Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jascha Rohr: Unfolding Individual & Collective Potential in Corporations

I attended a presentation of Jascha Rohr (@jaschrohr) at the Berlin Hub on Unfolding Individual & Collective Potential in Corporations. During the presentation, I twittered the main statements and ideas of Jascha's German keynote, which I document, comment and annotate here (my original tweets in bold). You can read the entire tweetstream here.

Photo: www.partizipativ-gestalten.de

@jascharohr starts with a question: are bees or ants happy?

That is a real good question to reflect about. I mean, we all know that bees' and ants' brains are probably not made to feel emotions. But if we just assume for a moment that bees and ants would have the ability to feel, what would they feel, in particular, what would the worker ants and bees feel? Would they be proud and happy to be part of a greater good?

Reading an impressive article of National Geographic on swarm theory, I am not sure whether Jascha's underlying hypothesis hold: that there are power structures in bees or ants colonies. The author of this article says:

One key to an ant colony, for example, is that no one's in charge. No generals command ant warriors. No managers boss ant workers. The queen plays no role except to lay eggs. Even with half a million ants, a colony functions just fine with no management at all—at least none that we would recognize. It relies instead upon countless interactions between individual ants, each of which is following simple rules of thumb. Scientists describe such a system as self-organizing.

When you are 1 in a million in China, there 1300 of you. @jascharohr refers to Shift Happens.

"Shift Happens" has become one of the most quoted videos on change of society and culture. It has changed the way we look at our closest future. I just learned there is an updated version:





This year there will be 4 extrabyte of new information, more than was generated in last 5000 years.

Another quote from Shift Happens which shows us how quickly what our knowledge will be outdated.

However, I wanted to know more. A Google search on "Growth of Human Knowledge" did not reveal anything satisfying. So, this was the decisive moment of testing www.wolframalpha.com, the new "intelligent" search engine which has had a lot of (rather bad than good) PR during the last days. It reveals the following interesting information:

Input interpretation:

estimated information content of all human knowledge


Value:

~~ 0.01 ZiB  (zebibytes)

~~ 10 EiB  (exbibytes)

~~ 10 EB  (exabytes)

~~ 1x10^19 bytes

~~ 1x10^20 bits


Comparisons:

 ~~ 100 x estimated data content of the deep web (~~ 91 000 TB )

 ~~ 6000 x identifiable storage capacity of the human brain (~~ 2 PB )

 ~~ 6000 x approximate data content of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as of 2006 (~~ 2 PB )

A counter scenario to continuous exponential growth: Peak Oil Theory.
Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. The aggregate production rate from an oil field over time usually grows exponentially until the rate peaks and then declines—sometimes rapidly—until the field is depleted. This concept is derived from the Hubbert curve, and has been shown to be applicable to the sum of a nation’s domestic production rate, and is similarly applied to the global rate of petroleum production. Peak oil is often confused with oil depletion; peak oil is the point of maximum production while depletion refers to a period of falling reserves and supply. (Text and image from Wikipedia.org)












Whatever growth theory is right: We will have to deal with accelerating change - what does that mean for organizations?
At this point, Jascha went to the core of his presentation - what organizational forms do we need in the 21st century, in times of great uncertainty and growing complexity.

Consciousness is the skill of reflexive mindfulness. Is the consciousness of an organization only the sum of individuals or more?

3 levels of organizational consciousness based on the concept of David Deida and #spiraldynamics
David Deida is acknowledged as one of the most insightful and provocative spiritual teachers of our time, best-selling author David Deida continues to revolutionize the way that men and women grow spiritually and sexually. His teachings and writings on a radically practical spirituality for our time have been hailed as among the most original and authentic contributions to personal and spiritual growth currently available. (from Deida's own short biography)

Spiral Dynamics is an evolutionary model of human development which can be applied to individuals, societies and organizations. Originally conceived by Clare Graves in the sixties, it was taken up and further developed by Chris Cowan and Don Beck (the two guys, after having collaborated and published a seminal book on the topic, parted in conflict). We have published a case study on the Lebanese history based on Spiral Dynamics.

Level 1: The level of clearly prescribed roles, clear hierarchies, clear job descriptions. These organizations are efficient.
In Spiral Dynamics, we call those entities "blue organizations". They are organizations where trust is developed by rules and hierarchies. If you stick to rules you know that you are on the right track. Level 1 organizations work well in predictable markets.
But Level 1 organizations are not able to quickly adapt to change.
We have seen the fall of typical blue organizations recently, such as GM which had failed for many years to adapt to quickly changing markets.

Level 2 organizations are looking for meaning. It is kind of a community and includes emancipation. Trust is based on equality.

Problem of Level 2 organizations: they are not as efficient as Level 1 organizations and equality blocks individual development.
In Spiral Dynamics, we call those entities "green organizations". Trust is given by the community of equals. There are no hierarchies and no leaders. Issues are discussed and either decided by group consensus or left undecided. Level 2 organizations have worked well in particular in non-profit settings.
In level 3 organizations (just emerging): Instead of roles and equality, authenticity is the base of organizational consciousness.

In Level 3 organizations, leadership is a service, helping others to unfold their authenticity. Here, people unfold their potential.
In Spiral Dynamics, we call those entities either "yellow or turquois organizations", depending on whether they have the ability to create community and serve for a larger good (turquois).
How to organize Level 3 organizations? @jascharohr suggests participatory co-construction.

In @jascharohr's concept of participation, all living/non-living actors are part of the co-construction process and have their role.

Participatory co-construction is based on generative patterns

In a participatory co-construction process, all living/non-living actors are part of a non-linear field and interact with each other.
This concept is based on several sources:

1. The work of Christopher Alexander (http://www.patternlanguage.com, a Vienna born architect. From Wikipedia comes this quote from one of his books:

The Timeless Way of Building described the perfection of use to which buildings could aspire:

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the center of this way. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you feel alive, except by following this way. And, as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to buildings which are themselves as ancient in their form, as the trees and hills, and as our faces are.
2) For me, another important source for this is the work of Arnold Mindell, further developed by Max Schupbach in his WorldWork approach.

Worldwork brings is a new way of thinking about and working within the complete spectrum of collective life and its organizational forms. At its core is a theory that links research in consciousness studies to fresh interpretations of findings in modern physics.

More about the WorldWork paradigm can be found here.


In Level 3 organizations, all actors are ready to be deeply involved, aware that they are part of a field which they cannot control.

In Level 3 organizations, everybody can and will lead and everybody can and will follow in different phases.
We don't know whether Level 3 organizations do exist but there have been early prototypes, such as Dee Hock's Visa, who said in an interview:

"We are at that very point in time when a 400-year-old age is dying and another is struggling to be born -- a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, the possibility of the regeneration of individuality, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another, and with the divine intelligence such as the world has never dreamed."
Conclusion of @jascharohr: Let us stop being judgmental on leading and following. So bees and ants must be happy.


This blog post is just a start. There is much more to say about Jascha's theories, and - we have to put them into practice. Please contribute to the discussion.

Follow Jascha and Holger on Twitter.


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
Everybody believes that this is a quote from Nelson Mandela's inauguration speech. Unfortunately, this is an urban myth, and the text comes from an author called Marianne Williamson (read the full text here). How it got attributed to Nelson Mandela remains a mystery. Marianne Williamson herself said: "Several years ago, this paragraph from A Return to Love began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address. As honored as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people."

4 comments:

  1. Actual quote from Williamson as follows: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Holger,
    thank you so much for attending my talk, tweeting on the fly and writing this blogpost with your helpful thoughts and comments.
    Let me ad some thoughts, too and rbing some clarifacation to the questions raised:

    Ants and Bees: I didn´t suggest at all that there are power structures in insect colonies. My point is rather that we often speak in ways about ants and bees wich carry certain meanings with it: terms like colonies, the queen, workers and soldiers implie that there are humanlike civil power structures, which I wouldn´t back at all. My impression is rather that all bees and ants carry out in their life what they were "meant" to (whatever "meant" might mean). So if they had emotions they were happy maybe even orgasmic about what they do. So I totally back the article you read, even though I don´t like to think of it as a system anymore, but that is an other discussion altogether...

    I would like to ad to "accelerating change" "continuous change" as well, cause what I feel is neccessary to state today is that change is the normal state, rather then a mere shift between two solid states.

    It is important to me to make clear that I see all those level and development theories as models which help us to analyse complexity based on certain assumptions and simplifications. They do not represent reality as such. Because of this I am not sure if the three stages I use can be translated into spiral dynamics. I define those stages analogues to David Deida as Rolles, Equality and Authenticity. If I would try such a translation whatsoever I would define stage 1 as a summary of all memes up to orange, stage 2 as the green meme and stage 3 as all memes above green. You are right that I focus a lot on blue characteristics for stage 1 but also orange is strong in it: individualistic, success, rational linear processes e.g.

    I talk about participateurs when talking about all entities which take part in a participatory design process. This derives from Actor-Network-Theory especially from the the work of Bruno Latour and Donne Haraway. What I am trying is to get rid of the notion of subjects as actors in a design process and objects as - well - objects in a design process. Latour and Haraway speak of actors and actants which can include human and nonhuman entities. These terms still carry the term action and activity in them which is a characteristic of subjects. Participateurs don´t have to be active. They are defined as everything which takes part in a process in a very specific and diverse way. All forms of activity and passivity are included in the term participateur.

    Thank you for adding Arnold Mindell and Max Schupbach which indeed play an increasing role in our work.

    After our discussions I decided to change from following and leading to supporting and leading. Both I see as modes of service.

    Dee Hocks VISA is a tough organization to understand. And maybe the point where my little theory doesn´t work anymore. In a way it is a 2. stage organization based on a network of 1. stage organizations with some bold vision and outreach to 3. stage?? Maybe that explaines the great financial success? And why it got hijacked in the end by first stage? Also this organizationmodel could so far not really be implemented successfull again. At least the chaordic alliance seems to be pretty stuck in deep green / 2. stage from what you can read at their webpage.

    Mandela: it is by M. Williamson indeed, Mandely only quoted it. the whole poem goes like this:

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequat.

    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
 beyond measure.
    
It is our light and not our darkness 
that most frightens us.
    We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
    
Actually, who are you not to be?
    
You are a child of God.

    There is nothing enlightened about shrinking,

    so that other people won`t feel insecure around you.
    We are meant to shine as children do.

    We were born to manifest the glory of god

    that is within us.
It is not just in some of us.
    
It is in everyone.
    As we let our own light shine,

    we unconsciously give other people permission
    
to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our fear,
    
our presence automatically liberates others.

    Again thanks Holger, looking forward to discuss this further!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jascha Rohr has left a new comment on your post "Jascha Rohr: Unfolding Individual & Collective Potential" (It was too long,so Blogger didn't allow me to publish the original comment).

    Part I of Jascha's comment

    Dear Holger,
    thank you so much for attending my talk, tweeting on the fly and writing this blogpost with your helpful thoughts and comments.
    Let me ad some thoughts, too and rbing some clarifacation to the questions raised:

    Ants and Bees: I didn´t suggest at all that there are power structures in insect colonies. My point is rather that we often speak in ways about ants and bees wich carry certain meanings with it: terms like colonies, the queen, workers and soldiers implie that there are humanlike civil power structures, which I wouldn´t back at all. My impression is rather that all bees and ants carry out in their life what they were "meant" to (whatever "meant" might mean). So if they had emotions they were happy maybe even orgasmic about what they do. So I totally back the article you read, even though I don´t like to think of it as a system anymore, but that is an other discussion altogether...

    I would like to ad to "accelerating change" "continuous change" as well, cause what I feel is neccessary to state today is that change is the normal state, rather then a mere shift between two solid states.

    It is important to me to make clear that I see all those level and development theories as models which help us to analyse complexity based on certain assumptions and simplifications. They do not represent reality as such. Because of this I am not sure if the three stages I use can be translated into spiral dynamics. I define those stages analogues to David Deida as Rolles, Equality and Authenticity. If I would try such a translation whatsoever I would define stage 1 as a summary of all memes up to orange, stage 2 as the green meme and stage 3 as all memes above green. You are right that I focus a lot on blue characteristics for stage 1 but also orange is strong in it: individualistic, success, rational linear processes e.g.

    I talk about participateurs when talking about all entities which take part in a participatory design process. This derives from Actor-Network-Theory especially from the the work of Bruno Latour and Donne Haraway. What I am trying is to get rid of the notion of subjects as actors in a design process and objects as - well - objects in a design process. Latour and Haraway speak of actors and actants which can include human and nonhuman entities. These terms still carry the term action and activity in them which is a characteristic of subjects. Participateurs don´t have to be active. They are defined as everything which takes part in a process in a very specific and diverse way. All forms of activity and passivity are included in the term participateur.

    Thank you for adding Arnold Mindell and Max Schupbach which indeed play an increasing role in our work.

    After our discussions I decided to change from following and leading to supporting and leading. Both I see as modes of service.

    ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Part II of Jascha's commentDee Hocks VISA is a tough organization to understand. And maybe the point where my little theory doesn´t work anymore. In a way it is a 2. stage organization based on a network of 1. stage organizations with some bold vision and outreach to 3. stage?? Maybe that explaines the great financial success? And why it got hijacked in the end by first stage? Also this organizationmodel could so far not really be implemented successfull again. At least the chaordic alliance seems to be pretty stuck in deep green / 2. stage from what you can read at their webpage.

    Mandela: it is by M. Williamson indeed, Mandely only quoted it. the whole poem goes like this:

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequat.

    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
 beyond measure.
    
It is our light and not our darkness 
that most frightens us.
    We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
    
Actually, who are you not to be?
    
You are a child of God.

    There is nothing enlightened about shrinking,

    so that other people won`t feel insecure around you.
    We are meant to shine as children do.

    We were born to manifest the glory of god

    that is within us.
It is not just in some of us.
    
It is in everyone.
    As we let our own light shine,

    we unconsciously give other people permission
    
to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our fear,
    
our presence automatically liberates others.

    Again thanks
    Jascha Rohr

    ReplyDelete