Have you ever observed the new growth of a wood bud or fruiting spur on the trunk of a tree? They are very insignificant looking when they first appear, hardly noticeable, tiny, tumescent specks. Those tiny buds are growing out from but not part of the central trunk. With each new bud a differentiation starts and a new function of, a new gift to the well-being of, the tree is born. It is made possible by, and at the same time different from, the trunk.
Observing that slow-moving process on the young plum tree in the garden awoke my curiosity about what triggers the budding that leads to the growth of a new branch. To continue this adventure I had to shift from my experiential observation to desk research.
From the latter I learned that some “cell division… is required to provide new cells for expansion and differentiation of tissues and initiation of new organs, providing the basic structure of the plant body.” (Wikipedia)
I kind of intuited that, but still didn’t know what causes those cells to divide, until I learned about the signalling pathways that carry the cell communication and, ultimately, give rise to the branching off a new shoot.
A speck on the trunk of my work
What triggered my curiosity and fascination with this terrain of botany was a branching off that started happening in the area of my work that for the last 20 months has been growing tightly coupled with Enlivening Edge. Its mission that I helped articulating became also mine and remained that until recently: “Boosting the emergent collective intelligence, consciousness, and impact of the ecosystem of next-stage organizations and initiatives, until they become the new mainstream of organizing work.”
That statement still inspires me, but a disturbance on the trunk of my work started making itself visible. It was the startling realization that the next-stage organizations’ becoming the new mainstream will probably not happen unless they grow competences to behave as conscious living systems and learn every lesson they can from the science of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) applied to the world of organizations.
That realization was gradual, but it picked up steam when I reconnected with my old friend Michael McMaster, the author of several books on the subject (the most recent of which is What Is Organizational Intelligence?), who coined a special term for the social variety of CAS that he calls an Intelligent CAS.
He wrote: “An Intelligent CAS (iCAS) is a CAS where the agents, that are the sources of energy and information, use a language capable to expressing future and imaginary states, are intelligent and independent in their choices.” (Source: pre-publication copy of the Knowledge Base of Intelligent Complex Adaptive Systems forthcoming website.)
It’s a deceptively simple statement, but with tremendous implications for the design of the organization of the future. It is the discovery and putting into practice of those implications to which I want to dedicate the next couple of years of my work. To me, it’s the next “next-stage,” and I feel the bulk of the work waiting for me is to infuse the theory and practice of “going Teal” with the theory and practice of iCAS.
Given the size of my new “job,” I feel compelled to differentiate with greater, more precise discernment about what is mine to do, and what is not anymore. Sensing into that led me to realize that responding to my work’s evolving purpose requires that I stop doing many things that I’ve been doing until now. For example, review what is not mine to do in the 12 roles that I’m filling in the EE General Circle, and the 6 vacant roles I have to fill as the Circle Lead Link who has the constitutional duty to energize vacant roles.
Emotionally, it was not an easy decision. Logic doesn’t help when one has to sever his ties with his brainchild that he still loves and cares for. What helped me get over the hump of it was my listening to a talk by Thomas Hübl, who expressed something that I knew but he said it with greater clarity and coherence: “Things that don’t fit the core of one’s life will have to go, and those that fit will come in the liberated space.”
“Firing myself” as renewing my relationship with Enlivening Edge
Having considered all of the above, I decided to fire myself from EE, at least from most of my roles, including the Lead Link role. Doing so, I took guidance from Alanna Irving, who wrote:
“Founders need to be free to go found the next thing. The world needs them, and the organisations they leave, to continue to evolve… If you contribute to a team so strong that it no longer needs you, then you have succeeded. If your brainchild has the capacity to use the space you leave to grow in ways you couldn’t even envision, then you have succeeded. If you trust your co-collaborators so much that you gladly hand over to them what you care about the most, then you have succeeded.”
Well, I feel I was lucky because this shift in the direction of where my creative juices are flowing coincided with EE’s own re-invention process that you will soon hear about. It was initiated and facilitated by a group of our members.
In that process, EE moved beyond only being self-managing, and became truly self-organizing, robust enough to self-repair substantial perturbations.
Alanna went on writing, “I never even considered the concept of ‘firing myself’ before working in self-governed organisations. There was getting fired (something done to you, always in the passive voice), firing (done to a person by a company), and quitting (done to a company by a person). Firing yourself is something you do for yourself, and for the company, together.”
“Roles” in the language of Holacracy® are organisational functions necessary to the sustainability and well-being of the organisations. When EE was formed, I took on many roles simply because somebody had to, and there were not many people around. However, I have never been able to perform all of the accountabilities of those roles. Vacating them, I create opportunities for new people to step up to. I hope for–and do what I can for–my stepping down shortly be to be followed by a stepping up.
The response from my partners in EE was supportive and expressed in messages such as:
“It seems to me as a natural step that you follow your calling – your inner voice – feel to be encouraged from our side to let the voice become louder within you.”
“New Partners will arrive, and EE will continue its evolutionary path, with you in a new relationship to it.”
“I am so appreciative of your honoring where your passions are desiring to go!”
“This love, desire and strength that you embody in following your purpose, which is to be/play/work on the edge of the subtle to the manifest in the sense of being in the moment of creation, seems to be what it is really about.”
Somebody else wrote to me about “your decreased intimate involvement with so many important decisions where you have so much wisdom to offer.” My answer was, “That’s what is needed for the EE’s collective wisdom to ripen and trust itself, and I will always be available for advice, without needing that you guys accept it.”
Stepping down and stepping up
Feeling supported by our team, I’ve just removed myself from the 12 roles that I’ve been energizing in EE, except one, the Movement Building role. That support expressed itself, for example, by two of our Partners stepping into three of my old roles. Of course, I care a lot about the continuing success and evolution of Enlivening Edge, so I don’t just drop everything and leave, with no concern for the consequences for the operations of our organization.
I’m fully committed to support those stepping up to the opportunity to join a vibrant, international network of enliveners, particularly in the transition time. As our website says, “Where does your joy and talent match our need? Enlivening Edge is a living system with a life of its own. Imagine stepping into a role that vitalizes the system and energizes you. We invite you to a circle of like-purposed friends who revel in co-creation, re-invention, and serving our evolutionary purpose.”
Enlivening Edge is not only an online magazine, a news hub, and a rapidly expanding global community; it is also social space in which people, working together for reinventing organizations and social systems, are growing and evolving. I’m definitely not the same person who started the EE project 30 months ago, and I’m tremendously grateful for all I learned from and with my wonderful team mates.
I will keep writing my regular column, contributing to the editorials, and possibly, participate in some of EE’s research, advisory, and educational services, on a per-project basis.
Wherever my life will take me next, I will remain in the team, in the broader sense, with all of you, current and future EE Partners, readers and contributors, working for enlivening the edge of the evolution of organizations and social systems.
George Pór is an evolutionary thinker and a strategic learning partner to visionary leaders in business, government, and civil society. He is the originator of Enlivening Edge, and has been publishing the Blog of Collective Intelligence since 2003. A select list of his articles and book chapters on the fields of collective intelligence, organizational and social renewal can be found here. More about George’s work on the enlivening edge of planetary transformation is here.