Distinguishing Agreements that Reduce Uncertainty in Human Interactions — Recommended Reading

North, Douglass C.  Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance1990, New York: Cambridge University Press.   Click here for an excerpt.

What rules of the game lead to success?  Why do some societies thrive in certain games and others don’t, supposedly using the same rules of the game?  In this classic, very easy to read book, the late Nobel laureate in economics Professor North suggests that the interplay of institutions and organizations determines whether a set of rules leads a society to equitable growth and health or persistent inequitable collapse.  He starts by differentiating between the rules and the players (p 4), with institutions (the rules) as the “humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction” (p 3), and organizations (the players) as “groups of individuals bound by some common purpose to achieve objectives” (p 5).  “The purpose of the rules is to define the way the game is played.  But the objective of the team within that set of rules is to win the game…Modeling the strategies and the skills of the team as it develops is a separate process from modeling the creation, evolution, and consequences of the rules” (p 4-5).  From a holonic perspective, the organization is a whole that is also a part of a larger whole, defined by the institution.

With this distinction between institutions and organizations, Professor North provides a framework for understanding the myriad political-economic social forms that have evolved throughout history across the globe.  He suggests a model for how these different forms and their varied success result from the dynamic, historic interplay of institutions and organizations.  The framework integrates (1) the evolution of institutions as a form of rules to reduce the uncertainty inherent in human interaction, executed well or not, with (2) the costs of transactions (i.e., measurement and enforcement) and transformation, and (3) path dependence, to show how some forms are much more efficient than others at providing for stability or change in human interactions.  Two different groups can take up what seem to be similar rules, and because they start from different initial conditions and have different contexts, they can end up having completely different experiences and achieve completely different results, from great success to deep collapse.  I find this book to be a profoundly reorienting look at how the formal and informal constraints of a society, in the form of its institutions, influence daily human interactions and their evolution over time.  Providing great insights with easy language and rich examples from history, I highly recommend this book.

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Transformative Organization of Human Interactions through Light-Verb-Noun Levels

You can now see how, in the figure below, that when you see organizing at the light level, you experience collaboration towards the highest harmonic vibrancy available within the group.  Working with the harmonic vibrancy is supported by “inspirited” structures that simultaneously support all five primary relationships.  When you filter out possibility, from the light level of organizing, you ground the harmonic vibrancy in specific opportunities for cooperative development and relationship building, at the verb level of organizing.  This is supported by structures focused on each group’s charter.  When you filter out time, from the verb level of organizing, you find the overlapping needs of individuals in the here and now, at the noun level of organizing.  This is supported by competition among incorporated structures focused on the needs of each group.

 

 

This highlights the insights gained over the past century at the light, verb, and noun levels of organizing, and how they interweave.  At this stage of human evolution, people want to learn how to work with all three levels simultaneously, transforming the infinite abundance of the light level of organizing to the experience of abundance at the verb level and sufficiency at the noun level of organizing.  This way people can experience the greater harmonic available by integrating all three levels, as in the figure below.

 

 

Implications for previous agreements

In the course of your life, you engage in organizing your interactions with others at the light, verb, and noun levels.  What you do at each level is very different.  How you see the potential in individuals and in the group, at the light level, is completely different than the development and relationships at the verb level.  Both of these are quite different than the contracting at the noun level.  You have also seen how collaboration is completely different from cooperative-competition and competition.  You know this, from your own experience.  What you know can change the agreements you make when you organize.

Most agreements today around how you organize your interactions start with the concept of contracting.  This belief focuses on the noun level of organizing.  Through contracts you agree on everything, from how much you pay for your phone and electric bill to your jobs to the taxes you pay and the price you pay for a banana at the grocery store.  These are all contractual agreements you enter, whether you are aware of them or not.  This is noun thinking, and it seems to work well.  Nonetheless, it does not include the verb and light levels of organizing.  Not integrating the verb and light levels of organizing decreases the group’s ability to attract higher potential people and bring in higher potential relationships, increasing duplication of efforts, decreasing the health of the work environment, and decreasing the group’s intellectual and social capital.  Fortunately, you have also seen that people are very comfortable organizing at all three levels, making it possible to shift the organizing agreements you enter.

An April 2011 article in the leading business magazine Forbes, whose motto is being “the capitalist’s tool,” highlights the predominance of the “obvious” noun-level approach to people, stating that, “the only three true job interview questions are: (1) can you do the job; (2) will you love the job; (3) can we tolerate working with you?  These look at (the candidates) strengths, motivation, and fit.”[1]

It is also clear that the movement from light to verb to noun levels of organizing leads to different results than the other way around.  Starting with a noun-level understanding of organizing, with scarcity driving contracts and an environment of competition, it is very difficult to add time and relationship to get to alliances and cooperation.  It is even more difficult to add possibility to arrive at expansive invitations and a collaborative environment.  Starting from the other end though is straightforward.  From light, you start with the assumption of infinite possibility, choosing to manifest specific verbs, which will meet in particular ways to become nouns here and now to address specific needs you choose – all from abundance.  In a space of expansive invitation and collaboration, you can choose flows where you enter cooperative alliances around specific developmental flows and relationships.  Within the cooperative flows, you can agree to very specific and concrete terms under which specific needs are met.  Both processes work with the interweaving of light, verb, and noun levels of organizing, and arrive at completely different experiences of what is possible.  The other goods news is that people around the globe are understanding this.  In the process, they are innovating many new organizing forms for working with abundance-based agreements, including new forms of the inspirited, chartered, and incorporated organizations (see figure below).  The framework of ecosynomics provides a light for identifying these people and learning from their experience.

Connection to big questions for value and resources

The big questions around organizing looked at why people organize in the first place, how to increase efficiency through agreements, and the specific structures and incentives to support these agreements.  As you explore these organizing questions, it becomes clear that the potential you see in people are the very resources the group wants to develop, as are the relationships they have.  You also see that the motivation for organizing a group and for contributing to that group are best expressed in terms of the value exchanged between the individual and the group.  Thus, the questions of organizing clearly interweave with those of value and resources.

 


[1] In this article, George Bradt interviews leading experts in executive recruitment (Bradt, 2011).

Organizing the Why, How, and What of Satisfying Needs Now

As I discussed in a previous post, the development-verb level of organizing focuses your attention on the development of capacities and relationships over time, allowing you to step further into the potential seen at the possibility-light level.  The development-verb level does not, though, satisfy the needs for which you organized in the first place.  While you are able to experience greater harmonic vibrancy, as you come together at the light and verb levels, it is at the noun level that needs are met specifically.  The “met need,” in the here and now, is the domain of the things-noun level.

To get to the things-noun level, you filter out the time dimension that is so important at the development-verb level.  Remember that, at the verb level, you have already filtered out the potential that is so important at the light level.  As you transform the verb level into the noun level, you are choosing that specific point in space-time where verbs overlap to meet a specific need.  Earlier I used the examples of the piece of bread and my daughter’s dress.  If the verb that brings either one in front of me shows up too early or too late, or in the wrong place, then it remains a verb, rushing towards landfill and back to its original energetic light-form.  If, however, the verb of the bread or dress intersect in space-time with the verb of my life in a particular way, then both verbs are transformed, at that instant, into a noun that satisfies a need in both verbs.  The verb becomes a piece of bread, a noun, that satisfies my hunger, and it satisfies the baker, who made it to exchange with me for resources he needed.  To get to the noun, we filter time out of the verb, making a choice for the moment in space and time that best satisfies the needs.  It is at the noun level, through this transformation, that an exciting transmutation happens in the light energy, where it passes from one form to another.  The bread passes from grain energy into human blood.  The dress passes from fiber energy into the radiance of the beautiful human.

As you filter potential out of the why of harmonic vibrancy at the light level, you find the leveraging of abundance in the system at the verb level.  As you filter time out of the verb-level why, you find the noun-level why of need satisfaction.  I will now show you how to manifest light all the way from possibility through probability into the directly observable satisfaction of concrete needs.

How do you satisfy these needs, at the noun level of organizing?  Through competition.[1]  Competition results from filtering out time from cooperation.  At the verb level, we were working together, in cooperative-competition, as individuals with different goals for ourselves.  At the noun level, we are in the same point of space-time, working towards the same need.  In this space-time we work at cross-purposes to achieve the same need-satisfier.  At the noun level, the agreements we make are very specific and concrete in their description.  They are manifesting the here-now.  Thus, the individual signs a contract with a very specific job description, clarifying exactly what is expected of the individual’s actions and outcomes, in the here and now.  This has very positive effects in clarifying what is expected right now in the contribution one can make in one’s “doing.”  This also simplifies the finding of someone who can “do” what is necessary to make the contribution right now, independent of the individual’s development process (verb level) or deeper potential (light level).  This also has very negative effects, as the person’s potential and development are contracted into a very specific and limiting dimension, as put forth in the job description.  In this noun level of agreements, your relationship to the other is equally concrete, specific, and contracted.  When you see the other and their specific actions, at the noun level of organizing, you see the need for clarity in roles and responsibilities, who will do what, with what authority.  Your relationship to the group also needs concrete specifics.  This leads you to the need for clarity in who is responsible for the actions of what people and what resources – the need for functional hierarchies.  If you are contracted into a specific, concrete contribution to the group, then you want your responsibility for the group’s outcomes to be equally limited and specified.  You do not want to be made responsible for outcomes you cannot influence directly, under your contracted job description.  The functional hierarchy also necessitates a clear outcome for the hierarchy, often labeled as the group’s mission.  The mission, at the noun level, is very different than the why for organizing at the noun, verb, or light levels.  The mission here is usually a noun description of the specific need that the overlapping verbs are designed to satisfy.  You do this to meet the need of this group in this way.  Period.

The what of organizing at the noun level focuses on the group structures and individual incentives at this very concrete level of manifestation.  The group structures transform from the verb level of “chartered” groups to incorporated groups.  When time is filtered out of the charter a group seeks to serve, what remains is the group’s body, its corpus, thus the term corporation.  This body, the corporation, is designed to serve specific “needs.”  At the noun level, some groups are structured for profits, thus they are called “for profits,” also referred to as businesses.  Business is an odd term, as if its charter is to be busy.  Other groups are structured, at the noun level, for helping others in ways “for profit” motives will not.  They are often referred to as “civil society,” “non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or “non-profits.”  This is also an odd term, meaning that they do not distribute profits to private investors, rather to their direct investors, which in their case is society at large.  Because of their “good works,” they often do not have to pay taxes, which is also odd, as it distinguishes them from “for profits,” which might also do “good works” and pay taxes.  This is less a commentary on who should pay taxes and more a commentary on the rather arbitrary definition of charters and regulations at the noun level.  Yet other groups are structured, at the noun level, to regulate, tax, and redistribute the wealth of the activities of others.  They are often referred to as governmental organizations, which do not pay taxes.  Thus, at the noun level, there are three basic organizing structures for serving specific needs.

Noun-level organizing structures are often depicted with organizational charts that show straight-line responsibility hierarchies, with ever-expanding levels of responsibility for specific areas of the group.  This is the integration of the systemic, process view of organizing at the verb level, filtering out time.

At the noun-level, organizing of the incentives of individuals filters out time from the verb-level of development and relationships.  The residual of this filtering is what economics refers to as labor, the bodies available with a given set of skills to do work.  This is what is seen at any given moment in the development of human beings.  This is the realm of employment, a contract for bodies to make a specific contribution to the group’s needs.

While the noun-level of organizing is the predominant ideological form, it comes with significant costs.  In addition to the costs at the light and verb levels, a focusing narrowly at the noun level of organizing leads to the loss of knowledge and relationship.  By focusing narrowly on labor as a body with skills, learning and development of the individual are lost.  It becomes very easy and normal to make decisions that dismiss, neglect, and minimize the value of knowledge gained from the experience humans have in an activity over time.  Technically this knowledge gained over time is referred to as intellectual capital, a capital that can be used in the future, as I showed you in the chapter on resources.  In the course of human interaction, you meet people and make relationships.  The web of relationships you weave is the network in which you express your light in the world.  This is the group of people with whom the verb flows.  When you ignore the relationships people have, you miss the possibility and the flow possible in those relationships.  Technically these relationships which sustain a group are known as social capital.


[1] The word competition means, in classical Latin, “to strive together.”  It has emerged since the early 1600s, in modern French, to mean “to be in rivalry with another.”  This evolution suggests competition is striving together for the same scarce value, thus requiring that we be rivals, since we want the same thing of which there is not enough for both of us.

Developing Human Interactions at the Verb Level

To begin to manifest what you started with by organizing at the possibility-light level, you need to transform the light into verbs.  When you integrate light, you filter out possibility.  You choose the verbs that develop and emerge over time.  Of the infinite possibilities you see at the light level, you choose what we want to manifest and begin to pay attention to its development.  The critical steps in transforming light into verbs are to maintain the connection to the light you see and to agree on how to begin to manifest it over time.

The Big Questions of Organizing at the Verb Level

In the why question, the light to verb transformation grounds the harmonic vibrancy in specific, developmental processes.  This transformation adds life to the possibility seen in the potential.  It also filters out possibility.  In the how, this transformation acknowledges where the five relationships are, where they can be, and the harmonic vibrancy move available to shift the harmonic vibrancy experienced in each relationship.  In the what, the light-to-verb transformation separates the incentives and structures for the different relationships, bringing in more focus and a paradoxical set of tradeoffs among them.

From the possibility-light level, a potential was seen in what the group could be and do, and in what the individuals coming to the group could be and do.   In transforming the organizing from the light to the verb level, a choice was made out of all the potential to manifest something specific.  The verb level of organizing focuses on the processes for developing that potential of the people and relationships in the group.  The verb level is where you experience the excitement in seeing the change over time in your own capacities, those of others and the group.  This is growth.  You enjoy learning and increasing your ability.  You also strengthen your relationships, for the sake of the relationships alone and because you can more efficiently achieve your goals when you work together with others more harmoniously.

Why

In essence, the organizing principle, the why, at the verb level is to leverage the abundance in the system, the abundance available in the processes, people, and relationships in the group.  At the light level, we saw the infinite potential, which we leverage in the verb level.

How

The how at the verb level is cooperative-competition.  Cooperative-competition is when people bring different, unique contributions to the group in a coordinated fashion.  While in collaboration, people work together towards the same potential they see, the same light, in cooperative-competition, people work together towards different potentials.  This is the filtering out of the light you collectively see, as you transform the possibility-light level into the development-verb level of organizing.  In cooperation, you step further into your relationships with the self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  For your own self, the focus is on the gifts you bring, and how you can specialize in specific work to move up the learning curve, getting really good at specific tasks.  This improves your efficiency and consequently the efficiency of the whole group.  Specialization like this is critical, as it is the focus on specific activities, over and over again, over long periods of time, that enables people to reach high levels of proficiency.[1]  For the other, cooperative-competition highlights the relationship to the other, how you and the other influence each other, and how you can support each other in that relationship.  For the group, cooperative-competition is about the coordination of alliances of people with different contributions in a harmonious way.  This asks, who needs to do what, when, and with whom?  Coordination comes in many flavors.  A major distinction among the different flavors is about where to emphasize structure.  One way of looking at this distinction suggests that individuals with clear decision criteria interact.[2]  Over time, the dynamics of their interactions form emerging structures of agreements.  For example, in a market, some individuals show up to purchase food for their own weekly needs, and others show up to provide them what they request, changing the offer as the demand shifts, based on who shows up wanting what.  This leads to cooperation among self-interested individuals.  A very different way of understanding cooperative structures of agreements starts with the group-level of structured agreements, showing how they influence the emerging dynamics of interacting individuals.[3]  For example, the incentives given to different groups in a process motivate them to act in specific ways.  As they act in these ways over time, they begin to influence each other and the overall results.

These two perspectives focus on the individual’s agency, the ability to make a decision for themselves, and the group’s structure, the agreements about interactions.  The first example suggests that it is more fruitful to understand how structure emerges from agency.  This leads to a focus on the individual’s decisions, and then what emerges.  The second suggests that is better to understand how agency emerges from structure.  The agency-structure issue is an old one, with different practices promoting one or the other.  We can see from the ecosynomic lens that both perspectives reflect important dimensions of the verb-level manifestation of the light – the individual’s agency is important as is the structure of the group’s agreements.  It is not an either-or choice among the two schools, rather an integration of the two.

What — The Group’s Charter

Let us now look at the what of development-verb-level organizing.  This is the what of organizing the group’s charter, of developing people and relationships, and of motivating and coordinating individuals.  The group exists to achieve something the individuals cannot achieve alone.  I showed that the why is to leverage the abundance available in the people and relationships in the system.  At the development-verb level, groups define what they do, their specialty, by their charter.  The group’s charter defines what they agree to do, how they agree to do it, and the structures they can use to achieve it.  While at the possibility-light level, the inspirited group seeks higher harmonic vibrancy, at the development-verb level, the chartered group seeks to fulfill one dimension of harmonic vibrancy.  From the ecosynomics perspective, as reflected in the fundamental assumptions and agreements, a group’s charter is to grow its potential, its abilities over time, and the value they generate.  The group does this through building cohesion within the group, and with other groups that interact with them.  This is all done to increase the well-being of both the community the group serves and the community where the group resides.  This is a charter for growth, for social cohesion, and for societal well-being.[4]  These different dimensions of the group’s charter highlight different processes within the group.  These dimensions are required for the verb level to be able to manifest the potential seen at the light level.  While all groups, to exist, inherently have this multi-dimensional charter, current systems tend to define themselves by one of the dimensions, and in turn minimizing the value of the other two.

Groups today tend to take one of these dimensions as its charter.  Many legal structures and regulations exist to define and control these charters.  Those that identify with the for-growth charter tend to be great at identifying self-reinforcing structures, which lead to the ability to support their own growth.  These people are often very entrepreneurial.  The existing fiscal and regulatory systems support this seeking of self-growth mechanisms with incentives and controls that emphasize the business corporation.  They focus on the growth of value generated over time, giving great latitude to the dimensions of social cohesion and societal well-being.

Other people identify more with the charter of social cohesion, seeking to build stronger relationships and community through their work.  They look for stabilizing structures, which lead to a greater balance in relationships and less vulnerability to shocks in the system.  Some societies believe in the importance of these efforts and support them through a legal charter that focuses on the benefits of social cohesion, giving latitude to self-supporting growth and societal well-being.  Some of these charters even strictly restrict self-funding growth.  These groups are referred to as civil society or non-profits, as they are designed to not distribute profits from their growth.

As groups come together, they often discover that some services they want or need fall outside of their individual charters.  When it turns out that many groups want something that nobody wants to provide, a new group can be chartered to serve the well-being of everyone.  These groups are chartered to provide services for everyone, focusing on societal well-being.  These groups are legally structured to take a little from everyone for the benefit of everyone.  Often referred to today as government, the fiscal and legal structures promote redistribution of resources to the overall benefit, while minimizing the focus on self-funding growth and social well-being.

While there are many groups with these focused charters who do well, many more do not.  Why?  The study of ecosynomics suggests that it is the focus on one dimension and dismissal of the others that requires legal and fiscal control of these imbalanced forms.  These current structures all require legal charters and strong regulation, to make sure that their imbalanced structures do not hurt themselves and others.  Furthermore, ecosynomics suggests that the current “charter” focus not only promotes unhealthy structures, it also improperly names what is actually happening in those groups.  The fundamental assumptions of ecosynomics suggest a very different model of health for organizational forms.  While a multi-charter focus acknowledges that there are different perspectives of how to intervene in the world, it improperly labels them depending on whether one comes from a corporate, civil society, or government perspective.  Multi-charter thinking suggest the corporation focuses on growth of capital, civil society focuses on social cohesion, and government focuses on group health, through management of the commons.  The harmonic-vibrancy focus shows that there are not multiple perspectives, rather one intention, which is expressed as for growth (≠ corporate), for social cohesion (≠ civil society), for societal health (≠ government), for transcendence (≠ religion), and for balance (≠ ecology) – the inspirited organization.  Your health depends on your strength on all dimensions of relationship – they are all important.

How did this single-charter focus happen?  One possibility is that over the last two centuries, a strong distinction was made among groups that focused primarily on growth and accumulating wealth or societal health and bureaucracy – business and government.   When these groups did not meet other core dimensions of human health, such as social cohesion, transcendence, and eco-balance, civil society began to grow.  This led to a “moral clash,” among axially defined groups, which are actually just specialized forms of inspirited organizations.  Recent advances that have seemed to blur the lines among business, civil society, and government have actually only been stepping further into their implicitly acknowledged charter as a full-relational, inspirited organization.  Examples abound, with social entrepreneurs bridging the for-growth to for-social-cohesion gap, and with corporations and cooperatives bridging the for-growth to for-societal-health gap with extensive benefits.

What — Developing People and Relationships

So far we have seen the what of organizing the group’s charter.  I will now look at the what of developing people and relationships.  The potential seen, at the light level, in the individual, the relationships, and the group, are dynamic resources at the verb level.  The potential is the resource.  The resource dynamics influence how much of the potential is being brought into existence and into relationship with the group.  If you saw in me the ability, in the future, to be a good cook in our family, then this ability becomes the resource.  The inflows might be learning through books or classes and learning through experience.  The outflows might be forgetting, or obsolescence of things I learned that are no longer relevant, such as cooking meat if we become vegetarians, or cooking eggs if I become allergic to eggs, which actually happened to me.  Thus, what we saw about resources in previous chapters helps us live into the verb level of organizing.

The what level of developing relationships looks at the structures of influences among the motivations and actions of the different individuals in the group.  This works whether looking at a small family, a work group, a large community, a company, an industry, a nation, all of humanity, or the planet.  Resource maps, like the ones I developed in the “resources” chapter, show how the motivation of the individual influences the actions they take on the resources they use to achieve their desired outcomes.  For example, I gathered ingredients and used them to make a loaf of bread, as seen in Figure 14.  You can also see how my actions influence the actions another person can or needs to take to achieve their own desired outcomes, with the resources they influence.  So, in the same example, if my wife wanted to have bread for dinner, and did not know that I was making bread, she might gather the money to purchase a loaf.  We now have more bread than we need.  What I did influenced her ability to be successful – we were now collectively wasteful.  With the resource maps, you are able to see how a structure of agreements about your relationships influence your individual and group ability to achieve your goals.

What for Individuals

Both the consideration of a group’s charter and of developing people and relationships ask group-level questions.  Now I transition to the individual’s side of the same questions – the what of motivating and coordinating.  You first need to remember that the individual has this amazing capacity to be a holon, playing a functional role in the larger whole of the group while simultaneously being a whole onto herself.  You can contribute to the group’s needs, while meeting your own needs.  I will take that even further.  Throughout this book, I have suggested that the human being has to be able to simultaneously be a part and a whole.  It is in human nature.  This means, then, that any organizing that does not acknowledge this holonic nature of humans works against it or will be suboptimal, at best.  It will be fighting against the integrity of the very way of being human.  Key to organizing at the verb level for people’s motivation is understanding both their contribution to the group and their commitment.  The contribution needs to consider the flow, over time, of what each person contributes now and in the future, as well as how they can grow to be able to contribute from and towards the deeper potential seen at the light level of organizing.  You could organize the family kitchen for you to make scrambled eggs for everyone, all of the time.  That is the contribution you can make, now, in the beginning.  You could also organize to learn about and experiment with more advanced forms of preparing eggs, working into fried eggs, poached eggs, omelets, and quiches.  While you might not be able to do all of that in the beginning, organizing for your development, you could within months.  This difference steps toward the possibility-light-level potential seen earlier, as it manifests over time.  Another key to organizing at the verb level of motivating people is your commitment over time.  It is now becoming clear that a person’s commitment to making their contribution to the group is another way of understanding their relationship to their own self, the other, and the group.[5]  You make a commitment by stepping into a relationship, with your own self, with me, and with the group.  Part 3 provides a process for deepening and sustaining commitment.

Costs of Scarcity

While many groups work consciously with the verb-level of organizing the development and relationships of individuals and the group, some feel it is an unnecessary luxury.  Three direct costs at the verb level of organizing are: an incomplete or imbalanced charter for the group; the lack of cooperation; and the lack of a health work environment.  Having an incomplete charter means that the group thinks it is only about a one-dimensional charter and dismisses the rest in the way it organizes itself.  For example, if you only focus on growth, you will have an unhealthy organization (low social cohesion) and a weak to poor relationship with the greater community (low societal well-being).  Ultimately, this imbalanced focus is unsustainable.  You will literally wobble yourself out of existence.

The lack of cooperative-competition leads, in every case, to redundancy and to a massive waste of resources dedicated to infighting and correcting internally generated mistakes.  Redundancy means that you both accumulate resources to do your work that you could have shared with no additional costs to your individual or group efforts.  If you only use the kitchen to cook eggs in the morning, you can share the kitchen with me, so that I can make lunch.  If we do not cooperate-compete, then we both have kitchens that are very underutilized, for no reason other than our inability to cooperate.  Estimates of the amount of time and resource spent in groups correcting internal errors range from 60-90% — most of what you do on a day-to-day basis could be avoided by not making the mistakes in the first place, the first step in cooperative-competition.

Another major cost of ignoring the development-verb level of organizing is the lack of a healthy work environment.  The verb level is where you focus on development of the potential and ability to contribute seen at the light level.  In environments where you are not developing your potential and your relationships, you find it difficult to shine.  When you experience the continuing inability to shine, your light fades and eventually you leave.  It is not surprising, therefore, that many groups that miss the development-verb level of organizing experience very high levels of turnover and all of its associated costs, of constantly training new people, the lack of experience, and an environment that higher potential people avoid like the plague.  These are very tangible and measurable costs.


[1] Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the understanding of what happens when people spend many hours working on a task (Gladwell, 2008).  The 1978 Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon initially described this phenomenon.

[2] A large body of work, called chaos theory or agent-based theory, has emerged recently, studying the interaction dynamics of structured agents and the structures of agreements that emerge (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1998; Levy, 1994; Strogatz, 1994).

[3] An equally large body of work, called systems theory, studies the how structures of agreements interact to form emerging dynamics of interacting agents (Forrester, 1971; Senge, 1990; Sterman, 2000).

[4] In systems parlance, the three charters focus on self-supporting growth through the identification of reinforcing feedback loops that grow, social cohesion through balancing feedback loops that stabilize, and societal well-being through distribution of wealth among the other two systems.  For more on reinforcing and balancing feedback loops, see (Sterman, 2000).

[5] The word “commitment” comes from the Latin for uniting or connecting, with com being “together” and mittere being “to put, send.”

Organizing Human Interactions at the Possibility-Light Level

I suggested in earlier posts that anything that you manifest, that you make real, has gone through a light-verb-noun process.  Like I did with resources and value, we now want to see if you get to a different understanding of what you have learned about organizing, if you start from the light versus starting from the noun.  As I showed before, if you start from the light, you start with abundance and choose for what is manifested here and how.  If you start from the noun, you end up walled into starting with an assumption of scarcity, which will not allow you to get very far.  Now I will develop that understanding step by step.

Starting with the possibility-light level of organizing, from the level of infinite abundance, the why question focuses on choosing the highest level of harmonic vibrancy available.  You saw in the earlier chapters that people seek greater harmonic vibrancy.  When it is greater around you, you feel better.  You feel greater abundance in all dimensions of your experience.  And, when there is less harmonic vibrancy around you, you feel worse.  You experience greater scarcity.  The data that I will share in Part 3 shows that many groups around the world are finding sustainable ways to live out of greater harmonic vibrancy.  The secret they are finding is to make the harmonic vibrancy the why of their work.  And they find that, along the way, they are able to experience greater abundance in all factors of their life.  They say that they listen for the harmonic vibrancy, and the how and the what become relatively straightforward.  This is the same experience musicians share.

The how of organizing at the light level makes explicit the potential available to the individuals and the group in their interactions, strengthening the harmonic vibrancy experienced in each relationship (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  You use a term for this in your daily life, collaboration.  Collaboration is working in relationship to a greater why.

The what of light-level organizing is a set of incentives and structures that simultaneously address the group and individual perspectives of outcome/motivation and function/task.  The “inspirited” organization focuses on the growth of the harmonic vibrancy common to the group, as people experience it in the different relationships.  This seemingly simple focus wallops a huge punch.  It builds in structures of growth, stability, and health for all five relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit) with everyone that engages with the group.  These are critical processes defining the systems of political economy today that determine the organizing forms you use.[1]

There are significant costs to not organizing at the light level.  The lack of focus on harmonic vibrancy makes it harder to find those people most attracted to and able to contribute to the higher light in harmonic vibrancy.  This translates into the inability to attract high potential people to the group.  The best people attract the best relationships, so without them it is hard to attract high potential relationships.  Without the possibility-light-level of organizing, there is little time, energy, and space for emerging possibilities – people are too busy getting the work of today done.  This makes it difficult to find deeply inspiring innovations.  Even though the opportunities for constant and deep learning are always present, they are impossible to see without a focus on the light level.  Without high potential people, relationships, and innovations, it is hard to maintain immanence and thus sustainability becomes ever more difficult.  Another huge cost from not organizing at the light level is the misalignment of people’s motivations and the group’s organizing principle.  As I just suggested, the inspirited organization focuses on the growth of the harmonic vibrancy common to the group, as people experience it in the five primary relationships.  Without the possibility-light level of organizing, the inspirited organization becomes focused on specific processes and charters that cause many of the maladies you experience every day.  The next post, on the development-verb level of organizing, explores this.  These represent a very significant cost for most groups; costs which are easily avoidable and which many groups have figured out how to avoid.  They avoid these costs, not by working on minimizing them, rather by designing them out from the onset – the possibility-light level of organizing.


[1] Historian of economic thought Alessandro Roncaglia documents that, “Let us recall that ‘political economy’ is the term by which economic science was commonly designated, until Marshall shifted to the now dominant term ‘economics’; in contemporary economic literature, the term ‘political economy’ has been revived by those streams of research (such as the Marxists, the post-Keynesians, the Sraffians or neo-Ricardians) which lay stress on the social nature of economic activity” (Roncaglia, 2006, p. 53).  He is referring to Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), the very influential economics professor at University of Cambridge.