My mother, my father, Rose, Sibble, and Carnell Eaton prepared me to listen to a wide range of different kinds of people. Stafford Beer led me to Fernando Flores. Fernando Flores introduced me to:

  • John L. Austin, his teachers, colleagues, and students (especially John Searle),
  • Martin Heidegger, his teachers, his student Hubert Dreyfus, and his students,
  • Humberto Maturana, his teachers, and his student Francisco Varela. 

In this background, over the course of more than 40 years of designing operating models and reshaping the habits of people working in organizations around the world, I have noted the following nine principles for understanding how we human beings may navigate responsibly and effectively in our communities:

  1. We are autonomous, responsible, biological, historical, and linguistic beings.
  2. We invent ourselves, our futures, our communities, institutions, tools, practices, and our understanding of all else in language. The kinds of beings we are live in language.
  3. Our languages, our selves, and our communities are contingent phenomena.
  4. Anxiety and unsettlement are constitutive of the kind of beings we are.
  5. At the same time, what we listen to (and how we listen) is/are shaped by, and disclose the concerns, moods, and habitual ways of being that constitute us. We are creatures of habit, shaped by and shaping historical practices. And, we are far more malleable than the prevailing common sense would suggest.
  6. Entrenched, archaic, and impoverished interpretations about what human beings are, and about what it is to be human, contribute strongly to the difficulties we have in coordinating with each other.
  7. We take stock of ourselves and our worlds, notice changes, and open possibilities for action with assessments and assertions.
  8. We take responsibility for the construction of our futures by making requests, offers, and declarations.
  9. Design is the name we give to the practices of building bridges to alternative futures.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

CHAUNCEY BELL, AUGUST 2012