Tag Archives: Malcolm Gladwell

A Sociocratic Movement?

I sat in on a conference call with the SociocraticConsultingGroup-en last week on forming an organization for sociocracy. I found the discussion to be about the same issues we had several years ago, when Socionet tried to form. It’s the same problem that the NVC organization has had, and that the Austin Belly dance group discussed on the [email protected] list many years ago. The problem of conflicting aims and energies between professionals and enthusiasts.

The problem appears when trying to build an organization that can’t decide if it is promoting sociocracy for all or promoting professional consultants. The energy now is largely in the consultants. This is because the people who most see the need and opportunity often are consultants already or become consultants. That’s good because they can train people who will be most likely to apply the method in their organizations.

A Peer-to-Peer Sociocratic Movement

I’ve never seen mixing of professionals and enthusiasts work in one organization to serve everyone’s needs. It can’t be built around classes, mostly because enthusiasts and sociocrats don’t want to join an organization in order to be marketed to. But it is also because professionals have different needs. They need to ask questions at a more complex level than people who are just learning about sociocracy. They need to discuss professional issues relating to the implementation in situations that they may need to discuss confidentially. They need to ask questions related to building their practices as sociocratic professionals.

The general population may want classes but they also want peer-to-peer interactions and information in a different form. Written materials and tapes. DVDs. Ideas and experiences to discuss with each other, not in teacher-student interactions. Enthusiasts will pull away from professionals and professionals pull away from them.

Ironically, the sociocratic organization has not managed to produce equality in sociocracy.

Discouraging a Sociocratic Movement

The global organization has been supremely afraid of letting the method go viral and still has not released its norms. The fear is that the method will be badly applied by anyone except certified experts and thus reflect negatively on sociocracy.

Professionals have also not encouraged a movement of enthusiasts to form. One negative reaction from professionals to people seeking information and association as other than clients is that such people are asking them to work free. That kind of attitude will dampen any movement. A movement needs the support of experts, but enthusiasts want to join an organization of equals who share information and experiences freely.

What Associations Do

Associations are usually non-profit, dedicated to charitable and public service purposes. They form around a purpose and draw members in to help them accomplish their purpose. They may maintain a speakers bureau that will speak anywhere for low or now cost. They distribute flyers to the public at no cost. Generate books and other materials that can be purchased. Members receive benefits to encourage them to further the purpose, usually a discount on publications, invitations to meetings of various kinds, and a newsletter.

Public Dissemination of Ideas

Business people and government officials have informal groups that meet for lunch and have a speaker. Sometimes the speakers receive an honorarium and sometimes only a free lunch. If the roundtable is for business people, sometimes a gift or gift certificate donated by one of the members. These are networking lunches of highly committed and ambitious people.

How many people have been prepared to speak at such a gathering about sociocracy? What resources are available to help them do so? Outlines and public speaking guides.

When Tony Robbins was beginning his career, he spoke anywhere. Other speakers would only speak to certain groups or if they were paid. Because Robbins accepted any request he spoke several times a week. He was able to hone his message and understand his audience. This is one thing that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point: that success depends on the frequency of performing, speaking, running, etc., usually from a young age.

Bill Gates had access as a teenager to computers and programming. Access others didn’t have. The Beatles were performing on a circuit for years before they became famous. When Tony Robbins developed his motivational speaking skills, he was working as a janitor and , if I remember correctly, took the opportunity to discuss ideas with the executives whose office he cleaned.

Leadership

Movements also need leaders. Extroverts who love talking to people and being out front. The skills that make good politicians. I don’t think such a person has surfaced in the sociocratic community. Possibly because such a person doesn’t fit in with the global organization which is fairly rigid and closed. The new website is a huge step forward but has been years in the making. The current version has been under consideration for over a  year.

While a leader needs to understand the method, the requirement that they be certified is counter-productive and anti-movement unless the purpose is to organize certified people.

A sociocratic movement will not be successful until the needs of professionals as consultants are separated from those of enthusiasts and practitioners, and a leader emerges.

How We Decide and Why It Matters

Book Cover for Lehrer's How We DecideA wonderfully readable update on brain research is Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide that looks at how our emotions affect decisions and what the brain tells us about it. Lehrer worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, is editor-at-large for Seed Magazine, and  publishes regularly in major magazines and newspapers. He has both the education to interpret brain research and the ability to write about it clearly — welcome ability. And the results of this research are fascinating.

The brain is constantly growing and changing based on the information it receives, whether that information is emotional, social, or physical. Our “gut” reactions  are fast and accurate because our brain has decoded the information faster than we could rationally analyze it. First we know, then we know we know. Unfortunately, our gut feelings are often difficult to explain or even understand and we ignore them, going instead for the response that sounds right.

One of the subjects Lehrer examines is expertise. The reason sociocratic organization works is that it establishes feedback loops that provide information about performance. Malcolm Gladwell has reported that people become proficient when they have worked at something for 10,000 hours. The Beatles were able to outperform other bands at such a  young age because as teenagers they had a unique ability to perform frequently. Lehrer’s research shows that isn’t all. The expertise comes from the feedback received while gaining that experience. The interactions and measurements that come from audience responses and the musician’s experimentation. It isn’t the playing; it’s the recognition of mistakes. Analyzing one’s mistakes improves performance but recognizing mistakes is more likely to happen with an audience.

The sociocratic organizational structure is designed to ensure feedback. Measurement and analysis are fundamental at all levels. Looking at what is working and what is not. Lehrer talks with Bill Robertie who has become a world-class expert not only chess but in poker and backgammon. Unless all that practice includes analysis of his decisions and their result, his play would not have improved. And negative feedback, he says, was the best kind. We learn from our mistakes.

A fascinating study by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, looked at the results of praise on children. Half were praised for their intelligence, the other half for their hard work. In later studies, those who had been praised for hard work actually performed better. Those praised for their intelligence were careful to choose easy work in order to retain the view of themselves as intelligent while those praised for working hard, worked harder and chose the harder studies that allowed them learn more. The differences were not just “statistically significant”. Those praised for working harder raised their scores by 30%. The scores for those praised for their intelligence fell by 20%.

Loss aversion fundamentally affects our decision-making in all areas of our lives, and opens us to manipulation by marketers and unreasonable responses to news, to information about the stock market, for example.

Impulsivity is a higher predictor of low SAT scores than academic performance as early as kindergarten. Brain development in children diagnosed with ADHD is on average 3.5 years behind that of other children. Brain research looks at all these phenomenon and studies how one brain functions in the face of the same emotional desires as another, and which one is successful in achieving a satisfactory solution. And the results are unexpected and unpredictable.

The ability to achieve a clean-slate, a brain ready for making new association that lead to new insights, is essential. The insight is achieved in a flash of energy, then the slate is clean again, waiting. Herbert Simon said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Lehrer also reports on studies of satisfaction — one shows that for each hour of increased time commuting, one needs to earn $40,000 more to make the commute worth it.

A striking conclusion is that anyone who wants to make difficult decisions better or more often, needs a more emotional thought process. Once one  has the education and the information, time spent consciously  contemplating the alternatives will probably be counter-productive. “The hardest calls are the ones that require the most feeling.”

Research like this has led to a change in how authority is viewed everywhere from the cockpit of major airlines to hospital surgeries. Staffs are trained to question authority when things don’t feel right. Don’t presume that the person with the degree or the title is making the best decision. Decision-making in complex pressure-driven situations is too hard for one brain to sort out.

An excellent and well-written book that is highly recommended.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Boston and NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. To buy the paperback at Amazon.