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Otto Sharmer suggests eight ways of shifting outdated capitalism into a 21st century economy that creates wellbeing for all”
When the laissez-faire capitalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries hit the wall in the form of poverty, inequality, pollution, and financial breakdowns, societies responded with institutional innovations that set the stage for the next evolutionary stage of capitalism (unions, federal reserve banks, legislation to protect labour, farmers, and the environment).
That stage, the 20th-century social market economy or stakeholder capitalism, is now hitting the wall of global externalities, as we move through the early 21st century. And again, as a century ago, we are challenged to come up with a new set of innovations that respond to these issues on a level commensurate with the challenge they pose.
There are eight institutional innovations that, as a set, could update the economic system to operate more intelligently across silos and boundaries by shifting the economic logic from ego-to eco-system awareness:
Instead of treating nature’s gifts as commodities that we buy, use, and throw away, treat the natural world as an eco-system that we need to cultivate.
Reinvent our concept of labour and rather than thinking of work as a “job” think about it as passion-led entrepreneurship.
Reinvent our concept of money. Instead of extractive, capital should be intentional, serving rather than harming the real economy.
Reinvent how we develop technologies. Empower all people to be makers and creators rather than passive recipients.
Instead of individual super-egos, we need to build the capacity to co-sense and co-shape the future on the level of the whole system.
Rather than promoting consumerism and using metrics like GDP, move towards sharing and collaborative consumption, and using measurements of well-being such as Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
Reinvent how we coordinate. Move toward complementing the three older mechanisms (hierarchies, markets, and special interest groups) through a fourth mechanism: acting from shared awareness, from seeing the whole.
Advance the old forms of state and private ownership by creating a third category of ownership rights: commons-based ownership that better protects the interests of future generations.
These eight “acupuncture points”, as a set, could help us to shift the old outdated capitalism into a 21st-century economy that creates wellbeing for all.
Otto Scharmer is a senior lecturer at MIT and founding chair of the Presencing Institute. This article is is adapted from his most recently co-authored book (with K Kaufer), Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-system to Eco-system Economies.