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Environmental Management Seminar

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Discussion Questions for Mindwalk:

1) This film suggests that a new paradigm is needed...a paradigm which departs in significant ways from the Cartesian view of the world. In fact, it is claimed by Sonya that "We have to change everything, together, at the same time" if we are to accomplish meaningful change. Sonya further argues that the way we start this process is "by changing the way you see the world."
Can you recount a time in your life during which your view of the world was significantly altered? Has anything changed as a result of your experience with 'Mindwalk'?
2) Sonya refers to a new 'ecological' way of thinking, characterized in part by a gestalt perspective of the world. She argues that "ultimately, whether we like it or not, we are all part of one inseparable web of relationships." In a similar vein, a line of poetry comes to Thomas as he stands at the portal of the cathedral: "No saint stands alone."
How would our notions of business enterprise be altered if we took systems thinking seriously? Describe one corporate process under a mechanistic view of the world...and a replacement for this corporate process under an ecological view of the world.
3) Upon entering the cathedral, Jack says he feels "dwarfed, small, denied all independent existence." In his view the lack of a sense of transcendence which accompanied the shift to a mechanistic view of the world was a net benefit, for "we lost our sense of being all one...but we got our freedom. That's not a bad trade-off, is it?"
Is it?
4) Sonya argues that the essence of life is self-organization. More specifically, she claims life is self-maintaining, self-renewing, and self-transcending, with an inherent tendency to create new forms.
Give a description of an organization with which your are intimately familiar using the language of systems theory (remember Sonya's description of the tree?). What application might this thinking have to the establishment of organizational mission, strategy, structure, and policy?
5) Sonya notes "the clock...became the model for the cosmos. But then they mistook the clock for the real thing." Let's apply this reasoning to economic theory...
Is economic theory premised upon a mechanistic view of the world? Are the laws of economics universal and inviolable? What support can you offer for your position?
6) The opening line of Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations reads: "The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour." To illustrate his point, Smith employs the example of "a very trifling manufacture...the trade of the pin-maker." Without division of labor, it is argued that a workman "could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day" while with division of labor "each person...might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day." In describing what this division of labor would look like, Smith notes that "one man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper..."
Is this an apt description of competition or collaboration? Self-interest or altruism? Liberty or interdependence?
7) Thomas' cynical view is that "when you buy into [big business] you have to emancipate yourself from your morals or you live a life of squimishness."
8) Let's help Jack out here. He asks "what am I going to do about this?"
What, indeed, are you going to do about this?

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is: infinite" --William Blake

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