Organizing reflection 17

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 Petra Kuenkel‘s (@PetraKuenkel) thoughts about co-creation and collaborative spaces with Christopher Alexander’s insights into how to create built environments that have life, well-being, beauty. Actually, Petra Kuenkel refers to Christopher Alexander herself. I simply add to it. (Here and here are my reviews of Petra Kuenkel’s two books Mind and Heart and The Art of Leading Collectively. And here is my review of Christopher Alexander’s book The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth.)

Petra Kuenkel writes in this post on Co-creation, collaborative spaces and aliveness (my emphasis in bold):

Over my years of working in complex collaboration projects and institutional change management I noticed that certain elements consistently shift actors into more collaborative spaces. …

When I looked behind the scenes of collaboration initiatives … one insight emerged. It was simple and at the same time complex.

It reminded me of the writings of the American architect Christopher Alexander. … Christopher Alexander concluded that … [the] perception of a degree of “life” in an external structure … was not arbitrary. Nor was it simply a matter of taste.

So my (rather simple) conclusions is the following:

Co-creation works best in a collaborative space where there is “life”, a sense of vitality rather than superficial harmony. … There is usually a strong feeling of igniting each other’s vitality. You have fun. You feel alive. Your energy is boosted.1

Christopher Alexander says in this interview from 2011 that (my emphasis in bold):

Make sure, whatever you are deciding, or whatever you are doing, or whatever you are making—any action you are taking—make sure that it has inner beauty.

If you take that seriously, it will change everything. … When you come face-to-face with real beauty it changes you, and it changes the other people who are witnessing it, or who are thinking it, and they will take a different road. … Although this is so simple, it’s extremely powerful, because it only comes from the heart. … If you take this advice … it will change your own life.2

And, in this interview from 1994 Christopher Alexander says:

What you are looking for is the presence or absence of life. … It doesn’t imply that it’s lively, it could be very quiet. … But anyway, that it has its life. …

You can’t do this … without being willing, in effect, to make that judgment. …

Can one make such a judgment? Is it reasonably objective? Is there really such a thing? … Technocrats will not admit that there’s such a thing. So if you have a technically organized bureaucracy, they will either refuse to perform it, or perform it quite wrong by assigning arbitrary technical criteria. …

It wasn’t esoteric at all … to perform this thing. … The kinds of questions that people were asked to report on were very straightforward. … The only operative thing … necessary is people had to be willing to record their feelings. …

So much of rule bound society, in effect, makes it not okay to do that. Of course, people have feelings, but the question is: Is it alright to use it? … The general rule of thumb has been: No, it’s not okay to do that. …

They tend to twist it into bureaucratic forms. … Things that can be quantified very easily appear, therefore, to have some legitimacy that are actually no where as near as telling these larger, more global feelings.3

So, in other words, does it feel right?

Generative organizing looks for the presence of life/well-being/beauty, rather than superficial bureaucratized order. This requires a willingness to observe and feel.

1 Petra Kuenkel, Co-creation, collaborative spaces and aliveness | Petra Kuenkel—The Future of Leadership is Collective, 2017-09-08 (accessed 2018-08-09).
2 Interview with Christopher Alexander by Hiro Nakano | YouTube,  2011-09-05 (accessed 2018-08-09).
3 Interview with Christopher Alexander by Greg Bryant | YouTube, 1994-01-06 (accessed 2018-08-09).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *