In his book Leading From the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer identifies 8 structural disconnects that are currently distorting our decision making, which result in collectively creating results no one actually wants. He observed:
The current system produces results that nobody wants. Below the surface of what we call the landscape of social pathology lies a structure that supports existing patterns.
The 8 disconnects are:
The ecological disconnect.
The income and wealth disconnect.
The financial disconnect.
The technology disconnect.
The leadership disconnect.
The consumerism disconnect.
The governance disconnect.
The ownership disconnect.
These disconnects, functioning together, result in distorted decision making which in turn create large scale results that please no one.
These disconnects prevent us from seeing issues clearly.
They impair our ability to understand and respond to changing circumstances.
They cause us to divert resources in inefficient and ineffective ways.
The eight disconnects that we listed above represent a decoupling of two worlds: a decoupling of the structure of societal reality from the structure of economic thought.
We end up with a “war of the parts against the whole.”
Watching the economic and political chaos this morning, following the Brexit vote, I immediately thought about Scharmer’s fundamental argument – we need to shift our awareness. If you were to ask them, I’d bet most who voted to leave the EU either disbelieved the resulting chaos would be bad or felt it was worth it. A John Aravosis points out, however British millennials didn’t vote even though they favored remaining overwhelmingly. We see a similar pattern in the US – older voters consistently turn out to vote while younger ones do not; older voters and younger voters do not share the same concerns. Younger voters end up saddled with policies they oppose.
The emerging analysis I’m seeing is that the eventual outcome may well be a less prosperous, less influential UK (if the UK itself survives – the situation is fluid but both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain and both could easily end up voting to leave the UK). Rather than a blow for sovereignty and independence, the Brexit vote could end up proving that the EU is the better avenue for widely shared prosperity. In striking a blow against the distant, liberal elite, English voters may well have gone the way of Kansas.
The UK saw a battle between its emergent and its established values, attitudes and power blocks. The emergent was defeated (albeit narrowly). There’s already talk that other nations may have similar referendums. The work of decades creating first the Common Market then the EU could unravel entirely over the next few years. Or, the British exit will be so painful no one follows and we end up with a strong EU and a shattered Great Britain. Or it could all turn out to be less of a big deal than we thought.
What we’re seeing is a strong response to decades of neo-liberal policy that hasn’t worked for lots of people. Scharmer pointed out that
Today we face challenges that are characterized by simultaneous market and government failure.
Distortions and disconnects.
The Brexit vote was a protest by people who’ve been sidelined by the international economic system. (See Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents for a lengthy critique of the neoliberal global order.) At some level globalization and the values behind it are so accepted as accurate they have become invisible. The critique of EU as inefficient, top down and unresponsive is accurate on many issues, but the Brexit will probably calcify rather than change those tendencies.