The fulfillment of basic human needs in self-managed organizations

#sociocracy #self-management #motivation #futureofwork #systemchange

When I started to learn and use sociocracy in 2010, I looked things up in the academic literature; being a college teacher and having done research before, it’s a place I go regularly to find things out. Just to say, I found next to nothing. So, there is a lot of work to do to bridge the gap between self-management models and organizational science. But, there was an obvious link that stood out of my teachings of human motivation and this is what I want to share with you.

My objective is to outline a mindset that we should nurture to make our organizations and people thrive. It is a mindset about why self-management is the future of work and of social organization. Self-management is not another fad for improving efficiency, it is about a human-centered future.

I want to build a bridge between self-management and Self-Determination Theory in psychology. After a brief overview of the theory, my goal is to show how specific self-management practices are key in nurturing people’s fundamental psychological needs. I hope this understanding will help us focus on the important organizational factors to engage people and foster their performance, creativity, and well-being.

Self-determination theory

Self-determination theory is a major theory of human motivation. It has been developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and refined by numerous scholars over the last 40 years. Last year, Deci and Ryan published a book summarizing the theory and its numerous applications in education, parenting, healthcare, sport, work, etc. You also find lots of information on the self-determination website.

SDT has its roots in humanistic psychology and many of its ideas are similar to previous theories. What distinguishes SDT is its strong empirical base so that its principles are well documented by numerous scientific studies. We are way ahead from Maslow’s hierarchy or pyramid of needs.

This humanistic foundation means that SDT is “centrally concerned with the social conditions that facilitate or hinder human flourishing” which is based on “inherent human capacities for psychological growth, engagement and wellness”. And those capacities are based on the satisfaction of feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness.

As humans and other organisms have certain biological needs, we also have psychological needs. We need to feel we’re good at something, we need to feel in control of our lives, and we need to feel we belong. SDT’s approach differs from other theories about psychological needs, because it posits a core set of basic universal needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Similarly to biological needs, humans share a core set of universal psychological needs.

Like biological needs will be fulfilled by environmental resources such as water and food, basic psychological needs are fulfilled by a nurturing social environment that allows people to grow and actualize their potentials. SDT is as much a theory of human intrinsic needs than a theory of the social context nurturing those needs.

The relationship between the person and the environment is reciprocal and dynamic.

Both are constantly transforming each other, either toward synthesis or toward greater person-environment conflict. This dynamic between a person’s needs and its environment applies to many life’s domains including work; work can be a place of of great satisfaction when it is nurturing our needs but it can also be a misery when we are controlled, watched and isolated.

Before looking into how specific work patterns interact with the basic psychological needs, let’s identify the general social conditions nurturing the needs.

  1. Feelings of autonomy are produced by opportunities for self-direction, listening to one’s perspective, and psychological safety. Rather than control, ignorance, and power over.
  2. Feelings of competence are generated by tackling optimal challenges, neither too easy, nor too hard, by receiving constructive feedback, and by the acceptance of errors.
  3. Third, feelings of relatedness are produced by social interactions and a culture that put people at least at the same level as tasks or organizational needs.

Therefore, various features of the social environment will fulfill psychological needs resulting in many personal outcomes such engagement, growth, health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that  engagement is an outcome and it is a mistake trying to improve engagement in itself. What engages people are sustainable nurturing environments.

Self-management models have multiple ingredients to build an organizational culture that will fulfill the three core psychological needs.

Nurturing practices

What are those ingredients in the form of patterns, practices and behaviors? For this exercise, I created a table including the three basic needs and three levels of practices: individual, team and organizational. The goal here is not to create a precise and exhaustive classification of all practices but to give us some clarity on which patterns are the most important for nurturing the basic psychological needs. I could have used different self-management models for this exercise: Laloux’s synthesis, Holacracy®, Slade’s Going Horizontal or Dignan’s OS canvas. I used the Sociocracy 3.0 (S3) guide because I feel that James, Bernhard and Lily have done a great job in creating a clear set of well circumscribed and accessible patterns.

 

Individual Level
(S3 patterns)
Team Level
(S3 patterns)

Organization Level
(S3 principles)

Autonomy

Role

Objection

Consent

Proposal forming

Domain

Accountability

Consent

Competence

Peer feedback

Development plan

Agreements

Evaluations

Empiricism

Continuous improvement

Effectiveness

Relatedness Agree on values

Those Affected Decide

Double linking

Circle

Rounds

Role selection

Equivalence

Transparency

 

Let’s take a look now at some specific patterns.

Individual level

At the individual level, roles give autonomy to people. Not to mention that they have consented to hold roles. Objection is also a pattern in which individual perspectives are taken into account and brought into collective intelligence.

The structure offered by peer feedback and a development plan is completely aligned with SDT theory about the need for competence. Colleagues can provide clear goals, communicate constructive feedback and a space for errors.

At the individual level, many patterns could be placed for the relatedness need. Agreeing on values makes you align your individual values with those of the organization. Although sociocracy allows circles to make decisions for the whole organization in their respective domain, various means should be taken to include those affected by the decision or evaluation. Lastly, double-linking allows deep cooperation with another team that yours.

Team level

Let’s turn to the team level. Of course, consent decision-making being rational, invitational, and accepting, it is a central force in nurturing autonomy. Proposal forming is about inviting into the diversity of perspectives brought by each one in a team. And domains make it clear what you are responsible for.

On the competence side, I believe that agreements (or proposals) and evaluations are a major force in growing a sense of collective efficacy, a belief in your team’s capacity to deliver.

What are the team patterns nurturing the relatedness need? Let’s put the circle with its capacity to create cohesion and safety among the members. Rounds are powerful in establishing equivalence and belonging to the team. And being unanimously selected by your peers for a role is a strong social validation.

Organizational level

We can look through the organizational level with the seven principles put forward by Sociocracy 3.0. Accountability and consent are about the individual’s responsibility to take ownership of the course of the organization, an autonomy-supportive environment. Empiricism, continuous improvement and effectiveness are about getting better at what we do individually and collectively, a competence-supportive environment. And equivalence and transparency are about being fully involved in the organization. You are not being left out in any way by power and secrecy, a relatedness-supportive environment.

Finally, tensions and drivers are crucial patterns to attend to needs at all levels. These are patterns to become aware of our need thwarting.

Self-determination theory as an organizational mindset

My take-home message is to use SDT theory as a mindset that people should develop to make their organizations and its people thrive whatever model you are applying. This mindset is simple: autonomy, competence and relatedness. This mindset should help you remember or create practices that fulfill the needs of people and yours.

Let’s finished by quoting Deci and Ryan.

“The concept of basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness provides the framework for understanding the implications of SDT for the workplace. Every policy and practice implemented within a work organization is likely to either support or thwart the basic psychological needs. Anyone interested in improving the work context within an organization and thus the performance and wellness of its employees could evaluate any policy or practice being considered in terms of whether it is likely to (a) allow the employees to gain competencies and/or feel confident, (b) experience the freedom to experiment and initiate their own behaviors and not feel pressured and coerced to behave as directed, and (c) feel respect and belonging in relation to both supervisors and peers.”

This article was the content of a presentation given at the International Sociocracy Online Conference, 1st May 2018.

Bibliography

http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/

Self-determination theory in work organizations: The state of a science
Edward L. Deci, Anja H. Olafsen, Richard M. Ryan
Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 2017 4:1, 19-43

Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness
Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci
Guilford Publishing. 2017.

Understanding motivation and emotion (7th ed.)
Johnmarshall Reeve
Wiley 2018

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Going Horizontal: How do you really want to work?

Curiosity and excitement about horizontal organizations coexist with concerns and cynicism. Most of today’s work force is disengaged and the current ways of working won’t be able to take us into our future. Even if we know all this, we still struggle to figure out what to do come Monday morning.

What if we stepped back to reexamine how we really want to be working?

For over 10 years I have been using our company, Percolab, as a lab of  how an organization can function. With clients, colleagues and international friends, we try things out and sense make, in a never ending learning process. In 2016 I began offering workshops on the topic: Demystifying Self-Management. They helped people connect with the notion and explore some basic elements. In 2017, at SXSW in the USA, with Edwin Jansen, we gave a panel on Growing a Company without Bosses. It was a provocation and we were stunned by the response.

Weeks later I signed a book contract with my favorite publisher, Berrett-Koehler: Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time. It is a practical book. It builds on the fabulous work in the field of new ways of working, such as Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations. Going Horizontal is all about the practice. It offers seven domains of practice to help anchor new habits and mindset as they develop. But Going Horizontal is more than a book, it is also a community and a series of practical trainings.

A conversation on the Future of Organizations with Frederic Laloux at the annual conference of the Quebec society of HR professionals

Who shows up at a Going Horizontal training?

In Antwerp, Belgium, six countries were in the room. Some people had specific questions while others wanted to make sense of their own experimentations. In Quebec City, Canada, workers from a pulp and paper factory joined Lawyers without Borders, an IT professional (recovering from a less than satisfactory foray into self-management), and consultants and students. Going Horizontal connects across domains and job titles.

A deep dive in Spain

The next stop is in Spain the 11-14th October, 2018 for a four day residential training in a castle in the middle of a 200 hectare forest outside of Barcelona. Beyond the enchanting venue, will be a unique learning experience. This training is offered by a powerful international team:

  • Dr. Salvador García, professor in Personal Development, Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at the University of Barcelona,  Founder of Imagine Lab, Author of “Management by Values” and “Values Intelligence” and one of the top business speakers in Spain.
  • Carolina Escobar Mejía, Agile coach and Founder of the horizontal organization Somos Mas
  • Phoebe Tickell, Learning innovator and Social entrepreneur with Enspiral NZ & Schumacher College UK.
  • Nil Roda-Naccari Noguera from Percolab Spain and yours truly from Percolab Quebec

The day to day challenges of participants will be the basis of the program. The seven domains of practice of the Going Horizontal framework will help to grow our strengths and overcome our blind spots. Together we are exploring the new rich and yet unexplored territory of all that Going Horizontal can be.  Via each training the community grows as participants can become champions of horizontal practices in their local context.

If this speaks to you, please join us in Spain! If you know someone who should be there, please let them know.

Either way you can pre-order the book Going Horizontal now via Amazon.

If you would like to collaborate to offer a Going Horizontal training or virtual book club in your area, please contact info@percolab.com

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Invitation : Penser Horizontal Atelier Québec – 1 juin


Premiers pas vers une organisation horizontale

avec Samantha Slade de Percolab

Venez construire le futur du travail en réinventant votre organisation! Cet atelier est le premier au Canada en lien avec la publication de Going Horizontal. Creating a non-hierarchical organization, one practice at a time écrit par Samantha Slade.

Le  changement vers une organisation plus participative et collaborative est à la fois un changement de mentalité que de structure. Pas besoin d’attendre les directives de la hiérarchie pour commencer à fonctionner de façon non hiérarchique,  vous pouvez commencer maintenant. Samantha partagera sept points d’entrée accessibles pour toute organisation, peu importe son domaine d’activité ou sa forme légale. L’essor d’une culture organisationnelle horizontale passe par l’essor des humains qui en font partie.

Vous allez:

  • réfléchir sur votre culture organisationnelle;
  • comprendre comment adopter l’autogestion de façon plus délibérée;
  • découvrir de nouvelles pratiques pour bâtir cette culture collaborative et horizontale.

Et vous êtes ouverts à

  • partager vos bons coups;
  • et à découvrir les bons coups des autres.

À qui s’adresse cet atelier?

  • Vous avez lu des livres inspirants comme celui de Frédéric Laloux et vous vous demandez par où commencer.
  • Vous avez commencé à expérimenter (p. ex. Agilité) et vous voulez pousser l’expérience plus loin.
  • Vous voulez simplement faire entrer de l’air dans votre organisation en essayant de nouvelles pratiques.
  • À tous, peu importe votre position dans votre organisation; chaque personne arrive avec sa propre situation organisationnelle qui servira de matériel dans les activités de l’atelier.

INVITATION




Programme  

De 9:00 à 17:00.

  • Cocréation de l’atelier.
  • Partage de nos réalités.
  • Expérimentation de nouvelles pratiques décidées ensemble.
  • Capitalisation et clôture.

Tarif

En cohérence avec nos valeurs organisationnelles, nous proposons deux façons de payer:

  • Vous payez un prix standard de 550$.

OU

  • Vous expérimentez l’économie collaborative avec un paiement en deux étapes:
    • Vous vous engagez à un paiement de base de 95$;
    • Puis, à la fin de la formation, nous animerons un processus collaboratif qui permettra à chaque personne de déterminer le montant final de son engagement financier (contribution appréciative).

Ce que vous allez vivre

  • Prendre conscience de vos croyances organisationnelles.
  • Expérimenter de nouvelles pratiques d’autogestion.
  • L’apprentissage entre pairs.
  • Comment la connexion nourrit la cohésion.
  • Comment donner, collectivement, du sens à votre travail.
  • Redécouvrir notre manière naturelle de travailler.
  • Le futur du travail.

  • Organisateurs

    Organisé et animé par Samantha Slade, Stéphane Brodu et Denis Côté (Percolab)

    Auteur de “Going Horizontal – Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time” (sortie prévue automne 2018), Samantha a fondé Percolab, une série d’entreprises autogérées dans le domaine du codesign. Percolab prototype des nouvelles pratiques depuis plus de 10 ans, tant à l’interne qu’avec ses clients. Tournée vers le futur, Samantha est engagée dans les mouvements de l’innovation sociale et les FabLabs. Samantha soutient les organisations pour développer leurs pratiques de cocréation et de leadership collaboratif en tissant la complexité avec la créativité. Depuis peu, Samantha accompagne le gouvernement français à développer une culture d’innovation et collabore avec un secteur industriel en Espagne pour mettre en place un laboratoire d’innovation.

    Stéphane travaille depuis plus de vingt-cinq ans dans le monde de la gestion et de la coordination d’équipes ou de projets.  En 2005, il oriente sa carrière de conseiller en management vers les techniques de leadership collaboratif et d’intelligence collective. La cohésion et la pérennité des groupes et des organisations, ainsi que leur capacité à s’auto-organiser dans un climat d’épanouissement individuel, sont les domaines qui l’animent.

    Voilà maintenant 8 ans que Denis pratique la sociocratie au sein de Cohabitat Québec. Avec ses futurs voisins, il a cocréée ce projet d’habitat collectif et communautaire, de la conception jusqu’à la vie en communauté. Il a également 15 ans d’expérience en enseignement de la psychologie au cégep et à l’université. Il s’intéresse particulièrement à la psychologie des groupes et des organisations. Il s’inscrit dans le mouvement ouvert de diffusion de la sociocratie  (Sociocratie 3.0 et Sociocracy for All) et autres pratiques horizontales.

  • Contact

    Email : ateliers@percolab.com

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Principles and processes for co-designing self-organizing events

It’s easier than it sounds. If you organize events, this is for you.

The international Art of Hosting community has developed a different way to design gatherings. There is an underlying pattern that has been fine-tuned and experimented around the world for over 20 years. No matter what the convening topic, from collaboration methods to water management, to financial matters, it is possible to design, organize and meet with the flavour and feel of life, because they are the result of an underlying pattern.

Participants and conveners do not necessarily get to see this backstage, (how the hosting team works together through the design/preparation day and onwards) though everyone is sensing its existence. Over and over, it has laid the conditions for groups to experience a functional self-organizing operating system, live an enlivening experience, access deep co-learning, and do good work. A friend with decades of event organisation explains it as an update of the system software we have been working with for a long time; a 2.0 version, if you will. This is my attempt to share the pattern in a practical and helpful way, without reducing it to a simple recipe to follow. The pattern holds deep consciousness and wisdom, and I hope I am honouring it well. It begins with three principles.

It is wise that a facilitation team spends some time together just prior to a convening. The length of time will depend on elements such as the duration of the convening, the familiarity between the team members, the challenges and risks. Typically, for a three-day event, the hosting team will spend one or two days together prior to the event. For a very short meeting, the hosts will spend a shorter time.


Principle 1: Responsive design — Wait until as close to the gathering/training as possible to design the program

Certain aspects related to organizing a gathering/training can and should be done well in advance of the event, such as the venue, food, decorations, lodging, budget, registration, communication. What the team also does upfront is getting to know the context more, and getting to know each other a better, so they become a real team. As for the design of the actual program, if we want it to be acutely responsive to the context and needs that connect to the convening, to the tiny changes, local and beyond, that are forever taking place right up to the first day of the convening, then it makes sense to leave the programming to just prior to the event.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to developing our event programs months in advance of an event, that waiting until just prior to the event may generate a certain level of anxiety.

Principle 2: A strong container — Give importance to the invisible field that holds a meeting

If we want power, depth and flow in our gatherings then we will need to accord time and space to build what we call, for lack of a better word, “a relationship field” or a “strong container”. This is the invisible field that holds the potential of a group. It is the collective presence and the quality of the relationships between the team members that make up the quality of this field. If this is strong and healthy, it can facilitate generative conversations, paradigm shifts and deep connections. With it, the event team will stay in healthy collaboration even if the event brings stormy weather. This can mean taking time to be together, play, sing, cook, share silence, whatever flows. This is how friendship and familiarity grows. Being in good relationship with yourself and with others helps to enjoy and benefit from the diversity of others.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to time management for performance that giving time and spaciousness to being together may cause some anxiety.

Principle 3: — Learning edges, self-organisation and community of practice — Practice our own medicine

Every work session in the preparation is a micro-example of what is being created. How you are imagining the event should be showing up during this preparation time. If you want participants to harvest online, the team should start during the design days. Be in this practice with the team before the event and you will be practicing well at the event. The practice contributes to the container. If we want the event participants to experience deep learning, then the team should share their learning edges with each other. If the team is trusting and trying something new during the convening, beyond our fears, with the support of each other, then we are modelling that for the whole event. There is life in the trembling and this is being in a community of practice.

Friendly warning: We have become so accustomed to showing up with our expertise that it can be uncomfortable to reveal our learning edges.

How do we design together?

When we finally get to design the actual event our reflex is to jump in directly. Go slow and begin with the following. By doing these steps, the design that is needed will reveal itself. Embody the principles described above in the actual design time.

Need, purpose and participants

Take time to strengthen the connection to the need underlying the event and then to the purpose. Since the purpose is the invisible leader it needs to be held clearly by the whole team. The original call for the event began with this and so should the design. It is the centre of the work.

Team learnings

What is the intention or learning edges of each person in the team? If we want to facilitate learning we need to be in learning ourselves. If we embody the work we strengthen it.

Sensing in

Take time to understand the context, the people who will be coming, what is going on around to be more in tune and responsive to what is needed. Listen with all your senses, on all kind of levels.

Outputs — Acting more wisely for the world

Good work should always yields real results. The Hopi Indians say: “Will it grown corn for the people?”. What is the convening going to create that will be useful for the world?

The venue

The venue can support the quality of the convening. When it is possible spend some time at the venue? Connect and feel the flow in the space. How can the event make use of it? Are there any outdoor possibilities? Imagine the space and beauty unfolding. Embrace the constraints that come with it.

Friendly reminder: It is not either or, you need the analytical and planning capacities together with many soft skills.

How do we design for self-organization?

When the time comes to actual designing the event, the same principles apply.

  1. Clarify responsibilities/teams

If the event goes over a few days, create sub-teams. One way to approach this is a team for each day, a team for space and beauty and a team for documenting (harvesting). It can be helpful to identify how many spots there are in each team; then it is clear if people are in a single team or multiple teams. When it is time to decide who is in which team, in a self-organizing framework it is important that each person choses for herself. It can be useful to invite people to think about their offering and their learning edges before and then place pens on the table and in silence everyone writes their name where they are feeling they should be. It is important to note that the sub-team have a role of stewarding the tasks, not of executing all the activities and work of the day.

2) Clarify the flow and structure

Each team spends time designing a flow of activities for their area of responsibility. It is NOT yet time to dig into the design, only identifying the flow of activities (ex. team hosts, team coaches, participants) and the number of each. Then, to ensure that all the parts work together, the teams share their flow and activities and receive comments. Friction points and blind spots will be revealed. The teams then have a bit of time to produce a second version of their flow and activities if necessary. The group then comes back together to agree on the design. In this way everyone is aware and in support of the total design.

3) Activity designing

Only now each person identifies the activities/roles they will be responsible for, individually or in teams. Now each activity can be designed in detail. Those for day one will take priority. Some will be done prior to the event and some will be designed during the event with (some of) the participants (during breaks or evening).

4) Inviting in

During the first morning of the event, participants are invited to step in with their own activities or proposals within the scaffolding structure set up by the team. This structure holds the space so that the facilitation/hosting and documenting/harvesting can be done with the ample participation of all, in an open and flexible way. When the preparation work has been done – attending to all the details with care — the principles described above allow the loose structure to be held with quality and rigour. It can appear chaotic but the freedom is held by a container that supports coherence, alignment and freedom. It allows us to open up to what is possible and alive. This is how we organise amongst ourselves.

The Art of Hosting way creates a self-organizing operating system, an edginess of possibility, a depth of learning and a quality in human connection that often eludes us in other types of gatherings and meetings. Events all over the world are organized in this manner with great success, from the European Institutions, to local neighbourhoods, from businesses to professional networks.


Learn more about Art of Hosting and upcoming trainings.

Thank you to Ria Baeck for contribution and support in writing this article.

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The Game of Many Dares

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What are you doing on Tuesday? Or why Percolab has open team meetings.

“Well, why don’t you just come to one of our team meetings?” I say to the barista, “They are every Tuesday from 10 am to noon at the ECTO Coworking.”

He nods seriously and notes the time and place on a napkin behind the counter. I pick up my latte and wander off to one of the tables in the corner to work out a team budget proposal for one of our upcoming projects.

Inviting not-so-random folks to Percolab’s team meetings has become one of my everyday practices. I must extend at least 5 or 10 of these invitations a week. Sometimes these invitations are received as a gift and a possibility, like in the case of this barista who has just finished a graduate degree in urban planning and is interested in citizen co-design and consultation – one of Percolab’s areas of expertise. He had recognized me from a strategic planning session I had facilitated for one of the units at the university he attended.

Other times, the invitations are received by eyes wide with disbelief as though I had invited this human I have just met to my Sunday family brunch: please bring the mimosas and then you can go jump on the trampoline with the kids and Matante Guylaine.

“Why would you invite me to a team meeting?” said human demands, “Don’t you deal with, like, internal stuff at your meetings?”

“Yes,” I confirm, “we deal with internal stuff. Some of it is strategic, some of it is operational, some of is has to do with our personal dynamics, the first Tuesday of the month is about Percolab International. Some meetings deal with money and how we self-attribute our earnings, sometimes we even process conflicts in our team meetings. Like I said, Tuesday at 10 am – you should just come participate.”

“Um, OK, I can come observe,”says the human, “I am really curious. I won’t be distracting. I promise.”

“Yeah…well… no, that won’t work,” I reply with a suppressed smile, “I’m not inviting you to come observe us. We are people not hamsters. I’m inviting you to come be with us, to participate. Help us think through our challenges and issues, bring in all of your experience, and intelligence, and wisdom, contribute to our decision-making.”

“Really?” the human inquires, “But you only just met me! How can I understand all of your context and policies and regulations? How can I possibly contribute to decision-making? What will your boss say?”

“Well, to start off with there are no bosses at Percolab, we are a truly flat organization and we make decisions through a consent-based approach. And of course you can’t possibly understand everything we are about. But attending a team meeting is sure a more effective way of getting to know us than reading our “About” page online. If we are discussing an issue that needs to be decided upon and you, from your understandably limited perspective, are able to see a potential risk to the organization, we are gonna listen and take that into account as we move forward.”

“OK,” says the human – I can see that they are getting really curious, “but will I be the only stranger there?”

“I have no idea,” I say, “we’ll know when you show up! Some weeks we have no guests (we don’t call them strangers), often we have one or two, and a few times when several members have been out working with clients, we have had three times as many guests as Percolab members! Those weeks are usually great for brainstorming about issues we’ve been trying to work through, like rethinking our website.”

“Doesn’t it get exhausting having new people at your meetings every week?” inquires the human.

“It can be,” I admit, “Some weeks I’ve been downright grumpy about having to host new people into a team meeting, especially when there is a topic that is really important to me. Yet, again and again, I find our guests help me think through some tough questions about both our work with clients and how we work together as a team. Especially, if the person doesn’t “get” what we do easily, it challenges us to be clearer in how we speak about ourselves and cleaner in how we work together. So I might arrive grumpy but I almost always leave energized… coffee helps.”

“What type of people come to your meetings?” they ask.

“Some of the guests at meetings are interested in collaborating with us, some want to study us for academic purposes, some attend our meetings so they can learn about self-management and maybe even bring new practices to their own organizations, some are international experts passing through Montreal who want to jam with us, some are clients we already work with or are thinking of working with us – attending our meetings gives them a really good practical sense of our applied knowledge. One of my favourite things to do is invite all the participants in my workshops to come to a team meeting. You should see their faces!”

“OK, I’m in!” exclaims my new human friend, “I’ve been wanting to learn about self-management for a long time but I haven’t been too sure if my team is ready for it. Seeing it in action would really be helpful. It makes me feel a lot better to think that I won’t just be some voyeur and I can contribute with any knowledge or experience I already have. I find this idea of open meetings really inspiring and unusual. You guys sure are brave to do this!”

“Well…” I respond cautiously. I want to be able to accept this compliment but at the same time I am slightly irked that this practice that I find so normal is deemed as brave. “Well, we have a choice: we can talk about collaboration or actually experiment and experience what it is like to work with “strangers”. We can talk about transparency or open ourselves up to others so we can truly be seen, for better or worse, and understand ourselves and our blind spots better. We can talk about collective intelligence or actively engage in thinking with other people who come from really different backgrounds. To me and to probably everyone else at Percolab too, opening up our team meetings is a practical benefit to the organization, the generosity people show us by sharing their insights into our work is amazing. But opening our team meetings is also a meaningful and symbolic act: we are a fractal of how we would like organizations to function in the world. Imagine, if governments and institutions and corporations and foundations and community organizations had as their base model meetings that were open, transparent, collaborative, and drew on collective intelligence? Just that. Imagine that. ”

“Whoa!” says the human, “I’m gonna need to wrap my mind around that one. Maybe we can talk about that after the meeting on Tuesday.”

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