A Little Social Science Fiction

What-if possibilities and a little radical thinking…needs to be followed with hard action!

From Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass: Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, some are even driven to suicide by pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from workplace pressures, harassment–a.k.a. big kid bullying, isolation, lack of purpose. Same basic pressures.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are all increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve forgotten the importance of treating each other like human beings, and as a result we’re killing ourselves and each other far too often. Harsh? Reality usually is.

Sci-Fi is preceded by (1) Searching For Our Mojo and (2) Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass. Macro purpose: explore how we can leverage whole-person development to rebuild society and communities and improve quality of life, standard of living, productivity and global competitiveness. Big enough? Possible reader reactions:

(1) I’m intrigued. (Review the material linked above, continue with the series, add your thoughts)

(2) No way, pipe dream! (Please take time to re-read with an open mind, let it percolate a while)

(3) I don’t have time for this. (If you feel that way, I’m sorry to say you may be part of the problem)

We cannot continue down this path and survive. We’re at risk of social self- destruction well before nukes, holy wars, famine, epidemics or climate change will get us.

We make it tough sometimes, but I have to believe in the future of humanity. We’re collectively sick and tired of this funk we’re in, tired of paying a too-high emotional and physical price. We’re aching for a chance to make a difference. It’s a high-stakes game that we’re dying to get into, together. We just need more aware, informed, committed people. That’s “all”.

Folks have accused me of being progressive, a way-left liberal. I’ve even been called a socialist (gasp!). Some people have a serious angst attack when they see any conjugation of “socialism”, and some are even long-time friends of mine. Those people who think I’m a pinko snowflake tree-hugger will think this is way out of character:

Capitalism is the only economic system capable of sustaining species growth. Social democracy is the only ideology, the only system, capable of sustaining Capitalism with Conscience.

Capitalism and social democracy are not opposing ideologies. Productivity, profit (!) and global competitiveness are wildly important, just not at the expense of humanity or the planet. There is such a thing as capitalism with conscience, making the greater good the priority, replacing the $$$ bottom line. Radial thought: the only way to sustain productivity and profit is by first being mindful of social, emotional and physical well-being. Take care of people issues first. Second, be mindful of the planet that provides the critical physical resources needed to generate wealth. A mainstream traditional egghead has championed this wild notion. See this good starter read:  Harvard’s Michael Porter on shared value.  Teaser:

 “Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together…The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges.”

Human “needs and challenges” start with fulfillment and a safe, sustainable life and world.

The Ultimate Sustainability Strategy

We know the impact on social-emotional wellbeing when people feel a sense of community, have a purpose larger than “me”, and have an island of tribal safety in the midst of the turbulence around them.

Could an employer use its considerable influence to help provide a stabilizing force in the local community? Forgot to mention: that community happens to be the company’s current and future talent pool.  So a forward-thinking company that invests in the social-emotional well being of its host community would realize huge bottom line improvements. Not a hunch, it’s been validated over and over.

What if shared values were embraced throughout the community by all stakeholders? All-community stakeholder alignment would exponentially boost one isolated company’s impact. Conclusion: a broad collaborative effort to impact the greater good would boost our well-being, the social condition, and our economic prosperity.

Maybe capitalism’s Job One isn’t pursuit of economic and competitive advantage and market superiority—all outcomes—but to impact the human condition. Tall order isn’t it? This is more than science fiction. Or is the high potential of human development a wild ‘what-if” fantasy? It’s a high-return real-time effort: focus on people first and business and economic success are assured.

Whole Lotta WIIFM Goin’ On

To draw decision makers and do-ers in there must be buy-in, which means specific needs must be met. Clear and convincing, meaningful and do-able WIIFM drivers (why?) and goals (what?) are essential.

Macro WIIFM

People of all ages perform better in a safe environment where they feel compelled to contribute and comfortable with fully engaging (see Engagement and Mojo—Peas and Carrots). People (all ages!) deserve that kind of environment. Dignity isn’t a privilege, it’s a right.

Physical health is directly and significantly impacted by our social-emotional well being. If we fully understood and measured the correlation, the degree and dollar amount of the impact would earn some serious attention from the right people.

Rampant polarization is paralyzing our ability to get things done—personally, productively, politically. We can learn to mind our manners and conduct civil, productive conversations. All that requires social-emotional skills.

Employer and Community WIIFM for Education…Why Bother? Not My Job!

Education improvement takes external awareness and understanding, support and commitment. Why should employers and the community bother getting involved in education? Isn’t developing kids the parents’ and educators’ job?  (HINT: it has to do with synergy, systems and reinforcing loops)

Critical to-do: build stakeholder awareness and transform it into meaningful, up-close and personal commitment.  I’ve previously written about what forward-thinking employers stand to get in return: a more highly engaged workforce that delivers bottom-line payback in pretty much every area that matters; employee sense of community; a stronger, sustainable culture that is anchored by social consciousness and a feeling of being a part of something that is truly worthwhile; high regard among locals; positive image, impact on branding; employer-of-choice status, enhanced recruiting and retention. Current employees stay, new high-quality applicants stand in line to get in; a well-stocked, continuously replenished talent pool—highly skilled, eager job candidates.

Company support of social-emotional development in schools, and becoming a principles and values-based workplace is a surefire strategy that ensures sustainability. Corporate social responsibility, goodwill / image, recruiting and retention, well-being that leads to higher engagement that delivers greater productivity and profit…this isn’t just the right thing to get behind. It’s damned smart business.

Individuals—Employee, Parent / Family, “Me” WIIFM 

Both young students and adult employees who are well-developed socially and emotionally  perform better and deliver better bottom line results. Academic achievement carries over into a successful career, successful life;

Wellness is lots more than bean sprouts and exercise. Social-emotional health drives physical health. Stress-free environment = live long and prosper. Lots of scientific validation for this!

Social and emotional well-being directly impacts a young person’s likelihood of being well-adjusted overall: less risk of self-harm or mental issues; less likelihood of running into legal problems, of being incarcerated or needing public assistance, greater probability of being a successful, productive, valued contributing member of the community. Kids shut down and withdraw or worse…they may die if the bullying is too much to handle. And it’s an all-age issue: stress, depression, anxiety, suicides are rising across the board.

It should be a no-brainer for parents to buy into the need for change. The well-being and survival of their kids is at stake. Still, we continue the insane cycle of being respectfully saddened and righteously indignant for an acceptable period of time before going back to our usual routine until the next suicide. One is too many, it’s the same for mass killings no matter who or what the killer is, who or what the victims are. Columbine, Newtown and most recently, Las Vegas, the Texas church massacre, VD in Florida happened. “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers”….again and again we wring our hands over the tragedies. Mental health, gun control, or both? Our indignation eventually eases, our memory fades, we get over the whole thing—we always do. Until next time. One is too many.

Barriers

We need to broaden our scope, improve the social-emotional learning message, ramp up our delivery capabilities, and beef up post-learning support. Here are a few of the barriers in the way of social-emotional learning, and addressing bullying, harassment and violence.

(ONE) Awareness and prevention programs aren’t taken seriously and they’re not enough. That’s a firsthand observation of my school district, painfully reinforced in Colorado Springs early spring 2016: three high school suicides in one week, immediately following a broad suicide prevention program was completed.

(TWO) Social-emotional learning is not a priority beyond lip service. When it is part of a school’s curriculum it may be tolerated to comply with the curriculum, but still no real commitment.

(THREE) Zero tolerance policies are ineffective if not fully, visibly and consistently enforced. Still, enforcement that includes punitive actions against perps may be counter-productive: bullies bully for a reason, and those deeper reasons are what must be uncovered and addressed.

(FOUR) Violence including physical and verbal abuse and rape are power-based, and a domestic environment of abuse contributes to making childhood bullying normal and acceptable. The root causes of domestic abuse are difficult to reach. Punishment is also power-based and may only further propagate the problem by reinforcing the value of power.

(FIVE) Media confounds the issue with its Dirty Laundry obsession. Murder and other acts of outrageous violence get the most attention and the perps get front-page saturation headline coverage, instant name recognition. Everyone knows an abuser or a killer’s name, what about victims’ names? Kids who feel powerless, unnoticed or inadequate crave any attention…they cry out for help. And what behaviors do they see getting attention? “I am hurting. Maybe if I hurt someone else, someone will notice me.”

(SIX) It doesn’t end with youth in education. They are the by-product of deeper problems: a society that tolerates, allows, accepts bullying behavior. Society is controlled by adults, we must include efforts toward changing adult attitudes and behaviors.

Finally, finding Voice! The increase in allegations of high-profile sexual harassment in the fall of 2017 is a late addition to the list of social maladies from Searching For Our Mojo. It’s not unexpected, it’s nothing new, it fits with the other humanity warts and blemishes identified in Mojo (go look if you need a refresher).

Systems Can Make the World Go ‘Round…or Grind to a Halt

It would behoove us to get a little familiar with systems thinking, then make our efforts systemic. Systemic issues, systemic opportunities. Everything is related, so the right interventions can impact all the issues at once. (see Loops)

Deming and Systems Thinking

Edwards Deming….defined a system as a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. The aim for any system should be that everybody gains, not one part of the system at the expense of any other. In a business context “everybody” includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community and the environment.

(Google “Deming Institute profound knowledge” for the Tolstoy version)

The reinforcing loop below is a system where everything is connected. Some elements are independent on-the-surface yet they impact one another. We must better understand these social-economic interrelationships and the subtle connections if we are to fully leverage our opportunities and resolve issues in a way that is socially sustainable….if we have the resolve and insight to face the issues and seize the opportunities.

The model is attainable and is relevant to all stakeholders. So let’s DO “it”! But what’s the priority order? Is there a correct “priority”? This is one big system where each element impacts the others. Dig into the relationships and feel free to make up your own connections. That’s half the fun.

At first it seems wrong to include bullying and harassment in the same conversation as suicide and mass killings. But the real issue is that we’ve allowed a culture of generally unacceptable treatment of each other to take root, and our indifference perpetuates the New Norm. The issues are all related, and must be addressed systemically, simultaneously. So, HOW? No trick question there, it definitely needs some deep thought. These are absolutely critical, long overdue conversations we must have.

Soon. What do you think?

11-2017 New Model

 

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