Not everyone is lucky enough as to live in a time where most of their basic thought patterns are destroyed in the face of reality. The 20th century and the early part of the 21st century have challenged our thought patterns repeatedly.
People think through frameworks. They cannot think otherwise. A framework of thinking is a defined structure of basic beliefs that we adopt, think through and act upon. We can only think in frameworks because thinking is a process of organizing, structuring and shaping our perceptions. By way of analogy, you cannot create a jigsaw puzzle without a picture or a frame. Some people create frameworks of thinking. The great majority follow existing frames of thinking.
A framework allows our thoughts within it and limits all thoughts beyond it. It is like a prison in which we think and it feels for a while as if it is the only representation of reality. As an example: "The soviet system shall prevail" frame of thinking was a structure in which people lived, believed, aspired, loved, hated, built families and died. How bizarre is that for us now. Think about the last Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan fighting for ideas that back home were already collapsing rapidly in the hands of Gorbachov. Another example: "The church is supreme and is the sole mediator to god" this is a frame of thinking that millions of people think by, live by and die by. How strange it seems to those who live in a secular world.
And still millions in our world live and think in that framework. Or how about "The 3rd Reich will last a thousand years"? What atrocities have people performed with that frame of thinking. They thought with it, acted with it, murdered with it, fully believing that this was reality. Or for another example: The Cast system in India. People live within it fully believing that this is the natural order of things, even the "untouchables" live their miserable lives accordingly. How weird it is for the external observer.
Let us then move closer to recent times: "Our money and pensions are safe in banks" billions have lived with this frame of thinking, directing their efforts and their lives accordingly, only to discover in the last crises that this frame of thinking was rather naïve. When a frame of thinking is shuttered in the face of reality, we go through some trauma. Everything we believed and based our lives on is suddenly not there. It is as if the earth disappeared under us whilst we were flying in an airplane. We experience fear, grief, anger or other emotions. This is because we are thrown from order to chaos. The previous order does not exist anymore and that is fearful. We want our order back; so that we shall have again a foundation, a solid platform to think from, plan from, live from. So eventually we adopt another framework and feel secured again. So it moves from order to chaos to order again, from mentality to emotions to mentality again.
At large this is how the evolution of human thinking advances. New frames of thinking replace old frames of thinking. Like the scientific frame of thinking replaced the religious frame of thinking in many cultures. However for the individual in this unstoppable process it can mean sometimes tragedy or simply a life wasted.
How great could it be if we could adopt a meta-cognition position? This is a position from which we can observe and understand our own current frames of thinking. Then consider what they are based on, their validity and their sustenance. This could allow us to choose the futuristic long term frames that could take us through our lives without the upheavals of shuttered belief systems. Alas this is not simple because "The last to know it is in the water is the goldfish".
It is not easy to analyze objectively our current frames of thinking. Imagine that a frame of thinking is like a pair of glasses that we wear. Than we take off the glasses and try to examine them. With which eyes can we do this exercise if we needed glasses in the first place.
This article sets to point to a set of existing frames of thinking held by many that the author believes will become not valid or not relevant during our own life time. These commonly held beliefs by which we think and manage our lives will collapse like the Soviet Union, leaving the unprepared in trauma and void.
A major force that shapes our frame of thinking is the way in which we make our living. We know of four ages of the history of work:
The hunter gatherer era The agricultural era The industrial era The knowledge age era
Each era influenced majorly people's beliefs, frames of thinking, work relations, society structures and much more. In the hunter and gatherer age the main resource was a person's speed, power, and observation and so on. Planning was for very short terms and society was arranged in tribes or clans with commune relations. The agricultural age brought major changes. Now the valuable resources were land and water (most wars were fought about these resources). Planning was for much longer period. Society organized itself in villages or nomadic tribes. In this age the work relations are mainly land owner (feudal) and vassals. This is also the age where slavery developed.
The industrial age brought as well many changes. The valuable resources are raw materials, energy sources and capital. Planning is time bound ("time is money" – is an industrial age frame of thinking), long term, market oriented. Society develops mainly towns and cities around factories and the idea of employees, job description and hierarchy in the workplace are born. People are treated like the machines they operate. "When you come to work in my factory, park your brain in the entrance" said Henry Ford, a leading industrialist. In the last twenty years we move to the "knowledge age" era.
The resources are again the person themselves like in the first era. Now it is a person's capacity to learn, think, create, solve problems, and develop that are the main assets. This poses many problems to industrial type mangers and organizations. Hierarchy does not work so well. Matrix organizations develop. Bossing people around makes them leave the organization. The industrial "stick and carrot" motivation of the industrial age is replaced by interest, impact, involvement and influence as major motivators. There is a need to involve people, influence them, and consult with them which is all a nightmare for the industrial type boss. This mega change is one of many that herald a set of changes coming that will require totally different frames of thinking.
It was Mark twain who said that "forecasts are complicated and dangerous particularly regarding the future". The second part of this article should be read with this in mind as it speaks about the future and tries to forecast that which has not happened yet.
The author believes that an intermediate era is beginning to emerge that can be called: "The era of struggle for wise balances". So many processes have come to an extreme point at this stage. It seems that the natural order of things and some of the trends that are beginning now, point to the direction of wiser balancing. Some examples: Work – Life balance, usage of planetary resources balance, companies' profits and community needs balance and so on.]
Thinking about newly needed frameworks of thinking necessitates Global view, Systemic thinking, movement and balance sense, Trends observation, and a wish to try and understand the true nature of changing reality. Following are some areas where changing of frameworks of thinking might be required in the coming years particularly in the area of work and organizations
Companies and profits
Previous frame: Companies exist to maximize profits for owners
Most companies hold short view based on greed as was demonstrated in the last crises. Imbalanced situations are created where short term profits are being made on the expense of employees, customers or suppliers. This is not a long term viable situation. Companies will have to adopt a more long term, balanced, sustainable, and more just systemic frame of thinking. This change can affect dramatically the development of leading companies.
Proposed New frame of thinking: companies exist to maximize perceived value for all stake holders (Owners, managers, employees, customers, suppliers and society in large)
Previous frame of thinking: People work to survive
All the food in the world is manufactured by 2% of workers. All industrial manufacture is based on 5% of workers in the world. The rest work in services or are unemployed. This trend will grow, where 93% of workers do not really need to work. Those who will work in the future might be a minority that will choose their work according to internal indicators of passion, self fulfillment, competence and contribution.
Proposed new frame of thinking: People work in what they are passionate about and in what they contribute most
Fear and control in organizations
Previous frame of thinking: People in organizations can be controlled by fear.
Yes. People can surely be controlled by fear in organizations and it has been like this for many years. In the new economy those who can leave such organizations will try and to find their way into organizations that allow freedom of creativity and communication. Some of the brightest leave and establish themselves as self employed, working under the terms that they prefer. Therefore more and more highly controlled organizations are left with the average people who cannot or do not have the courage to move on.
Proposed new frame of thinking: People look for organizations or practical models that allow self fulfillment, creativity, trust and open communication
Longevity in the workplace
Previous frame of thinking: The workplace is for life. Aspire for constant position
This framework is inherited to us by the previous generation that suffered world wars and traumas. For them constancy and stability were core values. This is not valid anymore. The psychological contract of work for life does not exist almost anywhere. People are fired. Divisions are sold. Companies are traded, merged or acquired and the employees experience constant change.
Proposed new frame of thinking: Constantly develop; invest in yourself as an asset, so that you will be always wanted in the next workplace.
Previous frame of thinking: The wisdom lies with few
History was always based on few thinkers who were pathfinders for others. The availability of knowledge in an unprecedented way through the internet changed this dramatically. The trend shows that network intelligence emerges when many brains create together open source software, Wikipedia and mutual intelligence. The open knowledge and communication creates as well low common denominators results. However over time this age will be remembered also as the time when people began to think and create together in networks across the globe.
Proposed new framework of thinking: If people are given the space, time communication and joint interest they will create together superior intelligence.
If only some of these changes will occur, it will require a new open and observant state of mind from managers and employees alike. Trends should be assessed regularly by executives and consultants. As trends are established a quick and thorough readjustment should be made. This is the case for all living things in changing environments.
I will be glad to get your thoughts