There is yet one leverage point that is even higher than changing a paradigm. That is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that no paradigm is “true,” that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension. It is to “get,” at a gut level, the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into not-knowing, into what the Buddhists call enlightenment.
People who cling to paradigms (which means just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything they think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, no understanding, not even a reason for being, much less acting, embodied in the notion that there is no certainty in anyworldview. But, in fact, everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it to be the basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose whatever one will help to achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe.
It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and make impacts that last for millennia.
There is so much that could be said to qualify this list of places to intervene in a system. It is a tentative list and its order is slithery. There are exceptions to every item that can move it up or down the order of leverage. Having had the list percolating in my subconscious for years has not transformed me into Superwoman. The higher the leverage point, the more the system will resist changing it—that’s why societies often rub out truly enlightened beings.
Magical leverage points are not easily accessible, even if we know where they are and which direction to push them. There are no cheap tickets to mastery. You have to work hard at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of not-knowing. In the end, it seems that mastery has less to do with pushing leverage points than it does with strategically, profoundly, madly, letting go.
- 12. Numbers: Constants and parameters such as subsidies, taxes, and standards
- 11. Buffers:The sizes of stabilizing stocks relative to their flows
- 10. Stock-and-Flow Structures: Physical systems and their nodes of intersection
- 9. Delays: The lengths of time relative to the rates of system changes
- 8. Balancing Feedback Loops: The strength of the feedbacks relative to the impacts they are trying to correct
- 7. Reinforcing Feedback Loops: The strength of the gain of driving loops
- 6. Information Flows:The structure of who does and does not have access to information
- 5. Rules: Incentives, punishments, constraints
- 4. Self-Organization: The power to add, change, or evolve system structure
- 3. Goals:The purpose or function of the system
- 2. Paradigms: The mindset out of which the system—its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters—arises.
- 1. Transcending Paradigms