CYBERNETIC THINKING by Wolfgang Mewes, 1976
Multi award-winning pioneer of corporate strategy, Professor Wolfgang Mewes is the founder of EKS® (Unique Positioning Strategy), the corporate strategy that is based on the development and rules of nature. More than 160’000 students graduated during his mandate at his Education Institute for Business Administration; 15’000 of which attended his groundbreaking course EKS® (I was one of those participants, in the 80s).
Below is a text written by Mewes in 1976, when theEKS® began to position itself very strongly in Germany. Many successful “Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)” in Germany have used and use this strategic model to date. See also following links: Las Ocho Razones Centrales que Explican la Superioridad de la EKS®/ESC© and Crecimiento Empresarial – La cosa más natural del mundo (both in Spanish), as well as the book The Hidden Champions
An analogy between social and biological growth processes, has provided new insights into human thinking and behavior. Do people think and behave appropriately? Would it not be possible to do so quite differently? The tensions within people, between them and between people and the environment are growing constantly. Can these rising tensions and conflicts be attributed to a false pattern of thinking and behavior?
The “academization” of education and society has resulted in widespread linear-abstract thinking. People consider and deal with individual goals and developments independently of one another. They believe, for example, that schooling, old age care, industrial democracy, prosperity, productivity, social justice, equality, research, space travel, armament and developmental aid can be improved simultaneously without considering the mutual impact. Each individual strives towards his own ideal. That each of these developments is only one of many and that all are (at least to some degree) related, goes unnoticed. What really matters are not isolated developments, but overall developments, which are the appropriate focus of improvements.
Economic theory provides a classic example of linear-abstract thinking. Well into the 20th century, entrepreneurs took moral, cultural and social obligations quite seriously. The subsequent formalization of management through theorizing and related activities, then led to the adoption of profit-seeking as the only goal, and all other goals were suppressed. Managers and business leaders orientated themselves exclusively to the pursuit of profit, and had to do so, because their superiors measured them accordingly. All other objectives were left by the wayside or tolerated only to the extent that they served the linear profitability goal. But precisely, these “secondary” goals are those that link the individual elements with the whole.
Linear-abstract methodological approaches transform sensitive and considerate people into money-earning robots. Those who behave differently, are regarded as methodologically unsound and inconsistent, although, in reality, they are just less narrow-minded. Developments of the factors capital and profit are separated from the surrounding psychic, social, biological and other development in order to create a false autonomy. Any deviation from linear behavior is due, not to economics or business-administration theory, but to those “unscientific” sentiments in society which have not yet been suppressed.
Circular thinking is a quite distinct way of thinking and works according to the principle that “things develop on their own”. The basic goal of circular thinking is not to pursue one’s own goals, but to lead a fulfilled life, which entails conforming as much as possible to nature and it’s laws. In circular thinking, intuition, an instinct and feeling for interactions and interrelationships, has a higher value than precise knowledge. Material things are just the transient embodiment of an universal world spirit. This is an orientation that has recently been promulgated in the West, and not only by those interested in energo-cybernetics, but also by leading physicists, chemists and biologists. However, they refer to this invisible, creative force not as a universal spirit, but as energy.
At first sight, the behavior of plants seems to contradict this circular thinking. Early in the year, in summer, autumn and winter, they passively accept nutritional shortages or excesses. They appear to resign themselves automatically to internal and external circumstances. However, this appearance is deceptive. In reality, their behavior is focused clearly on “bottlenecks” and minimum factors; they concentrate their energies on the point most cybernetically effective point for their development. For example, they attempt to overcome shortages of a specific mineral through increased root formation, or a lack of sunlight by leaning twigs in that direction. Plants, therefore, strive to cope optimally with autonomous external forces through maximum-impact use of their internal capabilities.
Through linear thinking, too much is changed too autonomously. Circular thinking, on the other hand, changes too little. Linear behavior leads to an “explosion” to all sides and to a loss of natural growth. Circular thinking tends to result in an unproductive movement within a closed circle. The behavior of plants shows the way to a better mode of thinking and acting. Their own forces are concentrated on the most effective point within a natural development, thus accelerating a natural process.
This has the effect of linking optimally, one’s own forces with those which are already intrinsic to natural developments (evolutionary forces)
Cybernetic (Spiral) Thinking
The third paradigm is cybernetic thinking, which is almost a combination of the other two. One does not get bogged down in insolated problems which have been torn out of their natural context, but optimizes a complete process of natural development by means of its minimum factor.
The interaction between farmer and plant provides the clearest illustration. The farmer does not interfere in the process of natural development of a plant by ordering it to form needles instead of leaves, but influences a complete natural process by concentrating on the minimum factor. Thus, a farmer ensures that the plants have an optimal environment in which they will thrive automatically.
The same effect that has been described in the context of biological processes, is also exerted by cybernetic thinking in social relationships. The impact is not formulated consciously, but develops naturally, through continuous subliminal interactions of “tensions”, which range from the smallest protein molecule in the brain to the cells of a body and from the colleagues in a company to participants (partners, customers etc.) in a branch of industry. Cybernetic thinking changes the psychic, biological and social “tension relationships”, such that the relevant molecules, cells, people and business begin to respond or think and behave differently. The interactions and associations of the psychic, biological and social automatisms link up progressively more with one another. It is perhaps difficult to imagine, but these processes are quite clear in the automatisms which the farmer triggers in the plant, and in reverse, those which the plant triggers in the farmer.
Cybernetic thinking combines the advantages of both linear and circular thinking, and eliminates the weaknesses. The advantage of linear thinking is that individual developments can be stimulated very substantially. Space travel is a good case in point. Through linear thinking, mankind develops remarkable capacities, but they are one-sided and uncoordinated with overall developments, the “big picture”. An awareness of this one-sidedness, facilitates pursuing more goals simultaneously, but they become contradictory and ineffectual.
On the other hand, the advantage of circular thinking lies precisely in this unity with natural processes and their harmony. However, circular thinking renders people vulnerable to natural forces which influence everything, large or small. Developments thus move in a circle and stagnate, because people do not do what is necessary to change the prevailing circumstances.
With cybernetic thinking, people concentrate their forces on the most effective point within a process of natural development. Individual goals are not pursued out of context, but within natural processes, such that goals are achieved more effectively. A conscious effort is made to conform to nature, and precisely at the point of most impact. Changes in the minimum factor maintain contact with the whole and indicate when and how behavior should be changed. Operation is therefore linear and has the greatest possible effectiveness. The orientation towards the prevailing minimum factor proceeds in optimal coordination with the whole.
The overall result is an acceleration of natural evolution, and
in terms of the current critical point. People thus behave in a manner which conforms increasingly to evolution. Through this combination of people and natural processes, linear thinking integrates with circular natural processes to form a spiral development.