Is there a way for everyone to prosper in the market? Systemic Thinking leads us to believe there is. In this extract from The Human Constraint business novel, systems thinker Dr. Sam Deluca offers a way ahead.
“What is the market then, in your opinion?”
Sam gripped the front of the lectern. A piece of ocean sparkled through the glass wall of the conference centre as he took questions from the audience of academics, business people and students.
He shifted his footing and faced them square on. “People talk about the market as if it were some divine entity that had a mind of its own. In fact, the market is completely made up of the myriad of choices that billions of people are making every day. Before money was invented, it was a place where people would bring their merchandise and barter it. Then goods were exchanged for money. So, in essence, the market is a place for exchange. But that’s not enough. As a Rabbi friend of mind would put it, the exchange must never create scarcity for another. That makes sense, even scientifically, because it means that we have to always create equilibrium instead of increasing entropy. The stock exchange today is completely failing us in that sense. Traders are constantly doing deals that are good for a few at the expense of many others. They make the market into a zero sum game, where if somebody wins, somebody else has to lose. That is not sustainable.”
A man in the front row put his hand up. “Are you suggesting we adopt some kind of Marxist model? Are you against wealth?”
“Not at all. But in the same way that if we all want to prosper we cannot have a market based on zero sum, then the same is true of wealth. True wealth can only be abundance that does not create scarcity for others. It’s about increasing the quality of life for ourselves and others. So anything that debases the quality of life for others cannot be considered wealth. Are there any biology students here?”
A hand was raised near the back.
“Then you know better than me the way life functions, in its most basic, biological sense. We exist within a web of life, a network of interdependencies that cannot be understood in terms of its basic components but has to be studied in terms of its interrelations. And so it is only through win-win conflict resolution, cooperation instead of competition, symbiosis instead of survival of the fittest, patterns not just structures, these are some of the basic elements of our biological existence and also, if we learn to understand and manage them, these elements can sustain a society in its ambition to prosper.”
Demitra Carr got up from the front row to join Sam and thanked him for kicking off the conference with his paper.
“Could you sum up for us, Sam, what you think the most important elements are for people to take away from the work at this conference?”
Sam took a sip of water from the glass under the lectern. “I think everyone here is aware that we’re witnessing the exhilarating freedom of artificial walls beginning to crumble – Berlin, apartheid, all kinds of discrimination. We’re increasingly aware that we’re not separate from others. We’re interconnected and interdependent. We’re shifting towards an understanding that is increasingly systemic. We’re all part of networks. And that has to be applied to how we manage and how we govern. What we need, more than anything else, is to develop our systemic intelligence, and that takes an effort. If we want to survive, if we want to evolve, then we need to learn how to think systemically, we need to learn how to be with others and not be alone, and the good news is that there are ways to do that. We just have to work at it.”
The Human Constraint is a business novel that reflects the urgent need for a shift in thinking. It is based on almost 20 years of on-the-field experience with a systemic approach to business. Its accompanying website offers highlights of Deming’s Theory and the Theory of Constraints applied to specific problems. See www.thehumanconstraint.ca for free chapters and purchase.