Exponential Organizations Book Discussion

Hey SoFA Members!

Sociocracy for All Exponential Organizations Book Club - Book Cover

We’ve been having and Exponential Organizations book club discussion!

If you haven’t been participating, you can still get looped in by reading up on our previous notes from our real-time discussion about the book in our Exponential Organizations Book Club Notes Document “Exponential SOFA - A vision for ‘the great expansion’ in Year 6”

You can also dive into the book and related content easily through these links:
Watch Salim Ismail’s talk at USI
Watch the Salim Ismail’s Ted Talk

Get the book (used from ThriftBooks)

Read about some key concepts:
Massive Transformative Purpose - The Heartbeat of Every ExO
The Motiving Power of Massive Transformative Purpose

But, let’s keep it going here!

Excited to be testing out the new forum.

Please note:

  1. Everyone on the internet can read this Category (which is a sub-category of the “SoFA Members” category), but only SoFA Members can post here.
  2. To post here you will need to be approved as a “SoFA Member” on this forum platform. request through the forum or email support@sociocracyforall.org once you’ve made your account to get approved.

Kicking us off!

So what are lingering thoughts you have since we had this discussion?
To me, I have been thinking a lot about this question, how do we make sure the DNA of what we spread includes social justice and values in general. I guess I am chronically worried that sociocracy will be “watered down” at some point into a neat way of organizing meetings. Although that would also be a nice thing to have (better meetings), it’s by FAR not the relevant thing about sociocracy.
Sociocracy has transformative implications, and I don’t want it to be dumbed down into a self-management style.
For example, I got a bit disappointed recently when I was in a corporate (non-SoFA) context and people were discussing autonomy as a feature in ExO. And they went on to talk about giving people 20% of unplanned time so they can be creative during their work time. That’s a joke compared to what we are about. (And not even a good one.)
But all those implications we haven’t even fully understood. For example, sociocracy and the implications on ownership. Private ownership - and therefore the whole basis for how we think about economics - and self-governance just don’t go together.

I guess maybe that’s a frame that would work for me: choice. If we want to build a world on #consent, then we need to create the conditions so people can even be in choice about their decision. And that has a whole string of implications…

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Lingering thoughts for me:

  • Creating an MTP that people will be so intrigued by, that at a cocktail party they’ll not only want to learn more and ask questions but they’ll get excited about it and it will become part of their lived experience that then becomes part of their DNA in interactions.
  • Sociocracy is more than a decision making and organizational structure, to me, it’s a way of thinking and being in the world. It’s social justice, it’s transformative, it’s fair, flexible and self improving (wish I had an “f” word for that to make it an alliteration)
  • Everyone knows how to make decisions, we do it all the time from what socks to wear to what we believe in. Sometimes people tell us how to believe and we make decisions based on that top down paradigm. Other times we make decisions based on an MTP. To take for example “organizing the worlds information”, when you have an MTP like that, if the organization truly believes in this MTP and the people supporting it, I feel like you have more freedom to make decisions in pursuit of the MTP which could be deciding that 20% of your own time should be working on unplanned creative activities or maybe spending 100% of your time to do the same thing - but you get to decide. The organization is giving us permission to think for ourselves and collaboratively to make decisions that will support and move us toward the MTP.
  • Part of supporting people in pursuing the MTP is that those at the “top” have to be able to trust those doing the work to support the MTP. Therefore the organizational structure, DNA, culture and the relevance of sociocracy and painting that over everyone is very important (not sure the word “painting” is correct but that’s how I see it in my head, maybe disseminating is the right word, but doesn’t give me the same picture).
  • I feel that sociocracy, by design, is an exponential organization in the organizational structure so I keep getting stuck in a loop. The tool, sociocracy, is the product, sociocracy,
  • A feel culture defines the interactions and the culture helps support it.
  • While sociocracy (the system) isn’t owned privately in the economic sense, there is expertise, wisdom, tools and insight, all of which are saleable commodities. To support an MTP and to not “water it down”, culture and practice in which it’s presented can continue to keep sociocracy transformative for people. For example, this forum, when I started to reply it had the tips to remember when replying which included being kind, making sure it improves the conversation and be constructively critical of ideas and not people. It also has an additional link to community guidelines. Those are pieces of the sociocratic culture.

What is Exponential Growth for SoFA?
One of the most interesting parts for me is adapting the concepts and information in Exponential Organizations to our even more mission based use case.

The book, as far as I can remember doesn’t fine the measure of growth explicitly, but references primarily income, but also company size and customer base as measures.

As a nonprofit, and also a social change organization in general, it would make sense that our measures may differ.

Usually nonprofits report on their impact, and I think it’s clear that SoFA’s measure, would be impact, with proxy measures also being budget and organizational size.
It’s normal for nonprofits to report impact on 990’s - things like: # of people served in various ways, # of volunteer hours, etc - along side financial information of course.

I’m excited to see SoFA’s tracking of this improve, and it would make sense for us to integrate it into OKRs, which can feed directly into our 990 narrative.

So what is SoFA’s MTP?
I’m a fan of:
changing the way the world makes decisions together

Although SoFA is a sociocratic orgniazation, I think the word gets in the way a bit. Really, we’re sharing not just a consent based paradigm for decision making (and that can’t get lost!), but also skills and tools, largely soft skills, but it could also be very practical tools to empower that. It’s a badly needed thing!

I notice that the primary benefit of an MTP, other than being mission based (which SoFA already is), is its broadness and flexibility that allows companies to dynamically shift to wherever the energy is and do what’s most needed and most feasible, rather than being stuck in a vision. I see this poential for SoFA as well - for instance, leveraging platforms and skills to share the fundamental mission, and make the practice easier, while reaching a broader audience.

These are some particular thoughts I’m most excited about for SoFA :slight_smile:

For example, I got a bit disappointed recently when I was in a corporate (non-SoFA) context and people were discussing autonomy as a feature in ExO. And they went on to talk about giving people 20% of unplanned time so they can be creative during their work time. That’s a joke compared to what we are about. (And not even a good one.)
But all those implications we haven’t even fully understood. For example, sociocracy and the implications on ownership. Private ownership - and therefore the whole basis for how we think about economics - and self-governance just don’t go together.

No kidding about the implications of this!

This is definitely a departure point from the book, which pretty much only talks about stakeholder ownership and founder ownership models. That could certainly be a whole discussion - or even book - on it’s own!

You ask:

how do we make sure the DNA of what we spread includes social justice and values in general. I guess I am chronically worried that sociocracy will be “watered down” at some point into a neat way of organizing meetings.

I think the many ways it’s built into how meetings work will support that, for example:

  • When you have check-ins and the spirit of the check-ins are shared, it’s a real shift.
  • the process of navigating objections is also a real fundamental part of the practice comes up in meetings, but is a philosophical shift
  • SoFA certainly isn’t just about meetings either, it’s also about organizational structure, and these elements also have inherent impacts.

I think there’s a way that the concrete implications of the system enforce the spirit.

However that can all be easily forgotten and worked around without a commitment to that spirit, and without proper cultural shift and orientation. The importance of ongoing education, and a solid introduction and foundation to the practice cannot be overlooked - but often is!!!

I’m excited about the SoFA’s soon to be released ongoing education feed for this reason - it’s important that the spirit of the practice be constantly re-affirmed and injected to support organizations in cultivating and refining the collaborative and empowered cultured. After all, old habits die hard! and sometimes what seems to be the entropy of the human experience can take hold as we humans fall to habits that seem easier, but are in the long run destructive. These bits do need to be counteracted actively I think :slight_smile:

Yes, you’re right, the content drip and things like that will be tools to counterbalance the ongoing drift back towards mainstream!

Hey!
I’m curious whether there have been any lasting insights from this topic for people on the topic of Exponential Organizations?
I notice myself still following that path. And elements are finding their way into circles. For example, Training Circle is picking up thread of looking at how people can get the very basics of training in a more self-serve way and what the dashboard would have to look like.

Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between communities of practice and circles - I think we can help people more if we either support places where people are already practicing OR we offer more places to practice in communities of practice.

I reread our ideas document and was reminded of building of permutations of our existing content. Some of that is happening. For example, someone is thinking about turning Many Voices One Song into a wiki. That’s cool. Also, Brian has been working with quotes from our content from social media.

I’m glad we’re working more on JEDI topics because it’s important to have it solidly in our minds, practices and the DNA we pass on.

One of the key topics for me, however, is the cross-pollination that Andreas brought up. How can we cross-pollinate more within SoFA (The warm data session is working for me, for example!), and how can we support more cross-pollination outside. Sectors are one avenue, for example, but communities of practice might be another.

Those were some of my stray thoughts.

@vccoffey @vernon.coffey @kare.wangel-1483 @deborah.chang-4363 @brian.tohana @cj.oreilly @jerry.koch-gonzalez @andreas.jonsson @rodger.mattlage @sanket.bihari @Andy.Grant @wendy.pearle @sofie.malm-3492

For me, I’m still very curious about what measure of growth applies to sofa, and tracking this.

In Exponential organizations it has to do with monetary income, company size, etc.

But what is it for a mission driven organization?
I think impact… but how do we measure that?
This is an important question that also relates to grant-ability for fundraising!

I am also particularly excited about the recent developments around supporting sector circles through “sector blueprints” and the “help desk” model for sofa operational circles.

However, the ‘help desk’ model does have a limitation:
It depends on smaller groups to provide for growing needs. That’s good if they can keep up, and have efficent processes, but may be stretched and become a bottleneck. even better would be if the groups themselves are proficient enough to do it themselves. however, the helpdesk model involves traiing!
I am excited about @pcarmona and the work in IT and Website Circle as well as @lea.shani and @eric.tolson 's work to develop training programs. I think this will be a key thing to unlocking sofa’s potential in international circles and sector circles, as well as expanding the capacity for growth through partnerships and sharing SoFA’s content with a broader base.

Also, SoFA would benefit from being able to have more scalable access to human resources - specifically labor, especially skilled labor. Right now the biggest bottleneck seems to be people who are able and willing to do the work!

I wonder if there’s interest in scheduling another realtime discussion - anyone in particular interested?

I think that measuring impact overall (not just in Outreach but overall) would be a worthwhile project.
Makes me go back to my reading of “How to measure anything”.

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