Tribal Leadership

David Logan, former Associate Dean of Executive Education @ USC, spoke recently at a TED extension event at USC (TEDxUSC). He shared his findings on the nature of “Tribal Leadership” common in all cultures. He creates a hierarchy of five tribal levels: Tribal Level One:  gangs and prison populations Tribal Level Two:  functional organizations (groups of people at the DMV, etc.) Tribal Level Three:  personal advancement among peers and competitors Tribal Level Four: Tribal Level Five: I’ve left these last two blank. While I understand what David is saying, I’m not convinced that stark categorical definitions can even begin to describe the nature of ethically advanced communities.  I’m sure his book (free download) is far more nuanced and expanded. David assigns his definitions of “higher community” and then notes that only 2% of human population exists in Tribe Five. I’ve seen this before, and in every place I see it there’s always a strong sense of elitist in-grouping:  gurus, clears, masters, clergy, etc..  I don’t buy it. These kinds of simplifications (five tribal levels, eight spiral colors, etc..) take profoundly complex dynamics and force them into something resembling hierarchical religion. I’ll read his book and report back. I actually did enjoy his talk at USC and encourage you to watch it. Some valuable insights here from a very charismatic  

Zombie Consumerism

John Rooks offers a timely essay on unthinking consumerism. I’m seeing endless parallels and metaphor here to religious consumerism, but I simply don’t have time to write  today. Substitute multi-site-video-mega-church for “shopping mall” and you’ll get the idea. Please read John’s excellent essay. Here are some highlights. When we buy without thinking, motivated perhaps by a super-low price, lust, or naked appetite, we are guilty of Zombie Consumerism. In Dawn, a band of heroes hide out in a mall, gorging themselves on free food as the Zombies pound at the doors. [Fran and Stephen are observing from the roof of the mall] Francine: “What are they doing? Why do they come here?” Stephen: “Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.” Later, Peter says “They’re after the place. They don’t know why, they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here.” In the movie, the mall serves cross-purposes “to feed the consumptive hunger of the unthinking Zombie and as a haven for the living.” The irony is easily spotted as the survivors go binge looting and consume nearly everything in the mall and must find a new place and new source of food (or become a food source). To the survivors, it is at once the luxury of a shopping spree and a prison. In the original, as men are filling wheelbarrows with appliances, Francine says of the mall, “Stephen, I’m afraid. You’re hypnotized by this place. All of you! You don’t see that it’s not a sanctuary, it’s a  

Greek To Me

Chris Anderson’s TED organization continues to amaze me. I just checked on my TED Talk page and see that it has been volunteer-translated into nine languages, including Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Portuguese. Each translator donates their time to the broader TED community (the “TED community” is anyone who contributes to, or benefits from, TED talks, blog, forums, etc.). My Greek translator is Nicholas Koutris, a former paratrooper in the Greek Special Forces and masters graduate in Economics from University of Rotterdam. Says Nicholas about TED, About TED I believe that this knowledge distribution is crucial for the development and the consciousness of the people. In ten minutes of ted presentation, you gain knowledge equivalent to hours of lectures. This is Educational acceleration, Exponential learning… you name it! That is what surprises me and makes me feel committed! Arabic translation was given by Anour Dafa-Alla, the first Sudanese to participate in the IOI — and fellow countryman and technologist, Adel Ibraham. Acceleration in learning is real. It is happening all over the planet as the microprocessor creates previously unthinkable bridges between people. Nine people (so far) have translated a talk by someone they don’t know, whom they may never meet, but in whose ideas they found enough value to invest precious time. This is a very exciting and promising time to be alive. We are interconnecting exponentially. One more thought.. Cynthia and I watched a documentary last night called As We Forgive. This movie won the Student Academy Award for its filmmaker Laura Waters, along with numerous top festival awards. Laura was interviewed recently on the Compathos site. I encourage everyone to view this deeply stirring account of raw humanity at both its most terrible and transcendent extremes. Among the most powerful and important films we’ve ever  

Universal Health Care

My friend Jonathan Brink posted a video on his blog. Allow me to summarize my thoughts. First off, the film implies that all U.S. health insurers are investor-driven, for-profit enterprises. The film fails to mention that somewhere over half of all U.S. health insurance revenue is non-profit based. No profit incentive. No investors. In fact, over 60% of all U.S. health plans with more than 100,000 members are non-profit ventures. I’m painfully aware of health care costs. One of our companies is paying around $6,000 per employee HSA, no dental, high deductible. The film infers that health insurance overhead / admin costs would be reduced by roughly 10-15% via a government-run insurance plan. Let’s explore that notion. First, we know that for-profit health insurer admin / overhead costs are roughly 13% (Price Waterhouse study). Second, we know that half of all health insurers are non-profit, which brings aggregate private admin costs down significantly. But most importantly, the film’s claim for 2-3% government administrative costs is suspect. There are a number of studies which address the true costs of government run health insurance and it appears that the real (net) overhead of government health insurance (Medicare, etc.) is roughly equivalent with today’s private, non-profit health insurers. Govt intervention adds no value. Granted, there is a lot of hand-waving on both sides of this issue (see Krugman / NYT). There are seemingly endless ways to parse the data to one’s political advantage. But when it comes to managing money, I (like Jefferson and most of the Constitutional founders of this country) generally distrust Federal centralization. Today’s govt is sick with debt. The social security insurance program is heading towards insolvency. Govt spending is wildly out of control. I simply do not trust this government with yet another massive spending program – especially when private, non-profit enterprises are doing it better for about the same cost. Virtually all U.S. hospitals (roughly 90% by revenue) are non-profit. I’ve often wondered why we, as a country, ever allowed profit incentives into our health insurance industry. I propose that the best solution to health care is to mandate all health insurance as private, non-profit enterprise with reasonable mandated controls on costs, coverage, and executive compensations. This is simply a Yankee variation on the enlightened, solvent, well-run Swiss health insurance model. Profit should not play a role in health insurance, yet the private health insurance industry remains (by far) the healthiest adminstrative model. A physician’s advocacy group summarizes it this way: — “The issue is not and should not be which segment, private sector insurers or government-run plans, has the lowest administrative costs. The issue should be which does the best job of providing quality health insurance coverage for the best price. When one looks at all of the money pouring into Medicare, even with the price controls imposed by the government, the answer has to be the private  

Teachability & Superstition

Probably not blogging journaling much for a while. Big writing assignment ahead. Will still be reading my favorite bloggers here and there. Mortimer Adler gets the last word on – for a while. On “teachability” Teachability is often confused with subservience. A person is wrongly thought to be teachable if he is passive and pliable. On the contrary, teachability is an extremely active virtue. No one is really teachable who does not freely exercise his power of independent judgment. She can be trained, perhaps, but not taught. The most teachable reader is, therefore, the most critical. He is the reader who finally responds to a book by the greatest effort to make up his own mind on the matters the author has discussed. Religious community often defines its success on conformity. Sacred texts sometimes echo this ideal to be of “one accord.” But for any community to be of “one mind” (one healthy mind) it’s essential that each individual fully engages the mind they were given ” continually wresting with paradox, forming better questions, and dreaming bigger dreams. Creative, independent thinkers assure that community bonds remain healthy and strong. Adler, who embraced Christian faith later in life, further echoes my own perceptions on religion and superstition. The prevalence and predominance of science in our culture has cured a great many of the superstitious beliefs that constituted their false religiosity. The increase of secularism and irreligion in our society does not reflect a decrease in the number of persons who are truly religious, but a decrease in the number of those who are falsely religious; that is, merely superstitious. There is no question but that science is the cure for superstition, and, if given half the chance with education, it will reduce the amount that exists. The truths of religion must [ultimately] be compatible with the truths of science and the truths of philosophy. As scientific knowledge advances, and as philosophical analysis improves, religion is progressively purified of the superstitions that accidentally attach themselves to it as parasites. That being so, it is easier in fact to be more truly religious today than ever before, precisely because of the advances that have been made in science and philosophy. That is to say, it is easier for those who will make the effort to think clearly in and about religion, not for those whose addiction to religion is nothing more than a slavish adherence to inherited superstition. Throughout the whole of the past, only a small number of men were ever truly religious. The vast majority who gave their epochs and their societies the appearance of being religious were primarily and essentially superstitious. — Mortimer  

Generative Rhythms

Here’s a brilliant three-minute video of Bobby McFerrin leading an audience experiment. Something profound occurs at the 45 second mark, and again around 2:00. We are ALL pre-wired with certain shared resonant qualities. Innate musical cognition is one of those qualities. While the universe may seem random at times, it is not.  Nothing on earth or beyond happens outside of a perfectly structured set of organic, natural rules. We all operate within those rules. Whether it be the pentatonic primacy of music to the soul, the centrality of love to the spirit, or the human tendency towards selfishness, pride, and narcissism ” certain universal truths are wired into our collective sentience.” If we are here for a reason, then finding, living, and growing within these generative shared rhythms, while learning to eschew naturally degenerative rhythms, seems like our shared mission. But by fear or thoughtlessness we often stop sharing. We dig ourself into a hole that differentiates ourselves from others (us and them, my tribe / your tribe, my religion, etc.). If we individually lived more in this place of shared mindfulness, those we call “enemies” might start to look strangely like family. “No matter where I’m at, every audience gets this” — Bobby McFerrin World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on  

Survival in Black Rock City

When we consume a service, we’re made passive… 50 million people may view a television program in complete isolation from each other… because many people only know a world shaped by institutions and commercial transactions, they may not even recognize the signs of a community… true community is built on the recognition of the unique ability of every member… The world is a stage, and we are all performers, not spectators… from the 2009 Survival Guide to Black Rock  

The Epoch of Human Isolation

Eye-opening reality check today on the power of global-virtual community and its ability to obsolete dominant paradigms. One of the featured musical artists at TED UK this week is Imogen Heap. From Thomas Dolby’s blog, The second morning featured a great performance by Imogen Heap. She’s performed at TED before, but that was 4 years ago with Frou Frou and her former partner Guy Sigsworth before she was doing all the technology herself. In the interim she’s become a phenomenon of the Internet music era. She’s never cracked the Billboard charts, or been on the cover of Rolling Stone; yet she’s spent over 18 months at #1 in the iTunes electronica downloads, and she has over 3/4 million followers on Twitter. When she wants to do a public appearance she just calls for a flash mob, and an hour later there’s a line around the block. When I consider global spirituality, this is the kind of community I envision – connected not by institutional channels, but via the art itself, via shared dreams and the organic intentionality of hearts in rhythm. Virtuality transforms command-and-control structures (whether Billboard Charts or hierarchical religious models) into flattened, distributed communites – like Imogen’s self-organizing fan base. This profound generational shift in our understanding of gathering (religious, artistic, etc.) will very likely propel a new era of spirituality defined by shared servant leadership, all gifts in common (crowd-sourced vs. CEO-pastor-expert-focused), and a more intimate / fluid understanding of Spirit exemplified by the liquid nature of virtuality “never static, always becoming.” The epoch of human isolation is coming to a close. A collective reality is unfolding, not enforced by clerical mandate or papal decree, but as a rich expression of the Spirit unencumbered by material centralization or institutional  

The End of the Sermon

Antoine at MMM asks, “How Do Faith-Based Organizations Respond to Increasingly Mobile-Connected Members and Communities?” His question echoes a central dynamic shaping not just religion, but all social organization going forward. How do faith-based organizations respond to virtuality? The hardest part may be convincing the community that there’s a good reason to sit and stare at a stage, listening to a religious lecture. The virtually-connected faithful now have on-line access to the finest religious teachers imaginable, accessible at their convenience, 7 x 24 x 365. Of what value is physically proximate information (e.g., stage-centric priests and pastors) when the average adherent can now access the best sermons and cross-referenced commentary on-line? Finding better information elsewhere, the virtually-connected community will restructure their physical gatherings to really connect and be present with each other like they do on-line all week long. When this happens, pastors can step off the stage and interact with people. Gifted teachers can teach in smaller groups where true interactivity can take place. Intimate, organic F2F gathering becomes the central focus, not a mid-week breakout session. Why would anyone spend time sitting passively (“alone together”) in an audience to hear a comparatively mediocre religious talk when far better material is available on-line? We all have something to contribute. We are not consumers, we are participants. A virtuality-connected community (which is everyone in my son’s generation) will increasingly mimic their on-line engagement in F2F gatherings. I believe this signals the end of the monologue church era. “Church” is redefined, in part, from a place of one-way information transfer to a distributed, interactive gathering which fosters authentic collaboration in many ways mirroring the multi-way virtual experience. Is it the end of the religious sermon? Likely not. And certainly there is a place for the stage. But generational changes in social networking assure that a profound shift is underway. And this gives me great hope for a virtual reformation in the way we live and connect as a glocal community. ADDED: thanks to Scot McKnight for reprinting this  

Be Not Conformed

Czech president Vaclav Havel and other dissidents began to ask, ‘How can we live the truth in a culture based on a fundamental lie, especially since the lie is in our heads? How can we begin to live into the truth? We desire so much more than just things. We want something to hope in, a reason to believe.So in his country as in other iron-curtain countries, people began to set up what he called ‘parallel cultures.’ They had underground study groups. They studied Plato. They had drama. They had music groups. They wrote novels and poetry, and published them underground.It was not a counterculture because, he said, it was impossible for us to live totally outside the system. You cannot live outside a culture. But you can create within it zones and spaces, where you can become who you really are. It is in such places that one can speak the truth, where one can gather with others who share that truth. This went on for years, not without difficulties, but for years. Over time, the truth became stronger and stronger, and at a certain point people began to walk in the streets and to say to the system, ‘We don’t believe you anymore.’ And the system fell. It fell, not because of the power of Western nuclear equipment, but because the people said within the system, ‘We don’t believe you anymore.’ It was a vision that had been nourished within those parallel cultures. – Mary Jo Leddy, excerpts from essay in Confident Witness–Changing