Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011

“Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction”
Such is the tagline from Rebecca Costa’s new book, The Watchman’s Rattle. While Einstein taught us that we can’t solve problems at the level of thinking that created them, he didn’t spell out how to change the level.

Past civilizations (Mayan, Khmer, Roman) came to a point where complexity exceeded their cognitive capacity. Rather than drill deep, they looked for quick fixes and reacted to symptoms. This allowed underlying conditions to worsen. Gridlock and ultimately collapse occurred. The good news—Costa offers a path up and out.

The Brain
Discoveries in neuroscience are as dramatic as learning the world is not flat. People think in linear, holistic and insightful ways. When insightful breakthroughs reach critical mass, systems and economies can be completely disrupted and cultural norms reset. Given the dire circumstances we face, our choice is to cheer the insightful on or continue to watch linear vested interests battle.

Dean Kamen—Inventor Extraordinaire
When Dean Kamen spoke in Fresno, he changed attitudes. He put wind into the sails of innovators and entrepreneurs. In Costa’s book Kamen explains we know the problems and the answers. We are stuck because the culture is mired in old thinking—widely accepted beliefs that simply are not true. These are called memes. Family memes help us feel connected. Supermemes--beliefs that go viral--can contaminate a culture. While “knowing” can relieve anxiety in the moment, worsening conditions kick up stress notch after notch until a breakdown occurs.

Five Supermemes Holding Us Hostage
1.Irrational Opposition—Being against everything and for nothing.
2.The Personalization of Blame—Father should have known best & controlled all the variables. Holding individuals accountable for systemic and cultural problems.
3.Counterfeit Correlation—accepting correlation as a substitute for causation; spinning to manipulate evidence and relying on consensus to determine basic facts.
4.Silo Thinking—compartmentalized thinking and behaviors that prohibit the collaboration needed to address highly complex problems.
5.Extreme Economics—using simple business principles (profit/loss; risk/reward) as the litmus test for determining the value of people and priorities, initiatives and institutions—the legacy of the industrial revolution.

Our community discovered an antidote like Costa details in her book—a Four Spheres Framework, Community Values, Focused Blitzkrieg (do many things simultaneously) foster innovation and entrepreneurship, listen to the quantum level thinkers, and persevere until what once sounded foreign becomes normal.

The Book

The book is riveting and instructive. The snippets above are just a taste of her thinking. I encourage you read it. Another option, check out her website at

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