An Inquiry into upCREATION

People ask me "What is up creation?" For me it is a word that says a lot. It has hundreds of stories hidden within it. It teases, appeals, speaks a rhythm and a pattern. It speaks to infrastructure, frameworks, culture, and sets me toward a long view, a big hope, and an audacious task.  I found it while reading Kevin Kelly's blog pages.  For me it speaks a world in the becoming and offers many clues and some traps for my next steps. The idea of upcreation hastened  me on to leap my own abyss. I have landed with new understandings.  

Upcreation - self-organization that brings forth an emergent level of complexity that encompasses, without destruction, the previous lower levels of organization.“In the right circumstances self organization can often also be legitimately called self-creation. Without an outside agent, the parts cohere into a new organization that brings forth an "emergent" level or self not present before. Since the new emergent level of complexity encompasses, without destruction, the previous "lower" levels of organization, I call this self-creation of higher levels ‘upcreation.’”

So many interesting words and concepts. Which words and phrases stump you? Like many of the video games today, the secret is in finding meaning and actions for myself in the world, which, of course is me and my assumptions being recreated, or perhaps uncreated.   I toyed with the concept of upcreation for several years. When I suggested we name our Columbia engagement an upCREATION Experience, we all felt the idea settle in our minds. Yes, we said. Then we set about defining it for ourselves.  Four different aspects of upcreation showed up in our minds and stories. Its not a thing, or a process. Rather it is a way, a thread, a search, a partnering with others that  runs through our lives, at least the lives of those who wonder and wander and declare themselves to be lovers of Earth, humanity, and all Universal life.  Simple rules, simple steps, big gains for individuals and universe. 

In 2005, we offered the World Economic Forum the phrase: The Future by Design, not Default.  That was the year "Design" became a phenomena, the word of the month, a salvation, a new market place.  Now it is ubiquitous and rarely understood. What the heck is design thinking or design centered? 

And so the same thing is likely to happen with the word "Upcreation". It is easy to say, fun to say, to put a few words to.  Upcreation is very likely to slip away from its authenticity unless we use it with care ... as a way of exploring ourselves, the way we work together toward finding our way with good information, experimenting, feedback, the shared feelings we have about the past, present, and future.  

As my mind wanders through upcreation and the inspiration it offers me, I find myself sometimes believing myself to be in the midst of Alice's Wonderland, at other times a messy ugly reality for what I see to be our current conditions on Earth. 

I believe that there is no one who can understand upcreation without working their way through it, fiddling with it, asking questions, seeking proof, laughing at the zen way of it.  But, just think if enough of us could experience it as a group and then draw in more groups to find us all creating a world that is now ready, pleading for us for world wide upCREATION.  I think of us as Tomorrow Makers.  

Inquiry.  The dictionary dumbs down the meaning of this word, so I have gone to the Exploratorium for my definition of inquiry.  How often do you go into a white space, a space open and free from your existing assumptions? Your doubts and habits and certainties to inquire about something you know too little about? How many hours a day should be int the state of inquiry?  Inquiry and upcreation  go hand in hand for me. Usually when I spend good time with one or the other, I learn more about both. 

I would love to hear your thoughts, words, characteristics. I need other  views and vantage points, but not either/or thinking.  

Inquiry is the feature for my next journal page.  


Either Or

I think when we rid ourselves of the long held concept of either/or, Earth and all of its life will be a lot better off.  It may have been necessary once long ago in our history to be an either/or kind of thinker, but today?  We need to give AND a lot more room to play.  In today's quantum world, there is no need for the win/lose, you or me, mine or yours, make or break.  Imagine a world that embraces the word "AND' above "but" and "either your are for me or against me" mentalities.  How do we enroll ourselves in Infinite Games, rather than finite games?  

Finite and Infinite Games The Chance of a Lifetime
The rules of the finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must change.
Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.
Finite players are serious; infinite games are playful.
A finite player plays to be powerful; an infinite player plays with strength>
A finite player consumes time; an infinite player generates time.
The finite player aims for eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth>
The choice is yours.
James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games:
A Vision of life as Play and Possibility, 1986 

Some games, of course, are meant to be finite. But Life has got to be played as an infinite game.  This is where surprises challenge, emergence happens, higher order solutions found, life is play. Play is Life.  

Infinite games are not compromises. They explore the heights of creativity. They take us to the edges of our thoughts and then beyond.  They recognize timing, tradeoffs, and each of us as participant in the future of our choice.  

An upCREATION Experience

Upcreation – self-organization that brings forth an emergent level of complexity that encompasses, without destruction, the previous lower levels of organization. In the right circumstances self-organization can often also be legitimately called self-creation. Without an outside agent, the parts cohere into a new organization that brings forth an "emergent" level of self not present before. Since the new emergent level of complexity encompasses, without destruction , the previous "lower" levels of organization, I call this self-creation of higher levels 'upcreation'. Kevin Kelly, What Technology Wants, 2009

Our MG Taylor Axiom "You can't get there from here." has never been more relevant. Indeed, we cannot create a better world using the same framework from which we built and developed the now crumbling, infolding industrial paradigm that brought many of us wealth and good fortune.  Like all creative processes it has reached its end and is now eating and destroying itself.  Thus, we find ourselves entangled in what the science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein, refers to as the crazy years.  Those holding on desperately to the world they know, and the growing percentage of people working to give form to the paradigm unfolding for a more just, humane world are both (mostly) working within an old, dying paradigm.

"But you can get HERE from THERE." is the second part of the above axiom. Here to there, there to here, what is the difference?  The first says "hang on to what we know just go faster, or consume less, or love each other more, or play fair, find the answer."...all good actions but they can't take hold because they still are trying to strenghten, understand and make better the existing paradigm. "You can get HERE from THERE" comes within an entirely different framework.

So what are the right circumstances that we are looking for? How do we bring forth through self-organization an emergent level of complexity that encompasses, without destruction, the previous lower levels of organization? I think we must Leap the Abyss before we can truly design from THERE back to HERE.  And that's scary to let go of what we know to be true and to trust in ourselves, our own knowledge and that of our friends and colleagues and bosses.  What does Kelly's quote mean when it says "without distruction"?

Stuart Kauffman in his book, Humans in a Creative Universe offers: "the process of reinventing the sacred requires a fresh understanding of science that takes into account complexity theory and the ideas of emergence. It will require a shift from reductionism, the way of thinking that still dominates our scientific world view." The existing paradigm declares that everything past, present, and future can be known. Science today is born of complexity, whole systems, adjacent possibles and emergent properties. It is not reductionist, but expansive moving from pre-adaptive to adjacent possibles.  In this world, reality is ours to choose not be driven by some other force. It states the universe and humans within are inherently creative and curious, constantly expanding possibilites. 

This then is the THERE we find when we leap the abyss: A creative universe working with us to create the world of our choice.  For many years there have been scores of us making attempts to leap the abyss, to wake into a new reality. We have made many tries over time.  So then, here is the good news.  Prigogine found that state chages, or phase transitions occur when about 10% difference is added to a culture. I think that the 10% is here. It is in within our midst but fragmented and incomplete.  Our work now is to work together enfolding and unfolding ideas, process, visions of our THEREs, authoring the world we choose. Clearly it is time to scale, but with a fresh understanding. "Without an outside agent, the parts cohere into a new organization that brings forth an "emergent" level or self not present before."

What is this self, not present before? As we reorganize and work differently together, I believe we will author our new selves into fresh possibilities.

That is the offering for our upCREATION Experience; it is discoveries we will make through our inquiries, and conversations, and deep dives into the past and the future. It is the network created together, the self-authoring we will do as we come to fully understand the hope and actions within upCREATION.  Apply now. Let's augment our practices together!

We Play in Centuries!

In civilizations with long nows, says Brian Eno, "you feel a very strong but flexible structure . . . built to absorb shocks and in fact incorporate them."  From The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand, 1999

When Matt and I began working together, he was just coming out of two years of deep learning and reading. He was looking at the patterns embedded within Cybernetics and systems theory, requisite variety and other systems coming out of the 30 and 40s.  We both read Future Shock and many, many other books on the future.  Many were brilliant until the end.  But in the end, no one offered brilliant solutions; in fact, there were no solutions leading to a better world.  The ideas fizzled out or were merely small linear transition steps. 

Matt was teaching a course: Redesigning the Future and part of his assumptions were:

  • There would be as much global social/economic and technology change in the next 30 to 40 years as there had been since the middle ages;
  • That most individuals had more capability then kings and queens of the past.
  • Each of us had more freedom and license to change and design our world than any time in known history.

I was working in education where everyone should have been thinking and designing for the future. Success for a teacher is 15 to 25 years in the future when their students would mature and begin to shape their own futures. Thinking beyond getting students through the year was rare for teachers.

It was clear to us that the future was happening by default, not design!

Thus as we designed and developed our first group workshop focusing on the future. We incorporated Matt's assumptions into our thinking. One of the first modules we did was a 100 year time line ... 50 years back and 50 years into the future.  Since our first workshops were family inclusive we had a number of young children who participated in creating the time line.  It was an amazing snap shot of a future in the making.  Participants moved backwards and forwards writing down their memories and assumptions.  Great fun and participation.  One idea sparked another and another as people came up one at a time and added a thought.  It was a worthy part of our SCAN. They began to see how they could shape the future, using the new found capabilities Matt had shared with them. And, best of all, participants, all from different sectors of a community began to trust each other. They were creating something together!

By the early 80's we had incorporated our into our vision the idea: "Everyone engaged in rebuilding Earth as a work of art"  Many of the participants were contributing powerful ways of seeing and sensing patterns.

Then we began working with Ernst & Young and while they put up with it, SCAN was just something they had to get their clients to endure. The time line was no longer essential, or if it was, maybe we could move it out five to ten years from the present.  Clearly the future vision and near term were in no meaningful way connected, one to the other.  As Ernst & Young sold to Cap Gemini, the time line got more and more sub optimized. It became tactical instead of exploratory, visionary, inpactful. This is not to say the work they did was not useful. It was and is. But rarely, does it ask enough of participants to think big, be bold, or to step up to transformation.

I tried several times to reserect the importance of playing with the future, looking at possiblities. Never did Matt or I see this as forecasting or predicting but rather an informed brainstorm.  The more we opened ourselves to the possibilities put on the timeline, the more prepared we would be to see reality when it came our way and could respond to it by design, not default. 

In the fall of 2014, a few of us met in Victoria and I once again incorporated the time line into the overall design of our two days together. It began slow but as our conversations warmed up to different thoughts it became more and more apparent that thinking about the future, playing long term, was at the core of our process and method.  We were about so much more than helping a corporation, or non-profit, or government deisgn for a six-month gain! As humans creating a world far into the future, our responsibility was to become foresighted, visionary, fruitful. This was practical and important.  We held the idea close wanting to develop it more, wanting it to become rich, essential, and not get dumbed down to fit within a tiny window.  We met again in 2015 with a slightly larger group and gave it more meaning. 

Since that time, I think each of us present in those sessions have been including We Play in Centuries concept in different ways.  I have liked the ways we have used it and how participants are stepping up and engaging with the future.  Each round brings new ideas and possibilities.  I actually think that an exciting one or two day event could be wrapped within We Play in Centuries and I'm looking for people who think so too! This is the work of Tomorrow Makers. 

Matt and I began our work in the 20th century. We are now well into the first 1/5 of the 21st century.  Our children may well be facing the quesion for how long they want to live. Forever? Perhaps. Certainly well into their 100's.  What kind of world are we creating for the 22nd century? Will we use our power? Our design essence? Our communities to create the world as a work of art?

Let's create a civilization with a long healthy now!



Niche Economies

Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I am not the same, the next question is who am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!"

Sunday mornings are days for me to muse and reflect. Today Ive been thinking about "THE ECONOMY". What is the economy I wonder.  In the early 80's we talked about the emerging Global Economy which morphed into the Information Economy, which after some years became the knowledge economy. Now, with increasing rapidity I hear the terms Experience Economy, DIY Economy, Entrepreneur Economy, Gift Economy, Network Economy, Generative Economy, and finally the Nourishment Economy. I love the last two! What would it be like to live in  Generative or Nourishment Economies?

Or perhaps there is no more global economy or one economy from which everyone tries to find themselves.  Maybe we are entering the age of  Niche Economies or many parallel universes happening at once. 

When Nature regenerates it throws out thousands of seeds in order to generate a few. Perhaps as we leave the dying industrial economy and are in the midst of defining the new, it is natural to throw out dozens of ideas and possibilities before choosing ones most fit for our age and emerging possibilities.  How is it we make the healthier economies be the ones that thrive and live while the others lay dormant, unrealized? And what are the unintended consequences of having many simultaneous economies? What is the exchange rate, one for the other?How many can I live in at once?



Our 2016 Stories


Growing up we had a tradition of going to a great movie on Christmas Eve. This Christmas we were able to have that experience again. My two sons, their wives, and our two grandsons went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We watched in awe in 3-D IMAX theater.  Some of the time, we felt we were there in the midst of the story. 

During the movie, however, I couldn't help but think of the war and destruction that occupied almost every scene.  And thinking back over the past few years, it seems to me that there was an overwhelming number of viscous battles and end of the world Armageddon visions. 

William James, philosopher and psychologist, once said that "We must develop a moral equivalency to war". It seems we are far from that. To my six year old Grandson, war is glorious and fun.  Many of the best selling movies are full of heroes and anti-heroes.  I understand Joseph Cambell's writings on the Hero's Journey and can certainly see that it is an essential part of becoming human and in that vein,  I can enjoy movies like The Force Awakens and the ongoing saga of good and evil. 

However, I wonder where the balance of the healthy, unwaring stories are. Who is writing them? Who is telling the stories of the new world in the becoming? There is good news popping up everywhere, but I must look for it, amongst the horrible news that our current media focuses on... and often misrepresents or in some cases fabricates for its own uses.  In 2015 there were a number of turning points.  I call them Janus moments where the head turns from looking back and assuming more of the same, to looking forward with optimism and hope.  The Paris talks was one such point but there were a number of them.  I put more than 200 articles in my Evernote data base about things occurring that have the potential to change the nature of how we work and live and play together.  Some will take years to unfold and cause us in mass to change our perception of what is possible but many signs are showing up everyday.  The adjacent possible is wiring itself around the old established fear based paternal way of thinking and behaving and finding exciting new avenues to travel.  Hopefully some of these ideas will begin showing up in our movies and books and dinner conversations.  We so desperately need the stories that can carry us forward toward a new world, one born of co-design, collaboration, and a world fit for all life. 

A participant in one of our events once said after a session, "My Mom always said when good things happened that they were too good to be true.  But, now going forward I will say about good ideas "This is good enough to be true."

May 2016 be full of stories good enough to be true! Let's uncover and write all the stories deserving a place in our history and our future. What if in each classroom, the day began with asking students for good news? Perhaps then, these good news stories could be folded into a longer story, maybe even a book written by our young minds. And, what if these classroom stories became part of dinner conversations and FaceBook stories. We, the people, are the ones creating this new world. Let's tell the stories!


The evolution of the Knowledge Worker

"Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an "executive" if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results". - Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive (1966)

“The task decides, not  the name, the age, or the budget of the discipline, or the rank of the individual applying for it. Knowledge, therefore, has to be organized as a team in which the task decides who is in charge,  for what, and for how long." - Peter Drucker, The Age of Discontinuity, 1968

In 1981 as Matt and I were developing our method and process, we called upon Drucker's use of Knowledge Worker to identify our way of working.  We fused Drucker's term with my work from the Learning Exchange re experiential education, and Matt's work with building crews and his studies in complexities.  We intuitively understood that the complexities of the future would require a deep understanding of collaboration and knowledge exchange.  We tied in Howard Garner's work with different intelligences and our understanding and support of the knowledge worker began to unfold.  Very few understood what we were doing as most facilitation processes were formed by a lead expert facilitator and several supporting administrator, organizers.  Even those on our team that we called Knowledge Workers balked. Few understood Drucker's understanding of the emerging future. 

Neither Matt nor I wanted to grow a large organization so our response was a network of knowledge workers.  Our dream for KWs was that they could give us about two weeks a month and for the other month they could do their writing, art, science, school or what have you.  We created a pay system that would provide freedom to pursue their dreams.    Needless to say, we were ahead of the game.

However, in the 80's there were massive layoffs from the large corporations. They were forsaking their belief in life time employment.  Fast Company responded with an article call A Brand Called You and Tom Peters wrote a book called the same.  Companies of One were beginning to emerge.  The bubble also forced people out on their own.  This was a fertile time for incubation and beginning the quickening of the knowledge worker. 

The knowledge workers, born of the MG Taylor process were several steps ahead.  One, they were already a network and had learned the art of collaboration and design.  They knew how to find each other and they established a sapient leadership spirit amongst them.  Two, and perhaps most important, they had learned how to play as a core part of the work.  They became designers, makers, doers and players ... some of the most sought after skills today. 

Today, articles like The Dark Matter of Open Making; Six ways work will change in 2016; Meet KEE, A Social Network for Tackling Societal Problems. In my mind these all grew out of Peter Druckers first definition and the MG Taylor understanding for how Knowledge Workers would in the long run, help shape a new economy. 

I think we are all born natural makers and knowledge workers. The good news is that the Millenials don't seem to be outgrowing this natural inclination.Over the years ahead, knowledge workers will take many different forms and seek to make differences in all kinds of ways.     In Druckers words "The task decides not  the name, the age, or the budget of the discipline, or the rank of the individual applying for it."  Just think what we can do!


As I'm finishing this, I'm listening to KQED's Forum and Tim O'Reilly talking about the market place of the future.  Right now he is talking about a base income for all and what it could and will facilitate! What fun!


What Do You Do With An Idea?

In the light of the great value placed upon creativity, a stranger to our planet might infer that it is rare indeed. Yet nearly all of the characteristics of the creative mind are present in young children! The child explores the environment, coins words, synthesizes phrases. S/he relishes surprises and copes with a challenge. S/he daydreams, discovers, asks questions unceasingly. Her perceptions are fresh, strictly his own."

Marilyn Ferguson, The Brain Revolution, 1973

My son, Todd, gave me a precious Mother's Day gift.  What Do You Do With An Idea is a book written for the child within each of us.  Kobi Yamada, writer, and Mae Besom, illustrator have produced a wonderful book revealing how ideas come into your life, sometimes invited, sometimes not. 

Where did it come from? Why is it here? What do you do with an idea?

It is true, at least for me, that my best ideas come to me. They do not come from me. It is true that in the beginning, they seem to settle within my head as a tiny seed.  They demand attention. 

I can act like it doesn't belong to me, I can walk away from it.  But it follows me. 

The authors unfold the story as the idea grows and demands attention and stewardship. 

But there was something magical about my idea. I had to admit, I felt better and happier when it was around.

It wanted food. It wanted to play. Actually, it wanted a lot of attention!

It grew bigger and we became friends.

And finally, the idea gets accepted and a friendship evolves...

Then, one daym something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my eyes. It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky!

I don't know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn't just a part of me was now part of everything!

And then, I realized what you do with an idea... you change the world!

A colleague and I once set out to write a book about where ideas come from. We covered our white walls with potential content. Our thoughts were filled with inspiration and ideas that showed up in this book. But, they were far more complex and convoluted.  Now reading this book, I think we missed the mark by not asking the idea for the book to lead us, to write the story. Instead we tried to time box it, control it, influence it with complex ideas.  We let the idea slip away.  But it didn't die; it found a new home, a new way to grow into something wonderful and precious!


What's in a Logo?


Tomorrow Makers has a new logo. (see above) Our first one was designed 14 years ago by Alicia Bramlett and we still love it.  The earth colors, shapes, and red thread running through it create a rich narrative.  We have had many, many complements on it.  I sometimes asked strangers what it conveyed  of Tomorrow Makers and I got back words like "beauty", "earth/nature", "parts and whole", "red thread ties together".  Pretty good!

In the beginning neither Todd nor I had any idea for what we were looking for, especially since we still appreciated the work of Alicia. But it seemed time to put out a new story and so Todd and I went to our colleague, Alfredo Carlo @ Housatonic Design Network, with a request to design something new for us.    Emails went back and forth from us to Alfredo and his teammates at Housatonic in  Bologna, Italy, for about six months as we were in no special hurry. Each iteration got us closer to what we were looking for.  Todd and I struggled with purpose.  In the beginning it was easier to tell what was not us, then to know what was us!  With extraordinary patience, Alfredo, Rayane, and Elena, and others provided rich design images and narritives as to what they represented.  Because of these, Todd and I came closer to knowing our own story.  We were able to articulate concepts that embedded natural life forms, Fibonacci concepts, the unfolding and enfolding of conversations each so much a part of our process They even incorporated Kevin Kelly's "Nine Laws of God" for how to create something out of nothing.  We saw each term as something embedded in everything we do. 

A few weeks later we received this graphic from the team:

 Click on the image to see it.

Here was our whole story! We could hardly wait to see how they would distill this very full image into a simple logo. Can you find the final design within this complex graphic?

Several weeks later we got a wonderful PDF back with our logo, how the design unfolded within the team, and a display for how the logo would play on a letterhead, business cards, brochures, web pages, and proposals. 

I think the most important thing for us, besides, the image, was to know the love, and intellect that the Housatonic team invested in our need.  Now, when I see the logo I can feel the Housatonic energy behind it.  And, we are not alone. The first time Todd and I used the logo for a proposal, we were complimented first and foremost on our logo! Now, I am waiting for the printer to phone telling me that my new business cards are ready. I have not had cards for years, but I will be happy to have these to hand out. 




Libraries and Museums

Recently Tomorrow Makers facilitated an event with Simmons College with partners from Illonois and Toronto Universities, funded by the Institute of Museums and Libraries.  Fifty three participants came from all aspects of information services .... librarians, museum curators, archivists of countries and the Internet, researchers, social media, schools of design, engineering, and education.  They came to explore the future of information services and to begin to design curriculum to meet the challenges of the future. 

Throughout the three days we were together I was constantly reminded of how much this group cares about their work. This was the first time all of the various aspects of information services had come together to design together.  They were hungr