Kategoriarkiv: Phenomenology

Authentic vs. counterfeit orders

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” The post is part of my exploration of deeper generative orders for organizing. Other posts are here.

I introduced a distinction between authentic versus counterfeit operating limits in my post on the phenomenology of sociocracy. This distinction is inspired by Henri Bortoft.1 My argument is that authentic operating limits naturally belong together with the situation, while counterfeit operating limits are artificially forced to belong together with the situation. Similarly, I think it’s necessary to distinguish between authentic versus counterfeit orders.2 Authentic orders naturally belong together with the situation, while counterfeit orders are artificially forced to belong together with the situation. Or, in the language of Bohm & Peat, authentic orders are informed, while counterfeit orders are misinformed.3 And misinformation enfolded into an order have wide-ranging and negative consequences.4 Misinformation is not only rigid but destructive.5 A clearing up of misinformation is needed if energy is to be freed from its destructive pattern.6

Why is this relevant in our search for a deeper generative order7 of organizing? I think that a major problem arises when it is assumed, often tacitly, that principles and assumptions that are valid in one situation automatically are valid in another situation. For example, a conclusion from this post is that defined processes aren’t appropriate for intellectually intensive work. In other words, defined processes impose a counterfeit order on intellectually intensive work. Another conclusion from the same post is that personal practices are largely independent of organizational processes. In other words, organizational processes are a counterfeit order by not naturally belonging together with personal practices. And it’s destructive to artificially force organizational processes to belong together with personal practices. And, finally, the conclusion in this post is that people are not machines. Machines and organisms are different. In other words, applying specific assumptions applicable to mechanical or electrical systems to human systems impose a counterfeit order. This can produce more harm than good.

Counterfeit orders are misinformed. And misinformation is destructive. The deeper organizing order must be an authentic order!

Here is more on belonging together vs. belonging together.

1 The idea behind authentic versus counterfeit operating limits is inspired by Henri Bortoft who distinguished between authentic versus counterfeit wholes. The notion of authentic and counterfeit is also connected to the phenomenological idea of belonging together. See Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter (Floris Books, 2014), pp. 51f & 150—153. See also Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 70, 90—95, 132.
2 The notion of ”order” extends beyond the confines of a particular theory. Order permeates the whole infrastructure of concepts, ideas, and values. Order enters the very framework in which human thought is understood and action is carried out. See David Bohm & F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, p. 98.
3 By ”misinformation” is meant a form of generative information that is inappropriate, rather than simply incorrect. Ibid., p. 238.
4 Ibid., p. 271.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid..
7 A ”generative order” may be regarded as a concrete activity of the general. This takes the form of principles, aims, values, attitudes, and beliefs of all kinds. When a principle is regarded as valid, it means that it is taken as necessary. Ibid., p. 238.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

A wide-ranging hangout with Simon Robinson

Simon Robinson, co-author of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, shares in this wide-ranging hangout his view on holonomics, wholeness, leadership, change, human values, and the dynamics of seeing deeply. Simon says that there’s lot of talk about collaboration, co-creation, sustainability, and sharing, but that these are just words if there’s no authenticity and a lived presence of human values. I fully agree.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holonomics
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing

The phenomenology of sociocracy

Phenomenology is a philosophy, an academic discipline, and a practiced research methodology. It arose from a group of continental philosophers in the early 1900s with Edmund Husserl and has developed into a qualitative research methodology. Unlike other research methodologies, our sense experience, intuition, and feelings do not need to be disregarded. The key is to notice without attachment, and discern the difference between thoughts, feelings, and direct experience.

Sociocracy is a governance method based on consent decision-making and cybernetic principles. Sociocracy was developed during the 1970s by Gerard Endenburg. Endenburg is a Dutch entrepreneur and electrical engineer. His first book on sociocracy was published in Dutch in 1981 and in English in 1988. The book contains two examples to illustrate the feedback control loop, or circle process, in cybernetics. The first example is riding a bicycle,1 and the second is a central heating system.2

The basic rules, or principles, in sociocracy are discussed in detail in relation to these two examples. The major conclusion drawn is that there is one operating limit which can never come under discussion, and that is the equivalence in the decision-making.3 An important distinction is that this equivalence in the decision-making only applies to deciding the operating limits, or thresholds, of the system components. This is why the first principle in sociocracy only governs policy decision-making.

Gerard Endenburg acknowledges that the operating limits in riding a bicycle are not the same kind of limits as those within which a thermostat in a heating system is allowed to function, but he still thinks that they indicate constraints within which control may be exercised.4 He is aware that riding a bicycle is far more complex in reality than his simple example might suggest.5 Endenburg also acknowledges that people are not system components,6 but he doesn’t distinguish between machines and organisms in his reasoning.7 The way of seeing in sociocracy is the engineer’s. The operating idea is cybernetics.

With a phenomenological approach, Gerard Endenburg would have set aside his engineering preconceptions and assumptions, and explored the phenomenon of riding a bicycle in terms of itself. He would have reflected on his experiences to search for intrinsic patterns and qualities, and, with them, gained a deeper understanding. For example, he might have noticed that some operating limits are authentic, while others are counterfeit.8,9,10,11

Authentic operating limits are, in this case, determined by the bicyclist’s need to keep the balance while riding the bicycle.12 An example of a counterfeit operating limit could be to be forbidden to cross a white line on the road. It would be counterfeit because the bicyclist would still cross the line, if needed, to keep the balance.13 However, sometimes not crossing the line could be authentic, for example, if it would be better to fall than to be killed by a car.14 The point is that people decide themselves what is authentic, or not, depending on the situation.15 And people don’t obey counterfeit operating limits, or rules, unless they are forced to do so.16 This means that equivalence is applicable to all decision-making. The operating limit on sociocracy itself is that people are autonomic.17,18

1 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making, (Eburon, 1998), pp. 16—19, 23, 33—37, 223—224.
2 Ibid., pp. 19—23, 30, 36, 40.
3 Ibid., p. 23.
4 Ibid. pp. 23, 30.
5 Ibid., p. 16.
6 Ibid., p. 39.
7 Ibid.
8 The idea behind authentic versus counterfeit operating limits is inspired by Henri Bortoft who distinguished between authentic versus counterfeit wholes. See for example Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively, (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 90—95.
9 See also Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, (Floris Books, 2014), pp. 51f & 150.
10 The notion of authentic and counterfeit is also connected to the phenomenological idea of belonging together. Note especially that there is a feedback loop in that the way in which the belonging together is developed helps to inform the system, and when the system is created it can also help to better see the belonging together. Ibid., pp. 150—153.
11 The belonging together emerges from the phenomenon itself. See Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively, (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 70, 132.
12 Authentic operating limits naturally belong together with the situation, in this case with the bicyclist’s balancing act.
13 Counterfeit operating limits are artificially forced to belong together with the situation.
14 Note that there is a feedback loop between the operating limit(s) and the situation.
15 It’s important to understand the situation and let it control the actions. See Frederick S. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, (Bantam Books, 1969), p. 20.
16 External control, even internalized, interferes with the healthy working of the organism. Ibid.
17 Organisms are autonomic, while machines are allonomic. Organisms come into being as a whole entity and grow into maturity as a whole entity unlike machines that are assembled piece by piece by some other. See Norm Hirst, Towards a science of life as creative organisms, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 4, No 1-2 (2008).
18 According to Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, we can never direct a living system; we can only disturb it. Furthermore, a living system has the autonomy to decide what to notice and what will disturb it. See Fritjof Capra & Pier Luigi Luisi, The Systems View of Life: A Unified Vision, 4th printing, (Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 256.

Related book reviews:
Book Review: Sociocracy by Gerard Endenburg
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing by Emma Kidd
Book Review: Holonomics by Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson

Related posts:
The big misconception in sociocracy
Fritz Perls on control
What if control is inappropriate?
Machines are allonomic, living organisms are autonomic
Autognomics: Radical Self-Knowing
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?

Book Review: First Steps to Seeing

First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively is Emma Kidd’s first book. Emma Kidd “left the fashion industry to investigate alternative ways of thinking about and doing business” (p. 11). What she didn’t expect was that her explorations would take her right back to the very foundation for her previous work as designer – the “way of seeing” (p. 11). The book has two parts: Developing a Dynamic Way of Seeing, and Giving Life Our Full Attention, and is designed to take the reader on a journey “that encourages us to fully notice life by paying acute attention to the ways in which we see, think and act, every day” (p. 14).

A Dynamic Way of Seeing (and Being)
The book also serves as an introduction and guide to Henri Bortoft’s work. Henri Bortoft called the switch of attention from ‘what we see’, to ‘the way in which we are seeing’ a “dynamic way of seeing” (p. 32). A dynamic way of seeing involves “noticing our experience of life as we are experiencing it, rather than analyzing it” (p. 15). It “enables us to transform the way in which we relate to ourselves, to other people, to our work and to life in general” (p. 16), and “ask[s] us to become more gentle, vulnerable, open and intimate in our encounters with the world” (p. 17). Fundamentally, it is “a way of being in, and relating to, life” (p. 109). Living attentively “allows life to thrive, both inside and outside of us” (p. 109).

Focused Sensory Experience
Developing a dynamic way of seeing involves “pausing any internal dialogue that is occurring in our mind and opening our awareness to notice the way in which our senses can perceive the world” (p. 40). By shifting our attention “from our thoughts and towards our senses we can move beyond our habits of perception and begin to rediscover our own experience of life” (p. 41). When we “become aware of the way in which our thoughts divert our attention away from our experience of the world, we can make an effort to redirect our attention and attempt to more fully experience life” (p. 47). Although our “thoughts are an intrinsic … part of our experience, they are often part of a secondary ‘meaning-making’ process that attempts to re-present the life that our sensory experience first presences” (p. 47). The “awareness that exists prior to our thoughts”, in the form of words, “has a clarity and freshness to it that brings our experience of the world directly to the forefront of our perception” (p. 47). “Lived experience is our capacity to experience life, as it is being lived, in the present moment” (p. 51). Henri Bortoft believed that “perception can only truly begin when we slow down” (p. 51). Our minds often work incredibly fast, jumping “from one thought to the next” (p. 51). By slowing down, “changing the way we see, and the way in which we notice the world around us, we are literally changing the way we use our mind” (p. 60). This makes it possible “to experience a new richness, depth, and diversity in the life around us” (p. 63).

Sensorial imagination
We can also “use our imagination as a mirror to reflect on our experience and to bring it to life again in our mind” (p. 63). When we “use our imagination to re-member (put back together) a particular experience, as exactly as possible, in all its sensory and felt detail,” we can review the experience “without the distractions of personal opinions, analysis, preconceive ideas or definitions” (p. 64). Since we are all different, “there are no fixed instructions for the exercise of exact sensorial imagination” (p. 65). “We just need to pay full attention to our sensory experience of life and then try to accurately bring that experience back to life in our imagination” (p. 65). When we let “our intellectual analysis dominate our investigations, our living experience of the world tends to be overlooked” (p. 73). “This leaves us blind to the life of the world around us” (p. 73).

Intuitive Perception
The action of “fully focusing on our experience, rather than our thoughts, has the effect of … connecting us directly to the world” (p. 82). We can then “release the specific focus of our attention and open our awareness, so that we remain present to our experience yet not fixated on it” (p. 82). This “frees up our intuition to sense life in its own unique way” (p. 82). Intuition is also “called non-inferential perception” (p. 81). With “focused sensory perception” we narrow our gaze, whereas with “intuitive perception” we loose gaze and open our attention (p. 84). Putting “intuitive perception” into practice is not as straightforward as the “ways by which we can put our thoughts and senses into immediate action” (p. 84). Again, there are no fixed instructions “that will guarantee successful results” (p. 85). “All we can do is try to create conditions within ourselves for intuitive understanding to emerge” (p. 85). The validity of our intuition can be strengthened by “most crucially coming to know ourselves, ever further and deeper” (p. 86).

Authentic vs. Counterfeit Wholes
Wholeness is “intrinsically embedded in all parts of nature” and “expresses itself through the parts that make up whole forms” (p. 87). Henri Bortoft distinguished between ‘authentic’ and ‘counterfeit’ wholes. An ‘authentic’ whole ”reflects the type of wholes that nature creates, where the whole is always present in the parts” (p. 90). This type of whole “cannot be reduced by simply removing ‘parts’ of it” (p. 90). The authentic whole “is created by an ongoing, interactive ‘dialogue’ between the parts and the whole(s) of which they are a part” (p. 92). “An authentic whole is … a coherent integrity which becomes expressed through the parts that make up its form” (p. 92). The parts rely on “the coherent integrity of the whole to guide their development, but they are not slaves to the whole” (p. 92). The parts are “a place for ‘presencing’ of the whole” (p. 92). “In an authentic whole there is an intrinsic relationship between the parts and the whole but neither the part nor the whole is dominant; they are not separate entities and cannot be separated” (p. 93). A ‘counterfeit’ whole, on the other hand, is “a kind of ‘super part’ which domiciliates the parts that it creates by sitting over and above them, assuming significance, supremacy, and superiority” (pp. 91—92). This type of whole consists of “a collection of separate parts that have been assembled … in order to create the ‘whole’” (p. 92). Counterfeit wholes “operates as separate entities” (p. 92). They have “just been put together” (p. 92). “Our ability … to distinguish between authentic and counterfeit wholes … can help us to recognize what is genuine, and most satisfying, in our everyday lives” (p. 93). “In nature, in order for a whole to thrive, its parts must thrive also” (p. 95). “The same goes for societies, neither the part nor the whole can dominate, they need to authentically work together” (p. 95).

Living inquiry
Paying full attention “to noticing what brings us alive and intentionally expressing that vitality draws out the same potential in others also” (p. 124). If we want “to create livelier … societies we each need to find our own ways to come more alive and to be more fully human” (p. 124). “Paying attention to experiencing ourselves and presencing our own life … enables us to become more present, vulnerable and authentic” (p. 125). This creates “new space for life to flourish and flow within us” (p. 125). “A living inquiry is a dynamic way of seeing in action” (p. 130).

A Dynamic Way of Seeing (and Being) At Work
Emma Kidd cites several authors and researchers in the book to “demonstrate a form of living inquiry that allows the part of life being studied to become its own theory and to show itself, on its own terms” (p. 130). The case studies are very interesting and “illustrate the way in which systemic change can begin with an individual” (p. 143). “By using living knowledge to put the needs of life itself at the very centre of professional practice,” each case study shows “ways in which life can, and does, thrive” (p. 143). The projects and people in the book provide examples “of a truly revolutionary way of working” (p. 143), but to truly change the way of being at work is difficult. Emma Kidd has “come across many businesses and individuals all over the world who are really trying to make a difference but many only manage it in a partial way” (p. 168). They might, for example, “still end up controlling their employees rather than finding ways that allow them to genuinely thrive” (p. 168). Emma Kidd noticed, on reflection, “that these contrasting ways of working form two very different approaches to life and to business – one in which life generally suffers and in the other life quite obviously thrives” (p. 170). The case studies in the book display “a radical form of honesty and openness” (p. 174). They provide “a kind of … open-source project design and development, offering … a starting point from which to provide the best possible conditions for life to thrive in our own communities, schools, offices and businesses” (p. 174). The projects are very important “examples of the way in which parts of life can thrive when whole systems intentionally give their parts the freedom to do so” (p. 174).

From Surviving to Thriving
“At the root of everything we create is the mind that created it, including the organisations in which we work and the societies in which we live” (p. 176). A dynamic way of seeing “shines a light on the conditions within which life is most likely to flourish and therefore makes it possible for us to replicate these conditions” (p. 176). This is why a dynamic way of seeing and being is so important!

I highly recommend the book! It’s a great guide towards living and working more attentively, so that we can create conditions for life to thrive. The book is an important signpost in my own search for life-giving ways of working.

Related post:
Seeing Life in Work

Book Review: Holonomics

Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter by Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson is a book which places business within the overall ecosystem of the biosphere. Holonomics is a combination of ‘holos’ (the whole) and economics. The authors highlight the limitations and traps within the current ways of thinking in business.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part One introduces the phenomenological way of encountering wholeness in systems, which is a dynamic way of seeing. Experiencing the coming-into-being of phenomena makes it possible to reach a deeper understanding of the world. The authors call this holonomic thinking. Holonomic thinking doesn’t replace mechanistic thinking, which focuses on objects, or systems thinking, where the dynamic coming-into-being often is lost, but expands our thinking.
  • Part Two covers systems theory and complexity science. One of the key insights from Part Two is how the dynamic way of seeing transforms the observer from within through the genuine encounter with the phenomena that are studied. Holonomic thinking enables a person to reach a deeper understanding of the world where business is no longer seen as separate from people and nature.
  • Part Three presents a number of case studies of holonomic thinking as applied to business. Holonomic thinking is relevant to businesses since they are living systems. Among the examples mentioned are: Visa Inc.’s Chaordic Organization, where governance and power is distributed; Kyocera’s Amoeba Management System, which is based on self-managed and self-coordinated cells; Gore Associates’ Lattice Organization, where teams emerge naturally around perceived opportunities; Toyota’s Production System, in which the information that directs operations is the work itself; and DPaschoal’s Business Ecosystem, where all parts belong together and sustain each other.

A key insight from the book is that our thinking is an intimate part of our seeing, and vice versa. This means that entering into a new way of seeing expands our thinking. This book is important since it invites us into a new way of seeing which greatly expands our world view. This is much needed since people and planet matter. I warmly recommend the book!

Related link:
Simon Robinson’s blog posts about Holonomics at Transition Consciousness