Our Holonomics Hangout with Gunther Sonnenfeld

Maria and I had a great time yesterday discussing our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter with Gunther Sonnenfeld. In a previous short review of Holonomics, Gunther has said

IMHO, Holonomics is one of the most important books of our time. Written by friend and colleague Simon Robinson and his wife Maria Moraes Robinson, this book not only challenges every aspect of the way businesses operate and can operate, but provides frameworks (and use cases) for thinking about complexity and systems development in a whole new way.

Instead of Gunther writing a longer review, we all thought that it would be interesting to record a hangout, and to focus not so much on the philosophical side of the book, to to explore the ways in which holonomic thinking can be applied in a practical manner in mangy different business and economic contexts, such as leadership, innovation, start-ups, design thinking, software development, generation Y, complex problems, artificial intelligence, dialogue, competition and ethics and values.

The hangout is now available on Youtube:

It was very interesting to read an article in Forbes by Steve Denning, who asks the question “Do we need a revolution in management?” Like a number of commentators, Denning makes the following observation about management thinking:

So yes, as the article suggests, we do need a revolution in management. But it’s not a revolution about acquiring new tools, any more than the essence of Martin Luther’s revolution in religion consisted of nailing Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. The revolution wasn’t in the ninety-five theses. The revolution lay in the new religious mindsets that Martin Luther inspired—a radically different role and purpose for the Church.

So too the needed revolution in management goes far beyond acquiring new tools. It’s a paradigm shift in the strict sense described by Thomas Kuhn. It means inspiring a radically different way for managers to be thinking, speaking and acting in the world—a radically different role and purpose for management.

Source: Forbes

This quote is an excellent introduction to our hangout, since this is exactly what holonomic thinking is all about. While there are many commentators calling for a change in thinking, very few really then continue to outline exactly what this change in thinking looks like, and how we can make the transition to a higher level of consciousness.

I think one interesting observation on Denning’s article is where he criticises Harvard Business School alumni:

What is ominous about the article—an account of what the very crème de la crème of American business, the Harvard Business School alumni, think about management—is how helpless these captains of industry appear to be. They blame the tools. They blame their own firms. They blame the investors. We don’t hear much about a strange possibility: their own responsibility.

Source: Forbes

The concept of responsibility is extremely interesting, as you can take the point to view that executives are deliberately and consciously avoiding responsibility, or you can take the point of view that they cannot see their own lack of responsibility. Half of Holonomics is dedicated to the act of seeing, and we talk about this a lot in the hangout, as it is an utterly central point. The act of seeing is also related to the concept behind the word holonomics, which we coined to combine the notion of a dynamic conception of wholeness and economics.

Maria summarised our work with Holonomics as an invitation for people who are not happy with their lives, with their work and the fact that they can’t find answers to their problems, to be inspired and to see their lives in a new way, to begin a new journey, and how to re-connect with a deeper way of thinking.

Gunther closed by tellings us that he thought that Holonomics is a “refreshing read” traversing a lot of ground, and that he had actually read it three times. Gunther does not read business books nowadays for many reasons, often because in his work he much prefers to just do it, experiment, see what works, learning on his own. Describing Holonomics as “a healthy blend of the historical and empirical with what is possible” and that “holonomic thinking is really going to catch fire”.

We all hope you enjoy the hangout and that it offers inspiration in your own lives, what ever you may be doing and hope to achieve in the future. As well as our book, Gunther has an extremely informative blog A Literacy of the Imagination, and you can continue the discussion with all of us on our Holonomics Facebook page.