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Full text of "Werner Erhard on Transformation and Productivity: An Interview"



THE JOURNAL OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND CHANGE 



NUMBER 2 






Economics, Work, and Human Values: 
°New Philosophies of Productivity" 



Hazel Henderson 
Werner Erhard 
Ian M itroff 
Peter Sen " 

Commentar 
Peter Orucker 
Robert Reich 
J. M. Juran 



Special Map Insert: 

"Work In The 20th Century" 



Werner Erhard on Transformation and 
Productivity: An Interview 



Norman Bodek 



Do our current paradigms strangle our productive capacity? 






Norman Bodek is presi- 
dent of Productivity, Inc., 
which plays a central role 
in the promotion of pro- 
ductivity, quality, innova- 
tion, and worker satisfac- 
tion. He conducts na- 
tional conferences on 
productivity, has taken 
scores of top executives 
to Japan, and is publisher 
of the PRODUCTIVITY 
Newsletter, He is a fre- 
quent speaker on man- 
agement topics. 



In 1971, Werner Erhard developed The est Training, an approach to individual and 
social transformation in which over 460,000 individuals have participated over the 
last thirteen years. He is the founder of Werner Erhard and Associates, which 
sponsors, in addition to the Training, workshops and seminars on communica- 
tion, language, and productivity in the United States, Canada, South America, 
Western Europe, Australia, Israel, and India. He has formed a number of partnerships to 
apply his method of inquiry to business, education, government, and the health profes- 
sion, including The Center for Contextual Study (psychotherapy), Transformational 
Technologies (management and leadership), and Hermenet Inc. (language and computers). 

Because much of Mr. Erhard's recent work has focused on transformation in corpora- 
tions and because his influence has been so broad, we asked our guest editor, Norman 
Bodek, to interview him in his San Francisco office. What follows is a discussion not only 
of transformation in the workplace, but of the art and discipline of transformation itself. 



Bodek: What do you mean by your use of the word "transformation"? 

Erhard: We use the word "transformation" to name a distinct discipline. Just as psychol- 
ogy, sociology, and philosophy are disciplines, so too we see transformation as a distinct 
discipline, a body of knowledge, a field of exploration. I should add that because the dis- 
cipline of transformation is brand new, it's likely to be misunderstood — something that 
happens to a lot of new disciplines . At the beginning of the study of cybernetics, for exam- 
ple, people didn't know what cybernetics was. They assumed it was a branch of engineer- 
ing or mathematics. People tried to grasp it in terms already familiar to them. Eventually, 
however, it became clear that interpreting cybernetics as a branch of anything actually 
missed the whole point of cybernetics. 

From our perspective, the same situation is now true of transformation. Most people at- 
tempt to understand our work in terms of psychology, philosophy, sociology, or theol- 
ogy. While it is true that almost anything can be analyzed from those perspectives, none of 
those disciplines is our work. Each can provide a certain perspective on our work, but 
none of them is the work. 

Fundamentally, transformation is a discipline which explores the nature of Being. Less 
fundamentally, but still pretty accurately, we would say it is a discipline devoted to possi- 
bility and to accomplishment — in the sense of the source of accomplishment. 

Bodek: Does a "discipline of Being" focus on working in the moment? 

Erhard: Not exactly. To grasp this usefully, we have to put aside a lot of notions we've 
come to take for granted — particularly the jargon of the '70s — terms like "the now," "the 
momen t, " "enlightenment, " and the like . Once you've come to grips with the abstractions 
which those terms represent, of course, they are useful; but without grasping the abstrac- 
tion, the terms can be misleading. The same can be said, by the way, about any of the 
terms I'm using. 

I'd put it something like this: a "discipline of Being" begins with a commitment to distin- 
guishing what is actually present. 

Let me give you an example. One of our clients asked us to work with their executives 
on the issue of leadership. In their own work, they had become promoters of leadership, 
and even sponsored courses on it. The first question we asked was, "O.K., we know that 
it's possible to talk about 'leadership' and to work on 'leadership,' but have you noticed 



30 



R e V I S I O N Vol 7 No 2 



that when you are dealing with leadership, 
you are dealing with a phenomenon that is 
never present? That is, when one says, 'Mr. 
X is leading,' have you noticed that at the 
moment that one says it, there is no leader- 
ship actually present? You can look in every 
corner of the room, even inside Mr. X's 
head, everywhere, and nowhere will you 
find leadership. You attribute leadership to 
him, yes, but nowhere can you find it." 

If you follow this line of questioning and 
keep asking the question without hasten- 
ing too quickly to get an answer, you find 
out some very interesting things about the 
phenomenon of leadership and about a lot 
of other phenomena as well. In fact, you 
will eventually have to come to grips with 
the notion of Being. 

I've had the opportunity and the 
privilege to count some great men and 
women among my friends. They all have 
the same problem: they cannot get their 
students to be masters as they are — even 
students with all the intellectual equipment 
you can imagine. I tell them that the reason 
why they can't turn their students into mas- 
ters is that they are fibbing to themselves 
about the source of their own mastery. 
They attribute their own mastery to every- 
thing other than its actual source: creation. 
Creating and Being exist in the same do- 
main. And there is a discipline to Being, to 
creation. The domain of Being has its own 
rigor; Being is approachable, it is mastera- 
ble; it's not nebulous. 

Imagine someone who wants to be a 
great manager. In the normal course of 
events, such a man or woman would start 
off by, let's say, studying management — 
perhaps in school, in books, or as an ap- 
prentice. Eventually, he or she would col- 
lect all the things that great managers 
have — degrees, credentials, diplomas, 
great track records, and great biographies. 
Then, at that point, we say, "Well, Mr. or 
Ms. X is a great manager!" Later, we send 
our children to the same schools so that 
they can become great managers too. 

Except, most of the children who go to 
those schools never do become great mana- 
gers. And we explain that failure on the 
basis of genes, environment, intelligence, 
opportunity, and the like. It never occurs to 
us that our template for becoming a great 
manager, or, more accurately, for becom- 
ing a great anything, is backwards. Never do 
we consider that what makes a great man- 
ager is NOT the school, books, or educa- 
tion, but simply BEING a great manager. 

Now, I know that statement looks absurd 
at first, but it's a very interesting possibility. 
If you discipline yourself to look for what's 
present, for what is occurring in the mo- 
ment, then you can ask yourself, "When 



someone is being a great manager, what is 
present?" What's present (and all that is 
present, really) is being a great manager. 
What produces greatness, at the moment 
when greatness shows up, is being great, 
period. All the credentials follow from that, 
not the reverse. 

Most people to whom I talk think, "Hey, 
great! That means I don't have to go to col- 
lege!" That's not what it means. All the 
learning, apprenticing, practicing, and 
thinking is still necessary. My point is not 
that those practices aren't necessary; my 
point is that when greatness does show up, 
none of those practices is the source of it. 
They do provide the conditions for it, but 
none are the source of the greatness itself. 
The source is, very simply, Being great. The 
question we are concerned with in our 
work is, How does one master this domain 
of Being? 

So, I apologize for a very long answer to a 
very short question, but it hit right at the 
heart of our work — that of exploring, inves- 
tigating, and making available what it 
means to be anything. 

Bodek: Would you say the difficulty that 
limits our ability to master "Being" is some- 
thing we call "mind"? 

Erhard: Yes, in a very shorthand way, 
we'd say that. But we think it's more techni- 
cally accurate to say that what blocks our 
ability to appreciate the phenomenon of 
Being is that we do not ordinarily distin- 
guish the action of "thinking" from that of 
"Being." Again, this is a very fundamental 
question, and one on which we've done a 
great deal of work. 




WINTER 84/ SPRING 85 31 



Realizing the possibility of 
transformation will not replace 
"thinking" any more than the fish 
walking up on land replaced marine 
life. 

The difficulty is never with the mind it- 
self, but rather with our unexamined no- 
tions of mind. We talk about the mind, for 
example, as if it actually were something, 
that is, as if it were some thing located in 
time and taking up space. Now, clearly this 
is a superstition. No one ever has seen or 
ever will see a mind. There simply is no 
such thing. "Mind" exists almost entirely as 
an "explanatory principle," to use Bate- 
son's words. 

Now all that is fine until you want to deal 
with Being. To deal with the phenomenon 
of Being, you must come to grips with your 
unexamined notions of "mind," and, I'm 
afraid, do some serious reexamination of al- 
most everything that's ever been said about 
"mind." 

Bodek: How successful have you been 
with that? 

Erhard: We've been remarkably success- 
ful. Almost a half million people have par- 
ticipated in the Training alone. Another 
couple of hundred thousand have partici- 
pated in our other workshops, and proba- 
bly several hundreds of thousands have 
participated in day-long workshops ad- 
dressing the same issues. 

The research that's been done shows 
pretty clearly that in the Training, a break- 
through occurs in which a person is no 
longer automatically displaced by the lack 
of distinction between self and mind. 

By the way, I'm not saying that the mind 
is bad or something to be avoided. The 
Training does not dismiss, suppress or alter 
the mind. It allows people to distinguish the 
mind — to see it for what it is and isn't. In 
distinguishing the mind, in becoming 
aware of it as the mind, so to speak, the 
"ghost," the "superstition" of the mind 
loses its hold as a phenomenon of interfer- 
ence. One's mind becomes a useful tool: it 
is the same as it always was, except now 
there is the distinction, "you," and the dis- 
tinction, "mind." One leaves the Training 
having a mind, not being a mind. 

In short, what happens in our work is 
that this "mind" of which you spoke shows 
up as a distinction along with another dis- 
tinction — that of Self or Being. 

just bringing forth such a distinction, by 
the way, is all that is necessary to ac- 



complish the outcome. One needn't change 
the mind, alter it, suppress it, or manipu- 
late it. Each of us has the capacity to create 
abstractly, to create distinctions. Most of us 
have let the ability atrophy. In the Training, 
our ability to look at things abstractly is re- 
habilitated, and in the discipline of the 
Training, distinguishing the mind from 
oneself ends up coming pretty easily to 
most people. 

Bodek: But isn't seeing the mind as a dis- 
tinction only the beginning? In other 
words, doesn't making that distinction re- 
move the blocks at one level — the level 
where the mind is all-powerful — raise the 
individual up to a new level, then leave 
him/her to deal with the blocks at the new 
level alone? 

Erhard: Let me try to answer that with an 
analogy. Imagine the oceans as an evolu- 
tionary space. We start out with a bit of pro- 
toplasm in a tropical, primeval sea. We then 
add eons and eons of time. Eventually life 
will appear. Then, after more time, life will 
fill the whole sea — from top to bottom. After 
enough time, whatever possibilities existed 
for evolution in the sea will get used up. Evo- 
lution in the sea may continue, but it produc- 
es weird variations on possibilities already 
tried. The whole possibility of "evolution in 
the sea" eventually becomes saturated. 

Then, out of nowhere, a fish walks up on 
the land. Suddenly, at that moment, a 
whole new domain of possibility for evolu- 
tion appears. At the very instant when the 
fish walks up on land, elephants and eagles 
come into existence — not as realities, but as 
possibilities. It is not that they are inevita- 
ble, but they are possible. For elephants and 
eagles to appear physically, evolution must 
begin again its long series of trials, wins, 
and losses. Thus when the fish walks up on 
land, the character of evolution does not 
change, but the space of possibility in 
which evolution occurs is entirely new; 
what is possible through evolution is com- 
pletely altered. 

I think the analogy answers your ques- 
tion. Usually, we think of possibility as op- 
tions. While this is in some sense true, pos- 
sibility also exists on a deeper level of 
abstraction — a level which actually defines 
which options are permissible. So, to bring 
forth possibility is to bring forth a domain in 
which new options become possible. It is 
not simply finding new options within the 
same range of options; it actually produces 
whole new ranges of options. It is actually 
the bringing forth of possibility itself. It is a 
distinctly human act, far more human than 
simply choosing between the options with 
which one is presented. It is the act of bring- 
ing forth whole ranges of options, options 
with which you were not presented and yet 



32 R e V I S I O N Vol. 7 No 2 



which you caused to be. 

In our work, we associate this deeper no- 
tion of possibility with creativity. Possibil- 
ity shows up as an act of creation, as bring- 
ing forth. This also exists only in the do- 
main of Being. 

At its heart, our work is the opening up, 
the bringing forth of a new domain of possi- 
bility for people. To answer your question 
directly, it is like the fish walking up on 
land. Realizing the possibility of transfor- 
mation will not replace "thinking" any 
more than the fish walking up on land re- 
placed or diminished marine life. What we 
intend that our work will do is to empower, 
facilitate, and enable people to bring forth a 
new domain of possibility through which 
they will evolve on their own. Our work 
does not bring people to the end of that pos- 
sibility, but we intend that it bring them 
into a new possibility. So the work is a be- 
ginning rather than an end, and it's true 
that people will come to new blocks in this 
"new space of possibility." Time takes care 
of that, however. 

This analogy, by the way, can give you 
some insight into what we mean by trans- 
formation. Transformation is not merely 
adding something to what we've already 
got. It is a phenomenon unto itself. The fish 
that walked up on land was not just a differ- 
ent kind of fish; it was in fact, no longer a 
fish. Now, certainly most of us would argue 
with that. We would like to talk about that 
thing on the land as if it were a fish. After all, 
it looks like a fish; it came out of the water, 
and one can even make a strong historical 
argument that it was once a fish. However, 
none of these arguments allows for the pos- 
sibility of transformation — the phenome- 
non of the fish is a wholly different one. In 
fact, when one allows for the possibility of 
transformation, a lot of phenomena look 
wholly different. 

Bodek: Let's begin to tie this into produc- 
tivity and organizational behavior. I under- 
stand you're offering programs for organi- 
zations. What is the reason for not keeping 
the work targeted to individuals? 

Erhard: The commitment we had at the 
beginning was to make the work available 
to individuals. We hoped that individuals 
who found value in the work would ex- 
press that benefit in their lives. We ex- 
pected that if that did happen, the value of 
the work would eventually show up in 
people's work lives. As it turns out, all of 
that has happened pretty much the way we 
envisioned it at the beginning. Studies 
done on people's participation after the 
Training show that their participation en- 
hances their ability and effectiveness in 
their organizations and in their work. 

As time went on, and as more people 



began realizing the benefits of this work in 
their own work, there came to be a greater 
demand for us to bring the work not only to 
individuals, but to groups of people in or- 
ganizational settings as well. So, to answer 
your question, the principal reason for not 
keeping the work targeted to individuals is 
that the demand to do it in organizations 
has required a full-scale commitment on 
our part. 

We've been working with corporations 
and government organizations bringing 
the power of transformation not only to the 
people in the organizations but to the or- 
ganizations themselves. We've just started 
a full-scale program, and we expect by the 
end of this year or the beginning of next 
year for it to be in full swing. Our pilot pro- 
grams have shown that our work can make 
a real difference in organizational effective- 
ness and productivity, so we are encour- 
aged to expand now vigorously. 

Bodek: How would you apply what 
we've been discussing about the "space of 
possibility" to individuals in organizations 
to enhance their productivity? 

Erhard: The first issue to come to grips 
with is that most of our notions about being 
productive and successful, come from a set 
of assumptions which, for the most part, 
we never examine or question. We bring 
these assumptions to the table with us as 
given. They are so much a part of who we 
are that it is difficult for us to separate our- 
selves from them enough to be able to talk 
about them. We do not think these assump- 
tions, we think from them. 

So, for example, our unexamined as- 
sumptions about what a human being is are 
very closely tied to our notions of produc- 
tivity. Similarly, our assumptions about 
how the physical universe works are very 
closely tied to our ability to produce. For 
example, in any set of circumstances, what 
about human action really produces im- 
pact? Is it behavior? Is it words that produce 
impact? Is the physical universe really like a 
set of billiard balls such that moving the 
right ball at the right time produces impact? 
Or is there more to it than that? Maybe you 
are already moving the right ball at the right 
time, but it just isn't making any difference. 
Does being productive depend on the wis- 
dom of one's analysis of the situation, or are 
there great analysts who have no impact? 

We are not necessarily aware that we 
have settled on answers to these questions, 
but they are there within each of us, already 
determining what we see as possible, as 
achievable. They are already determining 
how we think, manage, talk, and act. 

So, if you will permit me to refer to this al- 
ready present set of assumptions as a 
paradigm, then one of the first steps to take 



WINTER 84/ SPRING 85 33 



The difficulty is never with the mind 
itself, but rather with our unexamined 
notions of mind. 



in working with people on the issue of pro- 
ductivity is to examine the paradigm they 
already are. Why is this step important? Be- 
cause you and I are much more likely to 
fulfill the paradigm we are than to fulfill any 
of our goals, ideas, or visions. Our New 
Year's resolutions, our plans, and our strategies 
are never as poiverful in determining our actions 
as our paradigms are. 

It's worth going into this a little more 
deeply for a moment. The possibility you 
are is confined by the paradigm you are to 
the degree that you do not distinguish be- 
tween the two. All those unexamined as- 
sumptions that are driving your actions, be- 
haviors, and assessments — to the degree 
that you think you are all that, to that same 
degree, you limit yourself. 

Put more abstractly, the situation is very 
much like what we spoke of earlier with re- 
spect to the mind; there are at least two do- 
mains — one, the domain of Being, and two, 
the domain in which all those unexamined 
assumptions live. Those are in fact two dis- 
tinct domains. The rules of operating in one 
are entirely different from the rules of 
operating in the other. Who you are lives in 
the domain of Being; that is, your ability to 
bring forth, to intervene into cir- 
cumstances, to create possibility and to 
make happen what you intend, lives in the 
domain of Being. That domain is one of 
mastery, of power, of accomplishment. 

Alternatively, there is the domain of un- 
examined assumptions. Inherently, there is 
no power in this second domain. But when 
you fail to distinguish it, when you allow 
the two domains to collapse into one 
another and are unaware of your "Self" as 
generative Being, the paradigm has a force. 
Not power, but force. The paradigm, not 
you, drives, runs, and determines out- 
comes of your actions because you fail to 
distinguish it from who you are. 

So, the first step is to come to grips with 
the paradigm that one already is so that one 
can see its impact on one's performance, 
productivity, and actions. That alone is re- 
markably revealing for organizations as 
well as for individuals. People suddenly see 
clearly why what they have been trying to 
accomplish could never be accomplished 
within the limitations of their current 



paradigm. They suddenly see that no mat- 
ter how hard they would have worked or 
planned, no matter how effective their tools 
were or how much help they could have 
mustered, what they wanted to produce 
just wasn't possible within their operative 
paradigm. To see all this is remarkably re- 
vealing, but to see it is only step one. Step 
two is to ask, "What is the nature of a 
paradigm?", which will in turn lead to step 
three, "What is the paradigm that would be 
natural to my intentions?" 

If you can begin to grasp what I'm driving 
at here, then you'll begin to reassess a lot of 
the "conventional wisdom" about produc- 
tivity. For example, for the most part we as- 
sume that productivity has a lot to do with a 
person's attitude. Naturally, then, a lot of 
productivity-enhancing techniques focus 
on changing attitudes, improving at- 
titudes, and motivating people. Now, un- 
doubtedly there is a lot of benefit in that 
kind of work. But by the same token, some 
people with very positive attitudes gener- 
ate grand schemes out of which nothing 
comes, and some people with petty at- 
titudes can still produce miracles. We 
would say, rather than changing your at- 
titude, how about learning something 
about Being? How about a shift in Being? 
Because if you shift Being," altitudes will 
shift by themselves. 

Bodek: There are two distinctions I'd like 
to ask about. First, does a "shift in Being" 
bring about a new paradigm or does it get 
rid of paradigms altogether? Second, is a 
new paradigm the same as a new "domain 
of possibility?" 

Erhard: Clearly, the term "shift in Being" 
is only a verbal approximation of the 
phenomenon. The term is intended to 
point at something rather than represent it 
accurately. Other ways of talking about the 
phenomenon are easier to understand but 
are also, because of their understandability, 
more of a trap. So, let me answer as directly 
as I can. 

A shift in Being occurs when one distin- 
guishes oneself from whatever one previ- 
ously considered oneself to be. Such mo- 
ments are usually accompanied by a sense 
of insight — not the insight of a new conclu- 
sion and not a psychological insight, but an 
ontological insight, an insight at the level of 
who one is. The insight is not necessarily 
verbalized, but often shows up as a distinct 
or expanded experience of oneself. 

A shift in Being does not get rid of 
paradigms. Paradigms, ways of thinking, 
are obviously useful and necessary. What 
occurs when one recognizes one's own 
Being, or, let me say, when one comes to 
terms with Being as a valid phenomenon, is 
that paradigms simply stop defining who 



34 



R e V I S I O N Vol. 7 No 2 



we are. It's not that you escape thinking; 
you escape thinking automatically, reflex- 
ively, irresponsibly. Once you've made the 
distinction between what you think and 
who you are, what you think becomes a 
function of who you are and not simply of 
what there is to be thought. Original, true 
thinking occurs only in this generative do- 
main of Being. Einstein, as far as I can tell, 
created relativity. He certainly did not de- 
duce it, since it wasn't deducible from any- 
thing previously known about physics. 

So, you could say that from Being, one 
creates paradigms. As far as I can tell, that is 
a legitimate statement to make. 

To answer your second question, I prefer 
to say that a new paradigm allows for a new 
range of options. The options permissible 
within a paradigm come along with the 
paradigm; in fact, one could say they define 
it. But options inherent in a new paradigm 
are not what I mean by possibility. What I 
mean by possibility is more closely related 
to where paradigms themselves come 
from. New paradigms are not accidents of 
nature. They are brought forth, created, 
generated. They are generated first as pos- 
sibility. Nothing comes into being unless 
there is first the possibility of its being. 

Bodek: Could we look at a concrete 
example? For example, let's say I have a 
writer whose job is to articulate a theory our 
company is working on, yet who is unable 
to do it, not because of lack of intelligence or 
capacity, but because we're not getting the 
idea across to him. He can't be productive 
because he simply can't get what we're talk- 
ing about. He is willing, let's say, but frus- 
trated. His lack of productivity is not his 
fault. If I understand the theory, how can I 
get it across to him according to your ideas 
about "space of possibility"? 

Erhard: That is a good example. It's just 
the kind of problem we try to address with 
our work, since to produce an enduring re- 
sult requires transformation. Presumably 
you'd be interested not simply in getting 
one communication across to this fellow, 
but in generating some insight into the 
whole issue of ineffective communication. 

I think we can agree that until this person 
gets the idea for himself, he won't be able to 
produce what you want. He might repeat 
your words or do a good editing job, but he 
won't be generating it, creating it. Your 
question, as I hear it, is, How can what I'm 
talking about have an impact such that this 
fellow creates it for himself? 

First, we need to understand that what- 
ever we want this man to grasp, the idea, 
the theory, or the communication, lives 
someplace. I'm going to call where it lives 
"languaging. " Now when I say that, I don't 
mean that it lives in words. He has heard 



the words, and that hasn't helped. And cer- 
tainly, what you want him to grasp doesn't 
live as a thing. If it did, you could just take it 
and put it in his hand. So, the question 
about where this communication lives is a 
critical one and to answer it takes some 
deep looking. But let's just say for the mo- 
ment that whatever it is you want this fel- 
low to create for himself lives in this strange 
place called "languaging." 

A critical issue in the notion of languag- 
ing is a person's "listening." By "listening," 
I don't mean what your ear does. That is a 
purely physical phenomenon: your ear 
picks up sound and transmits it to your 
brain in the form of an electrochemical im- 
pulse. The way I mean it, "listening" deter- 
mines what can show up for you, what can 
presence itself to you in conversation and in 
action. 

Let me give you an example. A novice 
goes out on a tennis court. The coach in- 
structs him to hold the racquet and his body 
in a certain way, and to swing at the ball in a 
certain way. This student tries to do it, but 
he can't. Furthermore, he doesn't even 
know that he's not doing it. 

I assert that the novice's actions on the 
tennis court, or of this fellow in your exam- 
ple, are not a function of the instructions 
he's been given, nor of his mental proces- 
ses, nor of his will — but of his observations. 
His actions on the tennis court are more 
powerfully determined by what he ob- 
serves, by what shows up for him — and I 
don't mean what his eyes transmit to his 
brain. 

Bodek: Could we use the word "percep- 
tion"? 

Erhard: I very definitely don't mean per- 
ception. What "shows up" for people is not 
determined by what's there to be seen. A 
competent tennis player sees the ball as 
moving slowly. For a novice, the ball shows 
up as moving very rapidly. In both cases, 
however, the measured velocity of the ball 
may be exactly the same, and although the 
ball is moving at the same speed in both 
cases, nevertheless, what the expert "ob- 
serves" and what the novice "observes" are 
entirely different. 

This is what I mean by "show up." Once 
you grasp what I'm talking about, you can 
see that the notion of "showing up" rede- 
fines your whole question about the writer. 
See, if you are trying to get this fellow to 
create something for himself within a 
paradigm that says that what he sees and 
hears is a function of what's there, then you 
are doomed to keep trying to have him "get 
it" by forcing things into his head — words, 
explanations, repeating it over and over, 
screaming at him, threatening him with 
being fired, calling him names, motivating 



WINTER 84/ SPRING 85 35 



In distinguishing the mind, in becoming 
aware of it os the mind, the 
"superstition" of the mind loses its hold 
as a phenomenon of interference. 



him, and, when all else fails, changing his 
attitude. Those are the tools we use when 
we work in a reality that doesn't allow for 
the possibility that one, this thing you want 
him to get lives in languaging, two, that a 
large part of languaging depends on the 
phenomenon of listening, and three, that 
one's listening actually helps to determine 
what can "show up." 

So to restate the example you gave from a 
different perspective, it's not that this fel- 
low can't hear what you're saying, or that 
he doesn't understand or care. It's that his 
"listening," his paradigm, allows for only 
certain possibilities. Ideas and communica- 
tions which fall within his structure of lis- 
tening can be recreated, "gotten," by him. 
Those which fall outside his structure of lis- 
tening cannot be recreated or gotten. It's 
not that he doesn't want to recreate them, 
by the way; it's just that they're not al- 
lowed. And, he can't do much about it be- 
cause he doesn't see himself as a structure 
of listening — as a space of possibility. 
Perhaps he sees himself as a receptacle for 
words or as a brain at the end of an ear — 
who knows? — but he does not see himself 
as being able to work with his own listen- 
ing. If he did, he'd see possibilities where 
there were none before. He will struggle to 
get it just as hard as you will struggle to give 
it to him, and in all that struggling, no com- 
munication will occur. 

So, in your example, there are two things 
the man hasn't listened to. One, he hasn't 
listened to the creative communication 
which you are trying to give him, and two, 
he hasn't listened to his own listening. 

What is required to communicate suc- 
cessfully with this man is a transforma- 
tion — a shift in his structure of listening or 
in the possibility which lives in his listen- 
ing. He can't get what you're saying be- 
cause it doesn't live as a possibility in his lis- 
tening. Therefore, it can't show up in his 
listening, and it will never show up as what 
you are talking about because of his "struc- 
ture of listening." 

This phenomenon is not psychological. 
"What" he is listening, what shows up for 
him, is not a function of his psychology. It's 
not that he has a bad attitude, or is badly 
educated or somehow disturbed, dis- 



tracted, or sick. Now, there is a body of 
problems for which psychology works, but 
there is also one for which psychology 
doesn't work. We're interested in the 
phenomenon of being human from a def- 
initely non-psychological perspective. If we 
had to name the perspective from which we 
are interested in being human, we'd have to 
call it, at least at this point, ontological. 

To bring about the transformation 
needed so this fellow can "get" what you 
are trying to convey, you need to do on- 
tological work, not psychological work. 
You have to open up in him the possibility 
for what you want to communicate to exist 
in him — as a creation. By the way, this no- 
tion of "creation" is a critical point. Your ex- 
perience lives in you as a creation, not as an 
understanding. You may also understand 
your experience, but that understanding is 
entirely unrelated to the experience itself 
and to the fact that you create experience. 
Creating an experience is a function of pos- 
sibility, not of understanding. 

Explaining everything to this man as 
clearly as you can will not help him create 
the experience; it may provide the condi- 
tions in which he can create the experience, 
but it does not help him actually create it. 
What allows him to create the experience is 
a structure of interpretation in which this 
particular experience is possible, allowable, 
observable. Once the experience can live as 
a possibility in him, he can create it, and not 
before. 

If he is not creating your communication, 
assuming he is willing to, it is because what 
he needs to create is not possible in his lis- 
tening. You have to open up in him the pos- 
sibility for what you want him to get. To do 
that, you need to shift your locus of concern 
from what you are trying to tell him to what 
he is listening, to what he is able to observe, 
to what "shows up" for him. 

To go back to the tennis example for a 
moment, if you've got a good tennis teacher 
and she has some grasp of what I'm talking 
about, she will not tell you how to swing 
the racquet or how to stand or where to 
move. She'll tell you what to observe. By 
virtue of her talking to you in that way, 
what can show up for you shifts. As that 
shifts, your actions shift. In other words, 
shifting what is possible to show up for you 
also creates a new domain of possible ac- 
tions that didn't exist for you before. A good 
tennis coach never needs to tell you what to 
do. She will alter what is possible for you to 
observe, and you will do naturally what is 
consistent with what you are observing. 

In the example of your company's em- 
ployee, rather than trying to get him to un- 
derstand what you're saying — a task at 
which I suspect you'll never fully succeed — 



36 



ReVISlON Vol 



No 2 



Each of us has the capacity to create 
abstractly, to create distinctions, but 
most of us have let the ability atrophy. 



you can give him a new "domain of distinc- 
tion," an ability to distinguish that which 
was not before distinguishable. In that new 
domain, he can create for himself the thing 
you are trying to convey to him. 

Perhaps a more familiar example is the 
example of the primitive tribesman. An- 
thropologists tell us that if you show a 
photograph to a primitive tribesman, he 
sees no image. He sees black and white 
spots. Now when the anthropologist ex- 
plains photography to the tribesman, the 
tribesman looks a little quizzically at the an- 
thropologist and says, "I still see only black 
and white spots. I understand that you are 
telling me it could represent an image, but 
so could this stone on the ground. I don't 
see any image." 

Now, the image is there, of course; it just 
doesn't show up for the tribesman. What's 
missing for the primitive tribesman is the 
abstraction, the domain of distinction in 
which photographic image can show up. 
You can explain the image until doomsday, 
and he is never going to see an image by vir- 
tue of your explanation alone. The image 
will never show up for him as an image 
until he brings forth the possibility of 
photographic images. This means he must 
create the distinction, "photographic 
image." The instant that the possibility of 
"photographic image" lives for him, the in- 
stant he is the distinction, he'll see the 
photograph. 

This relationship between creating and 
experiencing is a critically important point, 
because it is so easily missed. It happens so 
rapidly, that we can even miss it in our own 
everyday experience. Understanding or 
explaining photography, showing the 
tribesman the photograph, grappling over 
the issue with him, are all important to cog- 
nition. They provide the condition in which 
he can create the experience of the photo- 
graphic image. But none of those is the 
source of the experience. The source of the 
experience is his creation of it at the instant 
that he has the experience. Experience is 
creative in nature; it is not induced by cir- 
cumstances. 

Bodek: You're saying that it can come 
without his experiencing that image? 

Erhard: I am saying that the possibility of 



seeing the image is not derived from the ex- 
perience. Rather, the experience is derived 
from the possibility. The experience is not 
derived from the concept of or the explana- 
tion of or the definition of a photographic 
image. None of those gives rise to the ex- 
perience "photographic image." Rather the 
experience and even the concept are de- 
rived from this other domain where one 
creates distinctions and possibility. When 
you can communicate the domain of dis- 
tinction "photographic image," then in- 
stantly the experience "photographic 
image" shows up. Experience shows up in 
domains of distinction. This is the critical 
breakthrough in our work. 

Bodek: This domain you're talking about 
is a function of Being? 

Erhard: This phenomenon I'm trying to 
get at is in the domain of Being. Creating 
distinctions — not naming or explaining dis- 
tinctions but creating distinctions — is a 
phenomenon in the domain of Being. 

Let me give you one more example. Let's 
say you study all the books there are about 
balance. Then you go out and sit on a bicy- 
cle, but you fall off. You know everything 
there is to know about balance, but you fall 
off the bicycle because the ability to balance 
on a bike is not really predicated on what 
we think of as information or knowledge. 
That is to say ability, skill, and prowess are 
not epistemological phenomena — not phe- 
nomena of knowledge or information. 

Now, we observe that if you take some- 
one out on a bike, and he sits on it and falls 
off enough times, then at some point he'll 
sit on it and balance. So, we then say to our- 
selves, "Ah, the answer is not knowledge, 
but experience!" I say that too is a misin- 
terpretation. I say that if you use that in- 
terpretation in working with people, you're 
going to be very frustrated. I think that 
what happens when someone learns bal- 
ance is that he sits on a bike, falls off, sits on 
it, falls off, until at some point, out of all 
that experience, he brings forth the distinc- 
tion of "balance." And in that distinction, 
or in that "domain of possibility," he can 
now discern balance from not-balance. 
He'll still fall off some more, but he's now 
over the hump. The possibility of balance is 
present because he's had that break- 
through. He now has a domain of distinc- 
tion called balance, in which the experience 
"balance" can show up. 

There is a transcending of the ordinary 
rules here. The ordinary rules are: you learn 
a little bit, then you learn a little bit more, 
then more, and finally you know enough to 
do it. I'm saying that there is a whole body 
of problems or concerns for which that 
theory does not work. For that body of 
problems, the solution is an all-of-a-sudden 



WINTER 84/ SPRING 85 J] 



phenomenon — an "ah-haa" experience. 
We don't understand it very well because 
we try to get at it with disciplines which 
cannot contain it. Our work proposes a dis- 
cipline directed at those phenomena, and 
we think we now know something about 
the content of that discipline. We now 
know that the "ah-haa" is a product of 
bringing forth a domain of distinction, liter- 
ally creating it. It's as if you know you don't 
have to go through that process one step at 
a time — you've got it all at the moment of 
bringing forth the distinction. It now lives 
for you as a possibility. It's true that you'll 
have to go through the practice and add the 
steps in, but you're adding the steps into 
the possibility, not trying to build towards 
the possibility. 

This technology of breakthrough is dis- 
tinction-creating, or paradigm-creating, or 
context-creating. The traditional disciplines 
can say something about it, but they have 
no power to bring it about. Bringing it about 
requires a whole different discipline. It is 
talked about in religion, psychology, and 
philosophy. But it's talked about rather than 
brought forth. You can read books from 
now until doomsday on creativity and only 
associate with creative people, and you're 
still not likely to be much more creative 
than when you started. It requires a whole 
new discipline to be creative. And that's the 
discipline we're talking about. 

With regard to your company's employ- 
ee — what's missing for him is not informa- 
tion, understanding, or definition, but a 
distinction. If you discover the distinction, 
which is what your job is, and you com- 
municate it to him so that he can bring it 
forth, suddenly he will understand what 
you've been trying to say. Our work is 
about training people in this domain of 
creating distinctions, bringing forth 
paradigms. 

If there is a transformation, a domain of 



distinction brought forth, it will not show 
up for you except in action, in deeds. In 
other words, if I were giving you a new con- 
cept, you would be able to understand it in- 
tellectually. But if I've communicated a dis- 
tinction, you will not know you got the dis- 
tinction except that a new "space of possi- 
bility" will show up in your actions. The 
only way to know whether I've succeeded 
in communicating with you about this 
issue — this problem of the writer — is to 
look at your interactions with that man a 
few months down the road. 

In the meantime, you might ask yourself, 
"How do I be the guy who gets through to 
this employee?" You can shift who you are 
by shifting your commitment from having 
an answer to living in the question. Right 
now, in your interactions with the writer, 
you are probably listening for answers. 
Americans generally listen for answers; I'm 
asking you to listen questions. Live in the 
question — who do I have to be to get 
through to this man? By nothing more than 
taking the stand that you are the question — 
How do I get through to him? — the rest will 
take care of itself. Naturally, you've got to 
talk to him, work on the problem — all that's 
true. But by living the question, rather than 
by living the answer, you have a shift in 
Being that allows you to show up as a per- 
son who gets through to him. 

I know that sounds too simple; that it 
ought to be more complex. But that's really 
just the point. When you've dealt with all 
this stuff successfully and engaged in it au- 
thentically, you don't walk away with a 
whole bunch of new rules to follow and 
practices to figure out. In fact, you may 
even feel a little confused, uncertain about 
what to do, still looking for the rules. As far 
as I'm concerned, that's the best possible 
place to be in order to bring something 
forth. If that happens, your time was well 
spent. 



38 R e V I S I O N Vol. 7 No 2