In his monumental work ‘The New Economics’, W. Edwards Deming states:
‘It would be better if everyone would work together as a system, with the aim for everybody to win. What we need is cooperation and transformation to a new style of management.’
Instead, many people perceive that corporations place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality. Not only that, a family corporation seems to now be running the American government.
We live in in a world where financial institutions still believe they are free to take systemic risks at our expense because the government will eventually bail them out. But it’s not just risks that are systemic. Thanks to the advances of contemporary science, we are understanding more and more that our entire reality is systemic. We just haven’t learned yet to read it that way. Most of us still think and react as if the world were Newtonian and mechanical, instead of complex and non-linear. That’s the way we are still educated. But the truth remains that any attempt to govern countries or manage organizations that lacks systemic awareness of how interdependencies and feedback cycles come into play is doomed to create damage.
What would happen if we all embraced a systemic vision of the world?
Most probably, we would not put up anymore with the lack of intelligence that permeates the way politics and businesses are run today. We would not see as inevitable that insurance companies and Big Pharma control our health. We would stop trusting the claims made by the financial pundits and Wall Street wizards about how they boost our economy. We would stop believing that only our individual efforts and personal drive will, eventually, be the cause of our success as a country. And we would stop believing that by competing with each other, one day we could be part of that 1% of the population that owns 80% of the wealth. (See Scientific American ‘Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think’).
The way out of the crisis: the new economics
The New Economics that Deming desired is one that works for everyone. It is an economics of sustainable prosperity. To achieve it, we have to transform the way we are, and we have to do so through better thinking. Never before have we enjoyed such freedom to communicate and innovate. But in order for industries to innovate and prosper sustainably, they must also be supported by infrastructures provided by governments. As Domenico Lepore puts it, these governments must be “cognizant that their role is to facilitate the growth of talent, protect everybody’s freedom to participate and venture, and help the weak and the poor to live with dignity.”
In order to live and prosper in this world of unprecedented interconnection, we have to learn at a much faster pace and we can only do so if we improve our ability to leverage our intellect. People may be scared, but they should also know that the knowledge we need to prosper sustainably does exist. It can be acquired, and it can be applied. It’s an education none of us can afford to do without.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.