"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Human of the 21st Century


The world of today is like a spider web

The following chapters work from the small; the individual self, to the bigger picture of the universe humans live in. The human, followed by its social environment, the business environment, the greater world and the universe are all interrelating spheres and impact each other. The world of today is like a spider web that keeps enlarging and where various elements come in contact with it. Some elements might stick on it for ever, while other elements, such as old concepts, might be surpass by bigger, newer, stronger, ones. The spider in the middle, which stands for the individual, is at the center, the core of the web. It is the values and personality and motivation that lie in the middle of the big picture.

The following layer stands for the immediate environment of the spider, what is in close reach, such as family members and friends and the social institutions of the human. It encompasses the culture, language, education, religion and the political and economic environment of the individual. The third layer is for the greater environment such as the business environment. The work and efforts that are being performed here are the results of what comes out of the second layer and the core; the individual itself. Here we start to see an evolution in the work place in the 21st century, concepts of systems thinking, continuous learning, web 2.0, new careers, positive organisational scholarships, spirituality at work, sustainability and more emerge and start to grow. Everything comes from the individual first and then keeps growing and enlarges into the greater environment.

After the business environment there is the rest of the world and the opportunities and challenges attached to it. Words in this layer are global warming, war and peace, globalisation, global governance, borderless society, social capitalism, immigration, free trade agreements, poverty, business as an agent of world benefit and more. Here the spider makes it web grow larger and larger, it experiments, and tries to see what else could come in contact with its web: bigger and dangerous bugs than him or more and better nutrients that will help his survival process and development? The further out the spider goes, the bigger the web is the more complex and different is the elements that might come to the spider.

After the greater world there is the rest of space, the universe, the unknown, the future, the new paradigms that are in waiting to be understood and analysed by the individual. Quantum physics, the Da Vinci Principles, complexity theory and all of the new sciences. A spider may leave its web and experiment life in the soil, change its environment, adapt to new environment limitations. Some of these new paradigms might even have to become part of the core, the individual. Here, in the world, this refers to new paradigms, new theories, and new ways of thinking, of looking at the past, the present and the future. New paradoxes emerge. More chaos and complexity, bigger challenges and bigger opportunities are at work here. As the individual grows, and makes its way in his close social network, to the business environment, to the rest of the world and to the unknown, in the end, everything falls back down to the individual. The individual’s vision, mission, perception, openness and values are what will guide the individual in its web.

As Mahatma Ghandi once said: ‘You have to become the change that you want to see’. The future of the world lies in the hands of the individual. This handbook is a compilation of knowledge and information that interlinks all of these layers and tries to makes sense of the human in the universe in the 21st century. Enjoy.
Chapter One:
You and your Environment

Human beings are conscious creatures who possess the ability to think. This characteristic therefore makes individuals able to make mindful decision for themselves and for others. In the 21st century, this ability, this control over one’s action will play an important role. Each person is born with certain characteristics, genetics and a predominant personality. This, at the core, defines who and how each various individual is. Here we look at the zero centered model, the personal excellence plan, motivational theories and connections are made to other layers of the web.

Personal Excellence Plan
Discovering and understanding who you are, your individual talents and skills, and build a personal life plan based on these personal characteristics is vital. Knowing your strong points is important to know who you are, where you want to go and can give you a sense of direction. This learning process calls for a strong self-reflection. A tool that can be utilized to do so can be the personal excellence plan from the Personal Excellence magazine. A tool such as this one makes you reflect on what it is you really want for yourself and for the people and the world around you. It seeks to identify your deep values, your life vision and mission. It makes you look at the different areas that are all crucial in an individual’s life, namely the physical, the mental, the professional, the financial, the social-emotional and the service.

These principles are all at the core of who are and want to become. The goals you set for yourself in all these seven elements will influence the other layers of the web directly. Knowing what you want and what you think is best for yourself will help you make better choices and decision for yourself along your journey in life. Every action and word counts. Understanding the principle of the butterfly effect here, a derivative of chaos theory, is important. A simple decision can change the course of your life.

Zero-Centered Model
Furthermore, understanding your personality, through the zero-centered model, for example is important to acknowledge since it will affect your behaviours and your relations with yourself, your family and friends and your coworkers. Who you are can affect others and that is important to understand. This is powerful since it means that you can change the life of other people. This is what will help you unlock your full potential. Work towards enhancing your own talents and developing them. The time spent doing so is much better spent here then trying to only work on ameliorating your defaults. This leads to a new paradigm, mostly referred to in organization, named appreciative inquiry.

Too often in enterprises there is a focus on the problem and what is going wrong. Nowadays, the process of appreciative inquiry asks the complete opposite: what is it that the enterprise does best and how can we build on it. This completely shifts how organizations saw themselves can bring motivation to employees, knowing that their talents and capacities are rightfully employed and being utilized. This can also be applied directly at the individual level. This, however, does not mean ignoring your defaults and the ‘negative’ side of your personality but to acknowledge them and be conscious of them while you work on becoming the best individual that you can be.

Also important at the individual level are motivation theories. Whether you look at the hierarchy of needs of Maslow or McLelland N-Ach, N-Pow and N-Aff theory among others, it is important to understand that each individual are motivated by different things. Here the spider web expands towards the social environment of the individual. How individuals are shaped and what motivates them is also largely influenced by the person’s surroundings, family, friends, education, technology, culture, society and environment. Here the aspect of language, religion, economics and politics are at play. Based on your background, age and experience, different might motivate you in life and also at work.

Quantum Skills and the Da Vinci’s Principles
The human of today also needs to elevate him/herself to the new required skills in today’s environment. You have to develop your quantum skills in parallel with the Leonardo Da Vinci’s seven principles. This has repercussion at the core, the individual level but in all of the other layers of the web presented here.

The quantum principles; quantum seeing, thinking, feeling, knowing, acting, trusting and being are the new skills needed for you as an individual, as a member of a greater community and world and as a leader in the work place. These are psychological and spiritual skills. These will be further explored in this handbook. For example, corporalità, a principle of Da Vinci, is the integration of the body and the mind and can be directly linked to the two elements of the personal excellence plan, that of physical and spiritual. There are part of the human body and necessary for it to function.

As for the other Da Vinci’s principles, they are namely curiosità, dimostrazione, sensazione, sfutamo, arte/scienza, and connessione. Both The Quantum skills and the seven Da Vinci principles can be linked to the personal excellence plan presented above and to the organization. These skills can be possessed by people, who make up the organization. Therefore, by working on using the right side of the brain (quantum thinking and artx/scienza) individuals can put images to words and create a better understanding of what’s in the mind. With trying to see intentionally (quantum seeing) and sensazione (refinement of the senses) we will build a better picture of our environment to make better decision, both at work and at the work place.

The ability to feel alive (quantum feeling) and Da Vinci’s principle of dimostrazione, looks at experiences and the positive aspects of these experience, this can also be bridged to appreciative inquiry and Positive Organizational Scholarship, both of which will be explored later in this handbook.

Next there is the ability to act intentionally (quantum acting) and is basically the ability to act with concern for the whole – the whole self, the whole organization, and the whole planet[1]. Quantum trusting, the ability to trust life in this chaotic times is also very important. These can be somewhat linked to the principle of sfutamo, where embracing the uncertainty is praised. The ability to act with concern for the whole is crucial in a world where complexity and chaos reign.

Quantum being, the ability to be in a relationship encompasses all the other skills, just as Da Vinci’s connessione principle where a systems thinking approach is praised. These last two principles bring all of the other ones in context and gives them a unified meaning. All of these skills will be referred to throughout this handbook as they are deeply connected to greater concepts.

In the end, the process of self-discovery can be done today and can also be redone every couple of years. Based on your life experiences and your evolving environment, such as a marriage, having a loved one die, an injury or having children, and the people you will encounter, your perspective on life and how you see it can change and so can you. You constantly have to reassess where you are in your life and what direction you which to take.

Chapter 2:
Your Business Environment

At your work place, things are changing too and you have to adapt. The impact of globalization, which is also part of the layer of the greater world and the individual, affects the workplace today more then ever before. Here we talk of borderless less society, immigration, transfer of skills, cross-cultural management, social capitalism and very importantly of continuous learning. This is done at the individual level and also at the organizational level.

At the individual level, people today have to constantly be able to adapt to new technologies, learn new skills and constantly re-invent themselves in order to stay ‘employable’. Organizations have to bridge their departments together to have each of their division work towards a common goal and vision. This leads to the concept of learning organizations. This idea represents the fact that today individuals along with organizations have to keep learning and evolve in the right direction.
Learning Organization
Learning organization is composed of systems thinking which tries to integrate the different part of the organization together, similar to the principle of quantum being and connessione, Da Vinci’s principle. Mental models are also needed to support learning organizations. Having mental models of how the organizations works is part of every business and individual. In order to bring together the mental models of everyone, putting them into images will help bring understanding at the work place. This will help utilize the right side of the brain, and will make workers think paradoxically, such as in quantum thinking. Putting images to words will also help individuals develop their thinking capacities and their organizational understanding.

As for the building of a shared vision and team learning, another supporting block of learning organization, well here, values have to come into account. This will be explored later, in association with spiral dynamics. The last supporting block of learning organization, personal mastery, refers to the continuous learning process of individuals and organizations that now have to learn from these themselves. The world keeps changing and so does the skills we need to possess at work and in our everyday life. This will in turn impact education.

Education, which affects individuals and has repercussion on the job market, is also changing. Today, you have to ‘reinvent yourself[2]’ every couple of years and learn for yourself. You have to keep learning, not only to fine tune your organizational skills but also for your own pleasure. Gaining new knowledge in other fields than your work field can help develop your creative skills, your analytical skills and many other skills. In an interconnected world you have to be able to connect and draw parallels between various disciplines. You have to expand your creative skills, especially as a leader. You have to be creative, just like Leonardo Da Vinci, or at least try to be!

Positive Organizational Scholarship
This point here leads to Positive Organizational Scholarship. First Positive Organizational Scholarship is a ‘multidimensional and interdisciplinary movement in organizational studies that brings together organizational and social sciences. In a nutshell, it looks at how to bring out the best in employees and looks at the positive side of organisational performance’[3]. This theory can be compared to that of appreciative inquiry, where a look at the positive side of humans and what energizes them in a momentum. POS, looks at positive values and positive dynamics. Bringing the two concepts together can be very powerful. These two theories not only reach the business environment but is also a world movement, our next layer.

Spiral Dynamics
Moreover, the aspect of values, as just mentioned is important to consider in a business environment, as much as in the individual and social level. Values are deeply ingrained in people and when not understood properly by organizations, the focus, vision and strategy of the business might simply be words in the air with no meaning to the employees. The concept of spiral dynamics comes into play here. Humans, as we all know, have evolved over time, and so have their values. This psychology principle helps answer complex matters, in life and also at work, such as how people think about things, why people make decisions in different ways, why and how values arise and spread and the nature of change[4].

These are all important questions that individuals can try to answer for themselves, at their core, but so do organization. In an era where team work has become a necessity, understanding where the team members come from and their beliefs will help group cohesion and performance. In order for an organization to understand their employees and build a vision and strategy mission that everyone will adhere too, understanding each individual’s values in crucial and that should come into play in the recruitment process also. Business can no longer look at surface values but have to dig deeper in order to create an environment where their employees will feel at home and where their work means something to them.

Spirituality in the Work Place
Furthermore, the concept of meaning at work brings up another topic that of spirituality at work place. In a time where consumption is high, people may lose their meaning in life, not knowing where to ‘attach’ themselves. Many individuals are now looking for meaning in their life and at the work place. Spirituality at work is a new concept that also bridges to individual values. People want to have a purpose; they are not just machines who act unconsciously. They have a mind, they have feelings, and they can speak from the heart as much as from the head. Bringing meaning to their world bridges the all of that together.

Going back to the concept of the individual at the core from chapter one, we mentioned that on the aspect of the personal excellence plan is that of service leadership. Spirituality at work is directly linked to that dimension. Helping others and the notion making a positive difference in the world and in other people’s life has a tremendous benefit to the individual. It lift ups moral and augments motivation both at work and in life. Companies who understand this element will have a tremendous advantage in terms if attracting and retaining employees. Organization have to build efficient communication with their employees in order to see what are their core values and do they feel they can bring to their society. On the other hand, individuals have to build a dialogue with them too to be in contact with their values and pursue their life mission through their actions at work and in life.

This will demand new skills qualities for leaders. Their purpose is no longer to simply guide a group of people towards a common goal but also understand all of the previous elements mentioned above and put them into work. Leaders of today can not only think about their own little unit and organization but also have to look at their community and the world around them. Today, leaders are needed to put their charisma and other characteristics to work to the building of a sustainable environment and economy. Great leaders have to know themselves at the core, encompassing everything that was mentioned in chapter one. They also need to understand and embrace the new paradigms in the work place and in the world. They need to welcome chaos and complexity and learn to work with the fast pace society and interconnected and multicultural world. They need to have a global vision and understand their impact on people and their work. Basically they need to possess the quantum skills and the Da Vinci’s principles.

Finally, bringing together the concepts of values, appreciative inquiry, leadership, spirituality at work, positive organizational scholarship, and the individual at the core, we move on the next layer of our web; the greater world.
Chapter 3:
The World around You
All of the elements mentioned above call for a mobilization of individuals to help foster a better world and a better future for the citizens of the planet. Businesses have to acknowledge their place in the globalized world and the impact they can have. With the influence, the resources and the power that they possess, they have to capacity to change several aspects of the world. From that realization, BAWB, business as an agent of world benefit. Businesses have to positively cultivate their relationships with the world. When it is recognized that the world’s top 51 of the world’s top 100 economies are companies and not countries[5], organization have to take a stand and initiate the required change.

Global Issues
Corporations today have what it takes to help counter the major problems our era, such as poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor, war, aids, global warming and other environmental problems and more. These are problems that concern everyone, no matter who and where we are. The individual may be at the core of the model, but these great world wide challenges will have to be addressed with many individuals together, in association with communities, organizations and governments. These issues encompass and affect the previous layers of the business environment and the individual self.

Corporate Social Responsibility
Business therefore have to become socially responsible, hence the concept of corporate social responsibility. This is intrinsically linked to the concept of chapter two, that of spirituality at work. While employees look for meaning in their work, corporations have to become socially sensitive and responsible. These two ideas when combined can be very powerful and change the future of the world, organizations and people.

There are new paradigms that keep emerging and that will most likely always be the case. The world is an evolving organism and will always be. So are organizations and people. Today we have to find a balance between the three so that they can positively evolve together for the grater good. In this complex and chaotic world where a small element can make a major difference, anyone therefore has the ability to make a difference.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead


In the end, there is a lot more that has to be taken into account when discussing relationships between the individual, the organization and the world. There is still a lot to discover in each of these three areas. Something to remember however is that it is the individuals who make up the organizations and it is the same individuals and organisations that make up the world. The relationship between the three is therefore of great importance. Understanding that everything is connected and that a small change in a person or an organization can have a big impact in the rest of the world is important.

The human, leaders of today have to deeply understand this and take it into consideration in their every act and in their very own being. The documentary such as ‘The Corporation’ which paints a pessimistic view of corporations around the world has to act as a wake up call for the population and the organizations. The future is in our hands and we can help make this world a better world for everyone and for our environment. Individuals have to understand and believe that they cam make things happen and that they can make a difference. We are at the core of our world and so let’s use our talents and skills together to the best of their capacity.

‘Only who can see the invisible can do the impossible’
-Frank L. Gaines
[1] Shelton, C.D., Darling, J.R. (2003). From Theory to Practice: Using New Science Concepts to Create Learning Organizations. The Learning Organization. Vol 10(6). Pp. 3532-360.
[2] Peters T. (2004). The Brand You Survival Kit. Fast Company. Vol 83. June 2004. pp. 95-97
[3] Bernstein S. (2003). Positive Organizational Scholarship: Meet the Movement. An interview with Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton, and Robert Quinn. Journal of Management Inquiry. Vol 12(3). 266-271.
[4] Spiral Dynamics, handout
[5] The Call of our Time: Business as an Agent of World Benefit, Hand out.


Bernstein S. (2003). Positive Organizational Scholarship: Meet the Movement. An interview with Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton, and Robert Quinn. Journal of Management Inquiry. Vol 12(3). 266-271.

Peters T. (2004). The Brand You Survival Kit. Fast Company. Vol 83. June 2004. pp. 95-97

Shelton, C.D., Darling, J.R. (2003). From Theory to Practice: Using New Science Concepts to Create Learning Organizations. The Learning Organization. Vol 10(6). Pp. 3532-360.

Shelton, C.D., Darling, J.R. (2001). The Quantum Skills Model in Management: A New Paradigm to Enhance Effective Leadership. Leadership and Organization Development Journal. 22(6). pp. 264-273

Learning Organization, handout

Leonardo Principles in Leadership, handout

Spiral Dynamics, handout

The Call of our Time: Business as an Agent of World Benefit, handout.

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