Excerpt : “Embracing the emerging values that make life grow” by Olivier Frérot

Translation by Connie Chow-Petit from chapter 4 on Emerging Values in the book “Vers une Civilisation de la Vie : Entreprendre et coopérer” by Olivier Frérot. This document is licensed under Creative Commons CC-by-SA 4.0 International.

Let’s take a close look at these emerging values, these forces of life, which are irrigating the new civilization from within. They are ordered to the all-out growth of the diversity and multiplicity of life forms. They animate human beings whose meaning and purpose is to contribute to their creative effervescence. Joy is then at the meeting point of those who participate in it. This joy is first of all to feel in oneself the vital spurt, colored by its singular and unique color, but which comes from elsewhere, infinitely greater than oneself and which crosses us. The secret of the new civilization is that in order to experience this living power within oneself, it can only be experienced by doing, by undertaking, by making, by constructing, with other humans and other living beings, who themselves, lifted up by this same life force, experience and deploy themselves singularly in this common action.

The individualism of Modernity, which had developed thanks to the discovery of the irreducible dignity of each human person, has, however, become stuck in an isolation and a closure to the other and to radical difference, faithful in this to the Cartesian dualism of overhanging vis-à-vis the world, in clear separation, which is clearly expressed in the Cartesian maxim Cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am”, which poses me in existence, independently of the world in which I find myself, alone, untied and in separation from all other beings.

We are going to keep this immense asset of the dignity of each person that Modernity bequeaths to all cultures, but we are now going to weave it with other human beings and also with other living beings. We are going to interweave the transcendence of our own unfinished life in its novelty and depth, with that of all the ostriches, in the immanence of society, in the experience of all relationships. Seeking one’s own personality, revealed each morning by the newness of life, and discovering, through encounter, through curiosity about the otherness of other singular persons, are the two sides of the same cardinal dynamic of the new society. Self-with-the-living others, in singularity, in bond and in alliance. The taste of self and the taste of others are articulated with each other in the same movement of growth. 

This dynamic of self-discovery in relationships, we call it individuation.

It initiates the glossary of nine emerging values, which we have defined, explained and ordered for an entrepreneurial collective, an enterprising community where everyone can develop. If these values are lived by the people within the entrepreneurial community, the promise is that the company will operate smoothly, will fulfill its missions well. We always use the word “company” to mean acting in common, whatever the statutory form of the group that acts: taking together, taking among ourselves to do, with a view to greater than ourselves. We have classified the nine values into three areas that concern the three main dimensions of our lives: self; self in the community; community in society. These three dimensions are completely linked in an upward spiral. You can enter through one or the other, they are based on each other.Let’s share the glossary, with the names of the values and their explanation.

To develop each individual through entrepreneurship

Individuation in the face of individualism

Everyone wishes to succeed in his or her own unique life. Living this deployment is only possible by doing something with others, who also deploy themselves singularly. The singularities of each person are encountered in this doing together, which is necessary for my individuation. It is opposed to individualism, where I develop without others, that is to say, against others. The place to undertake it is the major place where I experiment my individuation, the continuous discovery of myself, my capacities, my personality by interacting with other humans, different from me, which contributes to our respective developments by the search for the harmony of our subjectivities.

Fundamental attention to the body and matter in a digital world

Although the immaterial, digital universe is developing considerably, we are finding our way back to our bodies. With the decrease of the domination of the rational, we become more attentive to the sensitive and affective dimensions of our existences. This is clearly manifested in the multiple practices stemming from oriental wisdom, such as tai chi or yoga, as well as in meditation and its attention to breathing. The concern for well-being at work largely concerns the good material conditions of the professional environment and thus promotes peaceful relationships. This attention to the body, the concrete and the materiality of things, activates the fundamental links between humans, the living and the elements of nature, and contributes to taking care of living bodies and matter.

Benevolence in the face of everyone’s frailties and vulnerabilities

We experience, all the more so as we grow older, the fragility of life, that of our loved ones, our own life, through events that happen without warning. In an increasingly chaotic world, both individuals and groups are hit by destabilizing shocks. It is not a question of trying to control unpredictable events, but of being a relational as well as material support in the face of people’s difficulties, knowing that we are all equal in the face of life’s ups and downs. Everyone’s creativity is stimulated to find solutions. This listening, this attention in these moments of distress, develops the perception that it is not only the use of my work force that interests the company, but a deeper relationship is created, which can open towards existential and spiritual dimensions. From this trust, I will be able to give more than just my work force to show my solidarity with colleagues in distress, living in the company as a collective in solidarity.

Undertaking and succeeding together

Serendipity and the acceptance of uncertainty as an opportunity for action

It’s about seeing unexpected events that disrupt well-established plans in a positive and happy way. And to say to oneself then that from a difficulty something interesting and fruitful can come out of it. Life is constantly generating shifts and surprises, but we are generally not very attentive to them. It becomes much more interesting when we develop this capacity to broaden our attention to get out of our routines. For example, for a manager, responding positively to a request for an appointment that at first glance seems inadequate, or suggesting meetings for which nothing in particular is scheduled as an objective. Or go to invitations that are not directly related to the company’s activity. In a group of people who are in close contact, the unexpected and the new frequently arise. It is a matter of seizing these unscheduled opportunities that arise, and even provoking them. And therefore, to be as often as possible in a receptive state to our surroundings and environment. Fruitful actions, but unimaginable before the unforeseen situation, can then be triggered and open to fruitful projects.

The sharing of meaning for and through a corporate governance seen as common

I am all the more committed to the company as I take a part, even a small one, in its conduct. I will feel concerned by the company’s progress if I have a sufficient understanding of all the processes, and if my contribution is positively received, with regard to strategy, alliances, the evaluation of decisions and directions taken, and the sharing of the wealth produced. If I am proud of the company’s products, because they are truly useful to a part of humanity, indeed to every human being, to the living and to the balance of the planet, I will be in a good position to bring my creativity to the development of the entrepreneurial community. This applies to individuals as well as to teams, collectives and stakeholders. It is therefore important that places exist within the company where my contribution can be heard: board of directors, strategic or orientation board, legal bodies for staff meetings, regular dedicated meetings with everyone, working groups …

A humble management that respects otherness and promotes relationships

In a structurally uncertain world, the will to control, which was effective not so long ago, is proving to be powerless to anticipate more and more the small and large events that impact us. It becomes perilous for a manager to rigorously plan everyone’s tasks. The chaotic world we are entering requires trial and error approaches, with people with a variety of skills on the front line. It is therefore in the interest of the entrepreneurial collective to cultivate paths of inclusion of people of different origins, with a desire for crossbreeding rather than conformity to the dominant culture. And it is with modest, pragmatic, cooperative conduct that a team, united by its diversity, can trace a fruitful path in a confused landscape. Such an attitude calls for the solidarity of all, for trust in the collective, and not only in the qualities of a single person, which will soon prove to be limited and out of place.

Putting openness to the world and society at the heart of the goal

Service to people and society

Concern for other human beings, leads to a responsibility that I feel for not damaging their living conditions, and, on the contrary, for improving them. This attitude, which is first of all an inner attitude to feel concerned about all human life, is gradually gaining more and more people in society. The company may be in phase or in contradiction with this inclination. Its positioning will influence my commitment to it. The steps taken to reduce its pollution and its negative effects on our common living environment is not only important to comply with standards. They mobilize my creative participation, and they give me pride. And all the more so if the entrepreneurial community develops actions to take care of the living conditions of human beings. The company then becomes not only a place of production of economic and social wealth, but also societal and civic wealth.

Caring for the planet and the territories

Ecology is a philosophy of life. It consists in feeling connected to all living beings, things, and elements of the planet. There is joy in feeling like the knot of an immense network of beings interacting all together. Even if it is very small in front of the immensity of the world, it is not nothing. I bring my little drop of water, like the hummingbird.

~The legend of the Hummingbird is referenced here. An Amerindian legend, narrated by Pierre Rabhi, the founder of the Movement of the Hummingbird : One day, said the legend, there was a huge forest fire.All of the animals were terrified, grounded, they watched the disaster powerless.Only the small hummingbird did something, to get a few drops of water with its beak to throw on the fire. After a moment, the armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous agitation, said to him: “Hummingbird! Are you crazy? It is not with a few drops of water that you’ll extinguish the fire!”And the hummingbird answered:” I know, but I do my part.”~

What is true for me is also true for the collective that the company forms. Does the company take care of all its stakeholders, especially the places and territories where it is involved? Is it a beneficial cog in the wheel of a multitude of other solidarity collectives that build a liveable society? This concerns not only its production, but also its management, governance and societal vision. The more they are in phase with the unity of society in all its diversity and with life on our planet, the more I will feel involved.

The culture of hope and optimism

The creation of a company requires considerable energy and a strong dose of optimism to overcome the obstacles that mark its emergence.  Recharging these original energies allows us to gather strength to overcome the new obstacles that arise, and to keep alive the goal of undertaking together to deploy ourselves individually and collectively. It strengthens faith in the emerging life forces and values that build paths to resolve blockages and overcome inadequacies. Encouraging exchanges between the optimistic actors of the enterprising collective leads to positive effects on morale and therefore inventiveness. Confidence is strengthened as a result. It is important for everyone, and even more so for the leaders, to recharge their batteries outside the strict place of business, through art, spirituality, reading, sports, nature, … as well as in positive places, with other peers. Calling on advisors can be a decisive support in the delicate stages of the business, so as not to remain isolated.

To write this glossary, we have chosen the values that we felt were the most appropriate for a company, an enterprising human collective, so as to be audible to people involved in companies today, especially managers. Other values, in phase with these, can be indicated, and the development of the new civilization will progressively make them more visible and put them forward. Our collective task will be to glimpse them, to name them, in order to share and reinforce them. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the civilization of Life is still fragile and in opposition to the Modernity that fights against it. It must slip into the interstices that the mainstream leaves for its body to appear. She must practice the strategy of discretion so as not to provoke violence against her. These values are not yet dominant in our society as a whole, far from it. They appear at low noise, without any fanfare. The work of poets, poet-thinkers, poet-philosophers, is to propose words, names, to say to those who are listening to them, this brand new thing that seizes us and launches us into a new civilizational adventure. This task is inexhaustible, it brings together a multitude of people who make the short scale by communicating their creations and observations. It is fully in line with individuation and solidarity. It is in this that it is exciting because absolutely not marked out!

By making these emerging values our own, we can capture the energies that come from the future. In fact, we can see that they are already at work in many individuals and collectives in solidarity. Our desire, and it is also our joy, is to contribute to their deployment in all human endeavors, starting with ourselves.We will now look at how these values are already being deployed in a wide variety of forms of entrepreneurial collectives, and how in these communities they are proving fruitful, making these enterprises attractive and dynamic. They contribute to the construction of the new civilization of Life, and the people who participate in them find in them a strong sense for their action and commitment.

More about the author :

Olivier Frérot, born in 1959, studied science and is a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. He also obtained a DEA in Pharmacology and holds a Brevet d’Aptitude Agricole. He joined the Ministry of Equipment in 1985.

He had managerial responsibilities in various departmental departments of the Equipment, with in particular those of director in the Territory of Belfort from 1998 to 2002, then in the department of the Loire in Saint-Étienne from 2002 to 2007.

He was Director of the Lyon Urban Planning Agency from 2007 to 2012, then changed direction by taking over as Vice-Rector in charge of development at the Catholic University of Lyon from mid-2012 to mid-2016.

In September 2016, he created Philométis and became a lecturer, consultant and seminar leader at the entrepreneurs’ cooperative Oxalis.

He proposes an in-depth reflection on the metamorphosis of our society, in order to better understand its complexity and to act more accurately. His essential thought is that we are moving from a civilization centered on mastery through techno-scientific rationality to a civilization based on growth and service to life. It is particularly aimed at the worlds of business, communities and higher education.He bases his proposals on several works that he has published mainly with Chronique sociale and which are presented in his blog at https://solidaritesemergentes.wordpress.com.