The enquiring mind

Yesterday, I reflected upon a leader, Lieutenant Colonel Oakland McCulloch (US Army, retired). A man who applies much to what it means to be. How to actively apply one’s learning, and be dutiful to the shared influence and better outcomes that result. It required me to rethink a post from the day before. In the end I saw both perspectives, and found them each to be reflecting upon the same needs in delivering change.

To adequately address my own narrowed perspective I used a practice from another mode of my learning to help me reconcile and reframe my understanding. I found a middle way.

Consider these five factors, as attitudes or modes of any enquiry.

1. Vigilance – awareness, exploration, new insight. Not better understanding of what you know, but new understanding of what you do not. Changed perspective, wider perspectives, and in their differences comes understanding that is new.

2. Sensitivity – to what is being witnessed a dynamic perspective of actions or changing state, not a static unmoving object to covet or reject.

3. Acuity – meaning to separate, differentiate, and observe the moving parts, the layers, the processes of change they represent.

4. Noticing – your own physical reaction, emotion, desire or need. Perhaps also that of the other(s) you are modelling in your mind.

5. Reminding – staying present to the enquiry, remaining vigilant. With a humility that expects to find new meaning from what may otherwise be thought of as known. Acknowledging but not becoming engaged with the distractions – re minding back to the present enquiry.

This is the best way to outline the phenomena of the active engagement of an open mind,. Not that I am finished looking. These are learnings from contemplation, when looking outward. These are learnings from meditation when looking inward. They are skills to learn and to develop. They need not be linked to religious belief from East or West, but they have long traditions in both and can be embraced within whatever suits best.

I now do this everyday. From an increasingly diverse range of accounts of how to apply this meditative practice. And like everything I learn I attempt to apply it. In my daily life, my research, and my work. I am enquiring as to its merit at scale. It is why I have presented it as a means to make enquiry here. I think it becomes a tonic to modal confusion. A means to tease out deeper rooted problems. By applying vigilance to what is assumed to be known, to prospect and see anew.

Cognitive science and psychology both sit happily here. Scientists like John Vervaeke produce contemporary, helpful insights that connect mindfulness to the study of the mind. The above perspective was first glimpsed from one of his Dharma days. Where he was introducing Metta, or the outward looking contemplative practice – but as had already been informing the Vipassana, or inward looking meditative focus, it sits alongside. There is so much of his material and influence to share, but I’m reading his many references to wider work before I do. Importantly, he says, is to understand what this mindfulness is not. It is not a practice of finding contentment. This is not escape. This is embracing change. Cognitive Science is indicating it is this observational modality that offers the benefits with mindfulness.

This is being mode. This is addressing modal confusion. This is the interconnectivity of layers of time bound intended change. Projects | within projects. From mind to management. Starting with yourself.

Fromm having to being

Being more present in our projects

In this article I argue for a means to identify if we are connected to other project actors by being present or simply having a role to play. Being is an active position. Having a passive or self orientated mode.

The concepts of “being vs having” are taken from Erich Fromm (1979) “To have or to be? : a new blue print for mankind” Reprint 1984 Abacus, Sphere Books, London. I also recommend the many YouTube videos hosted by cognitive scientist, John Vervaeke, to learn more about being present. It is insight I have taken into my daily life.

Erich Fromm admits immediately to the ideological endings to this book.  It is in three parts. The first two reflecting his wider psychoanalytic account of selfishness vs altruism, as two basic character orientations.  The third part moving more directly towards his politics, ideology, and societal solutions.  It is the first two parts, specifically the first ninety-four pages of this book, from which I present factors to inform commercial project thinking.

The key insights I present here are from Chapter II, “having and being in daily life” pp37 to pp54.  Fromm offers eight examples of having vs being. They each reflect how we are united or divided by perspectives on truth.

One: Having learning vs being a learner

(see next)

Two: Having mechanical vs being logical, in what is remembered

Fromm separates learning and remembering, but both offer context of attitude towards recall.  His examples are: the student attending lectures to learn the syllabus to pass exams: compared to, the learner who reads around the subject beforehand, engages with the lecture for more perspective, and takes all of this away to build upon more knowledge as the subject evolves.  Fromm also references Freudian free association to demonstrate what the being mode of remembering is.  This is application, not simply having recall.

Three: Conversation vs dialogue

To converse is to exchange perspectives.  It is presenting what was prepared or already known.  The second, is to be part of a process of shared enquiry towards a truth (pp42)

Four: Judgement of bias vs Information as fact

pp43-44 he contrasts forming a judgement vs acquiring knowledge.  The former is the means to receive information with the context and content choices of the messenger.  The second offers lines of thought that we accept.

Five: Having authority vs being an authority 

pp45-47 he distinguishes modes of authority.  One is rational and reflecting a competence, service, and one intended to help others to grow.  The other irrational, requiring subjugation; symbols of authority, propaganda, and cliché; intent on destroying means of critical judgement and increase dependency… “lose their capacity to trust their eyes and judgement”.

Six: Having knowledge or being open to better

Having knowledge is to own truth.  To know is to strive critically and actively in order to approach truth ever more closely, pp47

Seven: Faith in a thing vs faith in a process

We can have faith in an authority figure, an institution, an idea.  We can have faith in our ability to assess a situation by its range of possible outcomes.  The first is a submission, the second is an attitude derived from experience (pp49-51)

Eight: To have love vs to be loving

To have love is possessive, to be loving is an action.  Fromm focuses here on the early action based demonstrative love prior to the commitment by the other which then becomes more an attitude of shared ownership (pp51-54)

Applying this to projects

How much distance divides your project actors?

Across each of these eight categories of having vs being, there is a divide being identified.  This distance is a useful metaphor to consider project relationships.  As relationships move further into a having mode, so they further separate.  For example, in examining faith (pp47) Fromm distinguishes faith in an external object vs faith of being inside a process.  It is this distance that serves my application of these same concepts back into projects.

Division or separation? A project within a project

In this regard there is a point where this division becomes an interface where interests fully diverge.  Being part of a process changes completely into just playing a part.  I am proposing that this division, this separation into identifiable parts, becomes a separately definable project.  The one project now becomes two.

The having relationship is a more divided relationship.  Conversely, the more project actors are in being relationships, as outlined in the eight categories above, the closer they are.  By extremes therefore, they can become one entity, or at least a close approximation to it.  Or, they can be fully separated, and have have competing agendas or be in open in conflict.

The separation now leaves each project with its own being mode. Two being modes, now joined but via a having mode.  Both may intend to cooperate with the other, but not at the expense of their own project.  Returning to the example of faith, each is now an external object vs the shared faith of being inside a process.  If they are required to compete, a point arises as necessitating a win:lose result (in economics, a zero-sum game).

One final extreme can also now be considered.  Projects that are intent on causing harm to another.  Projects of espionage, counter-measure, or deceit.

Next steps

With this distance identified, and this having vs being modality contextualised, I will next bring several project concepts across this same modal perspective.  Three positions will be explored as follows:

  1. High Reliability Organisations in a project setting.  How distance is closed, and project actors become part of a process
  2. I will address a confused position I believe to exist when RACI type models are applied in complex multi-modal situations
  3. I will consider the evolving nature of a project and how “having modes” can become “being modes”, or vice versa.

Book reference.  Erich Fromm (1979) “To have or to be? : a new blue print for mankind” Reprint 1984 Abacus, Sphere Books, London

The cognitive scientist John Vervaeke has devoted many hours on YouTube sharing his wisdom.  Differentiating having and being, and flagging key books to read.  Including this one…

If you have made it this far, thank you.  Please comment, share, and subscribe.  This is a live and evolving enquiry.  This website and the Beardall.Blog are intended to prompt the being mode into a project. Aiming to help projects be more.  They are all projects | within projects.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

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