Our world is undergoing profound changes, with global warming, the pandemic, and looming cyber wars, and business is changing fast, too.
It’s out with old-school bosses, command-and-control, binaries, profit first, win-win, an obsession with data and optimization, over-efficiency and reduction, extractive business models, bottomless exponential growth.
It’s in with people, planet, purpose; regenerative and circular business models; decentralization; equity; fluid identities; diverse, inclusive workplaces; sensitive, conscious leadership.
We want business that doesn’t reduce us to productivity and efficiency, to numbers and figures, to shareholder value and bottom line. We want business that makes meaning, that senses and makes sense, that generates and regenerates. Business that is always unfinished. Business that is not bigger, but greater, wider, deeper. Business that connects us to our heart, spirit, and body. To nature. Business that partners with nature. That is nature.
The new metaphysical paradigm
Sound abstract? Well, it is. And it isn’t. It’s time to realize that what seemed beyond reality yesterday will be mainstream tomorrow. And is already acutely relevant today. Let’s unpack it and look at the four main attributes of metaphysical business: First, meta, as in the metaverse.
Metaphysics still sounds more like magic than our actual work and life reality. (Photo: Karly Santiago/Unsplash)
Yes, this time it’s real. In a perfect storm of advances in computing power, commercial interests, science-fiction romance, and self-fulfilling prophecy, the metaverse has finally arrived on the scene in full force.
‘The Great Immersion’ comes with great responsibility. This is true whether you are a proponent of virtual supremacy or not. In his new book Reality X: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, David J. Chalmers argues that virtual worlds will rival and ultimately surpass an increasingly unalluring physical reality. Following that line of thinking, we must make the metaverse worth living in. Otherwise, it will just become one gigantic shopping mall. Venture capitalist Marc Andreesen goes a step further and calls for a new moral imperative:
“The vast majority of humanity lacks Reality Privilege—their online world is, or will be, immeasurably richer and more fulfilling…. Reality has had 5,000 years to get good, and is clearly still woefully lacking for most people…. We should build — and we are building online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.”
So ask yourself what you and your organization can do not only to make the virtual world better per se, but to use it to make the real one better. How can the metaverse become an environment of learning through the kind of radical, deeper, and truthful exploration and experimentation that is not possible in the real world? “What if the virtual realities we created didn’t make us want to stay, but what if they inspired us to want to come back and build a better actual world?” Shannon Mullen O'Keefe, founder of The Museum of Ideas, wonders, “What if we visited our world as it might be if we cared for it?”
Metaphysical means physical
We must balance our presence in the virtual world by becoming more aware of our bodies. Meta sana in corpore sano. After the last decade's rush to become ultra-efficient, fitness-tracker-optimized, Soylent-drinking machines, the pandemic has reminded us that we’re all mortal. Our neglected bodies cry out for attention — for better sleep, for exercise, for us to reconnect with ancient wisdom that might tell us what we need to regenerate.
At the workplace, this begins with re-acknowledging that the bodiless bodies we bring to the workplace have deprived us for too long of too much of our knowledge. We perform better, make better decisions, are happier and more fulfilled at work if we show up with our full bodies. As leaders we will only come alive, and inspire others to come alive, if we mean what we say — or in other words, if we embody what we believe in.
Metaphysical means natural
The physicality of business implies a humbler notion of our relationship to nature. We need organizations that are as complex as nature, that are nature-like.
Nature-like organizations co-design with nature, beyond bionics, biomimicry, and synthetic biology, toward nature-like business models and organizational designs. They must not only be ecologically minded, but become ecologies, with seasonality, circularity, and fluidity as their core DNA, thereby becoming more resilient to ever-changing environments.
Metaphysical means spiritual
Metaphysical business means moving beyond the human-centered. It honors our spiritual selves. It connects us to something that is greater than ourselves, cherishes the subconscious, and strives for a heightened consciousness. It plays with psychedelics and entangles with quantum thinking. Along with the theory of many worlds, quantum scientists like Erwin Schrödinger (yes, the one with the cat!) have explored the world as a superposition of states, a multiverse made up of a superposition of universes.
Metaphysical business is aware of these many worlds and modalities. It is constantly shape-shifting. It is a business that knows its demons, and is not afraid to summon its angels when it needs them.
The future will be more virtual, physical, natural, and spiritual. To thrive in it, business must get metaphysical.
Cover: Robert Katzki/Unsplash