We know all too well, living in highly complex societies with many hundreds of options for living, that making ethical decisions often puts us at odds with the main stream of our culture and peer group. Again, a question is needed, “Do we make decisions that please others and our own self-interest, or do we make decisions that sustain future generations?” It is a choice, but it goes far beyond that. By fulfilling those Values and Ethics Statements, our lifestyles will change eventually and our culture will bend toward ongoing social stability and peace.
For those who live and work in the day-to-day context of our societies, governments, and corporations, knowing how to apply the moral and ethical option-development, choice-making, decision-making, and action-implementation that is in alignment with those values is a fairly straight forward process by using a “logic-device” that I call the Social Sustainability Design and Validation Schematic, page 73. 10
Very briefly, using the Schematic is more simple than it appears and usually begins by filling in column #7, Expectations. Next, in column #6, Criteria for Fulfillment, write what you need to do to fulfill those expectations. Proceed now to column #8, Beliefs. What beliefs do you have that set up your expectations? Are there any assumptions that you are aware of? And so on to the other columns.
The logic of the Schematic lends itself to
a) designing new social and organizational processes;
b) re-designing existing social processes, non-profit organization founding documents, and social policies; and
c) validating existing social processes, founding documents, laws and social policies as being in alignment with the values and ethics of the proactive morality, or not.
The Schematic proactively encourages individuals and organizations to seek options, make decisions, and take actions that are validated by each value and their combination as being moral and ethical.
The Team and the Schematic. When the Schematic is used in a team environment many of the mysteries for the failure of social policies will be revealed. The Schematic is essentially a learning device. 11 The Team structure and team member roles working with the Schematic and the seven values provide a learning environment and antidote to the “fragmentation” that David Bohm writes about in his book, On Dialogue. Fragmentation occurs because of the misunderstandings about the beliefs and expectations people have for any topic. Dialogue, as Bohm defines it, exposes beliefs and assumptions in a healthy process.
When assumptions are not exposed, misunderstandings occur leading to fragmentation in the dialogue. Because fragmentation can occur very easily, the methodology of the Schematic requires the team to diligently examine their beliefs and hidden assumptions. The Schematic answers that most pragmatic of all questions, “What works?” 12 to support functional relationships and social stability. The Schematic is capable of revealing the presence of unproductive beliefs and their underlying assumptions.
Peter Senge writes, “The discipline of team learning starts with ‘dialogue,’ the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine ‘thinking together.’” And, “Team learning is vital because teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations. This [is] where ‘the rubber meets the road’; unless teams can learn, the organization cannot learn.” (Senge, 1994).
Exposing assumptions is a vital process of the Team. If Team member’s assumptions are not exposed but simply included in the Team’s designs, then it is very likely the designs will be flawed and eventually fail.
The reasons our beliefs and expectations can diverge so much arises from the differences of what we learned from our culture, family, and our own personal conclusions about values.
What tips us off to underlying assumptions is our emotional reaction to differences as this. They are the evidence of what challenges our relationships with the other people. When we thought that everything was smooth sailing with our friends, suddenly we find a “disturbance in the force” of our relationship with the other person. To get the relationship back on track it is necessary to engage in logical dialogue techniques that reveal the hidden assumptions related to the subject of discussion.
Caveat — Because the seven values are far different from the illogical traditional values, introducing them to your organization, family, church, and other situations will raise a good deal of confusion. That is evidence of “hidden assumptions” that have not been reconciled.
Briefly, people assume that their traditional values are the best values. But because traditional values have never been examined in a comparison to a proactive, logic-based set of values that are tied intrinsically to our species, these assumptions have remained hidden. When that assumption is examined, we come to know what it is — grossly inadequate to support the moral and ethical social evolution of democratic societies. More importantly, it does not support our maturing positive intra-personal relationship and interpersonal relationships.
The mischief of assumptions. To say “values” is to also say “beliefs” because when we value something, then we believe those values must be expressed in our lives. And to say “beliefs” is also to say “assumptions.” They are silent, spoken sotto voce under our breath and inaudible to your listener and even to the speaker. Because of unexposed, underlying assumptions, personal choices and decisions will vary from one person to the next and from one society to another, even though they hold the same beliefs.
When you see inexplicable differences in beliefs and expectations, look for unexposed assumptions. Then it becomes time to ask that all important and revealing question, “If we hold the same values, why are our beliefs and expectations for fulfilling those values so different?” That is the time for engaging effective dialogue techniques to uncover the assumptions of each person. Although the seven values may become well accepted, the reasons our beliefs and expectations can diverge so much arises because of the differences of what we learned from our culture, family, and our own personal conclusions.
The final test for both parties is to validate their individual beliefs and expectations by looking for unexposed and unrevealed assumptions. The Schematic is very helpful in the dialogue process. When each of you fill in your own copy of the Schematic, work forward from Column #6, Criteria of Fulfillment, to Column #7, Expectations, and then to Column #8, Beliefs, and then to Column #9, Interpreted Values, you will have a record of what you believe and why.
Now compare your individual Schematics. Examine each other’s material in the same column. Begin to discuss their validity using the Seven Innate Values in Column #10. You will quickly see for yourself what is not consistent, and what is. Then you can compare those inconsistencies to discover where, when, and from whom you learned them. The seven values provide the final validation.
To take a step further, you could develop your own Logic-Sequence for your values, in the form of Moral Definitions, Ethics Statements, and Expressed Ethics. In the time it takes to complete this dialogue process, either by yourself, or with another person, you will have begun to understand how your beliefs and assumptions have guided you in your life, either as a benefit or as the cause of confusion or unhappiness.
The difficulty of achieving peace arises because people of different races, cultures, ethnicity, and genders have different traditionally interpreted values, beliefs, hidden assumptions, and expectations.
The process discussed above can be replicated in a Team environment with two parties, (labor and management, city gangs, two parties, married or similarly committed couples, with different agendas but similar goals, and many others), who are in opposition but willing to negotiate. To make the process of achieving peace possible, it is necessary that each member of the team has the same intention, confidence, and courage to engage and challenge their own beliefs, and those of the other members.
Validating Our Beliefs. For the good working order of the team, it is important to examine beliefs without judging them as good or bad, or the individual from whom they came! Further, this can be done easily in a team where you feel emotionally and socially safe to ask questions that will help reveal assumptions. For example, “When did you first begin to hold this belief/opinion/assumption? From whom did you hear this belief/opinion/assumption? And so on.
Within the Team, when differences of beliefs are discovered, it will become necessary for its good working order to examine those beliefs to determine how they morally, ethically, and proactively contribute to the sustainability of our civilization, national societies, communities, family, and ultimately the individual — not just for this year, but as they contribute to the development of sustainability 50 to 250, and 1,000 years ahead. Yes, 1,000 years is not too much to contemplate. That is why when you think of sustainability, think at two levels, the ideal envisioned future outcome, and the developmental steps that must be implemented to attain that ideal outcome.
Validating Assumptions. We tend to live our lives minute-by-minute and day-by-day with incredible lists of beliefs in mind, never thinking of the unexposed assumptions that support those beliefs. Most of us simply accepted the beliefs, assumptions, and expectations that were tacitly included in conversations with our parents and other authority figures when we were children. It is essential for the development of sustainable organizations and the possibility of peace that the fundamental beliefs and assumptions of the organization’s culture are exposed and validated.
On a societal level assumptions are the soft sand that is quickly eroded when tragedies wash across communities and nations. David Bohm tells us,
“When things are going smoothly there is no way to know that there’s any thing wrong — we have already made the assumption that what’s going on is independent of thought. When things are represented, and then presented in that way, there is no way for you to see what is happening — it’s already excluded. You cannot pay attention to what is outside the representation. There’s tremendous pressure not to; it’s very hard. The only time you can pay attention to it is when you see there is trouble — when a surprise comes, when there’s a contradiction, when things don’t quite work.
However, we don’t want to view this process as a ‘problem,’ because we have no idea how to solve it — we can’t project a solution.” 13
Succinctly, what Bohm is saying is this, “You cannot be aware of what you need to know, if you don’t know already,” … until a crisis comes along to wake you up. All along you assume that everything is ok.
The biggest assumption that amounts to a grand societal lie is that “Everything is fine.” The Social Sustainability Design and Validation Schematic has an uncanny knack for exposing assumptions of our traditional morality and ethics, and the beliefs and assumptions of our culture and larger societies, nationally and internationally. But it takes courage to begin. Perhaps the biggest untested assumption I’ve made is that the citizens of democratic nations are concerned about the survival of their way of life, and will become engaged in designing a sustainable future for their children and great, great, grandchildren. But then, perhaps they only see that “everything is fine.”
While most people will agree on the seven values, their logic will challenge those same people to make decisions that support the equality of everyone’s sustainability. But, for a community or society to become socially sustainable into an indefinite future, all beliefs and assumptions of traditional morality must be validated to answer the primary question, “Do these beliefs (policies) work? Do these beliefs and their assumptions contribute to the sustainability of ALL individuals, families, communities, and societies for all time?”
Never before has any organization, society, culture, or civilization been challenged with the capability of designing its own sustainable and moral destiny. We have learned only so slowly that when citizens are sustained, their nation is sustained. The work of Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, and his later book, Collapse, points clearly to the necessity of public and organizational policies that intentionally support the social sustainability of all citizens, families, communities, and the larger society.
Relying upon traditional top-down social and political management and governance practices using the traditional morality, values, and beliefs are no longer sufficient to solve social problems or even delay the inevitable. They are no longer sufficient to lead our people and move our communities and nations into a sustainable future. Further, the traditional model of democracy that uses the easily manipulated traditional morality is too slow and too stubbornly invested in established positions, rather than being adaptive and flexible.
Because the seven values are universal to all people, the synergism of those values, the Schematic, and Design Team Members can take place anywhere in the world to make a moral contribution of their designs to democratic societies and governments worldwide. No central authority or control is needed to begin because the people already have the power.
Caveat — Patience is required. History demonstrates that it takes many decades, even centuries, to build a civilization, but only years or decades to decline and even collapse. Building a morally sustainable global civilization will require conscious and deliberate intention to initiate, and may take decades and centuries to complete — that and an awareness that positive and constructive social change will be a constant annoyance until then.
10 For a detailed explanation of the Schematic and how to use it, please see Social Sustainability Design Team Process.
11 Senge, Peter M. 1994 The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Performance of the Learning Organization.
12 Wright, Kurt 1998. Breaking The Rules, Removing Obstacles to Effortless High Performance. CPM Publishing, Boise, ID ISBN: 0-9614383-3-9
13 Bohm, David On Dialogue (2004): 68.