There has been a lot of discussion in Greece lately about “what went wrong and “how to fix it”. Many of those who are trying to figure out “what went wrong” and “how to fix it” are what social scientists call “future oriented” people.
In other words, they work today and invest precious resources in an attempt to build and ensure a better tomorrow. Integral to this behavior is the notion of “Trust”. We trust that our work and efforts can lead to the desired result. We trust that our community can recognize and advance by our work, that the market can distinguish our products or services from those of our competitors, and thus help us grow, or that our environment can allow us to continue to survive and prosper.
Would this trust be gone… so would our future orientation. We would live just for today, seeking only pleasure, disobeying laws, disregarding ethics, avoiding all effort and pain, leading to a fatalistic approach of our lives, self-limiting our powers and accountability, and minimizing “output”.
The same is true for meaningful human relationships, which are strong and can be productive. We expect relationships to produce valuable results in a short-, medium- or long-term timeframe. Once again, they are based on trust. You trust your friends, so you share with them feelings and belongings. You trust your spouse to remain with you, so you have children together. You trust your business partner, so you share with and together co-invest in this bright new concept you came up with last week.
If we thought there would be no tomorrow, we wouldn’t trust anybody to keep any promises. This is the kind of vicious circle we are in right now. No trust, no future. No future, no trust. And no trust means no relationships, no systems. Just aggregates of over-consuming people, lacking valuable emergent properties, dysfunctional and unproductive. Sound familiar? Maybe too familiar.
As they say, being able to identify the problem is half the job. Well done! Now, about the other half… We need to break this vicious circle and re-install trust, the key ingredient in our relationships, forming again functional systems which can adopt and survive under all circumstances.
This is no easy task. It is also a slow, but accelerating, process. Once we have identified and communicated the problem, the rebuilding process starts by the formation of small independent groups of people who share the same values, the same beliefs. Active communication helps these small groups to evolve into different forms of clusters, integrating a wider, cross-discipline, range of people who dynamically collaborate to produce functional solutions. Whether academic, business or purely social, these clusters then evolve relationships between them and suddenly… we again have a future-oriented, law-abiding, productive and respectful society.
During all this “re-booting” of the system to re-instate trustful and trusting relationships, Systems Thinking can provide the tools to ensure a firm foundation on which we can build and escape the recurrence of past mistakes. Once our mental model changes to incorporate the true values of System Thinking, it will become the “vaccine” to future crises, whether social, economic or even environmental.