Författararkiv: Jan

Organizing retrospective 110

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This week, I published two new posts in my series on Life in Work / Liv i arbetet:

  • Liv i arbetet 5Principen om icke-tvång (the principle of no compulsion). This post is based on my review of The Werkplaats Adventure by Wyatt Rawson. There was no use of force – or threat of force in the school. Interestingly, the freedom granted resulted in spontaneous acceptance of responsibility. The children took responsibility, even when the teacher was away. It’s also worth noting that the children didn’t always keep to the rules, even though they had made them themselves – how human! And much of the organization of the school was deliberately left fluid – how unusual! In short, the organizing was based on each child’s intrinsic motivation and value as a human being.
  • Liv i arbetet 6Om värderingar (about values). Holacracy and sociocracy are based on the same principles. Both also value organizational transparency and effectiveness. However, only Sociocracy emphasizes equivalence, that is, each person’s equal value as human beings. My conclusion is that better ways of organizing ultimately is about values. What do we value most? People or the system? I will return to this in future posts.

And I posted two reflections on generative organizing:

  • Organizing reflection 34 — Generative organizing increases individual and organizational freedom, while it balances autonomy and relatedness on all levels. It’s a generative/creative process for well-achieved human relationships, prospering organizations, as well as for an economy in harmony with the biosphere.
    Inspiration: Andreas Weber’s The Biology of Wonder.
  • Organizing reflection 35Generative organizing is self-directed, creative, continual, and reflexive. It’s about expressing our felt sense for a situation. It’s to discover in the real time of the situation how to act effectively.
    Inspiration: Peter B. Vaill’s Learning as a Way of Being.

This week, I’ve read:

And I’m currently reading:

What was good? What can be improved?
Andreas Weber opens up most interesting perspectives on the new biology and the shift from Enlightenment to Enlivenment. It is a paradigm shift! I’m familiar with some of Andreas Weber’s references, for example Elinor Ostrom, but some are new. I’m reminded that I need to review Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. I mentioned Ostrom’s book in this and this retrospective almost two years ago. Oops!

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 35

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
I’m currently reading Peter B. Vaill’s book Learning as a Way of Being. Waill introduces seven qualities, or modes, of learning as a way of being:1

Self-directed learning
Creative learning
Expressive learning
Feeling learning
On-line learning
Continual learning
Reflexive learning

These modes overlap and interrelate in countless ways.2

Similarly, generative organizing is self-directed, creative, continual, and reflexive. It’s about expressing our felt sense for a situation. It’s to discover in the real time of the situation how to act effectively.3

Institutional learning is the antithesis of learning as a way of being. Likewise, institutional organizing is the antithesis of generative organizing.

Notes:
1 Peter B. Vaill, Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water (Jossey Bass Business and Management Series, 1996), p. 56.
2 Ibid., pp. 86–86.
3 Ibid., p. 155.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Liv i arbetet 6

Om värderingar

Jag nämnde i mitt förförra inlägg att sociokrati under ett par års tid var mitt huvudspår i sökandet efter bättre sätt att arbeta tillsammans. Två månader efter att jag hade börjat mitt sökande upptäckte jag sociokrati via holakrati i november 2012. Holakrati och sociokrati bygger på samma grundläggande principer. Båda hanterar organisering som ett reglertekniskt problem. Båda värderar också transparens och effektivitet. Den stora skillnaden är att sociokrati också betonar likvärdighet, dvs. allas människors lika värde. Det gör inte holakrati!

Min slutsats är att bättre sätt att arbeta tillsammans ytterst handlar om värderingar. Vad är det vi värderar mest? Människorna eller systemet? Vårt val av värderingar är helt avgörande! Nästa gång kommer jag att titta närmare på detta.

Relaterade inlägg:
Book Review: Sociocracy
Book Review: Holacracy
Holacracy vs. Sociocracy

Organizing reflection 34

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
I’ve just read Andreas Weber’s excellent book The Biology of Wonder, which is about aliveness, feeling, and the paradigm shift from Enlightenment to Enlivenment.1 It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the last six years. The book is about moving beyond reason into scientific, economic, and organizational enlivenment. The latter is about the move from mechanistic to more organic forms of societal organization. Andreas Weber writes (my emphasis in bold):

To organize a community (between humans and/ or nonhuman agents) according to the principles of embodied ecology, therefore always means to increase individual freedom by enlarging the community’s freedom …2

Living reality rather depends on a precarious balance between autonomy and relatedness on all its levels. It is a creative process, which produces rules for an increase of the whole through the self-realization of each of its members. These rules are different for each time and each place, but we find them everywhere life is. They are valid for autopoiesis, the autocreation of the organic forms but also for a well-achieved human relationship, for a prospering ecosystem as well as for an economy in harmony with the biospheric household.3

It must be a practice of realizing oneself through connection with others, who are also free to realize themselves. […] If we look to the ways other cultures have tried to become a creative part of ecosystems, […] we can observe that the form they do this is what we would call a commons. The other beings are not an outside nor a resource.4

Historically, we understand by “commons” an economic system in which various participants use the same resource and follow particular rules in order not to overexploit it. If we look deeper into actual commons principles, we can see that the traditional commoners do not distinguish between the resource they protect and themselves, as users of the resource. The members of a commons are not conceptually detached from the space they are acting in. The commons and the commoners are the same. This is basically the situation in an ecosystem.5

The idea of the commons thus provides a unifying principle that dissolves the supposed opposition between nature and society/culture. It cancels the separation of the ecological and the social. In any existence that commits itself to the commons, the task we must face is to realize the well-being of the individual while not risking a decrease of the surrounding and encompassing whole.6

Generative organizing increases individual and organizational freedom, while it balances autonomy and relatedness on all levels. It’s a generative/creative process for well-achieved human relationships, prospering organizations, as well as for an economy in harmony with the biosphere.

Notes:
1 Heike Löschmann of Heinrich Böll Foundation coined the term ”enlivenment”. See Andreas Weber, Enlivenment: Towards a fundamental shift in the concepts of nature, culture, and politics (Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2013), p. 11.
2 Andreas Weber, The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science (New Society Publishers, 2016, Kindle Edition), p. 352.
3 Ibid., p. 353.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid., p. 353–354.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Liv i arbetet 5

Principen om icke-tvång

Jag nämnde i mitt förra inlägg att grundaren av sociokrati fick sina grundidéer från skolan där han gick i som barn. Detta är en berättelse om denna skola—De Werkplaats Kindergemeenschap i Bilthoven, Nederländerna—och hur den växte fram steg för steg.

Kees och Betty Boeke startade skolan på 1920-talet. Skolan är ett exempel på hur ideal som frihet, demokrati och jämlikhet omsattes i praktiken. På samma sätt som barn tycker om frihet och spontanitet så tycker de om ordning och reda. Utmaningen är att hitta en minimal struktur som stöder maximal frihet. Ordning kan förstås skapas med tvång, men rädsla hämmar all spontanitet. Frågan blir då hur man kan skapa ordning utan tvång? Detta är bakgrunden till att principen om icke-tvång etablerades.

I en bok från 1956 beskrivs hur vänliga barnen är mot alla, och hur enkelt och naturligt skolan verkade fungera. Det fanns mycket glädje och skratt. De äldre barnen hjälpte de yngre. Det fanns ingen skadegörelse och inga slagsmål. Det fanns inget tvång, eller hot om tvång. Skolan verkade genomsyras av tystnad och lugn.

Hemligheten bakom skolans framgångar låg i hur frustrationer i skollivet hanterades. Bespreking förkroppsligade andan på skolan. Samtalsandan hade växt fram från Kees och Betty Boekes ursprungliga skola. Samtalet var en samling där allt som berörde hela skolan diskuterades. Var och en på skolan hade möjlighet att säga sitt. Och idéer kombinerades så att lösningar som representerade den gemensamma viljan kunde hittas. Kees och Betty Boeke fick denna idé från kväkarna och deras samlingar, där man söker efter ”mötets mening” istället för att rösta.

Även om icke-tvång tillämpades, och alla beslut fattades gemensamt, så finns inga garantier för att skolans atmosfär kommer att bestå. Skolans framgång är beroende av dess familjära atmosfär, där minoriteten aldrig körs över. Det är den familjära atmosfären som förklarar vänligheten mellan vuxna och barn. Denna atmosfär växte naturligt fram ur de omständigheter vilka skolan grundades.

Det viktiga är att barnen respekteras som människor. Varje människa förtjänar respekt, hänsyn och kärlek. Det gick inte att bära en ”mask” på skolan. Du kanske inte vill att andra ska se hur du känner dig, men det går inte att dölja. Även om det inte alltid är lätt att vara utan en ”mask”, så ger denna spontanitet också glädje.

Skolan uppmuntrade barnens kreativitet. Aktiviteter som barnen helhjärtat kunde ägna sig åt säkerställde en atmosfär av vitalitet och glädje i livet. Poängen är att låta barnens intressen ta dem till den punkt där de vill lära sig. Och det fungerade! Effekten blev att barnen kände att deras personliga behov uppfylldes så långt som möjligt. Det var också en känsla som var viktigt för att vidmakthålla atmosfären av frihet på skolan.

Ett oväntat resultat av friheten var spontant ansvarstagande. Barnen tog ansvar även då läraren inte var på plats. Mänskliga behov sågs och blev omgående tillfredsställda. Barnen förväntandes inte organisera allt själva. Barnen ingick i en grupp, en gemenskap. Den enda faran var att de vuxna tog över och därmed tog från barnen deras eget initiativ och ansvar, så att barnen själva inte fick uppleva tillfredsställelsen av att själva organisera och skapa något.

Balansen mellan frihet och struktur måste hittas för att en gemenskap ska vara hälsosam. Skolan lyckades med detta genom att kombinera tre saker: (1) Ingen rädsla och inget tvång; (2) vänlighet vid förseelser; och (3) kontinuerligt stöd. Det innebär inte att det inte fanns några sanktioner, eller att inget gjordes om ett barn misskötte sig.

Poängen är att barnen inte dömdes eller fördömdes. Att döma och fördöma är sämre än sämst. Ingen indignation visades. Barnet fick enbart frågan: Varför gjorde du det? Känslan av skuld uppstod naturligt. Och med det kommer också önskan att gottgöra. Nästa fråga var: Vad tänker du göra åt det? Frånvaron av tvång gjorde att det inte fanns någon att motsätta sig. Valet att rätta till var barnets. Personlig antagonism undveks.

Däremot kunde vissa barn uppleva att det moraliska trycket ibland blev så stort att de upplevde det förtryckande och gjorde uppror. Några lämnade t.o.m. skolan, även om de flesta var tacksamma för hjälpen de fick med sina svårigheter. Skolans metoder hjälpte t.o.m. barn som hade mentala svårigheter. Det tog en eller två terminer.

Skolgemenskapen är ett samarbete mellan barn och vuxna. Den underliggande idén är att barnen vill lära sig, så det är upp till barnen att bevara den ordning som krävs för inlärning. Ursprungligen fanns endast en kommitté, Bespreking, som möttes en gång i veckan eller oftare om nödvändigt. Alla andra kommittéer föddes ur denna.

Från den ursprungliga Bespreking utvecklades Ronde. Dess syfte var att hantera ordningsfrågor. Alla medlemmar i Ronde var lika ansvariga för att lösa ett problem de var inblandade i. När det är problem, beror det vanligtvis inte bara på ett barn. Atmosfären i en grupp är lika ansvarigt för att något går fel, som brist på kontroll av en viss individ.

Mycket av skolans organisation lämnades medvetet flytande. Mänskliga, och inte tekniska, faktorer var avgörande. Detta inkluderade sammansättningen av kommittéerna. Kommittéer skapades spontant som ett resultat av skolans kraftiga tillväxt, när organisationen inte längre kunde hantera det stora inflödet av barn.

Barn håller sig inte alltid till reglerna, även när de har gjort dem själva. De lär sig från sina misslyckanden, så de måste få möjlighet att göra misstag. Konflikter uppstår alltid. När en lösning hittas, flyttas vanligtvis konflikten någon annanstans. Barn är spontana och handlar impulsivt i ögonblicket utan att tänka på konsekvenserna för andra. Viktigare än själva ordningen är lärandet i sig. Det finns alltid barn som inte lyssnar. Och det finns alltid en minoritet som inte låter sig påverkas av något.

Spontanitet förväntades på De Werkplaats. Det är naturligt för barn att vara spontana. Atmosfären blev outhärdlig för vuxna som irriterade sig på det. Inflödet av nya lärare ökade svårigheterna. Handling och reaktion hörde till ordningen för dagen. Vad vi gör och säger påverkas av det vi känner. Inget kan förhindra detta, så en ärlig ödmjukhet tillsammans med en villighet att erkänna misstag krävs. Där fanns också den ständiga känslomässiga belastningen som finns i alla grupper som arbetar tillsammans. Dagliga svårigheter uppstår i alla grupper.

Auktoriteten låg hos gruppen och inte hos läraren. Principen om icke-tvång fick såväl lärare som barn att ta sin del av ansvaret i det som gick fel. Detta krävde en villighet att se hela situationen utan beskyllningar. De Werkplaats tog för givet att alla vill vara vänner, och att det är bättre att vara kärleksfull än att hata. Aggression smälter bort i en atmosfär av ömsesidigt givande och tagande. Tillsammans kan vi göra livet finare och rikare för alla.

Relaterade inlägg:
Book Review: The Werkplaats Adventure

Organizing retrospective 109

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This week, I started a new series of posts in Swedish on Liv i arbetet (life in work). I started searching for better ways of working together six years ago, in September 2012. I’m going to write about this search. It is my personal story. Hence, I need to write in my native language. Here’s a short summary:

  • Wednesday — I used this poem which I wrote last year as a starting point. Yeah, it’s pretty personal.
  • Thursday — I wrote that assumptions usually are valid within certain limits, but not necessarily outside of these.
  • Saturday — This means that assumptions which are valid for machines aren’t valid for human beings.
  • Sunday — Today, I wrote about sociocracy. I spent several years of my search for better ways of working on sociocracy. I even wrote an e-book on sociocracy together with John Schinnerer, who is a founding member of The Sociocracy Consulting Group. There are some good ideas in sociocracy, but I think the engineering preconceptions and assumptions are too strong. Here is an old post on the phenomenology of sociocracy. (The engineering perspective is even stronger in sociocracy’s cousin Holacracy. Here is an old post on Holacracy and Arthur Koestler. Koestler coined the term holarchy in The Ghost in the Machine.)

Besides starting my new series of posts on Liv i arbetet, I also posted the following reflections on generative organizing:


A new book arrived this week. It’s Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within by Robert E. Quinn. I’m looking forward to reading this book.


Otherwise, I’ve spent the week reading Andreas Weber‘s The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science. I’ve read about half of the book, but can already say that it’s one of the most interesting book I’ve read since I started my reading odyssey six years ago. The disconnection between humans and their organizations is, in my view, related to the disconnection between humans and nature. Andreas Weber eloquently addresses the latter. I’ve ordered Andreas Weber’s next book on Biopoetics: Towards an Existential Ecology. I hope it will arrive in the next few days. I’m looking forward to reading this book too.

What was good? What can be improved?
I’m really glad that I finally got started with my new series on Liv i arbetet.

I see a connection between Andreas Weber’s intrinsic value and Robert Hartman’s The Structure of Value. Hartman’s seminal work is about the valuation of value. Intrinsic value is more valuable than extrinsic value, and extrinsic value is more valuable than systemic value. Here is my review of Robert Hartman’s book.

I also see a connection between Andreas Weber’s meaning, as manifested in the body, and Eugene Gendlin’s felt meaning, which is a bodily comprehension. Here is my review of Eugene Gendlin’s Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective.

Several books have arrived the past few weeks which I haven’t had the time to read yet. I also have a couple of book reviews that I need to write. Also, I’d like to internalize Andreas Weber’s thinking and integrate it with all the other reading that I’ve done. It will take some time, for sure.

Notes:
1 Andreas Weber, The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling, and the Metamorphosis of Science (New Society Publishers, 2016), pp. 12, 330-3, 338.
2 Andreas Weber writes that meaning makes itself manifest in the body. Ibid., p. 90.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Liv i arbetet 4

Människor är inte komponenter i ett system

Rätt snart efter att jag hade bestämt mig för att aktivt börja söka efter bättre sätt att arbeta tillsammans hittade jag sociokrati. Det blev mitt huvudspår under ett par års tid. Jag skrev en entusiastisk bokrecension, deltog i flera sociokrati-workshops, utbildade mig i sociokrati-facilitering, samt skrev en e-bok om sociokrati tillsammans med en amerikansk sociokrati-konsult, som råkar ha svenska som andraspråk.

Min vana trogen gick jag på djupet. Jag läste de två böcker om sociokrati som grundaren av sociokrati själv har skrivit. Och det var då jag såg det—att sociokrati betraktar organisering som ett reglertekniskt problem. Det innebär att själv-organisering i sociokrati i själva verket handlar om själv-reglering. Det förklarar också varför samtycke vid beslutsfattandet enbart avser policy-beslut.

En sociokratisk organisation är regelstyrd och förvånansvärt traditionell. Det gäller även ledarskapet. Ledaren för kretsen styr det dagliga arbetet. Under en tid var jag ledare för en krets i en brittisk sociokrati-organisation. Jag upplevde att den överordnade kretsens ledare använde lite väl mycket ”peka-med-hela-handen”. Samtycke gäller enbart policy-beslut. I övrigt är förväntan att du gör du som du blir tillsagd.

Samtidigt så ska inte samtycke vid policy-beslut underskattas (i detta ingår öppna val). Det är ett stort steg framåt—men det är inte tillräckligt bra! En människa är inte en komponent i ett reglertekniskt system. Ett intressantare exempel på hur man kan arbeta bättre tillsammans finns i den skola där grundaren av sociokrati gick som barn. Det var där han fick några av sina grundläggande idéer, som trots allt är riktigt bra. Tyvärr är tillämpningen i sociokrati lite väl ingenjörsmässig. Människor är inte komponenter i ett reglertekniskt system.

Relaterade inlägg:
E-bok: Sociokrati—En metod för självstyre
Book Review: Sociocracy
Book Review: We the People

Organizing reflection 33

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Woody Zuill (@WoodyZuill) is co-author of Mob Programming: A Whole Team Approach. He works with software development teams to help them excel in their work and life. Woody Zuill uses the values and principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development as a foundation for his work, but he doesn’t see them as ”static.” He sees them as a ”somewhat firm yet dynamic set of guidelines” for his own thinking and exploration. For him, ”Pure Agile” is to ”constantly Reflect, Tune, and Adjust.”1 For me, this sounds generative.

Generative organizing requires constant reflecting, tuning, and adjusting. This is based on continuous felt sensing.2

Notes:
1 Woody Zuill, To Me, This is Agile, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Agility, 2014-03-31 (accessed 2018-09-01).
2 Eugene Gendlin described the unclear, pre-verbal sense of ”something” as a felt sense. Gendlin also described it as ”sensing an implicit complexity, a wholistic sense of what one is working on”. See Focusing – Wikipedia (accessed 2018-09-01).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Liv i arbetet 3

Antaganden som gäller för maskiner gäller inte för människor

Det är rätt märkligt egentligen. För sex år sedan började jag aktivt söka efter bättre sätt att arbeta tillsammans. Det är först nu som jag inser att jag redan hade svaret, men inte riktigt vågade lita på det.

För tjugo år sedan började jag arbeta med verksamhetsutveckling kopplad till mjukvaruutveckling. De kommande åren blev jag auktoriserad instruktör och certifierad coach i hur man bygger upp och leder utvecklingsteam. Metoden bygger på processdisciplin, dvs. definiera processen och se till så att den följs i tron att då blir det bra.  Jag lärde andra att tillämpa statistisk processkontroll, och använde det på mig själv. Jag tänkte—människor är inte maskiner—men tog det inte på allvar. Kanske för att jag inte såg något alternativ och visste för lite?

Det tog mig tio år att inse att kognitivt tunga processer, dvs. processer där man tänker mycket, som nu när jag skriver, inte är statistiskt stabila. En maskin är förutsägbar. En tänkande människa är det inte, och mitt skrivande är det inte. Jag kan styra och kontrollera en maskin, men om jag försöker styra och kontrollera en människa så gör hon motstånd, eller rentav uppror. Att behandla en människa som en maskin tar död på hennes engagemang. Det är inte så konstigt att enbart 13%1 av alla anställda är engagerade i sitt arbete!

Eftersom människor inte är maskiner behöver vi organisera mänsklig verksamhet på ett helt annat sätt. Jag skrev i mitt förra inlägg att antaganden ofta är giltiga inom givna ramar, men inte nödvändigtvis utanför dessa. Antaganden som gäller för maskiner, gäller inte för levande varelser, t.ex. människor! Och vill vi ha arbetsplatser som inte tar död på engagemang, initiativkraft och kreativitet så behöver vi se och värdera det som ger förutsättningar för liv i arbetet.

Fotnot:
1 Gallup, Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work, 2013-10-08 (hämtad 2018-09-01).

Liv i arbetet 2

Antaganden beror på sammanhanget

Mitt förra inlägg handlade om att det är dags att bryta kedjorna, dvs. att det är dags att ifrågasätta gamla antaganden och övertygelser.

Här är en liten berättelse:

En gång kom en stor cirkus till staden där vi bor. Barnen var små så vi gick på en föreställning. Under pausen gick vi runt bland djuren. Där stod en stor elefant alldeles ensam. Den var bunden till en liten pinne. Jag tänkte att den hur lätt som helst skulle kunna gå därifrån, men den stod kvar och såg ledsen ut.

Antaganden är ofta sanna i ett givet sammanhang—men i ett annat sammanhang, eller när omständigheterna ändras, är det inte nödvändigtvis sant längre.

Vad är det vi tror är sant, men som inte är det? I våra liv? Och i arbetslivet?

Det tänker jag titta närmare på härefter.

Liv i arbetet 1

Dags att bryta kedjorna

För sex år sedan bestämde jag mig för att aktivt börja söka efter bättre sätt att arbeta tillsammans. Samtidigt startade jag min blogg. Sedan dess har jag läst mycket och gärna. Det har blivit ett av mina stora glädjeämnen.

För två år sedan började jag publicera en serie inlägg kring Organizing Between and Beyond. Under dessa år har jag samlat på mig mycket material. Jag har blivit mycket bra på att lyssna på andra. Nu vill jag ge uttryck för min egen röst. Och då behöver jag göra det på mitt modersmål, dvs. svenska.

Utgångspunkten för min egen personliga berättelse får bli dikten Chains, som jag skrev förra året. Här är den på svenska:

Kedjor

Jag såg
en liten flicka
denna morgon
gråtande
på hennes väg till
skolan

Det kunde ha
varit jag

Och
här var jag
på min väg till
jobbet

Femtio år senare

Nu
är det dags
att bryta
kedjorna

Så får det bli!

Organizing reflection 32

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Today’s reflection is based on Abeba Birhane‘s (@Abebab) tweets from Alicia Juarrero‘s book Dynamics in Action: Intentional Behavior as a Complex System. This is an interesting book about complexity and human intentionality. Juarrero argues that a mistaken model underlies contemporary theories of action and proposes a different logic based on complex adaptive systems.

With thanks to Abeba Birhane, here are some quotes from Alicia Jarreror’s book (my highlights in bold):

Behaviourist analyses have tried to reduce the flexibility and appropriateness characteristic of human action to stimulus-response patterns.

What went largely unrecognized until recently was the fact that the classical thermodynamics of the 19th century treats all systems as if they are closed, isolated & near equilibrium – which living things are not.

Interactions among certain dynamical processes can create a systems-level organization with new properties that are not the simple sum of the components that constitute the higher level.

The causal mechanism at work between levels of hierarchical organizations can be best understood as the operations of constraints.

When organized into a complex, integral whole, parts become correlated as a function of context-dependent constraints imposed on them by the newly organized system in which they are now embedded.

Constraints work by modifying either a system’s phase space or the probability distribution of events and movements within that space.

There is ample evidence that the human brain is a self-organized, complex adaptive system that encodes stimuli with context-sensitive constraints.

Far from representing messy, noisy complications that can be safely ignored, time and context are as central to the identity and behaviour of dynamic processes as they are to human beings.

Unlike the processes described by classical thermodynamics, which in their relentless march toward equilibrium forget their past, complex adaptive systems are essentially historical.

If human beings and their behaviour are complex adaptive phenomena, the precise pathway that their actions will take is simply unpredictable.

Historical, interpretive stories might not allow us to predict future behaviour, but they do allow us to understand why it is unpredictable.

Even after the advent of the theories of evolution and thermodynamics, modern science continued to restrict itself to closed linear systems abstracted from their historical and spatial context.

Only with the recent development of complexity theory have openness, nonlinearity, time, and context come to the forefront.

… philosophers are unable to conceptualize and explain either voluntary self-motion or an agent’s purposive actions. As is often the case in philosophy, it all goes back to Aristotle.

How the Modern Understanding of Cause Came to Be

In a universe where only point masses and forces are considered real, qualities that are a function of the relation between atoms, or between organisms and the world, were dismissed as subjective.

By the end of the 17th century, all relational properties, such as temperature and colour, that did not fit into this scheme were relegated to the inferior status of “secondary” qualities.

Galileo’s ability to set aside the interference of friction from the equations governing the motion of bodies also suggested that context contributes nothing to reality.

Newtonian atomism reduced the universe to the relations between single material points whose movements from one position to another are time-reversible.

True self-cause would involve localized parts interacting so as to produce wholes that in turn, as distributed wholes, could influence their components: interlevel causality between parts and wholes. …

… But by following Aristotle in rejecting this possibility, philosophy closed off any avenue for explaining action in that fashion.

Whether in dualist or materialist guise, and suitably identified as an intention, volition, want-and-belief complex, and the like, cause of action, following Aristotle, have been assumed to be events entirely inside the agent but other than the behaviour itself.

A worldview with a strobelike understanding of time (as well as a gunshot view of cause) has no way of determining when “now” ends and “then” begins.

A theory claiming that action is behaviour caused in a particular manner requires a concept of cause that not only triggers but also structures and sustains behaviour in an ongoing fashion. But none is forthcoming in contemporary philosophy.

Action theory uncritically adopted the standard billiard ball model of Newtonian science: one particle bumps into a second, which it activates even as it disengages.

There is a much closer connection between whatever originates action and the action itself than between billiard balls.

That closeness serves as the ground for appropriateness of certain behaviour given an agent’s reasons or intentions. The closeness is reflected in the description of an intention as the intention-to-do-x.

But advocates of traditional causal relations balked at all this talk because it appears to violate the required separation between cause and effect, a dogma that remains unquestioned, as does the dogma that all cause is efficient cause.

If practical reasoning is unavoidably temporal and contextual, deduction from abstract universals, or even inference from probabilistic laws, is out of the question either as a way of predicting what action someone will perform next or of explaining what he or she did.

Renaissance thinkers like Montaigne acknowledged that universal, foundational principles cannot be applied to such practical matters as law, medicine and ethics; the role that context and history play in those areas prevents it.

How explaining an event came to be identified with predicting it and with that the separation of the hard and soft sciences.

To claim that certain social, empirically determinable conditions, followed by a certain behavior, constitute action is plausible only on the condition that the agent is aware of the meaningful import of the situation [point made via a fascinating little story].

Action is lawful, and the laws to which it conforms refer to social patterns, standards, and conventions. Our explanations and predictions presuppose this.

A rule-following model of explanation is therefore unlike a mechanical model. Behavior can be explained as action only if set in the context of socially delineated means-ends conventions.

The problem of action is not only a problem of explanation; it is primarily an ontological matter. It is not a matter just of how or why we come to see behavior as action; it is a matter of what makes some behavior action.

Goal directedness is not a generalized tending toward an end state.

There is no tidy, linear pairing of causes and effects in human action as there is in the realm of classical mechanics. Despite conditions a, h, and c, people inevitably surprise us by doing the unexpected – not the expected x, y, or z.

Whenever circumstances a, h, and c exist, behavior x, y, and z will be performed, unless 1, 2, 3, . . ., n, with every ”unless” qualification that counterfactually affects the entailment fully spelled out.

However, since human beings are complex dynamical systems, this is a hopeless dream.

Behaviorist theories attempted, unsuccessfully, to reduce the appropriateness and fittingness characteristic of action to various stimulus-response patterns, including plasticity around a goal object.

Act-tokens must be explained by referring to the agent’s purposes and ends, and, to the appropriateness of the behavior given those purposes and ends. …

This directed flow of events contrasts with the in-principle reversibility of Hume and Newton’s accounts of causality, according to which it is possible for any sequence of events to go backward as well as forward. …

In mechanics, event a could be followed by event b as well as vice versa. According to Hume, since one experiences no necessitating, directed force between two events, their order, too, is also in principle reversible. …

In the case of action, on the other hand, the very concepts of intention, disposition, agents, reasons, and the like have a built-in one-wayness: they imply that these concepts issue in behavior, not vice versa. Not all one way behavior is purposive, to be sure.

Pendula tend toward a resting state, and avalanches persist in reaching the valley; but although both phenomena exhibit plasticity and persistence toward an end, neither pendula nor avalanches have goals.

Although philosophers today would look askance on an appeal to final causes, any acceptable theory of action must still satisfactorily account for this apparently directed flow of information or meaning from cognitive source to behavioral terminus.

We do not appeal to mental states to explain the incredible complexity of behavioral patterns that one has (antecedently) recognized. …

On the contrary, we come to believe that there is a ”complexity” to be resolved in the behavioral manifestations because we already suspect that there is (or might be) a difference in the agent’s motivation, that is, in the agent’s mental life.

Behaviorist accounts [of action] attempted to reduce intelligent action to persistent yet plastic behavioral patterns. In analyzing away the concept of goalhood, behaviorists tried to bypass such ghostly and private notions as having a goal, awareness, and intention.

One positive contribution of behaviorism that is rarely remarked on: behaviorism resuscitated the role that the environment plays in action.

Contextual embeddedness had been an important component in Aristotle’s understanding of action, but was discarded by modern philosophy’s emphasis on primary qualities as the only reality.

By suggesting that behavior is somehow connected to and dependent on events in the environment, behaviorism clearly emphasized the role that context plays in the life of organisms.

… But bringing context back into the picture as behaviorists attempted requires a type of cause much different from the collision-like trigger of mechanics.

Lacking such an understanding of cause, and reinforced in their Aristotelian conviction that causes are external to their effects, logical behaviorists never quite embedded the agent in the environment to create an integral organism-context system.

They just plunked the organism in the environment and assumed that when the appropriate stimulus occurred, boom! the organism would automatically respond.

With the Humean view of explanation as deduction firmly entrenched, ”if not predictable not explained ” remains the reigning standard to which all disciplines aspire.

Several decades after the heyday of behaviorism but with no strict covering law (not even a probabilistic one) capturing regularities between empirical circumstances & human behavior on the horizon, the conclusion appeared inescapable: ”Human behavior is inexplicable.”

But recent research in nonlinear dynamical systems suggests, on the contrary, that if organisms are more like tornadoes or even ”chaotic” systems than like glass or planets, behaviorism’s ideal was doomed from the start.

… The reason is that in open systems that exchange matter and energy with their environment, feedback embeds them in that environment in such a way that they are simultaneously context-dependent and initiators of behavior. As a result, their trajectories are unique.

Basic assumptions on which the modern scientific worldview was based came under attack over time. In the nineteenth century alone, two challenges appeared to that conceptual framework: thermodynamics and evolutionary theory.

Thermodynamic systems can use energy only when ”the arrangement of energy is to some extent ‘orderly’: higher temperature here, lower temperature there, and a clearly marked contrast between the two”.

The first law of thermodynamics states that the total amount of energy in the universe is conserved. The second states that, over time, the disorderly arrangement of energy, entropy, inexorably increases, and the orderly, usable arrangement of energy decreases.

… energy potential, that is, by the uniformization of the universe’s arrangement of energy. This equilibrium state constitutes the heat death of the universe.

The inexorable increase of unusable energy (entropy) postulated by classical thermodynamics provided a criterion for differentiating past from present and future.

Measuring the change in the amount of entropy tells you the sequence in which events happen: the state with less entropy comes first, the one with more entropy next, the one with total entropy last.

In contrast to Newtons time-neutral equations, thermodynamics therefore appeared to return irreversibility and temporal direction to science, vindicating the intuition that whereas you can go from an egg to an omelette, the reverse is impossible.

In the end, thermodynamics teaches, you can’t put Humpty back together again.

However, as Boltzmann (1877) argued that the one-wayness pertains only to macroscopic, statistically averaged-out systems; at the atomic level events remain neatly, time reversibly Newtonian.

The arrow of time thus applies only to the law of large numbers; at the microscopic atomic level, ultimate reality remains properly timeless.

The specific location and circumstances from which a system started out, and the particular path it has traversed to date, are irrelevant; whatever its origin, the system will eventually reach equilibrium.

Thermodynamic systems near equilibrium are therefore insensitive to initial conditions. Their past does not affect either their present or their future.

Both classical mechanics and thermodynamics, however, agreed on the deterministic and ”machinelike” quality of the universe; they disagreed only on whether motions are reversible.

19th-c thermodynamics deals only with systems as if they were closed and isolated from their environmental context ignoring the relational, secondary qualities – properties that appear in virtue of an object’s interactions with its surroundings and its past.

In a blow to Plato, not to mention religious fundamentalism, Darwin undermined the idea that essences exist that universally and eternally mark off this kind of organism from that. Natural kinds are not eternal; species evolve over time.

Darwin’s writings returned context to science for the first time in centuries. The specific ecological niche in which an organism is embedded matters greatly, since it determines which organisms live and get to reproduce and which do not.

Because organisms are more or less fit relative to the particular environmental niche in which they are located, fitness is therefore a relational property, not a primary one like mass.

And yet much of the flavor of Newtonian mechanics continued to permeate the theory of evolution (Depew and Weber 1995), particularly in the way Darwin understood explanation.

The radical change from Aristotle to Darwin was the recognition that, through the environment’s selective pressure on reproductive success, unpredictable, truly novel phenotypic features could be passed on to future generation.

Open systems far from equilibrium show a reduction in local or internal entropy; they are able, in other words, to create form and order.

General systems theory was first articulated by organismic biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1981) as a counterpoint to classical science’s mechanistic understanding of human beings and nature.

[General systems theory]’s fundamental claim is that when living things are embedded in a orderly context, properties emerge that are not present when the things exist as isolated individuals.

Picking up where Darwin left off, systems theory continued the revival of relational or secondary properties by reminding us that context matters. But it does so very differently than behaviorism.

Together, the internal and external structure constitute the system’s total structure. A system with no external structure – no environment with which it interacts – is a closed and isolated system. Only the entire universe is closed and isolated.

A system’s functional efficiency is often related to its integration. The system is called stable if it returns to or fluctuates minimally around a constant value.

For the most part, the more flexible the coupling between the subsystems, the greater the overall system’s stability.

Resilience is ”the ability of the system to absorb changes … and still persist” (Holling 1976). A system can be quite resilient yet unstable if it persists as that (kind of) system despite wide fluctuations.

Resilient systems are able to modify their specific structure so as to ensure the adaptability and survival of their overall organization. Insects and viruses are remarkably resilient: they can mutate dramatically and so persist.

Complex systems are usually more resilient than simple ones, with complex open systems that interact with their environment exhibiting the highest degree of resilience.

As anyone who has tried to rid his house of cockroaches can confirm, evolution generally favors resilience, not stability.

Because their organization is given ”from the outside,” machines are allopoietic. Living organisms, on the other hand, self-assemble, and as such are examples of autopoietic (self-organizing) systems.

Allopoiesis versus Autopoiesis:

Thermostats do not self-organize.

No closed system near equilibrium ever becomes more complex or ordered.

But even crystallization is an order-producing process. And living things, unlike crystals, are not ”frozen accidents.” They are dynamical, adaptive, and evolving beings that interact with their environment through exchanges of matter and energy.

As we climb the developmental & phylogenetic ladders, organisms grow & species become increasingly complex, one mark of which is their ability to access a greater variety of states and behaviors. People can blink but amoebas can’t; grown-ups can wink but newborns can’t.

The human sciences have often been tempted to model their subject matter after the (idealized) linear, closed systems near equilibrium that the hard sciences studied and that, for those very reasons, were tractable and in consequence produced spectacular results.

I take it as self-evident today that human beings are neither linear, closed, nor near equilibrium, nor likely to be understood by models with these assumptions.

People are neither isolated from their surroundings nor simply dropped into an environment that pushes them hither and yon. On the contrary, they are embedded in their environment, which they in turn influence.

Self-organizing systems that reorganize by altering their control parameters themselves are truly autopoietic.

In virtue of its own internal dynamics, self-organization spawns even higher levels of self-organization and the system as a whole evolves.

A system emerges when previously uncorrelated particles or processes suddenly become coordinated and interconnected.

The conceptual framework of the theory of self-organizing dynamical systems has significant implications for the philosophical concepts of identity, teleology, cause, and explanation.

… after the phase change one finds an orderly arrangement of particles or processes: a system.

Because each of the processes that define an autopoietic system requires the others, the system must be studied as a whole, as the coordination of several process, that is, as a network of activity and relationships.

Isolating each of the processes and attempting to reduce the whole to its components (as atomism tried to do) produces ”nothing more than that: a series of snapshots”.

As a dynamic system, therefore, an autopoietic system’s identity is given by the coordinated organization of the processes that make it up, not the primary material of its components.

The system as a whole, to repeat, is not just a passive pass-through for energy exchanges.

A component that may be fit in one context may not be in another; a structure that may be fit in one context or at one time may not be in another.

Far from being a primary quality, therefore, fitness is a multiply realizable property (Depew and Weber) that depends on what occurs elsewhere and previously.

To maintain itself as itself, an autocatalytic web functions as an ”attractor”: a rudimentary precursor of final cause.

… It would be anthropomorphic to call this vectorial characteristic of autocatalytic structures ”goal-intended” or ”purposive”; it would be even more absurd to say that these dissipative structures act as they do ”for a reason.”

The dynamic interaction between self-organizing systems and the contingencies of their environment, on the other hand, allows us to understand how both individuation and true evolution (not just development) are possible.

Insect colonies are an example self-organizing systems whose complexity ”permits the division of functions, particularly the division of labor, as well as hierarchical relationships and mechanisms of population control” (Jantsch).

The evolutionary advantage of such systematic hierarchical differentiation is that the whole can access states that the independent parts cannot. The overall hive can do much more than the individual bee. The price is that workers in a hive lose the ability to reproduce

Dissipative structures thus operate on two levels simultaneously: part and whole, which interact in the manner of Douglas Hofstadter’s ”strange loops,” or Kant’s ”unknown causality.” In Chuck Dyke’s great phrase, they arestructured structuring structures.”

… concrete things over processes and relations, substances over properties.

Complex adaptive systems exhibit true self-cause: parts interact to produce novel, emergent wholes; in turn, these distributed wholes as wholes regulate and constrain the parts that make them up.

According to nonlinear, far-from equilibrium science (and without appealing to any mysterious elan vital), systems are created from interacting components, which they then, in turn, control.

As a result of this strange loop relationship between parts and wholes, these dynamical systems are not mere epiphenomena; they actively exercise causal power over their components.

Dissipative structures are not mechanical processes; in autocatalysis no one molecule pushes the others around. Neither does anyone of the brain’s neurons.

The central nervous system has no localized grandmother control unit that, in the manner of a Newtonian force, activates others by bumping into them.

The concept of constraint was first used formally in physical mechanics to describe the way the motion of a simple pendulum or a particle on an inclined plane is ”compelled by the ”geometry of its environment to move on some specified curve or surface”.

Constraints are relational properties that parts acquire in virtue of being unified – not just aggregated – into a systematic whole.

Limiting or closing off alternatives is the most common understanding of the term ”constraint.” But if all constraints restricted a thing’s degrees of freedom in this way, organisms (whether phylogenetically or developmentally) would progressively do less and less.

… However, precisely the opposite is empirically observed. Some constraints must therefore not only reduce the number of alternatives: they must simultaneously create new possibilities.

According to information theory constraints are identified not as in physical mechanics, with physical connections, but with rules for reducing randomness in order to minimize noise and equivocation.

In a situation of complete randomness where alternatives are equiprobable you could say anything but in fact do say nothing. It is true that in situations in which all alternatives are equally likely, potential information or message variety is at its maximum.

At equilibrium, message variety is a great but idle potential; actual information is zero. ”Capacity is of no value if it cannot be utilized ” (Gatlin 1972).

Without contrasts there can be no message; television snow is as meaningless as white noise. Transmitting or receiving a message requires a clear demarcation between message and background noise.

Whether in communications or genetics, actual information content – a difference that makes a difference – requires an ordering process that harnesses the randomness.

Constraints turn the amorphous potential into the definite actual: following Aristotle, constraints effect change.

Constraints alter the probability distribution of the available alternatives. They make a system diverge from chance, randomness, or equiprobability. Lila Gatlin calls constraints that function in this manner context – free.

Once the probability that something will happen depends on and is altered by the presence of something else, the two have become systematically and therefore internally related.

Because dissipative structures are not just dropped into either time or space the way Newtonian atoms with only primary qualities are, their evolutionary trajectory is therefore not predictable in detail.

… As a result, unlike the near-equilibrium processes of traditional thermodynamics, complex systems do not forget their initial conditions: they ”carry their history on their backs” (Prigogine). Their origin constrains their trajectory.

Those aspects of the environment with which I am systematically interdependent are part of my external structure. As both a biological and social entity, I extend into the world and am embedded in it (the point that both logical and experimental behaviorism missed).

As distributed wholes, complex adaptive systems are virtual governors that give orders to themselves – qua thing, not qua other.

The constraints that wholes impose on their parts are restrictive insofar as they reduce the number of ways in which the parts can be arranged, and conservative in the sense that they are in the service of the whole.

Attractors represent a dynamical system’s organization, including its external structure or boundary conditions.

Attractors provide evidence that the system’s overall organization constrains available alternatives (Brooks and Wiley) such that its behavior is characteristically drawn to certain patterns.

Complex dynamical systems like you and me, however, have an indefinitely large number of properties. Representing each by an axis in state space requires an unvisualizable graph with an astronomical number of dimensions.

Complex systems are often characterized by strange attractors. The strange attractors of seemingly “chaotic” phenomena are therefore often not chaotic at all. Such intricate behaviour patterns are evidence of highly complex, context-dependent dynamic organization.

If a system accessed every point or region in its phase space with the same frequency as every other (that is, randomly), its ontogenetic landscape would be smooth and flat.

A completely flat, smooth initial landscape would portray an object with no propensities or dispositions – that is, with no attractors. It would describe a ”system” with no identity, a logical impossibility.

The effects of constraints can therefore be represented as a probability landscape like

Since a system’s external structure can recalibrate its internal dynamics, probability landscapes also incorporate the role of the environment in which a system is embedded.

Since a system’s prior experience constrains its behavior, that history, too, is embodied in its ontogenetic landscape.

The landscape of a dynamical system, by definition, is never static. Although it remains qualitatively the same between phase changes, it continually shifts in response to the system’s interactions with its environment.

When dramatic phase changes occur, the whole attractor regime completely reorganizes as the system undergoes a bifurcation.

Contour of the entire landscape reconfigures in a phase-change bifurcation. The metamorphoses of tadpoles into frogs or caterpillars into butterflies mark such a qualitative transition.

Generative organizing is simultaneously time and context-dependent. There is a built-in one-wayness. The organizing is embedded in an environment, which it in turn influences. The precise path the organizing will take is unpredictable.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing retrospective 108

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This week, I’ve continued to post (almost) daily reflections about generative organizing:

This week, I finished reading:

This week, I started reading:

What was good? What can be improved?
Reading Andreas Weber, I became very impressed by his English (since he is German) until I realized that his books are translations. This is my own challenge. I need to spend more time on my own writing—writing in my own true voice—but I need to do this in Swedish, which is my native language.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 31

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
In today’s reflection, I see a connection between Andreas Weber‘s emphasis on intrinsic (felt) values in The Biology of Wonder and Robert Hartman‘s seminal work on valuation of value in The Structure of Value. Robert Hartman’s work and insights can actually be used to further clarify, support, and strengthen Andreas Weber’s arguments.

Andreas Weber asks:

But why is nature so important?1

The short answer is that:

… the values at stake … are the values of life.2

And, Andreas is right! All living beings:

… possess an intrinsic value, but it is precisely this value that has been denied … by science as well as by economics.3

What Robert Hartman does in his formal axiology is to put the idea of intrinsic value on solid intellectual ground.4 Still, I fully agree with Andreas Weber that, regardless of intellectual arguments, it’s ultimately about love:

We should protect other beings because we love them. … we are a part of them, and … they are part of us.5

Generative organizing, is ultimately a question of values. The most valuable value is intrinsic value.6 Disvalue posing as value is non-generative—it’s a perversion of value. It is worse than straightforward disvaluation.7

Notes:
1 Andreas Weber, The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science (New Society Publishers, 2016), p. 8.
2 Ibid., p. 12.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid., p. 11.
6 Robert S. Hartman, The Structure of Value: Foundations of Scientific Axiology (Wopf & Stock, 2011, first published 1967), p. 268.
7 Ibid., pp. 276.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 30

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
In today’s reflection, I combine Andreas Weber‘s principle of subjectivity with Eugene Gendlin‘s notion of felt experiencing.

I’ve just started reading Andreas Weber’s The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science. The following caught my attention. Andreas Weber writes (my emphasis in bold):

In this book I describe a biology of the feeling self — a biology that has discovered subjective feeling as the fundamental moving force in all life, from the cellular level up to the complexity of the human organism. I also describe how this discovery turns our image of ourselves upside down. We have understood human beings as biological machines that somehow and rather inexplicably entail some subjective “x factor” variously known as mind, spirit or soul. But now biology is discovering subjectivity as a fundamental principle throughout nature. It finds that even the most simple living things — bacterial cells, fertilized eggs, nematodes in tidal flats — act according to values. Organisms value everything they encounter according to its meaning for the further coherence of their embodied self. Even the cell’s self-production, the continuous maintenance of a highly structured order, can only be understood if we perceive the cell as an actor that persistently follows a goal.1

I call this new viewpoint apoetic ecology.” It is “poetic” because it regards feeling and expression as necessary dimensions of the existential reality of organisms — not as epiphenomena, or as bias of the human observer, or as the ghost in the machine, but as aspects of the reality of living beings we cannot do without. I call it an “ecology” because all life builds on relations and unfolds through mutual transformations. Poetic ecology restores the human to its rightful place within “nature” — without sacrificing the otherness, the strangeness and the nobility of other beings. It can be read as a scientific argument that explains why the deep wonder, the romantic connection and the feeling of being at home in nature are legitimate — and how these experiences help us to develop a new view of life as a creative reality that is based on our profound, first-person observations of ecological relations. Poetic ecology allows us to find our place in the grand whole again.2

Subjectivity is a fundamental principle in generative organizing. We act according to our values. We value everything we encounter according to its meaning. The felt experiencing of the moment enables us to do this.3 All generative organizing builds on relations and unfolds through mutual transformations.

Notes:
1 Andreas Weber, The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science (New Society Publishers, 2016), pp. 2–3.
2 Ibid., p. 3.
3 Meaning involves felt experiencing. See Eugene Gendlin, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (Northwestern University Press, 1997, first published 1962), pp. 1, 14.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 29

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
I just finished reading Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts with the collaboration of Al Chung-liang Huang. They describe what happened in China when the Ch’in Dynasty came to power in —221.1

To enforce the new laws, the population was organized into small groups of five or ten families each, and members of each group were required to watch over and report on each other. Successful exposure of crime through such spying and reporting was to be rewarded on the same scale as killing an enemy on the battlefield. Shielding a criminal would be punished with the same penalty as surrendering to the enemy in war.1

When the Emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti died in —210 the people rebelled under the leadership of Liu Pang, who became the Emperor Han Kao Tsu, founder of the Han Dynasty. In —201, General Ts’ao, one of the generals from the revolution, was made governor. And he did something interesting.

He selected an old philosopher to be his chief adviser. This old man was a follower of Lao-tzu [Taoism] and told the Governor that the best way to govern his great state comprising seventy cities was to do nothing and give the people a rest. The Governor religiously carried out his advice throughout his nine years of governorship. The people became prosperous, and his administration was rated the best in the empire. When he was appointed prime minister of the empire in —193, he again practiced his philosophy on a national scale.2

To enable generative organizing, the ruler does nothing and give people rest.

Notes:
1 Alan Watts with Al Chung-liang Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way (Souvernir Press, Kindle edition 2010, first published 1975), Loc.1388–1398.
2 Ibid., Loc.1412–1416.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 28

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
This reflection is inspired by Leo Zeff and Bill Plotkin.

I just finished reading The Secret Chief Revealed: Conversations with Leo Zeff, pioneer in the underground psychedelic therapy movement by Myron J. Stolaroff.

Leo Zeff describes, what he calls, the picture trip (my emphasis in bold):

One at a time I hand them the pictures [of themselves]. The pictures, they don’t react much to the two- to four-year-old pictures. Some time around the age of six is a very significant picture for them. That’s the point in life where we lose our naturalness and we start taking on the acts of the world and behaving the way people tell us to and start squelching our own naturalness. Frequently they get to that picture and they start to cry. And cry and cry and cry.1

I’m taping everything that’s being said. They’ll do a lot of talking and a lot of crying. And a lot of ruminating, and remembering. This talking is very important to them later on when they go back and listen to it. It reconnects them with their whole experience,2

This reminds me of what Bill Plotkin says in this Earth Talk at Schumacher College (my emphasis in bold):

When we are young …
we make a promise that we forgot …
The promise we made was:
I agree not to sing in my true voice,
if I can get psychological and social safety
in exchange for that.

So, we make that promise, and …
at some point, we have to break it:
We have to agree that
we are going to speak in our true voice,
we are going to sing our true song.3

In generative organizing, we have to agree to speak in our true voice from our own naturaleness.

Notes:
1 Myron J. Stolaroff, The Secret Chief Revealed: Conversations with Leo Zeff, pioneer in the underground psychedelic therapy movement (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic studies, 2004, first published 1997), p.74.
2 Ibid..
3 Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed), DartingtonTV, Bill Plotkin – Soulcraft – YouTube (26:45–28:33), Published Oct 3, 2013 (accessed August 23, 2018).

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Organizing reflection 27

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Today’s reflection is inspired by Daniel Mezick (@DanielMezick).

Yesterday, David Osborne asked:

Is it possible for an environment can be too safe to support self-organization? Can safety be at such a high level that it inhibits or slows down the self-organizing process?1

Upon which Daniel Mezick answered:

It seems unlikely that you can have too much of this psychological safety going on if you are looking for teams to self-manage and self-organize.2

Daniel shared, this article by Richard Feloni on the five traits shared by Google’s most successful teams share. First among them is psychological safety. The term was coined by Amy Edmondson in this paper on Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Daniel also shared this TEDx Talk on Building a psychologically safe workplace by Amy Edmondson.

It seems likely that generative organizing requires a psychologically safe workplace.

Notes:
1 These questions are from David Osborne’s mail 2018-08-21 16:27 UTC to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList).
2 This answer is from Daniel Mezick’s mail 2018-08-21 04:49 UTC to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 26

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
I’ve finished reading Managing as a Performing Art by Peter B. Vaill. It’s an excellent and fascinating book! Peter explores Taoist vs. Western management in one of the chapters.1 He quotes Alan W. Watts who discusses the Taoist principle of wu-wei (”nonaction”):

Among the several meanings of wei are to be, to do, to make, to practice, to act out …2

… in the context of Taoist writings it [wei] quite clearly means forcing, meddling, and artifice—in other words, trying to act against the grain of li.3

Li may … be understood as organic order, as distinct from mechanical or legal order, both of which go by the book.4

Wu-wei … must be understood as primarily as a form of intelligence.5 But this intelligence is … not not simply intellectual; it is also the ”unconscious” intelligence of the whole organism …6

Peter B. Vaill thinks that ”wu-wei is a more powerful idea about taking action” than anything that ”we have produced in the West.”7 There has not been much ”emphasis in the our culture on just being effective in the moment.” Yet, ”about the only thing that one can be in the moment is wu-wei”.8 Wu-wei is ”a perfect consciousness … for action in complex systems.”9

Wu-wei is a way to access a deeper generative order for organizing.10

Notes:
1 Chapter 12. Taoist Management. See Peter B. Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991, first published 1989), pp. 175–190.
2 Alan W. Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way, (Souvenir Press, Kindle Edition 2010, first published 1975), loc. 1248.
3 Ibid., loc. 1250.
4 Ibid., loc. 980.
5 Ibid., loc. 1257.
6 Ibid., loc. 1258.
7 Peter B. Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991, first published 1989), p. 177.
8 Ibid., p. 182.
9 Ibid., p. 184.
10 The notion of generative order is from David Bohm and F. David Peat. See Bohm & Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010, first published 1987), pp. 80, 148, 154–157, 216, 286–287.

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Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing retrospective 107

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective. Here is my next retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This week, I’ve continued to post daily reflections about generative organizing:

  • MondayGenerative organizing bypass “formal stuff” and happens in the “crunch time” when people “huddle up.”
    Inspiration:  A mail from Harrison Owen to the OSList. A continuation of this and this reflection.
  • TuesdayGenerative organizing calls for a conscious commitment to creating fertile conditions for life to flow and thrive accross our organizational ecosystems and beyond. It’s about reconnecting with what really matters, acknowledging the precious gift of life itself. It’s about finding and staying in the flow.
    Inspiration: This and this article by Michelle Holliday (@thrivability).
  • WednesdayGenerative organizing is to actively participate in exploratory conversations that matter. This leaves people feeling enriched, inspired, and alive.
    Inspiration: This article by Esko Kilpi (@EskoKilpi).
  • ThursdayGenerative organizing calls upon wholeness for guidance and direction. It’s more an undoing than a doing, which we often stumble upon in times of crisis. When we reclaim who we are, we also remember our basic human qualities. We already are the role models we seek. Wholeness is never lost, only forgotten.
    Inspiration: Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen.
  • Friday — The essential aspect of generative organizing is the sensing of the whole organization and the total situation. It’s a felt experiencing which transcends logical analysis.
    Inspiration: Managing as a Performing Art by Peter B. Vaill.
  • SaturdayGenerative organizing involves people getting together to discuss common problems, coming to mutual decisions, and taking action. It requires building trust and relationships. Creativity and experimentation are necessary.
    Inspiration: Abolish Human Rentals posts by David Ellerman. The idea that it’s not ok to rent human beings is profound, and it has revolutionary implications. I need to come back to this.

I’m still reading Rachel Naomi Remen’s two excellent books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. I’m also reading Peter B. Vaill’s Managing as a Performing Art: New Ideas for a World of Chaotic Change.

What was good? What can be improved?
My daily reflections (and weekly retrospectives) are a way to gather input and ideas. They are worthy of continual rereading and reflection.

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Organizing in between and beyond posts