We assume that the cause of the Global Warming and reduction of sustainability lies in typical Western mono-causal, unilateral, individualistic thinking.
In the 1980s, there have been several unconventional thinkers who have explored the concept of thinking in relationships-between-objects.
Among them Fritjof Capra, way back in 1975 the writer of The Tao of Physics in which he asserts that both physics and metaphysics lead inexorably to the same knowledge. The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (1982) begins by outlining and tracing the history of science and economics, highlighting the flaws in the Cartesian, Newtonian, and reductionist paradigms. It explains how such viewpoints have grown inadequate for modern technology and ecology needs, then argues that science needs to develop the concepts and insights of holism and systems theory to solve society’s complex problems.
Another explorer of thinking-in-relations was Kurt Lewin, the “founder of social psychology” and was one of the first to study group dynamics, the behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics), or between social groups (intergroup dynamics).
In Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson saw the world as a series of systems containing those of individuals, societies and ecosystems. Competition and dependency is in each system. Each of these systems has adaptive changes which depend upon feedback loops to control balance by changing multiple variables. Bateson believed that these self-correcting systems were conservative by controlling exponential slippage.
We saw the emergence of the Internet: a network of networks and networks of cellular phones, In the Internet of Things everything and everyone connect with everyone and everything. There is no one-sided hierarchy, but a multitude of interactive relationships between everybody and everything.
We believe that in scientific disciplines such as cellular biology and biomedical sciences, relationship thinking must be very advanced.
Unfortunately, we could not find any confirmation of this, because an accessible description of the type of thinking in these disciplines is simply lacking. We expect to find many concepts there that you also encounter in system dynamics like recursion, feedback loops, interactivity, equilibrium, etc.
These are all concepts that are currently lacking in business and in the public domain, let alone on an individual level.
Emergent Thinking in Relations
Identity as a Network of Relations between Sub-identities
A network of competing but also complementary and supporting companies serves often as the driving force in most regional economies. Porter argues social activities embed business activities; that ‘social glue binds clusters together’.
Examples include Detroit’s auto industry concentration, computer chip production in California’s Silicon Valley, London’s financial sector, the Napa Valley’s wine production, and Hollywood’s movie production industry.
The Rediscovery of the Rhineland Capitalism Model
We can define the Rhineland business model and the leadership practices associated with it as a management approach based on concepts of cooperation, consensus, social justice, and serving the interests of multiple stakeholders. They measure the contribution of a company not only in profit but also in less tangible matters, such as the quality of the products supplied, the work satisfaction of employees and the contribution of the company to society. Everything is much more focused on the long term, not only for maintaining the survival of the organization itself but also in a long-term relationship with suppliers, trade unions and customers. Diametrically opposed to it is the Anglo-Saxon model where money often seems to be the only measure. From the 80s of the last century, the Anglo-Saxon business model as found in the US, Great Britain and Singapore has slowly replaced the Rhineland model, as was common in Germany since WWII.
Social Change: Not Slipping Back
But it’s not that simple to change course. In 2007, Paul Polman, the former chairman of Unilever’s board was convinced that companies that focus primarily on making money have no right to exist. Unilever had to focus on creating social value again. Just as William Lever, the founder of Unilever, did by tackling infant mortality with affordable soap at the end of the nineteenth century.
However, in 2017, Polman narrowly avoided a hostile takeover of Unilever by rival Kraft Heinz and investment fund 3G Capital. Unilever’s shareholders could therefore make a lot of money and so they forced Polman start focusing old-fashioned on financial results, not on saving the world.
We definitely need some better ideas to prevent slipping back from sustainable capitalism into relentless profit-driven capitalism in which profit-making is the sole social responsibility of companies. This requires a rigorous creative thinking effort. In What Ways Might We remove barriers to massive social innovation?
Global Changes and the Changed Needs for Education. How would the world change IF students learn from the thinking in relationships between objects? (Instead of studying isolated objects). How would the world change IF students learn from the thinking in relationships between individuals? (Instead of studying isolated individuals)
The senses as a relationship with the environment. In the West, we assume that the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) are (rather passive) inputs to the mind. Interesting is, that in Buddhism they don´t define as a single entity but as a relation between objects, eye and visible object, a ¨sense sphere¨. And that the sense “mind” interacts with mental objects the same way as other senses do.
Innovation of Social Concepts. We can design deliberately innovations in business and so can social innovation. Social innovation has to do with radical novel ways it could deliver social functions. The ¨construction¨ of new social concepts does not differ that much from business innovation or creating new business models. Designing is an active process. And a new social innovation may lead to new businesses.