Kategoriarkiv: Life

Organizing reflection 21

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 this and this post by Michelle Holliday (@thrivability).

Michelle writes (my emphasis in bold):

It usually takes more than action to generate and support change. …

We need to reconnect with what matters. We need to rediscover our place in the whole of life. …

Ultimately, what we need is to find the collective will to cultivate life’s ability to thrive … in every sphere of society. …

The outgoing worldview has been dominated by persuasion and even coercion, “driving” and “incentivizing” change.

Cultivating thrivability is not a discrete item on your to-do list; it’s an ongoing life practice…

Everything comes down to our ability to acknowledge and celebrate the precious gift of aliveness, source of our kinship with all existence.

It is through a sense of place … that we connect with the generative dimension of life most directly.1

Michelle also writes (my emphasis in bold):

Beyond specific techniques or the latest management fads, then, thrivability calls for a conscious commitment to nurturing life. It asks us to recognize the life in our organization—acknowledging that the organization isn’t something we can fully manage and control, but that our role is as stewards and participants, creating fertile conditions for life to flow and thrive across the fullness of the organizational ecosystem and beyond. —

For individual organizations, the lesson seems to be: get on in whatever way you can… Keep moving forward. … Adjust your speed and direction until you find the flow. And you will find it.2

Generative 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.

1 Michelle Holliday, Beyond Best Practices—How to Listen for Generative Threads of Aliveness in Stories of What Works | Medium, 2018-08-13 (accessed 2018-08-14).
2 Michelle Holliday, Lessons from Amsterdam | Medium, 2018-08-14 [first published 2013-10-31] (accessed 2018-08-14).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 19

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 thoughts and ideas from Harrison Owen and Rachel Naomi Remen. Rachel’s two books—Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings—are about opening space in our lives. I’m currently reading both of Rachel’s books.

This is also a continuation of this reflection. There’s an ongoing discussion about Open Space Organizations in the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList) which I find interesting.

Harrison Owen wrote August 10, 2018 (my emphasis in bold):

By my reckoning – All organizations are (already) Open Space organizations… they are just doing it very badly. Premise is that self organization has been the operative force with ALL systems for roughly 13.7 billion years. … And to play an old song: Open Space is not a method, technique, procedure – it is simply a remembrance of who and what we really are.1

Rachel Naomi Remen speaks to who and what we already are (my emphasis in bold):

The power to repair the world is already in you.2

Often … we may have ideas about life that keep us from experiencing what we already have.3

In befriending life, we do not make things happen according to our own design. We uncover something that is already happening in us and around us and create conditions that enable it.4

Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness. Befriending life requires that we listen for that potential which is trying to actualize itself over time.5

It is not about mastering life, controlling it or exerting our will over it, no matter how well intentioned our will may be.6

It means listening to life from the place in us that is connected to the wholeness around us. The place in us that is also whole.7

Generative organizing is about uncovering what is already happening in and around us, creating conditions that enable it. It requires listening for the potential which is trying to actualize itself. It means listening to life from the place in us that is whole and connected to the wholeness around us.

1 This is from Harrison Owen’s mail 2018-08-10 20:38 UTC to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList).
2 Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging (Riverhead Books, 2001, Kindle Edition), Loc 323.
3 Ibid., Loc 349.
4 Ibid., Loc 2759.
5 Ibid., Loc 2760.
6 Ibid., Loc 2763.
7 Ibid., Loc 2765.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 7

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?
When we experience the sharing of beingness, we have a direct experience that we are not alone in the world.1 Our failure to recognize and celebrate our beingness, that others care for us and will help us in need, that there are ways to allow deeper meanings of life to more fully enter our lives, comes, to some extent, from a hidden denigration of ourselves (or lack of self-love).2

1 This thought is inspired by Stephen Buhner who writes about our essence and uniqueness. See Buhner, The Transformational Power of Fasting, p.11.
2 Ibid., p.14.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Book Review: The Garden Awakening

The Garden Awakening: Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves by Mary Reynolds is a book about designing gardens that are beautiful, radiant with life, bursting with energy, in harmony with the Earth.1 Mary Reynolds has discovered through her work as a garden and landscape designer that gardens can become very special if we invite Nature to express her true self in these spaces, and then work to heal the land and ourselves.2

We are mirrors for the land and it is a mirror for us, so healing the the land leads us towards our own restoration, back to our true selves. If we allow the light to shine on all the dark places in our lives and have the courage to face ourselves, then recovery and growth will take place. Healing involves looking at the whole picture. We cannot solve a problem by resolving the physical level alone.3. We also need to find and correct the underlying causes of physical symptoms, whether conscious or unconscious.4

Mary Reynolds shows how using an integrated living systems approach removes our incessant war on Nature.5 We can force a child to be someone they don’t want to be, but only with the consequences of unhappiness and retreat. We can, on the other hand, gently discover who the child is, and who they want to be. Every piece of land is the same as this child. By listening carefully and allowing the land to become an extension of ourselves, we can interpret its energy and enable it to emerge through a creative collaborative process.6

Mary Reynolds uses the word co-creation when referring to her approach. Co-creation means that we are building our gardens hand in hand with Nature as a partner. It is based on the acknowledgment that Nature is a real, present, and conscious living entity. Her method of garden design is intuitive. The most important part is establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.7

Mary Reynolds has, for the purpose of the book, distilled her design system into five basic elements:

1. The tool of intention.8
2. Selecting areas to hold specific intentions.9
3. Designing with the patterns and shapes of Nature.10
4. The power of symbols and imagery.11
5. Putting the design on paper.12

Our thoughts, emotions, and intentions are a form of energy. If we focus our energy in a particular direction, we will be propelled there. Using intention allows us to communicate directly with our land.13 The aim is to create spaces that feel right, spaces that appeal to the heart rather than just the intellect.14 The patterns in Nature form a language we can feel rather than understand.15. We know when we have proper relationships because it feels right, it has resonance. Practice makes it easier to recognize this resonant feeling. Like any other skill, it takes time and effort to develop this skill.16

Mary Reynolds emphasizes that the only way to make a sustainable garden system to work is to collaborate with Nature. Fighting against Nature is just plain silly. If we are to treat the land as a living body, we must think in those terms.17 This book is a treasure map for finding our way back to the truth of who we are as living beings. The directions are simple, the methods are intuitive.18 The book is beautifully illustrated by Ruth Evans. This is literally one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. Reading the book is a nurturing experience in itself.

Update 2016-04-23:
I think that Mary Reynolds’ approach to garden design is as applicable to organizational design. If we are to treat the organization as a living system, we must think in those terms.

1 Mary Reynolds, The Garden Awakening: Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves (Green Books, 2016), p.42.
2 Ibid., pp.13–14.
3 Ibid., p.22.
4 Ibid., p.24.
5 Ibid., p.39.
6 Ibid., p.44.
7 Ibid., p.45.
8 Ibid., pp.46–60.
9 Ibid., pp.61–71.
10 Ibid., pp.71–79.
11 Ibid., pp.79–92.
12 Ibid., pp.93–119.
13 Ibid., p.46.
14 Ibid., p.71.
15 Ibid., p.74
16 Ibid., p.75.
17 Ibid., p.212.
18 Ibid., p.259.

Masanobu Fukuoka in his own words

This post is a compilation of my tweets from reading of Masanobu Fukuoka’s two books The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008) was a Japanese farmer and philosopher. He was an outspoken advocate of the value of observing nature’s principles.

Masanobu Fukuoka’s first and last major works (from left to right).

The One-Straw Revolution is Masanobu Fukuoka’s first book which became a bestseller. It is an inspiring book about agriculture, because it is not just about agriculture. The book is both practical and philosophical. Masanobu Fukuoka criticizes our willingness to reduce life to what is know about it, and to act on the assumption that what we don’t know can safely be ignored. Masanobu Fukuoka uses paradox and apparent contradiction to help break habitual patterns of thought. He opens the consciousness to perception beyond the reach of the intellect.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert is Masanobu Fukuoka’s last—and perhaps his most important—major work. One principle that Masanobu Fukuoka followed was to consider how one could do as little as possible. This was not because he was lazy, but because of his belief that if nature were given the opportunity it would do everything on its own. Masanobu Fukuoka saw nature as a single interconnected reality. And he saw time as an uninterrupted moment of the present with past and future embedded within it.

Quotes from The One-Straw Revolution

Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into practice, and so to determine whether my understanding was right or wrong.

Nature as grasped by scientific knowledge is a nature which has been destroyed, it is a ghost possessing a skeleton, but no soul.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.

I was unable to communicate my view to anyone. Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into practice, and so to determine whether my understanding was right or wrong.1

The usual way to go about developing a method is … bringing in a variety of techniques one upon the other. This … only results in making the farmer busier.2

The reason that man’s improved techniques seem to be necessary is that the natural balance has been so badly upset beforehand by those same techniques.

To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin out further and further from the center.

… if people merely become caught up in reacting, moving to the left or to the right, depending on conditions, the result is only activity.

I think that … the world has become so specialized that it has become impossible for people to grasp anything in its entirety.

A single step away from the source can only lead astray.

Scientists think they can understand nature. … But I think an understanding of nature lies beyond the reach of human intelligence. Why … That which is conceived to be nature is only the idea of nature arising in each person’s mind.

The ones who see true nature … see without thinking, straight and clear. If even the names of plants are known, … nature is not seen in its true form.

An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.

If you want to get an idea of the natural fertility of the earth, take a walk to the wild mountainside sometime and look at the giant trees that grow without fertilizer and … cultivation. The fertility of nature, as it is, is beyond reach of the imagination.

Nature is everywhere in perpetual motion; conditions are never exactly the same in any two years.

… until the general sense of values changes, the situation will not improve.

… all aspects of the problem … must be brought together and solved at the same time. A problem cannot be solved by people who are concerned with only one or another of its parts.

Food that is not fresh can be sold because it looks fresh.3

If you think commercial vegetables are nature’s own, you are in for a big surprise. These vegetables are a watery chemical concoction … with a little help from the seed.

… if you decide to try to make money … you get on board of the profit wagon, and it runs away with you.

The act of defense is already an attack.

Fast rather than slow, rather than less—this flashy ”development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse.

Though he was called a poor peasant … The New Year’s holiday lasted about three months. Gradually this vacation came to be shortened to … a three-day holiday. … There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song.

I do not particularly the word ”work.” Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world.4

[There’s] a distinction between techniques undertaken in conscious pursuit of given objective, and those which arise spontaneously … free from the domination of the volitional intellect.5

Quotes from Sowing Seeds in the Desert

… one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them …

Discriminating knowledge is derived from the analytic, willful intellect in an attempt to organize experience into a logical framework. … Non-discriminating knowledge arises without conscious effort … without interpretation of the intellect.

Human life is not sustained by its own power. Nature gives birth to human beings and keeps them alive. This is the relation in which people stand to nature.

Nature is in constant transition, changing from moment to moment. … The face of nature is unknowable.

Trying to capture the unknowable in theories and formalized doctrines is trying to catch the wind in a butterfly net.

Discrimination, a fragmented and incomplete understanding, always forms the starting point of human knowledge. Unable to know the whole of nature, people can do no better than to construct an incomplete model of it …

There is meaning and basic satisfaction just in living close to the source of things. Life is song and poetry.

Just as human beings do not know themselves, they cannot know the other. Human beings may be children of ”Mother Nature,” but they are no longer able to see the true form of their mother. Looking for the whole, they only see parts.

… the discriminating and analytical knowledge of scientists may be useful for taking nature apart and looking at its parts, but it is of no use for graping the reality of pure nature.

People do sometimes sense the sacredness of nature, such as when they look closely at a flower, climb high peaks, or journey deep into the mountain. Such aesthetic sense, love, receptivity, and understanding are people’s most basic instincts—their true nature.

If we have not grasped the intrinsic greenness of the grasses and trees, which originates with the life at their core, we cannot say that we really understand what true green is.

People simply believe they understand by making a distinction based on the outer appearance.

I believe that there is a limit to our ability to know nature with human knowledge.6

In the end, it will require some courage and perhaps a leap of faith for people to abandon what they think they know.7

Plants, people, butterflies, and dragonflies appear to be separate, individual living things, yet each is an equal and important participant in nature. … They form a single living organism.8

In the end it is love, really, that sustains our spirit.

Gradually I came to realize that the process of saving the desert of the human heart and revegetating the actual desert is actually the same thing.9

… what the world sees as cause and effect can be deceptive.10

The first step we must take in countering desertification is not to redirect the flow of rivers, but to cause rain to fall again. This involves revegetation.11

The problem is that the water, soil, and plants are considered separately … A permanent solution will never come about this way.12

Both in the past and at the present, human beings with their ”superior” knowledge, have been the ringleader in turning the earth and the human heart into wastelands.13

I first saw the desert and began to have an interest in it the summer I flew to the US … in 1979. I was expecting the American continent to be a vast, fertile green plain … , but … it was a brown, desolate semi-desert.14

Modern agriculture in the desert is based on the idea that you can grow anything if you just have water. … I advised people, on the contrary, to use as little water as possible … … high temperatures from radiant heat are of greater concern than lack of water.

… una typical scientist I have not tried to … systematically formulate measures for preventing desertification. Instead, my desert prevention measures are strictly intuitive and based on observation. I arrived at the by using a deductive method.

My immediate concern is that unforeseen changes are occurring in the communities of plants and soil microorganisms as a result of using chemicals.15

… while modern agriculture appears to be increasing yields, net productivity is actually decreasing.

As mechanization was introduced … increased harvests became the overriding goal, and efficiency declined sharply. Now … the energy produced is only half that invested.16

… modern petroleum-based farming is not producing anything at all. Actually, it is ”producing” a loss. The that is produced, the or the earth’s resources are being eaten up. In addition, it creates pollution and destroys the soil.

… by using mass-production techniques, the meat and fish industries severely pollute the earth and the sea.

… rather than bombs, it would be better to sow seeds in clay pellets from airplanes that had previously been used as military bombers.17

I do know … the usefulness of aerial seeding for revegetating large areas in a short period of time.18

The problem … is not that a place becomes a desert because there is no water … The relationship of soil, water, trees, and human communities is not as straightforward as specialists would have us believe.19

Originally, water, soil, and crops were a single unit, but since the time people came to distinguish soil from water, and to separate soil from crops, the links among the three were broken. They became isolated and were placed in opposition to one another

… instead of thinking that grasses and trees grow in the soil, it is actually the grasses and trees, other plants, animals, microorganisms, and water that create the soil and give it life.20

… efforts should not be centered on rules and techniques. At the core there must be a sound, realistic way of seeing the world. Once the philosophy is understood, the appropriate techniques will become clear as day.

… the techniques will be different for different situations and conditions, but the underlying philosophy will not change.

Without understanding what it is to know things intuitively, people have sought knowledge and have become lost.

My method of natural farming aims at liberating the human heart.21

1 Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution, p.5.
2 Ibid., p.15.
3 Ibid., p.88.
4 Ibid., p.115.
5 Ibid., p.119.
6 Masanobu Fukuoka, Sowing Seeds in the Desert, p.35.
7 Ibid., p.36.
8 Ibid., p.43.
9 Ibid., p.47.
10 Ibid., p.60.
11 Ibid., pp.60–61.
12 Ibid., p.64.
13 Ibid., p.79.
14 Ibid., pp.70–71.
15 Ibid., p.89.
16 Ibid., pp.89–90.
17 Ibid., p.100.
18 Ibid., p.101.
19 Ibid., p.107.
20 Ibid., p.108.
21 Ibid., p.140.

Stuart Kauffman on emergence and life

Stuart Kauffman (Source: Closer To Truth)

Here is Closer To Truth‘s interview with Stuart Kauffman about ”Is Emergence Fundamental?

Stuart Kauffman says among other things that (my emphasis in bold):

Reason is an insufficient guide for living your life. It means we need reason, emotion, intuition, sensation, metaphor. … Life is much richer than we thought.1

The biosphere is creating its own future possibilities of becoming. … That’s not in Darwin. … It’s a radical emergence. … We couldn’t prestate it. … We don’t know how it happened. … It changed the course of evolution.2

It’s radical emergence. It cannot be deduced.3

1 Stuart Kauffman – Is Emergence Fundamental? (5:23), 2015-11-09 (accessed 2017-06-04).
2 Stuart Kauffman – Is Emergence Fundamental? (6:35), 2015-11-09 (accessed 2017-06-04).
3 Stuart Kauffman – Is Emergence Fundamental? (7:43), 2015-11-09 (accessed 2017-06-04).

Martin Luther King on knowing thyself

Number one in your life’s blueprint
should be
a deep belief in your own dignity,
your own worth,
and your own somebodiness.

Don’t allow anybody to make you feel
that you are nobody.
Always feel that you count.
Always feel that you have worth,
and always feel that your life
has ultimate significance.

– Martin Luther King1

1 Martin Luther King, Know thyself, YouTube (accessed 2017-03-01).

Learning to see in the dark

Here is Dahr Jamail’s interview with deep ecologist and systems theorist Joanna Macy on Learning to See in the Dark Amid Catastrophe.

Joanna Macy says:

”[…] you can’t do it alone. The dangers coming down on us now are so humongous that it is really beyond an individual mind all by her/him/itself to take it in. We need to sit together, grab each other and be together as we even take in what is happening, let alone how we respond.

[…] I’m doing this work so that when things fall apart, we will not turn on each other. […] And we don’t have to waste time being scared of each other.

[…] We have to help each other wake up to how we are destroying everything we love […] To discover how much we really love being alive. To give ourselves a taste of what that passion is. To let us fall really in love with our planet, and its beauty, and to see that in ourselves, as well as in each other.

[…] Take stock of your strengths and give thanks for what you have, and for the joys you’ve been given. Because that is the fuel. That love for life can act like grace for you to defend life.”

Peter Pula on why hosting is harder than leading

Peter Pula

Peter Pula is the Founder of Axiom News. Here is his post on Why Hosting Is Harder than Leading. He writes that:

“We have become so remarkably accustomed to a form of leadership that comes from the top.”

“Top down leadership seems easier in the short term, but I believe it takes its toll. Too many leaders I have seen are in despair, … without the power to give life but only to take it away or at best hold the line.”

“Hosting the space for generativity is a different game entirely. … Deep, deep democracy is at work.”

“Holding space for life … starts with acknowledging you are a limited perceiver. … the best hosts must … [be] ready to be changed personally, to learn, and to be surprised.”

”… nothing changes until those gathered drop into their truest intentions and purposes and come into presence with one another …”

“As a host … Are you able to stay ‘still in disturbance’ when you have unleashed life on an unsuspecting routine? … Can you stay ‘soft’ and out of leader-centric narcissism, its highs and lows, its doubts and certainties? Can you tenderly hold what is being born?”

Here is Peter Pula’s full blog archive.

Glöm inte bort företagets ekologi

Lasse Ramquist och Mats Eriksson skriver i boken Manöverbarhet:

Att [enbart] jobba med ett logiskt-rationellt och fragmenterat perspektiv … är liktydigt med att glömma företagets ekologi. Det innebär att man glömmer bort att alla företag är … komplexa levande system. Det innebär att man behandlar levande system som om de vore tekniska system …1

Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Manöverbarhet, s. 132.

1 Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Manöverbarhet: VU-processen—en ledningsmodell för strategisk fokusering, medarbetarengagemang och konkurrens på livets villkor (Ekerlids Förlag, 2000). s. 132.

Tamsin Woolley-Barker on deep patterns in life

Tamsin Woolley-Barker is an author and evolutionary biologist. She looks for the deep patterns in life. Here is an article1 where Tamsin Woolley-Barke writes:

Organizations can’t keep growing the way we structure them today.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with hierarchies. In fact, nature uses them all the time—to stop change from happening. … Hierarchies are important and useful. But they aren’t the right structures for adapting to change …

Superorganisms … have been networked for a very long time.

Team performance emerges in real-time … Superorganisms break large, complex problems into tiny bites of action, building until tipping points are reached and change is triggered. There are no forecasts, budgets, meetings, or plans. There is no boss. Strategy happens organically, all the time, everywhere, and decisions are frequent, small, and imperfect.

If you want your company to change and grow, nimbly and continuously, … what you need is a living thing.

1 Tamsin Woolley-Barker, Want to build an organization that lasts? Create a superorganism, The Biomimicry Institute, 2016-03-25 (accessed 2016-09-16).

Elisabet Sahtouris on living systems

Elisabet Sahtouris asks in this talk (my emphasis in bold):1

Why is it that our culture, which is made up of people who are alive (so presumably we are a living system), knows so little about living systems? […] And yet we pretend to understand life. […] if we as human beings don’t understand ourselves as living systems within larger living systems, on which we’re dependent, we aren’t going to make it in this game. […] we seriously and disastrously disrespected life. What is it that so makes us disrespect each other and all of life?

1 Elisabet Sahtouris, Living Systems, the Internet and the Human Future, talk presented 2000-05-13 at Planetwork, Global Ecology and Information Technology a conference held at the San Francisco Presidio, (accessed 2016-09-01).

The very quality of livingness

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” The series is inspired by David Bohm and David Peat. This post is inspired by Henri Bortoft. Other posts are here.

Taking Apperance Seriously by Bortoft

It is all too easy for our thinking to lose sight of the very quality of livingness and for us to fall into thinking of the organism as if it were responding in a mechanical manner to the influences of the environment. The living organism does not just adapt to external circumstances in a passive manner.1 It configures itself actively, instead of being conditioned passively, in response to the environment.2 The specific form is neither determined by the environment, nor predetermined by the organism itself.3 If the form is so rigid and static that it completely lacks the flexible and dynamic quality which is characteristic of life, then It is in fact no more than a lifeless counterfeit of living being.4

1 Henri Bortoft, Taking Appearance Seriously, (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), pp. 77–78.
2 Ibid., p. 78.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid., p. 80.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing for thrivability

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to compare Michell Holliday’s framework for organizational thrivability with Integral Management, which I have written about here.

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

Michelle Holliday uses the metaphor of a tree to offer useful guidance to living systems patterns:1

  1. Divergent Parts (Individual People).2
  2. Patterns of Relationship (Connective Infrastructure).3
  3. Convergent Wholeness (Shared Identity & Purpose).4
  4. Self-integration (Divergence, relationship, and convergence are self-organizing).5

Michelle Holliday has, with extensive contributions from Belina Raffy and Julie Bourbonnais, developed a framework that is based on the tree metaphor. The framework goes into another level of detail, beyond the tree. See figure 1. For example, if the root system represents divergent parts – or people within the organization – then the ”fertile conditions” that must be cultivated are Mastery, Membership and Meaning. Here is a webinar where Michelle gives an explanation of the framework.

Figure 1. (CC-BY-SA) Michelle Holliday, with extensive contributions from Belina Raffy & Julie Bourbonnais.

Michelle Holliday’s framework is an integral framework that is nicely aligned with Integral Management, which I have written about here. Integral Management also views the organization as a living system,6 and explicitly focuses on the team as a ”living group”7 and the leadership which is needed to ensure that the conditions of life are put in place.8 Leadership is needed to inspire and focus the energy, to facilitate interplay and learning, and to ensure a steady outflow of results.9 The leadership is distributed within the team. I have mapped some of the components in Integral Management into Michelle’s framework. See figure 2. My changes are in blue, which are based on the book Manöverbarhet (maneuverability in English) by Lasse Ramquist and Mats Eriksson. My translation from Swedish to English.

Figure 2. (CC-BY-SA) Michelle Holliday, with extensive contributions from Belina Raffy & Julie Bourbonnais. Changes by Jan Höglund in blue based on the book Manöverbarhet (maneuverability) by Lasse Ramquist and Mats Eriksson.

1 Michelle Holliday, The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World, p. 97.
2 Ibid., p. 29.
3 Ibid., p. 30.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid., p. 31.
6 Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Manöverbarhet: VU-processen—en ledningsmodell för strategisk fokusering, medarbetarengagemang och konkurrens på livets villkor (Ekerlids Förlag, 2000), pp. 158–164, 193–194.
7 Ibid., pp. 146–152, 165–194.
8 Ibid., pp. 230–265.
9 Lasse Ramquist & Mats Eriksson, Integral Management (Lasse Ramquist AB, 2nd ed. 2009), pp. 176–187.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

What is life?

Science, Order, and Creativity by Bohm & Peat

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here.
Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is a very interesting book which I warmly recommend! Here is my book review. The chapter on ”What is order?”1 is particularly interesting in relation to the question: What is life? The following is based on this chapter, but with a focus on life itself.

Whatever we say life is, it isn’t
There can be no complete definition of life. Whatever we say life is, it isn’t.2 There is always something more than what we say and something different. At a given time, it is possible to abstract a certain notion as relevant and appropriate. But later, as the context is made broader, the limits and validity of this abstraction are seen and new notions developed. In the future, as the context is extended even further, still newer notions of life may arise.

Life is an order of orders
Life itself is based on order, but involves much more. It must always be remembered that, at a deeper level, attention must be given to the whole, which, in turn, acts to guide life. Life has a complex and subtle order of infinite complexity and subtlety. The various suborders in life are all arranged, connected, and organized together. Each suborder is clearly inseparable from the greater whole. Life is, therefore, orders of orders.

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010-09-01, first published 1987-10-01), pp. 97–147.
2 Korzybski said that ”whatever we say anything is, it isn’t” No analogy is equivalent to the object itself. Every analogy is limited. And if what we way is an analogy, then the object cannot be what we say. There is always room for newer and better analogies. Ibid., p. 145.

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Organizing in between and beyond posts

Michelle Holliday on thrivability

Michelle Holliday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related post:
Book Review: The Age of Thrivability

Book Review: The Age of Thrivability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:
Michelle Holliday quotes from The Age of Thrivability
Book Review: Thrivability by Jean M. Russell

Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

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

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

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

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

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

… it is not possible from my perspective to promote an ecosophy in terms of cybernetic mechanics.

… Mechanism and organism are created and function by completely different kinds of logic. 2

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

Related post:
Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking

Alfie Kohn on love, motivation, and self-esteem

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

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

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

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

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

Carol Black on the wildness of children

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

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

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

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

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

— Carol Black1

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