My ideas have undergone a process of emergence by emergency. When they are needed badly enough, they are accepted.” Buckminster Fuller
Even today, the majority of Buckminster Fuller’s brilliant, planet-saving ideas have not been accepted by the general public because we have yet to experience the full devastation of emergency required to wake up. Still, his concept of “emergence by emergency” is well worth noting and understanding. Bucky used emergence by emergency to achieve prominence and make a huge, unique contribution to all humankind, and emergence by emergency continues to fuel nearly almost all humankind’s important decisions. This discipline does, however, require enormous patience, as one has to wait for the solution you have created to be really needed.
Emergence by emergency means that we humans are driven and motivated by pain and suffering, and we jump at the first solution we find when confronted by pain or problems. Thus, “Emergence by Emergency.” And the larger the emergency, the quicker we accept the most readily available solution – even if it is not the best long-term response.
To take advantage of this human tendency and to make the most difference with the least effort, Bucky began solving problems that he felt would come to the forefront decades in the future. That’s how he became one of the first (if not the first) environmentalists. The title he used to describe himself is “comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist,” and it’s the anticipatory part that requires the most patience and knowledge of emergence by emergency.
In the 1930’s Bucky manually calculated all the Earth’s major resources (metals, fossil fuel, food, etc.), how the amount of resources was changing and what problems those changes would create in the future. He was then able to determine when major resource issues would occur, and he worked on those issues so that his solution was ready and available when the emergency arose.
The most evident example of his success using “emergence by emergency” is the geodesic dome. Bucky determined that housing and, more important, internal environmental control to protect humans would be a critical issue in the near future so he sought to discover a way to enclose the most space with the least amount of material.
That solution is the geodesic dome, and when the US government wanted to put radar outposts in the far north to watch for Soviet missiles, the only structure that they could find that would handle the emergency was the geodesic dome. Accordingly, they were willing to pay Bucky a substantial amount of money to use his patented dome, and the geodesic dome went on to be the most prevalent human-built structure on Earth.
So, if you’re seeking to be a Trimtab and make the most difference that you can with the least amount of effort, consider using “emergence by emergency” to further your efforts. All you need to do is find a solution to a problem you know will arise and wait until people come to you. You do, however, need to make your solution visible, as hiding in a cave with it will probably not result in success.
May we realize that “emergence by emergency” does not always produce the best solution (note the Microsoft PC, the internal combustion engine and Homeland Security) and always consider how our actions will effect seven generations into the future.