”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
Notes: 1 Birgitt Williams, The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership, (DALAR, July 2014), p. 195.
Mae-Wan Ho, is best known for her pioneering work on the physics of organisms and sustainable systems. Here’s what she writes on the autonomy of organisms in her book The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms (in italics, my emphasis in bold):
Organisms are never simply at the mercy of their environments on account of the coherent energy stored. More to the point, we don’t have to eat constantly, leaving plenty of time for other useful, pleasurable activities. The other consequences are that, the organism is exquisitely sensitive and free from mechanical constraints; and satisfies, at least, some of the basic conditions for quantum coherence. 1
Do take note of the radically anti-mechanistic nature of organisms. Mechanical systems work by a hierarchy of controllers and the controlled that returns the systems to set points. One can recognize such mechanistic systems in the predominant institutions of our society. They are undemocratic and non-participatory. Bosses make decisions and workers work, and in between the top and the bottom are “line-managers’’ relaying the unidirectional “chain of command”. Organic systems, by contrast, are truly democratic, they work by intercommunication and total participation. Everyone works and pays attention to everyone else. Everyone is simultaneously boss and worker, choreography and dancer. Each is ultimately in control to the extent that she is sensitive and responsive. There are no predetermined set points to which the systems have to return. Instead, organisms live and develop from moment to moment, freely and spontaneously. 2
It must be stressed that the ‘single degree of freedom’ of organisms is a very special one due to quantum coherence which maximizes both local autonomy and global correlation … 3
Notes: 1 Mae-Wan Ho, The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms, 2nd Edition, p. 91. 2Ibid., p. 92. 3Ibid., p. 152.
Hos san-folken råder en strängt egalitär kultur. 1
Samförstånd är det som gäller i alla san-grupper. … Men på samma sätt som jämlikhet inte betyder likhet, så kan samförstånd inte likställas med demokrati. Visserligen finns det inget auktoritärt eller formaliserat ledarskap, … men det är inte heller så att man röstar sig fram till någon sorts majoritetsbeslut. Vuxna och ungdomar samtalar om det som behöver bestämmas kollektivt … Men man diskuterar inte tills alla är överens utan tills man hittar ett beslut som ingen motsätter sig tillräckligt starkt. Naturligtvis väger olika röster olika tungt, beroende på speciell kunskap eller erfarenhet, när det gäller att forma denna allmänna samsyn. Ledarskapet är auktoritativt, inte auktoritärt. Det sociala trycket att komma överens är starkt, för att uttrycka det försiktigt. Samarbetsvilja har mycket hög kulturell status. 2
Men tvister uppstår naturligtvis. De är oftast av personlig art. … Det allmänt accepterade sättet att lösa konflikter är inte som i vår kultur att så tidigt som möjligt klargöra motsättningar och lyfta fram dem till diskussion. Istället utmärks san-kulturen av … utpräglad konflikträdsla. Man föredrar … att i första hand skämta bort problemet. Helst i elegant metaforisk form så att ingen tappar ansiktet eller blir utskämd. En spänd situation kan plötsligt punkteras av ett skämt som får lyssnarna att formligen vrida sig av skratt. Gränsen mellan skratt och vrede är ofta nästan osynlig. Det betyder inte att man inte tagit det hela på allvar, utan att man behandlat tvisten i inlindad form. 3
Ett grundproblem är makt hamnar hos individer i dagens system. Det gör att kunskap och information blir makt, något som gör flödet av kunskap och information segt. Det vill vi ha är detsamma som i alla demokratiska system: att makt är att vara med och dela kunskap och information. … Flytta makt från individ till arenor (stå-upp-möten) där information och kunskap delas. Människor skapar tillsammans ”sensemaking” av komplexa problem.
Autognomics translates from Greek and basically means “know yourself at the deepest possible level”. Autonomics points to a unique characteristic of how life-knows itself. The “g”, making it autognomics, is added for greater clarity of meaning drawing from the word gnostic, to know.
Skye Hirst is co-founder of The Autognomics Institute. The mission of the institute is to understand and express the fundamental organizing principles of Life Itself, translate this understanding into practice, and promote universal awareness of this knowledge. An example of a fundamental organizing principle is the inalienable right to be free to act according to one’s own beinghood. Skye Hirst writes (emphasis mine):
”For instance, it is an inalienable right for living entities to be free to act according to their own beinghood. This is a foundational principle of democracy. However, as many of us do not know about this inalienable right, some people in power take it away by imposing overly tight controls with harsh rules and punishments, believing they will keep order. The over-emphasis on rules/laws … in attempts to control organisms actually breaks a living law. Organism ways will always push to maintain the freedom to be autonomous and to act by “self-law.” Arbitrary authoritarian and dom[in]eering constraints are never strong enough to stop an organism’s power to create itself… It’s creative being ourselves while living in different conditions and situations and finding the mix of value dynamics that enable us best to function where we are.”
— Skye Hirst
What you may not know is that the Vikings were surprisingly egalitarian. When settling in Iceland, they founded one of the world’s early democracies. The entire community was invited to the debating hall to thrash out the hot topics of the day, followed by a vote, with each person’s opinion carrying equal weight. Legend has it that, when the Prince of Franks sent an envoy from southern Europe to negotiate with the Vikings, the puzzled envoy returned confused and disheartened, complaining, ”I couldn’t figure out who to talk with. They said they were all the chiefs.” The countries most influenced by the Vikings consistently rank as some of the most egalitarian and consensus-oriented cultures in the world today. So it is no surprise that, even today, when you walk into a meeting room in Copenhagen or Stockholm, it is often impossible to spot the boss.1
Notes: 1 Erin Meyer, The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, (PublichAffairs, 2014), p. 128.
I have written previously here that I am convinced that sociocratic principles can be implemented in many ways. Below is an additional example from Russel L. Ackoff on the use of consensus which sounds very sociocratic to me:
”Decisions made by a majority of participants usually create a dissatisfied minority.”
”Decision-making by consensus avoids such abuse, but it appears to make reaching a conclusion very difficult if not impossible. This only appears to be the case because the nature of consensus is not well understood. It is complete agreement, not in principle, by in practice.”
”Agreement in practice is agreement to act; it does not require that the approved action is taken by all to be the best in principle.”
”When consensus is not reached, an attempt should first be made to design a test of the alternatives proposed, a test that all the participants accept as fair and one by whose outcome they are willing to abide.”
”… I have never experienced one [session] in which consensus could not be reached …”
Jag är intresserad av kväkarnas beslutsmetod och har tidigare skrivit om den här. Metoden är intressant eftersom den är djupt demokratisk och bygger på ett sökande efter en slags enighet vid besluten. Nyligen läste jag boken De gnostiska evangelierna av Elaine Pagels och slogs av likheterna mellan kväkarnas synsätt och de gnostiskt kristna från de första århundradena.
George Fox, som var med och grundade kväkarna på 1650-talet, var en radikal visionär. Fox var sannolikt inte förtrogen med den gnostiska traditionen, men gjorde liknande tolkningar som gnostikerna.1 De gnostiskt kristna kritiserade den framväxande kyrkliga hierarkin. Vid en tid då ortodoxa kristna i allt högre grad skilde mellan prästerskap och lekmän, betonade gnostikerna principen om strikt jämlikhet.2 Bland gnostiska grupper ansågs kvinnor vara jämbördiga med männen.3 Gnostikerna betraktade alla lärosatser enbart som försök att nalkas sanningen.4 De ville stå fria från ritualen och vägrade böja sig för den kyrkotukt som biskopar och präster utövade. Sett ur den ortodoxa kristendomens synvinkel betraktades den gnostiska ståndpunkten som en skymf. Med tiden drog den ortodoxa kristendomen en klar linje gentemot dem som ifrågasatte läran, ritualen och den kyrkliga hierarkin.5 När kyrkan i allt högre grad blev en institutionell enhet mellan åren 150 till 400 började dess ledare behandla sina motståndare allt hårdare. År 367 utfärdade t.ex. Athanasius, ärkebiskopen i Alexandria, en befallning om att alla ”kätterska” tendenser skulle rensas bort.6 En eller flera munkar gömde då gnostiska handskrifter i en lerkruka som hittades av en bonde 1945. Eftersom det är segrarna som skriver historien, ger dessa handskrifter en ny förståelse av kristendomens tidiga historia. Den gnostiska kristendomen blev till slut helt undantryckt av den ortodoxa kristendomen, som under 300-talet fick den romerska kejsarmaktens stöd.7 De gnostiska grupperna överlevde endast några hundra år.
Jag tror att det synsätt som ligger till grund för verklig demokrati troligen alltid har funnits, men oftast som undantryckta strömningar. Det är t.ex. först under de senaste 100 åren som samhället har demokratiserats. En demokratisering sker också i våra företag och organisationer, även om det än så länge handlar om begränsade underströmmar. Här är t.ex. ett exempel från W.L. Gore & Associates där företagets VD väljs av de anställda. Och här är tio principer för demokrati i organisationer som har tagits fram av WorldBlu.
Noter 1 Elaine Paigels, De gnostiska evangelierna, stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1998, s. 245. 2Ibid, s. 102-103. 3Ibid, s. 127, 135. 4Ibid, s. 198. 5Ibid, s. 203-204. 6Ibid, s. 207. 7Ibid, s. 244.
Stoos Stockholm är ett lokalt nätverk i det internationella Stoos-nätverket. Stoos grundidé är att vi behöver hitta nya sätt att skapa hållbara organisationer. Den 30 september arrangerar Stoos Stockholm en träff kring sociokrati. Sociokrati möjliggör dynamiskt självstyre i organisationer genom en effektiv beslutsprocess (samtycke) och förstärkt återkoppling mellan arbetsgrupper (dubbla länkar).
Here is an interview where Nicholas Beecroft interviews Jim Rough on Wise Democracy, Choice Creation and Dynamic Facilitation. Dynamic facilitation takes people into a choice-creating conversation which generates the potential for new outcomes. Jim has found that deep wisdom emerges from a randomly chosen group when the group seeks to serve the whole. He has found that what emerges often is transformational to the whole community. Jim points out that democracy requires ongoing attention and adaptation to the actual needs of a situation. Jim integrates this approach, which is called Wisdom Council, into existing structures to help meeting the challenges which we face.
The principle of consent in sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. The Quaker-based decision-making has a simple structure which allows for individual voices to be heard while moving the group towards unity (not unanimity). Key components are:
The belief in a common humanity and the ability to decide together.
Ensuring group members speak only once until others are heard.
Dissenters’ perspectives are welcomed.
The facilitator serves the group rather than acting as person-in-charge.
The facilitator articulates the sense of the discussion.
The facilitator discerns who is acting in selfish interest without concern for the group.
The challenge with sociocracy is first to understand the principles, and then to be able explain them in your own language. In this respect, I think sociocracy is the quantum mechanics of governance. This means that we have to be careful when using concepts from classical Newtonian governance (read management jargon) in explaining sociocracy. The risk is we inadvertently introduce unspoken assumptions to the game which are not sociocratic. This is the blind spot for all of us who are conditioned by classical governance. The principles of sociocracy are very simple, but hard to grasp. It’s a paradox. Sociocracy requires a new mindset—and courage!
I occasionally see suggestions that business leaders should act more like orchestra conductors. The idea being that you as a leader should guide your business like a conductor leads an orchestra. Well, you shouldn’t!
When asked if the orchestra conductor is a good role model for business leaders, Ben Zander, a conductor himself, answered: ”It’s the worst! The conductor is the last bastion of totalitarianism in the world—the one person whose authority never gets questioned. There’s a saying: Every dictator aspires to be a conductor.” This quote is from Harvey Seifter’s & Peter Economy’s book Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaboration Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra, page 10. In this book, they describe the eight core principles used by the Orpheus Conductorless Orchestra to consistently bring out the best in each musician.
The eight Orpheus principles are:
Put power in the hands of the people doing the work. An organization’s creative potential can only be fully realized when its members are given the authority to make decisions that have impact.
Encourage individual responsibility. With authority comes responsibility. Instead of waiting for a supervisor, individuals take the initiative to resolve issues as expeditiously as possible.
Create clarity of roles. Unclear roles can lead to conflict, wasted effort, poor morale, and poor quality. Clarity of roles minimizes confusion and ensures that each individual’s energies are effectively focused.
Share and rotate leadership. Encourage everyone to lead at some point. By sharing and rotating leadership, organizations can benefit from the unique skills and experience of each individual.
Foster horizontal teamwork. Cross-organizational teams have wide-ranging individual expertise. Teams with individual and group authority reduce the time it takes to make informed decisions and ensure that everyone works together to achieve goals.
Learn to listen, learn to talk. Everyone is expected to listen actively and intently, and to speak directly and honestly. Successful work requires a constant flow of two-way communication.
Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus). The group cannot move forward unless its members agree to move together in the same direction at the same time. Seeking-and finding consensus is a vital element in how to get things done. Put clear and effective mechanisms in place to resolve deadlock.
Dedicate passionately to your mission. Passion drives the decision-making. The mission isn’t imposed from above, but is determined—and constantly refined—by the members themselves.
After reading We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines, I have become very interested in sociocracy, a.k.a. dynamic governance. Gerard Endenburg, who started pioneering and applying dynamic governance, has recently written an interesting article about the Creative Forces of Self-Organization together with John Buck. In this article, they discuss the principles and some of the methods of sociocracy in detail. Below are a few quotes from the article:
”…the self-organizing process spurs creative thinking and catalyzes new structures and ideas.”
”…to be self-organizing, a system must meet two conditions. First, the components of any self-organizing system must be equivalent, that is, not controlling each other. … Second, to be self-organizing, a system must have an external source of energy.”
”The three defining elements of dynamic governance [consent, circles, and double linking] create the conditions needed for self-organization to occur.”
”Only a dynamic governance structure, that is, one in which all the members are fundamentally equal, fundamentally not trapped in a boss-servant relationship, supports the natural phenomenon of self-organization.”
”Dynamic governance has considerable unexplored potential for many areas of human endeavor.”
Culture Shock: A Handbook For 21st Century Business by Will McInnes is a brilliant title on a book which is about the culture shock of moving from the traditional autocratic way of doing business to a democratic approach where there is true participation, openness, fairness, and connectedness. The perspective of Culture Shock is that an organization is made up of people, rather than resources (although human). This means that for an organization to thrive it needs a very clear purpose, which creates meaning way beyond financial results.
The book resonates strongly with me. Will McInnes eloquently puts words on what I think and feel. I fully agree with him that a democratic workplace makes business-sense, society-sense, and people-sense. I think he is right in saying that the huge potential lies in the distribution of power through shared decision making. An inclusive, participative, approach to running our organizations has a “direct knock-on effect” on the way the organization performs. We all know innately that “being bad to people is being bad to the bottom line”.
There are a few areas where I have somewhat different perspectives than Will, but that is okay. We are talking about democracy and being authentic here. One example is the pace of change. Will thinks the new business culture is going to be mainstream within five or ten years. I do hope so, but I think the change we are talking about will take much more time. We are talking about changing domination structures. This change is a culture shock for those in power.
For the rest of us, it is an opportunity to be set free, to be allowed to thrive and show up fully as a human being even in the workplace. And here is the other culture shock. The emotional transparency required to be fully you is a demanding shift. And maybe this is why we have allowed our real lives to be different from our working lives for so long?
So, to give us the best chance of success, we need to step in and support each other. What is so nice is that there are people out there who have actually walked the alternative path for some time now. Will McInnes is one of them.
Rune Kvist Olsen is a very interesting researcher, author, and thinker. Here is his paper on The DemoCratic Workplace, which is about empowering people (demos) to rule (cratos) their own workplace. This is done enabled by organizing individual and group decision processes through personal competence-based authority. In another paper Rune describes the Change from Leadership (vertical power structures) and Leadingship (horizontal power structures) at Work. I think the distinction Rune makes between leadership vs. leadingship is somewhat related to the distinction that I see between management vs. leadership. Management is a role, while leadership is a relation.
I am convinced that we need to change existing power structures in order to achieve organizational democracy. An example are the struggles we see with scaling agile software development to the whole organization. This is ultimately a question of changing the power distribution.
We are in the middle of December and the days are short up here in the northern part of Europe, but it’s not only a dark time of the year. I have recently encountered musings about the darkness in the world in the books I have read.
Margaret Wheatley writes for example in her new book So Far from Home that oppositional politics cannot deal intelligently with today’s complex problems and that the already powerful will remain in power. Her call is an invitation to a warriorship for the human spirit. She invites us to fight for more life-affirming values and practices.
Another example is Otto Scharmer who writes in his bok on Theory U that our global system will probably hit the wall within the next ten years if current trends and developments continue (the book was published in 2009). This is why he focuses his time and energy on creating living examples that embody new forms of cross-institutional collaboration and innovation. He continues by saying that the pressure on front-line practitioners right now is enormous and keeps increasing. People feel trapped and don’t know how to change it or how to get out. The situation is serious!
Personally, I think we really need to take emergence and self-organization seriously. The challenges are so big and complex that we need to act intelligently and wisely together. However, self-organization doesn’t self-organize. We consciously need to setup conditions such that self-organization can happen. Dynamic governance (aka sociocracy), which is about consenting to a deeper democracy, is one very interesting and practical approach. Large group methods provide other and complementary examples, all of which can be combined in new and creative ways.