Creating the future by collaboration

When we keep collaborating to a minimum, it has become clear to me that we create the future by default. The things we do to change what occurs fail to take effect. The momentum of the status quo seems overwhelming and unstoppable. Isolated change efforts are insignificant in the context of complex adaptive systems with vast interdependencies seeking continued stability.

The failure of ambitious change efforts, to create better futures, results in several dysfunctional cognitive dynamics:
  • Vicious cycles where unresolved conflicts tempt us to work against others and work without their insights, diverse outlooks and creative contributions.
  • Paranoid imaginations where we feel safer envisioning what can go wrong, can go from bad to worse and can blow up in our faces.
  • Relying on proven predictions about what always happens, never occurs and needs to be accepted as facts of life.
  • Escaping from this dreariness with inflated bubbles of optimism which get burst by encounters with unchanging reality.
From a systems view, these cognitive dynamics are closed circuits. They mere oscillate or go "round and round" ad infinitum. They give "recycling" a bad name as they reuse the same old experiences endlessly. They fuel over-consumption and excess materialism rather than sustainable lifestyles.  The chart on the right shows how we talk to ourselves when the ways our minds are functioning are self-perpetuating, self replicating, self fulfilling and self justifying. 

By defining the problem systemically like this, the switch to collaborative enterprises becomes easier. For starters we can catch ourselves falling into dysfunctional cognitive dynamics and choosing an opposite approach. Here's a brief look at how those turnarounds might occur:
  • Upon recognizing a vicious cycle, switching to virtuous cycles of working for others' interests and working with their resourcefulness to co-create a better future.
  • After identifying paranoia in each others' imaginations, switching to what-if questions that can together generate visionary scenarios of shared ambitions.
  • Rather than confirming tired predictions, entering possibility space together calls off predictions in favor of unknowns, mysteries, unforeseen possibilities and serendipitous occurrences.
  • In lieu of inflated bubbles, collaborators can "hold the tension of opposites" which combines pragmatism with innovations to come up with advances that function in better ways.
Working together makes all these turnarounds easier, more likely and more productive. The closed circuits get opened and the momentum of legacy dynamics gets broken. A better future emerges from the combined efforts and transformed cognitive dynamics.

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