Episode 12 17 June 2021
Big picture thinking and effecting change
Principal lawyer, Geraldine Grace | Host, New Earth lawyer podcast
In this episode, I talk about how embarking on the process of making a change in the world requires a shift in thinking.
The first shift is to begin to engage in systems thinking, to see the interlocking pieces of the whole puzzle. The second shift is to inquire into the accuracy and reliability of information that we take in. This leads to a shift in reassessing our own beliefs and assumptions and shedding those that no longer serve. Each of these leads to a person becoming a more effective change-maker.
I am an experienced corporate lawyer, using the law to build purposeful, human-centred, Earth-friendly legal enterprises & ecosystems, for happier humans and a better planet.
I am also the founder and host of the New Earth lawyer podcast.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia, and an expert in enterprise governance, purpose, business & human rights and modern slavery. I established my own law practice Geraldine Grace in 2020, focussing on enterprises seeking purpose, and actors in the impact economy.
I am a legal advisor to not-for-profits with a national reach in impact and purpose. I work with Boards to optimise performance and help enterprises embed purpose and integrate human rights into their business.
I have over 20 years' experience practising law in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. I have worked for large global and Australian law firms and was a partner of a top-tier Australian law firm for several years.
I sit on the peak governing body of Australia's largest university.
[1:07] I talk about my recent podcast interview with Patrick Andrews where Patrick explains how he began to look at the bigger complex picture in his journey to devise innovative corporate structures. This is systems thinking.
[2:31] Systems thinking is necessary for effective change-making because working in only one part of the whole without appreciating the problems and necessary solutions in the rest, will render the effort nugatory.
[4:51] I provide as an example of this the broader education I embarked on, including the books I read, in an effort to understand the systems impacted by and impacting upon my work in profit-with-purpose enterprises .
[7:22] Linking up and collaborating with people who are working on solutions in other parts and other systems that complement your work is one of the benefits of systems thinking,
[8:51] Another shift occurs once systems thinking is engaged, which is an appreciation that a lot of information we absorb is focussed on only one piece of the puzzle - thus causing us to begin to healthily question the accuracy and completeness of the information we access.
[10:38] Critically examining every piece of information we come across can at first lead to a sense of disorientation but eventually leads us to strengthen our own inner guidance system.
[11:44] Another interesting phenomenon is that past information we have accepted also comes under scrutiny, which can cause a questioning of assumptions and belief structures.
[13:55] As we do this work, we become aware of and can see more clearly the programming that other people are carrying around with them.
[14:41] All of this is part of the journey of accumulating experience while becoming a more effective changemaker.
My New Earth lawyer podcast episode with Patrick Andrews. discussing his work on creating innovative corporate structures.
Oxford economist Kate Raworth's website for Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist.
David Pilling's The Growth Delusion: The Wealth and Wellbeing of Nations.
David Graeber's masterpiece Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
The introductory chapter to John Kay's Other People's Money. The Real Business of Finance.
Hello, everyone, welcome to the New Earth lawyer podcast. My name is Geraldine Johns-Putra and I'm your host. I'm a lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. Today I wanted to talk about something that is a little bit different. I wanted to talk about the ways in which people start to think differently, when they first embark on a journey of wanting to implement change in the world. I experienced this myself, over a decade or more and it's only on looking back that I can see how my thinking, my way of thinking, evolved my thought processes. And I've also witnessed this in people who are similar to me want to try and create change in the world.
You may have seen a recent episode of the New Earth lawyer Podcast, where I interviewed corporate lawyer Patrick Andrews, and Patrick was explaining how he tried to come up with solutions to a conundrum that he had observed. And that is that good people make decisions and act in ways that actually impact negatively on society and the planet. And Patrick was trying to understand why and what he had to do was to learn as much as he could about the people around him by observing them, and the system in which they worked, or the systems in which they worked. This was engaging in what we call systems thinking. That is he had to see people and the organisations as entities working within a massive jigsaw puzzle, with structures and frameworks that interlock with others, and he had to pull back to get a bigger picture view of what was going on, and how these parts of the puzzle were impacting each other. It was only then that Patrick could devise effective corporate structures, new ones, and this is something he now does very well.
So the first thing I want to say about this change in thought processes is that anyone trying to effect meaningful change in the world needs a reasonable understanding of these interlocking systems, and the problems that might arise not just in the system in which they're trying to effect change, but in all of the other parts.
So take, for example, the practice of law. A lawyer embarking on this journey of trying to engender change may start up or create a new type of law firm. But that law firm is servicing clients, and is operating within a wider economic system, one that encourages a consumption, production, investment mindset, one that promotes profit and growth above all else, that is operating within a financial system that measures financially based outputs and performance based on financial metrics, a political system where really people, ordinary citizens, are not as empowered as they may think that they are in a democratic society, an education system that really reinforces the prevailing orthodoxy and information and a media system that is actually influenced by powerful groups and filters. So although a changemaker may only have the resources, or may only be capable of creating change, impacting one part of the whole, that person really would benefit from understanding what the problems are in the other parts and how the change that they're trying to implement is going to really require changes in the other parts. Because otherwise, the effort that they are expending is going to have little impact.
So for example, taking my experience when I began to think about the nature of for profit enterprises and the for-profit system in which they operate, I began to not just read about the corporate system or the corporate legal and corporate governance systems within my professional sphere, but I began to also read more widely about economics and monetary and financial theories. And books I read,
I'm going to just pick out some of them that are really enjoyed, the books I read included Doughnut Economics, by Oxford economist, Kate Raworth that presents an alternative model to macro-economic theory, a regenerative one, rather than the traditional investment-production-consumption model.
Another one I read was David Pilling's The Growth Delusion, which is really based on the thesis that, you know, GDP or gross domestic product isn't by far the best measure of the wellbeing of a country or an economy.
I read last year, I read this amazing book Debt by cultural anthropologist David Graeber, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. Now David looked at debt from a societal perspective, not so much from an economic one, and looked at why we have particular assumptions that we make about debt, as a society. David actually was one of the more active individuals involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement back in 2008, 2009.
And finally, Other People's Money by the UK economist, John Kay. He talks about, criticises the over-financialisation that has occurred in our modern economies, and a lot of his learnings come out of the global financial crisis in about 2008, 2009.
So these books led me to see that while I was seeking to apply my skills, what I could bring to the table to try and implement change. it wasn't really enough to work within my little patch, my little compartment. I needed to get a sense of what solutions were needed out there in other parts. And I also, to be more effective, decided to educate myself and also to collaborate or to link up with people doing work, trying to effect positive solutions, in in all of those other areas. Collaboration is going to really enable each of us working as change-makers to effect a really ground-up grassroots development of the new paradigm, rather than have a top-down approach that is dictated by some sort of authority or power-that-be. The advantage of a ground-up approach is that it's created by individuals, by those of us who really are going to live and work within the new system.
The next thing I want to say is that embarking on this kind of systems thinking creates another shift in thinking and that is that one begins to question the information that one is reading, the reliability of the information and the reliability of the sources of information. So in my experience, you know, this question of information, where does it come from, is it is it truthful, is it credible, is it reliable is very healthy?
Because one begins to realise that the sources of information themselves come from a narrow perspective that isn't necessarily looking at the entire system. And it doesn't mean that we have to disregard every single piece of information that comes our away. It just means that we begin to question whether there's a flaw or bias, an inaccuracy or basically a lack of completeness of the information that's coming to us. And this will apply, actually, to any source of information, whether it comes from say reading a newspaper of record, or an academic journal or New York Times bestseller, or whether you're watching something on Bitchute or YouTube. It applies whether you're listening to a politician on TV, talking to your best friend, or you're reading a tweet or talking even to your boss or your colleagues, or even your favourite podcast host.
At first, this method of critically examining every single thing that you're reading, listening to, paying attention to, can be a little bit disconcerting, because it can feel like you're unmooring yourself from assumptions that have really anchored or grounded you. But over time, it actually means that what you are detaching from is an outside source of authority, and you're beginning to rely on your own inherent guidance and wisdom, your own discernment as to what's reliable or not. Now, obviously, there are caveats that apply here, which is that one should research authors, whoever is purveying information, check out whether they might have some affiliations they're not disclosing or some loyalties that that really are hidden or maybe even not hidden, and keep an open mind as to what they're saying.
There's another interesting thing that occurs here, which is that as it becomes second nature to question current information coming in, a person who also is really serious about implementing change, begins to question past beliefs. Past assumptions are things that have been learned and acquired through one's upbringing, you can begin to see where ideas and truisms and the like were adopted from parents or from school teachers or textbooks, TV programmes. In my interview with Patrick, I actually referred to all of these as programming. Yeah, programming like The Matrix. And I'm only kind of half joking, because really, sometimes it seems like we're all living and working in some sort of a simulation, where we're fed certain ideas.
And it's actually very refreshing to begin to look at each of those ideas that underpin the way we live, to see what we want to continue to carry around with us, or what we really prepared to discard. And with the advantage of realising that almost all of the information around us is filtered in some way and by developing a more mature internal compass, we're now in a better position to decide how we're going to implement change. Because we'll be building it, a picture of the world, a current picture of the world that is based on far more critical thinking, far more mature thinking, and from that more critical view of the world as it currently is we can move to a world as it say should be or would be healthier for everybody and for the planet.
What also happens is that you become a lot more astute in observing where other people are carrying around beliefs that may be outdated, maybe are no longer fit for purpose, and maybe they're not even questioning or understanding beliefs that they're carrying around with them. It's healthy also to remember not to judge people when you see this, because, you know, everybody has their own journey. And everybody is is basically on the path that's right for them. As a changemaker, however, one who's aspiring to effect positive change and who is becoming aware of these things, there is an added responsibility.
So that's actually what I wanted to bring up today. And the reason I wanted to do this is because I feel it's so important in a world where we're basically awash with information coming at us from every angle from everybody and it's exceedingly complex to pick our way through it, let alone try to make an impact based on what we're hearing.
My last piece of advice here would be to continue to see this work of discerning the bigger picture as well as veracity and reliability of information and greater awareness as really a part of the journey and not as intention to get to the endpoint as quickly as possible. It's not about that. It's actually an accumulation of experience. That's all really I have for you today and I want to thank you for listening. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. As always, until next time, please take care of yourself. Bye.