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)

Jaron Lanier on cybernetic totalism

Jaron Lanier writes in One-Half of a Manifesto that the dogma he objects to ”is composed of a set of interlocking beliefs and doesn’t have a generally accepted overarching name as yet, though I sometimes call it ”cybernetic totalism.” It has the potential to transform human experience more powerfully than any prior ideology, religion, or political system ever has, partly because it can be so pleasing to the mind, at least initially, but mostly because it gets a free ride on the overwhelmingly powerful technologies that happen to be created by people who are, to a large degree, true believers.” These are the interlocking beliefs of ”cybernetic totalism”:

  1. Cybernetic patterns of information provide the ultimate and best way to understand reality.
  2. People are no more than cybernetic patterns.
  3. Subjective experience either doesn’t exist, or is unimportant.
  4. Darwinian like evolution is believed to be the singular, superior description of all creativity and culture.
  5. Qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of information systems are expected to be inexorably accelerated by Moore’s law.
  6. Biology and physics will merge with computer science. When that happens it will be either impossible or something very different to be a human. If that happens, the ideology of cybernetic totalists could cause suffering for millions of people.

Sociocracy is both right and wrong

Sociocracy uses consent decision-making. 1 If people are autonomic, 2 then decision-making by consent 3 is right. But if people are autonomic, then limiting consent to policy decisions only is wrong. 4

Sociocracy is based on cybernetic principles. 5 The basic feedback model consists of input-transformation-output steps, 6 and leading-doing-measuring activities for each step. The problem is that cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems. 7

If people are autonomic, then there is simply no input mechanism that can change their internal operations. Force may change people’s external acts, but they will rebel as soon as the force is removed. 8 The cognitive model of people as rule-following entities is inadequate.

1 See Sociocracy, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 April 2016. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
2 There is a distinction between being autonomic, obeying self-law, and allonomic, obeying some other’s law. See Norm Hirst, Research findings to date, Autognomics Institute. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
3 Sociocracy makes a distinction between consent and consensus. Consent is defined as ”no objections,” and objections are based on one’s ability to work toward the aims of the organization. See Sociocracy: Consent vs. consensus, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 April 2016. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
4 All policy decisions are made by consent although the group may consent to use another decision-making method. See Sociocracy: Consent governs policy decision making (principle 1), Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 April 2016. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
5 Gerard Endenburg integrated his understanding of physics, cybernetics, and systems thinking, and applied these principles to human systems. See Sociocracy: In contemporary practice, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 April 2016. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
6 The ideal feedback model consists of the input of information or resources, the transformation of those resources, and the output. A feedback loop of information is used to correct the process or confirm that it is accomplishing the aim. See Sharon Villines, Producing Organization: The 27 Block Chart, 2 May 2013. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
7 Cybernetics is an advanced form of mechanism, but it is still a mechanism, which makes it a poor metaphor for any living system. See Elisabeth Sathouris, Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World, Kosmos Journal, Summary 2014. (Accessed 26 April 2016).
8 Living organisms are self-making, holistic, autonomous and have no information inputs. Perception begins in acts, not inputs. Autonomy implies organisms are closed to information. Information is not a commodity. In organisms, informare (formed within) replaces information. See Norm Hirst, Research findings to date, Autognomics Institute. (Accessed 26 April 2016)

Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

Here is how Elisabet Sahtouris defines ecosophy and why she thinks that cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems:

… I give the word ‘ecosophy’ (oikos + sophia = oikosophia) the meaning it would have had in ancient Greece, had it come into use there:

Ecosophy: wisely run household of human affairs
or, even more simply:
Wise Society 1

Cybernetics is an advanced form of mechanism, but it is still [a] mechanism, which I consider a poor metaphor for any living system – a metaphor missing the system’s very essence.

… elites have learned to control society by deliberately working to construct society itself as machinery, and teach people that it is machinery… That does not mean that psyche, society and nature are machinery!

… it is not possible from my perspective to promote an ecosophy in terms of cybernetic mechanics. … Mechanism and organism are created and function by completely different kinds of logic. 2

1 Elisabet Sathouris, Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World, Kosmos Journal, Summer 2014. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
2 Ibid..

Related post:
Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking

Alfie Kohn on love, motivation, and self-esteem

Alfie Kohn is the author of Punished by Rewards, which is a book about the damaging effects of rewards. Here are his thoughts on motivation, love, and self-esteem (my emphasis in bold):

When we deal with people who have less power than we do, we’re often tempted to offer them rewards for acting the way we want because we figure this will increase their level of motivation to do so. … Unfortunately, it isn’t. … What matters is whether one is intrinsically motivated to engage in an activity (which means one finds it valuable or satisfying in its own right) or extrinsically motivated (which means that doing it produces a result outside of the task, such as a reward). 1

Let’s consider a very different example of the same general principle. … the relevant question isn’t just whether, or even how much, we love our kids. It also matters how we love them. … I tend to focus on the distinction between loving kids for what they do and loving them for who they are. The first kind is conditional … The second kind of love is unconditional … 2

When adults control children, they end up promoting an introjected style that often results in learning that’s rigid, superficial, and ultimately less successful. … On the outside they look like admirably dedicated students, but they may have mortgaged their present lives to the future: noses to the grindstone, perseverant to a fault, stressed to the max. … Such students may be skilled test-takers and grade grubbers and gratification delayers, but they’re often motivated by a perpetual need to feel better about themselves … Their motivation is internal but it sure as hell isn’t intrinsic. And that key distinction would go unnoticed if we had just asked whether they had internalized certain values rather than inquired about the nature of that internalization. 3

1 Alfie Kohn, Why Lots of Love (or Motivation) Isn’t Enough, 23 April 2016. (Accessed 26 April 2016)
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid..

Carol Black on the wildness of children

Carol Black writes the following in On the Wildness of Children (my emphasis in bold):

When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. … But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust.

The same people who do not see themselves as “above” nature but as within it, tend not to see themselves as “above” children but alongside them. They see no hard line between work and play, between teacher and student, between learning and life. It is a possibility worth considering that this is more than coincidence.

The underlying belief that somebody always has to be in charge is stubbornly persistent, woven into our thinking at a very deep level. There always has to be a subject and an object, a master and a slave. We have forgotten how to live and let live.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the ”developed” (”civilized”) mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world.

— Carol Black1

1 Carol Black, On The Wildness of Children, April 2016. (Accessed 24 April 2016)

Sociocracy links

The following links have been copied from sociokrati.se.



Training Materials:




Organizations using Sociocracy:







Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking

Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking. The computing metaphor, for example, is popular in Holacracy, where Holacracy is likened with an operating system and people are viewed as sensors acting on behalf of the organization. But our thinking has consequences. Once all we care about is the organization’s purpose, then all we are left with is tyranny –  Holacratic tyranny.

Related post:
Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

Beth Tener on working together

If you want to arrive at a shared vision and a plan that integrates and builds on the breadth and depth of expertise and perspectives of the group, it has to be developed together. The challenge is that in order to get to that, there is a time early on where you have to bring everyone together without a clear vision or clear plan. But wow, is this territory uncomfortable for people! 1

For collaboration to work, one has to be willing to enter uncomfortable territory of not having the answer. People can feel it when they are asked to collaborate but the plans and answers are already determined. … Real collaboration enables us to develop ideas and solutions that could only emerge from this combination of people thinking and working together. … We need to make sense of the landscape and needs, drawing on as many perspectives as we can, and then create and try various actions, learning and reflecting as we go. 2

Here are some of the ways how to work in this uncomfortable territory of not having a clear answer or plan:
• Name the discomfort
• See it as ‘iterative design’
• Frame strategic questions
• Appreciate the value of the mystery
• Cultivate patience
• Meditate
• Orient people to working in this different way 3

2 Ibid., PART 2, 7 April 2016. (Accessed 16 April 2016)
3 Ibid., PART 3, 11 April 2016. (Accessed 16 April 2016)

George Monbiot on destroying autonomy

The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafkaesque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty, and breeds frustration, envy and fear. 1
— George Monbiot

1 Sick of this market-driven world? You should be by George Monbiot, 5 August 2014. (Accessed 16 April 2016)

Joseph Campbell on the quietness within

Joseph Campbell
The place to find is within yourself. … The athlete who is in top form has a quite place within himself, and it’s around this, somehow, that his action occurs. If he’s all out there in the action field, he will not be performing properly. … this is true for dance as well. There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held. If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart. 1
— Joseph Campbell

1 Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, (Doubleday, 1987), pp. 161–162.

Holacratic tyranny

People are viewed as sensors for the organization in Holacracy (and Sociocracy 3.0):

  • … individuals act as sensors (nerve endings) for the organization 1
  • An organization … is equipped with sensors — … the human beings who energize its roles and sense reality on its behalf. 2
  • One powerful way … is to harness the tremendous sensing power of the human consciousness available to our organizations. When those tensions can be processed quickly and effectively, then the organization can benefit … 3
  • The whole point of Holacracy is to allow an organization to better express its purpose. 4
  • … an ”organization” is an entity that exists beyond the people, with its own purpose to enact and with work to do beyond just serving the people doing that work. 5
  • 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 … 6
  • The organization is depending on you, as its sensor, to give voice to the tensions you sense so that it can evolve. 7
  • Holacracy is focused on the organization and its purpose—not on the people and their desires and needs … 8
  • Many of the rules … are there specifically to ensure that the focus is only on what’s needed for the organization to express its purpose, … not on … anything else.” 9
  • … we are installing a system in which we no longer need to lean on our connections and relationships to be able to process organizational tensions. 10
  • … the organizational space is the result of working together role to role and governing those roles for the sake of the organization’s purpose. 11
  • [Holacracy] keeps human values out of the organizational space, which also keeps the organization out of our human-value space. 12

Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking. I think the sensor 13 metaphor leads the thinking in the wrong direction. The processing of tensions becomes primary when people are viewed as sensors, but people are neither sensors, nor actuators. 14 Alternatives to navigating via tension are navigating via awareness, 15 or navigating via the quietness within. 16 The latter is, for example, what the Quakers do in their unanimous decision-making. 17

My view is that values 18 are primary – especially intrinsic human values. Values can be measured systemically, extrinsically, and intrinsically. 19 For example, systemically a worker is a production unit, extrinsically one of several workers, and intrinsically a human being. 20 In Holacracy, systemically an individual is a role and sensor, extrinsically one of several roles and sensors, and intrinsically a human being. Holacracy prioritizes the systemic value of thought by keeping intrinsic human values out of the organizational space. However, elevating systemic values over intrinsic values ultimately leads to tyranny – Holacratic tyranny. 21

1 Bernhard Bockelbrink & James Priest, Introduction to Sociocracy 3.0, (v2016-01-29), p. 81. (Accessed 2016-04-09)
2 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, p. 4.
3 Ibid., p. 7.
4 Ibid., p. 34.
5 Ibid., p. 148.
6 Ibid., p. 166.
7 Ibid., p. 194.
8 Ibid., p. 198.
9 Ibid., p. 199.
10 Ibid., p. 200.
11 Ibid., p. 201.
12 Ibid., p. 202.
13 A sensor is an object whose purpose is to detect events or changes in its environment, and then provide a corresponding output, Sensor – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-04-09).
14 An actuator is the mechanism by which a control system acts upon an environment, Actuator – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-04-09)
15 The proposition of Theory U is that the quality of results in any kind of socio-economic system is a function of the awareness that people in the system are operating from. See Theory U, Presencing Institute. (Accessed 2016-04-09).
16 There’s a center, a quietness within, from which action occurs. This quiet place has to be known and held. See Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, (Doubleday, 1987), pp. 161–162.
17 Holding the quite place, or silence, within is how Quakers make unanimous decisions. See Michael Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends, pp. 49–50.
18 Value is used as defined by Robert Hartman. When life has meaning, it has value. The richer its meaning, the richer its value. See Robert Hartman Freedom to Live: The Robert Hartman Story, p. 60.
19 Ibid., p. 57.
20 Ibid., p. 67.
21 Tyranny, as used here, is making use of control, not for the good of those who are in the system, but for the system’s own benefit only.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holacracy
Book Review: Freedom to Live
Book Review: Beyond Majority Rule

There is another way

Here’s an excerpt (my emphasis in bold) from Russel Means’s most famous speech in 1980.1 There’s something deeper than just a rejection of Marxism from this radical. He has an entirely different worldview compared to all ”isms”:

“… Newton … “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. … Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. … it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. … In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. …

There is another way.It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. … There is no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it’s beyond human control.

All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, … That’s revolution. …

What I’m putting out here is … a cultural proposition. … To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all other “isms” is simply to remain within European culture. … As a fact, this constitutes a choice. … retain your sense of reality.

1 Revolution and Amrican Indians: “Marxism is as Alien to My Clture as Capitalism”, 17 October 2010. (Accessed 5 April 2016)

All roles in Holacracy are managerial roles

Tim Rayner writes in the article ”Medium’s Experiment with Holacracy Failed. Long Live the Experiment!” that:

  • Holacracy flattens organisations, getting rid of hierarchical power structures.
  • It distributes power to individuals, who get to choose what projects they work on and are granted full authority to execute tasks as they see fit.”
  • The Lead Link heads a circle, but doesn’t manage it.

I’d challenge this:

  • First of all, I think a Holacratic organization is all but flat. The organizational structure consists of nested interlinked circles.1 It’s this hierarchy of nested circles which is called a holarchy.2
  • Secondly, Holacracy distributes power to Roles, not individuals. I think this is an important distinction. In Holacracy, the power is in the process, which is defined in detail.3 Individuals have the basic responsibility, and sacred duty,4 to act as role fillers. Individuals also have specific duties in offering transparency, processing requests, and accepting certain rules of prioritization.5 The process is all that matters, and it takes care of everything else.6
  • And finally, I do think that the Lead Link manages the circle. It depends of course on how you define manage. The Lead Link definitely controls the circle, and control is a managerial function.7 With this definition, all Roles in Holacracy are managerial roles.

1 Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, p. 47.
2 Ibid., p. 46.
3 Ibid., p. 21.
4 Ibid., p. 85.
5 Ibid., p. 92.
6 Ibid., p. 111.
7 Control (management), Wikipedia. (Accessed 31 March 2016)

Related posts:
Traditional vs. Sociocratic vs. Holacratic Command & Control
Book Review: Holacracy by Brian Robertson

A protective ring for creative support

Julia Cameron writes that ”we are meant to midwife dreams for one another.” 1 Getting creative support, having a ”protective ring”, 2 or circle, is often ”the difference between success and failure, between hope and despair.” 3 She outlines the following principles for such a circle: 4

  1. Creativity flourishes in a place of safety and acceptance.
  2. Creativity grows among friends, withers among enemies.
  3. All creative ideas are children who deserve our protection.
  4. All creative success requires creative failure.
  5. Fulfilling our creativity is a sacred trust.
  6. Violating someone’s creativity violates a sacred trust.
  7. Creative feedback must support the creative child, never shame it.
  8. Creative feedback must build on strengths, never focus on weaknesses.
  9. Success occurs in clusters and is born in generosity.
  10. The good of another can never block our own.

1 Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self, p. 205.
2 Ibid., p. 206.
3 Ibid., p. 207.
4 Ibid., pp. 210–211.

Life-nurturing vs. life-depleting behaviors

The environment within which people work is key to the organization’s success. Life-nurturing conditions contribute to high creativity and productivity, while life-depleting conditions contribute to apathy and low productivity.

Life-nurturing behaviors 1 Life-depleting behaviors 2
Listening Controlling
Understanding Punishing
Trusting Regulating
Sharing Telling
Clarifying Shaming

1 These are some of the behaviors listed in Birgitt Williams, The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership, (DALAR, 2014), p. 221.
2 Ibid..

Foundational beliefs of the Genuine Contact Way

The Genuine Contact Way, as applied to our work, is about inviting everyone within the organization to express their fullness in all that they do, to contribute to the collective wisdom of the organization, and to experience high enjoyment, high creativity, high productivity, and high engagement every day. 1 The five foundational beliefs of the Genuine Contact Way are: 2

  1. Spirit (conscious energy) is all that is.
  2. All organisms have within them the blueprint for their perfect health. It is imperative that we learn to make life-nurturing rather than life-depleting choices.
  3. Genuine contact with the self, one other, the collective(s), and all of creation is critical to our positive development and evolution both individually and as a collective.
  4. Change is constant. We need to expand the capacity for working with constant change.
  5. Simplicity allows us to handle complexity. We must keep it simple.

In keeping it simple, it is important to pause, slow down, and determine your own beliefs. 3

1 Birgitt Williams, The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership, (DALAR, July 2014), p. 2.
2 Ibid., p. 211.
3 Ibid., p. 212.

Coming to the right solution for all

When we have to find solutions, we take our time. We begin in a circle of chiefs, with the grandmothers standing behind. The chiefs must answer to the grandmothers and to the community they represent for their decisions. They understand that they have a lot of responsibility, not to their own egos, but to the grandmothers and to the community. And so, if it is not possible to find the right solution at one council, we wait until the next time there is a meeting. There is no shame in not finding the solution quickly. There is shame in not coming to the right solution for all who are affected.
— Six Nations Elder in Canada 1

1 Birgitt Williams, The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership, (DALAR, July 2014), p. 195.

Ancient Indian principles

I received the following ancient Indian philosophy via Murari Saha, who is a friend. I was struck by how similar these ancient Indian principles of spirituality are to the principles of Open Space Technology.

Ancient Indian principles
Open Space Technology principles
Every Person you encounter is the right one. Whoever comes is the right people.
Whatever has happened, is the only thing that could [have] happened. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!
Each moment in which something begins is the right moment. Whenever it starts is the right time.
What is Over is Over. When it’s over, it’s over.
Nothing is permanent. Wherever it is, is the right place.