Mushin Schilling on the (Ethical) Economy 3.0

Excerpted from an interview with Mushin Schilling on the occasion of the Berlin Change Days:

Interview of Mushin Schilling:

Economy 3.0 is also the theme of your keynote speech. What do you mean by this?

Economy 1.0 was based on direct trade in goods, and this had been the prevailing systems for 1 to 1 ½ million years. Economy 2.0 is connected with money; trade in goods via an interim token that contains their value. This includes positive interest, paper money, but also money with negative interest which is good for the economy but bad for everyone who wants to hoard it. Economy 3.0 includes three major topics: 1) a revision of money, a rediscovery of what value really is; 2) an understanding of win-win-win situations; and 3) learning organisms.

Firstly, we are making a revolutionary discovery these last decade or two about what value actually is. We have always been a collaborative species. Our society for thousands of years has been an incredible product of all sorts of collaboration. But collaboration has recently, in the last 200-300 years, been devaluated, while the value of egoism has increased. This has been the result of bourgeois individualism and of so called ‘objective measurement’, which says that only measurable things have economic value; a conviction which in fact today is the only accepted collective truth.

Secondly, Economy 3.0 means taking the win-win-win principle into account in every transaction. Win-win is the best Economy 2.0 can possibly come up with, both parties to a transaction win; we can call this ‘enlightened capitalism’. The third win occurs when culture, society and ecology also win with each transaction. The third win is, most of the time, quite hard to measure. For ecology we are slowly arriving at concrete measurements, auditing the whole value-creation-chain for its ecological consequences and trying to stick a price on each of these, and then take that into account. But for community, culture and society that seems much harder to do. So in Econonmy 3.0 for every transaction we have to take into account what the 3rd win will be.

Thirdly, we have to go towards creating continuously learning organisms, or in other words intelligent learning companies. Like organisms need to learn and adapt in nature, so businesses have to learn and adapt to the economic or business ecology. The challenge is to make competition and collaboration really an intelligent affair, to create learning organisms that are not led by the egos of the staff but are informed by and embedded in business ecologies, and cause these ecologies to flourish.

The question is how to get to Economy 3.0 from where we are now. The current situation is a catastrophe. It is great that here in Europe we have had the longest period of peace since ages, but the limits of Economy 2.0 have become increasingly clear. I am talking about the derailment of financial markets, the extreme culture of greed (we actually live in a system built by and for greedy people), and the big ecological challenges. The real challenge for us, and that is what the Berlin Change Days are also about, is not to find the best theory to change things, but to identify and support good examples of businesses that are moving into the direction of Economy 3.0.

What changes are needed to get to Economy 3.0?

Economy 3.0 is an expression of a change within the Human Operating System. The Human Operating System is much about the way we relate to the world and how we act within it. It doesn’t seem to me that a change of consciousness is required, the consciousness of many people has and is continually changing, what is required is a change of the way we do things. For thousands of years, and still today, the Human Operation System was organizing most matters like a pyramid, with the boss all the way on top; the clearest reflection of this is a military hierarchy. This is not a very intelligent way of organizing things anymore; it may have been when things moved slowly, nothing much changed, but nowadays I would call such an operating system stupid, dumb. In the more flat hierarchies, where everyone in a team is equal you often see egos fly all over the table, completely unrelated things are being mixed up and influence the way business is being done. So the egalitarian operating system also doesn’t work very well, except in the very early stages of start-ups where there are just a few people, pioneers, creating something they are inspired by. What we need for an intelligent system is to allow all players to contribute their knowledge. Holocracy is the best possible governance system I’ve came across while looking for operating systems for learning companies; and we are investigating how that could work between companies, creating synergy and collaboration.

The Unknown is a good friend to real entrepreneurs. And so we don’t know whether Economy 3.0 will work as imagined. We do believe, and have some real life evidence, that collaboration works better than competition, but we haven’t proven it yet. I am always looking for people and companies who want to test some of the many possibilities and chances of transition, to work with practical examples to make collaborative entrepreneurship profitable and increase market share. What it comes down to is, if 10% of the economy is created through win-win-win solutions, through Economy 3.0, we can speak of a success.

But before we speak about successes, we want to play a different game, because basically it’s more fun. Entrepreneurs often start out with idealistic reasons and a creative input, which easily gets lost underway. People spend more time on their job than on anything else, so that’s the area where revolution has to happen. Google and a few other companies show that you can organize work places that are fun. Good companies are those with the lowest rates of sick leave.”

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