IPMA International Project Management Association
4 May 2018 / 7:38

Against all odds – learning from great projectors: Nikolai F. Fyodorov

You are all encouraged to write about great projectors out of your context so we may learn from them and improve our way of performing projects. “Projector” is a term introduced by Daniel Defoe in “An Essay upon Projects” (1697). It refers to people that “project” into the future and thus make them real. A true projector is “he who, having by fair and plain principles of sense, honesty, and ingenuity brought any contrivance to a suitable perfection, makes out what he pretends to, picks nobody’s pocket, puts his project in execution, and contents himself with the real produce as the profit of his invention.” History is full of those people, let´s make use of their stories by explaining the narrative behind.

This time I´d like to draw your attention to a great philosopher, who should be recognized more by our profession in order to understand the foundations of our work. Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov was born in 1829 and lived until 1903. He was a Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher, who was part of the Russian cosmism movement and a precursor of transhumanism. Fyodorov advocated for the radical life extension, physical immortality and even resurrection, using scientific methods. But that´s not the part of his work that I want to focus on.

Fyodorov was concerned about overcoming the separation of thinking and acting through so-called “projectivism”. In the great synthesis of the objective and the subjective, reflected in the expressed projectivity of knowing and feeling, both become active in their results … In the “projective capacity” of people, the theoretical and the practical reasoning gets united. To become living knowledge, it must become knowledge not only about “what is”, but also about “what should be”, i.e. it has to change from a passive, speculative explanation of the being to an active one (through a project) … Knowledge is merged with actions. By making thoughts happen, humanity becomes in its entirety a single artist, to whom the whole world serves as material to create the earthly paradise …

The transition from the passive consideration of one of the phenomena to the active shaping of reality is the transition from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican system. For Fyodorov, the Copernican worldview is characterized by its “active-projective” character, while the Ptolemaic focuses on the human being, but makes him a mere “observer of his own nothingness.” Fyodorov´s goal is the total transformation of the universe into an “artistic whole,” a “work of art,” through the omniscient and almighty unified total humanity.

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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