Leadership in a self-organising world

Harrison Owen created or maybe he just channelled the Open Space process many years ago. He says he did so in two martinis and 20 minutes – pretty productive for a process that’s been used hundreds of thousands of times around the world.

Here’s Harrison talking about the paradox of leadership in a self-organising world. It’s fabulous stuff. He serves his metaphorical liquor 100% proof and with great charm. I certainly feel challenged to up my game in future when talking about this stuff.

Harrison Owen – Talk I – Leadership in a Self-Organizing World from Harold Shinsato on Vimeo.

A few notes I made along the way – the meaning I made and not a transcript so your mileage may vary:

There is no such thing as a closed system

Management science is an attempt to manage systems as if they are closed

Management professors have tenure, business authors have books and managers have status which gives them a big investment in the notion of the closed system

There’s no such thing as a non-self-organising system, only people deluded that they are organising it.

We do not get to decide whether to be in a self-organising system, that decision was made 13 billion years ago.

We’re all surfers in a self-organising world. Some of us prefer the beach, and some of us think we’re in charge of the wave. The challenge is to be in the flow of the wave.

Hat tip: Dave Pollard

2 thoughts on “Leadership in a self-organising world

  1. Harold Shinsato

    It was fantastic hearing this lecture in person. You can get a deeper treatment – at least in number of words – by reading Harrison Owen’s book, Wave Rider. But something in the almost cavalier presentation style Harrison uses on a deep topic like this really gives a sense of where he’s coming from. Yes, this is profound, and it’s every day, all over the place, all the time.

    Thanks for pulling out the gems from the video. Something to think about, having just read Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” – there’s actually something about this that cross wires our 50 million years of evolution. It’s just part of wave riding in some sense – but Pressfield talks about the “Hierarchy” approach versus the “Territory” for the artist. The artist is like the wave rider, and she gets her energy from the space that she serves – the territory. But the hierarchy is what 50 million years of evolution has hardwired us – and that means we get our place, our food, our sustenance by climbing up that hierarchy as well as we can, and not upsetting those above us. We think we get our meaning from those around us, at least in the hierarchy.

    Just food for thought – wave riding seems to require we make a jump out of “the hierarchy” and into the void – the space – the territory of the higher Self.


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