Julian Gresser (An Interview by Lois Angela Marasco)

 LAM: Julian, what is Big Heart Intelligence?

JG: Big Heart Intelligence is a transformative core competency to sense, perceive, think, and engage with greater insight and effect. When supported by a breakthrough collaborative innovation platform it produces optimal performance by upgrading the DNA of an organization.

LAM: What is the spirit of your new adventure?

JG: I have always liked Mark Twain’s question: What is it that confers the noblest delight? For me it is Exploration and Discovery! We stand at a vast new frontier called “Big Heart Intelligence,” and it is open to all.  BHI offers a refuge and a place to stand with leverage in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. By learning to quiet the heart our mind and emotions immediately settle down. We can see the Big Picture. By actively looking for patterns our creative powers are released. By transforming our discoveries and inventions into beneficial products, services, and actions, we can generate eddies of happiness and joy that ripple out into the world. If we can have fun doing this together, the fruits of our efforts will multiply and the world will gain a Big Heart Advantage.

LAM: Beginning with heart, exactly what have you discovered?

JG: I have learned over the years that when I practice opening the heart everything really changes. I see what Li Junfeng calls the “Big Picture.” A team at the Wharton School refers to this capacity as “peripheral vision.” But my experience is deeper and broader, because Big Picture enfolds the Past, Present, and Future in new, interesting, and often surprising ways. I also have a sense of expanding inner power, of greater courage and resilience to take on life’s challenges and move through them.

LAM: When you say ‘practice opening the heart’ what do you mean?

As recently reported in Scientific American and by Harvard researchers in a study at the Massachusetts General Hospital, it is increasingly recognized that certain meditative practices can exert a powerful beneficial influence on the human brain.  We have come to understand there is also a silent partner, the heart – not only the physical heart, but also the heart’s capacity for both discernment and love.  Moreover, this is a complex system that includes energetic, biochemical, neural, and emotional elements. Li Junfeng, Kenneth Cohen, Li Jing, and other pioneers and innovators have introduced the Yang Sheng (Nurturing Life), Qigong (Energy Skill), and other systems of personal development, which are derived from Chinese medicine, martial arts, and meditative practices. Big Heart Intelligence takes the next step beyond cultivating personal human potential. It is fundamentally about integrating and aligning Heart and Mind with the Hand for collective beneficial action within companies and non-profit organizations, communities, and complex networks, which is why we call this foundational capacity “Big Heart Intelligence.”

LAM: So Big Heart Intelligence also involves opening the mind.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

JG: At the ripe age of 71 I seem to be getting younger and more creative. New and fresh ideas literally pour out of my mind, every day. I attribute this odd sensation to developing a curiosity to explore a wide range of connections. I have developed this habit–I would call it a skill—through practicing with the Explorers Wheel. The Wheel invites you to enter eight fundamental realms—the Past, Wisdom, Beauty, Life Force, Discovery/Invention/Innovation, Humanity, the Networked Brain, and the Future. The challenge is look through these lenses and see if you can discover “intertidal” relationships among domains of knowledge and conventional disciplines that today are vertically organized. I have found that at this rich intersection often barely hidden lies the “innovators treasure” – just waiting for us to harvest. Having read Norman Doidge’s marvelous book The Brain That Changes Itself I fancy that this habit of curiously exploring is actually growing new neural pathways in my own brain. 

LAM: It sounds really exhausting (laughing).

JG: It could be. That’s why it is essential to combine this practice with a way to recharge, rebalance, and rejuvenate oneself. This is the key. As we explain on the web site the energy and power source is essentially free. It unleashes vast untapped human potential.

LAM: What about the hand?

JG: The great Chinese general, statesman, and Neo-Confucian scholar Wang Yang Ming wrote, “Knowledge without action is not knowledge at all.” Following this principle we seek in our venture to transform the power of Heart and Mind into beneficial action. One interesting way is to “pay forward” our “wins” by offering a helping hand to those who are in greater need and thereby in a small way to increase the quotient of joy in the world. As Nicholas Kristoff documents in his recent book “A Path Appears” the ripple effects of such simple acts of kindness are quite extraordinary.

LAM: Tell us about your and Bill Moulton’s invention of a collaborative innovation platform.

JG: We have invented a new Collaborative Innovation Platform based on a simple principle of “Reciprocal Stewardship”: While I pursue my dreams, I also look out for ways to help you realize yours; I contribute to the common platform and body of practice (“BHI Codex”); I pay forward when I can, and care for society and the earth. Almost immediately the Platform begins to learn along with the members of the Explorers Community and in time becomes an intelligent ally and their partner in action.

LAM: It sounds like a new kind of business model—part humanitarian, part commercial.

JG: That is true. These days it is called a “hybrid”. As Professor Julie Battilana of the Harvard Business School and others have written, in the best cases managers do not face a choice between mission and profit, because these aims are integrated in the same strategy. This union of business acumen and social consciousness produces a virtuous circle of profit and reinvestment in the social mission that builds large-scale solutions to social problems.  (see Social Impact Investing Will Be the New Venture Capital)

LAM: Why do you feel the development of Big Heart Intelligence is critical?

JG: Our planet has reached a precarious inflection point, and for me the essence of the problem is a breakdown of Heart at every level of civil society. Our goal is to connect with change-makers. If we can find a way to work creatively together, we may be able quite rapidly to change course. We believe our venture offers one practical solution.

“Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, a gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation; others, in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever-threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundation of his own sufferings and joys, builds for all.”  (Albert Camus)