Empowerment is a red herring

The following is a quote from Harrison Owen on the World wide Open Space Technology email list October 14, 2014.

“I know we talk a lot about empowerment, but I have come to the conclusion that it is really a red herring, and most painfully so in those situations where you actually try to do it. Sounds odd, I guess, but think about it. If I empower you … you are in my power. And the more I try to empower you the worse it gets.

Real empowerment … is not an act that we (or somebody) do, but an acknowledgement of a pre-existing condition … you are powerful. Of course I might encourage you a bit to be as powerful as you are, but it is not something I can give you. You must claim it for yourself. Strange as it may seem, I find the notion of “empowerment” to be just the opposite of that fundament of effective working relationships (or any relationship) RESPECT.”

Related posts:
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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?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog. A common theme is his search for better ways of working together.

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