Johnnie Moore comes across some great stuff and this is one of the best. Leadership in a self-organising world
Harrison Owen created, or maybe he just channelled, the Open Space process many years ago. He says he did so in two martinis and 20 minutes - pretty productive for a process that's been used hundreds of thousands of times around the world.As usual there are a couple of points I want to argue with.
Here's Harrison talking about the paradox of leadership in a self-organising world. It's fabulous stuff. He serves his metaphorical liquor 100% proof and with great charm. I certainly feel challenged to up my game in future when talking about this stuff.
- Owen, and possibly Johnnie and others still want to talk about leadership and, if they are right about self organising systems and I'm sure they are, then it is not fruitful.
Leadership is change directed, management is homeostatic, but both entail an ability to stand outside, and you can't.
Which raises for me the much more interesting question of how real change occurs, how actual decisions are made and how they so often offer such great potential that is equally often fail and produce outcomes that can be significantly worse than the problem they were supposed to solve.
I've spent 2 years working around my property with an overall objective of it being as productive and as sustainable as possible. I am building and implementing stuff now that I had no concept of when I first started, I am using spaces that have been transformed utterly from what we inherited and there is much more to come. But I had, and have, no plan.
Along the way I've developed what I recently started calling "listening to the garden", literally standing still inside the space, looking around it without making decisions or judgements, noticing (ht Johnnie) new stuff and blurring other stuff into the overall picture and then carrying on with whatever I was doing. At some point an idea will start to germinate about what needs doing next given the current state of the place and our desire to reach those objectives. A bit later I'll start moving some stuff or building something which I will often stop building for days or weeks until the next bit of it becomes clearer.
I like the process and I'm pleased with the results but here's the thing, everything I build, the raised beds, the trellises, the garden workbench, the toolshed platform, every single thing, is screwed together because I completely expect that some of them will need dismantling and rebuilding or removing and replacing altogether at some future state of the process and I want to be able to reuse the parts.
I have no idea whether what I am doing is in fact right and as long as I am prepared to take apart something that doesn't, or ceases to work, I think I'm OK.
But I have no idea how I make those decisions or where they will lead. Now, what would you call that process? Because I want to see a lot more of it.
- The other quibble is with this metaphor We're all surfers in a self-organising world. Some of us prefer the beach, and some of us think we're in charge of the wave. The challenge is to be in the flow of the wave.
I much prefer the metaphor of sailing. A sailor can go to any place they like, what they can't do is get there by any route they choose, they have to work with the prevailing conditions of sea and wind and their boat. Sometimes they need to tack across the wind for hours to achieve even some small headway towards their goal, and at other times they need to abandon the goal for a while and just ride out the storm.
The process requires determination, skill, patience, wisdom and persistence, but most of all it demands a direct and honest engagement with the reality you can perceive right now and a willingness to accept that the reality has changed on you, either because you have learned to see it better or because it has in fact changed.
Sailors need to listen to the sea as I listen to my garden and deal honestly with the facts of their situation, not those facts that they would like very much to be the case. Those who can't do that, or refuse to, are called strong or determined or leaders and, when they are also lucky they get away with it and are hailed as heroes. But that is just survivorship bias, most of those who act that way drown quite quickly and are erased from the story.
Nevertheless, watch the Owen piece, its a gem.
The read Johnnie's other piece. as usual, he has got there before me.
Meanwhile, we're so busy dreaming up desirable futures for each other, that we don't notice all the subtle changes that are going on around us anyway. And while we craft our master strategies, we don't even think about the little experiments we could make to nudge the system and see what happens.
You know, stuff we could do right now, or at least in the next day or so.
I'm starting to notice that the more discussions revolve around the importance of strategy, purpose and other such abstractions, the more likely I am to start daydreaming about what to have for tea or going for a nice walk somewhere.
I love it, nudge the system, see what happens, nudge it again. Its about the best we can do.