NSL Blog

Leadership in a commons based economy

March 4, 2014

Otto Scharmer presents 4 models of how we might think about economies

  1. Organizing around centralized power: state and central planning giving rise to socialist and mercantilist economies (single sector)
  2. Organizing around decentralized power: markets and competition à giving rise to entrepreneurs and the private sector (two sectors: public, private)
  3. Organizing around special interest groups: negotiation and dialogue à giving rise to the NGO sector (three sectors, conflicting: public, private, civic)
  4. Organizing around shared awareness and cultivating our commons giving rise to co-creative relationships among the three sectors (government, business, civil society) in order to innovate at the scale of the whole system.
A commons based economy

A commons based economy

Scharmer writes, the problem of our current economic debate is that we are trying to solve 21st century problems with 19th and 20th  century economic thought. That is: our discourse is stuck between “more markets and free enterprise” (2.0) and “more regulation and government” (3.0). In reality, neither of these approaches will suffice. This new philosophy is something that I explore in No Straight Lines -the means by which we can transform.

The rise of a commons based economy and worldview: Humanity shifts gear when it demands fundamental change to its real world circumstances and this moment in time really does feel like a turning point in our collective approach to the organisation of the economy and society as a whole. We are turning away from an industrial model of society and our economy, which is increasingly seen as inappropriate for the world we live in today.

So what does humanity want, and, how is this aspiration driving systemic change? How do we create a world that is designed for our humanity to thrive, bringing forth a new ways to realise our full creative potential as people, as citizens, as communities, as organisations and as economies? Designing around the fundamental needs of humanity is the humus of a creative society. Any society conceived in this way will be less fragile, more regenerative – adaptive, innovative, economically vibrant and in fact healthier and happier, it will seek to create a surplus, rather than just take, make and waste.

Today we now have the means to truly transform our world, to be more resilient, to be more relevant to us both personally and collectively, socially cohesive, sustainable, economically vibrant and humane, through the tools, capabilities, language and processes at our fingertips. We as a humanity can be so much more, so we have to ask how can we liberate our innate creativity to be in service of becoming what we have the potential to become?

Scharmer points to his core philosophy as to how we achieve this difficult goal.

That in order to activate that deeper cycle of innovation and future-inspired learning, leaders have to engage in a new leadership work that focuses on cultivating three deeper capacities of knowing:

  • The open mind—the capacity to suspend old habits of judgment by paying attention to our attention (mindfulness);
  • The open heart—the capacity to empathize, to experience a problem from the viewpoint of another stakeholder, not your own view (compassion);
  • And open will—the capacity to awaken and activate the deeper creative, entrepreneurial core that is dormant in each and every human being.

These core beliefs resonate with the concepts of Openness as resilience, that life thrives when existing in diverse conditions, Participatory Cultures and Tools – humanity is designed to work best in aggregate, and the Craftsman – who constantly strives in his work for the collective good.

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