Humanity evolves in stages. At this point in time we’re evolving at an exponentially accelerated rate. The next-level of human consciousness is here (see: Spiral Dynamics, Integral Theory) and it’s already being explored in the form of organizations. Can we create true, soulful workplaces?
After reading (devouring) Reinventing Organizations by Frederick Laloux, I’ve come to find we’ve got a lot of work to do. Specifically in the discipline of organizational development and in these three breakthrough areas: self-management, wholeness, and adhering to an organizations evolutionary purpose.
First, with self-management comes a new perspective on power and hierarchy.
In a section of Laloux’s book describing organizational power struggles, I came across a beautiful quote by Parker Palmer:
"The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek."
Pow·er noun : the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.
In the startup world, power looks and feels a lot like a scene from the animal kingdom. Chest beating, hooting and hollering, and a constant fight or flight mentality. Think fast, no - think faster. Speak up, or someone else will take your place. Yes, you must be tough, resilient, savvy, and self-succient. But shy? Think again. Unless you’re willing to play the long game (this girl), you’ll be eaten alive.
But what if… What if the more powerful I am, the more powerful you become? Without either of us needing to beat on our chests. The more powerfully I advance the organization’s purpose, the more opportunities will open up for my colleagues to make contributions. Not everyone needs equal power, but every person should feel powerful. What if we all understood this? Would we still try to get in the last word? Claim credit for every idea?
I believe in the power of collective intelligence. Nobody is as smart as everybody. Operating under the principles of self-management we each have full responsibility to drive the organizations purpose forward. If we sense that something needs to happen, it’s up to us to address it. We needn’t be limited or confined by our titles. Our roles must shift and adapt with the organization and we must hold ourselves to our inner standards, which tend to be much higher and more demanding.
However, we’re still stuck in a world where employees are managed by objectives. Leadership is focused on motivating with goals and tasks and big sweeping decisions. We must evolve leadership into becoming distributed, with inner rightness and purpose as the primary motivator. We can’t “grow” this new wave of thinking. Humanity evolves in stages. And in this case evolution must happen by sudden transformation.