The Chariot of Fire

The indigo flight was on schedule. He was the last to board and was heading straight in my direction, with a beaming face. 

What a way to meet, twenty years and the very same date when we last met. I am Raj, he said, offering his hand.

It is indeed a small world.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. He almost looked boyish or at the most a 25 year old. Raj of my memory was in his fifties, one of those who had challenged everything one believed to be true.  1990. The workshop was coming to an end. Participants were visualizing their future. Raj, a onetime scientist with NASA stood up to share his personal vision of the future.

“I have worked for over two decades on space travel and somewhere on the way I came to have this vision of translating the logic to my physical self, convert my Self to a space vehicle and explore the universe. Do you think it feasible or is it my personal madness?”

Raj walked down the aisle to his seat.

This was the immediate trigger. Earlier the mother when they met had set off the first one. “Death is not the only way out. There is another one far more exciting. Death is a normality of our present time. In another time death will be abnormal or accidental.  But accidents are not all that accidental when we get to understand how the design works.  Only the normal can aspire to be supernormal.”

“The first step to walking with the gods is to be a true normal.   What we consider normal is a false normal.

To the true normal


@ is much more than the symbol of our digital identity. It is the symbol of return to the tribal to create the new tribal and re-establishing our identity in the second age of real-time”

“When was the first age? “ – Ann

“Over 10, 000 years, in the original age of affluence, we lived in real time, gathering and hunting.  With settled agriculture, ownership, waiting for the harvest, hoarding and barter, linear time came to be. We lost our innocence, grew up in shame and then came the philosophers and the modern!  “

“Be like children? “

“Detox, empty, all the accumulated crap of over 10,000 years”

“You, a communist? “

“ It is a long journey. We can see the future only to the extent that we can see the past.  To create the new tribe and community we need to craft a rough cut of the prototype. Nothing is available in the recent past that gives us even a rudimentary idea of what we seek to achieve.”

One dimensional man?” – Marcuse

“May be four dimensional, we are talking about the four fold path, the view that prevailed some 2500 years back in linear time. We need to see progress, decay and emergence across time, four aspects of the process that we call progress. Most often, progress has been mistaken for decay.  Schopenhauer was 25 when he wrote “ On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. One or four is not the issue. Seeing is the issue. Both saw”.

“The return of the noble savage? “

“Not really, may be a re-cognition of our roots. If you were lucky enough to have grown up on the banks of an unpolluted river, you would know how much time it takes to catch enough fish for the day, with bare hands. The original affluent society enjoyed full employment, had very little need for sophisticated tools and lived in non- time. Everything was in the commons, the equivalent of wiki in our times.  In spite of all the progress we are once again reduced to gatherers and hunters of a different kind, for safe food, water and information that reinforces our fitness to survive. We are hooked not connected.  @ signifies our birth in real time where wiki is the benchmark for not writing something that is already there or can be accessed through a simple search. It also signifies the death of the philosopher’s world that we created with a few lighthouse people as the paradigm and the birth of the new age of affluence. “

“Do we have any remnants of the original affluent society”?

“May be in some far corners of the world where the modern is yet to encroach. Not all societies moved to settled agriculture at the same pace. The Malabar Coast, present day Kerala, was one such region where the gathering/ hunting culture prevailed till the arrival of the Portuguese.  Pushing the tribal and the fisher to the edges is as old as the spicy seduction of the Queen of Sheba by Solomon with spices from Malai.  Malabar was the first El Dorado for the trader and the seeker, companions on the road and the sea. They came from all parts of the world. It did not take much time from the arrival of the Portuguese for reverse- migration to begin which continues unabated. The Constantine church met with the Thomas Church here. The faith that survived on its own merit for a millennium and half against waves set off by Mahaveera, Buddha, Asoka and Sankara gave in to the Constantine wave. The hunter turns hunted in no time”

“You are compressing a lot of history into a few lines.”  – Shan

“History is story, even science is. When facts are stranger than fiction, fiction sells no more. Story telling becomes story killing. His story is complete when read with her story.  Hyper – text is layered and each reader has the option to branch off any time with his explorations on the pointers in different directions.  We can now gainfully compress data as against loss-less compression of data.

Philosophy is a product of affluence, rather an affliction of modernity. Mahaveera and the Buddha were princes who renounced material affluence to the spiritual. Spinoza worked hard to earn a living to philosophize. Our modern versions feed on the commons but talk in tongues alien to the commons in their journey to be crowned. They will in time be reduced to a wiki-page and when the number of hits   falls below some prefixed number will vanish into digital oblivion.

When space and time come together history gives in to the new, R, the net value between the two opposing flows. It might appear to be insignificant now but the tectonic plates have begun to shift and the process will gather force as we become free from being hooked to being connected.

“We are no longer talking about philosophy. We are talking about organised religion.” – M

” We are exploring the larger context. The priest used to be the philosopher for    the masses. The role has been usurped by the scientist for many and the philosopher for some.”

Think outside the Planet


Think outside the box is a cliché that we hear too often. There must be a deeper reason for the persistence of the phrase

At some level it stands for thinking beyond the planet

As virtual space expands we are less stuck with the material. I don’t have to move my physical mass to go to the bank or to buy and sell my shares or to be in real-time touch with my friend in the valley.  Gravity is less of a constraint and achieving take off velocity demands less of an effort – in virtual space.

We are stuck with the material – physical, positioned in the physical world. The perfect sheet of rubber transformed into a foot-ball has no rubber at its centre.

What appears to be normal from this position, is the false normal

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”  Archimedes saw the problem with our position. In nearly 2500 years we are still stuck with the problem. .  

To move the earth, we need to re-position ourselves outside the earth, to a position external to the physical. We are much more than our physical selves.

We see the true normal from this position, similar to the astronauts looking at the planet from space.  True progress involves a return to the center. @ is the symbol of this return and the new journey.

Taking Position


We understand reality through the tools we use. The compass is replaced by the GPS. We may not care how it works but we take it for granted that it shows us our position and whether we are on course or not. If we were to develop a GPS for the journey to our true normal- potential- the first step would be to fix our position as the GPS does in our journeys in space.

What we see depends on where we stand, the position. P’ is the position arrived at by the GPS and P is the position external to the physical realm.  P shows us the true normal and P’ the perceived normal. P is in real-time, P’ in linear time.  P is invariant and P’ is variant in time and space.  The directions cover virtual and physical space.  P’ has a time horizon of around 75 years, current life expectancy in Kerala and most developed countries, whereas P has eternity as the time scale.

What is it to be human?

“I think the light house people have always liked to use language not understood by the commons. It’s just that now there are many more claimants to the crown spouting Guru sounding stuff which ties in with the term I have co-opted “veneration of the personality”. – Shan

“Your stuff doesn’t make any sense to me’ – Dreamcatcher

“We still worship the dead. The veneration of the living and the dead are two sides of the same coin. The adult of the species is yet to be born. Our lighthouse people speak to the commons not the academics. As for making sense, this is a long term project which might make sense eventually. They say that tolerance to ambiguity is essential to making sense. ” – JM

Since 1990 we have been confronting people with the question, what is to be human, in our work towards arriving at a common position in the contexts of  teams and organizations.  A Google search throws up not one but 29 answers in the first link that comes up on top of about 1,530,000,000 results (0.40 seconds).   Simple questions are the most difficult to answer. None of the answers reduce our uncertainty. They only add to it.

Does more information really help?

Among those 29 answers, this one is central to this dialogue.

“The symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection” – Kenneth Burke.

He lived to be 96, for us a measure of his personal intelligence grid.

Burke’s terministic screen’ is “a set of symbols that becomes a kind of screen or grid of intelligibility through which the world makes sense to us.”   We named it ‘the matrix’ in our v.1 discussions.  For Burke, reality is a clutter of symbols (1966). Things remain the same or even worse in the post-internet age.  The clutter has only amplified. We hope you have looked up the wiki link. If we are separated from the natural by instruments of our own making, we could as well make instruments that bring us back to the natural too.

“Have we have been evolving in our human-ness in the last 10,000 years, since our gathering – hunting days? “

“In some aspects, most times we regressed. We need to put this in perspective as we go along. Taking a common invariant position is the first step”

“Cut the crap, what is THE answer?” – Ann

“We are the only species which can continually improve. We are learning engines with the potential to continually improve on our previous best performance”

Long term capitalism. Seeing and showing the challenge, solution space and metrics

Some communication is feasible only in the visual mode.  Imagine navigating with text on the road or what the GUI did to computers ! Visual literacy wins where conventional literacy fails.
To lead is to SEE and SHOW
The tool is a visual interface to managing which facilitates, seeing and showing, to create, enhance and continually renew community – local and global.
It shows
  • Positioning, The invariant position and variant positions in the journey
  • Where are we headed?  See the red arrow
  • Where we should be headed, the green arrow. The shift is an imperative.
  • Between the red and green arrows is the blue ocean space/waste in the system, the unrealised potential
  • The process, how to align the four wheels,catalyze the process and ensure that the learning engine continually improves on its previous best performance. Who drives the learning engine?
  • Metrics, measuring real / sustainable improvements.

The framework holds good at all levels from the personal to the community and global.

We have built beautiful castles in the air and it is time now to build the foundations. The apporach integrates and consolidates the essence of all great contribuions of the past and anticipates those in the making. The integral view facilitates and accelerates the journey towards true north transcending semantic barriers.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. – Lao-tzu.   Seeing is the first step to showing it.From the design follows the prototype, testing, metrics and continuous improvement in specific contexts.
Do you SEE the transformation of classical capital to knowledge and community captial?
  • Develop holistic performance measures
  • Retool management for an open world
  • Rebuild management’s philosophical foundations

The Nature of Nature:Community/Social/Intelligence/Learning, A Metasystem Perspective

Accelerated Community Learning

Most of us live in  a black or white, flat world. What do we choose to see, black, white, black and white, grey, green, grey and green ?

What we see is what we get. Intelligence is about seeing all of them and beyond. Seeing in pairs (the ark had its pairs) is inevitable since black is black in relation to white. We make sense by comparing. The quadrants pair, reflect each other, Q1 with Q3, Q 2 with Q4, Potential with Performance and Old with New

Potential = Performance + Waste + an Unknown Quantity, our raison d’être

All systems are purposive and reduction in waste is the super ordinate goal of the system

Growth is a process of positioning, fixing the direction (finding true north) and metrics of the  reduction in waste.

Red stands for decay and entropy. Green stands for continual learning and renewal

Community is about the commons, what we collectively share, value, enhance and preserve

More: FDF,  Knowledge Visualization,  

suggested reading :  An Outline of General System Theory (1950) Ludwig von  Bertalanffy

Metaphoria of Transformation

“Connecting with Consumers Using Deep Metaphors.

Famous brands have an emotional meaning that taps into thoughts and feelings related to the positive aspects of transformation, according to Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, authors of  Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers (HBS Press 2008). Transformation is just one metaphor that finds expression in products that satisfy deeply held consumer needs and desires. Other metaphors they notice include balance, journey, and connection”. Martha Lagace,

To learn is to connect.  To connect is to solve a problem, recognize or see the pattern and in the process the solution emerges. The learning resultant from problem solving, accumulated knowledge, catalyzes development and growth.

Some learning is possible only through parables or stories.  Stories synchronise brains. The story outlines that follow can be used to develop the connecting, catalyzing and reflecting skills. A story acts like a map, a metaphor and can be used to connect the internal and external territories to unearth something that people already know at deeper levels.

E.g. connectivity and the structure of silicates, maps and meta maps, programs and meta programs, competencies and meta competencies, archetypes and design

More metaphors

1. Story of One , Differently Abled Child and the Teacher

2.Mental maps – Eagle’s gift

Thinking about what we can’t think about

The eagle nests on the tallest tree

The tree is by the side of a very deep well

In the well is a community of frogs. The well is so deep that the frogs have never been out of the well.

As the sun sets and the darkness rushes into the well, the little ones in the community crowd around the nanny frog pestering her for stories.  May be she will repeat one of those stories, yet it is still very comforting at the time when the shades of grey drives out th world of light darkness takes over.

Darkness is yet to take over the tree tops. It is very rare that it happens, once in a while when the sky is completely clouded and stars are invisible.

At times the eagle listens to the familiar stories. Over the years of its immortal life, it has heard them many times over, many versions of the same stories over many generations. There is nothing new about the stories other than it is almost a ritual that disturbs it in some way.

It is another day

The thermals are forming. The eagle is waiting for the thermals to gather force.  It is quite strong now.

The eagle swoops down into the well, grabs the nanny frog with its claws and rise up from the well into the sky assisted by the thermal moving up at a frightening pace.

The heights and the fear of death overtakes the frog. It shuts it’s eyes tight and wait for the inevitable.

The eagle has reached the heights and hovers there circling in the sky. It goes round and round for a long long time. It senses that the frog has quieted down and has opened its eyes. The thermal is waning. It gently floats down once again into the well and gently leaves the frog from where it has been taken for a ride.

On the return journey the frog had just a glimpse of the larger world outside the well.

The eagle goes back to the tree and waits for the sun to set waiting for the story of the day.

What will be the story of the day?

The participants are to write down a story and the trainer gives the feedback based on participants’ stories. Switch the roles of Eagles and trainers so that trainers don’t come to assume that they are the eagles. One has to be an eagle and at times a frog depending on the context.

The human condition is like that of the frog in the well. The mental maps are influenced by the ‘well’ we live in. They are improved with every bit of learning. The developmental process involves revision and improvement of the mental models or maps. Facilitators play a very critical role and to fulfil these roles they need to have the necessary competencies.

3. The Chandrasekhar Effect.

Chandrasekhar is a very saintly soul who has a weakness for     liquor.  One morning we found him in front of his regular hangout. Chandrasekhar was relieved to meet some familiar faces. He came out with a question which he wanted to ask somebody who is familiar. Even at this stage he was aware that his condition might make him ask stupid questions and he did not want to be humiliated.  The question was “Where am I?” We take the most fundamental for granted which takes us farther away from reality. When our basic assumptions, the home position, are wrong it is certain that we will reach some place where we never wanted to be. Any process of improvement calls for fixing a starting position, deciding on the direction and reflecting/review with reference to the starting position. A large number of people were asked this question as to what our basic needs are and the first reply is always the text book answer, “food, shelter, and clothing”. But for the person who has decided that life itself is meaningless none of these matter. If they are asked to respond to a question like “How many sides the coin has?” the answer is always the same – two, though with a little bit of clarification they will soon shift their original positions.   One of the obstacles, as old as history and symbolized in the story of Babel, to reaching a solution to the issue is the semantic confusion and that there is very little convergence between the domains that have the potential to offer solutions.

4. Blind men and the elephant

5. Don’t shoot the messenger

6. Mahabali and Vamana

7. Taj Mahal / cathedral Building

Emperor Shajahan asked the same question to the three stonecutters.  “What are you doing?”

The three answers are:

“I am earning a living”,

“I am polishing stones, and I am the best stonecutter available”

“I am building a monument which is an expression of the love of the emperor to his beloved and this stone that I am polishing will be the corner stone of the monument”

It is obvious that the third mason is more likely to meet the standards for quality and quantity and that if all the three are to meet these and other standards – of effectiveness, excellence and zero defects – the third mason’s vision is to be shared. When we work more and more with intangibles and the slave driver is replaced by one’s own self this becomes all the more difficult but essential to keep the network as one, connected.

9. Indra and the pigs – Resistance to change.

Indraonce transformed himself into a pig just to find out why   pigs enjoyed wallowing in the mud. He remained there till Narada searched him out and compelled him to go back to his former self.  It is quite possible that we get stuck with poor performance and come to accept that this as the limit of our possibilities till a compelling experience/crisis or vision might lift us out of the situation.

10.  Frog soup

A frog is placed in a bowl of cold water.  Turning on a heater     gently warms the water.  The frog initially enjoys the warmth and feels comfortable.  The increase in warmth is so gentle that the frog does not notice it.  The warmth gradually increases; the frog falls into a stupor and eventually turns into frog soup. The opposite possibility is that of continual renewal, to respond creatively to the process on a real time basis.

The story is quoted in two of the popular books on management, The Renewal Factor (Waterman) and The Fifth Discipline (Peter M Senge).  The frog in the cold water initially enjoys the increasing warmth of water in which it is immersed and by the time it is unbearable it is immobilized and incapable of escape from death.  The process of continual renewal is the opposite of this whereby individuals, institutions or a community continually respond to the environment and improve their contexts.  The process is qualitatively different and most often ignored in the preoccupation with the short term.  U.S. companies now lose half their employees every four years, half their customers in five, and half their investors in less than twelve months[ii]. The returns on investment, yield rate of stocks, market capitalisation   or increase in value of ESOP by themselves are not sufficient measures of success.  Corporates need to be concerned about the internal as well as the broader external community also, other than the shareholders and the targeted market segments.

11.  The Cannon Shot/The Two Roads

The road by design and by default

The two roads, one by design and the other by default and the  moment of truth.

What we believe as maturity, normal, is a HABIT, history, the roadblock.

The system at physical birth is comparable to the bullet that leaves the barrel of a gun.

The bullet is helpless to influence its trajectory.

Most systems, individuals or institutions seldom go beyond this level without that choice, a conscious decision to evolve, becoming aware of the position, direction and reflecting on the progress.

When it happens the bullet goes into orbit.

The linear is the road by default, the road to death, accidents, burnout and the road on which time runs out.

The other is the road to eternity, continual renewal and timelessness by CHOICE, the conscious decision to be on the road to continual IMPROVEMENTs, creating the future NOW, by DESIGN,  a future better than the present.

The cannon shot does not have the potential to become aware of it’s self. Individuals and organizations have the unique capability of self-observation and self regulation which implies the possibility of improvement.   This is what qualifies us to be termed human. The cannon shot that goes out of the cannon has no possibility of becoming aware of itself and the outcome is already determined at the moment of its departure from the cannon.  But the more advanced of human creations like those of sophisticated machines do have more and more of self-regulation built into them.  Thus in the case of space vehicles and satellites, extent of self-regulation and the possibility of controlling the behavior of the system from outside the system increases.  The extent of self-regulation, the possibility of reflecting on one’s behavior and even laugh at it, is what draws us apart as a class, from the rest of the systems.  In the case of the cannon shot gravity operates mercilessly and ultimately the shot is overtaken by it when the shot reaches terra firma.  In the case of individuals and organizations, it is the vision that keeps them going.  The vision is liable to be corrupted and needs to be renewed continuously.  Just as gravity operates continuously, the forces of decay too is natural to all systems.  In nature decay and renewal are continuous and it follows that for organizations to sustain growth, the effort at renewal too needs to be continuous’.

12. Ashram and the prophets– Leadership, Creating and Renewing Vision and Shared Values.

There is an ashram in which four sanyasins struggle to make both ends meet. There has been a golden time for the ashram when crowds used to flock together to the ashram but now the ashram has fallen on bad times with no visitors and no income.  One of the sanyasins hit upon the idea of visiting another sanyasin in a distant place to seek help.  They set out on the journey together, meet the sanyasin and present the problem. The sanyasin sends them back with just one piece of advice – One of you is a prophet. The sanyasins are not able to find out who   the prophet is but over time the ashram renews itself and recovers the lost glory.   ”.

13.  First monkey – Creative communities

There live a community of monkeys in an island. They had never eaten the nuts of a particular tree.   A curious little monkey picked up one of these nuts, dips it in seawater and eats it.  It finds that the nut is very delicious.  Rest of the monkeys slowly follows the little monkey one by one. Eventually the nut becomes a common meal for all the monkeys and when a critical number of monkeys pick up this habit, the behavior spreads all throughout in no time, all over the world. The group soon emulates the behavior of the first monkey.  When the group size crosses a certain critical mass, the new behavior is manifested globally without any apparent interconnections.  Something, which was beyond the realm of possibility, has now become possible and collective learning results. The phenomenon is observed in many other situations also.  Fostering individual creativity within the organizational community is integral to continual renewal.  Besides, the context now offers the possibility of creative individuals to make much larger global impact.  The typical examples are the emergence and growth of startup IT ventures during the last two decades.

14. The Imperial Chill – Daniel Quinn

15. Sheet of Rubber and the Football – Centralization and decentralization, Yes and No, Static / Dynamic

16. Caterpillar and the Butterfly, Seed to Tree, Cream to Butter, Ahalya, Pygmalion and Galatea , Rama and Ahalya

17. Less is more

18.  Complex vs simple




256×256= ?

19. Blindness, Seeing, Jose Saramago

20. Magister Ludi, Herman Hesse

21. Time

Mastery of time involves going beyond the ordinary or common to the transcendental experience of time. The common understanding is very essential to deal with the day to day world but this is never the complete story. It is only a partial truth (illusion). Time /timelessness is another duality, gate, to learning the direct (mystic) experience, freeing one from the entanglement of a linear experience of time.There is nothing linear about nature. Linear time kills in many ways. Timelessness, eternity, is a common experience if one reflects over those experiences when time stood still, while you were in love vs. waiting for a P breakts

22. Timelessness/Real time

Real time

What black is to white is time to timelessness, as memory is to forgetting

Linear time meets memory at ground zero

To beget the NEW

As the eagle soars up in the sky details get blurred

But the essential is not lost

It swoops down faster to the goal.

Knows when to strike and when to sail

To switch between time and timelessness

What to gather and to leave behind

Complete the learning so as to forget

Learn history so that history is not repeated

Both personal and collective, for the flow of life to go on

Bury the dead so that renewal rules, not death and decay

Free the ground for the dance of eternity – timelessness

23. Habit/New habits

New habits

Transcend habits by more powerful habits.

Habit is history that keeps us stuck. Even death is a habit  and fear of death is the mother of all fears which drives many businesses. Resistance creates resistance. If the child wants to touch fire we can tell her don’t do it – a sure fire way of achieving what we never wanted. Instead show her the butterfly. Her attention is shifted to something beautiful. Big time improvement strategists play the latter game. They don’t preach change. They play the game of radical improvement through which people come together as one, in relationships, internal and external alignment, creating history. In the process we move forward, get unstuck. Everyone wins and none loses.

Amor is the Roman god of love. The root from Sanskrit ‘amar’ means immortal and ‘amrut’ is that which makes one immortal – knowledge. Work is love expressed – Kahlil Gibran. The path to immortality, exceptional performance, is possible only through transformation of work as expression of the self, an expression of love

24. The Light House Position. What is your call?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is then not an act but a habit – Aristotle

Juggling with P’s – The Picture of Philosophy

Further :