In our everyday lives, we rarely think about how our mental models affect the way we see the world. The story goes something like this: There are objects out there in the world. We see them through our eyes (and other senses of course) and end up having a perception of them in our minds. These perceptions lead us to knowledge about the world. For most people this common sense view of cognition is fine, and it works for many situations where what we are talking about is obvious. But sometimes it doesn’t, especially for when situations move from complicated to complex.
Privately I would describe a huge amount of my work as philosophical, based around the insights from phenomenology, complexity science, chaos theory and a close study of the history of science, which if undertaken, can be revolutionary. Taking a philosophical approach to business explicitly is not be a winning formula, and it puts a lot of people off. But this is something I don’t do. What I do do is to look at what is lacking in business today, and developing solutions based on these deep philosophical insights. What is needed in business today is profound change, and this can come through developing mindfulness in leaders, a mastery of framing, and comprehension of the notion of authentic wholeness in complex systems.
If people continue to operate in a mode which is purely based on thinking, i.e. abstract symbolic and logical processing of discrete data, then there will never be a breakthrough in breaking out of our current restricted cognitive lenses through which we experience the world. Profound insights do not have to come through a study of philosophy, they can come through having profound experiences which shake our mental models until they collapse as we discover they are no longer adequate in fully enabling us to make sense of situations. I thought I would share just one of these experiences, and that is what happens when you let people play with holograms.
I am fully happy to admit that as a teen I was a bit of a geek, and one thing I would love to do was to go to Oxford on the bus, and when there visit the hologram shop. This was a small shop which sold just one thing, holograms. They would be displayed on the walls with perfect lighting, and I loved looking at all the strange mono-coloured images. In Brazil, the first holographic equipment was only introduced in 1971, and I soon discovered that many people here had never actually seen one. So I bought the one above which contains an image of a shell, and although it is extremely hard to photograph, you will get a sense of the image below:
It’s brilliant to see people play with the hologram, and there is sometimes shock as people realise you can look all around the image. The hologram I bought from Ebay has been made with a holographic plate. Nowadays cheap holograms are made on plastic film, but there is nothing quite like seeing an old school hologram and the impact it makes on people.
Of course the great thing about holographic plates is that when you break them up into parts, the whole image remains. This is not a property of modern holograms, and of course I would never break up my own hologram, so it is something people just have to take on trust. By the way, if anyone knows of any films demonstrating this on Youtube, please let me know!
Playing with the hologram can lead to some very interesting discussions. Many of us may be working in organisations which are extremely hierarchical, but we can not understand a hologram through contemplating hierarchical structures. We have to use a more dynamic language, and talk about phenomenon such as the whole (the ‘hologram’) coming to presence in the parts (each holographic plate). When we talk about things which come to presence to presence in the parts, we can translate this into how we now see people in our organisations, and how the whole organisation (which we are now forced to think of as not a single physical object or entity) manifests in each person, whatever level of the organisation they may be.
If we want to transform those things which are external to us, we first need to transform our thinking, and this can come about via what Maria and I term the holonomic platform. We first have to transform our mental models, and this is by no means easy. Transforming the way we conceive the world rarely comes about through study or reading, it comes about through the experiences we live, and when these experiences no longer match our preconceived ideas of the world, we are challenged into rethinking our ideas. This does always happen of course, and when a person is really stuck in ego, the ego will fight to the death to retain the comfortable construction of reality we hold so dear.
So what is to be done? One answer is that we can gamify philosophy. By this I mean that instead of studying philosophy, we can create structured gaming experiences which can lead us one bit at a time to radical new ways of thinking. The gamification of philosophy has been a project of mine for the last couple of years, and forms a key part of my consultancy work. It was therefore great to discover that tomorrow in São Paulo there will be the launch of the new Brazilian book Gamification, Inc. – Como reinventar empresas a partir de jogos (How to reinvent companies with games). The book has been written by Maurício Vianna, Ysmar Vianna, Bruno Medina and Samara Tanaka, and for those of you who speak Portuguese, the book is also available as a download via MJV Technology and Innovation who have published it (www.mjv.com.br/noticias/mjv-convida-para-lancamento-livro-gamificationinc).
It will be great to catch up with the writers and also other developers and designers who are also involved in gamification in Brazil. I’ll hopefully be able to take a few photos, and share with you all in the next day or so. There are some really interesting scenes developing in Brazil which while still quite nascent, are exciting to be a part of, and it is great to be able to have so much contact with the visionaries, shapers and hackers who are reshaping Brazil for the new generation.