Book of Proceedings
What are the implications and opportunities
when self-organizing is the only kind of organizing that exists?
Starting the Process
Self-Organization -- All the Way Down - Harrison Owen 3
Theory Meets Practice Meets Theory -- Glenda Eoyang 6
Open Space Session Discussion Notes
The place of freedom in self-organizing systems 8
The Dynamics of Emergence 10
Gangs ó Police Military ó “Enemy Tribe ó “Other” 21
Deeper Patterns and Processes 35
Guises of Self Organizing Systems 36
What does self-organization imply about wielding influence? 39
Organizational Awareness/Consciousness & Ego Development 41
How to Use Complexity and Open Space Principles on Critical Global Issues 43
Attractors and Questions 48
The relation between self-organizing systems and transformational process? 50
What is leadership (in the context of self-organizing systems)? 53
What is Change? How do you see dissipative structures? 55
How to Attain a Worldcentric Perspective 58
List of Participants 60
Starting the Process
Self-Organization – All the Way Down
There is an old joke about a King who goes to a Wiseperson and asks: How is it that the Earth doesn*t fall down? The Wiseperson replies, “The Earth is resting on a lion.” “On what, then, is the lion resting?” “The lion is resting on an elephant.” “On what is the elephant resting?” “The elephant is resting on a turtle.” “On what is the. . . “You can stop right there, your Majesty. It*s turtles all the way down.” (Ken Wilber, “The Essential Ken Wilber” Shambala 1998, pg 61)
It is turtles all the way down, although in this case, the turtle is the power of self-organization. The notion is a simple one. Given certain very elemental pre-conditions order happens, organization emerges. Not by plan, not by external effort or design. It just happens all by itself. And it happens everywhere, from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the smallest corners of the human community – it is all self-organizing. Turtles all the way down.
If ever there were an outrageous, paradigm busting, counter-intuitive proposition, the suggestion that self-organization underlies our total life experience, including businesses, communities, countries and that planet itself would be that proposition. However, if we are to believe the scientists who work on such things, the force of Self-Organization has been around ever since the beginning – the moment of The Big Bang. By rough count that is about 14,000,000,000 years. These scientists tell us that given the right conditions, order happens, not just order in the abstract – but very concrete, ordered things such as stars, planets, weather systems, the human body along with all the other plants and critters on earth. And most remarkable there is not a strategic plan nor executive committee in sight. Everything just emerges. In retrospect the evolution of the cosmos in all of its splendid components appears as the unrolling of a majestic design. Prospectively, it is ultimately unpredictable. We can only know where we are now. The future is completely emergent.
Fortunately for all the rational planners and executives among us, the new story of Self-Organization has largely been told in terms of the physical and non-human elements of our world. I say “fortunate,” for if it turned out to be true that force of self organization not only propelled the emerging cosmos, but also every human system, large or small, a number of job descriptions, to say nothing of jobs could well be in jeopardy. Just consider how many people are paid large amounts of money to organize and manage things – and what if it turned out that organization happens pretty much by itself, and management, as an exercise of tight control, was a fruitless enterprise. One might suspect fraud!
Thanks to Meg Wheatley and others, the notion of self organizing systems has been edging side wise into management consciousness. But to this point it seems to have been treated as an odd anomaly and certainly not to be taken all that seriously. Yes, most would agree, there are elements of self-organization is every human system – but No, they pose little threat to the professional executive or manager. After all, we all know who organizes things around here. And it is not some vague cosmic force called self-organization.
Despite the natural hesitance to allow the notion of Self Organization to intrude into the world of management and human systems, I find it very strange that somehow this minuscule corner of the cosmic universe should escape from what is apparently a universal power. On the face of it, this exclusion (seclusion?) would seem as likely as the absence of Gravity. Of course it could be true, and this possibility is enhanced by the fact that in many cases we seemingly know who did the organizing. Henry Ford organized Ford Motor Company. And Mom and Pop organized the corner grocery store. Our knowledge is buttressed by heaps of documentary evidence – organization charts and official directives apparently creating the shape and flow of contemporary organizations. And the icing on the cake are several generations of Harvard Case Studies (amongst others) which describe in minute detail how it was all accomplished. Case closed. But is it?
We have ample evidence of how the organizational titans thought things were going to work, and an equal amount of directives and exhortations relative to how they should work. But a niggling question remains in my mind – Is all this truly reflective of how things actually do work? I doubt it.
Take for example the whole matter of Organizational Charts. Presumably this is the map of how things are supposed to happen, and when I would take on a new client (back in the days when I actually had clients) I was always given a copy of the most recent version by way of orientation and welcome to the organization. Almost immediately after receiving this mother lode of organizational practice I would be told that of course it was out of date, and in any event things didn’t quite work that way. If I pressed the subject and asked how one actually accomplished something in the organization the answer would always come as some variant of, “Go see Lucy out in Accounting – she can help you out.” Now Lucy never showed up on the Org Chart. Her position was so low and bereft of positional power as to be invisible. But it turned out that Lucy had been around for 20 years, she knew everybody (after all she handed out the checks), and had a well earned reputation for always knowing the right person to call if she couldn’t handle the problem herself. In a word, she was well plugged into that most powerful organ in The Organization – The Back-channel – otherwise known as The Informal Organization.
Of course it was the solemn duty of every right thinking manager to find and destroy this aberration of organizational design. In its place was supposed to be strict lines of authority and accountability, with the Back Channel supplanted by Formal Communication, all neatly described by carefully drawn lines – solid and dotted. The picture is absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately it bears little, if any, resemblance to the actual state of affairs. Fortunately no manager in recorded history has ever been successful in this mission and the back-channels are alive and well.
And should you ask who organized the back-channels and the informal organization, the answer is embarrassing simple – Nobody. They seem to happen all by themselves. Would you believe Self-Organization at the heart of every organization?
At the risk being a total heretic, permit me to offer two propositions. First: If we actually did business the way we say we do business, we would be out of business. We say everything is tightly organized and operates within narrowly prescribed limits. What we do, however, presents a very different picture – and thank God for that. My second proposition is (I think) a direct corollary. There is no such thing as a non-self organizing system, there are only some mildly deluded people who think they did the organizing. I take the first proposition as a matter of direct observation. I realize it is open to challenge and I am by no means suggesting that some sort of intentional fraud is being perpetrated. Rather I see this as a demonstration of the power of a paradigm. The traditional view, at least in the West, is that organization at the level of human systems is always the product of human, and sometimes super human effort. This paradigm is heavily supported by compensation packages, university degrees, professional identities and associations. The cost of substantial change would be enormous. It is therefore not surprising that the paradigm retains its power. Given this view point all of experience is interpreted in its light, and when anomalies occur they are typically set to one side as curiosities. Were we able to pursue the curious anomalies we might escape the power of the paradigm and discover that the emperor has few if any clothes. But that would make him no less the emperor, just different from our expectations. One might say he was now the emperor in his natural state.
If I may follow this somewhat risky analog one step further, I would say that the emperor au natural is none other than the self-organizing system. Same old organization but now seen in a different, more natural, light. And so back to my second proposition: There is no such thing as a non-self organizing system. This is organization stripped to its essentials. It is also organization totally in line with all other organization in the cosmos, no longer the product of some individual “organizer” – but rather the creature of a 14,000,000,000 year old force. It is so nice to come home again!
So there you have it. Self-Organization all the way down. Not a little bit, not partially, but the whole enchilada. Bold, rash, and intemperate I am sure – and it certainly sets our conventional wisdom on its head.
I am not at all sure how one might go about proving such an outrageous proposition, and in fact I rather suspect proof (at the level of 100% certainty) to be unnecessary. “Likely possibility” would be sufficient, and then the question would be, are we able to understand organizational function in a more robust way? And more importantly, are we able to enhance the function of our organizations, and our individual performance? In a word, self-organization, like Gravity, initially can be treated as an a priori assumption. If it makes sense, enabling a more robust understanding without multiple unexplained anomalies, and allows us to perform at higher levels, precise truth or falsehood is essentially beside the point. Or in more colloquial terms – If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck – for all practical purposes, it is a duck. At the very least, we have a testable hypothesis.
So given the a priori given of Self-Organization, what do we learn and what can we do? The immediate advantage is that we no longer have to deal with the embarrassing reality that what we say and what we do are at some extreme variance. The informal organization is accepted and validated for what it is – no longer the devil incarnate to be eliminated immediately if not sooner, but rather the essential core of organization life. Furthermore, the Formal Organization can now be viewed for what it is – a potentially useful map of the territory, but never to be confused with the territory itself. At least that has been my experience. You will have to make up your own mind.
Starting the Process
Theory Meets Practice Meets Theory
The central question for the Turtles Weekend is this:
What are the implications and opportunities when self-organizing is the only kind of organizing that exists.
My fundamental assumption, at least for the purposes of the Turtles Weekend conversation, is that self-organizing is not a mystical magical thing, but a valid, observable, knowable, natural phenomenon. I propose a rather simple definition. Self-organization is:
A process by which interactions within result in coherent patterns that emerge across an identifiable unit of analysis.
This definition breaks into a number of parts, and each one uncovers a specific aspect of self-organizing as a natural process of emergence.
A process—Self-organizing happens in time. It involves observable change over time.
Interactions within—The “self” that is to organize includes subcomponents or parts of some kind. Sometimes we call them the “wholes within the whole.” These parts are somewhat independent, but they interact. Each interaction transforms each of the interacting parts and may make an observable difference in the whole.
Result in—We can observe in a variety of settings and conditions that internal interactions happen, and system-wide patterns follow. We don’t know how or why one causes the other, but we do know that when the interactions happen, new patterns can emerge. No interactions; no changing patterns.
Coherent patterns—We’ve worked with a variety of characteristics that comprise “coherence.” Here are some: reduced internal tension, meaningful, harmonious, identifiable, recognizable, rational (in a mathematical sense), peaceful. The opposite of a coherent pattern is a random one. These patterns can rest in any number of media. They can be physical in nature (colors, shapes, sounds), cognitive (meaning, metaphor, story), emotional (happy, sad, fearful), social (team, family, nation), political (neighborhood, city, state, country), economic (firm, industry, economy, spiritual (trusting, hoping, believing), or anything else in which a unit of analysis and subcomponents can be identified.
Emerge—Come to be over time.
Identifiable unit of analysis—The “self” constitutes a unit of analysis. It can be arbitrary, so that the molecule, the water drop, the ocean can all be reasonable units of analysis: selves. The only requirement is that the unit of analysis be distinguishable from any other unit of analysis, regardless of the relationship of the two in space and time.
That is what I mean when I say “self-organizing,” and the assumption we want to make during the Turtles Weekend is that a process such as this is the fundamental mechanism by which things come to be and pass away in all domains of reality. This assumption opens the door to a flood of questions that I hope we can begin to pursue during the weekend. I’m sure you have yours, and here are mine.
I look forward to our conversation and trust that our interactions will result in coherent patterns that will emerge over the course of the weekend.
The place of freedom in self-organizing systems
Convenor: Jack Ricchiuto
Freedom – ability to move, fluidity
Constraints can be inside or outside one’s head
Ralph Stacey – at the edge of chaos, there’s freedom in connections: the middle space between solid and chaos
State shifting happens when there are less tight systems
Freedom brings about novelty
Breadth of space of freedom varies by community
Self-trust drives one’s own freedom
Law of two feet exemplifies the freedom people give themselves – or not
Freedom leads to the need for responsibility
We’re in charge ourselves – is how we acknowledge both freedom and responsibility
We’re in charge of our responses to even situations where we lack external freedom
Sometimes our job is just to witness when people feel powerless in their situation
A key question: what is your power?
If there is no doer to create freedom, is there freedom?
From a zen tradition, there is a doer but it isn’t separate
Freedom then is the freedom to see our essential inseparability
In some traditions, we refer to perpetrator as teacher – that frees us from victimhood
Freedom is creativity; creativity is how freedom is gets expressed
Angel definition of freedom: bare-assed child with arms out in front of the ocean
What is the role of responsibility in a self-organizing system?
Blame = stuckness = lack of freedom – if it weren’t for you ….
Sometimes you’re launched into freedom when the bottom falls out
If you stay in the chaos, you reorganize into freedom
Some people fall to pieces
Naming experience can help in the transition
Effective leadership names the new possibilities
It helps to be able to articulate what we need to let go of
Like values that used to work that we now need to let go of
It helps to allow the grieving experience without getting to closure on it
It helps to give ourselves the freedom to grieve without closing it off
Allowing our story creates the space for the next, new story
Permission giving is the law of two feet
It’s giving people freedom to grieve before moving too quickly
When you allow the messiness of self-organization … it’s shit all the way up and down
What does freedom look like at all levels of complexity?
Freedom will look different depending on where you’re at
Each is helpful; each gives people more degrees of freedom
Freedom is always contextual
In some contexts, it’s just giving people choices
The key is not to impose my sense of what freedom is
In a healthy hierarchy, the role of leader is to see more and farther
There are constraining and liberating structure
Freedom is the structure that engages – it’s a social construct, or memes that brings out freedom
OS creates new organizing principles that allows people to play with new degrees and forms of freedom
People freak when they have freedom until they get structure that
A bridge had to be anchored at both sides
Linda Stevenson – client organization is now using OS principles to run their business; the culture is now engaged in passion, responsibility and law of 2 feet
People feel more free to express themselves, interconnect, collaborate, have fun, feel trust and trustworthiness.
After OS, leaders feel freer to trust
More freedom to serve a greater whole
Freedom = permission and necessity
The more present you are, the more you see opportunities
There is also freedom of information
Employees push back on freedom because of the responsibility
OS gives people to identify and own – it’s not chaos
The Dynamics of Emergence
Participants: Kim, Royce, Therese, Audrey, Lois Thundercloud, Linda, Karen
Notes by Therese
A paper on the model follows the discussion.
Who gets invited? Inviting diversity leads to greater opportunity for divergence?
This model comes out of noticing patterns I see in orgs, in an individual and collective level as we move to divergence
At an individual level, the idea is to participate with an open heart. It creates a different internal relationship, it is what Senge talks about in Presence. It is extraordinarily liberating to get this invitation
As a collective, we are invited to connect.
When individuals are really speaking from their true center, and we begin to reflect and share together, to be witness for each other, we begin to notice our place of connection. We discover we are always talking about the same thing.
We discover that what is most personal is also universal. It is this ah ha that is the realm of emergence.
I feel it in my heart, my body, my spirit: I feel the connection, it is unique.
This is realm of spirit, where we begin to sense our feeling of wholeness and connection to each other. We begin to move in to coherence. In OS terms it is coherence. . WE begin to take responsibility for what we love. You don’t have to worry about consensus so much because when we act, they are operating out of context of shared experience.
We tend to stop when the fear comes up, we see things as a mess but with this model we can step into the unknown with a degree of confidence that something will emerge from the other side.
It looks like it would be a good coaching model.
Does it work for you, is there resonance in it for you?
It is at the edge of chaos where the use of powerful questions that the factor leads to sustaining patterns rather than stuck chaos.
How can knowledge of this enable me (Peggy) and this small advisory group we are starting with to create the tipping point kind of conversation, to help us make decisions that can best enable the spread of a dif way of doing stories, for example.
Let’s talk through someone’s project, through the model.
One of the implications for Peggy is growing the capacity for emergence. If we get better at increasing our collective capacity for stepping in to disturbance, by recognizing that emergence is what is on the other side. Care for self, community and the whole. We build that capacity through surface. What is the work of change? To change in to orgs with capacity for emergence.
It looks like a map. A map of the territory, which is why we see so many knots around the room.
It’s CDE: containers, differences, exchanges
A CDE is like a snapshot in time, none stay still in any moment, all interrelated, dynamics of the model takes those three conditions transforming each other and the conversations through time.
Emergence or innovation?
Emergence is when something reorders itself in a higher form, a higher level of consciousness in a sense, which is a form of innovation. That seems to happen when we make the connection between what we hold deeply, where contradictions resolve themselves.
Is all emergence healthy and productive?
When you have a group of people together, there are lots of things that happen that you don’t necessarily know about in the moment but they may end up being the next Nobel prize. . . so I think we use those words elastically. . .
Powerful questions, how to get this collective capacity. . . so much of that is not just the questions what Susan Smith calls holding the fierce conversation. . .
Need to be asking appreciative questions. When I look at Wolfram’s four types, too many scattered questions. . . . the nature of the questions, what does it teach us about asking. . . .
Do the questions change? QUESTIONS take off.
Egolets. . . all the parts of our personality system that are warring and tugging but they are unconscious most of the time. . .
Threads: story and witnessing
Rel. between positive image and positive action. . . an AI takes us in to not just the telling of the story but also of being heard. We begin to build that positive image. Ultimately we reach this point of recognizing our sense of wholeness, which takes us into coherent action.
We feel our wholeness in the personal
It is a kind of deep, generative listening. . .
Royce calls it granting and giving voice. . . .
The map is never the territory. . . what Peggy has described is maybe not a map, maybe the dynamics of emergence. . .
In order for a system to replicate, two conditions. . . .needs info of what it is, it’s selfness and then it needs the info/rules by which it replicates. Which is what the DNA contains.
The DNA of emergence.
Connection, conscious awareness of self, other, whole
For many people this might be useful to get a picture of what eventually might happen. . .
New set of differences but the old differences are still there. . . .
Differentiated wholeness: rather than the mob
It is passion but in a coherent pattern that has emerged, gone from dyad to triad
Personal agendas? Some words into the model that have to do with agendas and interest. . . .
What are our priorities?
Asking the question that can engage at the level that has a conversation. . .
It is really what a good AI protocol. . . walk through them to tell a personal story. . . .
It might be an extraordinary that a way through, a way to reach a place of wholeness is to ask someone what they care about as an individual. . . .
What happens when it doesn’t work? Where have I seen it not work? Suggested questions. . . . the main thing . . . the key is the nature of the questions. . . . it also has something to do with how sincerely the question is embodied.
Intentional emergence? If it is all self org and in the same way emergence is a phenomenon that happens, there are point attractors and strange attractors and periodic attractors. . . no name for attractors that lead to autopoetic systems so what I have been wondering when does this form happen. . . so maybe this is a particular variance, the promising variant of it. . . .
Intentional means you set the conditions. . . . the question has to include and transcend the polarities, transcend the paradox.
HL: emergence happens all the time whether we like it or not but we don’t necessarily see it. . An attempt to bring the level of emergence to something more powerful, to make a bigger difference. . .how does this happen and how can we stack the deck?
What do we know about what are the questions that makes a dif? What are the wicked questions?
How can you be both more independent and more connected? The ones that call out the dichotomies. . . .they are very important because those things are very often a part of the conflict..
Questions that follow lifegiving forces, they are affective questions. . . . which is
How to build the capacity?
One of the big problems that people have is that the nature of the work that needs to be done in order to be in the middle of Peggy’s model doesn’t look like work . . . so to think in that context, what are the words, what are the thoughts that might be introduced in to that design that would help connect. . . . . so when it happens. . . .
Focusing? A ‘felt’ sense. . . teach people to recognize if something feels right or wrong. . . there is another level that the focusing is getting it. . . a bodily sensation. . . . not necessarily emotion. . . a group might get to ‘it feels like’. . .
Silence. . . . it is an accelerator, because it is a form of focusing. The middle space in Peggy’s model is a felt space, we feel it in our heart, our spirit and intellectually. . . .
One of the ways you set those conditions, you invite the group to use that criterion, then you are setting another condition.
The invisible territory is the sense of community: combo of free agency and positive action.
Let’s use a real situation like Christina’s Girl Scout project
Are there people from outside the GS systems?
Can you hope to have a national process that will lead to emergence without some community of people that represent the connection between that national meeting and what will be done at the local level?
Do you need to think that maybe you need to create a group that does not exist right now? And can the design team be that group?
What is out identity
What are our relationships? What is the information?
What’s our vision?
What is our current state?
What do we need to do to emerge?
It is holographic so it is same pattern with 12 or 12,000
New design team would happen on other side of middle of the model
Then your national folks know who are the next gen to work with?
Re: bringing in outsiders, the system needs a chance to cohere and then invite the next layer from the outside. . . . .
Virtual work? What if you did simultaneous OS’s with webcams and LCDs?
What came up at the 300 GS meet?
Online connect is probably a key to rapid acceleration.
Simple rules question for world café
You can’t depend on the existing hierarchy. . . you can’t bypass it but a new network has to emerge, a shift of power has to take place, dif level of freedom or permission. . . .
The networked organization: article by Peggy for Christina
You are shifting from hierarchy from where the orientation is to look up to an org that is about service and relationships. It is who you choose to connect with as opposed to who you are told to report. . . .
Why do they want to change? Losing market share, numbers way down. . . .
The delivery systems have made it harder for them to deliver their jewel which is leadership for by of for with girls. . . .
What are the needs of girls today?
What is it that want?
The thing that they have always known how to do is create women leaders
If you want to do research, approach it from the point of view to identify connections between one and the other, by looking at patterns of behavior and then connecting patterns that belong to the girl scouts. Any work done to find out who is joining?
The Dynamics of Emergence
I have now shared the model that follows with graduate students in the midst of a conflict with their institute, business people at a multinational corporation, members of the Israeli school system, teachers in Ramallah, and Executive MBA students and faculty in Colombia. With each of these very different audiences, it seems to provide a perspective that makes that oh-so-unnerving step into chaos just a wee bit easier.
The context that causes someone to consider using OS includes a variety of “disturbances,” such as fear, conflict, crisis as well as hope, aspiration, or desire.
While stepping into disturbances may feel like a crazy act of asking for time spent in chaos, in truth it is the gateway to creativity. To find something new requires time in the unknown, in mystery. That said, the “space” is not limitless; rather it is bounded by a powerful question – the theme that focuses the OS, always expressed in terms of possibilities (not problems). This question acts as the attractor, something that people coming care about enough to show up for the work.
Open Space is an invitation into exploring the unknown together. The greater the diversity of the participants, the more likely the divergence of that exploration. The wider the divergence, the more likely something new will surface. Since OS invites people to follow what has heart and meaning, to take responsibility for what they care about, it often brings out the unexpected in people. OS offers a remarkable invitation for each person to look within, to truly ask themselves what is important to them. It takes each of us into our own place of mystery. In addition, the collective is gathered together at the beginning and end of each day, experiencing what is often a new experience of connection to each other and the whole as people reflect together.
Through the breakout sessions, the question that attracted participants is explored from many, many angles. Remarkably, the same conversations begin to show up in many places. These are the threads of emergence. We begin to recognize these threads because they resonate so clearly with many people. Reflection in the circle of the whole often makes these emergent threads even more visible.
For example, in a recent OS on work-life balance, the same themes surfaced many times in the closing circle: take responsibility for oneself; the power to say no. Participants experienced these ideas more than intellectually; they sensed them physically, in their heart and in their gut. We discussed the visceral sense that signals emergence because it is experienced at all levels (e.g., head, heart, body and spirit) and by many people.
This place of emergence is the magic that we feel when an OS is at its best. I believe it is because we discover that is what most deeply personal, what means most to us as an individual is also most universal. In that discovery, we begin to experience our connection to the “whole.” This feeling of connection fills us with excitement and energy that stirs us into action. This is the ground of spirit.
As new ideas, insights, leaders, and forms emerge, action is often swift and effective. How could this not occur when personal and collective meaning and ideas for action align? We are in convergence, where the resonant areas that emerged from our divergent exploration coalesce. There is no need to “enroll” others; we’ve enrolled ourselves through our direct experience. There is no need for consensus; we have all internalized the threads that connect us, providing responsible boundaries for action. Parenthetically, this frequently extends to those who didn’t attend the OS event, who somehow “catch” the spirit of the experience from those who were there. This is a great time to hold an OS for action on what emerged to staff projects with passionate, committed and responsible participants.
Understanding this pattern – that stepping into the unknown of divergence, while it may seem chaotic, when bounded by a compelling question, leads to emergence – may provide some confidence to a sponsor who is fearful of losing control or that things will get out of hand. It is a predictable pattern that we have all experienced in the open space of life.
As people experience OS events of different sizes or diversity or length, over time, what typically emerges evolves. Even in short, fairly homogenous OS experiences, there is the possibility of new ideas and relationships, new connections. The likelihood of this increases with time and diversity. With more time, generally two days, projects are likely to surface, complete with temporary teams and leaders. As the experience of OS is internalized, self-managed teams, with leaders shifting according to the needs of the group may come into being. With frequent use, an organization may even begin to function with both leadership and form emerging to fit the context.
As OS becomes the conscious way of working, such disturbances often begin as butterfly conversations in the hallways. Eventually they make it into the marketplace of ideas, with an invitation by someone(s) taking responsibility to convene a session and inviting whoever cares about the issue to address it on behalf of the whole.
My working definition of an emergent organization offers an answer to the oft asked but rarely answered question about change or transformation: “change to what?” What it is that we wish to become? This is my answer:
If this is the work, what, in addition to lots of Open Space, grows this capacity for emergence? My answer needs refining to what is most essential. Here’s what I know of the territory:
As I narrow these ideas to what is most essential, I know it begins with welcoming disturbances, asking powerful questions, inviting people who care, inclusion of diversity – particularly the unlikely participants, and inviting people to take responsibility for what they care about. I think the rest of the practices mentioned reinforce and nurture the capacity for emergence.
And that, so far, is my story.
Convenor: Lisa Heft
Notes-taker: Lisa Heft
Participants: Meg Salter, Harrison Owen, Karen Davis, Jack Ricchiuto, Cindy Wilcox, Audrey Coward
Lisa: Some of the work I do is in prison…which would be in some peoples’ definition a closed system (or some might try to stuff all the openings to try like crazy to close it) but is really an open system and a self-organizing one. And within this supposedly closed system there is an amazing marketplace of information exchange, flourishing creativity, even within everyone’s outward ‘agreement’ that these things don’t and can’t happen (like ‘there are no drugs in prison’ - but you can get ‘em -- like ‘there is no interpersonal nourishment in prison’ but you find it, and so on. So it seems to be restrictive but it can only restrict certain things.
Meg: I have no experience working with the military or police forces but despite that total ignorance I notice you (Lisa) used the word up front ‘closed’ system and I think it may be more a difference between recognizing self organizing and that these are the people (the wardens, the guards) we choose to help us exercise restraints on behavior regarding whatever actions or values we deem to be inappropriate. They are not a closed system - they are the arm of ourselves that says thou shalt not do x (x varies by culture) -- so they have a role of helping to keep the container whole, solid, firm.
Harrison: They’re the white blood cells of society and white blood cells eat things (and sometimes the wrong things)…
Meg: Right, and how much authority and or power the white blood cells have can vary by culture or level or whatever but I think we have to recognize that they are us. And for example good parenting techniques are a out laying and enforcing of some boundaries for safety and protection.
Harrison: I heard something else going on there when I heard the word “closed” system as if these things open/closed were absolutes. More to the point when we start seeing the world as a self organizing system that is not that we are not seeing system constraints --there are system constraints in self organizing systems. I suspect we need to do a lot of thinking about initiating conditions, sustaining conditions and terminating conditions -- and around all of that there are constraining conditions. And your environment is inevitably at some point constraining and by same token the freedom is infinite. I haven’t worked in prisons but I have worked with entities that are warehousing mental health facilities and what was amazing to me was it’s all fractal. You can be on a totally ‘closed’ mental hospital ward which is in constant dialogue with the external environment and within itself has an infinite range of expression - is it a closed system? yes… does it have system constraints? yes… do those system constraints push behavior in one way as opposed to another one? yes.. but with that, its infinite.
Meg: I wonder why we normally call those places closed systems - ‘closed’ is really from the perspective of the speaker of these words who might feel that the constraints are inappropriate. We are looking at it from different perspectives and feeling that perhaps constraints that may have at another time or in another context once have been relevant, those constraints are overdone and no longer relevant.
Harrison: That’s the view of the liberal. Conservatives would look at exactly the same thing might want to call it closed and the reason is that if it ain’t closed it (the thing we’re uncomfortable around) might get out. There’s a sense that what do you do with nuts -- well, there might have been some part of a reason that you put nuts in the insane asylum to protect them from harming themselves or others… but the real truth for the vast majority of the system is that we really don’t like those people because there is only a really teeny difference between them and us - and if I were to allow this pathogen to wander around the world…
Lisa: …I might see myself.
Harrison: Yes. And I watch this tendency in those institutions to coerce deviant behavior (because if all those folks behaved sane I’d be in trouble). The whole mess comes back to the notion of this desperate sense of needing to be in control or the perception thereof.
Lisa: Yes - I originally said ‘closed’ system with irony because that feeling of ‘closed’ is just someone’s idea of trying to stuff all the leaks to keep it closed. Even if something happens good in there we don’t want to let them / it out.
Harrison: My experience is there are differences from system to system and culture to culture in the constraints…and a difference between adaptive behaviors, but I have found that the fundamental mechanisms are the same. I’ve done Open Space with corporate types, military, mental health folks…and I cannot point out any difference in behavior between those groups. I cannot find a single discriminator that says ‘okay, but THIS group would not work in OS’. I haven’t found any cultural or ethnic or any other discriminator.
Meg: I agree. So what are the implications of that?
Harrison: The logic is that what happens in OS is that people are not only permitted but encouraged to be what they are -- which is a self organizing system so -- that can be a litmus test if you will for the presence of self organization. What drew me into it is isn’t it funny that all the things we think make a difference about groups just don’t when it comes to OS and if that’s true, then it really is a litmus test in the sense that you stick the litmus paper into the prison (or whatever) and if they were unable to respond in/to OS (prison or etc) then that might prove that is a closed system -- but I’ve never seen it.
Meg: When you put them in that particular situation and you get particular behaviors so if its turtles all the way down and up and they are self organizing themselves into gangs or whatever… I’m thinking of my brother in law who is paranoid schizophrenic and he is incarcerated and I say thank god he’s incarcerated because he would have killed my father in law. I guess where that takes me is the notion …something about appropriate levels of expression, constraint and levels of consciousness -- kids in a playground, gangs self organizing if they are coming out of a tough political economical situation…
Harrison: We’ve had the beginnings of this conversation before - not that I know what’s going on - but a fascinating thing I’ve always seen is there is certainly a difference in the capacity to perceive self organization relative to the level of consciousness. And what also is very clear to me is that on the one hand the level of consciousness that could or historically did perceive the reality of self organization is precisely the same level that’s terrified of it. So you get all the academics saying that biological systems are is self organized, but I’M not…or Meg Wheatley has these marvelous concepts but SHE doesn’t operate according to her own concepts. Something can happen, however, where however you get there you manifest the level of soul where all of a sudden the reality of self organization is the only one there is.
Meg: It’s like the discovery of gravity - it’s always been there but takes a certain kind of mind to put some laws and rules against that so you can build airplanes and such - but its always been there.
Lisa: Sometimes I listen to all this with a smile because for example in prison we don’t have to have the names for this stuff and yet everyone understands it there. And on the other hand I love how we humans struggle to name things.
Jack: I teach an MBA class and it’s interesting to see them just in just 3 hours begin to be able to develop… or is it to discover a lens to be able to see what exists everyday in their organization. I ask them what happens in the white space in the org chart, between the boxes? And I thought about what you said about Meg - do people see themselves as self organizing - how do people see that and is it important that they see it?
Harrison: It’s not how the level of consciousness affects the reality of self organization but rather the perception of it and then what you do with that perception and so I’m thinking about Jack’s MBA class and he asks ‘so tell me how does shit really come down in your organization and do you really get things done following the org chart’ and that they can answer that indicates that level of perception - that stage I find to be quite simple - it’s the next step that’s difficult - what do you do with that info after you’ve found it? One response often is oh shit I gotta close the system.
Meg: There’s a difference between having a peak experience (like in an OS or another situation) versus the ability to sustain that over time and for that you need to build up structural internal experiences to have more wherewithal to actually relax into that -- so moving into that stage if you will takes time.
Harrison: It certainly takes something -- I’m not sure if its time…
Meg: Being able to hold that in continuous behavior takes practice.
Lisa: When you look at theories of the behavior change continuum -- people (organizations) don’t just say ‘gee I need to feel better / be healthier so I think I’ll stop smoking / diet / take less harmful drugs / etc.’ -- it’s a whole continuum of steps you can take forward or backwards between wellness and illness…and things within you move you back and forth in these steps/stages towards or away from wellness and illness (how you see things, perceive things, how you feel physically, emotionally, fear that smoking killed your mother, feeling lousy in the morning) and outside of you (you see models of how health works, your peers do it, you have days of feeling good that you can relate to your smoking less, there are tools around you to help you stop whenever you’re ready) and the idea is to create for organizations/people more nutritious stuff is available around you to spark and nurture and support movement towards healthier behavior. And even when bad things happen (which can throw you back into the less healthful behavior) you are (the org is) more resilient, less damaged by the event, more easily able to return to a more healthy step, and so on. So some of our work includes providing tools and practice and experiences and invitations to tell the stories of things that work and so on so people can make choices from wherever they are moment to moment and to see how to choose wellness when they are ready for that.
Cindy: I am understanding that no one has more responsibility for me than myself. That is a huge element in terms of liberating me to even see the self organizing nature of my being.
Jack: A self organizing system can be temporarily self damaging.
Lisa: The immune system naturally has marvelous ways of healing, responding, adjusting, adapting and keeping the organism well (all the parts / teams / share information and resources, interrelate as a team, have their jobs but also sometimes can adapt and morph to take on other jobs as needed) - but the immune system can also become the body’s enemy in an auto-immune disease - where the body creates good things and then goes and attacks them as would-be invaders. And is it bad? It’s nature. Shit happens. Maybe that’s evolution.
Harrison: And all organic systems do have an ending process. And it seems as if we’re really good about how do you initiate the process of self organization if it’s kind of stopped for a minute...how do you sustain it over time…but when we get to the end of a system’s life we have grief, rage, terror…it’s a piece of cake to get MBA students to behave like they are in a self organizing system - it’s not all that difficult to bring them to a point of intellectual recognition of what’s going on. But bringing them to the next level of how do you sustain this over time gets more difficult maybe because in thinking about sustaining it over time folks are also thinking about it ending.
Jack: I think sometimes people are more comfortable with impermanence.
Cindy: For me the whole self organizing thing is as you say like gravity - it always exists so why is the languaging important to people at this point in time? Perhaps finding acceptable language that poses an alternative to the control ethic is useful - perhaps finding a language for all this is also helping us with our grief about noticing that systems that we’re part of will naturally end.
Harrison: I don’t have any problem about that - I know the end is going to happen and it doesn’t bother me - it’s crystal clear that I’m going to croak - and it’s very clear to me that at some significant level I have to blow it all, risk it all, put it all on the line - and that sometimes the most risky thing to do is to sit on the beach and just say fuck it.
Jack: I think it’s important to be conscious of the legacy - of what it wants to do beyond itself.
Meg: I want to pick up on Cindy’s point - being nervous about letting go is a North American cultural issue. There’ve been a lot of cultures that have much more of a death wish orientation than a birth wish orientation and as colonizing North Americans we’re open more to opening up new stuff than closing stuff.
Jack: I’m interested in how in some Native American culture some of the traditions include the 7th generation thing - it’s really interesting how they can be more comfortable with death and dying and at same time live all 12,000 moments of every day living with the consciousness that everything I do is for the benefit of 7 generations from now.
Harrison: There is also the concept about the eternal ‘now’ - I was working with federal health care planning and a Navajo tribe got a grant to do it and I was sent out to do a workshop with them to help them with planning and we were getting nowhere and the chief said what are you doing, white man?? So the chief took me way the hell out driving into the middle of nothing. Stopped in the middle of the desert, with a huge view in front of us.. and he says see that view? See that big boulder over to the left there in the distance? When I was 5 my grandfather brought me out here. And when I was 5 that boulder fell off the butte. And since then nothing else has happened. So NOW you understand about planning??
Cindy: This is issue of control and letting go is a huge issue for me in my life right now because I think until a few years ago I never encountered a thing in my life that I couldn’t make happen through sheer power or force. I just didn’t hit it until fairly recently so I’ve been going through a lot of transformation in last few years bouncing between a complete control ethic and complete letting go -- now I’m somewhere in the middle -- there is a control piece, where I control my own behavior. I’m being intentional and controlling my own behavior but letting go of everything else. To me it comes back to the fact that the more clearly present you are in your own intention and your own understanding of self the more you’ll be able to clearly influence a field that is healthy.
Harrison: It’s all about letting go but not giving up.
Lisa: About letting go…with faith.
Harrison: I got fired from my first 4 jobs and I think that was the most useful thing that ever happened to me. Over the years I had the recognition that I never got a contract that I went after and I never went after a contract that I got. The more I’ve come to live with it the more I feel that this has just been wonderful. The letting go and not giving up -- the image for me is a surfer on a wave - if any surfer thinks they control that wave this is insanity. First of all you’re dealing with a level of complexity that stretches 6000 miles into the ocean and probably started with seagull poop… but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a better surfer by learning more about waves…and yet none of that means you will automatically do any better but occasionally you may find that sweet spot - well, not a spot but that meditative place within that monster of complexity… and you will learn to hold that spot longer…but then there always comes a time when that wave hits the beach and you’d better figure out what your exit strategy is.
Meg: Another image coming to mind is the whole notion of a pendulum -- talking about letting go and control - it’s hard and I don’t know if it every stops, actually. When you go to some sort of state change you go swinging back and forth and at some point when you are getting more stabilized that pendulum sort of evens out a bit and knowing there is calmness on the other side takes a couple of years and is not necessarily fun. Knowing that this too shall pass and that at some point it will gives one hope or confidence - it can be very difficult but knowing that can be helpful.
Harrison: And then it gets to a point where sometime you can actually enjoy the ride. Even more than a pendulum, it is a mobius strip. When it’s a mobius strip it is like a skateboarder and it is graceful and there is a moment of pause at the top of the arc and then there’s a moment of swooping down across and then there’s another pause. And the folks who get it down right (whatever ‘right’ is) realize that it’s incredibly important to take that risk and go swooping again. I had a friend who was a marathon runner and I think marathon runners are crazy because it’s sheer torture but anyway in the wintertime he and his running buddy would go down to the Costa del Sol and run and then flop on beach and the problem was that they felt real guilty lying on the beach until they realized that actually, they always were running but it’s just that sometimes they were running horizontally (resting with same level of passion and intention or whatever).
Cindy: Lisa you use health metaphors a lot and I think about how I took a bodywork class and the first thing the instructor said ‘so what’s the difference between life and death?’ and basically it came down to things that have movement or not. The sweet spot is when I feel that I am intensely in the flow of energy that is bigger than myself - so to continue the health metaphors what facilitates the greatest flow of energy through our physical being - what helps systems be healthier. And how you help create the greatest flow.
Harrison: Personally the only thing I ever found that made a difference was providing more space (because they ran out of room) psychic, physical, whatever space. The corporate body and the human body are the only bodies that can heal the body - all medicine does is give you a leg up until your body can do it’s thing so medical or community intervention - if you’re smart it’s allowing that body to do what it can do.
Lisa: Another health analogy - there are 3 prongs to the approach to AIDS treatment - immune enhancement (so the body can do its best work), anti-retrovirals (treatment against the HIV itself so the virus cannot connect with healthy cells to do its damage and impact the system), and treatment against opportunistic infections (those ones that can hit you if your immune system is not working correctly to recognize a problem) - pro-active treatment before an opportunistic illness and its symptoms occur, so that when it does occur the body recognizes it and the disease might happen but it does so with lesser intensity. So you are supporting the system to do its best work, be more flexible and resilient, recognize things, handle change and so on. So if you apply this thinking to how you help an organization stay healthy…
Jack: And the trick is also to help people remember the sweet spot more - ‘I can remember what that’s like the closer I get to it…’
Meg: … and you know your way home…
Jack: So if I ask managers what did you do that worked this week and they can articulate that, there’s a remembering that happens like helping the body remember.
Lisa: Bodywork does that, also - using facilitation to keep the organism/organization well rather than just using it for intervention.
Harrison: In areas where there are extended conflicts you build a whole social structure and ideology around that conflict - that non-health - and in many ways you end up preserving that pathology. Memory can also be a false friend, in that the river never passes the same way twice - and when I get into trouble is when is when I think I know how to do something and don’t pay attention to the nuances. The critical thing to me is using that sense to sort of tune your receptors. The difference between organization and self organization is - organization is what I think should happen, will happen, or should have happened; and self organization is what happens.
Lisa: It can be useful if we can help organizations practice mindfulness - what is happening as we are in it, what worked, what didn’t, what’s amazing now, note accomplishments and a bit of past to see where we are and also stay in the present, be here now -- so with that ‘body memory’ we can stay flexible as an organization / organism.
Harrison: Help people practice extending their now - being in the now.
Meg: We need to be mindful as we say ‘to help organizations to be more present’ -- they’re already present - but we can indeed shift the scope to help people see a bit more into consciousness - see those things that are already there.
Harrison: Lisa talked about ‘what worked what didn’t’ and this is just personal but I have found that it’s really important to say not that it didn’t work but just that it didn’t’ work in a way our corporate body was flexible to deal with - but if we put the worked / didn’t work thing through this lens, then what didn’t work is not taken off the table of possibility.
Jack: What’s a good question to help an organization identify the useful aspect of painful situation?
Harrison: Just get them to tell the story - whatever it was. Telling the story can be a moment of enlightenment -- not just about fucking up but about who they are as a team - and often the painful situation did wonderful things for the team.
Lisa: It’s less about wallowing in the analytical mode than about developing a reflective practice. Helping an organization develop a reflective practice.
Jack: And telling stories more than analyzing data.
Cindy: I’ve been working with an Indian leadership program including several people from the Red Lake community [a Minnesota community in which a young person brought guns to school and shot people - LH] such as an ex-principal of that school. The leadership program is going to go up to Red Lake and do a healing ceremony. and what I’ve learned from that - Jack, you said Native Americans seem to be able to accept death - my experience has been around the creation of cultural rituals that keep the energy flowing so you don’t get stuck -- so they do indeed experience loss and death like everyone, but they have the cultural mechanisms to tell a bigger story - and they are very comfortable with a-l-l emotions involved. When I do a leadership program, random ceremonies show up - they build in places to show feeling deeply everywhere, in an ongoing basis. They have wonderful vehicles for keeping the energy moving.
Harrison: I did Open Space with an Indian tribe and they said ‘what took you so long white man’ and they took over and did blessings and rituals and such - and I just sat on the side for the ride. But eventually they communicated that it was time to sit in a circle and they then just went straight on through it. One of the things I learned was that I found my first job is to find out what they’re already doing.
Cindy: What was the original thread, Lisa?
Lisa: I was just talking about how such things as prisons are seemingly closed systems (or at least people try to keep them that way) but that amazing things happen within what would seem to be an oppressive system - creativity, affection, exchange of goods and services, information flow…
Jack: Some people see their system as closed.
Cindy: That can be a safety mechanism - some people perceive safety if they can see the boundaries.
Lisa: Open Space in prison is a bit hard to do because you cannot do something that looks from a guard tower or office like chaos to that guard - but one thing I do a lot are just set up a circle of chairs out on the yard and just put up a sign that says ‘Ask Lisa’ - often during a health fair or something - so often the questions start as AIDS transmission questions but these conversations always always end up about grief and loss, and about how to raise healthy children. And it’s just about witnessing for someone else - that’s mostly what I do in those circles.
Jack: What is witnessing experience to you, Lisa?
Lisa: Being an open channel, not solving, not facilitating, but affirming, listening deeply, being present, and letting it go wherever it goes.
Cindy: To witness for others you have to witness for yourself.
Karen: As I’ve been sitting here the ducks outside in the lake have fascinated me in terms of turtles and closed systems - their head goes down and their tail goes up and it’s still open - turtles below and the turtles above - and what I was hearing here was the turtle inside me again, when I think about what Jack was commenting on about one’s own self organization as really being at the core.
Convenor: Henri Lipmanowicz
Notes-taker: Lisa Heft
Participants: Cindy Wilcox, Lisa Heft, Jason Goux, Peggy Holman, Katherine Barton, Kim Burnes, Larry Peterson, Therese Fitzpatrick, Claire Knowles, Audrey Coward, Judith Olson, Christine Whitney Sanchez, Dennis Stauffer, Henri Lipmanowicz, Mark Jones
Henri: The questions I had are what are the implications as far as how power should be used and not used and how in organizations power should be re-looked at such as making decisions, such as recruiting of people, or anything of that sort that is familiarly connected with power - and what is the nature of power in a self organizing environment - what are the limits of it, what are the realities of it.
Jason: I think one of the threads about leadership and power from our conversation yesterday heard people struggling with how the self organizing system has different buckets of gravity and the power / leadership wafts in and out where its necessary -- some people see it as a limitation of a self organizing system and some see it as an actualization of what is. How does that relate to influencing or exerting power and how in a self organizing system power shifts as day goes on.
Larry: There’s the difference between formal power and the power everyone has to do what they do. I hear you talking about formal power
Jason: I was relating more about picking up where the leadership threads left off - who own this thing and who’s the boss and what does boss mean and in self organizing systems how can you be the boss.
Audrey: People would have to lose their old behaviors and take on new ones because some of the forms of power in organizations like the power you get because you are close to the boss, knowledge is power - I can see a whole list of sources of power in organizations that people would have to look at and shift it around because it wouldn’t work anymore.
Cindy: My father went in recently to have a blocked artery opened up and the blockage re-grew within 3 months. Then he started a new exercise routine and he’s grown new pathways all around the heart that make it functional. How does this relate to power in a self organizing systems? I work in organizations in which additional pathways are grown around traditional channels of power -- we create our own little pathways of power and energy.
Peggy: I continually grapple with what is power.
Judith: When you do an intervention sometimes you are grabbing power and helping people see how that all worked…or were you supposed to be there in the first place and do that work - do you just not take power when you see you have it? do you send powerful people in to intervene? or do you back off?
Larry: If you believe in self organizing you exert your power differently - it’s not that you don’t have power.
Peggy: What does that mean? what would I substitute for the word ‘power’
All: effectiveness? influence?
Judith: I use the world love.
Cindy: Ability to make something happen or keep something from happening so if we assume that no individual can make something happen what does it mean for that definition of power?
Henri: Use the example of recruiting - so let’s imagine I am the director of something and we create a position - at some point I will have to make a decision. This is an exercise of power. Now how I get there is where the discretion is. But ultimately somebody has to make a decision. You could argue you could do this on a voting basis, it is a possibility.
Judith: My take is that in a self organizing world the decision to have a position open and that an appropriate candidate shows up is already decided. And the decision is just all of the elements that arrived to create that moment. We think we have the power /decision but really all these things came together.
Dennis: That sounds like determinism - it all came together and no decision took a part in it at all.
Cindy: All sorts of little decisions - a cascade of different decisions becomes self organizing in a way.
Henri: If you are looking at that kind of event and you accept the notion you are surrounded by self organization - how would you go about it that would be different from if you are looking at it in a linear hierarchical way - that’s the interesting question - what are you going to do differently?
Larry: You want people in that organization that have a sense of self organizing systems, and I see no problem making a choice among candidates to pick folks that have that understanding in order to make your organization function better.
Dennis: One man I know is a supervisor who is very shrewd playing the game - perhaps didn’t call it self organization but playing the game within a difficult environment with different parties in control who have competing agendas and so on.
Peggy: So what did he do?
Dennis: He was a good communicator, was perceived as trustworthy, managed to work within the politics in honorable ways. On the whole he was in a remarkably difficult postion doing it well over a period of time playing levers of power so to speak but doing it in very subtle ways.
Peggy: So I’m curious to test something -- Henry, how would I apply the model of emergence that I’ve been working with - I’m interested to test where your question took me and see how analogous it is to a practical situation - for example I have a position to fill -- where do I start? I think I would start with taking responsibility for what I love by understanding the context of the position; asking questions and inviting others who are affected by the work and those who would affect that position into a reflection of ‘what do you want in this person?’ and reflecting together to come up with questions we would ask to attract the people we need.
Therese: Isn’t asking questions exercising a form of power?
Henri: It is a particular way of using that (power). Rather than saying ‘I’m the smartest guy here and everyone around me are idiots.’
Therese: I agree. Assuming this is a boss who is encouraging more self organization, Peggy’s example has the supervisor doing a data scan of his environment and drawing out the collective knowledge of what’s needed etc. If I were in a hiring position we’d have to do what Peggy was describing but for me I’d have to pay a lot of attention also to who’s actually showing up.
Claire: If you believe that self organization is always happening and that leaders can consciously lead an organization - be aware that they can do something different that will help plant the seeds / to set the conditions for emergence - there is guidance out there. In Meg Wheatley’s latest book “Finding Your Way” she describes 3 domains for self organizing leadership in organizations: 1) leadership (so the sort of thing like asking for what are the right questions); 2) identity (the sensemaking piece of the organization); and 3) Relationships (the pathmaking pieces of the organization). A conscious leader would stand back at that recruiting point to say ‘what would I do in this organization to promote these 3 things all the time to attract such people.’ If you think about those 3 domains it is very important - from my own experience in labor relations, if I spent the time ahead of time thinking before I went into contract talks - ‘what is the information?’ so I’m not hiding anything - value the person and keep the person piece different from the issues, you can go a long way. And if you can keep on the table the piece of ‘how this fits in to the success of the organization’ it just happens so much more smoothly -- the opportunity is there for the greater group to bring something out. And I’m sure the person you talked about, Dennis, intuitively was doing that. This is what our organization does, this is what our identity is inside and outside, and this is how we feed it.
Kim: You just gave me a whole new lens for an intervention I’m working on - how that leader I’m working with can use those 3 different domains.
Claire: It’s conscious -- I have to know ahead of time I’m going to do something different - a conscious leadership.
Henri: To throw another piece in there is the notion of transparency and that if one really is serious about self organization - that this is a process that should be open to anybody who wants to participant (in identifying candidates, in the process of recruitment, interview, whatever) and that would create completely different dynamics than what is traditional - particularly at the senior level (where it all happens in ‘the black box’ - the whole process and all the information is typically completely secret and then suddenly somebody lands there and they say ‘this is the new vp of human resources’)
Kim: I had that situation and a manager came into this saying ‘I know something different needs to be done but I don’t know what to do - so we laid it out on the table - so even though the system was the traditional kind, upon her arrival she opened it up and called on a resource to help her do that. Even within a traditional organization that leader within can sort of reboot the system that way.
Claire: And that can happen just simply by powerful invitation.
Kim: And so what happened and all those questions that should have been asked - that first series of questions set into motion that transparency
Therese: So Henri how would YOU do it in a self organizing way?
Henri: What Kim and what Peggy described is how I’ve done it (asking questions) but if I thought about it now I would go even further because many things I was doing were not quickly articulated. I did recruit someone who was vp for organizational development and all the people related to that were part of the recruiting process on the basis that this guy was going to be supporting them. I think I was doing some of those things without knowing what I was doing. When I interviewed him he asked ‘what’s the job’ and my answer was that ‘if I knew what the job was I wouldn’t need you!‘ [laughter from all at our table]. And my focus was finding someone who is a fit with the group and if you don’t include the group that can’t work.
Christine: I think there’s something really powerful in that image of the heart growing new pathways. Maybe our job in a self organizing system is to do everything we can to keep those pathways growing.
Cindy: Yes and if we understand influence and self organization how does that influence power and leadership - maximizing the energy and knowledge that is inherent in the entire system.
Peggy: And the way we do that is by opening more space and the way we open more space is by the invitation and the questions we ask.
Cindy: The way we do that is by creating pathways and when I thought about those 3 domains the leadership domain is creating cognitive and informational pathways, the identity domain is creating psychological pathways and the relationships domain is creating emotional, physical and whatever else pathways.
Peggy: Questions open pathways and the quality of the questions - that’s the art.
Cindy: A tension for me is the job of leader helping the system self organization - to me leadership infers intent whether traditional leadership or not - you’re accountable to lay out an intent which is one of the things that helps shape where and how those pathways are created.
Larry: Part of the thing required for self organizing systems is that we need the boundaries in order to function - so that leadership that you mention is critical. Helping people clarify intent (without micromanaging).
Dennis: One of the ironies in organizations we have today is that on the one hand people in high levels of power are playing the black box secrets game - but on the other hand not one of those people who got to the top played by all the rules - it’s networking and getting to know the board members, subtle finesse, popularity - so people are using the more subtle levers in order to get to the top.
Christine: …using all these systems so that they could.
Dennis: They do it to acquire power.
Christine: …so that…?
Dennis: Well it’s usually because they want more money.
Judith: I think as we are moving into the future that won’t work at all anymore.
Therese: So Henri is there something you know now that would lead you to do something else differently?
Henri: Yes one of things I would do more of is spending much more time and being more explicit in making sense of what we are doing, what is going on what is not going on and why those things make a difference - because if you are in a senior position, what ends up getting gets done by other people - its not by you - so the extent to which those things get endorsed by others and others start practicing and that reaches the bottom - that’s where the results are bring generated. So I would spend more time on that. I would spend more time having the conversation we are having now and marrying the conceptual to how do we translate that into practice what are the things we do? Examining each thing we do - the important things and also the little things that we do - to see how does that inform how we do this, and this.
Audrey: If you’re in a self organizing system is there anything such as up and down: Would you refer to people differently?
Henri: That’s a very good point - and also language is so embedded in us that it would be very important to think about.
Audrey: So what’s that organizational chart look like?
Peggy: I think the organizational chart looks like a map of relationships.
Peggy: I think of it as inform, ask questions and step back - I was doing an open space in Spirited Work and people were taking longer and longer to announce their topics. Somebody brought it to the stewards that ‘we need to solve this problem/ and what it came to was what I label as a ‘time nazis’ and I said ‘this discussion is taking responsibility from the whole - let’s bring it back to the collective’. And the collective did solve it and without a time nazi, with the question ‘how do we do this lovingly?’ [at this point both Peggy and Therese answered how they solved it by holding their arms over their heads forming a shape of a big circle (o) - forming an “o” for “overshare”]. After the group set that up someone later went on and on and people in the circle made the ‘o’ and the person talking so long about the topic said “can’t…sit…down!” and everybody laughed together. What I’ve found in the ongoing use of this is that everyone who has received this message gives the feedback that they appreciated the help - ‘thank you I’d lost my way and I couldn’t get back’.
Larry: Regarding the transparency issue - that ‘black box’ sometimes seems to be necessary because of the larger context, in that if you let the name of this VP out while you’re in the interview process that will affect the environment - that person’s job current job might be at stake if their organization finds out, for example.
Henri: You still have a choice of observing and doing those things - knowing there is a range of possible reactions, how will you respond to that. You can use the awareness of how sharing information might affect the outside environment and the candidate as an excuse for doing the wrong thing or for better things.
Christine: I work with an organization with different parts of the system in different stages of development - one of the leaders would say at a staff meeting ‘of course we do not want to talk about this outside our organization because here are the possible affects’ (she says it not as a rule but as sharing the full information).
Peggy: An organization I worked with wanted to change to open book financials and they had serious conversations about how to do this - because were a telecom company - so they developed a way of sharing the information and taught classes to everyone in how they can / how to share the information.
Henri: I guess one of the things for me is…we have the language ‘self organizing system’ - as if it exists. And the only thing that exists is the people in the organization. So it’s important for me to bring down the conversation to ‘what would you do / what do individuals do’ to make it recognizable and concrete. Another context I find useful to look at is to look at a family - and if you believe in self organization then the family is also a place where self organization is taking place. That does raise questions about how does that inform you about what to do and what not to do - specific examples and incidences - how should I handle / how should I have handled this? How can I reflect on that? And that’s relevant to work, as well.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Note from Lisa (this is what I was thinking as we wrapped this discussion): I would like to explore ideas about power with this Turtles group (if we had more day) through using a few exercises to trigger additional ways of thinking, knowing and expressing. Word exercises, drawing metaphors and imagery on flipcharts, movement or pictures made with the body to illustrate concepts, and so on. Both the exercises and the discussions afterwards could be very rich I think if some of our talking was seeded by this shift into non-verbal or non-linear thinking.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
And here are the notes that Mark wrote and contributes to our conversation:
POWER [verb > Latin “potēre”]
vb 1 Be able (Latin)
math 2 Exponent (“eponere” - Latin) [set forth]
one that expounds, interprets, or advocates
vb 3 The rate at which work is done
4 The energy or motive force by which a system operate
5 Strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted
6 Capacity or potential for action
7 Effective or binding force
8 Measure of effectiveness, capacity, and/or influence
Power is the measure of effectiveness, capacity, and/or influence to initiate, sustain, and/or terminate communication and/or action. It also describes the energy by which the system operates.
Deeper Patterns and Processes
We talked about the importance of being able to see the deeper patterns and processes that are running in organizations. John Bennett’s Systematics and the Process Enneagram© were introduced. Dick has found these to be powerful tools to help people I organizations to engage in their transformation.
Dick mentioned that more about this way of seeing was developed in his book. ”The Leadership Dance; Pathways to Extraordinary Organizational Effectiveness”
Guises of Self-Organizing systems
Convenor: Meg Salter
Participants: Dick Knowles, Daren Davis, Bill Hannon, Linda Stevenson, Harrison Owen, Claudia Haack, Glenda Eoyang
The many guises of self-organizing can give it really great power or great confusion and uselessness. It seems that different systems self-organize differently. And, even when the systems are doing apparently the same things we have multiple guises through which to understand and describe what is happening.
Meg’s question is how can we use self-organizing to see and work most productively with systems as they emerge through time in emergence.
Both have guises to be used and adapted to—the system in which we work and we as systems who work.
This comes out of our understanding of Spiral Dynamics. Each one of the levels includes emergent patterns. We see these dynamics in all, and how can we use the language that connects between us and them. How do we make the choices to engage each pattern?
Does SO happen in all levels of the Spiral? And, do you see the same dynamics in each?
Sustainable environmental codes are an example of emergence in some levels, but different languages to respond to different world views held by others. This includes different value systems, context, levels of spiral.
Is the guise a difference in reality or a difference in language? We think it must be both.
Relationship between seeing and believing—Which comes first, they come together, or they each influence the other.
As we learn to see what IS, we cannot predict and the expectation is that things are going to happen and we need to pay attention.
Cost of belief can be enormous. Strategic thinking teachers have to move into new ways of working and thinking. They realize that the assumptions on which their work is based is bogus, so they have to either fake it or to lose the reality in which they work. You have to give up your old assumptions and actions in order to live in the new reality you see.
“In the bowl” This is the basin of what is good and in line with the opportunities and possibilities.
The question in any guise is what is the bowl? and are we in it? If we aren’t in it, how can we get there?
Mid-level abstractions provide ways to use any set of names to talk about the dynamics we see. The dynamics are the same AND the language can be any language.
At different places and time in SO systems, the dynamics are more or less constrained and in need of more or less constraints.
Level of consciousness is manifest in seeing multiple interpretations of the same phenomenon. The employee can say he’s been fired. You can see that you were reinforcing the important safety regulations. Both are true, they are different views of the same phenomenon. The naming depends on point of view. The thing itself does not depend on point of view. (No body said this, but I think it may be true.)
In the reality guise, there are two unproductive places to be.
· Locked in and static
· Unconstrained and “out of control”
You cannot go from violent to peaceful interaction in one jump. You have to control the violence and you have to intervene to stop the violence AND establish space for the conversation. What is the role that we play in trying to help shift from the violent to the peaceful interaction.
Opening space reduces constraints and allows the system to explore other possibilities.
It is about levels of constraint. Open space allows you to increase the degrees of freedom and select from among different sets of constraints.
Does the system select its own constraints?
Freedom shock on one side and lock-in on the other side. The constructive and healthy and proactive and peaceful dynamics are in between. We need to be able to see where the system is and where it might go and see when it is going over the edge and help shift it to the other direction.
How do we intervene? How do we help the system recognize where it is and help it recognize its options and opportunities.
The general wisdom is to follow your intuition and respond based on how the system “feels” as it moves toward or away from SO. This approach assumes that one’s intuition is a reliable gauge and doesn’t respond to the concerns if two different individuals have two different intuitional responses to the same situation. Another concern about the power of intuition to sort through the guises of SO and shape effective response is based on the nature of intuition. Intuition belongs to one person, and so it is by nature undemocratic. If I’m the one with the power in the room, and if I trust my intuition, then my intuition becomes the dominant one. Intuition is there, but it belongs to me. If others have other intuitions, they are shut down without options for discourse because theirs are different from the dominant one. The “guise” then becomes not one of language or of reality but of personal power and presence.
What does self-organization imply about wielding influence?
Participants: Dennis Stauffer, Therese Fitzpatrick, Kim
Burnes, Lois Yellowthunder, Cindy Wilcox
(at the beginning), Henri Lipmanowicz (at the
Convener: Dennis Stauffer
Initial questions: If everything is self-organized, is self-organization a circular concept, i.e., a tautology? Also, if everything is self-organized, what is healthy self-organization and unhealthy self-organization?
[There was some initial discussion around the concept of “everything being self-organized” and other ways to look at human interaction – formal and informal social systems, etc.]
[There was a discussion around whether Open Space works cross-culturally and many examples presented to show that it does].
What does self-organization imply about wielding influence? Leaders do emerge in terms of the model.
[In the future] we will have fewer and fewer large organizations. Rigid hierarchy will dissipate. Hierarchy exists to control chaos. Someone may be brought in temporarily [to lead]. People may not always stay in a leadership role.
Sometimes we call self-organization random, sometimes deterministic.
Trust will become an important commodity. Self-responsibility [will also be important]. What has heart and meaning for me – everyone is in the right place. Need to focus on what has heart and meaning for you.
Example of self-organization and influence: a consultant was working with a municipality. Initially, top management asked for a linear planning process. About half-way through the process, it appeared not to be working. There were also two “theory x” managers. Because the consultant had established trust with top management, the consultant was able to suggest an Open Space process instead. This decision reflected the consultant’s influence. This is what happened:
1. The consultant was invited by top management to work with municipal staff. The consultant established a relationship and rapport with top management.
2. Four design teams practiced open and honest sharing, e.g., what was working, what was not working. They discussed how to change the patterns within the silos.
3. The staff used an Open Space process and developed a compelling question: How do we create a new Department of X? As part of this process, the group developed action plans.
4. The groups continued to meet.
5. The manger held to the process and allowed the groups to have self-responsibility. Heart and meaning issues were attended to. This represents marrying passions with responsibility. The two “theory x” managers came to have less influence.
What does this example mean for a manager of an organization? The answer is that there isn’t one [particular answer or solution].
The model says build trust, advance self-organization in a healthy way, have a willingness to take risks. So, the process involves building trust, taking risk and having a high level of integrity. Thus, a seemingly valueless system gains value. Begin with what clients want. Allow the system to do what it wanted to do naturally.
Another example: At a large company, control was both tightened and loosened.
Tighter: Personal values and behavior – how we treat each other
Looser: Time and space [provide more time and resources to get the work done].
Conclusion: [Self-organization] involves building trust, building relationships, being willing to take risks because the outcomes are not known and the leader keeps the values. The challenge is how it hangs together. How do we make it work in the world? Self-organization implies letting go. When, why and how should we make an effort to organize?
Actions: The discussion ended. The question was addressed and, at least, partially answered.
Organizational Awareness/Consciousness & Ego Development
Participants: Kim Burns,
Larry began stating that his experience affirms that there are different perspectives held by people (including himself) and organizations that shape how they “see” “self-organization”. Those with predominantly a traditional (hierarchical) worldview on how organizations work see things differently than those looking at it from a modern/scientific perspective or looking from a post-modern/relational perspective. And there are other perspectives as well. No person or organization has only one perspective – but there tends to be a “center of gravity” from which many things are viewed. The perspectives also appear to be “developmental” in adults and human systems as they are in children. For example, an ego centric view of morals usually precedes a more world centric view. He has found both Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber’s adaptation of it as useful way to look from this perspective and to clarify his practice in working with organizations.
Christine also believes that the Spiral Dynamics model is a useful perspective. She sees that there are multiple spirals (like a double helix) with ego (individual) and cultural being intertwined. The “development” is not only one way, but new perspectives can also lead back to older ones before “transcending and including”.
The flow of conversation went from there following a number of paths, some of which got noted and are included here:
¨ This kind of developmental approach suggests to some that it prescribes and end. However, it can be seen as descriptive, evidence based, perspective on how we and consciousness evolve or develop – transcending and including previous perspectives. It is easiest to see in childhood development. The “value” that is placed on the stages/waves/aspects of development is ours to choose although some seem to use it to label others. But the “evidence” of development or evolution is strong in many scientific, religious and spiritual traditions.
¨ If this is accurate it appears that our kids go through the development as well. (That may be a concern for a lot of us older folks at this event.) Maybe we can foster or increase the speed of development of this awareness that everything is “self-organizing”. However, you cannot transcend and include a previous stage unless you have been there, to some extent.
¨ Leadership and organizations do go through transitions (transformations) in their perceptions and paradigm as to how to function best – their perspective on organization. How do we assist them without labeling them? One way is to use these developmental perspectives to recognize that all waves or stages are perfect and required parts of the journey. All of us are on a journey. There will be opportunities to look at things differently, when the current paradigm no longer works as well. Linear project management does not get the results it seeks with complex systems and now there is some openness to self-organizing perspectives for some.
¨ Many organizations still have their center of gravity in “traditional” approaches to organization -- order from the top down reinforced by a certain political or religious mythos (say a government or church organization.) It is true that there may be people in the organization with different views from the center of gravity – from ego driven to post modern to integral. But the system often responds to interventions to re-assert its worldview – depending on the positional power of those leading a change. They might tolerate a new CAS worldview from some leaders or have a peak experience in Open Space, but unless it ready for an operational shift to a new paradigm of organization, it is not likely to happen for the whole system. Getting the whole system in the room does help and some processes engage the system in change – e.g. Dannemiller or Open Space Technology. If the client is only part of a much larger system, then a developmental perspective can help in the reflection on what did happen.
¨ It helps me to be transparent about “who I am”. Keeping “me” as clear as possible helps me to see others and others to see me. The connection starts with a sense of attraction – the possibility of synchronicity. I am the change. (Our luminosity has the ability to attract each other.)
¨ Be careful not to blame or judge people for where they are at. In a transition it helps to have some words to describe the experience – for the “higher self” to talk to the “lower self” with love.
¨ When do we wake up and say, “How great is my liver today” or “My genes in my lungs are doing a remarkable job today.” We are not often aware of our “self-organizing” bodily system – organizations aren’t either. (www.thebestdayever.com)
¨ Clarify the organizations intention (and our individual intentions) is critical with self-organizing. It gives focus and direction to that emergent process.
¨ Consciousness is both individual and collective. It can also be seen from an operational perspective and developmentally.
(Thanks to all and apologies to those who ideas were not recorded or mis-represented.)
How to Use Complexity and Open Space Principles on Critical Global Issues
Convener: Katherine Barton
Participants: Lois Yellowthunder, Christine Whitney Sanchez, Therese Fitzpatrick, Peggy Holman
Recorder – Christine Whitney Sanchez
How can we test the CDE Model (Glenda’s work) on the complexity of global issues.
Looking for a group to test this with
§ Institute on Agricultural and Trade Policy
o Met with them and decided they could test this on sucrose
o Issue of funding
§ RFP out from NSF
§ It would require 2-300 hours to apply for the money
o Not them, what are we going to do now
§ HSDI has had a strong relationship with EMA – water and waste water consultants
o Strong interest in helping water utilities around the world become stronger
o Glenda has presented with them
§ Work up a scheme to partner with them to work on this water thing
§ Gene Schiller has headed up some extremely successful projects
o Put together the financial structure for the large desalinization plant
§ Allowed the private entity to take the risk. The public entities allowed financing at a lower interest and had the power to approve the acceptance of the plant and then had the option to buy out the private.
o Deputy director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District in FL
o National Council on Public Private Partnerships
§ Why don’t we put together a course with Gene as the technical expert and HSDI’s complexity
§ EMA said that their clients won’t be interested – public/private is scary
§ WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
§ Conversation about how you get positioned to do really powerful things
§ What could we do that we have personal passion for?
§ All this passion and skills
§ How can we assert ourselves on these larger global issues
§ How can we get into a position to make an impact in something we know how to do
o Looking for a PI from the University
o At the university you have applied and basic research
o Gulf between practitioners and researchers
§ How to fill that chasm
§ How can we proceed in a powerful way – not a victim way
o Personal passion to fill global need
o Host breakout session and look for partners
§ If you don’t have a connection, find a relationship with someone who does.
How do you spark a movement?
§ There’s two kind of project – those you take off and those you can’t push
§ We want to find the spark, not just push on something forever
§ Peggy’s map – How would you set the context in the water situation?
o Maybe if we had a sense of what is in the air, it might give you an opening
§ Other than Phx or LA, most people don’t think water is an issue
§ Ditch law – how water flows on and off your land – it tends to get nasty
§ Creating sustainable water districts
in so many parts of the world, local governments are impoverished
§ Public/private to create infrastructure
o Local and global
o Rights of private property
o Realtors who want to keep it clean
o Property rights issues
o Environmental groups that want to save the wetlands
WHAT’S AN ENTRY POINT INTO WATER
§ Political system
§ The people with money are going after politicians
§ Real solutions have to go bottom-up
Describing the context
§ Passion about water = indicator for sustainable life and health
§ Co-conveners – invite people you trust (they won’t come up with their own agendas)
§ Ask the question that has enough resonance
We had hoped that doing a project on a more global level would be a scaling up to see if the same dynamics as those which exist in organizations (Glenda’s dissertation)
PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR SPARKING THE MOVEMENT
§ Find something local – citizen involvement that you just start doing. In starting small, success leads to success
o Build relationships
§ Start going to conferences on water
§ Invite people who are working on a hot topic around water and they become the attractors (as in Practice of Peace)
o They were clear that some people needed to get paid
o Others did not (because they hadn’t been clear that they need to get paid)
§ Story from the AI Listserve (10/10/2002)
§ Gather people for a design team to design the questions that people really care about
o Have the conversations about what you love – what is it about water?
o It’s the witnessing (look at Peggy’s Emergence model)
o In asking why are you there, the question will emerge.
Katherine always saw water as connected to peace. Imoto’s work – the water actually improved with the more positive attitudes. By people changing themselves they can make an impact on this precious resource.
Blend of the variance guys and Imoto’s work!
BIG IDEA –
§ Conference on water with Imoto as an invited guest.
§ Conduct AI Interviews/research along with the conference
From: "Stephanie Judy/David Stewart" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [Ailist] Expressing Dreams via art
Date: Thursday, October 10, 2002 11:52 AM
This past weekend, I led an "Introduction to AI" workshop at a regional arts and heritage conference attended by artists, arts administrators, and gallery/museum curators.
I am normally reticent about asking groups to engage in on-the-spot art projects in a short workshop. However, this was a group of artists! With helpful ideas and encouragement from Peggy Holman in the planning stages, I incorporated an art-making component as part of a 2.5-hour workshop.
There were 45 participants, self-organized into four fairly equal-sized sub-groups.
One group of arts administrators and museum curators organized around the topic of volunteer burnout. I asked them to come up with a short, simple name for their table, and they decided on "More People!"
Another group from a city arts council wanted to look at strategies for addressing long-standing political obstacles to building a new cultural venue -- theatre/gallery/museum -- in their town. They called themselves the "Community Building" group.
The third group was the hardest to pull together, but proved in the end to have the most "Aha!" moments. Each of them was involved in a major arts or heritage project -- there were multi-year projects, region-wide projects, large budget projects, and projects involving acquisition of property or major structural changes in existing organizations. They decided to call themselves the "Big Ideas" table.
The final group was comprised of old friends and colleagues -- all of them well-established "senior" artists who live in the region, but do most of their income earning in cities far from this area -- several painters, a
sculptor, a textile artist, a blacksmith, a choreographer, and a writer/storyteller. Fishing around for a group name, they saw one of my blank chart pages headed "What Gives Life . . . " and they chose "Art Lives." (The people at "Big Ideas" fondly referred to them as the "Big Egos").
After a brief Discover and Dream phase, I asked each group to take 20 minutes to express their Dream artistically. I provided lots of coloured paper, markers, scissors, glue, tape, collage materials, and a tub of
rhythm instruments -- hand drums, tambourines, claves, triangles, finger cymbals, maracas, and such.
I scheduled the 20 minute "art" period to fall just before the afternoon break, with time after the break for each table to display its work. Most of the participants worked feverishly right through the break to finish their creation . . . except for the "More People!" table.
I was genuinely worried about them. They had cornered most of the rhythm instruments, but didn't seem to be preparing anything. At the break, they all strolled out, returning with their cups and a pot of tea just as we were ready to begin.
The presentations were *amazing*. The "Big Ideas" had written a song about courage and cooperation, which they performed in three-part harmony. The "Art Lives" table did a multi-media presentation involving sculpture, origami, dance, and storytelling. The "Community Building" table used yards
and yards of flagging tape to encase one of their artist members head to toe in red tape -- and then, via mime, got people from the other tables to bring scissors and cut her loose. Once liberated, the artist unveiled a breathtaking "Community Building" collage.
And then it was the turn of the "More People!" table. They sat around their table and, each using three or four rhythm instruments simultaneously, they started playing a rather frantic and very catchy rhythmic pattern. After about 30 seconds of this, one of them stood up . . . then another . . . then the rest. Still playing all of their instruments, they left their table and started moving around the room. Very gradually, each one
approached another person in the room, and offered one of their extra instruments, which most of us happily accepted. They would each stand beside the new player, "entraining" them in the rhythmic pattern, and then they'd gradually drift off to find another potential rhythm band member. All of the other participants eventually joined in, most of them getting up and dancing around the room, improvising new rhythms, adding some vocals, generally having a terrific time . . . until we realized, to everyone's glee, that the original members of the "More People!" group had divested themselves of *all* of their instruments and were back at their own table, drinking tea!
I continue to discover principles for finding and keeping volunteers that were embodied in this mini-event:
* Create something that people want to be part of
* Maintain a positive, supportive social atmosphere
* Extend personal invitations
* Make it clear what is expected
* Make the initial tasks interesting and do-able
* Help people get started
* Ensure initial success
* Be friendly, encouraging, lively
* Let new recruits achieve independence as soon as possible
* Withdraw initial support gradually
* Trust your volunteers to do a good job
* Let volunteers feel connected to the entire organization
* Make room for new ideas
The "More People!" people got a *huge* round of applause from the rest of the group . . . and I not only got over my reticence about asking people to do artwork, but I learned something about trusting workshop participants, too!
The Appreciative Inquiry Discussion List is hosted by the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. Jack Brittain is the list administrator. For subscription information, go to:
Attractors and Questions
Convenors: Glenda Eoyang and Peggy Holman
· Final – the reason
· Formal – that for the sake of which
· Material – what
· Efficient cause
In a self-organizing system there is not some thing out there toward which the thing is organizing.
Adaptation is an efficient cause.
Is adaptation a move toward higher level of complexity?
Ways of measuring coherent—more diverse and more coherent is more complex.
Definition of coherent-
· low internal conflict – shared meaning – decreased internal tension –
· And the image of a network of free agents and the capacity to connect easily –right number of each
· Patterns of the whole are the coherent – it is a meaningful pattern -
Then what is an attractor? It is the pattern that is left after a nonlinear dynamical equation that has taken place.
Once the pattern is there, what happens when something new comes into the system?
Take a competitive business has established a pattern of competition? Is it the pattern of competition there and influences the participants? Or is it there and the people behave in competitive ways? If they change the pattern is because they change the pattern? Or is it because they change the people and create a new pattern?
Essential role of the humans in the pattern is to recognize patterns, and then also knowing that a player can take initiative and create a new pattern. What do you call that thing that is poking at the pattern in the system to change it—The perturbations? There are parameters in the systems that shape the patterns, but there may be a way to change the patterns and ways to think about them differently. There is a way of thinking about how to change a pattern.
At a given point in time I can see only one pattern at a time, so that is my constraint. So that pattern I see is mine…not the systems. So you decide to intervene and your actions are informed by the pattern to let me know what to do. It is my own action that I am taking in relation to the system---it is not the systems etc. I can recognize the patterns so that I can make a difference. Seeing the pattern in the whole and the patterns at the smaller part. I can see what is in the small and make the changes there in response to the changes I see at the whole. When that pattern becomes re-ified, then we judge between right and wrong and good and bad and convinces us that we can change an attractor. It is just another type of control that is disturbing.
The pattern is like a footprint and we can do something about it, but it exists there. Patterns come about because the differences. It is the differences in the system that make the patterns. If I think of the questions as something that comes out of what comes before, then it may be an attractor or a dissipative structure that is the product of the dynamical interaction. The question is the important thing for people to consider. The question is richer when it is the question of the group rather than the question of the single person. That is why multiple groups can and do make meaning together.
It is that place of convergence that we can see the larger than self. How do you move from meaning at one level to the meaning at the next level. Like a mobius strip—what is outside at one part is inside at the next part. Kagen talked about this as the cultural development. What is outside at one level then has to become inside and gives me meaning differently. Identity is the part and then we
See the possibilities for amplifying the ones you want. to you ask a question and see if the system come with you? The possibility is opened by the question. Bringing the right question rings the greater coherence to the system by bringing for the patterns we can see.
When people see the pattern as absolute, then they feel helpless or that this is the “right” thing. And then they stop asking questions.
This is the same as the cell becoming the organ becoming he universe is in the particular. ng the organism, etc. This is going on simultaneously at all levels and in different areas.
The patterns that need to show up are the patterns that show up. What is the question that is on your mind that would help you? How people ask the questions is very important…..Keep asking questions.
So what is the nature of questions? As we can differentiate patterns,
Open space increases the numbers of free agents—and it makes the patterns more available to see and appreciate.
Attractors are more formal causes- pattern or blueprint – nonlinear dynamics
--wolfram uses attractors differently in looking at cellular atomata
Why do some questions cause and remain in the dialogue when some questions stop the
Session on attractors and questions
What is an attractor?
What is the role of questions?
[Lisa’s note: I asked Glenda if she wanted to finish the sentence above or just leave it as is… She replied: “Apparently we got a bit distracted at the end. In some ways, it is an artful way to complete a session on questions--with a question. Let's just leave it as it is. Let's just say it is an interrupted conversation, eagerly awaiting the next installment. TO BE CONTINUED . . .”]
The relation between self-organizing systems and transformational process?
Convenor: Thomas Thiss
How does the idea of SOS take us to a new level
Transformation needs to happen in the present moment
How can we help people become present in order to transform?
If everything is self-organizing, the fact of it is inescapable
How do we get people to acknowledge it? Is more the question than how do we create it?
SOS goes on all the time – whether constructively or destructively
The transformation could be the emergence of destructive gangs … where they create a sense of identity and belonging and find meaning
What is the role of power and leader in the SO organization?
When meaning occurs, transformation and creativity is released
Meaning: the ability to make a difference
Gangs are self-organizing, like companies, in the beginning stages
Interesting how self-organizing systems seek structure
When people don’t see self-organization, what do they see?
They see chaos and anarchy
In established organizations, how do we engage people in purposeful SOS for the advancement of the enterprise?
You don’t bring in a tool instead bring your heart and mind
You intervene to help the system becomes more of what it’s organizing toward
Scan, plan, act, react
Scanning is looking in the here and now
It’s something the group needs to do
It’s surrendering to the project: you need to ask it because it has consciousness and it can tell you
How do you engage people to listen to the community and where it wants to go?
Transformation happens one person at a time
It begins with individual journeys
People have passion outside of work all the time
Presence is with-nessing
The world is reselforganizing in a dramatic way
We can facilitate transformation
Knowles: Self-organization is roots, operational stuff is branches, happens one person at a time
We can set conditions. But can’t force people
Roland; true honest accurate data, org self chooses around that data
Disagree: Expulsion of Marco in Phillipines; no one was gathering data, it was spontaneous.
Fire rallies people to their best behavior
Roland: Within several years,
the whole world will go whoooop! And large numbers of people will be living in
a higher state of consciousness.
Moving to a model of abundance in which no one has to work for a living.
What does that look like? How will we get there?
Everyone moving to a higher consciousness
Federal Trade Commission:
SKIPE VOIP is changing the world through conversations
Most of our data is generated and stored outside our heads.
BLINK is example of consciousness, and accessing data.
Transformation we’re talking about is planetary
With co-creation, resistance disappears
Opening space allows more complex structure to occur
Roland: Importance of trust in all high functioning organizations around the world
Trust is opposite of fear, it’s feeling safe
Judith: It’s on me to be comfortable with my self and be centered enough to trust people around you
Dick: Emerges from interactions
Knowles: not a spectator sport, it take a lot of work to stay in the hear/moment
Jason: Allow people to move in and out of system.
Judith: Our challenges keep getting bigger.
What does trust look like?
Promises and a history of broken promises.
Make them explicit
Building trust is iterative; so is tearing it down.
Trust means valuing everyone
Leads to collective business intelligence
Demonstrate the possible/establish confidence
Get out of the way
Create open space that allows for change
Create a clear self-image of organization
Resistance to change will disappear
Create sense of urgency.
Trust is opposite of fear, it’s feeling safe
Operate in the moment.
Stay in the system
Insight organizes itself toward fusion.
(Listen to your voices)
Capacity to trust
Willingness to commit
Courage to act
Courage, care, concern, commitment
Self-organization is value neutral and yet it implies specific values.
Gavity is valueless, and yet in implies good and bad decisions (like jumping off a cliff is bad) Intention is what creates value.
What is leadership (in the context of self-organizing systems)?
Convenor: Cindy Wilcox
We are concerned here more with leadership as a function of a system than any attempts to look at individuals as leaders. In fact, the word leader is often used to denote positional authority or as a title bestowed on those appearing worthy in some way, and it generally has little to do with leadership as a function within a system.
The exercise of leadership in self-organizing systems can look like:
- setting conditions for (opening channels for) self-organization
- influence processes that draw energy in a direction
- fully manifested self-differentiation and presence can be an attractor or influence cognitive and emotional fields in and of itself
- the articulating of values and intentions gives direction and meaning to self-organizing processes
There is a historical distinction made between managers and leaders that has helped shape how leadership is viewed today. It was observed that people-centered managers were more productive than production-centered managers. So the focus of management shifted to be about getting things done through people. So maybe leadership is about getting people done through the work (rather than getting the work done through people)…
Management was typically commanding and controlling. If leadership is about making things happen, then commanding and controlling is one way to ensure things will never happen!
Possible functions of leadership include:
- furthering the evolution of organizational consciousness
- maximizing the self-organizing potential of a system
- responding as needed to the situation at hand
- enhancing intentionality within the system
- asking the tough questions
- living in a networked way
- helping meet adaptive challenges
- helping a group voice its goals and agendas
- embodying the practices and principles that further those agendas
- manifesting group identity
- helping us learn our way into the future
Leadership in a self-organizing system:
- inquires, listens for, and gives voice to clarity of purpose, vision, values, means and conditions of the internal and external environment
- and embodies and models the “lived-into” presence, values, empathy, and compassion
Metaphor for leadership within a self-organizing system:
- the jellyfish amoeba (strange attractors, lights that go on and off throughout the system as needed – when you have fulfilled your leadership function, you may choose to do something else, or be attracted to someone else’s light).
In productive self-organizing systems, all members exercise leadership, and leadership may emerge in multiple people simultaneously. All members need to play both leadership and followership roles. Leadership is distributed.
What we are seeking are leaderfull organizations. So perhaps the true role of positional leaders is to continually increase the leadership capacity at all levels and in all roles.
Positional leaders can actually have the effect of shutting down the system and the exercise of the system’s own capacity for leadership.
Another approach to leadership -- it is whatever is needed in the moment of the conversation. Leadership is simply about how one responds in the moment to any situation, large or small, when working with others.
Is it possible that the notion of a “boss” is anachronistic and downright pathological?
Leadership is an inherent function of all self-organizing systems (it’s already there), so we should focus on:
- creating space in which inherent leadership can manifest itself
- know that the organization will die when it runs out of leadership (like hemoglobin)
- because of projections on “the boss,” a system may be unable to manifest its leadership capacity.
Leadership simply points in a direction and opens the space, enabling what is already there to manifest.
In real life, there is a creative tension between positional leaders having to be accountable for actual outcomes and for manifesting collective purposes, and the need to release energy and creativity within the whole system.
What is Change? How do you see dissipative structures?
Participants: Kim, Tom, Glenda, Katherine, Cindy, Karen, Audrey, Henri, Jack, Peggy, Claire, Lisa, Royce, and important others who were with us.
What happens just as the dissipative structure forms in a human system? What is the moment like before the self-organizing happens?
It is all right there.
Is knowing it in retrospect enough?
Until it happens you have failed, when it starts to happen it is the right time.
If the shift is success, then you’ve failed until it has happened.
Bifurcation is the word for the split at that moment.
Quality of being.
· Quality of what you’re a part of
· Greater perfection of the being of who or what they are.
· Towards realization of potential
· Change in the arrangements of the particles
· Lower energy state than before.
· Fusion moves to a different level of complexity with simpler rules
Tell are little strips of fabric on the sail to see how you’re sailing into the wind. How are you hitting the wind at various levels of the sail. With them in a particular way you can see laminar or turbulent flow and watch as it becomes smooth. Can take the hand off the wheel and stand on one foot and not fall over. It doesn’t last a long time. Expert sailors don’t use tell tales because they can know without cues.
What is the tell tale for the organization?
· Things are in constant motion.
· See the waves on the water coming up. Somebody has to be vigilant.
· System needs some way for what’s seen in one place to be shared in another.
· Feedback between and among.
· Old school sailors could tell changes in the wind so they didn’t need to have external support like tell tales.
· If there are enough spontaneous conversations in the organizations, then we need detailed data.
· Some things we need to sense together rather than alone.
· Current technology has replaced spontaneous conversations. If the data is given back to front-line staff, then it might spark spontaneous conversations that will give the real potential to see the new patterns.
· Listening to what’s new
· Water cooler conversation
· Headline of the conversation
· Level of the noise
· Anticipate what’s coming
· Input when people check in
How are we doing? Is a valid question, but it is a question that we would ask in self-organizing systems.
What’s happening that no one has the ability to stop? Question to ask one’s self about the group’s dynamics in the course of an open space. Staying out of the way of this.
Soul of OD is process. Define process: Converting habitual patterns of thought and action to more desired state.
Spiral dynamics provides categories of dynamics that can help us understand in a general way the dynamics so we can make meaning by recognizing and responding to the dynamics that are there. We can also see how we function and bridge between what we see and what they see and what is the healthy response for them to make in the time and place.
Teleology, which focuses on an end toward which we move, necessitates a better and worse and direction in some abstract metric. An alternative to such an approach says that the “better and worse” are dependent on this time and this place and these players.
If we could see and characterize each unique organization and situation, we might not need categories of patterns (such as spiral dynamics) as aids to understanding. Instead, we might come to know the thing it its own native tongue. Given that we do not have the time or sight or insight to see each in its own identity, then internally consistent systems of knowing (like spiral dynamics) can be quite helpful.
How to Attain a Worldcentric Perspective
Convener: Thomas Thiss
Attendees: Lois Yellowthunder, Royce Holladay
How can we attain a world centric perspective – social worldview? We can’t seem to get beyond our worldview. Ken Wilbur has described this as transcending – expanding and deepening our [consciousness]. How do we transcend, deepen, improve [our approach to] conflicts in our time? Today global warming is a problem that does not honor boundaries. We need to see connections, understand systems – today we see systems as “flatland.”
Tom:; The problem is not global warming, but rather how to achieve a consensus on what to do about it. In the words of Ken Wilber, we are controlled by what we have not transcended. We cannot see beyond our existing worldview. We need worldcentric minds big enough to transcend national concerns and embrace the diverse elements of conflicting ideas. The idea is to transcend and include, to take the best of the old perspective and leave behind the limiting, partial views.
Some necessary conditions and steps:
1. We need to access our passions, e.g., the connectedness of all living things, including the earth. The mirror side of passion is fear.
We need to address Maslow’s hierarchy as well as a scarcity mentality that seems to infuse a lot of our public discourse today.
2. We need a process to address these issues that is inclusive and non-adversarial.
3. We need to find global structures to facilitate such a process, e.g., UNESCO.
4. Ecological issues have the potential to generate [common ground].
Lois suggested we read the autobiography of Jean Monet, the visionary behind the European Union, and other books like “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell and “When Corporations Rule the World” by David Corten. We need an event that arouses public interest like the eco protests in Seattle.
The image formed by this process is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point – at some point a critical mass is generated. Another perspective is represented by Thomas Berry’s The Great Work. Berry believes the only work is the work of the universe. We have to align ourselves with the universe. According to Berry, the earth has evolved spiritually as well as physically. Everything is infused with consciousness. The earth is primary, we are derivative. Berry’s work covers some of the same territory as that of Matthew Fox and Creation Theology. Other work in this same vein is Mike Bell and his work with the Inuit.
The role of questions is critical to this process. Questions open the space and statements close the space. We could also use Peggy’s model for bringing both sides together. Jeff Goldstein’s work would be relevant here. How do we understand self-organization.
Our challenge: what are the unifying forces that would bring people together?
Lois: Political approaches polarize. We need to shift to heart and meaning. Passion must be at the heart of it. We need to be inclusive, not exclusive. The process has to be non-adversarial like The Process of Peace. We should consider including existing structures like UNESCO and look at other issues that have conflict potential such as the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
Royce: I’m attracted to the role of questions. Harrison reminded us that questions open space and statements close space. We have to live in the question. Myths can be creative or controlling.
Lois: Leadership uses fear as an attractor. FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Tom: Fear is a scarcity mentality.
Tom: Thomas Berry says we are shutting down our life systems, overpowering them such that they are unable to recover. We have a “use” mentality that believes that resources have no utility unless they are consumed; hence the destruction of the earth’s resources follows. This mentality carries over into human resources as well.
The physical (matter) evolution of the universe is well documented but the psychic/spirit (consciousness) evolution is not well known. Consciousness was present at the Big Bang and infuses all matter. As humans we are the evolved beings through whom the universe has become conscious of itself. Our origins are in the universe. We are star stuff! Knowing this, then when we care for the earth, we care for ourselves; and when we ravage the earth we ravage ourselves. The earth is all we have and all we need. As such the earth is primary and we as humans are derivative. The healing of our society will follow the healing of the earth. This realization has worldcentric potential.
List of Participants
2137 Juno Ave.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55116
11345 Stratton Ave., Ste 112
Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344
2281F Lakeshore Blvd. W
Toronto, Ontario M8V 1A6 Canada
410 West End, Apt. 7A
New York, New York
50 East Golden Lake Road
Circle Pines, Minnesota 55014
P.O. Box 553
Clinton, Washington 98236
4050 Blaisdell Ave. S.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55409
606 Orchard Dr.
Madison, Wisconsin 53711
4701 W. 44th St.
Edina, Minnesota 55424
Berkeley, California 94705-1106
826 44th Ave. North
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412
15347 SE 49th Place
Bellevue, Washington 98006
PO Box 58788
Renton, Washington 98058-1788
6989 Rebecca Drive
Niagara Falls, New York 14304
6989 Rebecca Drive
Niagara Falls, New York 14304
17 Prospect Hill Avenue
Summit, New Jersey 07901
4605 Weston Lane North
Plymouth, Minnesota 55446
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, Maryland 20854
3020 Carroll Avenue
41 Appleton Avenue
M6E 3A4 Canada
(416 653 4829
34 Eastbourne Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5P 2E9 Canada
5445 Orleans Lane North, Ste 7
Plymouth, Minnesota 55442
826 44th Avenue N
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412
Deephaven, Minnesota 55331
23740 Lawtonka Drive
Excelsior, Minnesota 55331
Christine Whitney Sanchez
2717 E. Mountain Sky Avenue
Phoenix, Arizona 85048
14510 Woodruff Rd
Wayzata, Minnesota 55391
2080 Edgcumbe Rd
St. Paul, Minnesota 55116-2476