the Emerging Culture
Conversation with Paul H. Ray
model of change I use is based on biological, not mechanical,
metaphors. For example, slime molds start out as specks
of mold crawling around. Then, suddenly, they form into
a slug, then a bud, then spores, and they end up as amoebas.
The way they change completely violates our notion of what
these things are and how they should behave. Their emergence
process turns out to be unbelievably rapid. Similarly, as
Jane Jacobs explains in
The Death and Life of Cities
in ant and bee colonies there is a "swarm logic" that appears.
If you watch the colonies developing, you see a larger and
more complex system emerge. The colony develops properties
that weren't there before; it becomes something completely
new. Yet there is no apparent central, governing hierarchy.
This is also true of the brain. The reality is that the
way cities grow and change has the same pattern as the way
the brain gets organized and ant colonies develop. Each
creates a new phenomenon that didn't exist before. This
"emergence phenomenon" is very important to life on this
planet, yet it is not described by usual scientific models-nor
by customary business models.
biological model suggests how a new human culture might
emerge. Networks are formed between isolated individuals
and groups, giving a common sense of identity, and something
new for the whole emerges. What looks like a slow change
process takes off--it can happen very fast.
this is already happening in society. There are all sorts
of new projects emerging that are breaking old paradigms
-new kinds of foundations, initiatives, social venture networks.
These new businesses and nonprofits tend to be value-led,
rather than profit-led. Some are small efforts of individuals
acting on their values (for example, volunteering to promote
racial justice). Others are people working together in organizations
and networks. (See "
") Some of these new forms and structures look very
different from economic and political structures of the
always hear about this because much of it doesn't get reported
on. Yet there is a creative ferment under the surface of
modern life and a lot of it is being created and supported
by people who have money. The possibility that is emerging
is for a fundamental transformation of the culture into
one that is grounded in values and connection to others.
In my view, what is emerging is actually a new culture,
not just a propped up version of the old one.
the emergence phenomenon is a process of connecting pieces
that were previously isolated, it's important that people
who think they're alone in their values share them with
others. We need to connect with others around our values,
sharing not just information, but what is deeply meaningful
to us. We can start by talking about what's most important
in our lives--which is exactly what is ruled out of most
conversation! We seldom turn toward each other and say,
"Who are you? What's important to you?" Interestingly, September
11 could trigger an emergence phenomenon. In New York neighborhoods,
suddenly people are giving emotional and physical support.
That support is what revives neighborhoods. It's helpful
to take notice when people can and do create new possibilities,
because that's how we see what's emerging. Ultimately, using
our wealth to create a new culture means giving form to
our deepest values, at the personal, societal, and planetary
level, and connecting and collaborating with others who
share those values.
a conversation with Pamela Gerloff
H. Ray, Ph.D., is a founding partner of Integral Partnerships,
LLC, a consulting firm that helps organizations align their
internal activities and values with the values and needs
of their clients. He is co-author of
The Cultural Creatives
which presents the results of thirteen years of surveys
and interviews with individuals discussing their values
and way of life.
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