Saturday, May 21, 2011


Can Corporations Truly Save the World?  A More In-Depth Look
Part 1

                I was meaning to take a left on Ventura boulevard, heading squarely towards the heart of Hollywood.  Instead, absent minded me took a right, and ended up in corporate America – where I found there was way more acting going on.
Moreover, it was doing more than simply entertaining me and giving me a drug-like reprieve from my humdrum life for a couple hours.  Mind you, so I could go back to the 9 to 5 grind slinging coal with renewed zeal, which when you think of it, sounds like a much better formula for entrapment than deliverance. 
Now for this joke to really work, it’s important that if you understand Hollywood studios are to corporations what Stalin was to discipline, to think that I had meant only to visit a low budget indi Hollywood film department. 
                So if “all the world’s a stage” as Shakespeare would have it, why has corporate America latched on to this concept like my pitbull to a bone – still attached to my leg?  (I collect handicapped dogs that have been rejected and marked for death owing to peculiar fetishes inherited from their even more peculiar sicko former human handlers.  This particular one from “Amputee Enviers Unite.”  Call me a saint, but that’s another story.)
                Well, corporations, you see, can only stay ahead of their competitors if their employees can enjoy a steeper learning curve; if they evolve faster than the competition. Now, remember, this is the 21st century, so ideas regarding the nature of evolution have also evolved from Hitler’s day when they had to do more with eugenic elitism.  Evolution in this context is very multi-dimensional.  They want to grow your IQ, EQ, and SQ in record time (for you people living in trees in Borneo, that’s Rational-Intelligence Quotient, Emotional-intelligence Quotient, and Spiritual Intelligence Quotient.  That last one in turn devolves to: “We hope you have some real character to go along with some of these aptitudes.”) IN ADDITION: They want to increase your range and depth (think marrying Lawrence Olivier to Kevin Spacey, if you could find a female egg to accommodate that kind of gene splicing that is NOT of alien origin.)   
                And people, please don’t think that above list, while already seemingly impossible, is anywhere close to being complete.  They also demand you be unflappable in high pressure situations, where a normal person would reach for a knife to gouge your eyes out, even if he had to carve it out of the conference table separating him from his business colleagues. 
                Now mind you, to have such lofty expectations, it helps to be willing to FLY IN THE FACE OF MODERN SCIENCE – which still regards such “accelerated learning” as the worst kind of wishful thinking.  Existing, as it does, in complete ignorance of Piaget’s developmental psychology theories, which says IQ is pretty much locked at age 7.  And as to SQ, most scientists don’t believe it exists.  Ok, some have actually read Robert Kegan’s more modern treatises on adult developmental psychology, which holds out hope for us “late bloomers.”  Some have gone as far to read how quantum physics is crossing over into Zen, making most anything the mind can conceive possible. But none of this is mainstream.  These theories, in fact, are likely to get you laughed out of the hallowed halls of academia.
What would make a corporation base its future on such untested, unscientific theories?  In short, as stated earlier, if they don’t figure out how to help their employees “get over themselves” better than their competitors, they’ll be outpaced in the game of survival.  Apparently this trumps all logic to the contrary.
So the question remains, is there any basis for believing that corporations can deliver us from ourselves, while flying in the face of Western/occidental thought?  I want to clarify what I mean by “getting over” ourselves in this context. Make no bones about it, corporations are applying Zen-mirror games, and rather esoteric texts formerly set aside for the procuration of Zen masters.  Yes, you read that last sentence right.  Did they pull this out of their asses, reinventing the wheel in complete ignorance of prior work done in the Far East dating back thousands of years?  Or did some really really desperate CEO decide, better bizarre esoteric sources than have someone cut into my 3 mill a year salary with stock benes prematurely, because the OTHER CEO was willing to be a little more open-minded?  I’m not enough of a scholar on the issue to be able to answer that one for you, and certainly not high enough up the food chain to be privy to such information.  So I’ll leave that part of the story to your best guess.
Historically, Zen masters were able to procure accelerated evolution for one another by doing their own version of the Big Brother reality tv series on MTV.  Namely, once inside the monastery, once they had you locked behind closed walls, and you had NO OUT, they could fuck with your head until they broke you down, and rebuilt you from scratch. Getting through ego’s fortifications in order to shift your sense of identification to the Witness state – the God within – is not a game to be undertaken by amateurs, moreover.  There are strict rules.  And if you violate them, the individual could go postal, take you all out, or – lesser of two evils – simply regress, rather than progress.  You need a healthy intact ego in order to transcend the ego.  Destroy the ego, and you have PTSD – a traumatized individual who is likely far MORE attached to the ego (false sense of self) than to Witness state – a state of non-identification.
Now, for those of you who are less learned as regards spiritual theories on the nature of self-transcendence and how to procure it, take my word for it, it’s a bitch, you usually need an ideal, extremely rarefied environment, rather like procuring orchids.  So much so, that even Gurjieff (an Eastern mystic who attempted to import some of these ideas to the U.S.) met with limited success.  And he was enlightened – allegedly.  So you can imagine corporate America attempting to initiate such a program with Joe Senior Manager, who hasn’t learned to floss his teeth without accidentally creating enough law suits to nullify those fat corporate earnings.
Can you imagine the rockin’ corporate culture you’d need to pull this off?  The constellation of as-close-to-enlightenment-as-you-can-get-folks-who-still-say-I-need-a-day-job.
Why is it traditionally so difficult – in any circumstances – far less the less-than-ideal environment of corporate America to genuinely get accelerated learning to happen in people?  Simply put, behavior modification is F-ing hard!  All those B.F. Skinner experiments aside.  Admittedly Skinner, likewise, advocated for this approach if we were to save humanity in Walden Two, and the like.
So let us concede up front that this is an experiment that should by all accounts fail.  Let’s concede, moreover, that while people have changed some in the last few thousand years – they haven’t changed that much.
So what has tilted the scales in favor of success?
Insert my microwave popcorn analogy – which I usually drag out of the closet of my mind at this point in the argument. Historically, Zen masters have been a breed apart, and in a distinct minority.  But each one of those early kernels to pop primes the pump for the ones that follow. (Now it helps on this last point to have read Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphogenic Resonance:  The Nature of Formative Causism.  Sorry if you’re having trouble keeping up.  I told you accelerated-evolutionary theory is not for amateurs.)  And, like with our popcorn analogy, as with most geometric curves, most of the real excitement and “explosive change” happens in the last few seconds.  Up until then, change appears to be happening rather slowly. And there is NO indication we’ll ever enjoy such a “burst” of human get-over-ourselvesness. 
But I would argue that that is historically just what we’re experiencing courtesy of a confluence of factors:  1.  A long line of Zen masters who have come and gone to prime the pump.  2. The world is at the brink of genocide thanks to human activity throwing the planet out of balance to the point where it can no longer re-balance itself, short of inviting some massive human dieback.  3.  Necessity is the mother of invention; there’s nothing like a few billion people waking up and realizing, gee, if we don’t get over ourselves and fast, this is the consequence… 4.  In short, if you want inspiration in a bottle, put people’s lives (and livelihoods) in jeopardy.  Enough for ego to feel threatened that unless it “dies” willingly, the entire organism will die. 
And indeed an important part of this game is keeping your “student” – the fly in the spiderweb – off balance enough so he doesn’t relax into that earlier energy state where the ole familiar habits of mind – once adaptive, but now grown rather self-destructive – reassert themselves. 
So, enough prelim already.  Let’s get to  it.  Are corporations pulling off the impossible, as I assert they are?  Well, perhaps not the Enrons of the world, but the ones that plan to thrive in the 21st century – in an age of conscious capitalism (see Patricia Aburdene’s Megatrends 2010) – certainly are.  And NOT BY CHOICE. By necessity. 
But once again, let’s get to that last lick of the tootsie pop already – how are they doing it?
In short:  Scenario building.
You can’t lecture people into greater enlightenment. But as it turns out, play games with them, turn it into a fun, adventuresome game with videogame like levels you reach for racking up enough points – and well, now we’re on our way.  And for an age of kids grown up on video games – speaking of priming the pump – as it turns out, we have now several generations of “gamers” who will take to scenario-built worlds catered specifically to their self-transcendence with abandon. Especially given the alternative: your typical bored-to-death, tuned-out, checked-out corporate reality run like a fascist regime, read your typical 20th century corporation – no longer fast and nimble enough to compete if it doesn’t decentralize fast and turn the entire corporation into a mega-mind, beyond just those folks concentrated in headquarters half way across the world.
But to really show you, it is perhaps best to enter sim mode. Time to move from the abstract to the concrete.  So here goes.  We call this sim: “The transmogrification of Dayton Wilder” or alternatively “The hopeless attempt to save a hapless soul.” 
One last caveat before we run the sim:
The game is fractal in nature. It has as many dimensions that it shapeshifts into as it needs for the multi-stage transmogrification to take place. It morphs with each stage of development; and with prior lessons learned.  And while evolutionary-stage games are run in succession, numerous games are run in parallel at one time to keep things more interesting and to keep the subject off-balance.  The state of mental overload facilitates the neural rewiring.  Even Piaget argued as much.
Note:  An in-depth analysis of game play dynamics will be presented in book form, as soon as I get a chance to lay it out.  So you’ll have to make do with the Reader’s Digest version for now. The point here is to change your attitude about the more redeeming roles corporations can play on the planet moving forward – so much so that they may well go from being everyone’s favorite bad guy, to “deliverers” of epic proportions, achieving what in prior ages it took a Buddha or a Christ to pull off – no sacrilege intended.  Think how many people are still trying to absorb Christ’s message, and that of the saints and sages in all religious traditions – generations after these folks have come and gone – and you’ll begin to appreciate the auspicious positions corporations are in for being able to create these pressure cooker environments that alone can purify the soul – like removing the tarnish from silver – in record time.

The Transmogrification of Dayton Wilder – a simulation
Theoretical Abstract/Overview:
Level 1:  Theater Therapy.  Identify all Dayton’s sticking points (the things about him that drive everyone else crazy).  Act out these aspects of his psyche to begin to heal the traumas that led to such long-term addictive behaviors.  By externalizing Dayton’s demons, by acting them out on stage, Dayton gets the distance on himself to see the behaviors that have long become unconscious.  He can’t very well fix what he can’t see.  Ergo the benefit of having a community that is willing to mirror his psyche.  This implies their having done their homework; having tracked every morsel of written and verbal correspondence for clues, for ways into the steel trap of his psyche to begin to see how to pry it open. 
The most important rule of this (and all subsequent levels) for all players is that:  Healing cannot take place in the absence of heightened empathy. Why? Only the heart married to the mind can open the mind clearly enough to see into another’s soul with the degree of transparency needed to procure the magical transformation. Otherwise the necessary clues will likely be missed, and the application of the transformative technique will be sufficiently brutish and crude to create more trauma than is alleviated.  Even if the cast of actors around Dayton is acting the part of bad guys, his tormentors from the past, the instant the heart connection is lost, the feedback mechanism also crashes, and it is that feedback mechanism which gives you the error-correction you need to recalibrate, and run the sim again, more effectively this time.  
Level 1 also requires, as the above implies, a technique that starts with heightened cues “game on” to help the individual who is “stuck” on the various psychological points in question to get the requisite distance on himself to step up on stage and into character.  As time goes on, much as with agoraphobics, or anyone whose trauma you’re trying to desensitize them to, the cues can be diminished as the shocks to the psyche will be deflected by the individual in real time without causing additional trauma. 
Note: Make sure your student understands “game on” above all. Otherwise, not only is learning not likely to happen, but additional trauma will be created. 
The game can, on occasion, be run in reverse, starting with no cues, and then upping the “game on” signals.  A successive burst of “out of control” moments generated in the subject in this manner, may also generate the necessary fear needed to prompt him to get over himself fast in order to keep his job.  As the incidents are no longer spaced enough apart for him to rationalize his employer’s willingness to overlook said behavior.  However, this requires a sophisticated student, and a sophisticated mentoring team, as any number of dangerous and untoward effects may be the result.  And it makes sense only within the context of the individual’s specific developmental goals. 
Moreover, the “by the book” rules can be violated entirely.  Or the rules of engagement changed without notice (a rather common variation past level 1).  However this is a more sophisticated version of the game – that in effect has yet other lessons to teach – and is beyond the scope of this article. 
Level 2:  Once the individual’s psyche has been made less rigid, and more pliable, subject to the prior theater therapy modality, the game can shift into any number of variations, depending on the development plan/goal for the individual. If we are attempting to procure a senior manager or above whose strategic thinking has to be nurtured and developed and put to the test; then level 2 may lean heavily on strategy games. (Hell, anyone interested in any leadership position in a corporate enterprise will need some kind of crash course in strategizing).   If this is the case, and the focus has now changed to strategy games, level 2 may take the form of the various actors 1) generating false information to test the individual’s attempt to navigate “disinformation wars” such as exist in media, the real world, and even within the corporation; 2) dramas may be enacted that seem to imply one thing (the feint) when in fact they’re conveying another message all together. And the “true” message can only be separated from the fake one by a) again better marrying heart and mind to filter truth from falsehood; b) and also doing some investigating, by being willing to question one’s assumptions, and also by one’s willingness to exist in a state of confusion/unknowingess until more of the facts are in to base a sound decision on.  Failing this, the individual may be provoked by the “wrong” message into acting out in the traditional manner in which he is known for.  This is also a good way of testing if the old behaviors have indeed been replaced by the new ones.  3) the individual will likely be given thorny dilemmas as a way of teaching him how to work with conflicting intel, goals, while satisfying multiple constituencies, all of whom have competing agendas.  4) Situations will likely arise that require different strategic approaches, trending towards a sophisticated amalgamation of strategies.  I.e. the individual may learn to combine a rational approach for strategizing the best route through the maze to a goal, with evolutionary methods (learning by repeated mistakes so that strategy is available only in retrospect by a weaning of failed approaches;) and finally a processorial approach (one that generates insights for how to better restructure the organization to empower anyone and everyone, not just the individual.)  See:   Scenario Planning In Organizations:  How to Create, Use, and Assess Scenarios.

In closing:

Scenario building is more than just huge fun, as if that weren’t enough.  Because nothing increases engagement better than figuring out how to marry entertainment and engagement to learning.  IQ, EQ, and SQ is automatically much higher in environments of high engagement – and that much current day science CAN back up. 
Scenario building can create strengthened peer to peer relationships like no other method. Collaborating in leadership decisions decentralizes leadership, thereby releasing the group-mind power that was formerly trapped like a genie in a bottle across the organization.  And there’s nothing like co-writing, co-directing and co-acting in performance pieces designed to modify human behavior – and help that guy next to you get over himself. The fact that the team is in effect “doing God’s work”, moreover, that is to say, involved with evolving the soul as much as the psyche, creates a drum roll effect that is hard to substitute for in way of job satisfaction. And it creates a sense of gratitude and mutual indebtedness that is also hard to rival.

Nothing, moreover, brings home the concept that in today’s hyper-connected world, we will swim together or we will surely drown together than working with scenario building in teams.  For more on this, see:  Jeremy Rifkin’s, The Empathic Civilization, and The European Dream (for an expanded treatise on “the politics of empathy.”
Most of all, scenario building and scenario building alone has proven that it can procure accelerated evolution and just-in-time learning for corporations desperate to maintain their edge over their competition.  It is the way of fostering champions. And if we are to experience a raising of the gods within men (here see: Carol S. Pearson’s, Awakening The Heroes Within), rather than the devils within men, there is no better way that has yet been designed.  And there is not likely to be. 
Because Shakespeare was right, “All the world is a stage.”