7 Accupuncture Points To Transform Capitalism

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I really LOVE the GREAT conversation that emerged from my last blog entry (on how the new enters into the system). a real manifestation of collective creativity, global sensing and sense making.

i am just returning from a three day cabinet workshop in a country in Africa. the purpose was on reconnecting the political leadership with the real needs of the communities. in preparing the workshop, the Prime Minister talked about “poverty” in the context of the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) and about the “poverty of ideas” in the context of development strategies, that is, in the context of development economics. it was really special being together with this community of leaders that all share the same background: the liberation struggle of taking their country from dependence to independence. the years of the liberation struggle stood out to a level 4 change experience for all of them. now, after independence, and after moving into government, of course it is much more difficult reconnect with that level 4 experience on a collective level. the leadership challenge that most of them face is a double split: a horizontal split (silos among and within ministries) and a vertical gap (separating the political leadership from civil servants and the real needs of the communities on the ground). so the question for them is this: how can we, in our everyday leadership work, cross these two gaps?

any ideas on that?

one thing we thought we could start with is to conduct stakeholder dialogue interviews (see PI toolkit on the PI site). another spark i took out of that workshop (and other related experiences last month) is that eventually the new leadership at issue here needs, among others, a new framework and vision of the economy and society — capitalism 3.0 — and a view of the acupuncture points of getting from here to there. i just finished a first thought paper on that which you can find here (“capitalism 3.0″ is just a placeholder term here. i dont really like that term but i have not found a better term yet–let me know if a better term comes to your mind–see paper.)

all the best — otto

17 Comments to 7 Accupuncture Points To Transform Capitalism

August 6, 2009

Hi Otto,

sitting here at MIT Sloan (Tang-Building)m I am reflecting about the past weeks.

What you are writing pretty much sounds similar to what I have experienced in a large car compny. There also you have the disconnect between management and public (=workers, employees, stakeholders in general reaching fromstudents, to city, environment agency, …). People on shopfloor and offices on the other hand are not daring to change the current reality, always waiting for the “big guys” to take action.

Stakeholder interviews are -I agree- the most essential first step to understand the current thinking. Instead of doing one.on.one interview I would encourage more-person interviews or even World Cafés to get to the unseen.

Connecting with all stakeholder groups is essential (in my opinion). Otherwise there will be a tendancy to separate circles.

Probably the most challenging part is finding the “safe container” such as an off-site, cafeteria, or even a CoWorking space where creativity is willing to emerge.

People are so amazing and I thing even in the poorest countries there is a richness of thinking that is by far ahead of our so often unsustainable action and thinking.

Cheers and all the best for your travels


David Hodgson
August 8, 2009

Instead of capitalism 3.0 i have been moving towards a variant of the phrase ‘the sacred | spiritual | enlightened | living economy’.

I believe we have to move entirely past the paradigm of capitalism, and shift our conceptual center of gravity from capital, an abstraction, mind, to something alive, whole, and integrated, so that we can come back to life as Joanna Macy might say.

And to define the living economy as a platform to support global collective well being. Gross international happiness as the measure of success.

Charles van der Haegen
August 10, 2009

Hello Otto,

I have still to read your paper, and I will do that since the transformation of Capitalism is a key to solving the intractactable problems we’re faced with in our World.
I however wanted to suggest an answer to your question
how can we, in our everyday leadership work, cross these two gaps?
I believe we should go back to the core of the great Edwards Deming’s thinking as explained in his book : The New Economics for Industry, Government and Education. He explains exactly what is needed to have a tranversal suystems viuw, and avoid ivory tower thinking impoosed on the “people who work. Why is it that his ideas seem to have been lost?

I will come back on your paper later.

Warm regards


Ralf Lippold
August 11, 2009

Hello Charles,

Thanks a lot for pointing us to Edwards W. Deming and what he has to say. For most people Deming only comes in mind with his PDCA principle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) which is highly connected with his name and is most common in manufacturing.

That is just the event that people see at ease, Deming has much deeper and broader wisdom that integrates beautifully with Theory U and Organizational Learning.


At the age of 92 he gave this speech and as one listens carefully so much truth comes out of his words and thoughts (which he taught to Japanese managers in the 40s), which has to the present day has not found (as Charles mentions) not found its full way into our education and management.

At school and university (I guess pretty much throughout the world) we are drilled to know the facts, the right answers and talk as the teacher or professor does, because he is the person in charge with the knowledge that we all had to learn). Not just once it occurred that I didn’t get a reasonable mark, just as I didn’t just the exact wording as my teacher had said in class in my test. Total conformity doesn’t apply to life which is by definition in constant evolution and therefor will never be fixed and fully known.

…and this unfortunately goes on in organizations (especially in established and matured ones).

In shaken up situation such as after an earthquake, Tsunami, war, building a new plant on a “greenfield” or other unpredicted situation people than mostly get into their “children learning mode”. Then they will find ways to adapt to changed external forces and environments without listening and acting to fixed solulations, as these won’t help any better.

So questioning why it is so difficult for us to outspeak our curiousity about the things happening around us collectively and move to a higher understanding of learning and doing is for me one essential piece of learning and action research journey.

Best and curious (as ever;-)) regards


Ria Baeck
August 11, 2009

Regarding the term Capitalism 3.0
Aren’t we going for something that is beyond Capitalism and Communism? The first is where business sets its rules for the whole of society and the latter is where government sets its rules. Aren’t we looking for a system that keeps the three forces of society in balance: business, government and civil society?
I have been thinking about the original meaning of Capitalism – which I don’t know; but it will give an answer to this question of Capitalism 3.0 is the right term.
I agree – more or less – with David; but generative or regenerative as adjectives would speak more of the real purpose that we are seeking here. And aren’t we talking about Society instead of only the economic part of it?

Crossing the gaps
Isn’t the point in bridging the gaps to find ways of letting people talk to each other? There are many good facilitators – like many out of the Art of Hosting network – who know how to design these kind of processes. Of course, interviews might help to get a picture of dynamics that are going on; but finding a common purpose, a common ground for those at both sides of the gap seems to me also important.

Thanks for doing your good work, and writing as you do!
With love,

Ralf Lippold
August 12, 2009

Hello all,

even though we all probably know that the phrases capitalism and communism are outdated, these are the terms the world understands right now.

The future will be different and probably a hybrid of both, therefore we have to find ways to “unfreeze” the current thinking in the categories of capitalism and communism in massive amount of people on the planet (which means appr. 6.75 Billion minus 2.500 (us in the Presencing Institute Community minus more practitioners in the field of sustainable change we don’t know yet).

What would be a good and reasonable reframing of the term capitalism 3.0 to attract even politicians and farmers and CEOs alike?



Reiner Schmidt
August 12, 2009

Hello Otto,
reading your paper, I remembered a book (afaik available only in german language) I came across 3 years ago:

Gil Ducommun
Nach dem Kapitalismus
Wirtschaftsordnung einer integralen Gesellschaft
erschienen April 2005
220 Seiten, Mit 14 Grafiken, Paperback
Verlag Via Nova | ISBN: 3936486808

Especially the chapters
9 Ordnungspolitische Grundsätze 120-148
10 Die integrale Wirtschaft in Funktion 149-178
are worth being discussed within the light of Theory-U.

I’ll send your paper to Gil Ducommun as well.
I hope to find you both and others in discussion about capitalism 3.0 or whatever name will be used later on.

Thank you for your work.

Best regards
-Reiner Schmidt- München

Deb Talbot
August 12, 2009

In reference to your horizontal gap viz the silos within the government, i have watched one university president effectively lessen the siloed academic departments by refusing to fund any initiatives that did not cross departmental lines What was at first pretty shallow contrivances to show interdepartmental cooperation became some truly creative breakthroughs on research initiatives. What she also did was put a premium on projects that had community support/involvement which also served to get the academic community into the real world.

The vertical gap is inherent within our industrial/colonialist society and is perhaps more difficult to eradicate. Just look at the efforts in this country today to make any means of leveling our universe seem “socialistic.” I have found that tackling issues of interconnectivity are best done in small groups–World Cafe or a variation of that informal progressive dialogue works well. I think one-on-one interviews can rarely break through the patterns of organizational/societal interactions. Even having people talk to each other as Ria suggests won’t change the vertical gap unless the infrastructure changes as well. All too often i have seen good intentions of people in multiple layers of an organization get undone by inflexible HR/Legal/Finance/Security systems.

I have read your white paper and look forward to seeing some of the accupuncture points fleshed out–like what does it mean for the advertising industry to move away from that first ring of communications where commercials reside.

David Hodgson
August 12, 2009

Hello all … some great comments flowing here :)

i’d like to unpack Ria’s comment: ‘Aren’t we looking for a system that keeps the three forces of society in balance: business, government and civil society?’ a little further.

I think we need to move beyond the concept of balance here into one of integration … my belief is that the distinction between business + civil society is a maladaptive conceptual trap that is leading us rapidly towards destruction.

I would define business as ‘collective action with the primary purpose of making money within legal boundaries’ + civil society as ‘collective action with the purpose of enhancing social wellbeing’. Should not all collective action have the primary purpose of enhancing holistic collective wellbeing, with the concept of money just being an accounting conceit to allow us to keep track of contribution?

Our current situation would seem to indicate that the singleminded pursuit of that accounting conceit acts counter to the collective wellbeing of our species, as well as the entire biosphere.

When finance + karma are structurally not the same thing then it seems that we give primacy to the conceptual over the real – we have embodied the unconscious belief that the mind can survive without the body in our deepest civilizational structure.

I would prefer not to test the truth of that assumption, I like being alive.

And as Ralf calls to attention: how do we rapidly shift the perspective of 7 or so billion people – or at least the much smaller set that is the decision making proxies who have the power to shift the structure of the system? However they have to overcome their attachment to a system that has very powerful positive feedback mechanisms, that make it incredibly self reinforcing and highly addictive.

Dale Hunter
August 13, 2009

Hi everyone

Otto I am enjoying your paper very much and resonate to it all with just a little problem with calling the 3:00 stage “capitalism” though I appreciate that you are referring to Barnes (2006)and it is probably a strategic decision.

My response to your question as it applies to your African client is around what the Prime Minister and cabinet are “for” now that the independence has been won. This is where I would tend to put my primary attention when working with them. If the top team articulates a new and irrestible vision for the country and creates alignment on this within the public service and the citizens, then the “how” including the essential need for dialogue between govt silos will become clearer. Establishing a government services culture with deep integrity(how they will work together) will also be important.

I did my doctoral thesis on “the facilitation of sustainable co-operative processes in organisations” and am deeply interested in all aspects of this. I have also written some books including “The Art of Facilitation” and one called “Co-operacy – a new way of being at work”.
I wish I could say that I have the answers but as many of you will know, the more you know, the less you know you know.

I do agree with you that we need to be working on all levels and especially in the area of growing consciousness. Learning to operate from our “higher selves” most or at least much more of the time is really necessary and challenging work. I like to focus my social technology work at a small-medium group level at present because of the potency and potential of group consciousness and collective intelligence. That is why I love Theory U.

On the macro scale the inequities of the world economic/financial system is very much holding us back right now though many at the edges are working hard at this.

Kia kaha (stay strong)

Ralf Lippold
August 13, 2009

Hi all,

Just arrived back from three weeks in Boston and Cape Cod with lots of new experiences and things that would be unimaginable over here in Germany (especially , so the common sense!).

As we work on setting up a physical place (LockSchuppen) where people can really work to their strengths fully (either as entrepreneurs, doing the home-office session over there, students who action research within a living future creation place, or other) we face all sorts of resistances within the peripheral systems. The involved stakeholders in this early phase of the project (we are currently working on getting an offíce from where we can -so to speak- “invade” the larger building space bit by bit) are the building owner (German Railway), Unemployment Agency (responsible to handle -somehow- the unemployment, due to heavy plant closing), the City Council of Dresden (looking for economic nests from where the future economic growth can arise; this used to be the chip industry with plants of AMD (now Global Fonderies) and Qimonda (they closed in June, 2.500 people layed-off), universities (running their own entrepnreneurial programs, which could be “threatened” in some way, at least the system would change).

So we face quite some challenges and pressure rises from project members, who happen also to be friends (“When do we get into the building?”, “I won’t do anything before we don’t have the key to the building!”).

It seems that I am sort of the only one who can withstand the pressure and still believe in the project (to be honest I have been working on such a thing for over 10 years now and found some soulmates earlier this year). So today another U-cycle has happened (trying to get in touch with one of the main players at the departments of German Railways ended successless).

The result was that I phoned our initial contact with whom we already had several long and deep conversations (we shared personal information beside the pure project).

As we talked along and it became clear that everything was going smoothly the tension within the conversation dropped, the relationship eased and one talking around the project, other similar projects and experiences from both of us were mentioned. Then the conversation took a totally other direction and it went straigth into what we are talking about right here.

My phone partner, it turned out to be, had been the owner of a kraut conserves company (I wouldn’t imagined that!), which his grandfather had founded back in late 1890’s. After the crumpling of the “Wall” he and his family members tried to put the company back into market (despite the pressure of Western competitors) and managed so-la-la. The new rules played harsh with them and as newly founded (due to West-German law) company Ltd. they had to pay extra money to the state (whereas the established ones didn’t have to! – these were based in Western-Germany [BTW, just to get that clear I am from Western-Germany, with ancestors in Eastern Germany, which some must have drawn to this part of the country]). He told me of a stories back in GDR-times and equivalent one after the reunification, and there was not much difference (besides communism and capitalism).

So it seems that the system itself is acting and not so much the put into place ideology (which is of course an easy lay-back wall, where everybody can point to). Furthermore he mentioned that he was part of the church movement during the GDR and part of the Runden Tisch (the leaders who took the lead while the GDR where shuttered and before the West-German law and institutions were installed).

I could sense the tension in his voice and bitterness that the people who once made the chance possible are now not there where they deserve rather on the bottom of society (as they definitely don’t fit and suit into a society that is compliant and complaining (funny, the same word root it seems!). And he is definitely not the only one, there are probably millions (not really outspoken and yet when one can build up a personal relationship, as Ed Schein has layed out so excellent during his terrific and inspiring workshop on Cape Cod (http://www.cape.org/2009/schein.html – well worth considering it for 2010), then you sense far more more what is really “burning” in society.

So my question is on how to get the almost finished burning fire of desired change (and taking action for that!) back to people’s hearts?

What do you think?

Best and thoughtful regards


PS.: Seems to be that I missed my occupation, should have become storyteller;-)

Greg Giuliano
August 15, 2009

Hi Otto:

Your question, “how can we, in our everyday leadership work, cross these two gaps?” is a good one in that it reminds us of the reality that macro-systemic change is interdependent with micro-systemic change (the individual leader). In our work with leaders, teams, and organizations we constantly remind the individual and the collective of the need to seek the edge and the next opportunity for change. We give them the visual of an infinity loop to remind them of the scope of their work: driving organizational change (in this case a government or ministry) and on the other side of the loop driving the development of the people with whom they collaborate to bring about change.

To live and lead in this leadership loop, the individual, the team, and the organization want to be living and leading within a U as well. So the question becomes, how do you provoke and evoke the continual reflection and dialogue necessary to enable positive transformation at every level so as to ‘mind the gap’ and minimize the negative impact of these naturally-occurring splits in the larger system.

There are three questions I would continuously pose to the leaders in this (or any system attempting to manage large scale change): What do we need to do? What do we need to stop doing? How do we need to show up (as individuals and collectively) in order to achieve our objectives? That would be a fun conversation to convene!

Tom Klein
August 17, 2009

Hi everyone,

What a great thread… to pick up on David and Ria, it strikes me that the whole notion that making money in business would need to be independent of, or even in opposition to the collective well-being of the species is one expression of a pathology of our self-concept at the centre of modern society (as David puts it, “When finance + karma are structurally not the same thing then it seems that we give primacy to the conceptual over the real – we have embodied the unconscious belief that the mind can survive without the body in our deepest civilizational structure.”) We seem to have come to believe that we are in our deepest being alone. But no one survives alone in society, as no one in business is successful alone, but rather is made successful by others.

We seem to lack the maturity for a true collective. For example, in the political debate over health care reform in the US at the moment, the term “socialism” serves to trigger fear to discredit government action focused on collective well-being–which to my shock a lot of people seem passionately (hysterically?) to be buying into! What is the trauma being activated here? Images of the collective in popular media are mostly pathologically negative, as with the “Borg” in science fiction TV, or in business as with the battle against open source (by Sun at one point if I remember correctly), as hostile to inventiveness and vitality seen to be based on motivation through intellectual property rights.

We have (hopefully) moved beyond the painfully forced collectives of the past (empire, feudalism, communism, fascism) that I could imagine being sources of the negative collective in social memory. But we seem to lack visions of self-fulfilling collectives of the future. Nevertheless, we do not have a choice between individual freedom and collective action. By choosing individual freedom from the collective context, we generate a dysfunctional collective, which undermines individual freedom. The choice is not between government or no government, but between good and bad government (good government by definition being limited to what it can do well–but doing what it can do well with full intelligence and commitment).

One of the things good government could do would be to ensure a level playing field for the mechanism of the market through intelligent regulation focused perhaps on an understanding of “holistic collective well-being” contributed by civil society. The market is just a mechanism. But we do not have a properly functioning mechanism in the market at the moment, because special interests have tilted the playing field massively in their favor with their strategy of privatizing profits while socializing costs. Could we not reconceive of the market as a social technology? Markets mediate between both individual and social interests (as Otto describes briefly in his mention of Posper.com as an alternative to the intermediary role of classical banks in facilitating credit). At the moment they are in the thrall of the oligarchs, but they could just as well be liberated to perform their social function constructively. Social infrastructures could cut out the middle-men, so that the market—and so capitalism?—could do its job for everyone.
A step on the way may lie in healing the unconsciously pathological relationship many have to the collective (away from the past of enforced social cohesion towards experiences of a democratic generative community). Maybe we need to focus more on creating images of the fulfillment of the self in collective action (I’m thinking of presencing theater in the media here). Could capitalism perhaps be liberated by art…?

August 18, 2009

hi everyone, wow. what a rich and greatly inspiring thread. to pick up on the last point by Tom: “could capitalism perhaps be liberated by art?” what a powerful question. it brings to mind a related quote by Joseph Beuys: “THE ONLY REVOLUTIONARY FORCE IN HISTORY IS ART.”

if ART is the starting point to rethink economics and society, then we all have to consider the question that Dale suggested in regard to the Prime Minister: what are you “for” now, what future do you want to create?

Gary Shearer
August 19, 2009

Dear Otto
Although I am based in Cape Town, South Africa, I am currently travelling in Zambia as part of my life function, which is to head up a small private foundation which has been engaging practically in this very space of which you write in your superb paper on transforming capitalism.

So much of what you say resonated very strongly with our team, and we would love to engage directly with you at some stage and share some of the practical learnings we have and continue to experience on the ground in this field.

I have written to Janice in your Contact us field, and do hope we will be able to connect in the near future.

August 19, 2009

As i was reading through Rumi’s (the great Sufi mystic poetry) today, in the land in which he rests (Turkey), i felt a strong need to post this one verse from his Mathnawi works onto this thread. I’m not sure why, nor will i share my interpretations of it in the context of this dialogue on transforming capitalism – but i post with trust.


The lover’s food is the love of the bread;
no bread need be at hand:
no one who is sincere in his love is a slave to existence.

Lovers have nothing to do with existence;
lovers have the interest without the capital.

Without the wings they fly around the world;
without the hands they carry the polo ball off the field.

That dervish who caught the scent of Reality
used to weave baskets even through his hand had been cut off.

Lovers have pitched their tents in nonexistence:
they are of one quality and one essence, as nonexistence is.

(Mathnawi III, 3020-3024)

May the collective wisdom deepen towards getting to the root, of the root, of the root …

In service,

Ralf Lippold
August 29, 2009

Hi all,

I would like to come back to Charles’ question,

Why is it that W. Edward Deming’s profound in-
sight has been lost?

Is it that we have so many different languages
(countries, fields of practices, cultures) that are
despite the modern communication tools still are
as divided as some hundred years ago.

So people are researching on different parts of the
globe, in different fields (lean thinking or quality
management has not really much connection (when
you ask people there, as I am active there for about
ten years doing action research, you always ever get
denial that TheoryU or Presencing has any connection
to what they do) and yet they don’t talk together.

What do they fear?

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