Early Visions | Bay Area 2020: An Infinite Game | Borrowing from Einstein

5. Borrowing from Einstein

The significant problems we face in life cannot be solved at the level of thinking that created those problems.
— Albert Einstein

Below is one way of picturing the shared dilemma we face as humans —

One common reaction to our "problem" is to attack one of the many serious issues that mark our times. However, if you dive deeply into any one of our global "messes," whether it be global warming, the widening wealth divide, terrorism, the destruction of our commons, or the co-opting of governance by business, you risk drowning in a sea of complexity and a pervasive sense of powerlessness. Whereas facing these realities is absolutely necessary, focusing on them as isolated problems often triggers old patterns of polarized or reactionary thinking, usually leading only to partial solutions. Sometimes our "solutions" not only exacerbate the problems they were intended to solve but also create new ones.

Q. What will get us to the "level of thinking" required to make the transition from Path B to Path A?

Visionary leaders frequently use unsolvable dilemmas as springboards to take their thinking to radically higher levels. They see the larger whole from a living systems perspective. The larger the challenge, the greater the elevation required, and the more significant and rewarding the potential breakthrough.

Ray Anderson and Jaime Lerner are two visionary leaders who were faced with "unsolvable dilemmas" and eventually came up with solutions that both turned conventional wisdom upside down and made a huge and lasting difference for their stakeholders:

Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, Inc is one such leader. Ray has revolutionized commercial floorcovering industry by producing America's first free-lay carpet tiles. He has embarked on a mission to "be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: People, process, product, place and profits — by 2020 — and in doing so, to become restorative through the power of influence." He's leading a worldwide effort to pioneer the processes of sustainable development.

Jaime Lerner, was the mayor who led the transformation of Curitiba, Brazil's 10th largest city, from a typical third world city into "...a model for the first world, not just for the third," says Michael Cohen, a senior advisor to the World Bank. Check out this brief summary of the Curitiba story.

Anderson and Lerner saw tremendous systemic waste implicit in our current path, and were passionately committed to finding a better way. They showed great entrepreneurial spirit in pioneering transformational change within their respective corporate and governance systems. They found ways to transcend the "three design flaws." Both initiatives proved to be quite generative, with ripples of influence that extended well beyond their immediate stakeholder groups. They demonstrated that it's possible to transform complex corporate and governance systems in ways that pioneer movement toward Path A.

A. "Entrepreneurs for wholeness" will show us the way

Ray Anderson and Jaime Lerner are prototypical "entrepreneurs for wholeness." They and their organizations managed to escape the gravitational pull of conventional wisdom and find a path that moved their systems toward radically new levels of effectiveness and contribution.

There are hundreds of visionary leaders throughout the world showing similar entrepreneurial spirit and courage. They are looking at the incredible systemic waste implicit in Path A and seeing it as a huge opportunity to do well by doing good. Where others see unsolvable dilemmas, they see the potential for economies for wholeness. These "entrepreneurs for wholeness" are discovering that it's good business and good politics to take their games to a higher level—to seek to serve the larger whole.