The First Discipline Framework

We are as good as our maps. These maps decide where we end up. The map above is a map of maps that sits on top  of a stack of frames.

We will be looking at the map and the frames step by step.

The map acts as a window to the world both internal and external. The window has four panes


Potential                           Perfection

Psychodynamics           Performance

The potential and psychodynamics quadrants refer to the internal. Perfection and performance quadrants refer to the external. The four perspectives together point to the direction to be taken for the improvement process, the journey inwards and outwards.

The scope for improvement is defined by the current performance against potential of the system. Improvement is constrained by gaps in understanding / internal competencies that define the learning requirements to realise such improvements. The roadmap and metrics to narrow the gap between potential  and performance emerges.

Poverty in the world is an artificial creation. It doesn’t belong to human civilization, and we can change that, we can make people come out of poverty and have the real state of affairs. So the only thing we have to do is to redesign our institutions and policies, and there will be no people who will be suffering from poverty.” – Muhammad Yunus

When breakdowns are pervasive it is time to go back to the design. We have many – poverty, the recession, illness, crimes, suicides, terrorism, climate challenge, enough reasons to go back to the basic design, the template/s of nature, the system of systems

The unknown is a rabid dog without its master. When it finds the master it turns into his/her most faithful ally. It is the submerged portion of the ice-berg of our self, personal and collective. The prodigal son returns to his father. It is time to celebrate, being reconnected to the roots. Farther we move away from the basic design and it remains unknown and unconnected, the scale and complexity of our challenges assume gargantuan proportions.

How do we understand the basic design, our collective inheritance, and connect it to our challenges to fix the direction for a life by design – personal and collective?

Quadrant 1 – A conceptual understanding of our personal and collective potential which follows from the basic design

Quadrant 3. The physical world of tangibility, performance and metrics

Quadrant 2. The social system as it exists now

Quadrant 4. The process of continual renewal, learning and improvement

The four quadrants are akin to the four wheels of the car. What drives the car, the process, is the process of the self – personal /community – as the case may be.

Understanding the basic design, Q1

Let us look at the body as a system and try to connect the map. In general it can be any system, small, large, very large or the largest

Back to storytelling

Ravana is a mythical character with 10 heads (from Ramayana, the Indian epic narrates the journey of Rama). Which are these 10 heads?

How can one have 10 heads?

At the centre is the self, the observer in us – a compass – purpose of the compass is to fix the position in relation to some  reference points prior to starting the journey. Let us take this dialogue as a journey to illustrate the issue

The second head is having a map/plan as to the direction of the journey. In this case let us say we want to understand the basic design. It could as well be designing the future.

The third head is the clock. One needs to keep some measure of the progress, keep counting, have some tools, technology, etc to go on the journey. Without tools where would we be? We could at best walk 20 miles a day and that would be the limit of our potential to travel for a day. In the last one decade, our internal landscapes have broadened much more than in any time during recorded history.

The thermostat. With every step that I take I need to check back with the starting position – reflect –to make sure that the step is in the right direction and correct myself if i have gone wrong

Level of the cell, the basic unit of the body, a virus or bacteria, a higher level system than a clock, or thermostat, beginning of life as we understand it . (There is no beginning/end as such since we are talking about a continuum)

Plant – the plant world

Animal – All the animals

Human – the individual human

Community- organisations, teams

Learning / Knowledge. Learning is equated with improvement, accumulated wisdom. Our collective wisdom has evolved through our understanding of all these levels through history and various disciplines. The journey is towards more of it in sufficient measure so that we are not victims of the unknown. There will be unknowables and room for surprises and miracles so that life does not fall into monotony and meaningless repetition, eternal recurrence.
We need all the ten heads to be fully functional. Think of it as a ladder with 10 steps. Take away any one, potential is a myth. Being positioned /anchored is to place the ladder on firm ground and go up to take the eagle’s perspective. Another way to visualise it, is to see it as a lighthouse with ten levels each level corresponding to the steps of the ladder. The lighthouse does not change its position, but the sailing vessels do have to if they are not to perish. “ Dasavataram “ stands for the ten avatars of Vishnu, the ten stages of evolution of the human. is also the title of a recent movie by Kamal Hassan, the south Indian actor, who acts in ten different roles, avatars. Ramayana is the epic journey of Rama. (Ayanam is journey). The anti hero – is Ravana (An Asura) with ten heads who abducts Sita (the feminine) wife of Rama (masculine, an avatar of Vishnu). The choice is between turning into a 10 headed monster or to the truly human positioned to realise the design, the higher unrealised human potential. One needs to take a conscious choice to by the design than against it. Knowing is the design is a required condition. Who wants to grow into a monster intentionally? Not even Hitler would!.

Quadrant 3 is the performance quadrant. In an ideal situation we would have had a straight line beginning from the centre and going to the opposite corner. This is the fall of man which we often view, as ‘Progress’. One can now see the gap between potential and performance – the waste in the system, the unrealised potential, the root cause of all breakdowns.

To illustrate at the personal level, what is the potential vs performance of the body? Since we are all selfish this would be more appealing.

I knew somebody from age 75 till he died at the age of 100 years, 6 months and 15 days. Life-expectancy in the context in which he lived is 74 years. There is a gap of 26 years when one compares his performance against what is considered to be normal. He was abnormal in a positive sense because he achieved many times more than the normal individual and was healthy and cheerful, till the very last. But for an accident towards the end, he never had to go the doctor or take medicines. Other than the last few weeks he continued to work.
Why is it that there is such variance? If we visualise a future society with 100 yrs as the norm, there is a waste of 25 years. Why do such variances occur and how do you explain the gap between potential and performance?

The problem is not with the potential of the body or the design, but with our understanding of the design. First problem is the knowledge hole, much more serious than the ozone hole! The human potential is something like an iceberg. We see only a small part of it. What is hidden is much more than what is revealed, far beyond all that is known to us, beyond all those who are in the Guinness book, all the great ones who have passed away or the person whom I was referring to, who lived a meaningful life for 100 years . Nothing about the past gives us any clues to this unrealised potential other than perhaps the myths. There is plenty of room for miracles to happen because a miracle is something which is unexplainable by the known laws of nature. What we know of nature is so fragmented that it does more harm than good and precedence will not take us to Mars.

The model is about understanding the design in nature. The second step is to use this design to check whether the performance matches the design. It doesn’t. The gap between potential and performance as shown in Q 3, helps us to visualise this gap. How do we connect to that potential in us that is hidden, connecting to an infinite source of power ( at the time when we face an energy challenge) change course for good to the totally positive, never to return to the road by default. The moment of truth! The alignment needs be right for the car to move. The known and the unknown, conscious and the unconscious, are to be in alignment if the full potential is to emerge, If not they work at loggerheads. The unknown is our enemy which fights/plots against our own selves. Dreams and myths offer a bridge to the unconscious. During the time of Hippocrates, the patients had to dream that they are healed prior to the physician commencing his medication

In Quadrant 3 the potential performance gap begins from the level of animals. What we see as a rise in the line from the diagonal is a fall, the great fall of man turning himself to the sub- animal in spite of our “ progress’ which goes into the sorry state of affairs that we have created for ourselves. For animals there is hardly any gap between potential and performance but from the level of the human there exists this gap. Human is the only species that can improve itself, the unique differentiator about humanness. And when we don’t improve as a species, we turn sub-animal. It is not that we don’t want to improve, but there has to be a method by which we differentiate between real improvements and pseudo achievements

Q 3 is the physical world, the tangible and material

Quadrant 2 deals with the external world, the accumulated wisdom or ignorance of the social system which influences the self and the barriers created by the external world in realising one’s higher potential

In the last post, ‘Beyond the Waves’ , we were discussing the four different worlds , the eco-system people, farming communities, the industrial world and a post modern knowledge community in the making. There are lessons to be integrated from all the four worlds to create a more desirable future. The first world lives or used to live in harmony with nature living off on nature without hurting sustainability. Agriculture in the developed world has become industrialised. Farming communities in developing countries, though not industrialised to the same extent, are compelled to compete with industrialised agriculture. Industrialisation brought about major shifts in the way we think because the tools we use influence our thinking and leads to behavioural modifications. With emergence of connectivity and communications, paving the way for the emergence of global community, the possibility of another paradigm shift is emerging

However the dominant thinking, the mental models of our opinion makers – politicians, economists, engineers, medical professionals – essentially follow the machine logic.

It is not an unfounded fear that in some distant future, robots or artificial intelligence will take over humans. It has already done so because we are driven by the machine logic, a product of industrialisation, as our prevalent paradigm, the internal map. Are we turning into Pavlovs dogs ?

The machine logic is focused on entropy. No machine can regenerate itself, reproduce itself or make a copy of it. It is not a self –regulating system though advanced machines have some limited capacities to self regulate. Economists visualise the economy as an engine and the allopath sees the body as a machine.

The biologist has a better model guided by the bio-logic, in stark contrast to the machine logic. The bio-logic is about creating order, increasing self regulation as we move up through the different classes of beings. That humans do not often self-regulate does not mean that there is no potential. Entrenched habits block this potential form emergence and conscious choice is a pre-requisite to self – regulation. The cell, the basic unit of life, is negentropic with increasing order and evolution. 200 years since Darwin, the biologist does not influence our thinking to the extent that other more fashionable professions do, the engineers, managers, economists, or those in the medical profession. These are essentially derived disciplines emerging out of our progress in knowledge and there will always be a lag between new understanding and such understanding influencing mainstream thinking. One has to take position against the limits of mainstream thinking, the burden of normality, if one has to move beyond the average, a perceived normality rather than true normality.

The cardinal illness is a thought disorder and other problems are derived ones from this fundamental distortion, the original sin?
Quadrant 2 More Ps

Q2 comes in between, the blocks/barriers to transcend to narrow the gap between potential (Q1) and performance (Q3)

Nature is perfect, beyond improvement. Nurture follows from history, institutions, assumptions, habits and positions. All of these together create the knowledge hole, barriers to realising the unrealised bur realisable potential, personal and collective.  This is the learning imperative, the syllabus for graduation from the school of life.

Being from and of nature we are complete and whole (by design) but we seldom take such a position. We take the position that we are incomplete, sinners and wait for the second coming of the prophet, to be redeemed.

What we see depends on where we stand, our position. The individual, organisation, community or society at large could be positioned for improvement or otherwise. Some take the informed choice, goes by the design and others take the road by default. The two options are by design or by destiny and the answers could be yes, no and yes and no. There is enough room for dialogue

Positioning is the first step to progress or continuous improvement whether personal, organisational, community/ communities. Clashes arise from the differing positions and finding common ground is essential to bring in peace. Power comes in between, sometimes genuine and authentic and at other times, distortions of power that arise from the primary distortion in the meaning of power. (Hitler vs. Gandhi)

Nature is always in process, of continual renewal. The ecological footprints of human interventions block renewal and we come to suffer from our own actions. It takes more than a year for nature to renew what we consume in a year and some damages are irreparable.

The body is in the process of continual renewal which depends on what we pay attention to. Pay attention to entropy, decay is the result. From completeness arise completeness, growth from acceptance, being to becoming.

Programming – socialisation- of the individual thorough its institutions of politics, religion (priests) , education (pedagogues) parents,   influences progress.   To the better or the worse depends on the position one takes.

Peters and Parrots – the effectiveness would depend on the vision with which they are driven. Rote learning is parroting not real. Real learning leads to real improvements. Sometimes parroting helps. But for parroting we wouldn’t have any myths, folklore, culture. We would have lost our roots and become impoverished,

Problems could be perceived as problems or as opportunities.  Complexity is a challenge to those who enjoy it and a puzzle for those who are perplexed by it.   The solution focus would accelerate progress and the opposite to compounding of the problems.

Quadrant 4 addressing the learning imperative

The eagle lives on the tree near a deep well in which lives a community of frogs. None of them had ever been out of the well. The granny frog has her bedtime story telling session. The eagle could hear the stories. On a sunny day when the thermals had begun rising, the eagle swooped into the well, grasped one little frog in its claws and rose up with the thermal. The heights and the fear of death overtook the little one. The eagle let go of the frog from the heights above the well.

During the fall back into the well, the frog had just a glimpse of the world outside. The eagle returned to the tree, waited for the sun to set and to hear the story of the day. What will be the story of the day?

We have been collecting these stories since 1990. Initially everyone connects it in their own ways. Some identified themselves with the eagle and some with the frog and the fear of death.

Not many with both, eagle and the frog

The big and the small

The telescope and the microscope, Hubble and the Femtoscope

Global,  local and the connections in between

How mental models are formed, revised and improved to mental maps

How best to continually learn, not to stop with any of the new maps

How an old world of the frog has collapsed, how a new world is born

That we are all in that well – of Nature and that we will never see all of it

But we can see much more now, than it used to be

Continual learning is the path to continual renewal.

Learning improves our mental models. The frog in the well forms a model of the world. The eagle on the tree has a different model. When the frog is taken out by the eagle and brought back into the well these two merge to form a map of the world. The world has not changed but the models of the world have changed.

We were inhabitants of a flatland in a not too distant past. With better technology and tools these models have given way to maps with increasing precision. Though maps of the physical world have become more precise the mental models that go with them are not easily discarded. The eagle represents the big picture and frog, the details. Both are connected just as the Hubble telescope sends us pictures from outer space and the femtoscope helps us see the smallest of the small. The eagle represents the global and frog the local which are but different perspectives of the whole. In a connected world, being GLOCAL is an imperative. So is the imperative of continual learning, leading to continual renewal

With a little facilitation everyone comes to share the common ground, the foundation, for a Taj Mahal, an ashram or a lighthouse to be built.  We have looked at the four wheels of the learning engine. We now need to move to the centre, the observer and driver of the learning engine and what drives her. It is also time to move away from orbiting, repetition, to join the dynamic conscious evolutionary spiral of continuous improvement /renewal

More: The Picture of Philosophy


9 thoughts on “The First Discipline Framework

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  7. This was a perfect time for me to go through the First Discipline. Although I have gone through the first round of reading but would make effort to digest so that it becomes strength. I am sure some of the learnings through this will help me towards self improvement and help me in perform better to bridge gap between performance and design. Thanks.

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