What I learnt: Reinventing Organisations

There is a theory of organisational development. This is not a theory about how a particular organisation develops, but rather a theory of how organisations have evolved through history. Starting with the family, through to the tribe, the city, the state, the church, through to the organisations we see today.

Each stage of evolution is marked by my certain characteristics and has an epitomising metaphor. In the book, each type of organisation is assigned a colour.

Amber (army): Roles and ranks within a hierarchy
Orange (machine): Competition, innovation and performance
Green (family): Values-driven and inclusive
Teal (a living system): Evolutionary purpose, self-management, bring the whole self

In the book about this, Reinventing Organisationsthe author, Frederick Laloux, posits that the current dominant modes of organising ourselves, Orange and Green, have limitations that are impacting our planet, restricting good work being done, and harming the individuals who work there.

A new type of organisation is required, and there are signs it is emerging. From business to hospitals and schools, the author has studied about 12 different organisations that seem to be something quite different to what has come previously and may point to a new paradigm.

There are three main characteristics of these organisations:


1) They have self-managment
The management layers of the organisations have been removed. Teams are self-organising, taking care of many of 'admin' type tasks with only a small amount of these being centralised.

Teams work out how they want to work, and because they have bought into the purpose of the organisation (and help define it), they can sense and respond to make necessary changes.

2) They have an evolutionary purpose.
There is a detachment between those that work in the organisation and the organisation itself. The organisation is seen as a living thing in its own right, one that has a purpose and energy of its own that wants to be expressed in the universe. The role of those who are part of the organisation is to be more like stewards than owners or controllers. They need to constantly ask themselves what is trying to emerge here, and how can they be in service of that?

3) They bring their own self to work.
These organisations see all the aspects that make up a person, and they encourage and want people to bring all of this to work with them. This means that the being together, and the wellbeing of everyone, is at the forefront of all they do. 

I am excited and encourage by this way of thinking. I can see that a new way of being in the world is emerging. Some call this a new consciousness. There are a number of different ways people are partnering with this to help it come into being. Some are doing coaching and facilitation work. Some are doing mindfulness and movement work. Some are creating permaculture farms. Some are writing books.

I see my contribution to this as being to help bring new organisations into being. To work within organisations and with individuals to help them sense what is emerging, and then partner with them to move the organisation closer to a 'Teal' organisation.

I have had attempts at doing this, and have seen some of this in action. My task is to get better at leading with my heart, and putting myself in situations where I can help this to happen.

Memories of a strange moment

I have a memory of a school athletics day. I would have been about 16, in year 11, at the time. I was in a 400m race, and winning as we were coming into the home straight. Winning was not uncommon for me. I was a good runner, and had won many races in my life.

With about 50 metres to go I looked across and saw a friend of mine running second to me. He was about 10 metres behind me, and in the same house as I was.

For some reason I decided to let him win the race. The thoughts I remember going through my head were, "He hasn't won a race like this, and I have won plenty. I should let him win. It would be the nice thing to do".

So I did. I slowed down and encouraged him to run past me. He finished first, and I finished second.

This memory has stayed with me to this day, vividly. There was something significant about it that I can't quite put my finger on. Something that potentially shapes how I live to this day.

While it was probably a nice thing to let somebody else win, there was also something diminishing about it. I was intentionally making myself smaller. I was not pushing myself as hard as I could. I was not doing my best. It would have been a hollow victory for my friend.

Today I am going through a process of reflecting on the ways I hold myself back and keep myself smaller than I need be. As I do, this memory keeps coming back to me.

I am yet to full unpack its significance, but have a feeling it is hiding a treasure for me.

Learning from GOT

I have just finished watching the seventh season of Game of Thrones. At the same time I have been listening to the Dr Jordan B. Peterson podcast.

In his podcast Dr Peterson talks about the psychological significance of the Biblical stories. For me this has been a redemptive process. I grew up reading the Bible and learning all about these stories, but in recent times I have not been able to go near them; unable to get past them as inaccurate representations of our scientific history.

In drawing out the psychological truths in these stories, Dr Peterson breaths life into stories that have been dead to me. I feel that all that time learning about those stories has not been wasted. That I can apply these truths to my life in a meaningful and useful way.

Some of these themes that come out in this podcast include:

  • being truthful no matter what I think the consequences may be
  • confronting the dragon - the thing that I am most scared of and want to avoid
  • imagining the very best thing I could do with my life, and aiming for it
  • being humble and open to making small corrections in my chosen direction along the way
  • bringing order to chaos, but not so much order that it is tyrannical

In watching GOT it has given me another way of seeing these themes in action. 

Jon Snow, like his Father before him, is honest to the point of self-harm. He sees that in difficult times, knowing that we can trust what the other is saying is of utmost importance and benefit to us all. He sees the highest good - confront the chaos of the dead - and aims for it rather than shirks away from it.

Every direction that Tyrion Lannister recommends for his party seems to talk them to the most evil place they can go. But it is in confronting this evil that they are able to master it and take away some gold.

I am enjoying watching this show, and other Hero myth based stories, because of their entertainment value and also because of how they inspire me to live well in my day to day. To be honest. To act as nobly as I can. To confront evil when I see it. To move towards the thing I fear.

Patience

There are moments when I am simply waiting. I want something to happen so badly. I want somebody to reply to my text message. I want hear that the projects I have been working on are progressing. That something is happening. I am moving towards my goals.

Tonight is one of those nights. And as I sit here, impatiently, I start to wonder what I am actually wanting. Is it simply for somebody to tell me that things are okay? That my plans are coming to pass? Or is is loneliness? That I want to feel part of something, and like somebody is listening to what I have to say?

I don't think either of those two desires are necessarily bad, and I think I am looking for both of them. I want to move steadily towards my goals. And I want to share the journey with others, and have them respond when I reach out to them.

There is something else I can be at times like this. In not hearing from them, in not getting some feedback that I am moving towards my goals, nothing in my life is actually different tonight. My goals are not going to progress. I will hear from these people in time. It is patient that I can be. It is simply being in this moment, and not doing, that I can be.

Doing nothing can be such a hard thing. Wisdom is knowing when to act, and doing it, and when to be patient, and pause.

Tonight, for me, it is time to pause.

One of those Saturday nights

I thought I had done so well. I was organised: had a mate lined up; had bought tickets for a band I had been trying to see for months; and it had all fallen on the Saturday night of my week without the kids.

Saturday morning I check my Facebook messages, and another friend is inviting me to an event that night. It is something I want to go to. It is a one off. I know I will have my mind blown. I will meet some amazing new people. Do I cancel on my friend?

I decide not to cancel. I decide that the incremental growth of a friendship is more important than one night of buzz.

The day goes on. I am not at my best...it has been a week of strange news and uneven flows, and I had a late night on Friday night.

The afternoon arrives. Right when I am at the peak of my anticipation about seeing my friend and the band, he calls - can't make it. Too much work on and too stressed. I am deflated. Not only am I now unable to see him, or the band, but it is past the 10am deadline to RSVP for the other event.

I stew and brood for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. What a fuck-up.

Thankfully, despite my tendency to want to dull the pain by watching TV, I managed to go to bed at 9pm. It has not been the best day of my life, but at least I can set myself up for a good day tomorrow by getting a good night's sleep.

I sleep well, and wake feeling much better. The demons of loneliness from the night before have not completely gone, but I feel clearer and stronger, like I may be able to deal with it a little bit better.

Susceptibility to externalities

After a day of ego blows the day before, it was fascinating to reflect on my response yesterday. I gravitated towards creating things, and showing people what I had created in order to get positive feedback, and help me feel better again.

One of the things I created was a soccer goal for my kids, combining two other soccer goals that were falling apart to make one that was perfect for our purposes. The act of creating was soothing. Able to look at something I had put together from other, discarded, things was satisfying. Showing it to others gave me a buzz.

I did some similar things with a spreadsheet I had created at work: refining, revelling, showing. And with some sales I made of the breath mints.

I am taking some good and not so good points in reflecting on this. The good is that in acting despite how I feel, particularly in creating or refining something, I feel empowered and alive and taking responsibility for my plight. This is so good in helping me move through a tricky patch.

The not so good is the desire for and boost I get from external feedback. In itself there is nothing wrong with it, it can be a great way of validating that I have created something useful. However if I become dependant upon the feedback to get me out of a tricky patch, then I am simply finding the other end of the spectrum of where I was: having my feelings dictated by externalities.

Externalities can be a good guide, but I don't want them to be my driving force. This I want to come from within.

The moment after loss

I tell myself that this is going to open up space for something else. But still, in this moment, it is all to easy to wonder and worry about where my income is going to come from.

I tell myself that I have got through downs like this in the past, and survived, and even thrived. But in this moment, it seems second nature to think that this is the way I am always going to feel from now on.

I tell myself that it was not really about me, that it was circumstance and timing. But my critical minds wants to get its two cents in and tell me that I could have done more, been more, tried harder.

If there is one thing the past two and half years have not been, its dull. I reflect on this time, and draw strength from what I am capable of absorbing, standing up to, getting back up from. I am strong and can handle so much more than I thought.

So today, despite the nagging voices from the dark places, I choose to go on, to enter the confusion and uncertainty, and to create and make as well as I know how.

 

The position of our species

Homo sapiens, the species I am part of, current sits at the apex of life on earth, and perhaps the universe. Or that is what I believe and that is how it looks from where I sit.

It has not always been the case. In cosmic timescales, it was a blink ago that we were roaming the plains, fighting for our survival with many other mammals. Now we sit above them all, and our attention has turned to how well we can live, as opposed to just try to live by any means we could.

Other animals have become tools for us to harness in our quest to live as well as we can. Their existence goes on, but is impacted by the value we place on our existence over theirs.

A book called Homo Deus has challenged my thinking about my place in the hierarchy of species. The main reason for this is that it is under threat. Not so much from human induced climate change, but from technological progress. We may be super-seeded before we are made extinct. 

My minds wonders about how Homo sapiens will cope with no longer being at the top. How our existence will change. How we will be treated by that which super-seeds us.

The questions in my head are: Are we a stepping stone to something great than us? What is the best contribution our species can make? How can we live well now for the benefit of all life on this planet, and serve those species and beings that are to come over the coming centuries?

Mutants

There is something about the idea of mutants that pricks my curiosity. I watched X-Men last night, and it always prompts me to think about my own anthropocentricity. 

I eat meat. I treat animals as lesser beings than I treat myself.

And how would my beliefs change if a new species evolved, or mutated, from my own? One that was more conscious, more powerful. Would I consider it unjust if I was treated by them the same way I treat 'lesser' beings right now?

I don't think I am ready for the answers yet. But there is definitely something there to stay curious about.

What is natural

A favourite lecturer of mine once asked why we are surprised about anything we find humans doing - because anything we find them doing is only natural.

It is culture that inhibits, applying imaginary boundaries to what is natural. Sometimes this is beneficial, sometimes this is harmful, often what is perceived as beneficial and harmful will change over time.

We have basic biological needs and constraints. Anything outside of this we have the ability to create, shape and give meaning to.

The only way is through

Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Have to go through it.

There is no going back. As humans we cannot go back to being foragers. As individuals we cannot go back to being kids or teenagers or our twenties. When times were good. When we didn't have pressures. The time of nostalgia.

The only way is through whatever situation we have created, creating something better as we go, hopeful that we, our communities, and our planet will be better once we get to the other side.

Stories we tell

How important is it to get to the truth? Is it even possible when thinking about memories and events that happened in the past? Do I need to ensure that people who I feel have wronged me accept my side of the story, my truth?

I see that this is mostly a useless exercise. We all believe what we want to believe. We all make what we will of our own memories. We all tell ourselves stories that we can live with. Most of the time this means not confronting the truth about ourselves, giving ourselves something palatable to digest.

While it pricks my sense of justice when I get a hint that I am being played out as a villain in a story I'm pretty sure I was the victim, it does not seem to do much good 'controlling the message' or making sure my point of view is heard.

For one thing, I am probably doing the same thing, or have done the same thing. For another, I think that consequences tend to take care of themselves. No need for me to enforce them for others.

Much better I spend that time thinking about the stories I am telling myself, both the usefulness and the honesty of them. I will speak up and tell my story. But I cannot control what other people do with it.

The trouble with internally evaluated success

I want the success of my life to be determined by me. By how well I have lived according to my personal quest: connection; conversation; consciousness; wellbeing; context awareness; creation; contribution; curation.

According to these measures it is really only me who can decide if I am tracking to this or not. I like the idea of this. I want to live this way.

I run into trouble when I simultaneously want others to recognise that I am successful as well, and when I start to want the things that will show people that I am really making it now. Things like clothes, cars, houses, being well known, excess money.

I want to have it both ways, to be successful in my quest, and the have others envious of me because of the external trappings of that success. This is particularly true when I think about those I believe have slighted me: I will show them, I tell myself.

The truth that is sinking in, of course, is that in following my quest and being successful in it, it may not look like success to anybody around me. In fact, it may look like failure. Like I have no money, no external ornaments, not being all that well known.

This can be hard to swallow. I want to be adored and follow my quest. And perhaps I will. But more likely I think, I will be joyfully invisible.

Luxuries spawn obligations

One of history's few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.  -- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I am loving every page of Sapiens, and this is one quote among many that ring true.

It challenges me to live with less, because I will actually have more freedom and less obligations the less I am able to live with.

Harari talks about our foraging ancestors, and how they would work for about four hours per day and then spend the rest of the time with their tribe. That feels about right to me. I want to work for four hours a day, and then spend the rest of the time with those I love most, or reading a book, or taking care of myself.

While this will mean I have less luxury items in my life, it will bring me closer to who I naturally am and the life I want to live.

My Mantra

I have come up with a mantra that I tell myself each morning. It goes like this:

I am here to explore the mystery and wonder of existence.

I do this through connection and conversation.

I do this through consciousness and wellbeing.

I do this through creation, contribution, and curation.

Serendipity

I met a guy yesterday who is a mentor in the new organisation I work for. I recognised him as soon as I saw him.

A year ago I had heard him speak, and it turns out I receive his fortnightly email newsletter, which is one of the few I read and love.

I asked him to be a guest on my podcast, and he said my description of the podcast read like his personal motto.

Since starting at this new organisation three weeks ago, linkages like this one are happening every day. Things that I was doing in isolation by myself, that I thought were completely disconnected, are all linking up together.

I don't know where it is going, but I know I am in the right place for this moment.

Remembering names

I have heard all sorts of tricks for remembering names. I think they are good, and I especially use the association technique to help me remember.

For example, if I meet somebody called Emily, I will try to associate them with another Emily that I know, through the way they look or what they are wearing or how I know them.

But this doesn't always work, and I often find myself (like most of us I presume) in an awkward position talking to somebody whom I have met before but can't recall their name. This leads to me avoiding using their name when it would be obvious and polite to do so. Or worse still I avoid talking with them at all because I feel shame that I don't remember.

What I would like to do is scrap this shame and sense of 'should' around remembering names. When I forget somebody's name, I would like to be honest and just apologise and ask them what their name is. 

This might cause a small loss of face for myself, but allow so much more upside in being able to have a genuine conversation with the person.

And if we all did this, there would be no shame, and a lot less avoided conversations.

Idea pollination

Yesterday I met 9 new people. I am spending the week with them as they have joined the organisation I work for, and we are taking them through an induction process.

I was blown away by how many new thoughts and ideas I was pollinated with after spending just a few hours with these people.

It reminded me of the benefits of changing my context on a regular basis, whether it be hanging out with a group of people for a completely different background to mine, or changing the time and way I get to work, or reading a book on a subject I would not normally read. 

Old ideas I have been sitting with for years get new life as left-field ideas come into my consciousness. New possibilities and ventures are born.

Context of Eons

I am reading a fascinating book at the moment called Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs. It is taken me on a journey through our universe, and I am being blown away by every page.

One of the things that is striking me most is the spans of time it talks about - in particular, how long our species has been on the planet, as compared to how long a species like the dinosaurs survived for.

The author casually makes the remark that it is highly unlikely that our species will survive as long as the dinosaurs did. Which got me thinking, if there are other species that in time will take over ours, what are we actually here for? The idea of legacy seems quite delusional.

What I am starting to think about is that I am here to explore the nature of existence. The time of my species and of me is now. It may be that my species becomes extinct by self-creating means. It may be that another, more conscious, more eco-centre species evolves over the coming millions of years that this planet will exist. A species that would probably shake its head at the way humans handled their time on this planet.

I am a steward of this time and place. I want to do my best to understand myself, my context, and contribute a small piece to helping all beings explore the mystery of where we are.