Why Ceptr? or Transcending Maslow's Hierarchy

A friend of mine (Sheri Herndon) just sent me an email which I replied to. My response felt like it should be capture (and probably expanded or built on more in the future) for a glimpse of why we’re building Ceptr. In fairness, she knows a lot of what I write in my answer, but it was in part to share the purpose behind Ceptr to the others copied on the message who I may meet tomorrow at the Platform Cooperativism Conference.

From Sheri:

I’m just reading this great article by our friend and colleague Maya Zuckerman about new archetypes and the new storytelling that is needed and this paragraph was especially juicy and it feels perfect for this gathering:

In that theory Maslow argued that humans have stages of psychological growth in accord with the levels of need being met from the surroundings. Though Maslow never described his model as a pyramid, this has become the de-facto way to describe it. Maslow talked about the “metamotivation,” the motivation that takes people beyond their basic needs in search of constant betterment. This can be considered a driving force for both the Champion and Steward in the collective journey.

In a world preoccupied with stereotypes, narratives like this need to be all-encompassing, engaging and immersive. What is stopping us from collaborating on solutions for the biggest global challenges are not the actual solutions, but our relationships with each other. Our stories do not encompass all of us, they don’t welcome and empower all genders, ethnicities, and species. We are bickering amongst ourselves, while forests are burning, people are starving, species dying, and ecosystems collapsing.

What we need are stories to help us evolve quickly, maintaining a new model for the stories we need to tell. Without positive and inspiring visions for our future we are left with either unattainable utopian worlds or catastrophic dystopias. These may be entertaining, but they perpetuate traditional and outmoded notions that are no longer serving us.

Something potent here….


I’m in favor of empowering stories. But I don’t think they’ll solve the problem of working together at large scale on large scale problems.

Effective collaboration at that level is much more than COMPLICATED. It’s even beyond COMPLEX. It’s currently CHAOTIC at best, or possibly in complete DISORDER. (Cynefin) We don’t have shared language, shared understandings of root causes, shared ideas about solutions, shared priorities for implementing them.

At first, stories may seem like they’d help those issues, except I think the problem is deeper than even that. When I say we don’t have shared language, I don’t just mean: “agreed upon words in a representational system like English.” In this case, I mean we don’t have the right signaling systems / expressive capacities to build the living maps which make the patterns visible that we need to working on together.

“Current-Sees” have the possibility of being this new language, but not as long as people are fixated on them as MONEY which specifically obscures (blinds us) to most of the patterns we need to be seeing. Currencies could be used to provide a living map, with flowing symbols pointing to the underlying currents of resources, pollution, CO2, access, shareable assets, etc.

So, while I’m in favor of good stories, I don’t think they’ll get us to where we need to go. That’s why we’re building Ceptr so that we have the basic building blocks for composing the real “current-sees” needed for collaboration on this scale, just like the cells in our body have numerous living/dynamic signalling systems for coordinating their actions.