One of those intriguing I’ve-never-met-but-hope-to-have-dinner-with people is E. O. Wilson. He’s a renowned biologist and naturalist whose expertise is in the micro—ants, specifically—and whose theories apply to the macro—human nature, the world around, and even how to run a healthy business ecosystem. Let me share with you one of my favorite Wilson quotes:
“The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. It is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”
Woah. Let’s set aside for a moment the threat to our world and explore this as it applies to the work place. Because at Leading Naturally, we believe there is confluence between the principles that govern the natural universe and those that guide our professional prosperity. Coming into harmony with our own nature and natural principles is good for our souls and good for business.
Now, back to that quote… Bear with me, as this will get a little dark before hope breaks through.
First, what are those Paleolithic emotions? Our impulses that served us well while hunting, gathering, and defending ourselves. They sometimes do not translate well into the workplace, do they? Fight or flight kicks in when we are missing a deadline or not getting credit or there’s another non-life threatening issue at work. This leads us to panic, or to pull away, or to lash out. That’s the reptilian brain, the oldest (evolutionarily speaking) part of our brains. The good old brain stem.
MRI’s show that a person’s brain will light up with the same fear responses when the boss says, “I have some feedback to give you,” as when a large bear is gaining on us! The very thing that kept us alive for millennia is now keeping us from growing into personal and professional prosperity and happiness.
The good news is, through conscious practice and a sense of play, we can build new neural pathways. All that is required is to slow down (think highway vs. side streets) and bring a gentle, playful kindness to our work and interactions.
So with a glimmer of hope in the area of our Paleolithic emotions, we move onto the next aspect of E.O Wilson’s assessment: medieval institutions. What he is talking about here are the structures and processes by which entities make decisions and organize power as well as the older technologies which are firmly lodged in place. This could include the way governments are run (by nature, cumbersome and slow), power brokering, and manufacturing systems that deplete our communities and environments more than they contribute to them.
In business, these medieval institutions are strict, top-down structures. These out-dated models emphasize results over relationships, which leads to treating people like machines. Sadly the daily pressure to produce results kills the human spirit in small, subtle ways.
One side of technology is darker: weapons of mass destruction, more ways to extract more nonrenewable resources from the earth, even digital bullying and identity theft. But! That technology is also the internet, connective/smart devices, predictive technology, and the democratization of information.
Read the quote above again. Now, there is hope. And it is in aligning our actions and beliefs with the natural order.
Think of technology as a wonderful opportunity. For the first time since the industrial revolution, machines are finally up to snuff—machines can be machines, and allow humans to be humans. Before, technology needed a serious babysitter—someone on the manufacturing line putting the same handle on the refrigerators, over and over again. Now that human who was doing a robot’s job is free to do things that make him or her the most human: evaluate complex situations, provide care, encouragement and accountability for co-workers, and more.
Looping back to Paleolithic emotions, we do not want to deny them or stuff them down. That’s against biology and virtually impossible. Plus, we would lose the insight they bring. We need to create work spaces that allow us to integrate our brains. The reptilian brain is moderated by the more sophisticated neomammalian brain—your cortex, which moderates morality and regulates emotions, among a myriad of other functions. When we are working in a space that isn’t punitive, we can remain integrated. An integrated brain can be more productive when staring down a deadline, for example, rather than flying off the hook at the mail lady. This is where the practice of bringing playful kindness comes to the forefront.
In this way, we can honor our Paleolithic emotions and use this “god-like technology” to achieve our shared values. When we use machines as machines and let people be people, we can make all jobs matter and all people thrive. That integration leads to an interdependence where each person contributes real value.
I invite you to explore you own emotions. Are they are serving you or not? Can you honor them as the messengers they are? What would that look like today?
Are the structures, processes and technologies you use bringing life or death to the vitality of your business and the people you work with?
How might you be gentle with yourself and slow down (even for a few hours) to give your Paleolithic survival brain space to breathe and catch-up with your human spirit?
Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely helpful information specifically the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.
I really wanted to send a simple message so as to express gratitude to you for all the nice pointers you are giving out at this website. My particularly long internet research has now been recognized with professional facts and strategies to talk about with my classmates and friends. I would point out that most of us readers actually are definitely endowed to dwell in a fantastic website with very many marvellous professionals with valuable strategies. I feel very much blessed to have seen your webpage and look forward to some more pleasurable moments reading here. Thanks again for all the details.
My spouse and i ended up being absolutely fulfilled Raymond managed to round up his inquiry with the precious recommendations he obtained using your site. It is now and again perplexing just to possibly be giving out tips that some other people have been selling. We really discover we have the blog owner to give thanks to for that. The most important explanations you’ve made, the straightforward site navigation, the relationships you give support to foster – it’s got many sensational, and it’s making our son and us feel that the concept is satisfying, and that’s seriously mandatory. Thanks for all!
My wife and i ended up being now relieved when Peter could deal with his studies with the precious recommendations he made through your weblog. It is now and again perplexing just to choose to be giving away tricks that many some people may have been trying to sell. And we all fully understand we need you to appreciate for this. The explanations you have made, the straightforward website navigation, the relationships you will give support to create – it is most wonderful, and it’s assisting our son and us reckon that the subject is fun, which is highly fundamental. Thank you for all!
I precisely desired to appreciate you again. I do not know the things I could possibly have made to happen in the absence of the entire suggestions shown by you regarding this area of interest. It was actually a frustrating setting in my circumstances, nevertheless noticing this expert form you resolved it forced me to cry for contentment. I am happy for your guidance as well as have high hopes you recognize what a powerful job that you are doing educating the rest through a web site. I’m certain you’ve never encountered any of us.
I simply desired to say thanks all over again. I am not sure the things I would’ve gone through without the actual strategies contributed by you directly on my subject matter. It had become an absolute intimidating scenario in my position, nevertheless encountering the very expert way you solved the issue forced me to jump for gladness. Now i’m happy for this guidance as well as expect you realize what an amazing job you have been providing training many others by way of your web site. I am sure you’ve never come across all of us.
Thanks a lot for providing individuals with a very splendid possiblity to check tips from this website. It is always very pleasant plus stuffed with amusement for me and my office fellow workers to search your site minimum thrice every week to learn the newest stuff you have got. Of course, I’m so actually impressed with all the sensational concepts served by you. Certain two facts on this page are in fact the most effective we have ever had.
I have to show my respect for your generosity supporting persons who require guidance on the area of interest. Your real commitment to passing the solution throughout came to be certainly valuable and have always allowed associates much like me to get to their objectives. Your informative tutorial signifies a lot a person like me and additionally to my office workers. Warm regards; from all of us.
My wife and i ended up being so thankful when Michael managed to finish off his survey out of the ideas he received while using the web page. It’s not at all simplistic just to choose to be releasing ideas that many people might have been trying to sell. We remember we have got the blog owner to give thanks to for that. The specific explanations you’ve made, the simple blog navigation, the relationships your site make it easier to foster – it is mostly impressive, and it’s really helping our son in addition to the family know that the idea is fun, and that is extremely indispensable. Thank you for all the pieces!
I precisely wished to appreciate you once again. I am not sure the things I could possibly have handled without the actual creative concepts documented by you regarding such a subject matter. It seemed to be a real frustrating concern for me personally, however , discovering a professional mode you handled that made me to jump over fulfillment. I’m grateful for your work and sincerely hope you really know what a great job you have been carrying out teaching the mediocre ones thru your website. I am sure you have never met any of us.
A lot of thanks for all of the efforts on this website. My niece takes pleasure in managing investigations and it is easy to understand why. Most people notice all about the lively form you convey invaluable tricks by means of your web blog and even foster response from other people on the area so my simple princess is starting to learn a whole lot. Take pleasure in the remaining portion of the new year. You are carrying out a very good job.
My wife and i were happy when Peter managed to complete his preliminary research through the precious recommendations he gained from your own web site. It is now and again perplexing to simply possibly be giving out techniques that some others may have been selling. And now we keep in mind we now have you to thank because of that. The explanations you’ve made, the simple website navigation, the friendships your site give support to instill – it’s most terrific, and it’s aiding our son in addition to our family do think this matter is enjoyable, which is particularly essential. Thank you for the whole thing!