Psychic Drivers

The video does not summarize “Psychic Drivers” (5 minute video)

Psychic Drivers

by Doc Hall

Decades ago a popular German business quip was, “Are you acquiring 30 years of experience, or 1 year of experience 30 times?” It was mostly used for admonition: never accept dead-end jobs, and never create them. People want to learn at work – learn something – if only to relieve boredom. Making mistakes is how we learn, so being free means free to make mistakes.

One enemy of learning is fear – fear of being blamed, humiliated, or punished. “Drive out fear” was one of Dr. W. E. Deming’s 14 points. He realized that quality performance is by people given their heads and using them. However, most on-the-job learning betters our how-to, not our why-to, and that centers on satisfying customers, not all stakeholders including the environment. Questioning why-to dives deeper into our psychic drivers.

In practice, many managements find it hard to promote even how-to learning. They can’t repress their own fear of failure by not making a profit, so they control people to assure it. Over-controlled employees fear to step outside their boxes, a major reason why lean, Six-Sigma and similar methodologies languish, half-implemented, waiting to be forgotten.

Learning New Values: Psychic Drivers

We occasionally learn better how-to in a panic, when we have to, but ordinarily it requires dispelling fear. Learning why-to – questioning beliefs – amps up these emotions. Conversions in basic beliefs fuel stories like “How I Swore Off the Ku Klux Klan.” By the end of our teen-age years, most of us have cast our values in the molds carved by our families, friends, and the institutions we grew up in. Breaking that mold later embroils our inner selves in greater and greater soul-searching. Try as they might, no managerial formulas touch this.

Beliefs are what we act on, gut level, when we “listen to the little angels and devils” within us for cues as to what is right or wrong. Psychic drivers are the “stories” from which we derive our beliefs. In a decision crisis, we are unlikely to be consciously aware of any of this.

If Americans have psychic drivers akin to religious stories, they are tales from our money-driven transactional economy. Whether rich or poor, our lives are entwined with money. We can’t avoid thinking about it. We unconsciously give obeisance to money whenever our first questions about almost any decision are: How much will it cost? Or How much money will it make?

A second core belief is in unending expansion – progress – winning – being on a path to a better place, from which all setbacks are temporary. This Irrational optimism keeps us sane, as when we are lost and might die in a wilderness. However, this psychic driver also deludes us that human economies can expand without limit. A corollary is that there is no mess we can technology our way into that we can’t technology our way out of. Yes, we learn by mistakes – sometimes big ones, and too late. (The accompanying review of Being Wrongcovers this.)

Western cultures are expansionist. Speculatively, the Judeo-Christian Bible inspires expansionism by declaring mankind to have dominion over all the earth. Although interpretable in many ways, a popular one is that nature is here for mankind’s use; we are ordained to use it. Biblically inspired or not, this belief is evident in all advanced economies.

That contrasts sharply with old indigenous cultures. Their psychic drivers do not proclaim human dominion over earth. Instead they see mankind as part of earth, not earth as something to be conquered. Progress-minded Westerners may see indigenous people as lacking ambition, while indigenous cultures see Westerners as greedy nuts. Indigenous cultures see things more holistically than Westerners, which fans out into differentiation in basic sub-beliefs.

Cultures see space and time differently. Especially time. With no precise measurement of time, indigenous concepts of time were loose, so a meeting began when everyone was assembled and lasted as long as necessary. Concern is for relationships, not time.

By contrast, Westerners prize being punctual, and the advance of technology parallels the ability to precisely measure time, first with calendars; then with more and more precise clocks. A computer is a precise clock, and satellite technology depends on ultra-precise timing to compensate for delays due to the speed of light. Modern life is regulated by time, so Westerners tend to be “pressed for time.” Indigenous peoples not much.

Likewise with land. Surveying was refined by Westerners. Survey, and you can mark off land that you “own.” Mentally you may separate “my property” from nature, but to the indigenous mind, any such division is vague, so it is natural to give nature her due. You have to live with her. She’s in your space; you are in hers.

There are many more sub-beliefs, but this basic divide can also be described as balance vs. progress. If you are concerned about the ecology, you feel a need to be in a healthy balance with it. By contrast, balance is, at best, an afterthought to a psyche driven by progress.

Toward A New Belief System

Many environmental movements have explored indigenous cultures as living examples of something that we should work toward. However, these cultures are old – old in the sense that they prevailed before being overrun by Western progress, a huge rise in human population, and prodigious human consumption. Eight billion or more humans cannot survive in the 21stcentury living as indigenous people once did. We have to devise a new balance with nature, and that devising has to dig well beyond technical changes, down into our psychic drivers.

Other cultures may help bridge this divide, oriental belief systems for example, which are more holistic than Western ones. Some of their practices, from martial arts to meditation, have filtered into the West, despite their root cultures Westernizing rapidly. However, we need something new – something that binds higher-tech societies with the nature on which they continue to depend.

The urgent objective is to reduce the material consumption of modern living to a level that maintains a balance that co-exists with nature. This is expressed using different terms: regeneration, reciprocity, revitalization, sustainability – the movements are still fragmented – but time is pressing, for we have overshot and need to correct quickly. We know a lot about how-to. We lack will-to. And that is tied to our deep beliefs and psychic drivers.

These movements know in what how-to direction to head: toward simpler, more localized circular economies, with ample recycling, remanufacturing, and all the other “Rs.” Retreating into the forest and living on the catch is impossible. We are stuck with the economies we have and the layouts they consume. We have to revitalize nature by revolutionizing our economies, locality by locality, from wildernesses to sprawling metropolises.

This is a fuzzy vision. No one can describe a global vision for this conversion in detail and present it as an inspiring story about what the promised land would look like. That would differ depending on locality. But perhaps we can craft some new stories to be our new psychic drivers whereby we question our social institutions, including the economic ones, at the gut level.

These drivers would be paradoxical, of course; almost all such are. How about, “Cut back and simplify your life now, while you can beat the rush!”

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