Covid-19 and the ET Group’s ‘intelligence conversation’.
The pandemic: A dead end - or an invitation to rediscover the Good, the Beautiful and the True.
The near exclusive focus on finding external means to combat the corona virus is a double-edged sword:
The Covid-19 virus of this mind-bogglingly disruptive pandemic, is seen as diabolically clever. Consequently human intelligence and ingenuity is being desperately applied to find a way of containing its spread and a vaccine to counteract it. With the world essentially in lock-down with the social distancing that is so anathema to human nature we are told that we will not ‘return to normal’ until an effective antidote has been identified.
This is why the ET group has organised a series of intelligent conversations to help ordinary folks make sense of this strange experience.
Of the +- 3 million cases infected by the virus globally, over 200 000 had already died, whilst significantly an estimated 840 000 had already recovered.
Of the 960 000 + cases in the USA with 55 000 deaths, 118 000 had already recovered.
In the UK there we’re approaching 150 000 cases with official figures of 20 000 deaths, but some estimated looking closer to 35,000.
Given the devastating history of the Spanish flu (1918 - 1920) where 50 million people died, the key question put in the Intelligent Conversation was: ‘How should we respond?’
The politicised nature of the response to the pandemic makes it difficult for ordinary folks to take the most appropriate ‘stance’. This has compromised constructive debate and conversation.
In the face of the unknown threat, anger somehow feels stronger than fear, and having a defined enemy does seem to provide surety in uncertainty.
Consequently from the political ‘left’ government response is regarded as potentially being a rightwing plot to perpetuate neoliberalism. From the political ‘right’ it is a potential leftwing plot to install socialism.
Against this ‘conspiracy‘ mentality, any response is considered either ‘overblown’ or ‘underestimated’.
Given the ‘unknowns’ of the spread of the virus, the quest to acquire sufficient hard and reliable facts on which to base response remains compromised. For some countries, like South Africa, ‘caution’ takes precedence and calls for apparently draconian measures, whilst in others, like Sweden’, response is regarded as lax and even irresponsible.
Whilst the official response in the UK was seen as muddled, in the USA it apparently remains controversial and confused.
For many the debate in this crisis focuses on a simple choice between ‘saving lives’ and ‘saving the economy’. But, to those who study dynamical systems, such binary and linear thinking is incapable of dealing with the complexity of the situation.
Around the world, guided by the WHO, governments’ response is generally aimed at limiting infection through hygiene and social distancing whilst gearing up the national health capacity. The debate about how to contain the pandemic ranges from the opportunity to control (finding a vaccine) to containment (social distancing).
Tragically largely ignored in the discussion at the formal policy level is the effect of human self-regulation and the natural adaptive capacity of the immune system. This factor has inevitably accounted for all those who had already recovered. The potent opportunity of applying the insights of psychoneuroimmunology has not been raised at any serious public level. Neither has the complexity-science based insight of the impact of imitation (path-dependency) in human nature. This simply refers to the potential power of leadership by example.
The hope in certain quarters that ‘things will go back to normal soon’ ignores the fact that in any highly energised system (a dissipative structure) disturbances can lead to tipping points. Such a cascading event can result in fundamental disorganisation but also potentially in deep reconfiguration. But also clearly identified is the feature of irreversibility. This simply means that circumstances cannot go back to where they were. However herein also lies an opportunity - which we explored.
As will be shown below the so-called biomedical model of health still struggles to escape the bounds of Cartesian materialism and thus confines medicine to technological responses. Conversely the bio-psychosocial model of medicine and health includes human psychosocial responses to strengthen adaptability.
After the above introduction was shared as a context setting, an opportunity was provided to break up into discussion groups for fuller participation. In preparation for the conversation three questions were offered for consideration:
1. What is the meaning and significance of carrying the Covid-19 virus whilst not showing any symptoms?
2. What aspect of our collective thinking, our worldview, needs to be revised in the light of lessons drawn from the pandemic?
3. With the world generally still in lockdown, what is the most useful attitudinal stance to adopt?
Subsequent to this discussion we have revisited the many and on-going urgent attempts to develop an antidote to the virus. This is our current meta-perspective:
The essential failure in our approach to this pandemic and specific management of the Covid-19 virus seems to be the continued materialistic and reductionistic myopia of the prevalent biomedical model of health and healing.
It has a mechanistic focus on linear causal connections, as for example illustrated in this article. https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-immune-interferon-response.html
It ignores the essential multidimensionality of the challenge we face. The biomedical model remains trapped in the Cartesian duality which considers subjective experience (thoughts, attitudes, feelings) to be an epiphenomenon of biochemical processes. Hence the critical role of subjective experience in health and wellbeing is eliminated from solution-finding, leaving it to the 'industry' to find an antidote. Meanwhile the bio-psychosocial model of health and wellbeing has already been around from the thirties of last century with deep validating research showing how subjective experience modulates immune response. Various studies identify the so-called HPA axis where emotional experience in the hypothalamus of the brain stimulates the pituitary gland in the endocrine system to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone. This stimulates, via adrenal response, the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the interferon cascade that is so critical to the Covid-29 virus propagation.
The confusion around the emerging evidence that having recovered from been 'infected' by the Covid-19 virus subsequently does not necessarily provide immunity, might thus point to this same myopia. The issue is the effectiveness of immune response. Over 800 thousand infected people have already recovered from the effects of the virus without an antidote. Clearly their immune system did the work. Just as with our scientific laboratory research into the virus, so too Ader et al showed the immune response to be a learning system. It needs time to respond effectively. And of course the evidence is compelling that those with suppressed immune function are most vulnerable in this pandemic - see: https://www.evolutionarytransformationsgroup.com/blog
The attempt to seek genetic answers to why some people have suppressed immune response is also still limited to the biomedical model. Which stresses that its time now we look at the bio-psychosocial model. Our understanding will of course then include physical factors that compromise immune response. That includes poor lifestyle such as inadequate rest, poor nutrition (a dysfunctional food system), poor hygiene ( but also an over-sanitised environment). It includes the psychological factors impacting immune response. That includes the stresses accompanying our high-pressured and urbanised industrial lifestyle with its accompanying frustrations, anxieties, loss of meaning, and we propose, deep instinctual aversion to the wasteful consumer economy.
Human ingenuity and technology, has co-created our world and the application of science and technology has provided many life-enhancing benefits. Yes too, epigenetic studies show a dialogical relationship between the evolutionary development of the human being, including immune response, and the environment. And yes, Taleb's 'anti-fragile' concept that living systems not only grow stronger in stress, but actually require stress to remain resilience and creatively responsive applies.
BUT our predominant mechanistic and reductionistic view has blinded us to the subtle synergies and syntheses of the very living system, including the entire microbial world, 'in which we move and have our being'. The materialistic focus further blinds us to the even subtler 'spiritual' domain, the quantum fields of intelligent information, such as morphogenetic fields. Entirely left out of the approach equation is the human subjective function of meaning-making
Aaron Antonovsky's 'Salutogenic approach', identified a 'sense of coherence' to be enabled by the experience of 'comprehensibility', 'manageability' and 'meaningfulness'. The human immune function, as a key agent of the physiological maintenance of coherence, is also an agent of psychosocial responses. But in our reductionistic worldview we have tended to reduce meaningful existence to wasteful materialism. This dichotomous divide of human experience from the subtleties of the living world might thus explain why Krishnamurti declared:
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a fundamentally sick society.”
Thus to see the virus as some terrible enemy is surely to lose the plot. There is something deeper at play here. The devastating Spanish flu which killed 50 million people from 1918 - 20 occurred immediately after the massive destruction of lives and infrastructure of the First World War. The cause of that war was human greed and intolerance, and the tragic retributive response to that in the Treaty of Versailles again exemplified human short-sightedness. So too this virus, with its immensely unpredictable and disruptive consequences, might be a further symptom of the deep systemic malaise in the way we have organised society.
But hopefully its hidden gift will be having caused us to pause and reflect. Through the noise of media hype, blame and accusation, fear and frustration, with the demand for effective biochemical responses, there is arising a new quiet chorus. There are those who are taking the pause to go inwards, to reflect on true human values, on the beauty of natural existence, and the greater spiritual subtleties that can only bring true abiding joy.
Maybe now wellbeing will also be fundamentally redefined.
In our forthcoming 'intelligent conversation' webinar on Thursday 7th May we will begin to explore how some communities of practice and other networked collectives are implementing self-organisation to promote wellness.
Free webinar: Friday 24 April 12h00 UK time
Our stance in the ET Group, in approaching seemingly intractable problems such as the pandemic is based on our research into Complex Human Adaptive Intelligence (CHAI).
In our webinar conversation this coming Friday we will begin to address how our conventional shared thinking and doing is being challenged during this current crisis. Employing the ET 7-phase process we will begin the journey of exploring:
To participate and gain access to the webinar link e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join our free webinar: Empowered attitudes and perspectives on the pandemic - a generative conversation
Feeling confused and frustrated at this time is a natural response to the tsunami of propaganda and opinion on the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are those who point out that 50 million of the estimated 500 million people worldwide who contracted Spanish flu in 1918 died. Such a disaster has to be avoided at all costs. Others say the Covid-19 pandemic is essentially a problem of media hype - we should all get back to work.
Firstly, how do you separate fact from fiction?
Secondly, how do you best serve your own, your loved ones, and your community interest?
It is so important to consider that our greatest asset in the fight against the coronavirus is the body’s natural defence mechanism - our amazing human immune system.
Remember, of the 2.25 million people who have become infected by the coronavirus, over 560 thousand have already recovered. Yes, tragically almost 160 thousand have died, but that greater recovery has been without any vaccine. The immune system has simply done its natural job!
In the webinar we will discuss four key approaches to ensuring a healthy immune system:
This free participatory 90-minute webinar takes place this coming Friday, 24 April, 12h00 UK time. To secure your participation e-mail ETGroupcom@gmail.com
Leadership in crisis - bridging the gap from a mechanistic to a living systems approach
The current Coronavirus pandemic provides a stark context for reconsidering conventional leadership approaches. We need a quantum leap in leadership praxis to a new process -orientated style.
During the second world war British military engineers designed the portable Bailey bridge to cross rivers after the retreating German forces had blown up the existing bridges to stop the advance of the Allies. Here we offer some idea of how that Bailey bridge in leadership thinking might look in this current pandemic.
Globally leaders must now be asking how best their institutions, organisations and communities might:
Again from 1918 - 1920 the Spanish flu saw 50 million fatalities world-wide - and it killed 300 000 South Africans: 6% of the population. The elementary mistake identified then was that authorities had not properly identified and quarantined people effectively in the early stages.
The current HIV-Aids epidemic in South Africa sees 7.7 million infected - there were 71,000 fatalities in 2018 alone. Some 20% of adult population aged 15 - 49 is infected with 60% being women. Thankfully the govt-sponsored universal antiretroviral drug roll-out has increased average longevity from 59 to 63. Here the elementary mistake was the critical time lost at a time when the ruling ANC government denied the reality of the epidemic. This failure to act is conservatively estimated to have accounted for 330 000 deaths - similar in number all South Africans killed during the Spanish flu.
This time South African the government's response has been proactive and timely - but it faces significant capacity issues - see this BBC report lauding President Ramaphosa's proactive response and the realistic endorsement by Minister of Health, Dr Mkhize:
It seems the core lesson remains the need for prompt, even radical universal response; efficiently providing the most effective treatment available and, of course, taking all required measures to prevent the further spread of disease.
Yet now in the 21st century, 100 years after the devastating Spanish flu epidemic, governments are at odds, internally and with each other, on how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Taiwan is seen as a model of decisive and effective management of the disease. There was a prepared command centre with an effective capacity to monitor and track the spread of infections. By contrast the United States' response is seen as chaotic, Britain's response as vacillating, and Sweden's laissez-faire response as counterintuitive, even negligent.
Enduring the Covid-19 pandemic is certainly going to be a confusing and trying time for all - especially for the authorities.This crisis emphasises leadership's overdue recognition of the need to make a leap in competence in decision-making; and that leap must be from linear and reductionistic thinking to a non-linear holistic perspective and practice. With our Complex Adaptive Intelligence approach we endeavour to offer a non-academic and practical thinking process for addressing the increasingly complex issues of this VUCA world.
Someone once said: "Nature abhors a straight line." From the mechanistic perspective this is particularly challenging. During the Newtonian scientific era we endeavoured to shape the natural world like a machine. We thought we could build into it the levers to control her. But nature, viruses included, does not respond to linear logic. Life itself functions with 'complex adaptive intelligence'. And we all urgently need to retrieve that capacity to learn to co-exist sustainably and creatively with our precious life-giving milieu.
The core VUCA features we are dealing with in this crisis are firstly volatility as we struggle to come to grips with exponential emergence of infections and the tragic accompanying deaths. Secondly there is uncertainty as we ponder when normalcy might return and become increasingly fearful, of not only the economic, but also the social and political consequences. And thirdly there is the issue of ambiguity where positive and negative consequences can coexist in many situation and responses.
To our collective dismay, best practice hardly applies in such situations' decision-making becomes a 'seat-of-the-pants' affair. Consequently, as we have suggested elsewhere, leadership and decision-making now shifts from being a 'science' to also being an 'art'. It's about sensing, intuiting, orchestrating and relating generatively.
Take ambiguity. There seem to be two core polarities in this pandemic: ‘saving lives’ versus ‘saving the economy’. Clearly it cannot be an either/or situation. For any organisation, be that a business, or the state, that means protecting employees and citizens on the one hand, versus keeping productive on the other.
Then how does leadership even begin to respond? This is not about 'what to do' (the content), but rather how to think about what to do (the process). So, for example, leadership in complex decision-making might seek to find a wise balance between 3 tensions:
Example of managing this will be further unpacked below. It is sufficient at this stage to recognise that managing complexity requires a balance between taking the necessary time for close observation of trends, and also being prepared to take definitive and concerted action - they go in tandem. Policy-makers, especially politicians, struggle to think this way - their constituencies demand immediate and straight-forward answers. Scientists and academics however might tend to find security in their 'ivory-tower' disciplines. Yet in times of crisis leadership simply needs to act courageously.
Currently we face such an unprecedented and complex challenge, demanding complex adaptive responses. Yes, we have faced epidemics before, but never in such an interconnected, interactive, and interdependent world. So there are no easy or immediate solutions to the multiple unforeseen consequences needing simultaneously to be addressed. These might be physical; maintaining public health and accessing and distributing the supplies needed. They might also be economic; maintaining as many businesses and livelihoods as possible. They will also be socio-political; simply maintaining public order.
And maintaining that order is not going to be easy. So of importance in this 'post truth' era where populations in democracies require convincing, is providing ready access the best information possible. Playing politics in such times of crisis, whilst also historically typical (the blame game) is tragically unhelpful, as too is the counter-productive impact of uninformed social media content.
ET Complex Adaptive Intelligence process
Yet people do tend to feel more more comfortable when they feel in charge of at least some responses; when there is some available practical plan of action. That is why we are endeavouring to offer a clear approach, one that is both implementable by policymakers, but also by reasonably informed laypeople. (See below!)
As mentioned above the VUCA acronym of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity helps us to think about how to address such situations. One such example is the controversial debate around the merits, on the one side, of the ‘containment’ of the spread of the virus; as enabled by hygiene and social distancing, etc. On the other side are the merits of 'managed contagion'; allowing the development of ‘herd immunity’. This is a clear example of ambiguity.
In these situations the business of communicating appropriate strategies itself becomes highly complex. To an uninformed public, certain applied measures can easily look like jumping from the frying pan into the fire - creating more challenging problems by trying to avoid or contain the original problem. Most institutions and organisations seem to be unequipped to do this. That is why we stress that they urgently acquire the necessary practical skills and competencies - and why we have kept our process as user-friendly as possible.
At this time especially senior healthcare managers are required to make decisions and manage as effectively as possible in their dealing with the complexity of the pandemic. With hospitals becoming overwhelmed by surge of patients there is a dearth of accessible tools or techniques to assist executives with their thinking, decision-making and approaches. Here are a few helpful thoughts:
Snowden’s 'Cynefin' model remains useful:
1. Decision-making in straight-forward situations requires normal best practice protocols - continue do apply that where appropriate.
2. Decision-making in complicated multi-factorial situations (where all or most of the agents can be identified) requires good practice after due analysis. So engage the experts in testing, researching etc. Data analysis is now exponentially improved by AI computation - continue to use that.
3. Decision-making in complex multidimensional situations (where many possible unidentified agents need to be included) requires:
4. Decision-making in complex to chaotic emergency situations requires
a. Immediate intuitive action-response
b. High capacity to adapt to emergence - new developments
5. As already emphasised in a crisis decision-makers do often appear to be caught in a cleft stick; presented with situations in which any action or decision easily precipitates further problems. In this light consider the following:
Managing tensions in leadership and decision-making
As stressed above in complex dynamical situations many decisions can easily give rise to further complexity. A clear example of such an anomaly in the current pandemic is the current debate around containment (social distancing) versus managed contagion (allowing the development of herd immunity)
Balancing risk and caution:
Outcome: Limit the number of infection to prevent system overwhelm - versus social and economic disruption - public resistance/rebellion
Balancing means and ends:
Requesting/communicating hygiene, social distancing - versus demanding, managing and controlling - discipline versus rebellion - policing - in democracies this will be seen as a radical incursion of personal freedom
Balancing action and context:
Capacity issues - emergency reorganisation of health resources, supply chain management - versus protection and resourcing of medical staff, supply chain ‘just-in-time’ measures and panic buying disruption
Balancing risk and caution:
Outcome: Allowing sufficient people to become infected so that they develop immune resistance and hence slow down further contagion - versus overwhelming health services
Balancing means and ends:
Managing size of public gatherings, opening/closing facilities, times - versus unknowns of contagiousness, uncertainty in respect of immune response, vulnerability,
Balancing action and context:
Assessing measures to be adopted allowing some social mixing versus - flattening the peak to avoid health service overwhelm
Applying the ETGroup’s 'Complex Adaptive Intelligence'
In brief: Complex Adaptive Intelligence - a systematic approach for addressing systemic issues:
Leadership and the future?
Here are a few general observation - scenarios:
You’ve heard the phrase: ‘We’re no longer living in an era of change, we’re living in a change of era.’
We are hearing a new story all over; that the post-pandemic world will not be the same. Whilst we look forward to co-creating that new world, we’ve got to cope, to the best of our ability, with this crazy one. We’re going to need level heads and warm hearts.
That is why the ET Group is offering advanced ‘CHAI Coaching’ for a VUCA world
This On-line professional training program is especially designed for coaches, healthcare facilitators, and care-givers to offer much needed guidance and support in these challenging times.
We are still in the early stages of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. It holds unforeseen disruptive consequences. Coaches, facilitators and caregivers, competent to give appropriate end empowering guidance are going to be sorely needed.
As a participant you will be provided with the most advanced approaches available from the disciplines of neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) to support your clients with decision-making and enhanced resilience.
Join our training orientation webinar on Friday 3rd April at 12h00 UK time - where we will introduce you to the program showing how to support your clients with:
* Effective decision-making in a chaotic environment
* Identifying deeper purpose as your navigational guide
* Optimising immune responses in the people you serve
To register for the 1-hour webinar and be provided with the Zoom link e-mail: ETGroupcom@gmail.com
This twelve week training program will be offered at the much-reduced rate of GBP180 inclusive. For details and to register go here: https://www.evolutionarytransformationsgroup.com/chai-coaching.html
How to help yourself, your loved ones, your community and your colleagues
We detect a pernicious narrative emerging around the UK government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Whilst claiming to follow best scientific advice, it appears to have lagged the drastic steps already taken in many other countries; like banning travellers, closing schools, and implementing a general ‘lock-down’.
For many the official response still appears to be confusing. What does it mean to allow the development of ‘herd immunity’? And what is the strategy for ‘flattening the infection curve?’ What, people are also wondering, is the next step after ‘containment? How do you really manage self-isolation?
Social media is buzzing with speculation and spurious opinion, and some folks suggest the government’s response appears to be negligent, or even simply callous.
One thing is clear - the quality of disruption to normal life precipitated by the virus will be unprecedented - and government’s response to the fall-out can only be limited. The NHS’ capacity is already stretched to the limit. IT IS UP TO YOU NOW!
The most important information to pay attention to after heeding common-sense advice on good hygiene is this: Look after your immune system - it will look after you!
It’s more than taking extra Vitamin C or Echinacea!
As of writing, of the 80800 Chinese who became infected, 67800 have fully recovered. Remember that’s without any vaccine - their immune system did the work.
In our free webinar on Friday 20th @ 12h15 we will explore the science of self-healing. We will learn about the immune system, and how to best activate it during this corona crisis to protect you as effectively as possible, and your loved-ones, and your colleagues.
To book you place - e-mail us: email@example.com
With 'adaptive intelligence' emotions are not the problem - they are signals that you need to engage in the on-going journey re-establish coherence - 'emotion is energy seeking purpose'.
We have enjoyed the opportunity to present a one-day workshop on ‘Adaptive Intelligence’ at Ashridge Business School. Participants were invited to pre-prepare a personal and deeply challenging issue with which to grapple. These ranged from the idealistic desire to promote reconciliation in a conflicted world; to deeply personal issues of finding new meaning; to practical challenges of how to enliven and resource organisations.
The identified problem may be the ripple on the surface of deeper undercurrents
Whilst there is much wisdom in the words of Bertrand Russell (pictured above) we are now coming to grips with the reality that there's more to it than meets the eye. Three impactful insights emerged from participants in our time together. First, the degree to which we personally are the source of our own challenges. Second, what we identify to be the problem is often the surface evidence of much deeper dynamics. Third, was the key role of emotions. Emotions are evidence of the existence of the problem-space. Emotions are potential contributors to it. But, rather than being seen as needing to be fixed, emotions can now be recognised as a potential source of energy to address the problem-space.
Problem-solving and the phenomenological stance
Accessing Adaptive Intelligence is a holistic approach incorporating insights from complexity theory and methodologies sourced in neuroscience - these are to be systemically applied. By focusing on deep subjective experience Adaptive Intelligence embraces the phenomenological perspective. We offer that in a complexifying and interrelated world the problem-solver can no longer be positioned external to the problem-space, with the solution finder 'over here' and the problem 'over there', typically to be addressed by the intervention of some so-called ‘evidence-based’ strategy. Now the experiencer of the problem-space rather needs to be positioned at its centre.
Subjective experience can help unify subject and object to restore coherence
We were guided in the phenomenological contribution to ‘adaptive intelligence’ by two luminaries: Jan Smuts’ holism showing ‘experience’ as unifying the subject/object dichotomy, and Albert Einstein’s relativity demonstrating that the real action of the universe is not constituted by ‘parts’ but by the complex and multiple interactions of energetic entities.
Consequently in embracing this perspective our approach focuses in six phases on the core elements that can be positively influenced to shift a challenging situation towards a desired outcome, and of course, also to realise a unique opportunity:
1. Identifying the deeper dimension (the undercurrents) of the problem-space
2. Differentiating between simple/complicated on the one hand, and complex/chaotic situations on the other
3. Focusing on the personal contribution to the problem-space
4. Mapping the significant agencies of problem-space
5. Creatively identifying new ways to influence key dynamics
6. Integrating the learnings from each endeavour
This opportunity is offered in four formats to individuals, organisations, institutions and corporations:
· A one-day taster providing a provisional experience - as this one described above
· A two- or three-day format including a further examination of models of complexity theory and their potential application to complex problem-solving
· A five-day residential format including a deeper exploration of the bio-psychosocial model of emergent adult values as a context for problem solving
* We also employ this six-phase process in private personal coaching sessions.
"It was a fantastic experience that reveals the dynamics of identifying complex challenges and the joy of exploring solutions with creative mindsets and amazing group sharing." Brian Abbott - https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-abbott-2333131/
Getting to the nub of the issue is a truly liberating experience - empowering the individual or organisation to engage in character-building process.
We will be presenting Adaptive Intelligence applied to enabling a circular economy at a systems science conference at Bournemouth University on 24th June, 2019 : https://www.systemsforum.org/events/