Problems of the World

I’ve been thinking. . .

About the problems of the world . . . humanity’s many failures . . . the rapidity and acceleration of our technological progress compared to the slow-mo slog of our moral evolution. It’s something I think about frequently, There are times during these reflections I get . . . well not actually clinically depressed, but certainly discouraged or dispirited.

On random occasions, I find encouraging news of carbon capture technology or the emergence of peace talks in a conflict zone. Sometimes I write down what I am concerned about. I am a writer. The written word is how I process difficult concepts and emotions.

Today cleaning files on my desktop, some copies of old cashed gift certificates to be discarded, posted articles to be filed, and drafts to be developed or discarded, I found this:

Problems of the world that need action, Challenges to be overcome

(in no particular order, yet)

Climate change (CO2 and methane -hydrocarbon burn, land and resource use e.g., animal-raising, deforestation, poor extraction, mass farming techniques, lack of full cost analysis e.g., concentrated farming without considering damage from distribution – inequity of land use

Other environmental damage  (chemicals in the soil and water, plastics in the ocean)

Poverty/Inequity (poor taxation policy, limited education, poorly paid labor, limited opportunity, lack of affordable housing, hate promotion)

War (geopolitics, resource use, refugee diaspora, hate promotion)

Crime (poverty/inequity, poor education, lack of opportunity, hate promotion, violence)

Lack of will to act on these things (politics, funding the status quo higher than change, hate promotion)

Requires International Collaboration

What stands in the way: Nationalism, Greed – Corporate, National, Lack of structure, infrastructure, forum to collaborate, North-South hemisphere bias, remnants of colonialism, and anticolonialism.

What does it mean to collaborate at this scale?

Discussion- Agreement on the problem details, Agreement on the working approach.

Vision of solution, problem-solving process, analytics root causes, looking at causes [ will be hard -involves perceptions of blame] solution generation testing and first baby steps, implementation of early wins, implementation.

The list of problems is not mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive or MECE in consulting lingo. I don’t mention racism, sexism, and gender discrimination, gun violence, the threat to democracy, creeping socialism, creeping fascism, creeping solipsism here and around the world.  This incomplete problem-set is interrelated and interdependent – a veritable rats’nest-squirrel-cage-spaghetti-garbage of catastrophe. It is no wonder that humans don’t sort it out. The Process and obstacle stuff is so anemic as to be discouraging in and of themselves. But together with the incomplete problem categorization, they hint at a compelling case for change.

How do you create and enhance change?

I’m a writer, but my last career was change consultant. I often used a simplistic change model:


  • Insight: For any change to happen we need a fresh view of the problem, an understanding of the “why” what we’re doing isn’t working and what we might do more of, less of, or differently, Insight must be internalized collectively by a critical mass of those who must change till a “tipping point” is reached.
  • Action – nothing changes until someone actually does something different or differently.
  • Results -must be monitored, but when they don’t arrive we need to go back to the inputs and make change there.

OK, It is never that simple. There is no straight line to change. Often there isn’t agreement on the insight. Is rising crime a sign of moral decay or the outcome of poverty, inequity, and discrimination? Yes. And change breaks down between insight and action, between what we know and what we do. And the actions we take don’t show immediate results so we give up and try something else, which doesn’t work either, so we try something else. . . and something else. . .and. . . .

OR what we try works, shows immediate results and we declare victory and move on, fail to track results or control the process until someone says,” Didn’t we solve this problem last year? ”

If I thought change in a corporation, or two corporations merging, was tough. The idea of getting enough critical mass to move the world to a tipping point is overwhelming.

A big challenge is there is no “client,” no global executive, who can “buy,” or sponsor the project. In fact, many of us are extremely uncomfortable with even the concept of a “global executive.” Furthermore, the “consultants” (prophets) who show up from time to time, do not fare well.

Show up with a compelling case for change, “C’mon people now, smile on your brother everybody get together and love one another right now,” might cause you to get stoned, burned at the stake, crucified, shot, jailed, or (as in the case of the Youngbloods, who recorded this Chester Powers song in 1967) forever relegated to “one-hit-wonder” status.

No client and we reject consulting help – It’s not a good way to start a change process.

Where are we in a change process?

I don’t know. Do we understand the dysfunction?  Have we learned it collectively? Maybe not. Is there a forum for discussion? There are too many: The United Nations, World Bank, IMF, national governments, NGOs, BizCatalyst 360°, and LinkedIn.

(What role can the BizCat or LinkedIn communities play?)

Is there a forum to build commitment to action? The simple answer is No. The scene is a little like James Clavell’s novel Shogun about the conflict leading to the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan in the 1600s. Power is dispersed across two warlord empires, each with its own next-tier vassal states and unaligned ronin states. Except there is no John Blackthorne, the shipwrecked Westerner, who intercedes on behalf of order. The analogy is a stretch, but I’m a writer, OK?

How can we come to agreement?

What small actions might we take?

Early in my consulting career, I did some work for a forest products company. It was a supervisory training project, not sweeping change, but I did some interviews in a logging camp, which I remember to this day. Here is a story I remember from one of those interviews.

Being a lumberjack is a capability-based job. There are people who excel at selecting trees to be cut in what order, people who climb and trim, people who fell trees, and people who pack logs on trucks. I was told that “in the old days” among critical skill sets were putting logs into the river, which was used to transport trees to a mill when there were no roads, and breaking logjams.

Periodically logs in a river got jammed up and that was not only a transport problem, it was a product destruction and safety problem. Logs split apart, jammed up more and the situation escalated quickly. Guys who developed the capability to break logjams had unusual spatial abilities. They literally could “see” the logs that if removed or cut would break the jam. The guy who told me this story called them “key-men” or “Key-loggers.” I never observed this in action and when I talked to some of the younger guys they just smiled and said “You’ve been talking to Old Bill. We don’t really do that much anymore, most everything goes on trucks now.” But Bill’s story makes for an interesting analogy for the world’s problems. What are the “key logs” in this rats’nest-squirrel-cage-spaghetti-garbage logjam that we’ve gotten ourselves into?

I don’t want some self-styled “global executive’ or super-prophet to take charge and break a lot more eggs than you need for an omelet with a crusade, jihad, energy independence, fornicating for chastity exercise.

Look, I’m a wise guy, not a wise man. I don’t know the answers, I’m just asking questions because I’d like my grandchildren to have a better life than it looks like they might just now.

What small actions can an individual take? What can a writer’s forum like BizCatalyst 360° do? Or a business forum like LinkedIn?

Your thoughts are absolutely welcome.


Alan Culler
Alan Culler
Alan Cay Culler is a writer of stories and songs, his fourth career (aspiring actor, speakers agent, change consultant, storyteller.) He retired after thirty-seven years as a leadership and change consultant. Alan was an executive coach, a leadership team facilitator, trainer, and project manager for innovation and improvement initiatives. Alan’s point of view: "Business is all about people, customers, staff, suppliers, and the community - pay disciplined attention to these people and rewards follow; ignore them and success will not last." Alan is “a seeker of wisdom from unusual places.” He is currently completing three books: Wisdom from Unusual Places, Is Consulting Wisdom an Oxymoron?, and Change Leader? Who me?. Alan earned a BA in Theatre from Centre College, an MBA from the London Business School, and a post-graduate certificate in Organization Development from Columbia University. Alan also builds cigar box guitars and wood sculptures, hikes, travels with his wife Billie, and gets as much grandchildren playtime as he can.

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