The three brains and a whole system approach

The three brains and a whole system approach

“Our current knowledge is that we have three brains: there is of course the massive brain in our head; then there is a small brain in our heart, and another in our gut. The last two are comparatively much smaller but they are fully autonomous nervous systems nonetheless”,

Frédéric Laloux writes in his book Reinventing Organizations. The brain in the gut was discovered by a German doctor in the 1860s and was further refined by two English colleagues. However medical circles forgot about the brain in the gut and for a century this discovery was consigned to oblivion. Why?

The knowledge was lost as a result of the belief systems of that time. As we have stated many times before, the hierachical point of view was inherent in all parts of society at the time, when the western world was being industrialised. It served no purpose to see that there were other parts of the human organism that played a significant role in the functioning of the human – to some it might even have seemed threatening. Humans were seen as machines with the brain sitting like a boss at the top controlling and making all decisions. The same machine thinking, command and control thinking and production line logic, is still present everywhere.

In schools today the control center is seen through the managers or leaders of the school who make the ‘big decisions’ affecting the lives of so many. Going back to the human body analogy we know that for a body to function at its optimum level a whole system approach is required, an integration of all parts along with the nourishment of the whole. Let me emphasise; a school is an assembly point for many living breathing organisms. All these parts need integrating for its overall health and wellbeing.

The need to integrate the whole organisation is essential. In Teal the metaphor of the machine is replaced by that of a living organism – which of course makes more sense in all systems that are not actually machines. In the healthy individual the heart, the gut and the mind plays a role in managing one’s life and in organisations we have to do the same. All people must be part of decision making as they are the heart, mind and gut of the organisation, and we need wholeness practices that help individuals, teams and the entire organisation to align with needs and purpose, and create health and wellbeing on all levels.

It can be said collaboration is the answer. Collaboration is a word that we often hear thrown about and used by organisations and schools where command and control is actually the norm. No collaboration really happens. Command and control is given to a select few. All other voices, ideas, creative thinking processes are drowned out.

Collaboration is actually only talked about where the system itself counteracts it. It is the answer to the feeling that something isn’t working right, as seen through the glasses of industrialised thinking.

The good news is, there are alternative ways of organising, and through these models we can unleash all the stuck potential we see in schools, amongst our teachers and students. We can make our schools lifelong learning organisations with a solid foundation in seeing and treating the students, teachers and other roles as fully human. Without trying to place a plaster on the many ways our schools show they are not functioning, like teacher burnout and students suffering through disengagement,  boredom or disruptive behaviour.

The alternative ways are parts of the Teal paradigm, where the three breakthroughs are Self-management, Evolutionary purpose and Wholeness. In this blog post we are touching upon both self-management and wholeness, and they are intertwined of course, but still necessary to discuss in separate. We will talk more about these “pillars of Teal” the coming months – follow us on social media to learn more!

This blog is co-written by
Shabana & Sarah


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