Facts and Dreams of the Future

Posted April 09, 2015 kmcgovern

The human race, without its opposable thumb, would not have evolved. With only four fingers, the hand is not confident. Economists and political decision-makers sometimes forget this and, in using “measurement” to determine advice, delude themselves that their proposals are whole and effective and are not a chimera. Politicians innately understand this, yet find it difficult to argue against a Treasurer or Finance Minister briefed in the numbers and estimated impacts of decisions. Do not get me wrong. Those who ignore the numbers and the facts (like a hand without a thumb) are doomed not to evolve.

And evolve we must. In 1937 Miles Franklin, one of Australia’s premier writers and thinkers, reported on her conversation with the 35 year old American analytical economist and historian Clinton Harley Grattan (Miles was 57):

“He (CHG) says what we suffer is a dearth of facts scientifically assembled to support our windy idealism. This is a good and penetrating thrust. But I led him on to enlarge it and felt he knows the world by facts. Facts, facts. Yes, but a factual world that discounts the dream world would never rise above the dust. There never yet was a fact but it was hatched from the brain of a dreamer. Take flying. Think of the facts that were adduced of old to show that iron ships could not float in water, let alone in air! If the winged dreamers were not enslaved by the wingless grabbers – well, that would be paradise, and there never will be heaven in this dimension, for the dreamers are forever checked by the grabbers whose flag is facts. They know how to plunder and exploit and then when gorged and dyspeptic cry to the dreamers for comfort and diversion.”[i]

In the 1930s, like today, thinkers sought certainty from “facts”. J.M. Keynes, a critic of the conventional thinking of the time, in the General Theory, reported on the power of “the gradual encroachment of ideas” of economists and political philosophers. He finished the General Theory with the statement “..it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous of good or evil”[ii]. At that time, a new system was needed, one that was “more favourable to peace than the old ha(d) been.”

Ideas, based on the agreed “facts” that lead inevitably to destruction need to be questioned.

The technological revolution has put “facts” in everyone’s hand, and the balance has tilted to a fascination with “evidence-based decision-making”. The marketers of our products have led us to believe we are making decisions with reference to evidence. But this is not necessarily so. One example was explained when  “The Lancet Commission on Culture and Health” (The Lancet, 384(9954), 1607-1639) [iii]was launched with the conclusion that the “systematic neglect of culture in health” is the greatest barrier to achieving the highest attainable standards of health globally.

If the efficacy of medical science is limited by the current culture, could it be more generally stated that it is not the thumb alone that makes us human, but our ability to coordinate our thumb with our four fingers and all that represents? We evolved to be humans when our ancestors used their thumb to throw and to club, with, it is asserted, “the best throwers and clubbers rising to male dominance hierarchy” [iv]. Now it is the throwing of, and clubbing with, ideas that determines the hierarchy. This is reflected in government, business, civil society and in households.

With computers government are now able to collate and report more “facts” than ever before. Yet if  it is the culture that poses the greatest barrier to achieving the highest attainable standard of human society, how do we test the efficacy of public decisions?

The “outcomes” sought by governments are being dissected and measured. Anything that does not succumb to measurement, or can be adduced to be “facts”, tends to be declared invalid as more elusive influences are not convenient to our economists and political philosophers.  Our dreamers, who create a future not considered possible within the confines of the agreed “facts” at any one period of time, are being ignored.

Our collective means to move forward safely, like our use of our physical hands, require coordination of all aspects of life; culture, society, nature, dreaming and economies, if we are to create a system more favourable to peace and hence worthy of our investment.  To achieve this we have to balance our hierarchies by admitting the dreamers, not just to provide comfort and diversion, but to create the possibility of a peaceful future[v] that contains as yet unimagined facts.

[i] Brunton, Paul ([Ed.] 2004, “The Diaries of Miles Franklin”, Allen & Unwin, p 64.

[ii] Keynes, J.M. 1936. “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” from “The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Vol VII”, Macmillan, London, pp 394-5.

[iii] http://www.mamaye.org/en/evidence/lancet-commission-culture-and-health

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1571064/

[v] This step is already being taken. See, for example, Security Council resolution 1325.

The Map of Meaning Satisfies – NOTE DATE CHANGES

Posted November 06, 2013 kmcgovern

The Map of Meaning is gaining a lot of support as a tool to manage ourselves to do meaningful work.

In February, 2014 Lani Morris will again come to Brisbane to hold an introduction course on 8th and 9th. Click here to register.

She will also hold an advanced workshop for those who have completed the introduction and are using the map with groups. This “Working with the Map” workshop, on 14th and 15th February, 2014 gives us an opportunity to practise how we use the map in groups. Click here to register.

These workshops provide the initial steps to gain accreditation in the use of the Map professionally.

They are being brought to Brisbane by K McGovern & Associates in partnership with Chris Henderson Coaching.


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K McGovern & Associates is co-hosting with Chris Henderson Coaching a masterclass on the “Map of Meaning” (TM) in Brisbane on 12th and 13th October, 2013. The Map is a subtle but profound tool for bringing balance and calm to a life that, without it, can be chaotic and hurtful.

Centred on what inspires us – in our work, our life, our relationships; the map reminds us that we are bounded by the reality of ourselves and our circumstances. Then it reminds us that we are both an individual and part of the larger “other”. And, within those domains, we spend time “being” and  “doing”. And that all aspects are necessary for a balanced life.

But I can’t explain it so you can use the Map. Come and meet with Lani Morris and participate in her masterclass in October.

When you register we will send you a copy of the book “Map of Meaning: A Guide to Sustaining our Humanity in the World of Work”. Take your time to read it and do the exercises. Then, when you participate in the masterclass you will already know the key concepts and approach.

Lani comes to Australia rarely. Luckily for us, she will visit on her return from working with the Map in the UK in September. So register now and take that crucial step to living a balanced life.

Click here for a copy of the brochure.

The Map of Meaning is not so much a tool to use, as a complete framework through which to think and make sense of complex situations. You may be familiar with Karl Weick’s work on sensemaking, for example “Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking“.  The Map helps us make sense of personal, team, organizational and whole-of-government challenges. Leaders, once they understand the key factors that make work meaningful for people, can transform their organisations in the way that they want. Lani Morris explains, “There are few things as frustrating as producing the result opposite to that which you intended. Yet this is the current situation for many leaders. Intending to motivate their teams, leaders frequently destroy one of the single most important motivational factors in organisations, meaningful work. See: For example, “Leaders Kill Meaning at Work“. And it is not their fault, since it is difficult to see that meaningfulness has a direct effect in the practical workplace. Even if leaders understand the importance of meaningful work, they tend to “manage meaning” through engagement, motivation, empowerment which has the effect of fragmenting each employee’s experience of meaningfulness. The Map of Meaning shows that we have been trying to force something that will naturally occur if we work with the intrinsic human need for meaningful work. What is more, the Map shows us how to do this.” To see how Lani Morris and Marjolein Lips-Wiersma are applying their Map of Meaning to add humanity to the world of work, see: Using the Map: Holistic Development Group.

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