When I woke up this morning I bounced out of bed; a quick shower and then off on an adventure. I was tasting the feeling of the meeting I was about to have, and what it meant for me to be alive in the way that I am now. I have spent a lot of time not feeling so good, with a lot of anxiety. Many days that feeling is still there, but sometimes the clouds lift in some fundamental shift. The key is always the same; letting go. The strange thing is that to most powerfully let go, I must somehow help others let go or be helped in that process. Maybe, to release fears is relational; we do it larger and larger circles of relevance; it is through others we are able to unfold on our own. Sometimes I let go through releasing the tensions and fears in others, sometimes I unfold in inspiration of others. Today was gonna be the latter and the feeling it gave me: fuckballs, I am irreverently lucky to be alive…
I met with Johan Reunanen, a man who first impressed me by his candid account of his struggle with alcoholism and fear. An evangelist of sobriety, a senior management consultant, a nomine for the 2018’s “Supertalent” by the main business magazine in Sweden and really deep thinker on the fractal nature of spirituality and how to incorporate that in value creation.
This is going to be nerdy, so bear with me. I just really felt like puking up my subjectivity at the cost of most of my audience that are nerdy in different ways. The stuff is very fluffy, not very practical but when you swim around in those ideas for a bit, it can make a lot of things really shiny. A way easier way to say all of it is:
Life is pretty simple; all you have to do is listen to your needs and the needs of those around you.
The rest of all this is just overly complicated, but tasty heady stuff, that brings energy up my spine.
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Operations: Mangement consultants
Notable as: they think in terms of family, and go beyond just talking about it.
For teal nerds: they are deeply and beautifully “green”
Larger and larger circles
What is family? What is co-optimisation (i.e optimising for a larger unit than one)?
In a way those are the same question and you can go deceptively deep with this – and that is what Johan has done. What I picked up from our 90 minutes together was that his basic assumptions centered around a quite concrete sense of spirituality that I also share. You can call it many things, co-evolution is a often used label on this group of ideas.
Let me see if I can bring you along into his universe in only a few words, using my own. The first bit we have to establish is that we are somewhat fractal in nature. That is, on some abstract level (aka to some degree of isomorphism) we are self-similar all the way down. The basic relationship of our world is that of “autopoesis”, or circular relevance. Each aspect of us, only exists in relationship to another aspect of the flow of energy, matter and meaning we know as life; it is all connected. Our proteins, live in cells, that live in superstructures such as organs, vessels and other bits we have other labels for. These all live in “us” and we live in the larger structures where meaning is maintained despite the inexorable and ever present force of dissipation we call entropy; in organisation, be it family, work or friendships. Then the second bit is that we are not separate islands; we are fundamentally in relationship to other aspects – we give each other meaning and that is how we persist. Each part of us are relevant for the ongoingness of its environment; things that last, co-evolve. Everything is an ecosystem.
Sooooo, with this view in mind, how can we get back into something less fluffy and more concrete. What lessons does this give us for how we organise?
- Johan says that the hallmark of spirituality is that it is true on all the levels, from cells, to peoples organs, to people and to our organisation. All the way down, and all the way up – all of it is synergy; all of it is love. Unless you are deeply attracted to your work (unless it flows from you, unless you love it on some level), you are acting against the fundamental nature of how life comes to be.
- On a personal level he defines love as being sober; to surrender to the lack of control you have and stay in the flow of things. When you don’t, you will have to start to pretend to have control, then you will have to start deceiving, then you can no longer be whole: bring your full experience and perspective to bear. Then only a part of you will actually be working.
- When we rationalise we optimise for one variable; we optimise for one perspective. If life is things expressing themselves into each other on every level, it is fundamentally about both the self and co-optimisation; to allow for subjectivities and intersubjectivity at the same time. On a practical level it means that we need to circle meaning between us (also known as dialogue). Authority / rationality is then not about creating value, but by filtering life into specific forms – at tremendous costs to wholeness. Hence the lack of nice vibes, and the lack of cohesion in natural systems; climate change, fresh water crisis, top soil depletion etc. etc. There is no functional and relevant feedback between how we relate to different stratas of organisation and between humans and civilisation.
- For Cordial this meant to take care of Johan also when he was getting sober, as they co-optimise, as they are family. In return for this “vulnerability” they were fed with an intrinsically motivated senior manager that is allowed to shape Cordial in the guise of his relationship to his own spirituality.
Pretty fucking cool.