BSB 148     J. Morris Hicks     (5-22-18) 
"Optimizing Earth as a System"

My guess is that over 95% of Americans have never heard of W. Edwards Deming. Just in case you're in that group, I will tell you a little about him. Then, I will tell you how his philosophies may relate to our future as a species. So please bear with me.

First of all, he is an American who earned degrees in engineering, mathematics and physics, including a PhD from Yale. While not well-known in the USA, he is revered in Japan for the Deming Prizeone of the most prestigious awards in the world for excellence in quality. 

So why is he revered in Japan? Because his work there after WW2 played a huge role in the quality revolution that took place over the ensuing decades. 

Called to Japan in 1950 at the behest of General Douglas MacArthur, Deming's mission was to teach Japanese business leaders the secret to promoting quality in manufacturing or services--which, in turn enables the enterprise to prosper. And prosper they did.

Japan's adoption of his methods in the 1950's preceded the adoption of those same methods in the USA by over twenty years. Only when American industry could no longer compete with Japan in the 1970's did they turn to Deming for help.

Along about that time, NBC published a White Paper entitled: "If Japan can, why can't we?" Dr. Deming and my former colleague, Bill Conway of Nashua Corporation, are both very prominent in the last part of the film, beginning at the 60-minute mark.

Shortly after the airing of that NBC White Paper in 1980, Deming became a consultant to the CEO of Ford Motor Company and other American businesses. To understand more about what Deming meant about working smarter, this 15-minute video (from 1994) features Ford CEO Don Petersen talking about the Deming legacy at Ford.  

Finally, This 56-minute interview  with Dr. Deming was conducted in 1984 at Ford headquarters.

Dr. Deming always talked about the need to "optimize" a system" and, if he were alive today, he would be talking about the entire world as a system that must be "optimized." 

I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Deming in person in 1992 (he was 91 at the time) at George Washington University after one of the last public presentations he would ever deliver. Nowadays, when speaking in public, I share a personal anecdote about how he "schooled" me for a few minutes that day. 

Afterwards, he carefully wrote a few words of advice at the top of a one-page document that I had shown him--a treasure that was framed and has hung in my office ever since. It reads:

"Keep on learning. Study optimization of a system."                             W. Edwards Deming

His fundamental premise was that the hourly workers know a great deal about what's wrong with systems in which they work but are not empowered to actually change the "system." Only management can do that. Hence, it's management's job to listen to those workers and to work continuously to improve all systems in which they work--forever.

The same is true for the entire Earth "system" that is comprised of 7.6 billion humans, millions of other species of creatures and plants, the oceans, the soil, the atmosphere and the global economy.

For a host of reasons, many aspects of human civilization are grossly unsustainable--starting with out-of-control population growth and a global economy that is based on maximizing the consumption of STUFF in a world of finite resources. 

Our "optimized" economy of the future must be based on well-defined international rules/laws on population and consumption that protect and restore the ecosystem that sustains all life on Earth. But how do we get there?

We as individual citizens cannot make changes to that global system. We can only make changes in our personal behavior. Only those in power, collaborating with one another, can bring about comprehensive, positive change in the overall "system" wherein human beings may coexist and flourish with nature.

Many of the  world's 7.6 billion citizens are trying to do their best to be kind to our environment, but we are like those factory workers in Japan. 

As individuals, we are incapable of making improvements to the overall system.  That will depend on strong global leadership and coordination in order to create a "system" in which our human species can coexist indefinitely with Mother Nature.

The Bottom Line. If our species is to survive longterm, we must develop a way of living here on Earth that operates in harmony with nature. But so far, our presence on Earth has only made things worse. For the past 200 years, we have moved steadily away from an "optimized" system that is necessary for humans to continue living here indefinitely. 

If Dr. Deming were alive today, he would have been collaborating with Dr. James Lovelock, the 98-year old visionary behind the Gaia Hypothesis. As he stated:

"Mother Earth functions as a self-regulating system...If she improves as a result of human presence, then we will flourish; if she doesn't, then we will die off."

Together, Deming and Lovelock would've been working to save our species by promoting "planet management" and continuous process improvement to ensure that Mother Earth improves as a result of our presence. 

In my public presentations, I offer a few details as to how that might work. It won't be easy, but it's never too late.

Be well, Jim 

J. Morris (Jim) Hicks 
CEO, 4Leaf Global, LLC

PS: Please c lick here to review  our policy  regarding 4Leaf intellectual property. Also,  I welcome your feedback and/or your questions at:

Looking for Opportunities to Speak.  Since 2016, my research, writing and speaking has been focused on the sustainability of our ecosystem and our future as a species. With a primary emphasis on food choices, I call it the "most important topic in the history of humanity." 

After all, what could possibly be more important to humans than the survival of our species?

Latest/future talks: Earlier this year, I spoke at a VegFest in Ft. Myers, Florida, at the in Honolulu and Kahului, Maui, and at the College of the Holy Cross  in Worcester, MA. Upcoming talks are being scheduled at the NYC PlantPure Pod in October and in South Haven, Michigan in November. 

Later this year, my co-author, Dr. Kerry Graff, and I may be speaking at a Chinese Nutrition Association event in Nanjing, China. For more info, Visit our speaking page.

To schedule a presentation at a venue near you, please contact me at

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Moonglow J. Morris Hicks

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