Understanding our World

Half full

How we perceive the world, understand it and respond to it is largely determined by our level of Consciousness – an overarching concept of development that encapsulates all our beliefs, motivations, values, intelligences and worldviews. Put simply, it is the width, breadth and depth of our awareness of both the surrounding world and our inner selves – The more conscious we are, the more expansive, extensive and complex is our reality and our connection with it.

The evolution of Human Consciousness has been the subject of extensive scientific research over many years, producing countless theories and interpretations. In recent times, much of that collective information has converged into a small number of widely accepted developmental models that accurately describe this fundamental and ongoing movement within our species.

Based on these published works, our own studies and extensive personal experience, Barefoot Leadership has sought to develop a new, practical application for this otherwise academic knowledge within contemporary corporate environments. What we have come up with has generated revealing insights into the levels of current global organisational evolution and their profound resultant implications. And not just for business, but the world at large.

Within the context of what we have previously described, Organisational Consciousness is the state of knowing or awareness an organisation has of both their external surroundings and their internal operations. These can include influences such as market trends, environmental factors, societal conditions and changing technologies (external) and company culture, staff morale, productivity levels, effectiveness of systems and change strategies (internal).

Our particular interest here is that not only do individuals move through a predictable sequence of evolutionary consciousness “waves” but human organisations do exactly the same thing – and each wave or level of consciousness sees, responds to and relates to our world in very different ways.

Right now, both our society in general and the business world are in the midst of escalating, pervasive and often dramatic dimensions of change. And transformational change…not just transitional shifts. To keep up, our corporations have to match and indeed get ahead of the change process if they hope to survive. What many companies are finding is that the change management programs and trainings they are employing are simply not working. And it is often hard to understand why.

We believe it is has to do with consciousness – of our leadership, of the businesses they create and of our society.

The inspired (and scientifically validated) works of Don Beck and Christopher Gowan (Spiral Dynamics) and Ken Wilber (Integral Theory) tell the story of how our “organisational structures and systems” progressively move through a series of consciousness-based levels or waves. Each has typical characteristics and qualities and is expressed through a predictable model of operation (independent of culture or ethnic origins).

Every respective new “wave” evolves from its predecessor when the old model no longer adequately serves the majority of people at that level. It is this pressure that initiates genuine and necessary transformation.

As mentioned above, this is an area of study that has long remained largely academic and is only now beginning to penetrate into the corporate world with viable, relevant and practical applications. Ironically, bringing this information into the conscious awareness of the business community is the very thing that can accelerate the evolution of that conscious awareness – along with all the fundamental implications such a shift will inevitably generate. But because it sits outside the consciousness of many business leaders, they do not have the capacity to see it for what it is.

Our Model – The ORCA Matrix ™

The levels outlined below and their core characteristics are a simplified extract from our ORCA model. 99% of the human population, along with our organisations, currently operate from these 5 levels of organisational consciousness:

RED “IMPULSIVE” Level – Egocentric and power driven. Management and control through power, centralised decision making and unchallenged authority.

ORANGE “CONFORMING” Level – Traditionalistic and conservative. Multi-layered power structure. A primary focus on compliance through strongly enforced systems, rules and policies, risk averse.

YELLOW “ACHIEVING” Level – Success orientated, ambitious, competitive, innovative. Power through achievement and status symbols. Efficiency and profit direct all activity. Process and project driven.

GREEN “PLURALISTIC” Level – Cooperative, values driven, focus on people, objectives with meaning. Cultivating company culture is paramount; team work and healthy relationships essential for achieving results.

BLUE “INCLUSIVE” Level – Purpose driven, inspiring, co-creative. Clear purpose that benefits wider society; organisation built on individual strengths used in a collective effort to realise organisational vision. Continuous learning and flexibility in roles.  *Current leading edge of human organisational consciousness evolution.

It is important to note that irrespective of the level we, or our business is at, we retain the potential to respond from “lower” levels at all times. And in stressful situations, we (and our organisations) often do. But, it’s about what level we “live” or “operate” at the majority of the time. This is what will most significantly impact our surrounding business environment.

Key Considerations

  1. Any level of development is okay if that level suits the organisational purpose and supports its realisation. If the ‘fit for purpose’ is not there however, the organisation is ultimately not able to sustain any level of success and typically experiences existential struggles. Without intervention, sooner or later it will cease to exist.
  2.  We do not just move from one level to the next and leave it behind – the evolution of consciousness is an expansion into new possibility that embraces and takes with it all previous potentials.
  3.  Individuals and organisations do not all evolve at the same rate – at this time, 99% of human consciousness (individual and organisational) is spread across five evolutionary levels. And in terms of global politics and decision making, this is a major challenge.
  4.  What we are not conscious of, we do not see – neither within us…nor around us. And it is not until we evolve to the 5th of these levels that we intuitively understand we are the product of everything that has gone before.
  5.  When we cannot consciously understand or embrace a “bigger’ or “deeper” idea, we will attempt to fit it into our current context and scope of knowing. Then, we will usually dismiss it because in that context, it isn’t seen as useful or simply doesn’t make sense.
  6.  The consciousness level of a business cannot evolve beyond that of its leadership.

When we observe the many layers and levels of conflict happening in our world at the moment (whether cultural, values-based, political, religious or legislative), it is often difficult to understand how leaders and their followers can possibly hold a certain position or support a particular idea. Ultimately however, it’s not about right vs wrong or even good vs bad – it’s the underlying consciousness of the people involved and the worldview they accordingly hold that determines their outlook and what they stand for.

What does that mean in this time of escalating chaos and accelerating change? The only real solution is for all of us, both individually and our organisations, to become more conscious, deepen our awareness of what is really going on and begin responding in new, more effective ways.

How?

If you’re serious, you’ll know where to start.

Loyalty and the Red Level of Organisational Consciousness

Each level of Organisational Consciousness is characterised by a set of parameters that make that particular level distinct from all others. Observing those parameters through the expression of typical behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and values serves as a reliable predictor for determining what level of Organisational Consciousness your company operates from.

*Our Organisational Consciousness Assessment – the ORCA Matrix™ employs a diverse range of more than 50 aspects of organisational functioning to define the actual operating level of Organisational Consciousness within a business. 

One of the very distinct characteristics of the RED – IMPULSIVE level of Organisational Consciousness is LOYALTY.

Loyalty may be defined as the faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader or cause.  Loyalty within the RED – IMPULSIVE level of Organisational Consciousness holds a more specific meaning, typical for this level alone: Unquestioned, unconditional and total devotion to the person at the top of the organisation (i.e. The Boss).

RED loyalty is expected, demanded and rewarded by special treatment and favours when delivered. If however, the necessary loyalty is not demonstrated as required, a rapid fall from grace, exclusion and even punishment are to be expected.

Sound crazy or familiar?

If you have worked in a company operating from the RED – IMPULSIVE level of Organisational Consciousness, the following scenarios may ring a bell:

Act 1: The DEAL

You are invited into the Closed Inner Circle that surrounds “The Boss”. You are chosen, not selected. There is no need to be qualified, experienced or skilled for the role you are given. You are chosen based purely on some pre-existing ties, such as family bonds, childhood friendships or some other previous personal relationship. In all cases, your invitation is based on the perceived understanding that you will be forever grateful for this privilege. You become a member of the inner circle that only the chosen ones can access.

The Deal is made. You just signed your way into a psychological contract with a plethora of unwritten and unspoken obligations. Your total and unconditional loyalty is now expected and …you will pay back.

Act 2: PROOF and REWARD

In The Boss’ eyes, someone has confronted him. An uncomfortable question, a differing opinion or criticism of one of his signature policies. Each of these are perceived as open challenges and personal attacks and that is something The Boss cannot cope with and will not tolerate.

It is you who now is expected to deal with the threat and protect The Boss. It is your obligation, based on The Deal you made. You are expected to use any means possible to defend The Boss and ensure the threat is quickly eliminated. You can lie, deny, create an alternative reality, do anything necessary to fulfil The Deal and meet the requirements of total loyalty. You are expected to defeat the enemy. Failure is not an option.

If you succeed, you will be offered continued protection and the special treatment that was promised at your Boss’ side. But, the reality of your actions is that they just deepened your dependence on him and widened disconnection from your own self.

If you don’t succeed and your actions become exposed and questioned, it will be you who takes the blame…and the fall. The Boss will quickly wash his hands of your involvement and distance himself from any further association with you. It was you who failed, not him.

In both cases, it is you who pays the price.

Act 3: CRIME and PUNISHMENT

In The Boss’ eyes you have challenged him. You either expressed disagreement, had a different opinion, pointed out something you didn’t like or simply didn’t demonstrate your loyalty convincingly enough. Or maybe you just decided to leave. To The Boss, it means you broke The Deal and for that there are immediate and predictable consequences – you need to be punished.

In every case, such indiscretions always mean that at the very least you will be expelled from the chosen circle. You have betrayed The Boss and no longer belong there; You will probably be fired or bullied away. In The Boss’ eyes, all your previous “good work” is forgotten and you deserve every degrading criticism that inevitably follows. 

It is highly likely that the ‘executor’ of your punishment will not be The Boss himself; it will be another Chosen One, an aspiring devotee who is, consciously or not, ready to play his role according to Act 2.

* * * * *

Loyalty from within the RED – IMPULSIVE level of Organisational Consciousness is a Deal in which you trade of your freedom to think, speak and act for an illusionary sense of safety and privileged status.

The Red – IMPULSIVE level is the lowest level of Organisational Consciousness currently present within the prevailing 21st century corporate landscape. Organisations operating for this level are highly authoritarian, hierarchical and in general would be considered archaic and out-dated in their leadership structures and practices. Despite this, it’s surprising how common the RED – IMPULSIVE operating paradigm remains in parts of our society. There are still many self-styled autocrats in leadership positions, clinging to control through the use of force and misuse of power.

So, if you personally don’t resonate with the RED – IMPULSIVE level of Organisational Consciousness, pay attention and be conscious of what kind of a deal you’re signing up for!

P.S. Any observed similarities between the above and current political environments are not accidental.

What We Feed…Grows

I was at the gym the other day and on TV was the season finale of Australian Survivor 2017. Admittedly, I’ve never watched an entire season but I’ve seen enough snippets and promos over the years to know how it works – A mixture of eye-catching, quirky and attention-seeking individuals “marooned” at some exotic island location; taking on a range of both real and whacky challenges; initially working together in competing tribes; then competing individually against each other until only a Sole Survivor remains.  On this occasion, the winner pocketed a cool $500,000. The U.S. version has a grand prize of $1,000,000 and has been running for 35 years – it is a very successful and popular show.

Anyway, one of the many things that has long disturbed me about these kinds of Reality TV programs (and Survivor certainly isn’t the only one) is not so much what it reveals about our society…But what it feeds.

After a dramatic final counting of votes, the eventual winner emotionally announced how proud he was of the way he played the game and that he also hoped his family were proud and that indeed, all of Australia was proud.

Then, we were shown a series of flashback highlights, including the winner earlier in the season proclaiming: “If I have to steal, cheat and lie, I will do whatever it takes to win…”

And that’s what he did. That’s what it always takes to win Survivor and many other “Reality” competitions. Every season it’s the same – the person who is best at lying, deceiving, scheming, stabbing people in the back, appearing to be trustworthy…but not; They win. They are celebrated. They get the big prize. They become famous.

In this reality, some of the lowest human behaviours are the very qualities that bring success…and they are not only accepted, but rewarded – Big time.

What our society feeds…will grow. What we incentify…will be reinforced.

Our prime-time entertainment continues to promote destructive, ego-centric behaviour as the only way to survive and ultimately win the “game of life” because it is created and distributed by organisations that put profit ahead of society’s well-being. While elements of a show like Survivor at times do tap into some more evolved perspectives (eg. cooperation, trust, teamwork), the source level is frighteningly low and those elements are usually undermined and ultimately lost.

I will state it right up front – “We are giving the customers what they want” is no defence. If we want a better society, we need people in power to lead, not follow. And…we need CONSCIOUS people in power. That means in the media, in politics…and particularly in business.

At Barefoot Leadership, our singular focus is helping raise the level of consciousness of organisations and society in general. We have recently developed the ORCA Matrix ™ – a new tool that allows business leaders to accurately assess where they sit on the evolutionary consciousness scale and understand what that means for their company, now and in the future.

It is a powerful and enlightening insight that potentially opens the door to a journey of profound transformative change. And as a society, we desperately need that.

For more information about the ORCA Matrix ™ and other Barefoot Leadership programs visit our website or send us an email.

Birth of The ORCA Matrix

I believe that every challenge in life has some specific meaning; something the situation holds for us as a gift that we receive when we are ready to become aware of life’s teaching.

The gift that I received recently was the birth of the ORCA Matrix™

Let me explain…

I had been holding on to a dream to start my own business for quite a while; a change and transformation consulting company. I mean, for years; procrastinating successfully.

During the time I was working for my last employer, my dream became increasingly real and alive to me; more tangible and calling me louder. They were a company that urgently needed to change and had hired me to very specifically support them in navigating it. After a couple of initially promising years, it started to become increasingly obvious that the change I saw as necessary and the extent of the transformation needed by the business was actually far beyond the comfort zone of the management “power group”. It was clear that any intentions (on my behalf) to stay there and continue working towards the formally agreed strategic goals would be a waste of time and energy. Not only were many of agreed change initiatives stopped (formally communicated as “put on hold”), but also tell-tale signs of the business reverting back to their old, familiar and “well known” practices started to show up with growing frequency.

In hindsight, signs of senior management’s lack of commitment to what was once universally agreed and celebrated as our courageously ambitious change plan were present most of the time. But, maybe blinded by my initial enthusiasm, I just didn’t see them. Or, I was ignoring, justifying or excusing them until I received a couple of very clear wake up calls.

There were three very significant moments; situations that showed me beyond any doubt what the organisation’s true ‘commitment’ to the agreed change was. The stories and details behind those happenings are not important anymore. What IS important is that as they unfolded, each of these three situations separately made me decide to leave my employment. Each of them. After the first one, I decided to leave and follow my dream, to start my own business and yet… I stayed. Again after the second, I decided to leave, but stayed…and the third, the same. Three times!

When enough was enough and I finally did resign, I kept asking myself: “Why didn’t I leave when I got the first message…or even the second; why did I wait so long?” I was angry with myself for not having the courage to go when I clearly knew it was the right time but…if it’s true that everything ultimately happens when the time is truly right (and I DO believe that), then I left exactly when I was supposed to. Unknown to me, there was still something for me to learn at my place of employment.

And then I got it.

The last couple of months before my eventual departure provided me with experiences and unfolded new knowing that became the final, critical pieces to the puzzle that has now formed itself into our unique business product – the ORCA Matrix™ – Organisational Resonance & Consciousness Assessment.

I spent my last months of employment reading leading-edge studies about organisational evolution and consciousness; processing deeply my recent experiences and evaluating my long, diverse international corporate career with all the contrasting situations I have encountered. Somehow all this dynamic, highly-charged melting pot of knowledge, information, inspiration and experience swirled together and resulted in a crystal-clear unfolding of the complex methodology that shortly after…became the ORCA Matrix™.

During my professional career I have designed and developed numerous management tools and always enjoyed the creative flow of doing so. But this experience was really unique. This time I felt the ORCA Matrix™ unfolded of its own accord; not only letting me know about itself through emerging ideas, insights and new understandings but also through the energy that it’s process held and communicated. However weird it may sound, I am sure about one thing; the ORCA Matrix™ wanted to be here…and so it is.

NOW is the right time…