Why CI

Let’s start with this: why am I making a shift away from my IT background to interpersonal problem solving? From the outside, I am enjoying a perfectly successful career: since 2002, I have worked in (or adjacent to) academic research as a data scientist / programmer. At the same time, during the first 20 years of the century, much has happened technologically and culturally.

We went from being sparsely connected in the digital world to a hyper-connected state in which we can choose who to talk and listen to. Concurrently, we went from relatively higher levels of intra-cultural trust—people within the same culture feeling more strongly that they share a common understanding—to a state of a much decreased interpersonal quality of connection outside of “friend bubbles” or “topic networks”, made possible by technology.

This created a fracturing of the “shared trust space” into bubbles and tribes, something that according to Integral Theory could be considered a cultural regression into tribalism. And so my experience of what problems exist today that are worth investing my time and effort into has shifted. For all of my life, I have been most intrigued by “solving problems”. And this question arises for me: are problems today mostly due to technological or “political”—that is to say interpersonal—limitations?

From my perspective, we’re at a crossroads: at the end of World War II, we learned the terrible cost of unquestioning obedience to power. After much soul searching, Western cultures seem to have come to the conclusion that where people obey orders without the possibility of intervening, this can lead to disastrous outcomes. And so, somewhat under the radar maybe, our expectations of how superiors treat the people working for them have shifted from a model of “power over people” to an aspiration for a model of “power with people”.

We are giving expression to the desire and longing that people across a hierarchy share a vision of what is to be achieved, and that as part of that shared vision people also experience trust in the respective other levels.

This does not mean that hierarchies are to be dismantled—they are a vital source of agility when the need arises to coordinate rapid shifts in behavior across a large collection of people. When everyone working at a company is asked to upgrade their computer’s operating system (OS) to avoid infiltration by malicious software, it is important that upper management can trust that everyone will indeed do so. In short, the expectation of obedience is not, in itself, bad.

What is important for people to appreciate is that for this expectation to be responded to with actual obedience, people who need to act this way must experience some form of trust in that obeying is, in fact, the best course of action they have available. And for that to be true—outside a model of reinforcing obedience with punishment and rewards—it requires that everyone is able (if not encouraged) to express whenever they experience resistance to implementing the instructions coming from management.

If that trust is broken, which can happen due to a whole variety of causes, people particularly in Western cultures will develop resistance. This resistance will prevent the organization from functioning properly, and can be expressed either by internalization (such as depression or anxiety disorders on part of the workforce) or externalization, maybe at worst a rebellion and break-down of the organization.

I believe that Conscious Intentionality can help if—and generally only if—everyone in the organization can appreciate and become fully aware that the expectations of the game have changed. Then it becomes possible to adopt different attitudes, learn new skills, and over time re-develop the necessary sense of trust to reduce internal friction. Currently wasted effort going into resistance and resistance-breaking strategies can then be put to better use in production of value that can be shared with everyone in the economy.