Organizing retrospective 74

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective. Here is my next retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This is a retrospective, not only of the last week, but also of what has happened during the year.

The series on organizing ”between and beyond” started one and a half years ago, and is inspired by David Bohm and F. David Peat’s notion of ”the order between and beyond” in Science, Order, and Creativity.1 Here is my review of Bohm and Peat’s book.

David Bohm & Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, p. 274–5.

I think that we need to move ”between and beyond” our traditional ways of organizing work. We need a major shift in how we perceive and organize work, and in how we relate to ourselves and othersHere is an overview of all the posts in the series.

This year, I have read 15 429 pages across 61 books according to Goodreads. I have actually read more books. And no, I haven’t read every page in every book.


Book Reviews
Throughout the year, I have reviewed the following 25 books (the latest first):

  • The Spirit of Leadership by Harrison Owen is an amazing book! Its message is perhaps even more valid today as when it was written 28 years ago? Leadership is not the exclusive property of the few. It is, on the contrary, a collective and constantly redistributed function. The leadership we need is available in all of us.
  • Leadership Agility by Ron Meyer and Ronald Meijers focuses about leadership styles. The focus is on understanding the qualities and pitfalls of each leadership style. I particularly appreciate that the authors avoid formulating leadership scripts or formulas. The ultimate test of leadership agility is to combine leadership and followership—at the same time.
  • Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman is a book about emergence. Kauffman attempts to lay out the scientific foundations for agency and value in the biological world. Life itself seems to maximize self-propagating organization of process. It’s a thought-provoking book!
  • The Werkplaats Adventure by Wyatt Rawson is about Kees and Betty Boeke’s pioneer comprehensive school, it’s methods and psychology. It is very interesting to see how the school succeeded in securing order without force, encouraged freedom and spontaneity, and maintained a sense of equivalence among the children and adults. It’s a great book about the values and attitudes that are needed for organizing and peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Mindstorms by Seymour Papert is about how children learn a way of thinking. The book is about children, but Papert’s ideas are relevant to how people learn at any age. He thinks about a world without schools, and discusses settings that are socially cohesive where all are learning.
  • The Power of Eight by Lynne McTaggart is about the power that is unleashed the moment we stop thinking about ourselves and gather with others into a group. It’s as if the individuals in the group become one brain together. There’s something going on here that we don’t understand.
  • Human Dynamics by Sandra Seagal and David Horne is about a framework for understanding people and realizing the potential in our organizations. The framework feels artificial, but talking about how we need to deal with each other is eye-opening.
  • Anam Ċara by John O’Donohue is about the presence, power, and beauty of inner and outer friendship. John O’Donohue takes his inspiration from his Irish heritage. It’s a beautiful book full of wisdom.
  • Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramović with James Kaplan is about Abramović and how she became a performance artist. The wall is pain. At first, the pain is excruciating, then it vanishes. That’s when you’ve walked through the wall and come out on the other side. And sometimes there’s a deep connection on the other side of the wall.
  • Freedom from Command and Control by John Seddon is about a better way to make work work. The better way has a completely different logic to command-and-control, and that, perhaps, is the reason it is difficult to understand. People interpret what they hear from their current frame of reference, so what they hear is not necessarily what is meant.
  • A Feeling for the Organism by Evelyn Fox Keller is about Barbara McClintock (1902–1992) and her science (genetics). Barbara McClintock was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She had a ”feeling for the whole organism.” I find her life and work most fascinating.
  • Waking by Matthew Sanford is about appreciating and believing in our own experience. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to a different level of presence, a form of presence that subtly connects the mind to the body. The challenge is to step more deeply into our lives, to stay open to our own experience — to not deny it, but rather to simply have it.
  • Focusing by Eugene T. Gendlin is a most interesting book. Focusing is an internal act which is useful in approaching any problem or situation. It enables you live from a deeper place than just thoughts and feelings.
  • Survival in the Organization by Benedicte Madsen and Søren Willert is a small book and a quick read. The book is about Gunnar Hjelholt’s life with a focus on his time in a German Concentration Camp during World War II. What strikes Gunnar Hjelholt are the similarities between the concentration camp and organizations in general.
  • A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry is, in a way, a beginner’s guide to philosopy. I like that Ferry tries to place the different philosophical systems in the best possible light, but I’m somewhat surprised that Luc Ferry describes philosophy as a road to ‘salvation’. Personally, I think loving wisdom – trying to live wisely – is a perfectly valid aim in itself. There’s much in Luc Ferry’s book which I question, but not necessarily disagree with.
  • Artful Leadership by Michael Jones is a wonderful book! Jones brings a unique and most profound sensibility to the art of leading in the now. It’s about becoming present to the ever-present organic flow of learning and change. We are all leaders and followers at the same time.
  • The Future of Humanity by Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm is a small book and a quick read. The book leaves me with mixed feelings. Krishnamurti is very assertive and rather evasive. I definitely lost confidence in him.
  • The Art of Leading Collectively by Petra Kuenkel is about the art of collaborating for a sustainable future.  I particularly like that Kuenkel not only discusses collaboration in terms of tools and structures, but also emphasizes the importance of creating ”life” and aligning action with deeper human values. Collaboration ultimately rests on our humanness. We know deep inside how collective leadership works.
  • Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order by Lloyd Lee Wilson address facets of (Conservative) Quaker faith and practice. Wilson shares many profound insights, but I think that he is too conservative. I believe that all human beings have the ability to discern good order, and that any group can search for unity (regardless of religious beliefs) provided there is trust.
  • The Structure of Value is Robert S. Hartman’s seminal work on Formal Axiology. It was interesting to see how Hartman constructs the foundations of his value science. He obviously knows philosophy, science, and mathematics very well! The book is well-structured and clearly written, but is also very demanding to read!
  • A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality by Donald W. Sherburne is a great guide to Whitehead’s philosophy. I realized how influenced I am by David Bohm, who also thought about mind and matter, creativity and order. I think that Bohm went beyond Whitehead’s process philosophy. Order arises from process, but process arises from a deeper order. Active information, rather than process, is constitutive of the world.
  • A Quaker Approach to the Conduct of Research by Gray Cox with Charles Blanchard, Geoff Garver, Keith Helmuth, Leonard Joy, Judy Lumb, and Sara Wolcott has grown out of a decade of experiments employing Quaker processes of communal discernment in research. The book itself is the product of collaborative work. I think that communal discernment is an example of a deeper generative order for organizing.
  • How Does Societal Transformation Happen? by Leonard Joy is a great but small book (87 pages). I think that the individual and societal transformation which Joy writes about is as applicable to organizational transformation.
  • If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Tom Morris is about what Aristotle would have done to create excellence and success in the business world. The book is full of wisdom. It’s an irony that the part of the book on truth is not entirely truthful. With the benefit of hindsight, recognized ”masters at company renovation” aren’t necessarily ”masters” after all. There’s so much hype out there.
  • Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander is about two broad approaches to life: the downward spiral and radiating possibility. Resonance is created when there is an attunement between the outside and the inside of us. It’s so easy to put all attention on the outside, and leave out completely the inside.

Next year, I would like to review the following books (which I have read):

Additional posts that I have published this year are:

To my surprise I have started to write poems. Please, be kind. This is new to me. And English isn’t my native language. Next year, my intention is to spend more time on my own writing. I need to let what I want to say unfold word by word, post by post.

There are many thoughts and ideas that I have taken up, combined, and added to during the year. The list below is long and unsorted, but I wanted to gather the reflections in one place (sources are in parentheses):

  • The wisdom of the heart is of a wholly different order than the intellectual insight we synthesize through deliberate rational thought. (Marcel Proust)
  • When we disconnect from a sense of inner — implicate — guidance, we are forced to rely on external — explicate — constructs. (Kelly Brogan)
  • Resonance is created when there is an attunement between the outside — explicate — and the inside — implicate — of us. (Rosamund Stone Zander)
  • Asking for help creates deep resonance within an organization which enables it to act swiftly and decisively. (Rosamund Stone Zander)
  • Holding space requires a readiness to be changed personally, to learn, and to be surprised. (Peter Pula)
  • Most focus on technical aspects, not human aspects — and values. (Bob Emiliani)
  • Perceiving livingness requires mobile thinking perception. Thinking in a living way is required whenever we are dealing with human situations. (Charles Tolman)
  • The inquiry into a deeper generative order for organizing, an organizing beyond, requires that we enter into the territory beyond the explicate order. (Rosamund Stone Zander)
  • Too many are too focused on — explicate — process and tools to notice the — implicate — foundational principles. (Bob Emiliani)
  • The inquiry into generative orders for organizing need to be generative itself.
  • There is something deeply generative in slowing down, inviting moments of silence.
  • Play is authentic order. (David Mezick)
  • Dialogue is fundamental for discernment of collective wisdom. (Leonard Joy)
  • Dialogue provokes reflection, and reflection supports individual development. (Leonard Joy)
  • The lived values of individuals promote societal change. (Leonard Joy)
  • Organizational development is dependent upon individual value development.
  • Skills won’t help if the individual doesn’t embrace the necessary values, and if the organization doesn’t support them.
  • Our values in-forms our organizing.
  • Value-intelligence is an example of a deeper generative order for organizing that is present in anything that’s alive. (Skye Hirst)
  • Organizating principles of healthy living systems: autopoiesis (self-creation), autognosis (self-knowledge), autonomics (self-regulation). (Elisabet Sahtouris)
  • The balance between any holon’s autonomy and holonomy must be worked out as mutual consistency if the holon is to survive as part of a holarchy. (Elisabet Sahtouris)
  • Organizing perspectives (Henri Bortoft, David Bohm, Norm Hirst)
Organizing Perspectives
Belonging together
Belonging together
Internal values
External rules
  • Mechanism vs. Organism. (Elisabet Sahtouris)2
Mechanism Organism
Allopoietic Autopoietic
Inventor created Self-created
Hierarchic structure Holarchic embeddedness
Top-down command Holarchic dialog/negotiation
System engineered System negotiated
Repaired by engineers/experts Repairs itself
Evolution by external redesign Evolution by internal redesign
Exists for product or profit Exists for health and survival
Serves owners’ self interest Serves self/society/ecosystem
  • A living process requires energy (a sense of purpose), inflow (a sense of direction), inner life (a sense of coherence and wholeness), outflow (harvesting, discernment), and feedback (learning) to stay alive.3
  • Order arises from process, but process arises from a deeper order. Active information, rather than process, is constitutive of the world. (David Bohm)
  • Life itself has a complex and subtle order of infinite complexity and subtlety. (David Bohm)
  • Life’s various suborders are all arranged, connected, and organized together, clearly inseparable from the greater whole. (David Bohm)
  • Intuition is a deeper generative order. If your intuition is misinformed, then your entire synthetic construction will become misconstrued.
  • Life-itself is neither a construction nor an abstraction. Life-itself is direct and immediate.
  • The essence of life-itself only can be penetrated by direct and immediate intuition.
  • Disvalue posing as value a perversion of value. An example is learning children to value not valuing themselves. (Robert Hartman)
  • Deeper generative orders for organizing need to be grounded in intrinsic values.
  • Enlightened organizing is based on openness (relational), light structures (multiple and variable), and presence (nowness, sensing, being). (Dian Marie Hosking)
  • Living beings are resistormers – conformers, yet resistors. (Floyd Merell)4
Conformity Middle Way Resistance
Iteration (Linear) Recursivity (Nonlinear)
Many is of utmost importance Singularity, Oneness, uniqueness, is of increasing importance
Predictability, of the collectivity Uncertainty, of the unique individual
Conventional knowing Unknowing knowing
Knowing upfront is prioritized Knowing through retrospection is usually of greatest value
A ‘Black Swan’ is a shocking and unwanted surprise, hence initially resisted A ‘Black Swan’ is expected, and readily accommodated
‘Grue’ remains virtually unintelligible ‘Grue’ can be made intelligible  (through the ‘middle way’)
  • Soul is the primary organizing, sustaining, and guiding principle of living beings. (Bill Plotkin)
  • Our own feeling and our own thought, which comes from being at home with the place of undivided wholeness within ourselves. (Michael Jones)
  • Generative organizing is going beyond — explicate— techniques into the — implicate — depths of being human. (Michael Jones)
  • Organismic valuing is based on authenticity, autonomy, internal locus of evaluation, unconditional positive regard, process living, relatedness, and openness to inner and outer experience. (Carl Rogers)
  • The collision of values (intrinsic, extrinsic, systemic) goes very deep.
  • Reason alone will not save us and the world. We need to bring our focus ‘upstream’ to where reason and heart may work in common.
  • Emergent organizing is based on knowledge (freely shared), trust (transparency, authenticity), credibility (active questioning), and value-creation (collaboration, cooperation). (Jon Husband)5
  • Experiencing is directly related to deeper generative organizing. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • The next step follows (continues, carries forward, makes sense) from what preceded it. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • Our next step of thought comes from our experiencing. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • There is order in all life. (David Bohm)
  • There is responsive order, which always gives more exact results than could have been constructed or deduced, in nature. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • Experiencing is a non-numerical and precise order which is not limited to any set of patterns. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • The content of experience is generated by experiencing itself. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • We can think everything more truly if we think it with attention to how we think. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • Experiencing is a generative source of felt meaning which unfolds into action, which has further meaning. (David Bohm, Eugene Gendlin)
  • Experiencing is always richer than what can be expressed in language. (Eugene Gendlin)
  • Experiencing is enfolded deep within the generative order.  (David Bohm, Eugene Gendlin)
  • All action, including inaction, takes place immediately according to the meaning of the total situation at the moment. (David Bohm)
  • The challenge is to step more deeply into our lives, to stay open to our own experience — to not deny it, but rather to simply have it. (Matthew Sanford)
  • The closer the focus, the greater the attention, the more we can learn about the general principles by which a living organism as a whole is organized. (Barbara McClintock)
  • The greater the attention to the unique characteristics of a single organization, the more we can learn about the generative order for organizing.
  • Nature is a dynamic process where information and meaning play a key dynamic role. (David Bohm)
  • Tasks which requires understanding lie — in principle — beyond the capabilities of automation. (Roger Penrose)
  • Organizational structures need to grow out of something deeper, out of generally held values. (Václav Havel)
  • A deeper generative order for organizing is related to deeper generally held values.
  • Life, in its essence, moves toward plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution, and self organization, in short, toward the fulfillment of its own freedom. (Václav Havel)
  • Organizational structures need to arise naturally from below as a consequence of authentic social self-organization. (Václav Havel)
  • Organizational structures need to derive their vital energy from a living dialogue with the genuine needs from which they arise. (Václav Havel)
  • A deeper generative order for organizing derives its vital energy from a living dialogue with genuine needs.
  • Do not give your power away to systems and people who are totally unworthy of it. Sometimes we allow people to exercise destructive power over us simply because we never question them. (John O’Donohue)
  • We have four ways to respond when faced with a situation we find problematic: collaborating, forcing, adapting, or exiting. (Adam Kahane)
  • Collaboration cannot and need not be controlled. (Adam Kahane)
  • Collaboration cycles generatively between engaging and asserting. The key is being able to work with both. (Adam Kahane)
  • Love (engaging) is what makes power generative. Power (asserting) is what makes love generative. (Adam Kahane)
  • More democratic variation is needed that flow from exploratory openness. (Richard Youngs)
  • Deeper generative orders for organizing are creative and generative, in other words, feminine.
  • Mother structures are generative orders. (Bourbaki)6
  • Fluid structure arises spontaneously in a community based on no fear, friendliness, and support. (Kees & Betty Boeke)
  • Minimal structure is order without the use of force.

I have come to believe that our organizations work despite the structures we impose on them. There’s a gap between how organizations are said to function and how they actually do function. There’s so much meaning-less structure (I mean this literally). And there’s so much misinformation out there – some of it is unconscious, some of it is conscious. We are all susceptible to the hype. Here are some takeaways:

  • Assumptions are context dependent. This is related to unconscious misinformation. Something which is valid in one context is not necessarily valid in another. An example is that we treat living systems as machines. We acknowledge that people aren’t machines, but we still treat people as cogs in the machine. Mechanical thinking is EVERYWHERE and shows up in our use of metaphors. Here is an example.
  • Always go to the source. And I mean ALWAYS. This is related to conscious misinformation. An example is quotes which are incorrect and thus misleading. Here is an example.
  • We all have our blind spots. My search for better ways of working has become as much an inner as an outer journey. I didn’t expect this five years ago, but it makes sense today. In order to see the big picture, connecting the dots, we need to see clearly.
  • We have to jump into the water to learn to swim. To read about something is one thing, to experience it is another. I was reminded of this earlier this year, when I participated in a Quaker decision-making meeting. The ‘dance’ I observed in the search for unity cannot be fully described in words.

One idea worth exploring is how structure is related to meaning, and vice versa. Structure is ‘explicate,’ while meaning is ‘implicate.’ Meaning generates ‘authentic’ structure. Structure without meaning is ‘counterfeit.’

Work doesn’t have to deplete us. It can be most meaningful. But to get there, we need to recognize that our workplaces have largely been devoid of a crucial part of being human: the feminine aspect.

What was good? What can be improved?
It feels really satisfying to see how my love of reading and learning flows into this work. Reflecting on the work itself, I can see three interwoven strands:

  1. The first strand is an inquiry into existing organizing orders. It’s about how we perceive and organize work. See, for example, these posts on organizing  ”between and beyond.”
  2. The second strand is an inquiry into the overall paradigmatic framework. This is about how we perceive the world in general. See, for example, these posts on philosophy and these on phenomenology.
  3. The third strand is an inquiry into life-itself and its organizing principles. See, for example, these posts on autognomics.

Simon Robinson asked here earlier this year if I can begin to write a little about how I’m structuring my thoughts. I think that the structuring is something that happens over time. It grows over time. First, the thoughts are born. Then, the thoughts need to be repeated over and over again until some kind of structure emerges. I consider laying out all the organizing frameworks, approaches, and conceptions that I have identified so far on the floor, and then start walking around to see what structures emerge. The point is that I want to activate my full embodied thinking.

Skye Hirst has become a close friend during the year. Skye is one of the founders of The Autognomics Institue (TAI). TAI has spent decades researching the fundamental organizing principles of Life Itself. It was Skye Hirst who introduced the notion of autognomics, which means self-knowing. Skye has over and over again cracked me open with her questions and suggestions. I am looking forward to our continued conversations together next year.

I need other people’s thoughts to develop my own thinking. And I need other people’s mirroring to see myself. It’s so difficult to see what you don’t see!

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010, first published 1987), pp. 275–314.
2 Elisabet Sahtouris, EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution, p.370.
3 This is an adaption of an idea from Lasse Ramquist and Mats Eriksson. See Ramquist & Eriksson, Manöverbarhet: VU-processen—en ledningsmodell för strategisk fokusering, medarbetarengagemang och konkurrens på livets villkor (Ekerlids Förlag, 2000).
4 Floyd Merrell, Becoming Culture (CreateSpace, 2012), p.159.
5 Jon Husband et al., Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work, pp.5–6.
6 The Bourbaki school of mathematics sees more complex structures as combinations of simpler ones, of which the most important are three mother structures.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts


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