Eros and Design Thinking

By Susanna Carman and originally published at

The Greek myth of Eros can be told through a myriad of narratives. The classic interpretation: Eros, son of Aphrodite, falls in love with the mortal beauty, Psyche, and through a circuitous turn of events, steels her away from earth to live amongst the Gods in ultimate union.

Some in the integral community favour a more archaic interpretation, one in which Eros is a key player in the origin myth of consciousness itself, the cosmic embrace between love and destruction…

Eros mated in the deep Abyss with Dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light…

And still, Jungian analysts see the story of Eros as an integration of soul (Psyche) and love (Eros) in a move to alleviate archetypal human suffering.

In each narrative, Eros is depicted as an embodiment phenomenon capable of enacting both sexual power and fecund creativity. I currently hold the perspective that the power of Eros includes AND transcends the carnal polarity between masculine and feminine forces. In its broadest, most mysterious context, Eros’ presence has the potential to both inspire and threaten our creative impulses.

Today, post conventional designers, change agents and generative leaders are exploring what it means to steward the fires of Eros. Our challenge is to play with the sparks in ways that ignite flames in others whilst protecting the forest, and all of her blessed creatures, from blazing devastation.

At the intersection of Business, Leadership and Human Systems, a new generation of designers have been chanting, singing, dancing, drinking and frolicking as Shamanic stewards of the flames. Otto Sharmer’s U-Theory, IDEO’s Human-Centred Design approach, William Torbert’s Action Inquiry practice Sean Esbjorn-Hargens’ Meta Capital Framework are just a few amongst the many providing the rhythmic structures and improvised melodies to keep the dance alive.

Once inventors of desire, post-conventional designers are now applying HOW they think to our social, cultural, ecological and economic futures. The quality of their consciousness, creativity and collaborative enactments are informing a multiplicity of complex domains, including client-centric mental health solutions, drug and alcohol recovery programs, sustainable development projects, ethics trainings for financial markets, terrorism mitigation analysis, and strategic planning for global refugee migration to name a few. Designers are, for the first time, being invited to not only participate in but also facilitate these conversations.

When Aphrodite realised that her earthly devotees were diverting all of their attention to the young Psyche, she sent her son, Eros, down from heaven to figure out why. Eros accepted the errand but then fell madly in love with Psyche. His passion was immediately reciprocated, an unexpected discovery for the young maiden who until then, had been the un-requiting recipient of constant male adoration but never love.

Eros returned to Aphrodite to declare his love for Psyche, and to ask that she be permitted to live with him as one of the Gods. Consumed by rage, envy and spite Aphrodite agreed, but only if Psyche passed a series of increasingly insurmountable tests.

Psyche surprised everyone by trumping each trial. However, it was the final test that proved most terrifying. Psyche’s father was to leave her as sacrificial lamb atop a mountain summit to be devoured by Eros’s fire spitting, winged serpent. Psyche lay in terror awaiting her own destruction when suddenly she felt the heat of the serpent’s breath lift her toward the heavens and deliver her directly into the arms of her beloved.

As post-conventional designers we are empowered: to yield to the earth, to lift our serpent wings, to breathe fire and to take flight. May we hold the collective soul in our warm embrace, may our purpose be fulfilled, may our creative contributions stoke the fire and may our worthiness be tested.

Until next time, this is Susanna Carman inviting all to steward the flames. For more articles on Design Thinking and Leadership, please visit!blog/n0sbd

Featured Image/Graphic Link added by Enlivening Edge Magazine