follow me, you know I often use this blog as a scratchboard. I post these ideas hoping some of my unfinished thoughts will aid you in your thinking process. I recently realized that certain phrases seem to keep coming back to me and seem relevant. SInce I am a professor I a proposing a hypothesis about why they have stuck and I would appreciate your thoughts on accuracy of these thoughts. Can you do that by leaving a comment at the end?
One of the phrases that has stuck was in my thesis that I completed for my MS in Wellness Management at Ball State University. My thesis study focused on lifestyle behaviors. Throughout the paper I continued to emphasize that lifestyl behaviors were necessary, but alone they were insufficient. That phrase…
“…necessary but insufficient“
…has come back to me again and again. Most recently I heard it when I listened to Freakonomics episode #498. In the 1890s, the Best-Selling Car Was … Electric. In the episode they discuss how after a huge false start, electric cars are finally about to flourish. However in the episode, they emphasize that while moving to electric cars is necessary, it is insufficient to solve our climate crisis due to the many other damaging environmental factors from agriculture, cement and steel making and other processes.
An important aspect with this idea seems to be consistency. By that I mean that, it seems waht a person considers necessary actions are are also probably consistent with your values and therefore beneficial to your well-being. What are things you do that are necessary, but insufficient? Please share and also let us know how and if it helps.
The other phrase that keeps coming back that I used in my dissertation when I got my PhD from Arizona State and have also used in many articles is…
“… latent underlying constructs“
Latent means hidden or concealed. However it is not really hidden, it is just not prominent or noticeable right away. I have used this phrase to document the importance of health and or the environment. Health is something that enables all else, but is hidden or latent because without it, everything else is problematic. Of course when we don’t have health, it is prominent, but the lack of ill health is latent or hidden yet it is still necessary.
I also read a lot of James Lovelock and in all his books, especially in The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis & The Fate of Humanity: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, he emphasizes the necessity but insufficiency or our current environmental actions. He suggests, “…We are like a revolting teenager, intelligent, with great potential, but far too greedy, and selfish for our own good” and that “…We must stop acting as if human welfare is all that matters”. He says this due to the interconnectedness of all living things, most especially the living Earth, or Gaia as he explains. As we all know, without a habitable earth, nothing else is possible. In this way, Earth is the “latent underlying construct” that is “necessary”.
In writing this I am just realizing these phrases are related. Latent underlying constructs are necessary, but insufficient. To me this means we must build on our good actions to enable continual and never ending improvement. In my teaching, I emphasize the ripple effect or the fact that it is not just what happens right away from that transaction, it is also about what happens down the line because that transaction that really matters. For instance, we can get car to go using fossil fuels, but the leftover CO2 from burning this fossil fuel is rushing climate change. This means the ripple of climate change, not the transaction of driving is most relevant.
This idea then brings us back to the start of this post about electric cars. Electric cars are necessary and can help, especially if we power them with clean renewable energy, but they are insufficient. They will not repair what we damaged, their use will just not add more, or as much damage. For these reasons and many more, my focus has been to attempt to generate comprehensive improvements by creating net-positive, pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits – which is the practice of paneugenesis.
As a professor, I write and publish articles in journals. These articles allow us to share our inferences, which means we use our expertise to share what we think the data for findings from a study or experiment mean. This also means inferences are not always accurate, they are initial understanding of phenomena.
Overall, this means my inference is that those phrases have stuck and keep coming back to me do so because they are relevant and important. What do you think? Do the reasons stated accurately explain why those phrases seem important and relevant and have therefore stuck with me and keep coming back?
Please share the thoughts and also actions you take to help even though we must all contribute because alone our actions may be necessary, but insufficient. Thank you – I look forward to reading your thoughts!