Tag Archives: Circle Forward

The Dangers of Renaming Sociocracy

The impulse in consulting and study groups with a focus on sociocracy is renaming sociocracy: dynamic governance, dynamic self-governance, sociocracy 3.0, Circle Forward, Holacracy, etc. All include sociocracy with almost no variation except in changing the names and vocabulary.

I’m totally sympathetic with this—”sociocracy” in English isn’t a pleasant word. It has this awful “ock” sound in the middle that is harsh and too easily becomes nasal. And the association with the word “socialism,” which in the United States is anathema.

But Holacracy is not much better and I don’t see the Holacracy people breaking off with new names. Even with the impediment of Holacracy being trademarked and aggressively protecting their trademark, it could be migrated with a new name if people wanted to.

Renaming sociocracy further creates confusion and blurs the force of the movement. Perhaps even more dangerous, it separates all these seemingly unique methods, from the history and literature related to sociocracy and to that of “circular organization.”

Circular organization refers to organizations based on the feedback loops central to cybernetic study of organisms and systems, and essential in sociocracy. The concept of “circular organization” was first presented in 1981 by by Russell Ackoff and others prominent in early cybernetics and systems thinking. It was implemented in several dozen corporations and federal agencies, including Budweiser.

Sociocracy has more than 150 years of theorizing about a government that would act for all the people. It was led by leaders like the French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Compt and the American scientist and sociologist  Frank Ward. It has been implemented since WW II. Supposedly “new” ideas and names disassociates the ideas from history. These new-name methods are not sufficiently different  to warrant new names.  They artificially divide a field study that needs focus in order to grow.

It now takes longer to clarify the differences and non-differences between all the names than to explain sociocracy.
“Sociocracy” has a wonderful history that parallels that of science and the search for a better society. And it has a wonderful ethical base — the equal valuing of all people.

Branding Sociocracy in the United States

The letter S as a cattle brandSince sociocracy was introduced in North America, problems with the name “sociocracy” have hounded it.  Unlike European countries, Americans associate sociocracy negatively with “socialism,” sociocracy is harder to say in English than in many other languages. Unfortunately, the rejection of the word “sociocracy” and the use of alternatives continue to confuse the public and obstruct efforts to develop a cohesive image, a “brand” in the current marketing vernacular.

A Solution for Branding Sociocracy

Some of the various names for methods based on the principles fo sociocracy are  Dynamic Governance, Bio-Dynamic Governance, Dynamic Self-Governance, Holacracy, and most recently, Circle Forward. All are unique in emphasis and aim but share the same principles. One solution to unifying the field would for all to use a common phrase as a subtitle or in descriptive content.  “Implementing the principles of sociocracy” or “an implementation of sociocracy.” This would clarify confusion and  unify forces while allowing unique identities, business branding, etc.

Acknowledging a common methodological base would also encourage more dialogue about the nature if that base. This kind of dialogue about methods of teaching and practicing would be valuable to all. It would provide the kind of analysis that is necessary to the further development and application of sociocracy.