Synergy and Transformative Innovation

The principle of synergy asks us to start with considering the whole, for no amount of examining the parts, when considered separately, can determine the whole.

“When considered separately,” is the key statement. To consider climate, soil erosion, forest loss, poverty, species extinction, the rise of suicide, the increased divide between the extreme financial wealth and those without, the breakdown of community…all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to consider any of these things as separate to the whole, is like trying to determine the existence of a butterfly by dissecting a caterpillar.

Both the statements – we cannot solve today’s problems with the same level of thinking that created them, and the principle of synergy – implies that if we want to create a world that works for Earth and all of her creatures, then we need to start with the whole, AND with a different level of thinking that gets at a core level that we are not separate. Are we able to self-reflect that our level of thinking is stuck at the same level as the problem we are solving for? 

I was in a room yesterday with wonderful people seeking to solve a problem. The default response was to move pieces around and call that innovation. To consider the problem from the same level of thinking that created it. To see it as a series of parts. This is not the fault of the people. This is a design feature of our current models of education, governance and thinking. It is entirely built into our economic model and the incentives it offers.

What did not happen was the stepping back and looking at the whole. The stepping into a future and seeing what was wanting to be birthed. The ability to challenge every single assumption. To question the questions. To invite into the collective space the emergence of something that would allow transformative innovation.

To do this is often both breathtaking and terrifying. New territories, the unknown and uncertain, the uncomfortable, are places we often avoid at all costs.

The current cost of our avoidance is a world without a future for Earth and all her creatures. 

The time is coming past due to get over our discomfort. If we do not, discomfort of life conditions will become the norm for everyone.

November 14th 2019

Photo taken November 14th, 2019