Existing organizing orders: Spiders & Starfishes

This is the 3rd post in my series on ”organizing beyond”.

I wrote in the 1st post that ”organizing beyond” will contain both leadership and decision making, yet move beyond the limits of both. And I asked in the 2nd post what existing ”orders” of organizing there are today?

One answer is that there are centralized and decentralized organizational setups, which are called ”spiders” and ”starfishes” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.1 Let’s take a closer look on these ”orders” with respect to leadership and decision making, Let’s also see if the ”spiders” and ”starfishes” are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible. And, finally, let’s what other clues to a ”deeper order” we xcan find.


1 Ori Brafman, Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider, p. x.

Related book review:
Book Review: The Stafish and the Spider

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beoyond
Organizing beyond: Questions

Organizing beyond: Questions

This is a continuation of my previous post on ”organizing in between and beyond,” which is inspired by David Bohm’s and F. David Peat’s notion of ”the order between and beyond”.1 Bohm and Peat write that ”order influences perception, communication, and action”2 and that a change in order involves ”a major perceptual shift”.3 I think we need a major shift in perception — a new ”overall paradigmatic framework”4 — in how we view and organize work.

An example from physics. It wasn’t until Einstein developed his theories of relativity that an ”order beyond” Newton’s classical mechanics and Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory was found. And the challenge today is to find an ”order beyond” Einstein’s theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. The ”orders of both theories — quantum and general relativity — are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible”.5 ”A deeper order is needed, one that contains the orders of both these theories as limiting cases”.6 In a similar way, we need to find a ”deeper order” in how to organize work — an ”organizing beyond” our traditional ways of organizing.

The questions we need to answer are: 1) What are the existing ”orders” of organizing today? 2) How are they ”entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible”? 3) And what clues to a ”deeper order,” or an ”organizing beyond,” can we find in the answers to these questions?

I intend to come back to these questions in future posts.

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, (Routledge, 2010-09-01, first published 1987-10-01), p. 275.
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid., p. 276.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid., p. 293.
6 Ibid., p. 294.

Related book review:
Book Review: Science, Order, and Creativity

Related post:
Organizing in between and beyond

Organizing in between and beyond

The last chapter in Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is about ”the order between and beyond”.1 Bohm and Peat write that most attempts to find order, say a new theory, involve searching for a position between two theories.2 Physics faced this situation at the end of the 19th century when it was discovered that Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory didn’t accord with Newton’s classical mechanics. At first physicists tried to make the theories fit together in ”an order between.”3 It wasn’t until Einstein developed his theories of relativity that ”an order beyond” was discovered. Today, there’s a search for an ”order beyond” Einstein’s theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

My point is that there’s a similar need to search for an ”order beyond” our traditional ways of organizing work. Many different approaches have been developed over the years. They all have different names — e.g., Lean, Agile, Holacracy, etc — and are often accompanied with a whole industry offering tools, training, consulting, certification, and other products and services. The problem, as I see it, is that most of these approaches are examples of what I would call ”organizing in between.”

A recent example is the attempt to combine Agile with Sociocracy. This is said to be ”a way to create alignment between Agile ecosystems and the business needs of strong leadership and a clear hierarchy.”4 Well, maybe? I have questioned the assumptions here. Neither Agile, nor Sociocracy, can be said to be totally satisfying. And I don’t think that the solution lies in combining strong hierarchical leadership with sociocratic participatory policy decision-making. This is, in my view, an example of ”organizing in between.” What is necessary is to move to an ”organizing beyond,” which transcends, in this case, the compromise between strong hierarchical leadership and sociocratic decision making on policies.

I don’t know how the ”organizing beyond” looks like. What I do know is that it will contain both leadership and decision making, yet move beyond the limits of both. My search for better ways of working together continues.

Here is a continuation of this post.

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, (Routledge, 2010-09-01, first published 1987-10-01), pp. 275–314.
2 Ibid., p. 308.
3 Ibid..
4 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter, (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 1. (Accessed 2016-07-20)

Related book review:
Book Review: Science, Order, and Creativity

Related posts:
Is sociocracy agile?
Organizing beyond: Questions

Bioteams obliterate permission structures

Here is a post by Doug Kirkpatrick where he reviews Ken Thompson’s book Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Natures Most Successful Designs. Thompson notes that bioteams obliterate permission structures, which are so common in traditional organizations. Accountability is instead a natural consequence of the transparency and reliance on reputation in bioteaming.

Book Review: Science, Order, and Creativity

Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is an amazing book! One of the main purposes of the book is to ”draw attention to the key importance of liberating creativity” (p. 271). The book has really deepened my understanding and appreciation of creativity and its relation to order. It has also given me new insights into the history of science. Bohm and Peat view ”misinformation” as ”pollution” (p. 249). I’d say this book contains very little misinformation. Usually, I mark sections as very interesting, worth noting, and don’t agree while reading. I noticed that my don’t agrees often turned into oh, now I understand.

The book was first published in 1987. I am impressed by how up-to-date the book feels. Bohm and Peat write for example that ”current work in biology hardly takes the quantum theory into account” (p. 198). Yet, they say that ”it may turn out that in certain macromolecular processes … quantum correlations may indeed be relevant” (p. 198). This is exactly what has happened almost thirty years later. Quantum mechanics explains nowadays the efficiency of the photosynthesis.1,2 Life isn’t possible without quantum coherence.

The causal interpretation
David Bohm worked on ”the causal interpretation” of the quantum theory ”over a period of several decades, beginning in the early 1950s” (p. 79). The work with this theory ”ultimately lead to some … new perceptions about the nature of physical reality” (p. 80). The causal interpretation suggests that ”nature may be far more subtle and strange than … previously thought” (p. 86). There is, for example, a ”vast range of scale” between the distance now measurable in physics and the ”shortest distance in which current notions of space-time probably have meaning” (p. 86). This range is ”roughly equal to that which exists between our own size and that of the elementary particles” (p. 86). This means that there is ”a vast range of scale in which … yet undiscovered structure” can be contained (p. 86). The causal interpretation introduces profound and radically new notions of order.

Notions of order
Bohm and Peat explores the meanings and implications of order. Rather than attempting to ”make a definition or exhaustive analysis” they instead try to ”deepen and extend the reader’s understanding” (p. 98). And, indeed, that is exactly what they do! There are four chapters covering ”What Is Order?” (pp. 97–147), ”The Generative Order and the Implicate Order” (pp. 148–188), ”Generative Order in Science, Society, and Consciousness” (pp. 189–228), and ”The Order Between and Beyond” (pp. 275–314).  This means that they spend half of the book (170 pages) on discussing order.

Bohm and Peat propose that ”order pervades all aspects of life and that it may be comprehended as similar differences and different similarities” (p. 146). Orders in general are seen to lie in a spectrum between ”simple orders of low degree and chaotic orders of infinite degree of which randomness is a limiting case” (p. 146). Structure is treated as an ”inherently dynamic notion” (p. 146). Bohm and Peat introduce the notion of ”generative order” (pp. 154–162), followed by the ”implicate or enfolded order” (pp. 168–177) and the ”superimplicate order” (pp. 177–181).

The generative order is relevant to creativity, perception and understanding nature. And the superimplicate order organizes the implicate order. This opens the way for ”an indefinite extension into even higher implicate orders, which organize the lower ones, while capable of being affected by them” (pp. 187–188). The implicate order is a very rich and subtle generative order. All this may sound abstract but the implications are significant!

Bohm and Peat propose that consciousness is ”a generative and implicate order” and that this is how ”mind and matter” are related (p. 188). Bohm and Peat bring science, nature, society, and consciousness together in an overall common generative order. And they explore ways in which ”order influences perception, communication, and action” (p. 275). Bohm and Peat propose that conflicts in societies can be ”traced to contradictions and entanglements deep within unexamined notions of order” (p. 275). For this reason, they ask if it’s possible to move beyond fixed positions to an order that lies both ”between and beyond” (p. 275).

Creativity and consciousness
Creativity act not only through ”free play of thought” but also through ”free movement of awareness and attention” (p. 227). These make it possible for ”creative intelligence” to unfold toward manifestation through the ”stream” of ”the generative order” (p. 227). Bohm and Peat investigate the nature of this creativity and what impedes its operation. The essence of the creative act is ”a state of high energy making possible a fresh perception, generally through the mind” (p. 270). And creativity can be blocked by the ”rigidly fixed tacit infrastructure of consciousness” which blocks the ”free play” (p. 271)

The generative and implicate orders are particularly significant here. These make it possible to understand ”the unfoldment of creativity from ever subtle levels” (p. 271). Thus, if there are ”rigid ideas and assumptions in the tacit infrastructure of consciousness” the net result is not only ”a restriction on creativity” but also ”a positive presence of energy that is directed toward general destructiveness” (p. 271). A clearing up of ”misinformation” is therefore needed if ”this energy is to be freed from its rigid and destructive pattern” (p. 271).

Science and order
Within science there have been periods of enormous activity combined with occasions when progress have been blocked. Instead of viewing science simply in terms of theories and ideas, Bohm Bohm & Peat suggest that ”what is of most significance is … the prevailing scientific order and its transformation” (p. 276). This is because a change in order also involves a major perceptual shift. The ”order of science, and indeed of society itself,” is a ”nesting and entwining of several different orders,” some static and others dynamic (p. 277).

Order and society
Orders are lived and experienced. When orders change rapidly they can produce ”confusions and contradictions … within the functioning of society” (p. 278). These ”enfolded and entangled orders inform the way we perceive, communicate, and act, both individually and as a society in general” (p. 281). When an order is held by the whole society it is ”so deeply ingrained that it is never questioned” (p. 281). Examining and changing orders must therefore take place at many levels at once ”including, but also going beyond, verbal reflection” (p. 282). This is profound.

Liberating creativity
The problems we face arise from a ”complex web of entangled conflicts, confusions, and misinformation in the order of our world” (p. 306). What is needed is considerable creative energy. This creative energy can be liberated when rigid and tacit assumptions are loosened. Bohm and Peat propose that ”free dialogue” and ”free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation” (p. 240).

Dialogue can be considered as ”a free flow of meaning” (p. 241). Something can happen in dialogue that is ”analogous to the dissolution of barriers … in the generative order” (p. 244). In dialogue, ”rigid but largely tacit cultural assumptions, can be brought out and examined by all” (p. 244). This is not a ”prescription” but ”an invitation to the reader to … investigate and explore in the spirit of free play of ideas” (p. 240). I invite you to read the book!

1 Quantum mechanics explains efficiency of photosynthesis, Phys.org, 2014-01-09. (Accessed 2016-07-25)
2 Recent studies have identified quantum coherence and entanglement between the excited states of different pigments in the light-harvesting stage of photosynthesis. See for example Quantum biology – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-07-25)

Related book review:
Book Review: Infinite Potential

Related post:
Organizing in between and beyond

What is life?

Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is a very interesting book! The chapter on ”What is order?” (pp. 97–147) is particularly interesting in relation to the question: What is life? The following is based on this chapter, but with a focus on life itself.

Whatever we say life is, it isn’t
There can be no complete definition of life. Whatever we say life is, it isn’t.1 There is always something more than what we say and something different. At a given time, it is possible to abstract a certain notion as relevant and appropriate. But later, as the context is made broader, the limits and validity of this abstraction are seen and new notions developed. In the future, as the context is extended even further, still newer notions of life may arise.

Life is an order of orders
Life itself is based on order, but involves much more. It must always be remembered that, at a deeper level, attention must be given to the whole, which, in turn, acts to guide thought as it abstracts elements which do not in face have a separate existence. Life has a complex and subtle order, but one of infinite complexity and subtlety. The various suborders within life are all arranged, connected, and organized together. Yet each suborder, or element, is clearly inseparable from the greater whole. Life is, therefore, an order of orders. What is needed is connection within and between the suborders, or elements.

To be continued …

1 Korzybski said that ”whatever we say anything is, it isn’t” (p. 145). No analogy is equivalent to the object itself. Every analogy is limited. And if what we way is an analogy, then the object cannot be what we say. There is always room for newer and better analogies.

Is sociocracy agile?

Decision Making Systems Matter is an interesting article by Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser, with Anders Ivarsson as additional contributor. The article is funded by the Agile Alliance and is a Supporting Agile Adoption publication. The authors describe how combining ”Agile with ideas from Sociocracy provides … a way to create alignment between Agile ecosystems and the business needs of strong leadership and a clear hierarchy”.1 The article gives excellent insights into sociocracy and is well worth reading! Pieter van der Meché has over 20 years of experience in sociocracy.2

Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser (from left to right)

The assumptions in the article are 1) that ”a clear hierarchy and strong leadership” are required to achieve ”speed and control (coordination)” and 2) that ”policies … ensure alignment”.3 My question is whether ”strong hierarchical leadership and strong participatory [policy] decision making”4 contributes to agility? It’s possible, of course, that agreements on policies — which are defined as ”general agreements on the what, when, how and who”5 — can increase the speed, but a strong focus on policies can also become rigid. It’s as if sociocracy, for the sake of control, values policies and following a plan — the ”what, when, how, and who” — over responding to change.6 While a sociocratic organization certainly values individuals and interactions, it’s also policy-driven, which easily leads to a focus on process-discipline.7 Sociocratic leadership is furthermore ”conductor-like”.8 The idea is that you as the leader should coordinate (control) your team like ”a conductor of an orchestra”.9 It’s self-evident that you as a strong hierarchical leader value control over participation. What if the team can coordinate itself? (Here is an example of a conductorless orchestra.) And what if the challenge isn’t primarily to ensure ”alignment throughout the hierarchy”10 but to nurture collaboration throughout the organization?11

So, is sociocracy agile? I’d say no. It depends, of course, on what you mean by agile. My impression is that sociocracy values policies and control over people and collaboration. While there is value in the latter, sociocracy values the first more.12 And, yes, decision making systems matter! Why limit participatory decision making to policy decisions only? It’s as if sociocracy doesn’t take the full consequences of participatory decision making.

Update 2016-07-26:
Questions updated. Text updated. Related post added.

Update 2016-07-24:
Pictures of authors added. Questions added. Text and notes updated.

1 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter, (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 1. (Accessed 2016-07-20)
2 Ibid., p. 14.
3 Ibid., p. 7.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Agile values ”responding to change over following a plan”. See the Agile Manifesto. There are similarities between sociocratic policies (what, when, how and who) and plans.
7 Agile also values ”Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. See the Agile Manifesto. The focus on policies easily leads to a focus on process-discipline, i.e., define the policies and processes (albeit in a participatory way!) and make sure people follow them.
8 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter, (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 8. (Accessed 2016-07-20)
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid., p. 10.
11 It’s an Agile principle that business people and development teams must work together daily. See the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.
12 This is a paraphrase of the Agile Manifesto. The crucial question here is which values are given precedence over others.

Related posts:
Principles for collaborative leadership
Organizing in between and beyond

Holacracy and Arthur Koestler

The organizational structure in Holacracy is a holarchy, a term coined by Arthur Koestler in The Ghost in the Machine. Brian Robertson writes in his book on Holacracy that (his italics):

The type of structure used for organizations in Holacracy is not a traditional hierarchy, but a ”holarchy.” Arthur Koestler coined the term in his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine. He defined a ”holon” as ”a whole that is a part of a larger whole” and a ”holarchy” as ”the connection between holons.” 1

Arthur Koestler actually defined a holon as a node in a hierarchic tree which behaves partly as wholes or wholly as parts, and a holarchy as a hierarchy of holons. Koestler writes (his italics):

… to talk of sub-wholes (or sub-assemblies, sub-tructures, sub-skills, subsystems) is awkward and tedious. It seems preferable to coin a new term to designate these nodes on the hierarchic tree which behave partly as wholes or wholly as parts, according to the way you look at them. The term I would propose is ‘holon’, from the Greek holos = whole, with the suffix on which, as in proton or neutron, suggests a particle or part. 2
… we may say that the organism in its structural and functional aspects is a hierarchy of self-regulating holons which function (a) as autonomous wholes in supra-ordination to their parts, (b) as dependent parts in sub-ordination to controls on higher levels, (c) in co-ordination with their local environment.
Such a hierarchy of holons should rightly be called a holarchy …3

In Holacracy, people act as sensors for the organization, processing tensions. Brian Robertson writes that (his italics) :

An organization … is equipped with sensors — … the human beings who energize its roles and sense reality on its behalf.4
Organizations running with Holacracy are first and foremost purpose-driven … with all activities ultimately being for the sake of realizing the organization’s broader purpose. Every member then becomes a sensor for that purpose, and the rules of Holacracy’s governance process ensure that no individual interest can dominate.5
The organization is depending on you, as its sensor, to give voice to the tensions you sense so that it can evolve.6
Holacracy is focused on the organization and its purpose — not on the people and their desires and needs …7

What’s interesting is that Arthur Koestler not only coined the word holarchy, but also criticized the mechanistic view of organisms. Koestler called the following doctrine a monumental superstition:

[The doctrine] … that all organisms, including man, are essentially passive automata controlled by the environment, whose sole purpose in life is the reduction of tensions …8

To paraphrase Arthur Koestler, it’s a monumental mistake to view people essentially as sensors controlled by the organization, whose sole purpose is to process tensions.9,10

Update 2016-07-26:
Text moved to the notes.

1 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, (Penguin, 2015), p. 38.
2 Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), p. 48.
3 Ibid., p. 103.
4 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, (Penguin, 2015), p. 4.
5 Ibid., p. 166.
6 Ibid., p. 194.
7 Ibid., p. 198.
8 Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), p. 3.
9 People also have the responsibility to act as role fillers in Holacracy. This is a sacred duty. See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, (Penguin, 2015), p. 85. Role and soul are separated. Ibid., p. 42–46. People energize the roles and enact its accountabilities. Ibid., pp. 43, 97. And the organization depends on people processing its tensions. Ibid., pp. 7, 113, 125, 194, 200.
10 Arthur Koestler introduced the concepts of holarchy and holon in search for an alternative to the robot image of people. See Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), p. 348.

Michelle Holliday on thrivability

Michelle Holliday

I tweet quotes from the books I read from my twitter account @janhoglund. Here is a compilation of the most retweeted and liked quotes from Michelle Holliday’s upcoming book The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World (in italics):

… thrivability – the intention and practice of enabling life to thrive as fully as possible, at every level.

… what if we made it our primary intention and goal to enable life to thrive …?

… our … role is not to tightly control … but to cultivate the necessary fertile conditions for life to self-organize …

… systems thinking remained (and still generally remains) grounded in a mechanistic model …

… the persistence of mechanistic thinking … is valuable to some degree and absurd if taken as the total view.

Even Deming’s forward-looking systems vision was implemented in mechanistic fashion.

… the patterns and larger goal of all life … [is] to connect to itself in ever more complex forms …

… all life is … a single interwoven tapestry of living, evolving, creative organisms.

… engaging … life in our organizations and communities … unleash unprecedented wisdom, collaboration, creativity and impact.

If … divergence is not integrated into the whole, then the living system … is jeopardized.

… the real point of our efforts is to participate in and support life’s ongoing ability to thrive.

… the mechanistic view of organizations as machines prompts us to put people in service of infrastructure and process …

When infrastructure is … in service of the life in an organization, what naturally emerges is what I call Practical Play.

We have mistakenly assumed that play is the opposite of work.

Seeing the organization as one coherent living system … opens up new possibilities.

When we see organizations as living ecosystems, the goal more naturally shifts to enabling life to thrive …

… the most effective solutions will be those generated by the organization itself.

… our opportunity – and pressing need – is to participate consciously, intentionally and in harmony with life’s processes …

… “thrivability” – … can be understood as the intention and practice of crafting an organization as a “space for life.”

… “responsibility” … is most of all “response-ability.”

What is needed in the Age of Thrivability is … integration of … [divergence, relationship, wholeness, self-integration].

For some reason, it’s only MBA students who ask me: how do you measure thrivability?

… fundamentally reconceiving the organization and our role within it is the most powerful “social innovation” possible.

Related post:
Book Review: The Age of Thrivability

Book Review: The Age of Thrivability

The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World by Michelle Holliday is a new book which will be released this fall. Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, consultant, researcher, presenter, and writer. Her work centers around ”thrivability,” which is based on a view of organizations and communities as living systems. It’s this view which Michelle Holliday eloquently elaborates in her book.

Thrivability can be understood as ”the intention and practice of enabling life to thrive as fully as possible” (p. 21). It’s about ”crafting an organization as a ”space for life”” (p. 107). But thrivability is not only about ”vibrant health and joy” all the time (p. 149). It also includes ”death” and ”conflict” (p.149).

Mechanical Systems vs. Living Systems
Michelle Holliday writes that ”the persistence of mechanistic thinking … is valuable to some degree” but is ”absurd if taken as the total view” (p. 41). I fully agree. Systems thinking has ”remained (and still generally remains) grounded in a mechanistic model” (p. 40). The result is that ”many of the changes made to date on the basis of systems thinking represent important first steps in a new direction, while most have been superficial and built on familiar values” (p. 41). Even W. Edwards Deming’s ”forward-looking systems vision was implemented in a mechanistic fashion” (p. 40). Although Deming insisted that ”measurement and quotas be replaced with leadership and removal of fear from the workplace, the widespread application has focused squarely on statistic measurement” (p. 41).

A key differentiating factor between mechanical systems and living systems is that ”living systems integrates divergent parts into a convergent whole characterized by dynamic relationship internally and externally in a continuous process of self-organization and self-creation” (p. 42). Keywords here are self-integration, self-organization and self-creation. This means that ”the real point of our efforts is to participate in and support life’s ongoing ability to thrive” (p. 95). When we see ”organizations as living ecosystems, the goal … naturally shifts to enabling life to thrive – contributing to and participating in life’s process[es] and pattern[s]” (p. 101). What are these patterns?

Living System Patterns
Michelle Holliday presents ”the core patterns of living systems in a variety of contexts” throughout her book (p. 12). The point is that ”the underlying conditions for … living systems to thrive” are ”the same conditions needed for an organization to thrive” (p. 18). Michelle has found the following four basic patterns to be ”widely cited across the literature in biology” and also to be ”universally present across … organizations and communities” (p. 29):

  1. Divergent Parts (Individual People): ”In every living system, there are individual parts …” (p. 29)
  2. Patterns of Relationship (Connective Infrastructure): ”The divergent parts are connected and supported in a pattern of responsive relationship with each other and with context” (p. 30).
  3. Convergent Wholeness (Shared Identity & Purpose): ”The divergent parts come together in relationship to form a convergent whole with new characteristics and capabilities” (p. 30).
  4. Self-integration: ”The entire process of divergence, relationship, and convergence is self-organizing, set into motion by life itself” (p. 31)

Generally, 1) the more ”diverse and self-expressive the parts are able to be,”  2) the more ”open and free-flowing the interactions” are, and 3) the more ”consistency and convergence there is at the level of the whole”, the more ”resilient, adaptive and creative the living system is likely to be” (pp. 30–31). This means that our ”most appropriate and important role is not to tightly control the activities of our human systems, but to cultivate the necessary fertile conditions for life to self-organize and self-integrate” (p. 31).

The metaphor of a tree offers useful guidance to the living systems patterns. (Michelle Holliday, The Age of Thrivability, p. 97)

The metaphor of a tree offers useful guidance to the living systems patterns. (Michelle Holliday, The Age of Thrivability, p. 97)

Management vs. Stewarship
Michelle Holliday has ”spent the past decade bringing these patterns of living systems into” her ”consulting work with a range of organizations” (p. 18). Perhaps most importantly, recognizing ”organizations as living systems has encouraged … leaders to see themselves less as engineers and managers and more as stewards in service of life” (p. 18). Stewardship is to ”create the conditions for the organization-as-a-living ecosystem to self-integrate — to self-organize and to enable collective intelligence, responsiveness and resilience to emerge” (p. 47). Stewardship replaces ”control and guidance” with ”encouragement and invitation” (p. 122). An ”invitation-based, broadly participatory process” enriches the organization ”through learning and relationship” (p. 156).

Embodying Patterns & Practicing Stewardship
Michelle Holliday emphasizes that ”the most effective solutions will be those generated by the organization itself” (p. 101). Stories from five different organizations practicing thrivability are included in the book:

  1. Espace pour la vie / Space for Life
  2. Zenith Cleaners (written by Tolu Ilesanmi, Cleaner and CEO)
  3. CLC Montreal (written by a long-time staff-member and teacher)
  4. Experiencing Mariposa (written by Michael Jones, long-time resident of the town of Orillia, Ontario, Canada)
  5. Crudessence (written by Julian Giacomelli, CEO at the time of writing)

Michelle Holliday’s book is very inspiring! I love her tree metaphor. What gives Michelle’s book an edge is that she is serious about the living systems view. She even acknowledges that death is a vital aspect of thrivability. It’s certainly not superficial mechanical thinking. What’s nice is also that it’s possible to approach the book as an open buffet. I enjoyed the real-life stories in the book. Stewardship is less a role and more a commitment offered from a stance of reverence for life. What is called for is not a set of best practices, but a recognition of the life in our organizations and the world around us. The book shows what’s possible if we go beyond our old habits of thought and action. Thrivability requires that we see life’s intrinsic value and act accordingly.

Related post:
Michelle Holliday on thrivability

Book Review: Infinite Potential

Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm is a well-written book by F. David Peat. David Bohm was a unique and very creative person who had an exceptional mind. He was able to pursue abstract thought to a far greater degree than most other people. But it’s difficult to live in high abstraction without loosing one’s grounding. David Bohm’s wife, Saral, was his anchor in life. Saral gave David stability and, to the extent that it was possible, a normal life. Saral also tried to support David during his recurring periods of depression which, without her, could have cost him his life.

Below are some quotes (in italics) from the book:

… the ground of the cosmos is … pure process, a flowing movement of the whole.

… information, like matter and energy, is one of the basic principles of nature …

… for David Bohm, understanding always involved probing deeper and deeper into underlying assumptions.

David Bohm … used feelings, sensations, and inner movements to gain a direct apprehension of what lay beyond ordinary logic.

That ability to touch preverbal processes at the muscular, sensory level remained with him all his life.

… quantum concepts imply that the world acts more like a single indivisible unit …

A smooth flow causes each idea to lead to another … I come out with conclusions which I would never have expected at the beginning.

I feel a need for a sympathetic person to listen to me … and to criticize weaknesses in my arguments without attacking …

… my way of thinking is not step by step, but rather through the inter-connection of various aspects to the whole.

I never write down any formula before I am already sure of the result on qualitative grounds.

I like the method of ceaselessly feeling out various aspects of the problem, seeing how things fit together …

… always he expressed joy and excitement at the possibility of going beyond, of discovering coherence and wholeness.

The act of observing a thought in detail changes the nature of that thought.

… the thought and the thinker can never be separate …

For Bohm … the nature of reality could be directly apprehended within one’s being …

The universe is composed of an infinity of reflections, and of reflections of reflections.

The key to order, and to information, is … collections of different similarities and similar differences.

Any two things are … different and each example of difference is different from every other.

Arguing with people assertively is not profitable.

… quantum theory … speaks of process and transformation rather than object and interaction.

Western society thinks, perceives and communicates in a way that does not cohere with the actuality of the world.

A change of meaning is a change of being.

Thought is neither exclusively subjective nor exclusively objective.

Misinformation is ”pollution”

Dialogue … opens the possibility of a collective ”flow of meaning” within a group that transcends the limits of individual thought.

Related book reviews:
Book Review: Science, Order, and Creativity
Book Review: Synchronicity

Book Review: Humble Inquiry

Edgar H. Schein assumes in Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling that his readers are from the U.S. He refers, for example, to ”our” task-oriented pragmatic culture throughout the book. And when discussing the main inhibitor of Humble Inquiry (Chapter 4) he only discusses the U.S. culture. This means that Schein addresses ”the gentle art of asking instead of telling” from a rather narrow perspective. I’d also suggest to stop using the term ”subordinates”. It makes it much more difficult to move from telling to asking if we are still talking subordination. Subordination is in itself an inhibitor to Humble Inquiry!

Below are some quotes from the book:

… the issue of asking versus telling is really a fundamental issue in human relations …

Personalization is the process of acknowledging the other person as a whole human, not just a role.

… trust is one of those words that we all think we know the meaning of but is very hard to define.

… even ordinary conversations is a complex dance involving moment-to-moment decisions …

Learning new things is easy when there is no unlearning involved.

In my personal life … I find that the biggest mistakes I make and the biggest risks I run all result form mindless hurrying …

It need not take much time, but it requires a different pace.

… our tendency to leap to judgment prevents us from reflecting …

It amazes me how often a low-key question … produces far better decisions than … votes.

Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.

Effective groups review their decisions to see what can be learned.

Book Review: Life on the Edge

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden is a popular science book about a very fascinating research area – quantum biology – which is moving very fast, on many fronts. I fully understand that a huge amount of details need to be omitted in a popular text in the interest of simplicity and intelligibility. What I don’t like is that the book instead is full of anecdotes which have nothing to do with quantum biology. It might be fun reading, but it’s not what I expected from this book.

Michael Pannwitz on pre-conditions for Open Space

Here are quotes of Michael M Pannwitz from an email to the World wide Open Space Technology email list June 6, 2016. (My emphasis in bold.)

I think that there is a much easier way to have the sponsor find out whether ost [Open Space Technology] fits his situation… Simply go through the preconditions for an open space event that has at its nucleus the attempt to widen the space for the forces of self[-]organisation to unfold:

  • is attendance voluntary?
  • is it an open question?
  • is it a complex issue (not simply a complicated matter)?
  • is there sufficient diversity as far as participants is concerned?
  • is it a situation of conflict?
  • is it urgent?

In case the sponsor finds all preconditions sufficently in place I as faciliator give him all the promises we usually list. I have found this approach to entail the least amount of work for me and keeps all the responsibility where it should be, with the sponsor.

We all need to enter the central garden

The ”central garden” is Juanita Brown’s metaphor for the place where we come to discover and realize something about dialogue, meaning making and collaboration.1 It’s the place where we can reach an understanding that lies beneath methods and practices. The field of dialogic practice is massive, well researched and well documented,2 and the literature is filled with the importance of relational and sense making work.3 And still, dialogue doesn’t have enough presence to provide workable and practical alternatives.4

What is the problem?

I think it’s related to that you can only absorb counterintuitive truths by studying and seeing them yourself. This requires time and a willingness to question all assumptions. In a way, we all need to enter the ”central garden”!

1 Chris Corrigan, What’s in the central garden?, Chris Corrigan’s blog, 2016-06-15. (Accessed 2016-06-19)
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..

David Bohm och den vetenskapliga andan

Paavo Pylkkänen skriver i David Bohm och den vetenskapliga andan om Bohm och hans syn på vetenskap, andlighet och – inte minst – dialog (min betoning i fetstil).

Bohm och hans världsbild
Bohm upplevde mer och mer att … den verkliga utmaningen var huruvida människor kunde diskutera och agera tillsammans på ett kreativt och koherent sätt. Bohm kände att för att uppnå detta, borde mycket mer uppmärksamhet ges till kommunikation och dialog. Följaktligen initierade och deltog han under de tio sista åren av sitt liv aktivt i en process med gruppdialog, som har blivit känd under namnet ”Bohmian dialogue”.

Den vetenskapliga andan
Vetenskapen, när den utförs ordentligt, erkänner ett faktum oberoende av om vi tycker om det eller inte, dvs. oberoende av huruvida faktumet överensstämmer med våra djupt antagna (tros)föreställningar. Enligt Bohm är en sådan öppenhet mot erkännande av fakta sällan vad som sker mer generellt. … Ett sådant insisterande på en viss typ av ärlighet är nyckelfaktorn i vad Bohm kallar denvetenskapliga andan.

Andlighet och mening
Den vetenskapliga andan leder Bohm till att diskutera andlighet mer generellt. Vad är andan, eller engelskans ”spirit”, frågar han. Ordet ”spirit” innebär ursprungligen ”andetag” eller ”vind” (som vid andning eller inspiration). Bohm föreslår att vi tänker på ”ande/anda” som en osynlig kraft – som en livgivande essens som rör oss djupt, eller som en källa som rör allting inifrån. … En viktig sak som vi knyter samman med anden är mening. Bohm använder begreppet mening på ett brett sätt där det inkluderar betydelse, värde och ändamål. … Enligt Bohm upplever vi värdet i någonting genom att bli starkt berörda. Vi kan vidare säga att när någonting är mycket betydelsefullt upplever vi dess värde och allt detta ger upphov till ett starkt ändamål eller en stark avsikt. Man ser någonting liknande i hur orden ”mening” och ”betydelse” används i det svenska språket: ”Vad menar du?” eller ”Vad betyder detta?” (signifikans). ”Det betyder mycket för mig” (värde). ”Det var inte meningen” (avsikt). Enligt Bohm är dessa tre (signifikans, värde, avsikt) livets nyckelsärdrag.

Vetenskap: mekanistisk eller icke-mekanistisk?
[Bohm] hävdar att relativitetsteorin och kvantteorin är mer kompatibla med en icke-mekanistisk världsbild än de är med en mekanistisk. Kvantteorins matematik antyder att materians grundläggande rörelser kan förstås som en process av ”öppnande/utvecklande” och ”omslutande/invecklande” (”unfoldment” och ”enfoldment”). … Enligt Bohm innebär den moderna fysiken att allting innerst inne är relaterat till helheten och således till allt annat. Ett annat exempel på en inre relation är medvetandet. I medvetandet tar vi in information om allting, och det totala innehållet i medvetandet bestämmer vad vi är och hur vi reagerar. Vi är således via vårt inre relaterade till helheten och därmed till allt annat, i stället för att vara endast relaterade externt och mekaniskt. … Bohm föreslår vidare att den implicata/invecklade ordningen är gemensam för medvetande och materia, och således kan vara en grund till deras relation. … Därför är det inte bara så att all materia är internt relaterad, utan även medvetandet är internt relaterad till materia. Och genom detta är allt medvetande också internt relaterat.

Enligt Bohm är förmågan att ha en dialog en nödvändig startpunkt. På detta sätt kan nämligen människor från olika subkulturer komma tillsammans till en dialog och dela sina meningar med varandra, och detta kanske ger upphov till nya meningar som kan vara gemensamma. Vi måste börja med människor som är tillräckligt öppna för att kunna starta dialogen – vi kan helt enkelt inte börja med dem som inte vill. Vi behöver en plats dit människor kan komma tillsammans enbart för att diskutera, utan att försöka lösa problem, utan helt enkelt för att kommunicera, dela med sig till varandra och se huruvida de kan nå en gemensam förståelse. … [Bohm] föreslår att vi transformerar kulturen genom att vi börjar med en kärna, en liten grupp av människor. Det handlar inte om en praktik, men en situation där vi ständigt och kreativt lär oss i kommunikation med varandra. När vi börjar dela meningar, kommer vi också dela värden och utveckla en gemensam avsikt. Om alla förstår samma sak, kan vi alla arbeta tillsammans. Om vi alla ser saken på olika sätt och har olika ändamål kan vi inte göra detta. … Vad som behövs är således en dialog, vilket innebär ”mening” som flödar genom människor. Grundidén är att kunna diskutera samtidigt som man väntar med sina personliga åsikter. Åsikter hålls fram inför alla så att deras koherens (sammanhang) eller icke-koherens kan bedömas. Man ska inte undertrycka dem, insistera på dem eller övertyga eller övertala andra om deras värde. I stället vill vi förstå. … Bohm hävdar att om vi kunde lyssna på varandra på detta sätt, skulle det ge upphov till ett gemensamt medvetande som skulle vara sammanhängande.

Vetenskap och religion
Bohm förstår … ”religion” på ett annorlunda sätt … Andlighet för Bohm handlar om existensen av de subtila nivåerna i verkligheten. Vetenskapen står inte i motsättning till dessa nivåer utan utgör tvärtom ett sätt att finna dem och förstå dem. Enligt Bohm leder den vetenskapliga andan, när den uppföljs på rätt sätt, till andlighet.

Pylkkänen avslutar med att ”om man inte tycker att Bohms pragmatiska argument för andlighet är övertygande, är det kanske lättare att se något värdefullt i Bohms förslag vad gäller dialogen”.

John Seddon on lean

John Seddon writes about lean in his two books Freedom from Command & Control and The Whitehall Effect. He writes that the term lean was coined by Womack, Roos and Jones1 when they wrote The Machine That Changed the World. The term thus came to represent the Toyota Production System as a whole.

What’s interesting is that Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyta Production System, unequivocally warned against using any kind of label on grounds that people then would view it as a ready-made package.2 Ohno counselled, never codify method, because it is the thinking that is the key.3 Ohno’s favorite word was understanding. He never explained.4 To Ohno, the approach was a way of behaving when faced with problems that needed solving.5 The point is that you can only absorb counterintuitive truths by studying and seeing them yourself.6

To sum up, the reason lean has become so popular is that it reduced the Toyota Production System to a set of tools.7 Tools can be taught and reporting can be institutionalized.8 Learning, on the other hand, requires active involvement.9

Updates 2016-06-19:
References added to Freedom from Command & Control and The Machine That Change the World.

1 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
2 John Seddon, The Whitehall Effect, (1st ed., 2014), p. 149.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..
5 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
6 John Seddon, The Whitehall Effect, (1st ed., 2014), p. 150.
7 Ibid..
8 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
9 Ibid..

Book Review: Synchronicity

Synchronicity: The Marriage of Matter and Psyche by David Peat introduces the concept of synchronicity. Three chapters are about Sigmund Freud (pp. 27–32), Carl Jung (pp. 33–47), and Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 48–63). David Peat is a former theoretical physicist, and Wolfgang Pauli was a theoretical physicist, so many other physicists are mentioned in the book, for example Werner Heisenberg (pp. 48–50), Isaac Newton (pp. 64–66, 78–79), Michael Faraday (p. 66), James Maxwell (p. 66), and David Bohm (pp. 71–73, 126, 132).

I found the collaboration between Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli fascinating. Pauli learned much from Jung, but Pauli also ”felt that … Jung was inflating the psyche and giving it an overbalanced importance as opposed to matter” (p. 60). It seems as if ”Jung was never able to fully integrate the insights that Pauli was presenting to him” (p. 44).

There are many references to others as well in the book. I think the greatest benefit of the book is that it provides a background and an overview of the concept of synchronicity. It’s not until the last chapter, ”Seeking the Source” (pp. 137–149), that the author takes a completely new approach speculating on the possible source for synchronicities.

In conclusion, the book introduces a synchronistic dimension in which ”mind and matter are not … separate … but unfold from a universe of infinite subtlety” (p. 138), and which is ”closer to a creative living organism than to a machine” (p. 138). The book is well worth reading, but I would have liked if David Peat had explored the idea of a source further. It’s indeed an idea which is related to ”the question of the origin of life and the universe” and which has ”occupied thinkers down through the ages” (p. 141).

Related book review:
Book Review: Infinite Potential

What is healthy power?

The Healthy Power Alliance writes in its Healthy Power Manifesto that:

Healthy Power is the ability to do work over time
in a way that is good for all the people and systems involved:
the ecosystems, the human communities, the customers, the workers, the investors, the leaders,
all of us.
Healthy Power is circular, not linear or flat.
Healthy Power is fluid, not frozen.
Healthy Power is consensual, not coercive.1

The Healthy Power Alliance also writes that there are numerous models of Healthy Power:

The beautiful thing, the profoundly inspiring thing, is that if you want to make the power you live by into Healthy Power, you do not have to invent it yourself. You have years, decades, in some cases centuries of experience to draw on. If you want to bring Healthy Power to your workplace, community, or family, the options are numerous.2

Among the models, or gold standards, mentioned in the manifesto is Holacracy. It’s worth noting that Healthy Power is process power in Holacracy. Holacracy really doesn’t care how people feel as long as the process is honored. And Holacracy keeps human values out of the organizational space. This means, in my view, that the gold standards may not be so golden after all. I think we have to discover, and protect, Healthy Power ourselves. The beautiful thing is that we have millennia of experience to draw on. Healthy Power sees life’s intrinsic value. Unhealthy power doesn’t.

1 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the short version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)
2 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the FULL version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)