What insights can we learn from the Enneagram as to how humanity will respond to the climate emergency? In this video I share how the Enneagram can be used as a problem-solving framework to guide humanity through the steps of problem solving towards addressing and resolving the climate crisis. While there are many efforts underway to address climate change and there are activities in each of the nine problem-solving steps, I share why I think that collectively humanity is currently in Step 2 — building the coalition of the caring — of the problem-solving process and how we can move into Step 3 and beyond.
This is a summary of a discussion I led for the Spiritual Life Foundation: https://www.spirituallifefoundation.org/
So what can Enneagram tell us about climate change, and in particular, how humanity is going to respond to the climate crisis? The Enneagram is a personality system that will tell us how individuals respond, and the Enneagram as a system could give us clues as to how the entirety of humanity will respond and rise up to solve the crisis that we’re about to face.
So you may be familiar with Enneagram as a personality system, and the Enneagram has nine types associated with it but can also be thought of as three groups of three, and each one of those three groups has a dominant feeling associated with it. So the intuitive folks, which is the group eight, nine, and one, one of the strongest emotions that’s associated with that group is anger. And for the head folks, which is five, six, and seven, the strongest feeling associated with that group is anxiety.
So already two thirds of the people will have the feelings of either anger or anxiety associated with a response to some crisis, and you can kind of think of that as your fight or flight processor. That the fight people are more inclined to show anger and the flight people are more inclined to show anxiety. But then there’s a group in the middle. So you can imagine that there’s a group that’s kind of balanced between the two of them and they are going to feel a number of different feelings. And this triad, or this group of three, is often called the feeling triad or emotion triad because emotions are so central and feelings are so central to how they respond. And so it will be fascinating to see how the folks in the feeling triad respond to the climate crisis when provoked by some event.
Well, so that’s how the Enneagram describes feelings, and there’s another aspect of the Enneagram that I write about in my book Teamwork 9.0, which looks at the Enneagram as a system or a process. And it answers the question why are Enneagram types numbers? Well, they’re numbers because that’s the exact order in which humans move through the process of problem solving. And so for those of you familiar with the Enneagram, you’ll know that type one is often called the perfectionist but they’re the first ones to say, “Hey, there’s a problem. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be like this.” Well, isn’t that the first step in problem solving?
So let me just go through those steps just to clarify that. So first of all is step one in problem solving is hey, there’s a problem. It shouldn’t be like that. And the reason why you feel like it shouldn’t be like that is because you already have an intuition of how it should be. The ideal world or the perfect world, and you’re comparing those two. Well, that’s the first step in problem solving. Well, the second step in problem solving is who cares. If nobody cares about the problem, then nobody is going to pitch in to help solve it.
So it’s when you have people who are emotionally connected to the problem, emotionally invested in solving the problem, that’s when you build your emotionally vested team of problem solvers, the ones who will move forward to help solve the problem. Well, once you have a group of people together, what are they going to be doing? They’re going to be coming up with ideas for how to solve the problem. It just happens naturally. And you go through a phase of ideation, of generating a rich set of different ideas to help solve the problem. And what happens every time you blurred out an idea, you have an instant emotional reaction. Hey, that idea is great. Or ooh, that idea sucks. It’s just natural.
And so that’s step four in problem solving is you’re going to filter all the ideas through your emotional filter, out of which will come the ideas with the positive energy, the ideas that the team would want to pursue. Now that you have that set of positive ideas, you need to go to work and validate, well, will they actually work? And that’s step five where you analyze the validity, do the pro/con analysis, the cost benefit analysis. You do all the analysis, especially the validation that the idea will be effective. And out of that, you will then be able to rank the efficacy of all of the ideas that you generated. And once you have the most effective and promising ideas, then you need to build a plan around that.
And that’s step six, is planning how to get from where you are today, point A, to the goal, solving the problem, B. And you need to consider the resource you need, the time you need, the people you need, everything that would go into building a plan to get you from point A to B. Now that you have your plan, you need to go back and sell that plan to everybody and get everybody excited about implementing the plan. And that’s step seven, where you’re getting everybody enthusiastic about pursuing the plan. And then once you have the buy-in and everybody has bought in and wants to move forward to solve the problem, that’s when you get to implementation. That’s step eight, and you implement the plan and solve the problem.
But wait, there’s one more step, and that’s after you’ve solved the problem, how well did you do in solving the problem? And that’s when you need to go back and speak with all of the stakeholders and figure out what’s working for you? What’s not working for you? Did it solve the problem for you? Are there any new problems? And because in that conversation you’ll inevitably come up with more problems, that’s why the Enneagram is a circle going from nine right back to one.
So that explains how the Enneagram would work to help us move through problem solving and solve the climate crisis. But where are we today? Where is humanity in that process? And I would say that at this point we’ve done a very good job of understanding the problem. We know that we’re in a crisis and it’s getting worse, and we’re seeing floods, we’re seeing ecological, environmental collapse, we’re seeing fires. We’re seeing all of these problems, so we know that there’s the problem.
Step two is who cares? Do enough people care? And that’s where I would say that humanity is right now is they are in step two of problem solving, and that is getting the people, more and more people, to actually care about solving the problem. And once we have enough people who care about solving the problem, guess what? We will solve it very quickly because people are already working on steps three, four, five, six, seven, eight, even nine. People are already doing them. They’re laying the path. They’re laying the road for us to move forward quickly once we collectively get past step two. Once enough of us care to want to solve the problem, then we will solve the problem very quickly. And that’s why I’m very hopeful that things will go quickly once we get past step two.
So how do we get past step two? Well, talk about the climate crisis. Talk about it with your friends. Talk about it with your family. Just bring it up. Try to connect them emotionally with the problem because that is step two, it’s connecting emotionally with the problem. And I know there’s a lot of distractions out there. I know a lot of people don’t want to think about negative things, and it won’t be until people start to actually acknowledge their feelings about the climate crisis that we will start to move forward and we will solve the problem.
So thank you so much for listening. This is my take on where we are with the climate crisis today, and I’m looking forward to moving past step two and into step three and beyond soon. Thanks.