July 4, 2023
Declarations • Exponential Change • Between Worlds

It’s a tradition at our house to honor the Fourth of July holiday by reading The Declaration of Independenceout loud! Not just for its historical resonance, but as a reminder of the power of declaration to disclose new worlds, and bring forth new possibilities in those worlds.

“We, therefore…mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

A declaration is a speech act, not just words—an action that (like an NBA ref’s foul decision, a pronouncement of marriage—or a Supreme Court’s ruling) establishes a new reality, by virtue of the authority (granted or seized) of that speaker to make that declaration.

It’s a powerful linguistic move. One that can change—and make history—for a nation, a player, a person. What declarations have you made—large or small—that have changed your life, or the lives of others? That have opened new words? Which declarations are waiting for you to make?

As I wrote last month, “Change is hard.” but “hard” is an assessment—an interpretation—not a testable, provable truth. “Hard” drives some people away—and it invites some people to buckle up and head on in—people like Peter Diamandis of the X Prize and Salim Ismail of ExO. I spent three hours last month listening to them lay out their distilled methodology for driving 10X—not 10%—improvement.)

The “exponential organization” strategy may be just the ticket for the challenge I posed—”What if we had to? What if we had to drop GHGs rapidly? What if we had to transform the entire economy on a dime—as the US did effectively in 1942? What if we had to reinvent everything?”

The <tl;dr>:

  • a Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP)
  • 5 External Attributes: Staff on Demand, Community & Crowd, AI & Algorithms, Leveraged Assets, Engagement (SCALE)
  • 5 Internal Attributes: Interfaces, Dashboards, Experimentation, Autonomy, Social (IDEAS)

All good. In fact, very good. But, in my listening, something was missing from the very compelling presentation—a grounding in biology and ecology, and the richly intertwingled dynamics of living systems.

Yes, there was concern for the living world—expressed in commitments to ending hunger, building health, providing clean water—but through an all too familiar reductionist/mechanistic/extractive lens, not on its own terms. (Just one example: the fascination with high intensity, closed environment agriculture, with little regard to the role of living soils in both the nutritional quality of the food produced and the moderation of the global climate.)

So I wonder:
What might it look like to infuse living systems perspective—and a sense of belonging to the living world—into the ExO methodology? (I might just try to find out. Please let me know if you try too.)

We began our June session of Living Between Worlds, with Grace, Dignity, and Power with that very climate question:

What if you, your company, your city, had to zero out your greenhouse gas emissions—not by 2050, or even 2030—but in five years? Or by the new year? Or by tomorrow? What would you do?

Yes, of course this is completely unreasonable. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the entire US auto industry converted from civilian to military production in a matter of months. Not years. Months. Because we had to. What if we had to?

That’s where we started. Watch or listen to review—or find out—where we went. (And please: “like” and “subscribe”!)

Two things that surprised me in the discussion:

  • The call by some for less talk and more action—as if they’re antithetical. In my view, there is no action without talk—talk to assess, provoke, engage, design, coordinate, evaluate. But we need to cultivate very different sorts of conversations—that do that, and do it well.
  • The assessment (which I’ve herd in other conversations too) that “nobody’s doing anything” about the climate crisis, the polycrisis, the metacrises, the proliferating messes, etc. Not enough, sure. Not guaranteeing the world we want, sure. But I have to wonder where people are looking, and the moods in which people are listening, since I see a world awash in passionate, inspiring innovation at every level.

You can watch the June recording here, and three years of archived sessions here. And I hope you’ll join us for our next session on Wednesday July 19th (and the third Wednesday of every month) from 12:00-1:30pm PDT.

Yours, in solidarity with life,

Gil Friend
CEO, Natural Logic Inc.
Managing Director, Critical Path Capital
Coach/Mentor, Trimtab4Trimtabs

PS: Are you a trimtab? Dedicated to a world that works? To the transformation of everything? I work with people like you—to help you: set huge goals…achieve them…bring people with you…and stay chill! How? With new kind of coaching for a new kind of leader. Interested? Let’s talk!


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