Socratic Design Workshop London 25/11/16 — Summary

The first Socratic Design workshop in London was an exciting and great learning experience on the topic of “The Future of Business”. The group of attendees was very diverse, ranging from academics, philosophy students, designers, entrepreneurs and company executives with nationalities from Belgium, The Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom and the USA.

We had the pleasure of receiving a very nice and clear but alarming overview of the “state of the world” by Yuri van Geest, Co-Founder at ExOxo and co-author of Exponential Organizations, the nr. 1 business bestselling book of 2015.

Future business and technological developments are exponential; however the question we need to ask is what makes us human and cannot be copied by artificial intelligence.

The Exponential world is visible by the switch from centralised to decentralised and from scarcity to abundance. The physical world becomes programmable with atoms, neurons and genes. Privacy and security are in danger.

Blockchain will make transactions completely transparent and trustworthy, without a supra organ. All this will look positive if we can define the human quality. Exponential organisations will become human centred, inside out and self-organising. They will be purpose driven instead of profit driven.

Human quality will be about empathy, friendship, wisdom and collaboration.

Everything is possible so it is not what we could do but what we should do.

After this strong introduction, Humberto Schwab showed some elements of the Socratic Design method:

  • We mostly do not think but have (addictive) thoughts,
  • We mostly do not listen, but colonise some words we hear to boost our own thoughts,
  • We are not aware that we are living in a narrative of philosophical assumptions, we therefore cannot reflect or change them (it is like a fish that cannot know what water is).
  • We are acting internally conform assumptions that are inhibited in our external world.
  • We are mostly thinking from the “cogito” angle, starting from primitive assumptions about science and facts (logical positivism).
  • We therefore cannot design a new world with the tools we have now.
Socratic Design is what coding is for the digital world, it decodes our assumptions in our nowadays culture and then codes with new assumptions a new design for reality. We analyse and change our ecology of mind.

In Socratic Design we have an instantaneously new context in which an emerging collective intelligence arises thanks to the disciplined dialogue methods and thanks to the physical presence of a broad spectrum of philosophical assumptions.

This philosophical presence is actualized by the moderator and stimulates the participants to think as philosophers. The design method delivers procedures and contents in a unique Socratic process.

We started with the most important of all in human lives: our values. In a value cascade we produced a horizon of values in one hour, with which the group could start working. Values are not only abstract entities, it is that for which and by which you live. Some of the agreed values included:

Children / Truth / Curiosity / Learning / Freedom / Integrity / Heart / Joy / Wondering

When we have our values clear they can motivate us and we can select our lives according to them, avoiding unnecessary “noise”.

We also completed a Socratic dialogue. This disciplined dialogue method guarantees the art of listening,

The key question, put forward by the group, we worked on during the workshop was “What will be the future of Europe?”

During the Socratic dialogue, we could move together through the exercise of listening and argumentation, exploring different angles and come to a joint conclusion.

Europe is basically a brand of social equality, human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, individual protection against governments and cultural diversity.

Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men. Building the European Union has been a process that transcends from the Antiquity, the Renaissance period, the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution and still develops new concepts like protecting the rights for persons belonging to minorities.

Reflecting on Europe and its place in the world, we realised that with the coming of exponential technologies to business and society, Europe has potentially the strongest answer to societies’ future challenges of, for example, the automation of everything, robotics and artificial intelligence.

The opportunities for Europe lies in the further development of humanity in all its richness, and even bring a stronger focus on BUILDING, learning and development, and on the Meta cultural capacities humans have.

The European values become of greater importance in this world of further polarisation around us. The workshop group believes it’s worthwhile protecting those values.

You can view a short video summary below made during the workshop including some interviews about the method.

Video by Miguel Harbers.

By Humberto Schwab and Rudy de Waele.

More articles related to Socratic Design:

Learning to live (on the future of learning)
How to create meaningful work and business