Culture and Society and Identity

August 25, 2010

A lot of people might say that we act according to our culture, or that it is a part of us, or maybe that society is something larger than the sum of all the individuals and artifacts and such, or maybe that we have multiple identities…

Now, 5-10 years ago I probably would have agreed, and it would have sparked some interest in me… but the past few years especially for me have been very insightful.

I now would say that, culture is persisted, society is smaller than the sum, and we have no identity… and this is the kicker… in the present! or some variation…

A person who is brainwashed actually thinks, believes, and acts as though in the present they have a culture, are part of a grand society, and have multiple identities… while a person who is not thinks, believes, and acts as though culture, society, and identity will emerge from what he chooses to do in the ever present.

Now the natural response from that will be saying that past culture, society, and identity must have certainly influenced your thought, belief, and action in the present…. right? (right out of the security handbook)

To a degree I certainly agree that it is INCREDIBLY hard to escape our bias which has developed over time through experience and such… but this does not mean we do not retain the capacity to control our thought, belief, and action in the ever present.

Think about a company… well what if all the employees, and yes I mean all of them, decide to just not come in to work tomorrow… or ever again? Sure the “idea” of the company will continue to exist in other stakeholders and observers minds, so let’s also say they wake up tomorrow with no recollection? Well was it accurate to say that the company was magically greater than all those things which “brought it forth” each and every morning from yesterday into today?

Furthermore, what’s stopping us from thinking, believing, and acting as though there were some even greater company that exists when we wake up? Is it our ties to yesterday that we can’t seem to sever? Or maybe our promises to the future?

Think about goals for a second… ok so let’s set a 5 year goal of increasing our client base by 200%… so what does that mean? Well we either have 5 years to accomplish that goal, which I would say is an “enpassioned” activity, or you can also take 5 years to negate the need to increase your client base by 200%… Are they the same? Is one better? Logic won’t get you there, only your enpassioned intuition… but once you do arrive at a innate decision, you will most likely seek a reason to be confident… and most of us will even then fool ourselves into thinking that the reasons preceded the decision, making it a worthy pursuit.

One of the best things to understand is passion and vision, the simple admission to yourself that you simply want something, you simply desire it… no reason, no rationality, no logic, no science, no proof, no truth… and then you have to decide whether you should indulge yourself, or attempt to “set yourself free” from it.

Should we be building companies up, or deconstructing them… pushing things down into peer-to-peer networks? And “should” is the wrong word, the wrong pursuit.

The simplest notion is that simply whatever we do end up doing will be a reflection.

If it is a company your building, youd better “move people” to the point that they are intrinsically motivated to “bring forth” the idea of your company tomorrow when they wake up… make promises for the future, and act as if the past is still real today.

This activity is building an emergent interpretant, to the point where people can no longer see the construct as something which emerged from their inter-activities and now has a “life of it’s own”, even though it really doesn’t, but it appears to as a result of contemplated permanences and assumed certainties.

And the time will also come where we must accept that an emergent interpretant be deconstructed.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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