The futility of hope

I have over the last years reconsidered my relationship to hope. I used to think hope was what kept me going. A necessity. And when I once in a while lacked hope I lost my energy and sense of direction. Until hope once again arrived.

Today I have no hope. And have a better and more fulfilled life. Quite a paradox.

What I do have is convictions, learnings, and visions. And capacity. And responsibility. And will. And acceptance, compassion and love.

I also have lost despair. What I have is life. My life is best lived in the present. Living in future and in the past with hope and despair has mostly brought me unhappiness.

I have come to realise that hope puts our fate outside ourselves. Hope is an emotional expression that something outside ourselves will sort itself out in the future. And make our life/lives better. The fallacy of this is that instead of strengthening us, hope makes us powerless and puts us in the hands of others. Hope puts our faith and expectations in leaders, groups, or communities. Not in ourselves. It also generates a lot of disappointment, because hopes so often don’t materialize.

Sure, we humans need to collaborate, but my point here is what mindset we chose to have when we collaborate. I’m suggesting that hope is something rather useless and meaningless that we should rid ourselves of. And instead dig into whatever current realities that concern us with presence and openness. We get the outcomes we get as a result of what is there and what we put in. Outcomes are neither good nor bad, fair or unfair, just consequences. This way one shouldn’t get disappointed and can find more fulfilment in the work itself, and the relationships with our collaborators. And in the long run most probably get more and better work done.

This talk by Alan Watts captures this theme much better than I ever can. I suggest you listen if you are curious to explore hope more.


There Are No Mistakes In This Universe

I have recently rediscovered Alan Watts. Just love listening to his wise talks. This talk is so profoundly relevant to our dire times. In society, in our environment, at an individual level. Do listen. Maybe as a reflective meditation.


2018 ==> 2019

So there it is. The wrapping up of this wildly interesting and challenging year. At least for me. I’ll be honest. This is the year I almost went bankrupt. It is the year I realized some of my friends aren’t my friends. This is the year I realized som of my friends REALLY are my friends. This is the year I fell deeply in love. But also had to let it go. This is the year I fully discovered universal love, the way of the universe and other ”magic”. What an experience. This is also the year I managed to shift the main focus of my work towards serving needs connected to sustainability and humanity.

From the depth of my heart I am deeply grateful to everyone that has encouraged and supported me throughout this year. This includes some very brave and challenging clients that have entrusted me difficult work. I love that.

For 2019 I have a mixture of concerns and hopes. Hopes of a very special nature that best can understood by reading this thoughtful piece by Margaret Wheatley. My concerns are much the same that I have carried for roughly two decades. The loss of our connection with this planet that keeps us alive, and also the accompanying loss of our humanity. My dedication for the years to come is to stand on the right side of these issues. To be part of solutions, and not problems. To participate in guiding us towards better emerging futures. I have no idea if we can pull it off. But I feel I have an obligation to serve this cause and do my bit. As Winston Churchill once put it:

”It is not enough that we do our best: sometimes we must do what is required.”

I look forward to joining forces with you during 2019. Starting the year, my ambition is to get a newsletter going. Please subscribe here to get the first issue. ==> Subscribe the Changing Minds Newsletter <==





Den orimliga bevisbördan

Det kan hända att jag hade otur när jag tänkte det jag nu delar. Hjälp mig gärna att komma rätt då.

Så här. Jag har hela mitt professionella liv arbetat med och för det vi kan kalla alternativa, nya, innovativa eller bara annorlunda idéer. Inte rent hittepå, utan saker som är kända, och erkända i många sammanhang och avseenden. Som vore bra för oss om vi tillämpade. Men som av olika skäl inte tar sig in i mittfåran av vår praktik i samhälle och företag.

En stor sådan fråga är vår icke hållbara livsstil, främst i västvärlden. Det här fick jag hjälp att fatta för minst 20 år sedan. Och har på olika sätt försökt att påverka utvecklingen till det bättre. Och det är ju bara att konstatera att det har gått skitdåligt.

En annan fråga handlar om hur ledarskap och organisationskultur fortfarande ser ut i mainstream-världen. Makt, kontroll och rädsla dominerar fortfarande. Och förminskar människor istället för att stärka dom. Även det här förstod jag för över 20 år sedan. Och har också gått skitdåligt att påverka.

I båda dessa frågor finns en uppsjö av kunskap och forskning som stödjer att nya synsätt och praktiker både är mera hållbara, lönsamma och människovänliga. Vi har tillräckligt med exempel i världen som bevisar det. Men exemplen förblir anomalier. De blir inte mainstream. Organisationer gör inte det forskningen säger. Organisationer gör som de alltid gjort.

I hela mitt professionella liv har jag fått höra att jag (och alla de andra i alternativfältet) måste bevisa värdet av det vi föreslår. Annars kommer vi ingen vart. I hela mitt professionella liv har jag försökt göra just det. Och är djupt tacksam för alla kloka tänkare och praktiker som skapar ovärderlig kunskap vi behöver tillämpa. Men det funkar ju inte. Det blir ingen förändring att tala om.

Så nu får det nog räcka. Bevisen talar för sig själva numera. Det finns inget mer att bära fram. Det är istället dags för mittfåremaffian att ta över bevisbördan. De behöver förklara varför fortsatt exploatering av naturresurser är nödvändiga. De behöver förklara varför det är nödvändigt att människor lever i fattigdom. De behöver förklara varför man ska bli behandlad som ett barn bara för att man är anställd. De behöver förklara varför vi skall fortsätta betjäna en liten elit av ekonomiskt och maktmässigt priviligierade. Du hajar. Listan kan göras lång.

Bevisbördan behöver med kraft föras över på dom som förstör. Hur åstadkommer vi det?



Opting for the difficult

Roughly 20 years ago I realized our current idea of civilisation could not be sustained. I imagine many have had similar insights. But also like me struggled with what do to and over time found that it is impossible to stop or redirect what can be seen as a supertanker on full throttle. And honestly maybe we also started to think that we were wrong. That this all might work out with the help of globalisation, international collaboration, technology, etc.

Today I’m glad I have at last shedded all such hopes, even if I hold a degree of openness towards possible miracles. But in general I have accepted that we are in the end state of this civilization. And this is paradoxically quite a liberation. It allows me to redirect my efforts and hopes in new, more fruitful, directions. 

At the core I am still a person that sees and needs to exist in a space of possibilities. So when possibilities seem scarce in and around our struggling institutions I now increasingly go for the outliers. For the small scale. For the local. For the community. For the human spirit. That is where I find hope and possibility today.

In a world running on steroids our old institutions act hard headed and will resist anything that seems to threaten their power and privileges. In the light of increasing complexity and uncertainty they tighten their command and control. Which is quite counter productive if they want to survive, and instead accelerates their disintegration. I’ve found this to be in line with how social systems tend to work when they get poisoned by ego, fear and power games. 

The easy (but soul threatening) thing to do is to play along. Not resist. Although it will still be tough work because those in charge will always want more from us. But the job in itself it is not so difficult. The truly difficult today is to take on the new possibilities that can be found at the fringes. Invite them and explore them. Test them. To bring people together, generate empowerment and build local trust and community. AND simultaneously defend these efforts against a variety of subtle and not so subtle attack and defence mechanisms from our institutions. 

I’m opting for the difficult. 


Nytt datum: Stockholm 20-21 mars 2019 – utbildning i samskapande!

Den 20-21 mars 2019 genomför jag tillsammans med Kaospiloterna en introduktionsutbildning till samskapande (co-design) i Stockholm. Det är ett utbildningsformat som man framgångsrikt genomfört i Danmark och som vi nu tillsammans introducerar i Sverige. Jag har haft utbyte med Kaospiloterna i snart 25 år och har de senaste fyra åren examinerat deras avgångsstudenter.

Info om utbildningen ==> Klicka här

Varför samskapande?

Samarbete är människans superkraft. Det vi lyckas med eller inte lyckas med är nästan alltid ett resultat av kvaliteten på samarbetet. I vår normala tillvaro på jobbet är samarbeten oftast definierade på förhand. Det finns en uppgift som skall lösas som någon annan har bestämt. Det är ganska klart vilka som behöver delta. Och maktordningen är någorlunda given.

Men hur gör man om det här inte finns? Vad händer om problembilden är lite luddig? Och om lösningen är oklar? Och om det finns många aktörer som berörs och har intresse i frågan? Eller hur gör man om man har ”fastnat” i ett ensidigt inifrånperspektiv i sättet att tänka och behöver nya impulser?

Begreppet samskapande är ett sätt att rama in en typ av samarbete där förutsättningarna är mera oklara men det fortfarande behövs en produktivt samarbete. Kaospiloterna har i över 25 år arbetat fram ett förhållningssätt och en del metoder och verktyg för att adressera det här behovet.

Det är vad utbildningen handlar om. Att ta sig in i denna kunskapsdomän.

Vem kan ha glädje av utbildningen?

Som vi ser det är det här en allmänrelevant utbildning som kan motiveras för de allra flesta i de allra flesta organisationer. Vi har allt fler situationer och behov i och mellan organisationer och människor som samskapande är ett svar på. Allt oftare sätts vi på att lösa problem och utmaningar som inte är på förhand givna.

Med det sagt har vi ändå några specifika typer av roller i åtanke för den här utbildningen. Utveckling är sannolikt en tydlig del av din tjänst/uppdrag. Vi tror att du kanske arbetar i offentlig sektor med medborgarengagemang. Du kanske är ledare eller medarbetare som allmänt vill utveckla dig inom samskapande. Du kanske är verksam i en frivilligorganisation och vill få mer utväxling på ert arbete. Du kanske arbetar i näringslivet med kund-, användar- eller medarbetarinvolvering.

Gemensamt är att du oftare möter behovet av att sätta ihop nya former av samarbeten med människor i och utanför den egna organisation. Du har börjat se att människor i en vidare krets utanför ”de vanliga tillfrågade” är viktiga resurser i ditt arbete. Du behöver samskapa med dom och letar förhållningssätt, erfarenheter och idéer på hur detta kan göras så bra som möjligt.

Utbildningen ger dig vissa verktyg som underlättar involvering. Du får lära dig mer om hur du processleder gemenskaper och hur du designar trygga lärmiljöer. Du upptäcker mer om hur du genererar energi och entusiasm och tillvaratar möjligheterna med mångfald.

Välkommen med din anmälan! ==> Klicka här


Att tvinga sig på universum

En liten spaning utifrån egen upplevelse de senaste månaderna. 

Vi lever i en samtid, en tidsanda, där allt och alla skall synas i bruset. Visa vem man är och vad man kan. Vilket stimulerar det ena greppet efter det andra för att få ett litet övertag i tävlingen om uppmärksamhet.

Jag tänker att det här ett resultat av ett överutbud av innehåll, tjänster, produkter. Och ett underskott av kunder, läsare, användare, anhängare. Och en form av ängslighet och desperation kring detta.

Jag har själv haft ett ganska intensivt marknads- och säljarbete igång sen i juni för att hantera det intäktstapp som uppstod när jag snabbt blev egen igen i juni. Jag får erkänna att jag drabbades av en form av försörjningsstress och satte igång ett utåtriktat arbete med en viss frenesi.

Men det har också skavt i mig. Och i början av veckan tillät jag mig själv att stanna upp.

Jag inser – igen – att jag aldrig kan “vinna” i den tävling som pågår. Jag vill ju inte ens vinna. Eller tävla. Jag vill hjälpa, samarbeta, lära, utveckla, förbättra. Inte vinna.

Jag har verkligen svårt för att tränga mig på. Det bär emot. Det är inte jag. Vem är jag att pracka på folk det jag tänker och gör. Det finns så många begåvade människor där ute. Så många perspektiv. Jag är en liten droppe i ett stort hav.

Över åren har jag blivit influerad av taoistisk filosofi. Naturens väg är en stark metafor som den moderna människan i sin hets och iver behöver vara mer lyhörd för. Särskilt i perspektivet hållbarhet. Och när jag för ett antal år sedan läste Marshall Rosenbergs Non-Violent Communication blev det ännu tydligare. Kommunikation kan vara en slags våldshandling.

Min konsultmentor Mikael har alltid sagt att våra tjänster inte säljs, de köps. 

Det har aldrig känts mera sant.



Is ’sustainable’ the right word?

This is a question I’ve been asked a number of times lately. It has made me think. And I have come to the conclusion that it is the right word. Let me briefly explain why.

First and foremost ’sustainable’ is the established term we have used for a long time when we mean systems that are healthy and productive.

Secondly introducing a new term at this moment in time would risk confusion, and perhaps even lead us astray in the important work we have before us.

What seems to be considered problematic with the term ’sustainable’  is the view that no systems truly are sustainable. As far as I can recall from my studies in natural sciences this seems to stem from some confusion about how systems tend to function. In order to be sustainable systems do not have to be stable over time. They can be disturbed. But if they are resilient they recover. If they are not they collapse. A resilient system would be sustainable. A system that collapses would not be.

My understanding is that human life on Earth is a living system within a larger system we can call biological life on Earth. Our life style is making other systems collapse (species extinction). We are also disturbing the large system of life on Earth. But I seriously doubt we have the capacity to make this system collapse completely. We will kill ourselves before that happens. So the biological life system on Earth is resilient. Human life at this moment is on a track to collapse.

Some suggest that a better term would be ’harmony’. That we as a species should live in harmony with nature. I have no trouble with this term, but it lacks the quite solid groundwork done in the sustainability movement where relatively concrete definitions and action plans have been derived over the decades. Harmony in comparison becomes very fluffy and I fear it can serve as an escape hatch for doing the very specific work we know needs to be done.

So, I will stick to using the terms ’sustainable’. ’sustainability’ and ’sustainable development’. This wikipedia entry gives a good overview me thinks.

— Jan


The Elephant in the Room

I was struck by something Yvon Chouinard said in this video I found on Youtube. At one point he says regarding sustainability that ”growth is the elephant in the room”. At first I didn’t react much but the phrase stuck with me and eventually started a quite vitalizing personal reflection process.

Sustainable human life on Earth is the most pressing issue we face. But not the hottest topic at social gatherings. Or in companies. Or in schools. Or even in politics.

We just don’t frame it that way. It makes us feel depressed. We want to be happy and joyful.

Guess what. Going extinct is REALLY depressing.

I believe we are in deep shit. I believe we are very successful at not dealing with this challenge. So, I share Yvon Chouinard’s pessimism on our future, but also his views on the few things that represent our hope.

The thing is, all these insights more or less came to me in the early 90’s. Which led me to start consulting on environmental issues in the mid 90’s. I read the fascinating and eye opening book The Limits to Growth, and a long line of other books as well. I really dug into the subject. I met Karl-Henrik Robert at The Natural Step and also participated in their training. I made myself committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. For a while.

It seems I got distracted. I gradually lost my bearings during a longer period of time – almost 20 years. Sure, I did some of the obvious stuff. Recycled, reduced consumption, lightened my footprint and such but if I look at my professional life I did very little. I shared the occasional book or video clip, I would have sustainability as an important factor in my strategy presentations, but essentially I did not seriously put myself into the service of our future on Earth.

Now, I know this last sentence sounds pretentious as hell but I can’t find any other way to put it. And I’m thinking there is no other way anyone of us should be thinking about our contribution – with the exception of those that are most vulnerable.

So, a lot of suppressed thoughts and emotions caught up with me in the recent weeks and has made me pissed off at myself. I’m trying now to repent and do better. Daniel Quinn says we need to change our minds before we can make any useful changes in how we live. I believe this to be very true and Yvon Chouinard put me right back on track reflecting on the biggie of our civilization – growth.

Our obsession with growth is so sophisticated and embedded in our culture that we can’t see any other perspectives. Karl-Henrik Robert once said that GDP is a very good measure of how rapidly we are depleting the resources of our planet. Oh, the irony of this. Instead of constructing a measure that protects the resources we are so dependent on, we created something that encourages squandering.

When I look myself in the mirror I realize I am also guilty of pretending that all will be fine. Or maybe I should say I have been willfully blind. Telling myself things aren’t that bad. We will sort it out together. Why should I panic when no one else is, etc. But this behavior is exactly what is killing us. Boiled frog syndrome or whatever (I’ve heard this frog thing is a myth but haven’t bothered to check).

Anyway. Growth IS the elephant in the room. Big friggin’ humungous elephant. Almost all of us sense it. But we won’t talk about it. Because it makes us feel depressed and afraid. So we go on killing ourselves and instead try to focus on having a little fun while we do. Or we say to each other that we’ll deal with it later, we only have a couple things to attend to first….

Here is how I see our situation. In broad and slightly simplistic terms.

The embedded cultural idea of growth is a dead end. David Suzuki lays it out elegantly in this short video. There can be no such thing as sustainable growth. It is an oxymoron. What we can have is periods of growth and then retraction, like all other species. But we have found ways to fiddle with these mechanisms, keep feeding our growth and delay the consequences. But by golly, the consequences will haunt us. In our culture we have for some reason planted the idea of eternal growth as something necessary and attainable. We have somehow reached the conclusion that we are exempt from the laws of nature. But there can be no such thing as eternal growth. Period.

What we can have and should strive for is sustainable development. What is the difference compared to growth? I lend myself to the thinking of the late Russell Ackoff, systems thinker in the higher league. He said growth is the increase in size or number. Development is the increase in competence. This makes a lot of sense so I say let’s go for sustainable development and not growth. Any accompanying growth would need to be within the planetary boundaries.

I changed my mind about growth in the 90’s. I am convinced it is killing us. I just forgot about this for a while. Our survival, as I see it, is linked to development – increasing our competence. We do not need more things. We do not need bigger things. We do not need to be more humans on the planet. Yes, there is a case for uneven distribution. But let us then redistribute within our planetary boundaries, not continue to steal from future generations. This system is finite, and we have to deal with it.

I once again realize I have to push myself to initiate and participate in mind changing conversations and contribute so we collectively can get out of our bind. I want my kids to have a reasonable shot at a decent life. The way things look we perhaps only have 2-3 decades to change our minds and move in a new direction. We’ve had humans on the planet for a couple of million years. The last 10-15,000 marked a new course in our lifestyle – which fueled growth. The last 150 years accelerated this growth exponentially. But this is a bankrupt lifestyle. We are lending from the planet, from future human generations, from other species – and soon we won’t be able to repay our debts. If human life on Earth were a business, laws would force us to reconstruct our business or go belly up. I would at this stage prefer the option of reconstructing. We are not dead yet.

So, what will now come next? I honestly don’t know, but it must be different. And it must be sustainable. For the majority of people I think this is a daunting and scary process. Resistance to change will continue to dominate. Willful blindness will continue.

For some – including me – our predicament is a vast space of opportunity. We have a shot at doing something unprecedented. Humanity’s next great adventure is here!




Separated from nature

Synchronicity is an interesting phenomenon.

I woke up today feeling a little gloomy and tired. After breakfast I found myself revisiting the works of Daniel Quinn. His most famous book is Ishmael – a book I read and decided to import and sell in the bookshop I owned in the first half of the 90’s. I sold well over 500 copies of the book which was quite a feat considering my store’s focus was business and IT literature.

Anyway, this morning I re-read ”If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways” which was written by Quinn in 2007. It is an edited transcript he has with one of his readers and attempts to ”show” how he does what he does. There is loads of interesting stuff there and I tweeted a few quotes during the day.

In the appendix of the book he republishes an essay titled ”The New Renaissance”. I would like to urge you to read it. Maybe even a couple of times. This quote is so telling of Quinn’s mode of thinking:

”Nevertheless, I can tell you with complete confidence that something extraordinary is going to happen in the next two or three decades. The people of our culture are going to figure out how to live sustainably – or they’re not. And either way, it’s certainly going to be extraordinary.”

In the essay Quinn also states that our separation from nature is the most dangerous idea in existence. There is us and there is nature. If this does not change in our minds Quinn declares us doomed.

Now the bit of synchronicity. About an hour after I finished the book I started tinkering on my web site and tweaking the focus of my services more towards sustainability. I checked Facebook at one point and then this Huffington Post article showed up in my feed: ”Nature Connection Will Be the Next Human Trend”. It is an interesting read so please take the time. Not as sharp as Quinn, but in the same playing field.

The gloomy start of this day is long gone. I’ll go to bed with some contentment as one of the outcomes of today’s reading and writing is a newly formulated personal mission:

To make a real and positive contribution in the increasingly urgent process of making human life on Earth sustainable.

It is perhaps a bit lofty but hey that is me. This is what I will try to navigate my life towards in the decades ahead.