Buckminster Fuller

Amanda Joy Ravenhill
Entrepreneur, Activist, Public Speaker
Amanda Joy Ravenhill
Entrepreneur, Activist, Public Speaker

Buckminster Fuller was one of the most prolific and prescient systems thinkers of the 20th century.  What essential ideas of his should we be aware of as we consider changing our socio-economic systems?

Show Notes

Who are the great thinkers of the past and what can we learn from them? In this episode we cover the life and work of Buckminster Fuller, who was an architect, inventor, futurist, and prolific writer. Our guest is Amanda Joy Ravehill, former Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

The conversation explores:

  • Who was Buckminster Fuller? [2:38]
  • Buckmister Fuller's archive, The Chronophile[4:26]
  • Converting from a zero sum to a win for all game dynamic [6:16]
  • Amanda's tattoo of Buckminster Fuller [7:48]
  • "You never change things by fighting the existing reality" [9:43]
  • Four characteristics of design science: comprehensive [11:18]
  • Four characteristics of design science: anticipatory [15:10]
  • Four characteristics of design science: design [16:30]
  • Four characteristics of design science: science [17:33]
  • Polymaths vs. specialists [18:33]
  • Knowledge as wealth [20:08]
  • Bucky and universal basic income [21:27]
  • The need for the dissolution of nation states [24:08]
  • Spaceship earth metaphor [24:58]
  • Paradigm shifts and the role of art [27:12]
  • The concept of the trim tab [31:10]


"Amanda Joy Ravenhill (AJR): Buckminster Fuller liked to call himself a trim tab. In fact, it is what is on his tombstone. And it's this idea of leverage point or an acupressure point in a system. It's the tiny rudder on a larger rudder on a ship where the least amount of effort causes the maximum effect. If you're trying to move a giant steamship, you wouldn't go to the bow of the boat and try to push against it. Or if you would, you probably wouldn't get very far. But if you just adjust this one little tab on the rudder, you can actually change the way the whole ship rolls. And so, Buckminster Fuller liked to talk about individuals as trim tabs and our ability to – if we stick out our foot in the right direction – we can change the whole world." 

[00:00:48] Jenny Stefanotti (JS): That's Amanda Joy Ravenhill, former Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, explaining the idea of a trim tab, one of Fuller's central concepts. And this is the Becoming Denizen podcast. I'm your host and curator, Jenny Stefanotti. 

In this episode, we cover the ideas of Buckminster Fuller. He was one of the 20th century's most prescient and prolific systems thinkers. You probably heard his famous quote, it's on the front page of Denizen's website, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." 

Back in the 1970s, at the height of his writings, Fuller believed that humanity possessed the technology needed to meet the needs of all life on Earth within the limitations of the biosphere. He believed that a design science revolution was the way humanity could realize such an outcome. He said, "My ideas have undergone a process of emergence by emergency. When they are needed badly enough, they are accepted." 

50 years on, there are so many essential learnings from his work that are valuable to our inquiry on the Becoming Denizen podcast. We draw them out in this conversation with Amanda Joy Ravenhill, former Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. 

Amanda was previously Co-Founder and Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a comprehensive plan to address global warming. She's a polymath herself. She's also a member of an acapella group called The Seastars, an avid gardener and a frequent public speaker. 

This episode is accompanied by a post on our website, summarizing key lessons from Fuller's work. You can find it at www.becomingdenizen.com, there you can also sign up for our newsletter where we bring our weekly content to your inbox. Denizen is partnered with many organizations working at the forefront of the topics we cover, including the Buckminster Fuller Institute. We share news from our partners in our weekly newsletter. Subscribers are also invited to join the Denizen Community in our online home, The Den. 

With that, let's get to my conversation with Amanda. 


[00:02:38] JS: My first question for you, Amanda, is just tell us who Buckminster Fuller was. 

[00:02:43] AJR: Yeah, sure thing. Buckminster Fuller – Oh, it's a difficult thing to try to describe who he was. I think, above all, he was a performance artist, which isn't what a lot of people will say. But he was a futurist, an architect, a poet, an author, a true polymath. He blended three things that I think all of us should be looking to right now, which is technology. And not just kind of a blind techno utopian technology will save us, but “What are all the technologies that we have that are – he liked to say, ‘We will build all the right tools for the wrong reasons first.’ – what can we upcycle in our technosphere?” 

He's a technologist and a humanitarian. So, he sought to make the world work for 100% of humanity. Very inclusive. Kind of along the lines of the adage in Buddhism of, "No one will be truly happy until no one is suffering." 

And then he's a technologist, a humanitarian and an ecologist. He looked to nature and all of the beautiful cycles of nature that surround us as inspiration. And really looking to nature as technology itself as well. And blending all three of those, he created endless artifacts and inventions. He had an omni transport vehicle, which is called the Dymaxion Car that was intended to be an air, water and road vehicle. He's most known for the geodesic dome, though. I'm sure most people here have been or seen a dome, and that's what he's most known for.

[00:04:26] JS: It's kind of insane actually how much he cataloged his life. Maybe you can elaborate on that part because that's just such an extraordinary piece of his story.

[00:04:35] AJR: Yeah, Buckminster Fuller was the most archived person ever pre-digital era, right? Because a lot of people are now recording everything. But he kept nearly every single piece of paper that came through his life and what he titled The Chronophile. And it ended up being 45 tons of material. That is now at the Stanford Library. And it is everything. All of his manuscripts. All of his letters. He did this incredible work in the 60s called Inventory of World Resources, Human Trends and Needs, where he just monitored all of the trends around the world. 

And each one trying to figure out what was going on with recycling. At that time, it required writing like 300 letters out to people. And so, he kept carbon copies of all those letters. It's an incredible treasure trove. Highly recommended. Go check it out at Stanford.

[00:05:28] JS: I'm going to take us through some of his ideas. And there's a lot of quotes associated with them. He's just one of the most quotable people. And one of the things actually, I had been doing research for Buckminster Fuller Institute. And one woman said it really stuck with me talking about this time, and these times in the pandemic, how we need our elders right now. And I think that Bucky is such a valuable elder to mine for insights. 

And so, my first quote that I sent out in the email was, "My ideas have undergone a process of emergence by emergency. When they are needed badly enough, they are accepted." It feels like that might be one of those times. Again, he was writing in the 60s, and 70s and 80s primarily. That was when his prime was. Correct? 

[00:06:11] AJR: Yeah, yeah, he passed away in '83. Mostly the 70s was when most of his books came out. 

[00:06:16] JS: He believed that we had the means for all humans to live at a certain standard within the confines of the planet, which is funny, and sounds a lot like donut economics. But this one quote. I know you use it a lot. Well, there's two, "There's no energy crisis, food crisis or environmental crisis. There is a crisis of ignorance. And it is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It's a matter of converting our high-technology from weaponry to livingry." 

[00:06:51] AJR: That last quote was out of that huge global inventory that he did, where he actually discovered that we have the technological capability of taking care of everyone. And that we will shift from a you, or me, or a zero-sum game dynamic into this win for all game dynamic. 

And he said, in 1970, that we had crossed that threshold. And it would take 50 years for all the institutions, our economy, our educational institutions, our government, our everything, that was based on the old paradigm of you or me of zero-sum to catch up. And that 50 years after 1970, do the math, here we are, it would seem like everything was crumbling and falling apart. But it was actually just the old paradigms dying. The new paradigm arising. Not to say that it was inevitable that utopia would result. He spoke often of utopia or oblivion and just how perilous and fragile this moment and this transition is. But, yeah, he's incredibly prescient. 

[00:07:48] JS: Why don't you tell everybody about your tattoo? This seems like the perfect moment to tell us about your tattoo. 

[00:07:56] AJR: I have a tattoo of Buckminster Fuller on my shoulder in the form of a brushturkey with glasses on. It's very ridiculous. And a rainbow wing coming out of a geodesic eggshell. It is based on the story that he tells in the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, which I think Jenny just declared today as essential reading. 

[00:08:11] JS: It is, because it's short, it's quick, it's accessible and it gets across Bucky's big ideas. Yeah. 

[00:08:18] AJR: Yeah. There's a chapter six on General Systems Theory where he talks a bout – 

[00:08:21] JS: Except for that chapter.

[00:08:23] AJR: Except for this one part in that chapter, which is when he talks about humanity being like a chick just hatching from our eggshell. And that fossil fuels has actually been this kind of easy, nutrient-source to lead us through kind of this pubescent era of incredible growth and awkwardness. 

And just like a chick, we've been living in a kind of a me, me, me existence inside the egg. Not even realizing how capable we are and having feet, and claws, and a beak and feathers and wings. And here we are just hatching far more capable than we know. Just by design. Right on time. Ready to leave behind the fossil fuel existence and birth into this regenerative paradigm, like a chick who eats the grass and then poops on the grass, but fertilizes the grass, and the bugs, and the birds and everything around it. We're kind of being born into that world. And what I mentioned earlier, like, we'll build all the right tools for the wrong reasons. There's a lot of kind of upcycling of technology that was built in that you or me, zero-sum, me, me, me existence that we can convert if we can summon the will, and the courage and not fall into apathetic despair and dread, which is I think one of the serious things that's happening right now. 

[00:09:43] JS: Well, I think there's a lot of hope and desire. I mean, there's a reason why people are coming to this conversation more and more every week. There's this one Bucky quote that I feel like is almost the one that you hear the most. And it's actually been quite influential to me and quite influential as I think of theories of change into new systems of economic incentives, which is that, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

And I think about this a lot in terms of public benefit corporations, which is a type of entity that a business can incorporate as is almost like something that could represent that. Where then you can enact policies that favor those types of companies. Or you could create ways for consumers to preference those companies. And then you can crowd resources into the new model until the old one no longer holds. I think about that a lot as a primary theory of change around the stuff that we're talking about. 

[00:10:41] AJR: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And the first part of that quote I think gets overlooked pretty often, which is you can't change things by fighting the existing reality. And if you look at George Lakhoff's work in Moral Politics and Don't Think of the Elephant!, using the frame of the thing that you're trying to fight actually can just continue that frame to exist. And so, it's not just about building the new model, but not getting stuck in that kind of discourse. And, yeah, kind of like false dichotomies and things of the current status quo. 

[00:11:13] JS: There's also something to say, that fighting something gives it power. 

[00:11:17] AJR: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

[00:11:18] JS: Let's talk about how Bucky thought we would get from where we were to everyone lives at a higher standard of living within the confines of the biosphere. Specifically, he talked about the design science revolution as the effective application of the principles of science to conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth's resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet. That's a mouthful. 

[00:11:47] AJR: Yeah, that's a Bucky quote. He liked to write page-long sentences.

[00:11:52] JS: Yeah. And that's a lot of your challenge with making Bucky more accessible. But when you talked about four characteristics of design science; comprehensive, anticipatory, design and science. Let's talk about each of those. Let's talk about comprehensive.

[00:12:09] AJR: Yeah, yeah. Comprehensive is kind of this idea of taking a whole systems approach, which is becoming more and more invoked, thankfully. But really, the word synergy was something that Buckminster Fuller popularized. It was an obscure science term before he came around. And the idea there is really about starting with the whole. Synergy is the behavior that's unpredictable by looking at just parts of a system. But if you look at the whole of the system, then you'll be able to see that synergy is. It's not necessarily a positive thing. It's like impact. It can be negative or positive. But if you start with the whole, if you're comprehensive in your thinking, then you're less likely to have those negative, unintended consequences. 

As we all know, there's been a lot of good intentions that have been put out in the world that have created a lot of harmful effects. And sometimes they're at even a higher order of magnitude than like the original intervention was. For example, Monsanto set out to feed the world. And in doing so, completely destroyed topsoil and have sent lots of farmers into crazy debt that has caused all sorts of suicide and just awful, awful unintended consequences. 

And so, comprehensive is really about starting with the whole. Looking at complexity, emergence, synergy, whole systems. Looking at the world in an interdependent whole. 

[00:13:26] JS: How does that play out in practice in terms of being feasible to make sense of the complexity of the whole that we're talking about? If I remember correctly, reading in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Maybe the Design Science Primer that was talking about you take the whole and then you keep narrowing in, but you start big and you narrow in until you find the space that is the right size for the problem. You discard things that are irrelevant. But if you start big, then you don't have the problem of missing things that matter. 

I mean, I'm just thinking about this in the context of what we're looking at. It's interesting, because even though the center of gravity might be around capitalism, we can't talk about capitalism without talking about political institutions and values.

[00:14:05] AJR: One thing I found in Bucky's work, and reading Wendell Berry and reading a lot of different ecologists is this intention to try to solve multiple problems at once. If you have a multi-pronged solution, then you're more likely to be looking at a larger system or more of the context. And then you're less likely to have those negative unintended consequences. And instead, have what I like to call cascading benefits. If you can create these positive feedback loops of more and more wealth and value within a system by setting out to solve multiple things at once. 

One framework is that we have, obviously, pandemic of Covid right now. But we also have, you can consider it, a pandemic of capitalism, and colonization and climate change. There's like a 4C view. And if you look at what you're doing in the world through all four of those lenses and see that your intervention can support the healing of all four of those, then you're being comprehensive. Use whatever frame you want. 

[00:15:10] JS: Okay. Design science. We've talked about comprehensive. And then let's talk about anticipatory. 

[00:15:15] AJR: Yeah. Anticipatory is about thinking ahead, being a futurist. Looking at what Tom Chi, who's our Board Chair, likes to say, "Rates over states." Instead of just looking at where we are now looking at the rate of where something has been? Where is it now and where it aims to go? 

And so, kind of looking at trends in order to be able to understand what potential futures might be. I think futurism is a wild and weird place right now. What is it Dayton's law, is it? that if it's not ridiculous, it's irrelevant. That's my interpretation of it. But anyway, I'll look it up. 

But in order to be kind of relevant within futurism right now, it has to be ridiculous because so many things are so complex. But, yeah, anticipatory is all about looking ahead, rates over states, looking at trends, anticipating what might be coming down the pike. And this is something that I've been doing and I'm just inclined to do. And have been working in climate change solutions for over 15 years now just because I saw the writing on the wall of people's everything getting washed away by these thousand-year storms when I was living in La Paz, Bolivia about 15 years ago. 

[00:16:30] JS: Design science. Again, we talked about comprehensive, anticipatory, and then design and science. Let's talk about those two.

[00:16:38] AJR: Mm-hmm. Yeah, design is – you could probably speak to it better than I can, Jenny, around design thinking and everything that you've taught and led people through there. But creating intentionally. Looking to empathy, and iteration, and agile development and all that good stuff that I think people are pretty familiar with. But do you want to add anything there? 

[00:16:57] JS: I think it runs through my veins. I mean, what has been so fascinating for me in my experience in the last month is primarily leaning into the role of the designer versus the strategist. And just sensing instead of envisioning. And it has really made me appreciate how much vision can inhibit. Really understanding what something wants to be because you're too caught up in what you want it to be. That's been a very interesting kind of lived experience that I've had around design and applying it to what we're doing here. And then science is obviously just learning and then applying that to an iterative model of the thing.

[00:17:33] AJR: Yeah, yeah. And then looking to biology and biomimicry. And what can we learn from ecology and nature around us? Bucky like to say, "I'm not trying to mimic nature. I'm trying to discover the principles she's using." Just kind of looking around. There're 3.8 billion years of research and development that life has been doing around us. How can we learn from nature's technology? 

And then the other element of science is just like daring to be naive and thinking for oneself. And just asking how do we know what we know? And just really getting into that rigor of not falling into the status quo of understanding that's around you.

[00:18:07] JS: I like the daring to be naive. When we teach at the d.school at Stanford, we would put up a slide of little kids, probably two-years-old, all squatting down and looking at the ground. And we really emphasize having a beginner's mind. And it's so helpful sometimes to have people who don't have expertise because they see things that you don't have as the expert because you think you know everything. 

One of the things I love about Bucky is this famous – this term we call polymath. And it's funny, I've watched these interviews with him where the person who's interviewing, they don't know how to even describe him. They get stuck and, "Well, you're this, but you're that, but you're that." You don't fit into a box, you know? 

When we talk about polymaths, we just talk about people who have a lot of different expertise. But one of the things that he really talks about that has really stuck with me is how he really laments specialization. And this is another Bucky quote for everyone, "Our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success. Not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking. It means that the potential –" Okay. This is a classic Bucky sentence, "It means that the potentially integratable, techno-economic advantages –" Okay. Maybe the things that we can learn relating to technology and economics. "Accruing to society from the different specializations are not comprehended integratively, and therefore not realized." This point about that we're all in silos, and we're specialized and we aren't able to connect the dots. I think it's very important. 

I mean, I remember I was talking recently to one of my former classmates from the Kennedy School who's now an academic economist. And he's so in the weeds around something so specific. And that may be part of what got us where we were with capitalism because the economists are all in their tiny little corner of the field and not thinking comprehensively about it. And then I thought it was really interesting how he defined wealth as knowledge. And I think that this is a really important point.

[00:20:11] AJR: Yeah, yeah. And not just knowledge, but specifically the knowledge around how to take care of everyone. It's like wealth as the sum total of all of our learnings from forever about how to make the world work for all and kind of the idea of that being the ultimate aim is this kind of altruistic 100% of humanity 100% of life being able to thrive together. And that being, yeah, the goal that's pulling us towards it. 

He wrote his last book, it was called Grunch of Giants. Highly recommended. There's an audio version. So, wherever you go to get your audio books, check it out. Grunch stands for the gross universe cash heist. And the idea is like there are these giants, these multinational corporations with corporate personhood that are just designed to make money instead of making sense. And that the whole world will be overrun with money and politics and all of these things that will kind of perversely incentivize a world that doesn't actually consider the true wealth of the sum total of everyone being able to thrive. But instead, kind of this extractive economy that we're seeing how the side effects are right now. 

[00:21:27] JS: I love how forward-thinking he was with respect to the role of computers. I mean, this was kind of amazing. He said – and actually, he celebrated it for multiple reasons. One of them was because he felt like computers will be better at these things that people specialize in. And therefore, humans can get back to thinking comprehensively, which is what they should be doing anyway. 

But I mentioned this in the UBI conversation. He imagined UBI as a way to address the inevitable discontent when jobs were displaced by computers. And he said – I'm going to read this passage from Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, "To take advantage of the fabulous magnitudes of real wealth awaiting to be employed intelligently by humans and unblock automations postponement by organized labor. We must give each human who is or becomes unemployed a life fellowship in research and development. Or just in simple thinking, man." And I'm not crazy about the way he always talks about man. 

[00:22:32] AJR: He was born in 1895. It was a little bit of a different situation. But, yes, I don't like it either. 

[00:22:39] JS: We've basically been replacing humanity with life and man with a more updated term. But he said, "Man must be able to dare to think truthfully and act accordingly without fear of losing his franchise to live. The use of mind fellowships will permit humans comprehensively to expand and accelerate scientific exploration and experimental prototype development. For every hundred thousand dollars employed in research and development or just plain thinking, one will probably make a breakthrough that will more than pay for the other 99,999 fellowships." This is kind of like a play on the UBI concept. 

[00:23:10] AJR: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I like to think of it as like universal basic scholarships rather than income. He wrote this book called Education Automation in 1963 that was saying kind of this similar… it was right before Operating Manual. He said that humans will be left to do what they're uniquely suited to do as computers and automation takes over everything else. And what we're uniquely able to do is learn in a different way than technology and computers ever could. And so, education will become the largest global industry. And I think that's still potentially in the works for the future. And what does that look like for an economy? I think a universal basic scholarship makes a lot of sense. 

[00:23:50] JS: Mm-hmm. I mean, it's just been interesting how he felt like people would naturally gravitate towards things like that with their time freed up. I mean, I certainly did, and here we are. 

One of the things that he imagined, he did talk about the need to, practically speaking, he talked about, "It's utterly clear to me that the highest priority need of a world society at the present moment is a realistic economic accounting system." And then he also talked about the need to have a dissolution of a nation-state. The synergistic effectiveness of a world around integrated industrial process is inherently vastly greater than the confined synergistic” – He's so tough sometimes to make sense of. Let me just read the last sentence because I feel like people are probably getting lost on that. "Only complete world desovernization can permit the realization of an all-humanity high-standard support." That's just an interesting thing to noodle on. Do we need to do away with the nation-state concept in order to realize Bucky's vision? 

I also really wanted to talk about the spaceship earth metaphor. Do you want to elaborate on that? 

[00:24:58] AJR: Yeah, of course. Buckminster Fuller said we're all astronauts aboard spaceship earth. And kind of per what you're speaking to in terms of the dissolution of nation states, he had a map called a Dymaxion map. It was actually the only map projection that was patented in the 20th century. Definitely check it out. It's a 20 equilateral triangles, which fold up to become an icosahedron, which is like a triangular sphere, a polyhedra. And he showed that kind of we're one Island and one ocean. We are living on this completely interdependent super organism. This was before the Gaia principle became popular. 

And now we know actually that there is kind of this super organism that is this living, breathing spaceship called Earth. And called on all of us essentially to cooperate more and to dissolve these nation states so that we could be more efficient in taking care of one another. He called for a global connected energy grid that would enable renewable energy to power the whole world because the wind and the sun don't always shine and blow. 

And spaceship earth also just recognizing that we are hurling through space. We're spinning around at about a thousand miles per hour around our magma core. And then we're flying around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. There are really beautiful visualizations online of the spiral orbit, which Buckminster Fuller spoke a lot about. We're not in kind of a disc around the Sun, but we're actually spiraling because the sun is going around our galactic cord. You know, the center of the Milky Way. 

And so, if you actually trace where the spaceship earth, where our planet has been, it actually creates a spiral orbit. And so, now there's some beautiful visualizations of it. He drew it out in his books, Synergetics. But it kind of makes you appreciate that we are hurling through space already. And especially right now with the space age and kind of race to Mars and everything that's happening there. Just kind of not giving up on our precious spaceship that we already have here. There are plenty to terraform and make sense of here before going to another planet. 

[00:27:12] JS: I want to talk about paradigm shifts. It's things like from me to we, or from zero-sum to positive-sum, or scarcity to abundance, competition to cooperation. How are you thinking about how we make those paradigm shifts happen? It's a tough question.

[00:27:29] AJR: Easy. I have a three -step process. I'm just kidding. 

[00:27:32] JS: I mean, this is actually why I'm excited about the creatives in our midst who can propagate messages in their art. I think that's part of it. I'm just curious how you're thinking about it.

[00:27:44] AJR: Yeah, I'm just picking up on that strand. We started the Design Science Studio at Buckminster Fuller Institute. We have a cohort of artists that are working to create art and help us envision what this shift looks like. It's so vital that we are able to imagine the future that we want in order to create it. In psychology, they call it the availability heuristic. Basically, that which we have available. The examples in our mind that are available to us are more likely to come true. 

And if you look at motorcycle racing, they always say, "Don't look at the thing you don't want to hit." It's true across a lot of different practices. But we have to be able to see it in order to design it and to make it. I think that a huge part of the paradigm shifts is art and conversation. And as much as we can, kind of living into the future that we want. 

When I started Project Drawdown, we did a study and found that 86% of climate news and articles were about the future that we don't want. And climate is already such a hyper object. It's hard to put your hands around. And if you're combining that with this kind of disaster and this future that we want to avoid, then people aren't going to look at it. When you're in fear, your long-term and creativity centers of your brain shut down. 

[00:29:02] JS: Oh, I love that. 

[00:29:03] AJR: And so, we need long-term and creativity centers to flourish right now. And so many of us are just in fear around the change and around all the disruption. And legitimately, all the tragedy that is happening right now. But, yeah, I think the paradigm shift is about us flexing our muscles as much as we can. 

Buckminster Fuller was really great at doing what we call Gestalt switching. He would be like, "The sun doesn't actually set. The Earth spins. And so, why are we calling it sunset? We should be calling it an Earth eclipse or sunclips. Sunsight instead of sunrise." Or, "The wind doesn't actually blow from the northeast, say. It actually sucks from the opposite direction, the southwest." And how many things are we looking at the cause and calling it the effect? 

And he loved kind of helping people flex that muscle of flipping things around and reframing. And I think that work is really important for all of us to do to just say, "Oh, wait. Things aren't what they seem to be. What else is possible if that's possible?" And, yeah. 

[00:30:08] JS: Yeah, that's really interesting. I mean, these stories are so much about imbuing creativity into our thinking and strategies and getting out of this idea that the creatives are the artists and that everybody else is analytical and linear. We talked about earlier, the design science revolution is the thing that would get us there. This combination of design, which is inherently creative in science, which is inherently experimental and data-oriented. But I really think that this is huge. 

And I do want to talk more about that. Because for me, when I really internalize what it was like to operate with those mindsets, it was utterly transformational to think about not “I know this thing and then I'm going to go do it. But this is my best guest. And I'm going to try something. And then I'm going to learn and I'm going to iterate.” And the idea that everything is a prototype. 

[00:30:58] AJR: Buckminster Fuller said, "I've spent most of my life unlearning things that were proved not to be true." And I think it's just so critical that we continue to have that lens.

[00:31:10] JS: One of the most important Bucky concepts is the trim tab. 

[00:31:15] AJR: Buckminster Fuller liked to call himself a trim tab. In fact, it is what is on his tombstone. And it's this idea of leverage point or an acupressure point in a system. It's the tiny rudder on a larger rudder on a ship where the least amount of effort causes the maximum effect. If you're trying to move a giant steamship, you wouldn't go to the bow of the boat and try to push against it. Or if you would, you probably wouldn't get very far. But if you just adjust this one little tab on the rudder, you can actually change the way the whole ship rolls. And so, Buckminster Fuller liked to talk about individuals as trim tabs and our ability to – if we stick out our foot in the right direction, we can change the whole world, which we now know in complexity science to be the butterfly effect of a butterfly flaps its wings and causes a hurricane around the world. 

And I think part of the trim tab idea that I've just kind of come to recently is just not only is it important. It's worth spending that much extra time to find it. I think sometimes we kind of bluntly go into situations saying, "Okay, let's just start and begin something." And maybe waste our precious effort instead of taking that time to really assess the wider system. And if we assess the situation at hand well enough, the trim tab will arise. It's kind of an invitation to really look at the hole again and be comprehensive. 

[00:32:43] JS: Amanda, thank you. It's really grateful for you and how much you have to contribute to the conversations that we're having. 

[00:32:51] AJR: Thanks, Jenny. Thanks for their leadership and, yeah, encouraging people to be lifelong learners and have the appetite and community to do so. It's so vital that we harness all the collective intelligence that we have in order to transcend these challenging times. I think we're made for this. And, yeah, just anything we can do to cultivate courage and will right now is really important. 


[00:33:16] JS: Thank you so much for listening. In addition to this podcast, you can find additional resources on our website, www.becomingdenizen.com, including transcripts and links to additional background materials for each conversation. 

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