On leverage points & counterintuitions
Observing that “the world’s leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to virtually all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction,” Donella Meadows identifies the perils of failing to understand complex systems as counterintuitive. The ‘leverage points’, where we can change systems, are also not intuitive. “Or if they are, we intuitively use them backwards, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve.” We need to develop our counterintuitions. And humility, as counterintuitons need room for contest and evolution: “complex systems are, well, complex.”
Meadows, refining her own list of the best leverage points — from a system’s parameters up to its paradigms — admits it needs qualification: “It is tentative and its order is slithery.” But the nearer to the paradigm you can make change, the more effective you’ll be; which is where Lukes’ third face of power comes in.
And, with a nod to Negative Capability, there’s a radically empowering leverage point beyond paradigm shift: “stay flexible, realize that NO paradigm is ‘true’ … 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.”