Statecraft by Christopher Cooke

This past week, Sheila and I, along with our Scottish colleague, Fiona Savage, have been involved with the 2017 Fire Starter Festival in Scotland, “a week-long festival of collaborative learning events, illuminating creative, disruptive and innovative ways in which we can all transform ourselves, our organisations and the wider system.”

Our contribution called, MIND THE GAP, attracted 10% of all attendees. Through highly interactive exercises we explored the gap in the mindset, “Between the way we organise ourselves at work… and what we’re really capable of!” We used robust human stage development theory as the insight generator for identifying the gaps.

A copy of our report of the findings of how these individuals viewed the ‘mind-culture gap’ in Scotland is available here.

Looking out of the window on the first workshop I could see the rear of St. Andrews House, which in 1939 became the administrative hub for the Scottish Office to support a pathway of increasing autonomy and optimism of the Scottish people. I knew, from an earlier visit in 2007, that the frontage includes 6 pillars each topped with sculptures to signify the foundational importance of Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Education, Architecture and Statecraft.

The word Statecraft, emblazoned on the 6th pillar, meaning the skill of governing a country, caught my imagination as an enduring, unfolding, ever-adapting craft, with a high degree of creativity and volition.

As the group worked on, my imagination sparked a question given the ‘wicked’ context of 2017, with over 7 billion earthlings, “what might be the basis of Holistic Statecraft for Scotland or any nation, to handle social, economic, and ecological factors?”

The stance we offered was that Holistic Thinking is required to handle the ‘wicked problems’, such as climate change, species loss, and increasing healthcare costs, to name a few. We included many references to holistically-informed practices especially Holistic Management, based upon the work of Allan Savory, as one of the most robust and established applications of holistically-informed thinking.

As breaks allowed, I explored the history of holistic thinking in Scotland. I quickly discovered that Field Marshall Jan Smuts, the founder of the Science of Holism, was elected by Students at St. Andrews University to be their Rector between 1931-1934. In his Rectoral Address on the 17th October 1934, Smuts highlighted, ‘Happiness is Freedom and Freedom is Courage’ as the fundamental equation of all politics and all human government and went on to mention that, in the context of the challenges of that era, “Creative Freedom is the watchword of the new order, to the realization of which we should bend our energies.” That Jan Smuts was later instrumental in the creation of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949, was no surprise.

As we delved deeper we used the pioneering work of Clare W. Graves and his holistic perspective of human emergence to bring to light the foundational themes of the worldviews that have influenced our human species over the past 120,000 years. The themes are: physiological, assurance, survival, security, independence and affiliation and nest hierarchically together to provide a firm platform for a species that holistically values the joy of existence and the importance of the continuation of all-life. Surely the ‘felt’ achievement of these themes is a hallmark of Holistic Statecraft.

I also smiled when I pondered that Allan Savory who, in the latest edition of his seminal work, Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment, recognises the pivotal role that Jan Smuts’ seminal book, Holism and Evolution, had in the creation of Holistic Management. It seems that holistically-oriented science is also a hallmark of Holistic Statecraft.

As the MIND THE GAP workshops passed one by one, the data showed clearly the awareness by those in the room of the scale and nature of the shift. That the present and desired worldviews for the public sector can be seen is a reflection of a deep change that has already happened. The latent capacity of holistic thinking is awakened in some and ready to be utilised. An awareness of this seems to be a hallmark of Holistic Statecraft too.

As I look back on these 10 days in Scotland, I realise that we had indeed been bending our energies towards some understanding of ‘Holistic Statecraft’ as the means for the ‘Creative Freedom’ that Jan Smuts spoke of in 1936. Perhaps his words in 1934 paved the way?

The ‘mind-culture gap’ is commonplace. I invite you to join us for a three-part programme, “MIND THE GAP: Discover the root cause of disengagement and how to close the gap,” where you will learn to identify the mind-culture gap for individuals, team and organisation, in Edinburgh, starting in March.

Christopher Cooke