Bruce Copley – Holistic learning adds value

Bruce Copley’s holistic experiences of fire creation and the playing of ancient instruments breathe inspiration into tired organizations around the world.

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Bruce Copley’s holistic experiences of fire creation and the playing of ancient instruments breathe inspiration into tired organizations around the world.

“In business as wellas in our personal lives we allow our perception of what is possible to determine where we can go,” says Bruce Copley, a South African who is a doctor of sports medicine and a pioneer of Cogmotics – which he defines as a “revolutionary, holistic method of learning and teaching.” The goal, says Copley, is to widen our perceptions of what is possible at work, in life and within the communities in which we exist.

Despite its resemblance to such words as “holiness” or doctrines that end with “-ism,” holism is neither a religious nor a political concept, Copley says. Rather it is simply a belief that the universe and especially
nature is correctly seen in terms of interacting wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts.

“We live in a holistic universe, in an interconnected system,” Copley says. “Whether you concede it, believe it, accept it or not, it is still a fact. And it is absolutely


Copley has devoted 17 years to applying the holistic approach in helping organizations identify, manage and monitor their intangible values in terms of their most important assets, their employees. Intangible value is basically calculated by taking the difference
between a company’s book value and its market value. The UK Department of Trade and Industry has identified the following key intangible assets: relationships, knowledge, leadership and communication, culture and values, reputation and trust, skills and competencies and processes and systems.

Intangible value management is crucial to success, but it is often neglected: “What we cannot measure, we do not manage, and since we tend to place things we cannot see or measure at the back of our minds, we risk neglecting intangible asset management in the process,” says Copley.


Intellectual capitalis an intangible asset that is created, defined and refined only in people’s minds, which is why Copley and his Cogmotics associates, in designing and animating holistic learning experiences, aim to appeal to all aspects of a human being, including mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and social faculties. “We promise to take any theme, topic or concept and transform it into an unforgettable and learning-filled experience,” Copley says.

There is considerable interest worldwide in bringing Cogmotics into corporate events and training sessions, focusing on themes ranging from accelerated learning to whole-brain thinking. Copley says that he and his associates are “passionately committed to creating extraordinary learning adventures that ensure something new is understood or something is newly understood.”

To this end he and his colleagues employ some
unusual tools, including fire kits (employing the stick-
friction method that dates back 1.5 million years) and the didgeridoo, a 40,000-year-old Aboriginal instrument, as well as the holoprint, which aims to demonstrate the universality implied by holism (see sidebar). “The purpose,” says Copley, “is to optimize human


Copley frequentlyrefers to his countryman Nelson Mandela, who has inspired and empowered South Africans of all races and cultures. Through his programme “Creating and maintaining a workplace community,” Copley demonstrates that community building is fundamentally about peacemaking and reconciliation, which is as true for nations as it is for organ-izations. Peacemaking also refers to making peace with oneself as a departure point. “Holism allows you to let go of the shackles that have chained your mind, body and spirit and to realize that self- imposed limitations are our greatest enemy,” says Copley.

To illustrate the limiting effects of people’s mental constructs and perceptions, Copley invites delegates to listen to the sounds of the Swiss Hang (a steel melodic percussion instrument) with their eyes closed. After hearing (but not seeing) the instrument, they are asked to describe what they think the instrument is and what its size and shape might be. When at last they are shown the instrument, they realize how dependent they are on preconceived notions about the way things are.


Copley says that holismis a universal principle, and he views all companies and organizations as having the potential to become authentic communities. From a business point of view, the logic is that employees with a strong sense of community do a better job, and thus add to a company’s intangible value. Managers should become facilitators, says Copley, who favours management that he calls “inspinable” – meaning a cross between inspiring and enabling. “A true leader serves downwards, and in this way enables people to perform their functions in the most effective way,” he says.

Some of Copley’s learning shops are designed to highlight existing levels of trust within a company and to explore ways of deepening and strengthening that trust, which he says is an important component of
intangible value.

Trust, he says, can be both interpersonal and intra-personal. To give participants a gut-level experience of how they trust themselves and each other, Copley applies seemingly drastic methods, such as inviting blindfolded delegates to match how fast they run to their perceived levels of interpersonal trust. If, for
example, they rate their trust level at nine out of 10, they should then run at 90 percent of their sprinting speed. In this way, people practically experience perceived and actual levels of trust and come face-to-face with any mistrust that exists between colleagues. “How often do you say ‘I trust you,’ when you actually don’t?” Copley asks rhetorically.


Copley’s learning shopshave been rated highly by conference and workshop delegates. “I will always remember the wonderful experience you gave our group,” testifies Ricardo Correia of AIESEC, an inter­national business student alliance, of a conference in Portugal. “It moved me to tears.” At Swedbank’s seminar for CFOs in Dublin, project manager Roland Svensson commented: “In this hard and cold environment, a message of hope, inspiration, consideration and re-thinking is of great importance.”


What Copley aims to generateis a world of giants, emotionally and intellectually. “Learning how to create the original fire may, for example, spark unknown levels of creativity, thaw out frozen mindsets and ignite dormant passions and levels of commitment,” he says.

If nothing else, the experiences are surely remembered for a long time. Says Copley: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather by the moments that take our breath away.”

The universal principle


To Bruce Copley, the holoprint powerfully illustrates the universal principle of holism that manifests itself in countless animate and inanimate material forms. Delegates produce their own holoprints by placing a blob of toothpaste between two transparent sheets that are squeezed together and then slowly separated. The pattern that emerges is a highly complex mathematical fractal that is both timeless and infinite. “Nobody has been able to fully explain it, not even physicists,” says Copley. “The holoprint manifests evolution and the fact that everything is in process. The holoprint even manifests in agate over periods of millions of years.”

To create your own holoprint in seconds, do the following:

1. Use the two covers of a plastic CD cover.

2. Place a fingernail-sized blob of toothpaste in the middle of one cover.

3. Firmly press the flat surface of the other cover onto the side with the toothpaste.

4. Slowly separate the covers.

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