In a workshop I conducted last Sunday, one of the participants asked, “How do you encourage self-organization?” By some miracle, probably related to my being on every mailing list on anything related to sociocracy and governance, I received in my mailbox a link to an article on the Interaction Institute for Social Change. You guessed it on Tips for Encouraging Self-Organization by Curtis Ogden.
After some editing and additions, here are some ideas:
Encouraging Self Organization in the Environment
- Create spaces where people from different social and work groups encounter each other in the course of the day.
- Create open space and unscheduled time at home and the office.
In Meetings and Conversations
- Expect engagement with decisions by asking open-ended questions.
- Encourage people in finding their own answers
- Ask “What should we do next?” and “What haven’t we done?” to encourage curiosity and questioning.
- Reward innovation and risk-taking. Encourage making corrections and trying again.
- Emphasize that we learn from mistakes. No mistakes, no risk, no innovation.
- Encourage people to focus on their strengths and collaborate with others who have different strengths.
- Actively share information. Practice transparency.
- Demonstrate self-organization in your own actions.
Most people are not encouraged to self-organize as children or adults. Most workplaces find self-organization disruptive. It’s hard to break the training of waiting for directions and not working outside them. Changing takes both expectation, insistence, and support. Support alone won’t do it.