Why do you think/sense/know that you as an individual are here on planet earth? I feel regularly my purpose seems to be about being a connector, between ideas and people, between ideas and other ideas, and from people to other people.
In early life I was very lucky, I had a twenty year corporate career that in the end showed me how much people could do working together, in teams, on matters with a common purpose.
After this rather privileged start, things became much more difficult and complicated. The many people I met along the way in this second phase all taught me that sometimes raw talent isn’t always enough to fit into the sometimes over complex and sometimes over simplified systems we humans have dreamt up to run our world with. Many really amazing and talented people found it very hard indeed to fit into the “conventions” of our current world.
Of late, I have come eventually to a recognition that some people just don’t fit into systems, certainly not neatly, but actually function better between systems, as dispassionate observers. These “systems linkers” can point out systemic flaws without the usual career risk that many deeply and safely embedded inside their own systems would fear to take.
Most systems folk recognise an even broader “internal trap” as “The Tragedy of the Commons”, the inability to make better decisions because of the stuff we don’t know … “The Unknown Unknowns” as the unlikely Donald Rumsfeld termed them, based on work created in 1955 by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1916–1995).
Only the truly brilliant are able to survive with a level of comfort in this inter-system space: Einstein, Tesla, Chomksy, Capra and Musk are names that come to mind as leading practitioners.
But I do see a sense of awakening, most hopefully among young people I know. We have to hope this next generation will continue to seek to understand a not very well defined need to have a broader perspective. I feel, with many others, that humanity needs to properly steward the delicate balance of life our bio sphere produced. Although humans have become the over dominant life form on the planet, we also need to join together with a much better overall understanding and correct our over plundering of finite planetary resources.
What is it that makes your life worthwhile? I feel strongly that supporting spaces that allow reasoned although sometimes passionate discussion is really important. If we can avoid polarised, intransigent debate, Facebook can have a key role in achieving this.
As I suggest, people often need sounding boards to try out where they see their role in the world, to see how their talent might be best utilised on projects that make a positive difference in the world.
In providing support to people on their quest, I feel I can sometimes make a tangible difference, often in very small or perhaps even unappreciable ways, that might make their journey a tiny bit easier.
That can sometimes involve challenging people, who may be engaged in behaviour that seems not to be helping themselves, or intervening if they are doing something that others find less than beneficial. This is not always easy, but I do feel in those few small cases that tough love is called for, and can be a better approach for very specific individuals.
Equally, I must also be more than open myself to external challenge, and to live by the same set of standards I espouse.
Perhaps I can sum this up by talking about supporting a peaceful, productive community, a busy network of people, where the community is as attuned to each of the unique individuals in it as possible, even though such uniqueness can often be quite a challenge.
What do you want to manifest in your life? I would like people to understand how important it is to try and build bridges between different stated positions, find agreement and compromise where necessary, and to be able to gracefully relinquish even cherished or long held understandings if these are found to be falsely premised.
We need to challenge fake news and have greater transparency around propaganda.
We need to get much, much better at sharing both wealth and knowledge.
We need education systems that work for all, not punishing and excluding those deemed as failures, and risking they are consigned to the scrap heap their whole existence. Education must become life long, not just something to allow working parents to earn and aimed at producing prototype living case studies for later robotics.
And we need health systems that focus on specific medical needs, in niche ways, rather than creating sprawling, bloated hierarchical bureaucracies that focus too much on careers, reputations and income.
Finally, we must act to protect our biome, and create jobs of the future that also ensure the planet continues to be able to support our current rich diversity of life in all its forms.
Given those aims, I would hope to contribute just small amounts to each of those needs whenever possible: “Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are” as Teddy Roosevelt quoted, itself adapted from an original quote from John Wesley.
What does it mean for you to be present? Surely most people want mostly to have someone who will listen to them.
To have their ideas heard, their fears and humanity understood, their compassion welcomed, their contributions respected, their efforts supported.
I strive to live up to those aspirations on a mostly daily basis, and hope others also understand my own human frailties in that all too often I can’t quite work at those levels.
Hopefully at least folk can see that I’m trying.
What is your understanding of success in life? I feel strongly it is more than time to robustly reject the standard, finance industry drip feed understanding of success.
And the current Dalai Lama writes quite brilliantly on this subject.
Financial and reputational success are in the end temporary, and especially if all we do is spend proceeds on ourselves.
How truly comfortable we feel in our own skins that we are “doing the right thing”, and how compassionate we are towards others, is in the end far more important.
Far better to understand there are ways to have a positive humanitarian affect on life. Most philanthropists in Victorian England are not remembered fondly for their trade practices, which today would quite often be either derided or illegal, but because they later opened schools, and educated local children in ways that were unheard of even fifty years before that.
While there is now a backlash against some of those early philanthropists, we can at least be grateful for their better actions in later life, yet still having now learned for ourselves and not wishing to repeat the colonial practices that saw them earn their fortunes in the first place.
An example people might use today is Bill Gates, whose early focus on making substantial profits and building a behemoth is now transformed into trying to find cures for malaria.
Returning to the Dalai Lama’s writing, even though most of us cannot work on the kind of scale that philanthropists do, we can still work to bring compassion to those we meet, to reduce suffering if we find it and can help, to advocate against anger and hate, and to believe we do all deserve happiness in this life and are allowed to enjoy that life.
For me, that would be success I would be more than happy with.
What keeps you awake at night, something you need to learn more about?
As a quite broad concept, Sustainability.
Certain bio systems are being damaged by operations that may be economically sustainable, but are plundering bio resources with no thought to wider consequences.
On the other hand, individual human existence can be very tough. Those who start economically disadvantaged often stay that way. Equally, as one example, those of an academic persuasion find commercialising that something of a tough exercise.
There seems to be a difficult balancing act for every human being between economic Sustainability on the one hand and a more bio harmonious Sustainability on the other.
One way or another, this is something many humans need to get much better at, and a topic I return to often.
Peter Jones refers to himself as a pragmatist and a generalist.
On 25th October 2015, a Facebook group of 850 and a LinkedIn group of over 23,000 were threatened with deletion by the then owner. Peter and others argued at the time that transfer of ownership was more respectful to the people who joined those communities, seeking to share or understand about Systems Thinking. In the end, deletion was avoided, and the transfer of ownership to a wider group of administrators was achieved. Both groups are doing well today.
Peter’s professional approach: Taking all due consideration of real life issues at play in today’s world, and in particular understanding the all too human reactions and behaviours at work. An ardent Pareto practitioner on solutions, looking for 80% progress for 20% of the work. Very much a pragmatist, advocating a try and see approach, yet allowing for individual preference, and favouring diverse solutions that encourage wider eco systems. Always systemic and, where time allows, systematic. A dedicated team player and life long learner, wherever possible.