Vahid Masrour who works for the Wikimedia Foundation led the pre-learning online event ‘Rethinking Organisations and Capacity Building with a View of Abundance’ to give a foretaste of the adventure we enjoyed at the ebbf #BuildingCapacity International Learning Event.
Participants from Sweden, UK, Romania, Ecuador, Italy, USA enthusiastically discussed their insights of Vahid’s myth-busting accompanying presentation “From Crisis to Abundance: Exponential Organisations” in which he quickly demonstrated how people and organisations unwittingly hold themselves back from creating the adaptive and meaningful workplaces that they seek, by unwittingly maintaining a scarcity mass consciousness mindset.
It turns out, the way we use our own media spaces actually drives our views on scarcity and therefore our views on Abundance too. We have this tiny amygdala in our brain which triggers reactions to what surrounds us and to what we witness such as impulsive need to fight back, flee danger or become frozen to the spot. By our daily consumption of ‘bad news’ distributed in mainstream channels and, if we are not careful, our own social media channels we become hooked into media consumption, and unfortunately for us the viewer, we innocently keep ourselves wired into a negative feedback loop through the constant retriggering of the amygdala by consuming stories that reflect and trigger our ‘survival’ instinct states.
Fit for the 21st Century
Good news on the other hand, decouples us from the negative feedback loop and instead takes us back to the present moment, bringing us face to face with the immense possibilities standing before us in this 21st Century.
To illustrate, Vahid opened up the parameters of what becomes possible when we begin to appreciate stories of progress
and what has enabled it to take place. He showed a 19th Century photograph of the King of Siam entertaining Napoleon III at a banquet table set with gold cutlery and aluminum plates. What? Isn’t aluminium for regular consumption of a ready-made can of drink or food prepared in its microwave proof container? Right. Today, we consume aluminium as a recyclable material. Yet in the days of HRH King of Siam, aluminium was more expensive than gold. To serve a meal on an aluminum platter was both the ultimate brag of wealth and a befitting show of respect to a potentate. What enabled this switch from rare materials to readily available recyclables is technology. Technology is the key to Abundance. The interaction between technology and the Abundance mindset is where the force for progress and transformation in the new age has its greatest potentiality. Abundance is, at its core, a techno-optimistic outlook.
The US-based entrepreneur Peter Diamandis whose maxim for HeroX is “Everything is impossible till it happens — and someone’s got to do it — so why not you?” co-authored with Steven Kotler the book ‘Abundance: the future is better than you think’ (2012) to provide evidence that, in opposition to what the media would have you believe, the future is already better than you or I tend to think.
Understanding and developing latent talent in people and organisations
Vahid, went on to demonstrate the Malthusian food production model predicted that the medical advances of 20th Century which preempted the exponential world population explosion would reach an inevitable intersection whereby we simply would not be able to produce enough food and — according to his calculations — it should have happened by now. However, in a nutshell, we now discover, there is enough thanks to the advances in agriculture and farming.
The fear of not having enough comes out of the instinctual brain, generosity on the other hand, and the desire to share what we have, arises from the volitional powers of thought.
Given that we have more than enough, sharing is a realistic option, and therefore how can we move towards a mindset that leads in the direction of generosity and justice?
In the 19th Century, an eighteen hour work day was typical, child labour was normalised and vacations were rare — and although these features of work are not yet universally eradicted on the planet — many societies now enjoy a 8 hour working day but are also faced with a new 21st Century issue to also deal with, namely, what are people to do with their new free time? In the next ten years, for example, half the planet’s population will be overweight: genetic science; the labelling of non-nutritional consumable products as ‘food’; exercise and lifestyle will be re-examined in order to address this rising issue of obesity.
Cultivating an Abundance mindset means we need to re-examine the narratives of threat and disaster that impinge on our sense of survival. We need to understand how that models the future — a future we now inhabit — superseded by innovation and technology. Extreme poverty and displacement, it is being demonstrated, can be eradicated through promoting the means to universal abundance using society building innovation and technology.
Indeed, learning how to work with technology and sustainability, environmental and social agendas is where advances and necessity both now lie:
“The future civilization envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh is a prosperous one, in which the vast resources of the world will be directed towards humanity’s elevation and regeneration, not its debasement and destruction..” — Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015.
Enabling adaptive and meaningful workplaces
The gap lies in human thought and consciousness. Human beings excel at spotting differences. But does this need to be a threat? In what circumstances does it also become a source of what we see as beautiful #BuildingCapacity in humanity? Is the only way of working together possibly when we adopt narrow codes of uniformity or are there ways in which we can find ways to coexist whereby our diversities also enrich us? To what extent are we able to perceive what’s common among human beings as a unifying force for progress? We already know how organisations that have a mixed gender board of directors outperform those that don’t. It is becoming evident that diversity creates value, upon which Abundance can be modelled:
“The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.” — Shoghi Effendi ‘The Unfoldment of World Civilization’,11 March 1936
To consciously cultivate an Abundance mindset means to adopt a posture of learning. It reflects a willingness to examine opportunity from new perspectives. It works with technology to reconsider the ways we work and use our free time. It reconsiders how when we drop the scarcity mindset, we can start to utilise the digitalised domain as an essential component of a limitless and available domain of knowledge. Abundance, certainly from an economic perspective, is happening simply by the existence of the ‘copy and paste’ distribution of knowledge, but how can we work with the simplest and the most complex of technological advancements in creating exponential collaborative and Abundance cultures? How do shareholders, organisations and society collaborate to make the kinds of improvements that make everything better?
The scarcity mindset perceives the need to control both resources and access to them. The new age coming asks of managers to let go and allow people that responsibility needed to create new types of organisations, meeting needs and problems in new kinds of ways both from the macro economic perspectives and the micro abundance perspectives in people’s lives.The abundance mindset liberates people to interact with responsibilities in their jobs, recognises their achievements and allows the nature of work and the workplace to evolve. In evolutionary terms, those that do not or cannot adapt, become the dinosaurs on a path to extinction. Don’t be a dinosaur.