Embracing your Inner Performance v-Meme for New Years

Steak Florentine Mercato

On to becoming Steak Florentine, the Mercato, Firenze, Italy

I don’t much like to write solely about personal empathetic development.  The reason is simple — I’m a systems guy, and writing about how one person can move up the Spiral seems to be counterproductive.  There are lots of self-help books out there.  On top of that, I also personally feel that one of the largest problems with SD is that it easily lends itself as a tool for hierarchicalization — my v-Meme’s better than your v-Meme — with higher being necessarily ‘better.’  You go to work on yourself, you evolve, maybe — but the larger structure just doesn’t change.

That said, we NEED more evolved people.  And yes — it’s been a universal problem forever.  Various cultures and religions have been working on this for thousands of years, using different aspects of empathy.  My favorite example has to be Tibetan Buddhism, which places all its money on an enlightened, Global Holistic v-Meme leader (the Dalai Lama), magical thinking, and mirroring behavior.  Realizing that there’s no way the resources exist to pop everyone out of the magical v-Meme, where so many poor Asians reside, they formed a system where everyone looks up (and copies) the head honcho, whom a select elite makes sure grows up to be one of the coolest dudes on the planet.  Add to that a pipeline through which many young men and women pass through (many young people become monks for a couple of years, then go back to more normal lives) that teach meditation and self-reflection — pretty unbelievable.

In that spirit, there’s nothing wrong with a little thinking, especially with the approaching New Year, on how the various v-Memes actually work, knowledge-structure-wise.  Most of us would like to improve our Performance-based behavior.  Performance-based behavior is the first v-Meme where real New School Design Thinking becomes emergent.  So it’s worth a little time pondering over the holidays.

Let’s start with a little deconstruction from our basic empathetic social/relational structure background, and see if we can’t reason through this together.

Here are some principles that govern all of the v-Memes:

  1.  As we evolve, our temporal, spatial and energetic scales necessarily increase.
  2. We increase our agency (capacity for independent action) and responsibility toward ourselves and others.
  3. As we increase our agency, we increase our awareness of timescales, and our ability to affect them.
  4. We transition more and more toward data-driven thinking.
  5. As our empathy increases, we also increase our receptivity toward grounding our thoughts in larger and larger circles.

The transition from Legalistic/Absolutistic thinking to Performance-Based thinking is one of the most important of the transitions. When we make the transition, we are now opening ourselves up to independently generated, trust-based relationships — meaning that we will evaluate/perceive people not just on WHAT they are, but WHO they are.

The line that divides this portion of the Spiral is what I call the Trust Boundary, and starts a very important transition from primarily belief-based thinking to rational, data-driven analysis.  At this point, it’s important to remember the nested, emergent nature of the Spiral — we don’t just throw away all our lower modes of thinking — beliefs still matter — but we incorporate them into new modes.

For Performance-based v-Meme development, here are some good vectors.

  1.  Develop authentic mastery of a given area.  Authentic mastery develops the empathetic relationship to self — if you want to have  independent, data-driven relationships with other folks, you first have to have one with yourself.  Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, insists in his book that he never felt comfortable hiring someone who couldn’t do real work with their hands — an implicit endorsement of this authenticity principle.
  2. Reflect on your level of mastery and expertise — use data and examples to accurately assess where you are on your journey toward expertise.  Looking at what others have done gives you metacognition — making you aware of what you don’t know, and how much further the journey will take you.  For example, I am a woodworker, and participate in Internet groups that have lots of other work displayed.  This lets me see how far I’ve come, as well as how far I have to go — and also gives me people whom I can ask for advice and consent while seeing the real results they’ve produced.
  3. Be aware of your own impulsive thought — slow down your timescales and pause before making decisions.  One of the books I’ve discussed, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, exhaustively catalogs the benefits of slow thinking.
  4. Practice engaging in multi-solution thinking, preferably with a partner that you respect and trust.  Brainstorm multiple solutions to a given problem, and then list the reasons why or why not you think the solutions might be good (or not so good) ideas.  A fun book that shows this (especially if you like the Beatles) is Powers of Two by Joshua Schenk.  He details the paired interactions of some of the most creative people in the world.
  5. If you’re given a problem, assemble multiple paths that could be followed to arrive at a solution.  Write down what you’re trying to optimize, and then judge those paths based on your criteria.  Think of this as being similar to finding your way across town during heavy construction.  There are many roads that you can travel — but which one you’re interested in is the one that suits your temperament.
  6. Iterate, iterate, iterate!  — This word was a gift from a new friend, and is the key toward becoming a Performance-based thinker.  Iterating naturally puts different timescales in your process, and starts you on the path of decoupling your emotions from your process, and focusing on getting results.  Modify the path, and perhaps, modify the goal as new data becomes available.  Make fewer parts of your final state set in stone, and adopt a fluidity of mindset.
  7. Ask someone (or work with someone) outside your normal group cohort for their opinion, and then actively work on incorporating that person’s ideas into a synthesis of your work and their ideas.  Nothing beats a diverse workforce, or a strong customer ethic, for growing this part of your brain and empathetic profile.
  8. Understand your own path as a heuristic — a series of assembled steps that you control, that have inherent potential for good outcomes as well as bad.  Estimate the risk in each step, and in your overall path.
  9. Understand that there will always be factors you can’t control — the other side of metacognition — while at the same time, work towards defining these and exploring them so they become more and more concrete.

That’s a start.  And maybe one more.  Practice saying ‘I don’t know’ if you really don’t know.  Change this from “I don’t know, and so therefore I must be stupid” to “I don’t know, and now that I know I don’t know, I’m going to find out!”  It’s the sign of real expertise.

Takeaways:  Here’s a Powerpoint Slide I use to describe Performance-based thinking and data structures.  Worth a read!



What does Star Wars – The Force Awakens Tell us about Ourselves?

Star Wars: The Force AwakensPh: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm 2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

NOTE:  I Tried Hard Not to do it, but Potential Meta-Spoilers Contained Within!!

As I start writing this, I want to tell readers of this blog that I grew up on Star Wars.  It seems hard to believe, but for a boy in the ’60s and ’70s, even watching Star Wars‘ sci-fi predecessor, Star Trek, we were blown away by the clumsy-in-retrospect special effects, leading us to dream about life aboard a starship.  2001 — A Space Odyssey, with its peaceful depictions of deep space travel, was out in 1968, but out of reach to a six-year-old boy with modestly conservative, alienated parents.  And VHS technology hadn’t come along yet, so there was no way to play back most movies once they had left the big screen.

We had the space program — astronauts were headed to the moon! — but nothing could compare when the original Star Wars visuals were released in 1977.  It’s my personal belief that nothing hurt NASA more than Star Wars.  It took astronauts crammed in a small capsule three days just to reach the moon.  But the characters in Star Wars could explore exotic planets, taking off and landing, in the span of two hours of movie time.  In no time, the national imagination changed.  Give us Single Stage To Orbit or bust.  And damn the technological hurdles.

The original Star Wars trilogy fit neatly into a 14-17 year old’s mind.  I had an extremely difficult childhood, and the whole idea of the original six movies was really a father saved by his children — a theme that was profoundly resonant to a young man with an alcoholic father.

Now, as my own view has grown, though, the movies amuse not-so-much.  You’d think a guy into the power of empathy would be enthralled by The Force.  Yet, for the most part, the Global Holistic (or beyond!) v-Meme aspects, aside from a couple of scenes with Yoda, are profoundly neglected.  The Force is mostly used for choking people, magic green fire, or throwing things around, with a couple of nods to manipulation of the weak-minded.  Not surprisingly, it’s almost always for the ‘good’ — as believed by the egocentric perspective of whatever character happens to be doing the choking.

Why?  Because Star Wars is firmly mired in the Magical-Authoritarian v-Meme pair, with a variety of genetically pre-ordained Space Wizards using their considerable talents mostly for reasons of power and control.  We get a little Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme behavior from the Jedi in the Jedi Temple.  But there’s really not much development.  The only standard rule seems to be “don’t go over to the Dark Side.”  And the direction given for NOT going over to the Dark Side is to listen to your betters, even if it goes against your own judgment.  You don’t gain agency in the Jedi Order — remember that these are the Good Guys — until you’re at the top of their particular Authoritarian v-Meme heap.  Young Obi-Wan didn’t want to train young Anakin in the ways of the Force, but did so because Qui-Gon Jinn, his master, said he had no choice.  It was Jedi filial piety that got the whole series rolling.

From a relational perspective, Star Wars is internally consistent.  As good Authoritarians, they’re primarily concerned about blood relations, and there’s a particular gene pool that egocentrically thinks the galaxy belongs to them.  And the way you get to be a Space Wizard is through good breeding as well.  Those midi-chlorians in high concentration are a genetic anomaly.  So it’s no surprise that we end up with kings, queens, princesses and empires, regardless of species.  No real Performance-based v-Memes and personal development show up.  It’s all pre-ordained, as well as the various responsibilities one might have in the universe.

The Principle of Reinforcement, the idea that societies values and the individuals form a self-reinforcing cycle, runs deep in the Star Wars universe as well.  The battles are classically Manichaen — good vs. evil, with (not surprisingly) the good guys wearing white, and the bad guys all in black.  No surprises here.  What’s fascinating, though, is how higher v-Meme multi-solution design thinkers and negotiators, like Han Solo, are portrayed.  They’re slimy, until off-screen coupling initiates them into the space wizard blood clan.

Not surprisingly, this lack of independently generated relationships in anyone’s upbringing produces messed-up kids, that end up in various stages of rebellion.  Childhood trauma (various orphaning, slavery and such icks — bad things happen to Chosen People/Space Lizards too!) produces kids with a tendency toward empathy disorders.  Not good when you control things like planet-destroying machines.  What’s killing a couple billion people when you’ve got daddy (or mommy) issues?

For those readers of this blog, naturally, the technology defies belief.  Huge, integrated structures, like the Death Star, or in the The Force Awakens, the Death Planet (or whatever its called) are designed by Authoritarian societies — not the highly-connected Global Systemic societies that would actually be required, a la Conway’s Law, to build them.  Can you imagine the wiring errors in that thing?  At least the one thing that the v-Memes did get right is that the Empire, or in the case of The Force Awakens, The First Order (the new bad guys), does tend to concentrate power in a few large artifacts.  No different than today’s nuclear power stations or weapons. And even though this strategy has been shown to not work so well in two prior movies.  When one learns about the existence of such a tool, there’s a certain thrilling fatalism that has to appear in the audience.  We know what’s going to happen to THAT.

I don’t know if it’s particularly disappointing .  The Star Wars universe was never very open-ended, v-Meme wise.  And The Force Awakens uses all the same tools in the toolbox to construct its fable.  Or rather, a more accurate descriptor would be that The Force Awakens uses its particular set of Lego pieces to make its story.  It’s true that the Baddies are bigger, and badder, and the tech is even more powerful — no question that we’ve got Kardashev Type III leanings!  It’s like J.J. Abrams went to McDonalds, crammed everything into the back kitchen, and super-sized it all.

But in the same way that Legos are limited — fragmented blocks with limited attachment points — so goes this story.  There are only a certain set of pieces that can be used, and J.J. Abrams and the writers got to choose whether they were positioned up or down.  Like the binary, self-centered mind the Authoritarian v-Meme generates, the plot places characters constantly in conflict, where it’s always the case that the conflict is resolved through destroying the other party, getting destroyed, or running away.  Just like my empathy theory predicts.

Even the young Stormtrooper convert, Finn, isn’t given a complexity break.  We do get a My Lai massacre to start the ball rolling.  But Finn’s no battle-rattled vet.  In his very first battle, he doesn’t want to kill people. No blood on his hands — because if there were, he couldn’t follow the arc of the story laid out that the good guys are fundamentally always good, and the bad guys — well you know, they may get a chance at a deathbed epiphany.

There may be some feminists who might find succor in The Force Awakens .  The female character, Rey, is portrayed as a rugged individual, extremely tech. savvy, and relatively fearless.  Much is made out of her refusal to take Finn’s hand in one scene — multiple times.  Methinks they protest too much. And Princess Leia gets a prominent new role. But Leia’s role really isn’t that much different from the last one where she was calling the shots.  As a princess, she’s always been high up on the social order, and the fact that she’s a general should surprise no one.  There are even women commanders in The First Order’s Star Destroyers.

But I’ll bet the more evolved feminists have to be rolling their eyes.  Women are running the show, and they’re still doing this stupid ‘planet-blowing-up’ shit?  Doesn’t anyone ever want to talk anything out?  Can’t we step outside, loosen up a little, and have a cigarette?  Though there’s a couple of nods to various character’s cultural femininity, Death Star Christmas cookies are nowhere to be seen.  And there are no signs of day care on a Star Destroyer.  This is the best a hyper-advanced civilization can do? Someone needs to send Snoke, the new Super-Bad-Guy a little primer on Attachment Theorist John Bowlby.

As I mentioned above, the whole Force concept — so amenable to higher empathetic development, as well as plot development — really takes a v-Meme beating.  If there’s any proof to my various theories on how empathy deficits in Magical/Authoritarian social structures work, it’s got to be in The Force Awakens.  The embodiment of global empathy, the Force gets used on a variety of characters, by a variety of characters, to choke people, and manipulate others. As the plot evolves, it becomes a sign of spiritual development in the various characters’ abilities to prevent themselves from being choked.  Or maybe pick something up.  Never do we proceed to rational place-taking or a point of understanding.  Does that sound like your boss’s interpretation of empathy?  Run fast.

And the movie scaffolds along this line to make reconciliation on a large scale impossible.  The First Order folks pull pages from the Nazis and the Nuremberg rallies, even though they’re from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.  It’s a oddly fawning authoritarianism, too.  The First Order is extremely well-organized and efficient, with everyone neatly arranged in rows.  No classic signs of the real, historically documented Authoritarian v-Meme –cronyism, corruption and concubines — here.  Just ruthless efficiency and a fascination with very large, concentrated weaponry — deep re-creations of nuclear weapons and the Maginot Line.  Even the name — The First Order — has mathematical linkages to the meta-linear nature inherent in the v-Meme.  How weird is that?

Critics have raved about the various plot twists in the new film.  But I’ll warn you.  There really aren’t any.  There are binary moments in all the various scenes that come out of the limited Lego pieces in the canon.  In any given scene, you get to guess if the plot is going to go right or left.  From a metacognitive standpoint, (knowing what you don’t know) I couldn’t find a more profound reinforcement that Authoritarian social structures destroy metacognitive development.  There are simply no real unknowns.  You know, in every scene where there’s a bifurcation point, which way things could go.  A selected subset of outcomes are pre-ordained.  Certainly one or the other will make you feel something different.  But there’s basically no point of ambiguity that makes you think.

As a result, the film feels trivial.  You’re not going to walk away from this one the least bit changed.  It’s not a whole lot more sophisticated than the Teletubbies.  The Teletubbies were designed for the 3 year old mind — when Tinky Winky pops up behind the flower with his handbag, the infantile mind waits until Tinky Winky does it again.  That’s what gives it satisfaction.  It’s really about the same for The Force Awakens.

And judging from the reviews, most viewers will find comfort in that.  They didn’t go into the movie looking for an epiphany.  So they don’t have to worry that they might get one.

But at some level, I find the whole spectacle extremely worrisome.  If we have any moment of national unity, in our national conflict-driven dichotomous dialectic, infused with both Ferguson and Donald Trump, it’s around the release of this film. It forces our imagination along the line that our biggest problems are some kind of structured, lawful evil a la terrorists are organized by masterminds of the Caliphate, or something.

Yet our real problems are rooted deeply in the chaos, and inherent unpredictability from responding to world events with such dichotomous, black-and-white thinking.  Our problems in the Middle East come directly from decisions based on destroying controlling authority, under the aegis and reasoning of wiping out their Death Star Equivalent — their nuclear weapons capability.  It’s no coincidence that the two countries we’ve most recently destroyed the leadership in — Iraq and Libya — were potentially seeking nuclear weapons.  And that the third country we’re seeking regime change in — Syria — has its leader, Bashir Assad, accused of using chemical weapons of mass destruction.  The chaos that’s being generated is creating its own darker form of resistance in ISIS.

The Force Awakens, like all Star Wars movies, has no refugees from wars.  Planets simply get blown up.  There’s never any show of long-term suffering.  And though the crashed Star Destroyers on the surface of Jakku allude to conflict long ago, every fight in the current moment leads to short term oblivion in the Star Wars universe.  Wars there map to wars here in our national perception — clean, instantaneous things.  There are no X-Wing fighter pilots that need extensive rehab, or treatment for PTSD.  In space, you get to hear them scream once.  And then, well, their parts are scattered across deep space — or inside a burnt-out Star Destroyer.

In writing this, I don’t want to be non-sympathetic, or non-empathetic, to the national mood.  But the Principle of Reinforcement holds for us, too.  And we could use a little more humility, messiness, and metacognition in our national parables — especially if we really want the Force to be with us.

Further thinking:  I don’t want to get into this in this piece, but that J.J. Abrams — he’s kinda wrecked Star Trek in the same way.  We might have been headed that way anyway — but at least Star Trek was calling to those higher metacognitive values — going where no one has gone before and all that.  Real higher-level empathetic development.  Now, even the bridge crew yells at each other.  Sheesh.


Quickie Post — ID this writer’s v-Meme!

Braden on the Lochsa River, Lochsa Falls, Idaho, with Pops as his bow-man.  Braden is 13 in this picture.

Read this post on mathematics — it’s short.  It comes out of the Common Core curriculum.  Now — ponder it, and scribble down what are the dominant v-Memes in the writer’s head.  I’m gonna fill up the space below with another picture, and below, I’ll put my answer.

bradenkayaking photo

Braden again, this time kayaking, in Blue Canyon, Salmon River, Idaho.  The deal I made with the kids was basic — learn to kayak, or always be forced to row that big orange raft around!

So what’s going on with this post?  The writer is, of course, exactly right.  Exactly.  The kid shouldn’t have, if you were trying to teach a particular principle, written out three 5s.  And then he wraps up with ‘Respect the teacher!’  So the answer is very clearly — he’s yet another Legalistic Authoritarian in the educational system.  And he doles out all the usual warnings about leading kids astray.

If the teacher had some Performance-based v-Meme in them, they’d tell the kid that he was right.  And if they were Communitarian, they might gather up results from across the class and show the student that got that wrong that they weren’t alone.

Whether the lesson is appropriate or not is a developmental question.  At some level of school, you want your kids to transition to being more legalistic and less authoritarian, and maybe hammering that transition with examples like this is appropriate.  And the Laws of Commutation and Equivalence are good things to know — they are a staple of higher mathematics.

But younger kids (3rd grade and below) are just never going to get this.  They don’t have the circuits.  And, you know, I just never liked trick questions — you can also see how, especially on the young, that they get you back to Power and Control.  Which is how this guy wraps up things.  Listen To Your Betters…. sigh.  Do remember that this guy posts this as a Trick Question for adults — that’s the premise of the whole piece.  So what does that say about actual information retention in the audience?

Newsy Post — Shell’s Cancellation of Arctic Exploration and the Future of Energy

Green River Dinosaur

Green River, Utah, above Split Mountain Canyon

There’s been a fair amount of media this last two weeks about Shell’s decision to cancel exploration for oil in the Arctic Ocean.  For the last few years, Shell has met strong resistance both in the regulatory environment, as well as in the Court of Public Opinion.  It’s beyond ironic that the force that is allowing Shell’s exploration — global warming, caused by burning fossil fuels — has opened up the very area most imperiled by these actions to even more exploitation.

But even if you think global warming isn’t real, or even if it is, it isn’t caused my humans, that viewpoint is becoming increasingly irrelevant — especially with regards to the fate of fossil fuels.  What is really happening with oil is as much a Death of a Social Structure.  The  large, centralized infrastructure and hierarchies necessary to use fossil fuels are increasingly under strain, from competition from distributed sources.

If I wanted to get all New-Agey on you, I could point to Tesla’s new wall-mounted Powerwall,or other, potentially New Tech Green solutions.  But that’s not the point of this article, published in EnergyPost.  These guys make the point that what is really undoing Shell is not Tesla, or solar.  What’s undoing them is fracking, which can be local, run by small operators, and is independent of large developmental, super-efforts like hauling a mega-rig up to the Arctic, past hundreds of Kayaktivists.

Which should be intensely interesting to readers who believe what is written on this blog.  Local/regional efforts, through their very nature, are much more empathetically connected to local communities, and are much more able to be affected by local public opinion — including outright bans of the activity.  And lest ye think I’m beating my own drum — it is a duplex link.  Shell persevered through multiple quarantines and protests because, quite simply, those protests were in places like Seattle and Portland.  Not in their own backyard.  It’s much harder for a local firm to do that.  They have to be empathetic — because they are connected, like it or not.

What it means is that as social evolution continues, energy is going to become a distributed resource, and the natural emergent dynamics are going to force it to be clean.  Those companies that are counting on ‘air cover’ from distant governments might get it for a while.  But sooner, inexorably, they’ll be forced to yield.

Even with the Chinese, with the recent meeting between President Obama and President Xi Jinping, the worm is turning on global warming and air pollution impact, with China stepping forward with cap-and-trade solutions for carbon dioxide in advance of the Paris summit next year.  Doubtless, some may say that this is merely a ploy by China to gain stature on the world stage — a standard Authoritarian v-Meme behavior.  But anyone that says that hasn’t visited China in the last ten years, where air pollution in Beijing has been intolerable.  If folks think that the Chinese Communist Party leadership maintains control by being unresponsive to Chinese concerns, well — I can’t help you with that one.

Companies like Shell are going to have to work hard to adapt to restore their reputation in light of this obvious trend.  Only 15 years ago, they were being profiled as an exemplar of a Learning Organization by progressive management gurus like Peter Senge.  Now they’re getting thrown out of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on climate change.

There’s also a major point that should be obvious to the readers of this blog — but I’ll make anyway.  Shell is under the gun not because of the Peak Oil phenomenon — that the world is running out of oil.  We still don’t really know if the world is going to run out of oil.  But I’m willing to bet that we’re not.  What Shell is suffering from is superabundance of oil, and collapsing prices.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise.  As we move out of social structures that are historically information-inefficient/incoherent, like the large Authoritarian power structures and Legalistic hierarchies, we should expect to see dramatic improvements in production and abundance.  And regardless the predictable externalities — like the fracking crisis with water — it’s just a function of how the system dynamics operate.

What Shell’s crisis shows, more than anything else, is we need to stop taking as sage counsel the acolytes of energy that tell us there are no solutions except large, centralized solutions.  This goes for power storage, as well as generation.  If there is legal scaffolding to be developed (don’t forget — unscaffolded efforts are just as doomed to wreak havoc as old hierarchical structures) then let’s accelerate both.

Because when it comes to the carbon issue, we are running out of time.  And Evolutionary Theory can show us where we need to be going.

Takeaways:  The Future of Energy, like the Internet, is going to be distributed and interconnected.  The best thing we can do is accelerate these trends, without throwing away our standards on the environment.  It can work.  But we are running out of time.

Design Thinking and Servant Leadership — Part II — Understanding the Legalistic Transition

conor snowhole

Conor at 13, firing it up on the Lower Salmon, Snowhole Rapids, Idaho

In the last post, we ended with a short scenario on why servant leadership couldn’t thrive in an Authoritarian v-Meme organization.  The obvious reasons that jump out are the lack of trust, especially in assigning credit, as well as the lack of connection that a more evolved empathetic sense would create.

Yet the problems with developing leadership in Authoritarian organizations go deeper than that.  One of the biggest problems is a lack of stable social structure for the entire company — because this is subject to rearrangement by the person at the respective top of the system.  This is intrinsically linked to the main problem with Authoritarianism — that the person at the top is in control of the veracity of the knowledge in play.  The short version is that the Authority gets to decide who’s telling the truth.  And if there are no constraints on that person’s power, they can move the deck chairs (with employees in them!) around as they wish to reinforce whatever version of truth suits them at that moment.  The ranking of employees themselves is directly at the mercy  of the whim/impulsive nature of the Authoritarian figure themselves.

And it’s also likely a real Authoritarian is going to become aware of a servant leader arising in their midst, through the appearance of empathetic subgrouping of employees around that individual.  Without any other modifiers, they are going to perceive that person only as a threat to their power and control.  Which will mean the aspiring servant leader will have to be whacked.

We can start to see the beginnings of potential for servant leaders in true Legalistic  v-Meme hierarchies, in that now there are at least some rules that constrain authority.  And while there is not necessarily a level playing field — hierarchies are, well, hierarchies — there are at least some rules about who can talk to who, and some process that has to be followed.  In the case of the prior blog post, it’s more unlikely that Big Boss would scheme with John, the lower level employee, against the servant leader.  And if there were an established culture and examples of how credit was to be delivered, a show of humility by the Servant Leader in the middle would have less chance of being misinterpreted.

Additionally, rules and process for product excellence would likely also be in place.  John, at the bottom, upon completing a deliverable and having it certified — a Legalistic v-Meme construct — would have some external validation of due diligence on their part.  Certification of success is an important part of a trust environment.  Equally important is the lack of responsibility for statistical failure.  John could complete a task, get it certified, and have the servant leader in the middle commend him, without worrying about whether a trap was being set.

While Legalistic systems won’t in and of themselves create atmospheres for servant leadership — in my opinion, they’re more neutral than anything else — they do create the scaffolding for support of servant leadership as the company evolves.  And creating scaffolding is necessary for access to those higher v-Memes where Performance and Community can take off.  At the Legalistic v-Meme level, you can start the process of establishing global standards that take away from the authority of the Authoritarian — and creates a system that people can move, connect and develop, at some level independent of one person’s idiosyncrasies.

That’s not to say you couldn’t have a person in an Authoritarian organization put in their time until they got to the top of the organization — and then totally emerge as a servant leader, and rearrange everything beneath them.  But now we are once again in the realm of the Exceptional Individual.  Hardly a predictable way to assure long term continuity and performance.

Takeaways:  The Legalistic/Absolutistic v-Meme provides important scaffolding for the emergence of servant leadership.  But it is typically not sufficient in and of itself.

Further Reading:  Reflecting on the last two posts, it should come as no surprise that servant leadership maps well to Plato’s idea of a philosopher king — an individual who was not only a just and fair Authoritarian, but one capable of creating Legalistic/Absolutistic systemic thought that would constrain their own actions.  For those that have been following this blog for a while, it should also come as no surprise that being a philosopher king was probably the best that someone in ancient Greece could aspire to, as the society Plato wrote about was just past the Chthonic Transition into stable Authoritarianism with emerging principles of Legalism.  Old Plato stretched as much as he could — the idea of higher-level synergistic networks was simply unavailable.

Societal Post — How Access and Acceptance of Higher v-Memes Affect Student Success

Botticelli Selfie

Botticelli Selfie – Father and Son — at the Uffizi Museum, Firenze (Florence), Italy

A very interesting piece from the Washington Post came across my e-desk today.  Titled “These kids were geniuses — they were just too poor for anyone to discover them” it profiles the admissions process in Broward County, Florida, that was studied by researchers David Card, of the University of California at Berkeley, and Laura Giuliano, of the University of Miami, both economists.  The report showed that kids from poorer areas had largely been overlooked in the process of admission, largely because there had to be a referral for an IQ test for the student to be considered for the programs.  This changed when a policy universally screening second-graders was put into place.

Not surprisingly, to readers of this blog, when such a policy was put into place, minority participation jumped.  “This is, in a way, even more serious,” Card said. “There may be lots more kids than we realize that are talented, but we’re not getting to them in early grades. Presumably, by the time they’re getting to high school, they’re not going to be in as good a position.”

The piece also discussed the bias in IQ testing between poorer and wealthier students.  Not surprisingly, for those that have ever taken an IQ test, those with greater exposure to algorithmic thinking and legalistic/absolutic modes of relational development –i.e. richer kids, did better.  Kids in poorer environments, with more exposure to lower v-Meme environments, instead of practicing more complex rule following and participating in more sophisticated hierarchies more likely in wealthier environments, tended to be more beat down than kids from well-off communities.  From the article:

“Often, gifted children don’t do well in school because they question authority and are seen as troublemakers, Park said. Behaviors that in a wealthy classroom might be viewed as precocious can be perceived as disruptive in low-income classrooms.

Reaching out to parents and teachers was an important part of increasing gifted participation. Some reacted with bewilderment when Park told them that their child might be gifted.

“‘He argues all the time. He can’t be gifted until he learns respect,’” Park recalls one mother telling her.”

Compound that with a lack of appropriate role models — the key element for appropriate development of young people, due to their strong dependency on mirroring behavior — one can see that there are strong v-Meme reasons that kids from poorer backgrounds are severely handicapped in pursuing entry.  Not only do they lack development of some of the important core knowledge structures, they also lack the surrounding social structure that would pursue these kinds of opportunities.

There are no easy answers to these kinds of problems.  But it is also not surprising that going after kids in the 2nd grade for recruitment and testing, was successful.  At age 7, though there are still some external advantages that kids from upper-level socioeconomic status might have, the knowledge structure playing field is far more level.  As the article notes, by high school, it is getting to be too late.

The article does not note — but should — the obvious implication of a focus on absolute obedience that is much more prevalent in lower SES situations than higher.  If you’re not obedient, we’ll call in the cops.  And such hair-trigger sensitivities for enforced authoritarianism have a far wider cost than just the obvious amplification of human misery of more kids, doing more jail time.  It cuts a broad swath around killing creativity in the poorer classes, and gives tunnel vision to those inside those communities.  The pervasive authoritarianism promotes a form of metacognitive collapse.  Not only do the kids not know that there is a way out.  The social system itself prevents conception that there might be a way.

And that’s a real tragedy.

Takeaway:  when you structure your company in an authoritarian fashion, the only thing you grow over time is people’s incapacity to learn.  And you also make it impossible to conceive of other ways of doing things.  Which might be fine for a short while — but sooner or later, the world changes.  And then you’re screwed.

Further reading:  This Post on Metacognition I wrote a little more than a month ago gives insight in how we know what we don’t know.  This insight unlocks a path into how companies, organizations, and societies self-sabotage when they go more authoritarian — as shown so profoundly in the example above.  Emphasize obedience uber alles and you’re digging yourself into a v-Meme hole you’re not likely to escape.  Because the Principle of Reinforcement will spread those same meta-values everywhere.

How What You Think About God Can Tell You Who You’re Picking as Your Business Advisor

Arm Around Minnie

Cute Chinese Chicks in front of the Olympic Stadium, Beijing.  Minnie’s a Dude, in case you were curious… now think about how you can tell just from the photo!

My son, last night, brought home an assignment from his high school literature class, basically asking him to explore the ontological intimations of a given viewpoint on the infinite.  The short version of the prior word salad is this:  what do we think God is, and how can we understand that?

Fair enough.  Because I am, well, who I am – or maybe a function of how weird I am, I took this and applied this to understanding our empathetic development, and social/relational structure.  It would stand to reason that the various v-Memes would want a God that lined up with the way that they think.  No surprise there.  But what’s also fascinating is more how it lines up with our comfort with the unknown.  The short version of this is that our own metacognition tells us buckets about how comfortable or uncomfortable we are with giving God definition — or limits.

Naturally, Tribal Gods are going to be present, and likely unpredictable.  Authoritarian Gods are likely to be angry (just like your boss!), and Legalistic Gods are going to have lots of rules.  Better not break ’em!  They might feel sorry for you, but they’re still sending you to Hell.  No echoes of place-taking, rational empathy down here!

Moving up into Performance level v-Memes, we’re going to have affiliated, helpful Gods, whom you get to have your own, personal relationship with.  It’s no surprise that the Protestant Reformation was so big on coming up with a canonical set of rules of reform of things like indulgences (they didn’t call it the Reformation for nothing!) but also removed authorities between the individual and God.  Funny how that happened all around the time of the Enlightenment and such.  Can we say ‘Independent Relational Formation’, anyone?  And I’m sure from my own Catholic upbringing that Communitarian God plays the guitar.  Because the Good Sisters who taught me were a little lacking in musical ability.  No surprise that as our empathy increases, God becomes more understanding, and less likely to send us all to Hell.  One in the Spirit, One in the Lord and all that!  He’d have to go there too.

Talking about religion makes people a little squirmy, regardless who does it.  And since I’ve decided that a lot of my stuff already makes people feel like bugs are crawling around on their brain, I think we should segue into business gurus instead.

How can we tell what v-Meme a given business advice book tops out on?  Look for where they start talking about magic.  Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline, gets to spirituality pretty quickly, though I’d argue we’ve got to cut him a little Second Tier, self-awareness slack.  For the most part, systems thinking is short for legalistic algorithms with an eye toward performance.  Roger Martin puts ‘mystery’ right on top of heuristics, with some Second Tier systemic perspective thrown in as well.  And so it should be no surprise that Design Thinking for Business stops at the Performance v-Meme for the hard-and-fast.  I’m sure there are some other books out there on social capital that map into the Communitarian v-Meme.  But they all cap out sooner or later.  I’m sure there are other writers than the core Wilber/Beck/Cowan group out there in the higher business v-Meme landscape (Eckhart Tolle? Frederic Laloux?) and there obviously have been other, super-evolved business leaders — for real inspiration, read about J. Irwin Miller, one of the architects of Cummins Diesel.

We’re not going to cap out in this blog.  Instead, I’m just going to double down on that metacognition card and admit I don’t know.  And then have the rest of you fill in the blanks.  The reason?  One of my budding theories is that while we may not be able to evolve all of us to a Global Holistic state, if we connect enough of us together, we can, in aggregate, function at those higher levels.  Onward!

Takeaways:  When people start talking about God, or whose business books they like to read, one of the big things they’re telling you is their metacognition and how they process what they don’t know.  A good idea to pay attention!

The Beer Game, the Power of Empathetic Thinking, and the 787

Anneliese Anneliese, at the Garden House in the 13th District of Vienna.  Viennese know how to really play the Beer Game!

One of the interesting examples at the beginning of Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, that’s intended to demonstrate the power of systems thinking, is a game called the Beer Game.  Invented at MIT in the ’60s, Senge uses this in his classes to teach supply chain dynamics.

The basic outline goes like this: In the game, there are three parties ostensibly working together to sell beer:  a retailer, a wholesaler, and a marketing director for a brewery.  The beer in question, ‘Lover’s Beer’ is distributed throughout a network of convenience stores, and the primary mode of communication is a check-mark sheet of how many cases a retailer wants to order on a weekly basis.  Every week, a truck driver brings beer to the retailer, and every week, the retailer hands the order sheet to the truck driver.  The truck driver then aggregates those sheets through the wholesaler, which then goes back to the brewery.

Simple. An exception is inserted into the game that increases demand.  Turns out, a music video is released by a young rock band, and demand starts to climb.  The cascade of circumstances with retailers starting to order more beer, and wholesalers demanding more leads to consternation and increased production at the brewery.  The end game is that because there is a lag in the actual production of beer — it takes two weeks, at least, to brew, there is overshoot.  The effect of the video wears off, and demand levels off back at the standard, pre-video level.  All three players end up with extra stock that they can’t get rid of, and everyone is unhappy.

Senge makes very clear in his book that everyone playing is NOT allowed to talk to each other — they have an externally defined relationship with each other, and that’s that.  No one has time for anything else — classic power structure/hierarchical behavior.  The only communication that comes is simplex-type information sheets that show aggregate beer orders in one direction (from customer to brewery/wholesaler), and then, of course, the actual beer in another (from brewery/wholesaler to the customer.)  Senge, though likely not an Authoritarian himself,  is no stranger to Authoritarian v-Meme systems — he prescribes no conversation, overwork, and the vast availability inside a given convenience store as part of the game.  Fragmentation, fragmentation, fragmentation.

But what becomes fascinating is how he ends the game, which at some level is a plea for changing what engineers would know as an open-loop system (no corrective feedback possible) to a closed loop feedback system — a very algorithmic approach, where some control signal is ‘fed back’ either upstream or downstream to modulate the oversupply production.  He has the retailer and the marketing manager at the brewery sit down and have a conversation — right before, in the story, the marketing manager resigns for the overproduction of beer.

What’s even more fascinating is that Senge’s role-play of the marketing manager has the marketing manager quit to save his reputation — a status-based, lower v-Meme behavior if there ever was one.  Instead of arguing that this marketing manager has been through this boom-and-bust cycle once now (he was hired at the start of the game!) and now is Wise After the Event, the guy is canned.  What he’s doing, of course, is expressing how Senge views the world — he, like all of us, can never escape the dominant v-Memes that we have inside of our head — in this case, like the book, a plea for a combination of Legalistic v-Meme thinking coupled with a Performance/Goal-Based v-Meme evolution.

And then Senge gives us the answer, which is, not surprisingly, systems thinking.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that, at least on a superficial level.  If all three parties understood the interrelationships algorithmically in their supply chain, then these things wouldn’t happen.  We can plunk down modified versions of these forms, or set up some model for understanding slow-down and expansion of system boundaries, and we can eliminate these types of problems.  Senge alludes strongly to communication.  But don’t they already have communication?  The forms with check boxes?  Senge in his own solutions, is v-Meme limited.  And without a larger self-awareness, he can’t see where he might go.

Looking at things from a more global v-Meme perspective, Senge is arguing — rightfully so, in a limited way — that if we had just a little movement from pure, arbitrary, impulsive authoritarianism, to a generalized understanding of the algorithmic laws that govern system behavior, we could dramatically improve system performance.  We would start to see the development of the idea of consequential thought among the actors.  And with increasingly sophisticated understandings of system dynamics, we could develop an increasingly sophisticated predictive model of how to buffer what systems modelers call perturbations to the stability of the system.

But let’s reframe this debate, inserting the empathetic development of independently generated, data-driven, trust-based relationships into the mix.  Instead of title-driven relationships, where we have a retailer, we have Sue, the owner of the convenience store.  Instead of a truck driver, we have Mike.  And instead of a marketing director, we have Pierre. Mike is dropping off beer at Sue’s store.  It’s a small store, and anyone rolling in is immediately noticed — especially someone unloading beer.

“What’s up, Mike?” Sue asks.  “Anyone around selling more beer than usual?  Any promotions, or specials from the head shack?” “Nothing this week, Sue,” he replies.  “Anything unusual on your end?” “Well, I’ve been selling out quicker from this beer — Lover’s Beer.  Kinda weird — it’s not that good,” Sue replies. “I don’t like it,” Mike says.  “But kids nowadays…I’ll see if I can get some more of that.” “Sounds good,” Sue says. Mike goes back to the distributor, and passes the information on about things he’s seen on the route.  A couple of weeks pass, with the same pattern of beer lag that is seen in the original game.  Mike returns to Sue’s store. Sue says “Mike!  I’m selling out of that beer!  Gotta have some more of it, and you’re not bringing any more.  Here’s another order!” And then Mike demonstrates the power of empathetic connection, and the elevation of responsibility that comes when people are connected.  “You know, Sue, I know you want some more.  Seems like they’re backed up at the brewery.  But I’ve been driving a beer truck for a long time, and the last thing I want to do is show up with 40 cases of that crummy stuff and you not be able to sell it.  I’m gonna sit on your order until we can at least fill your backlog.”

One can easily imagine the ripple effects that come with similar dialogues between the truck driver, his other customers, his boss, and Pierre, the marketing manager.  Pierre’s job is to pay attention to who’s out in front of his product placement efforts.  He’s likely seen the video, or heard about it, especially if he’s developed empathetic relationships himself across his network.  If everyone is a sensor on his network, and engaged in duplex, empathetic communication, the aggregate intelligence regarding the extent of the perturbation is quickly known.  The system itself — profoundly dependent on empathy and empathetic relationships — doesn’t have to fix itself to some arbitrary time constant in the system — like the week between ordering, or the two weeks necessary to brew more beer.

Independent relationships can transcend these externalities, and with that changing time scale, adjust themselves to deal appropriately with the effect of the release of a music video.  The entire knowledge structure becomes much more rich, with a much better definition of metacognitive unknowns, like “we just don’t understand much about young kids today!” This is, of course, what I believe Senge, had he had the concept of the dichotomy of relationships, would say.  What is created with just a little empathetic, duplex communication, and a good dollop of independent relational generation, is a far greater, more sophisticated and robust learning organization than one that just learns algorithmic modes of prediction.

Ordinary folks might just call it friendships, or common sense.  But one can see that those labels are misleading.  The actual sophistication embedded in the system, and emergent in times of change, with rapidly changing time scales, is actually a mechanism for maintaining information coherence across all affected parties.  And I’d argue is a much happier solution to the Beer Game than just a fragmented network of titles.

If you think that this example only applies to small-scale situations like beer at a brewery, the whole Boeing 787 supply integration chain is filled with similar stories.  Back in 2004, when Boeing was gearing up to design and manufacture their first composite airliner, the top management staked out Boeing’s new role as solely a systems integrator of parts around the world.  Boeing would sit in the middle, the airplane would be a virtual one first, with an entire digital model sitting out in cyberspace.  Companies from all over the world would be able to bid on whatever parts they thought they could manufacture, and then those parts would converge on the Everett, WA plant, and the new facility in Charleston, SC.

It all SOUNDS good (high status, accepted mental model), and system-y, until one starts to really unpack the reality of the scenario.  And then one starts to realize how deeply flawed and arbitrary the whole idea is. To start, the 787 Dreamliner has around 2.3 million parts.  With an Authoritarian v-Meme set, once the design is made, then parts must be right.  But anyone with just a lick of skepticism would realize that getting 2.3 million parts correctly designed and up on the web for bid is nigh on impossible.  There is no way, in an open loop format, that you could drive the error rate low enough that the plane could fly.  When you add on the issue then of a manufacturer making the parts, and having them all be correct, you can quickly see that the whole airplane would, sooner or later, run into a complexity crisis.

And it did.  From rivet availability to deburring the backs of rivet holes, errors that ended up having to be fixed far downstream in the process from where they originated kept cropping up and delaying first flight — for three years.  Even now, with the relocation of 787 construction to a non-unionized workforce in South Carolina (no Legalistic v-Meme scaffolding!) 787s are rolling off late and losing money — about $10M an airplane. Clearly, higher-level, empathetic emergent dynamics are necessary to create contemporary, high tech products.

In closing, I’ll tell you I was recently at a large American Society of Mechanical Engineers meeting in Montreal, Quebec.  Speaking were several industry leaders, who were, in various ways, addressing this complexity crisis.  When asked what was the source of most of their pressing problems, all said the same thing — “social”. It’s not just about beer.

What is the Sixth Discipline? Looking Back at Senge and Systems Thinking


Fish Creek at high water, Lochsa River tributary, Idaho


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

By far, one of the best management books to appear out of the late ’90s is the text ‘The Fifth Discipline — the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization’ by Peter Senge, a Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-faculty at the Complex Systems Institute.  Senge, if not the inventor of the concept of ‘systems thinking’ was certainly one of the first authors to attempt to mainstream the idea into modern world business culture.

What is systems thinking?  In short, it is the process of realizing that things and outcomes are hooked to each other, and that only by understanding and considering more complex patterns of cause-and-effect, can we develop a more profound understanding of our current situation, as well as future outcomes.  Intrinsic in this is the practice of drawing system boundaries.  Though it may be true that everything in the world is hooked to everything else, determining effective action relies on accurately sizing and including the components of the system one can have effect on.

The book has much to like — in certain ways, Senge has written the management version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, or Russell’s Principia Mathematica — attempts at a completeness of categorization of ways of thoughts, though to be fair, Senge declares multiple times no such aspirations as did Wittgenstein and Russell.

It is an extremely useful read.  Senge lays out many Authoritarian v-Meme modes of thought in contemporary business, and then proposes more complex, algorithmic Legalistic v-Meme patterns in kind of a mix-and-match style throughout the book.  But there are contradictory modes.  Senge, while talking about the organization, spends virtually the whole book talking about teaching the individual.  There is not a single mention of empathy in the whole book, though he alludes to lots of empathetic concepts.  With many of his examples, he compacts and conflates lots of synergistic higher v-Meme behavior, and even alludes quite often to spirituality — which sounds good.  But what does any of it really mean?  There is no real pattern except the selection based on his authority.  And there is precious little attempt to apply systems thinking to systems thinking — a meta-level version of understanding why we do what we do.

That said, understanding his perspective is extremely useful for moving past his ideas and developing more complex, synergistic paradigms.  In many ways, The Fifth Discipline stretches the paradigm of the individual and algorithmic thinking as far as it can likely go.  No one has described a Legalistic v-Meme version of Flatland better.  There is talk of evolution, of course, as well as structure.  And lots of talk about how imposed structure will change organizations.  In a very important way, The Fifth Discipline prepares one for the next step — toward realizing the unending progression of enlightenment proposed through understanding empathetic development and Integral Theory.

What’s at least as interesting is how Senge himself demonstrates how his own social structures limit his own writing.  Senge, as a Senior Lecturer at MIT, is inside his own modestly rigid hierarchy.  The people he largely uses for his business examples are high-status, aspirational and enlightened authoritarians from contemporary business practice in large organizations.  His own thought patterns, also aspirational toward higher connection and empathetic development, must be placed inside the Legalistic/Algorithmic box.  Heuristics, combined heuristics, and Guiding Principle v-Meme thinking are arbitrarily mashed down into the mix, but there is little discrimination or understanding between the separation.  Senge talks a lot about intuition, but intuition without appropriate scaffolding leads to more impulsive thought.  How one gets to profound, intuitive thought is explored somewhat through analogies, and to be fair, he understands clearly the value of experience and goal-based thinking in organizations.

Senge talks quite a bit about  spirituality, and as a personal thing, I am not a big fan.  We do not need the Divine as a way of progressing our organizations and their empathetic development.  It’s not that I am a cold-blooded, chronic rationalist.  It’s just that one of the keys to accepting that one is on some path to higher enlightenment is that our understanding and embrace of metacognition has to be constant.  There will always be information and ways of knowing that we just don’t know — yet.    It was Buddha himself, when asked the famous question “Is there a Buddha higher than Buddha?” that he answered, “well, maybe.  But it’s not me!”

The quote by Arthur C. Clarke at the beginning of this post is particularly insightful.  Whenever we try to perceive things too far above our own developmental v-Meme level, it’s going to appear as magic, or whatever more acceptable term we’d like to apply.  The key is to understand that it is not.  What is required is an embrace of the fundamental humility that we simply have not arrived — and never will.

Star Trek — Good Scaffolding, Bad Scaffolding, and Knowing it When You See It.

Seceshriver (1)

Secesh River, Secesh Roadless Area, Payette National Forest, Idaho

As I discussed in the previous post, v-Meme Scaffolding is important — without it, we open our organizations and our messages to corruption — some of it virtual, some of it quite real.

It might be helpful to understand an example that, over time, have been highly resonant  of both well-scaffolded messages, as well as organizations.  One of my favorites is the original series of Star Trek.  Almost everyone can recognize the four characters below:

Slide03Bridge Crew of the Starship Enterprise, from the Star Trek, the Original Series

For those that forget, we’ve got Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Commander Scott.  No question that these four are a high performance, if not just a little sexist team.  Lieutenant Uhura at least made it on the bridge — a major first — but she was sentenced to answer the phone.

Still the personalities, and their different levels of empathetic interaction, are highly instructive on how they were effective.  Consider the basic plot of the show — the Enterprise is thrust into a situation where there are major metacognitive unknowns — whether it was an unknown alien civilization, or trouble with Tribbles.  There were always Survival-level stakes — the Enterprise was in constant jeopardy of being destroyed.  Yet time and again, this integrative v-Meme team would think their way through the situations, and largely remain friends.

How did that work?  First off, we have Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, head of engineering.  Even though he had an informal nickname — ‘Scotty’ — he was pure Authoritarian.  The Captain was the captain — I have yet to find a single instance where Scotty calls Kirk ‘Jim’.  He’s two v-Memes removed from Captain Kirk, and when the Captain tells Scotty to turn the Warp Drive past maximum, Scotty might say “I don’t know how much longer she can take it, Cap’n!” — but he turns up the dial anyway.  He follows orders.

Next up the v-Meme ladder is Mr. Spock.  A Vulcan, and the chief science officer, he is the master of logical, algorithmic thinking.  He is famous, of course, for mastering his emotions, and viewing this as a pathway to superior status.  Yet time and again, algorithmic thinking, while leading to reliable results, fails the validity test.  The one answer he comes up with might be part of the solution — but not all of it.

For that, we need the more complex, empathetic profile of Captain James T. Kirk.  Ever the integrative, multiple-solution, performance-based thinker, he’s not afraid to assert his authority in times of crisis.  But he also demonstrates a broad range of both emotional empathy, as well as rational empathy.  His ability to trade places with the alien mind enables him to very accurately guess what his adversaries are going to do — and saves the Enterprise from getting blown up on numerous occasions.

Finally there is Dr. McCoy, the deeply empathetic communitarian.  McCoy often speaks as the voice and liaison of those lower in the service hierarchy than any of the bridge officers, and is prone to using a combination of humor and grumpiness — emotional affect — to convey his points.  As a doctor, he processes data for diagnoses of difficult problems.  But he also takes his role in promoting psychological well-being very seriously — and demonstrates a deep sense of emotional empathy.

One of the easiest ways I’ve noticed to diagnose the v-Memes operative in any work environment is how people use titles, as well as the degree of dependence.  Star Trek is no exception.  Scotty NEVER calls Captain Kirk by his first name — typical of a true authoritarian.  Spock mixes it up — calling him Jim in more relaxed situations, as well as Captain when the phasers are firing.  McCoy is famous for almost always calling Captain Kirk by his first name.  Note that this would be extremely consistent with their representative v-Memes.

Additionally, v-Meme conflicts are also well-represented with the characters.  McCoy and Spock are often in conflict — rules vs. exceptions for individuals.  McCoy basically never talks to Scotty — the 3 v-Meme gap would mean they would have a hard time understanding each other anyway.  Captain Kirk sits in the middle of all of them.  Yet even the two level v-Meme difference between Kirk and Scotty pops up every now and again.  In the famous episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ — Scotty and the engineering crew end up getting into a bar fight with some Klingons on a space station.  When interrogated about the brawl, Kirk asks what happened to get things started.  Scotty then goes on to explain that the Klingons had called Kirk many names — but Scotty told the Captain he had specific orders to not get into a fight from him.  So he let it pass.  It was only when the Klingons started insulting the U.S.S. Enterprise — the core sense of Scotty’s identity — that the fists flew.

The original Star Trek premise also promised its viewers a much more egalitarian, evolved, self-aware world — truly embodying the Global Holistic v-Meme.  What is interesting is that after the series ended, a fan community sprouted up, complete with costumes, and Trekkie conventions.  William Shatner even made a movie about it — called Get A Life!  What’s fascinating is that Shatner starts out being very cynical about all the folks participating — but is won over when he recognizes and realizes the higher ideals that this group of geeks are attempting to embody.

I doubt Shatner or the most of the Trekkies have ever thought much about empathetic development.  But it is fascinating that when people come together, under a set of higher guiding principles that everyone has to follow in order to be part of a larger group, that beautiful things can happen.  Even if they involve adults playing dress-up.

Takeaway:  Balanced Teams have balanced v-Memes — and real leaders use this stuff to understand both strengths and weaknesses of how individuals in their organizations work — and process knowledge.  The Original Series Star Trek is a great example that’s easily recognizable of v-Memes on display — and who you want to do what.