Degenerative Habits of Mind

May 15, 2014 Leave a comment

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

― David Bohm


By Vincepal


I have learned a tremendous amount over the last several years from practitioners associated with the Regenesis Group – Carol Sanford, Bill Reed, Joel Glanzsberg, and Pamela Mang.  Specifically, they have pushed my own thinking about my own thinking, and how this kind of awareness is key to supporting successful system change.  I recommend all readers of this blog to check out the wealth of resources on the Regenesis website.  And I want to highlight a blog post from Pamela Mang, a segment of which I have included below, that points to how our dominant ways of thinking can undercut our stated aims.  The full post can be found here on the edge:Regenerate site.

“The way we think is shaped by patterns that we’ve been taught or picked up over the course of our lives, patterns that are deeply embedded in our culture and institutions. Over time, these patterns have become increasingly interdependent and self-reinforcing and, most problematic, increasingly habitual because they are invisible to us. If we want to change how we think, the first step must be to make visible the patterns that currently shape our thinking. Only then can we decide which are useful when, and which condemn us to degenerative outcomes. . . . 

We pride ourselves on being problem solvers, and put enormous amounts of energy into getting better and better at it. Analytic thinking is a product of that quest. Now systems thinking is being promoted for its ability to identify the “real” problem. But what if, as Carol Sanford wrote in an earlier post, “problem-solving can be a problem”?

Problems are a product of past conditions and dynamics. When they become our sole or dominant source of guidance and focus, we are condemned to moving forward while looking backward—steering from the wake of the ship. Seems self-evidently foolish, yet if you look at most sustainability goals, even those described as regenerative, they track back to a problem that’s been restated as a positive outcome.

In contrast, working from potential orients to the future by revealing what an entity can become. Identifying potential (vs. defining the problem) requires a very different pattern of thinking . . . 

To be clear, Regenesis does not say we should avoid problem-solving, but that we should be careful not to become trapped by its underlying orientation.  Makes me think.  How about you?

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