For an introduction to this expanding meta-thread see Integral Anti-Capitalism pt I. We continue here because we have, hilariously, exceeded this website's capacity...


I agree that holacracy should be singled out for special investigation. The provocative notion that we are dramatically over-emphasizing the need for "conscious leadership" pertains very pertinently to this discussion. Robertson, like ourselves, is pointing to the fact that business (organizations) which integrally improve the interiors and cultural
spirit of their participants are still predisposed to certain outcomes as a result of their actual structural habits of communication and their specific decision-making protocols.
His notion of a constantly self-correcting dynamic organization drawing upon the capacity of individuals to act as tension-sensors relative to the "evolutionary purpose" of the organization is compelling and admirable.

More important is simply that he is making a stand and making an attempt to construct a protocol (constitution). I am not fully versed in the 4.0 version of the holacracy constitution but we should get deeper into some of these proposals.  

Given the level of your current knowledge of their protocols, what would you want to change or add in order to ethically and functionally empower this approach even more?


First some housekeeping in providing links in part I to comments on holacracy: their website, comment 1, comment 2, comment 3 (and 3 more on p. 7), and the first 7 comments on p. 8

I’m not yet familiar enough with holacracy to know it might need. So for now I’ll ask questions.  From p. 8 there was a blog post on ownership and the model might (but not necessarily) include outside capital investors. I asked:

“One question immediately pops up on outside investors. Are there limits on the amount of outside capital investment? What if their investment is such that without it the company could not financially survive? And/or depends on it for start-up? Then such investment would control the company, like it or not. If you don't do what I say I'm taking my ball and going home. No ball, no ballgame. Not the same as a mortgage or loan company.”

Granted why such investors are included on the Board there are other stake-holders to balance their input. But are there rules about which outside individuals or companies can invest? Do they have to have similar values like triple bottom lines instead of just profit for their investors? Can a Goldman Sachs provide start-up capital? Or Romeny’s ex-firm, Bain? Just wondering, so perhaps it’s time for those out there more familiar with the system to engage us?


I appreciate your inquiry about the potential influence of outside investors in holacratic systems. Perhaps they have a good protocol for that. Or perhaps not. In general, all "smart groups" need to comprehend and anticipate the distortion influence that donors and enablers wield. The psychology of human nature shows that we may believe ourselves to be quite sturdy and impartial while we are really bending in the breeze.

One of the concerns I had while perusing the holacracy constitution was about the voting procedure for filling roles. There are many parts of their approach which impress. In particular I would like to make not of the necessity to place constraints upon discussion. When the mention of a concern is met with the mention of counter-concerns then the intelligence and practical efficacy of discussions drops dramatically. A highly suspicious mind might even supposed that the human hive is encouraged to engage in the constant casual usage of dysfunctional conversation. So their use of controlled phases in both operational and hiring decisions is admirable. However, their actual voting protocol seems (to my naive glance) to be based on a model of transparent majority. A sophisticated "show of hands".

So this may be an area in which holacratic principles can be expanded to include a more thorough use of "secret ballot" and "averaged ranking".

The former often seems like a show of bad faith and an invitation to covert dangers... but these are considerably outweighed by the liberation of individual intelligence from any conscious or unconscious concerns about the social consequences of their input.

The latter evades a primitive "first past the post" approach in which our intelligence is functionally limited to a yes/no determination about each candidate relative to other candidates.

Another thing I admire about holacracy is that it represents a functional procedure and culture in which participants would appear to become better participants by participating. Their capacity and ethical commitment to the good of the organization through its evolving protocols should be an increasing trend. Any smart group needs to be arranged so that even people who try to distort the results will find their capacity and will to do this reducing over time. Replaced by the inspirational efficacy of the group.

This brings me to another issue relative to voting, both in political and economic groups. That is the relative absence of specific instructions about how to translated ones feelings into a vote-mark. This is almost completely unaddressed in terms of popular elections. To discuss it even seems insidious to some people who fear coercion (and/or wish to maintain the current material power structures).

Protocols should have at least a clear suggestion about how to locate both "gut" and "intellectual" data within ourselves and convert that into a numerical value which can be contributed to a group decision. A lack of clarification at this critical junction may act as an invisible source of drag upon an otherwise very functional group organism.

It might even be possible to define an "integral-level organizational set up" for business or politics by simply compiling a list of areas in which intelligence and capacity are distorted. We might recall that most of Wilber's philosophy has emerged in levels correlated to his discovery of "fallacies" or "basic errors". Integral proposals about business and society could be all over the map unless there is a reasonable set of constraints that make sure they fall in the most lucrative zone.

So other than the potential influence of outside "helpers" and "donors" what other sources of distortion or inhibition do you see going mostly unaddressed in otherwise progressive groups?


My next question of holacracy is who came up with it? It seems to be the pet project of Brian Robertson, his own brainchild. I'm wondering if that is so of if it was a community or P2P project? I mean, the structure of holacracy itself calls for distributed decision-making but was the creation of holacracy itself derived from this process or mostly dictated by Robertson? I've yet to find an answer at the site so I posed this question to them via contact info. I'll provide the response if/when received. I think the answer is pivotal in determining if this thing called holacracy arose from its own medicine.


I look forward that answer if it is forthcoming. The notion of self-arising systems is something which haunts the periphery of these discussions. My fantasy is that we can devise a group protocol which so reliably and simply exceeds the cognitive capacity of the individual participants that it would be foolish to predetermine the purpose and nature of the group. Collectively we could a better job of determining what kind of a collective we should be. "Smartgroups" of this kind could then spread through the world in a very radical social uprising. How possible that is remains uncertain...

As I understand holacracy, the different companies making use of it are assumed to engage in their own mutational modifications of the "constitution". So even if Brian wrote the whole thing out in his bathtub it still retains an open source quality. The answer to whether its current forms are or are not the result of distributed decision-making is almost certainly: sort of.

One of the reasons the holacracy approach is so amenable to business organization is that it seems to depend upon the functional axis of a specified purpose. The aim is somewhat pregiven -- our job is to sell widgets or maximize share-holder profit, etc. His use of the metaphor of the sensors on an airplane derives from a mechanism that is assumed to be designed for a well-known purpose.

My question would be whether or not this "aim" is a necessarily functional element in generating enhanced organizational capacity? Or whether it is simply an artifact of the need to make these systems serve a relatively conventional marketplace task?


Your suggestion of a smart group that arises creatively from a continually evolving set of parameters seems to be the intent and practice of holacracy. As to the organizational purpose of Holacracy One, it seems to have multiple bottom lines including but not limited to profit. For example, see this post in the comments where I noted that the top to bottom pay ratio is 3 to 1, and quoted some of those multiple purposes:

"With Holacracy at play, the game is entirely different: with the decentralization of authoritythe separation of people and role, and the dynamic evolution of those roles, we end up with a situation that looks more like free agents going about their work with no central planning. There might not even be a single person who knows about everything you do."

This sounds much more like the sort of emerging P2P organizational structure discussed throughout this thread. And also of significance in the post following this article where The Integral Center of Boulder has "voluntarily relinquished their rights to control their company as owners. Instead, they have ceded authority to a purpose-centered governance process called Holacracy, a model that distributes authority across the organization and gives primary power to the organization itself."

These are indeed advances over the kind of conscious capitalism promoted and AQALly packaged for sale at I-I.


(comment pending)

This is an interesting moment. Apparently is experimenting with a version of holacracy as well. It clearly represents a theoretical advance over the typical kind of conscious capitalism which combines advanced sentiments with a potentially dangerous and uninspected ideological allegiance to more primitive routines of social organization and wealth production. Yet we cannot know the results of the experiment in advance.

I have tremendous optimism about emergent p2p organizational structures. Experimentation is utterly necessary and should be strongly encouraged. I am also very hopeful that advances can be made in terms of quantification. This is very central in my thinking lately.

It seems that experimental protocols for advances social organization systems suffer from the lack of a quantifiable evaluation of their respective degrees of "collective intelligence". Most people are drawn to such possibilities by ethical and aesthetic criteria which do no necessarily persuade the world. So I would love to see experimentation supplemented by the attempt to devise a metric for estimating the intelligence of a social organization protocol.

Along similar lines, my "tetrabucks" type notions represent the possibility/necessity to structure our currency at a level that correlates to advanced P2P organizational structures and post-pluralistic consciousness.

The potential of an evil holacracy has hardly been broached. If it works -- it works. Other than simply the tendency of less complex people not to use more complex systems, and the tendency of more complex systems to complexify their participants, there needs to be some inter-organizational structures which incline all organizations int he direction of broad human well-being. It is my assertion that as long as primary areas of value remain outside monetization the actions of groups trying to utilize official social credits will constantly become unstable.

So I am imagining a line leading from pathological capitalism to standard capitalism to conscious capitalism to trans-capitalist network organizations to such organizations bound together by a integrated set of metrics for determining the intelligence of groups and splicing together (at least) four broad domains of human value.

Along these lines -- how will we decide whether holacratic integral business is working better?


As to how we determine whether alternative economic paradigms are 'working,' I'd suggest that even by the standards of typical business democratic workplaces like co-ops are successful. If by that we mean the organization runs smoothly, has low employee turnover, high employee satisfaction, makes a profit or surplus over operating costs, and other such typical measures. Plus they fulfill their stated purposes as expressed in theRochdale principles, like community education, cooperation, democratic control, etc.

I'd say the same applies to holacracy. They also have to accomplish the usual business parameters like above but also meet stated principles like in their constitution. Given Robertson's business acumen I'm sure at the site he has precise and measurable indices to track such progress, though I didn't try to find them as yet.


(comment pending)

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Cool! Thank-you for that Edward. BTW., there really wasn't need to send Obama a letter as his National Socialist Agency is well aware of you and this site.The  Bill Gates agency also sent me spam shortly after my post last night just to let me know everything is kosher. After all, just like America, these corporate masters are exceptional:)

But really, there is no need to apologize for Obama. In Canada we have the 3 stooges: King Stephen Harper ( i will use all sport as a political propaganda tool), his court jest, Mayor Rob Ford ( if one is a republican drug addict one gets to run a city while democratic drug users go to jail for a very long time), and the fool Justin Bieber ( the corporate Messiah hires people like Simon Cowell to squash dissent and homogenize popular culture into consent).

This 2011 Chomsky interview is called "Beyond state socialism" and discusses primarily libertarian socialism. It was conducted in Norway, one of the happiest and most democratic of countries in the world.

Answering a question about organizational structure for libertarian socialism Chomsky replied around 32:15 that a necessary prerequisite is a "change of consciousness. [...] And the way that happens is through participation and action, not by reading about it." One enaction is "to start with direct democracy where you are," be it a small business or group.

I'll be interested to check this out when I have a moment. I remember a talk Chomsky gave in the 90s on a similar theme and I recall primarily his insistence that libertarian socialism is the natural extension of the principles, methods and goals of "classical liberalism".

Same basic argument, supported by his encyclopedic knowledge of politics, history and economics. At times he wanders off on tangents, but surprisingly for his age he's still smart as a whip and eventually answers the question. Most of the time.

Chomsky was asked if one tried to reform the system from within weren't they in effect just feeding the capitalist beast. He said no, that that was a necessary step on the way to libertarian socialism (LS). That we need to make progressive inroads to transform it from within. He provided numerous examples of LS systems past and present that are quite successful, but in themselves they do not change the dominant system. And when those systems get too successful on a larger scale, the not only the state socialists but the state capitalists will team up to crush them, for such actual democratic liberty is a threat to both of them.

Thing is, state capitalism operates within at least a nominal democratic political system. Granted it does everything in its considerable power to overcome that democracy, but it relies on at least maintaining the facade to prevent outright revolution of the kind that has decimated state socialism. So we need to use that pretense to justify progressive changes within the existing system by winning over the workers of America, the ones getting the shaft by the capitalist plutocrats and their political cronies in government. Time and again we see them give an inch here and there when popular sentiment rises up. And there is some support in our governments by way of some truly progressive politicians that actually believe in democracy and the people. Yes, they are in the minority but they hold true to the democratic ideals on which such constitutions were founded at the expense of actual blood  when tyranny and fascism ruled the day.

So if workers unite and politically fight for democracy we have seen that they do indeed make inroads. As Chomsky said, we change our consciousness by actively participating in direct democracy, not by trying to figure out intellectually how to get there with rules and formulas. In the process of enacting it we adjust to conditions on the ground, organizing systems that fit the circumstances as we go. Yes, LS has general principles to which we adhere, but they are manifested into system working with what we have and changing it. To hold to strictly to idealist systems often misses the necessary elements in front of us, trying to fit everything into a theory, which often then ironically misses such opportunity when presented because it doesn't fit.

Recall this post discussing Human's Ph.D. thesis called "Potential economies: complexity, novelty and the event" (starting here). This post was on how it applies to capitalism, and that the system itself is based on the kind of utilitarian rationality which sees system first as the way to organize economies. If something doesn't fit into it then it is ignored or marginalized. He sees this as an example of a restricted economy and general economies require "a different kind of reasoning," one which doesn't see the idea (ideal) as the most important, again an example of the kind of idealism that dominates the egoic-rational structure. Such idealism ends up creating the kind of state capitalist and state socialist structures that subsume the individual within such set theoretical systems. Whereas this other kind of reasoning (integral?) allows for adjusting to the actual conditions on the ground, remaining open enough to change our contingent organizational structures when necessary. And allowing for the kind of individual autonomy that isn't so self-centered as to overlook its social connections, aka libertarian socialism.

I see the same idealistic dynamic or restricted economy involved in such integral models when based on the same kind of egoic-rational consciousness and its hidden metaphysical premises including a mereology based on the kind of set theory inherent to that consciousness. Whereas we see a different sort of democratic mereology in Bryant and the speculative realists, which I'd suggest is influenced by this other kind of emerging reasoning beyond the metaphysical formal operations inherent to capitalism. And in many cases, integral theory in its support of such an idealistic economic system, as it tends to unconsciously use the same kind of consciousness structure from participating in and enacting not democracy but plutocracy.

See this article showing that Zappos is now using holacracy. Therein it says that Mackey's org Conscious Capitalism is also using holacracy.

From this conversation with Robertson and Klein. The latter is the director of marketing and business development for Conscious Capitalism (CC), Inc. and is using holacracy with the executive team at CC:

"According to Brian Robertson, conscious capitalism can't happen until we find a better way to organize companies. While the movement towards purpose-driven business is great, the organization of the businesses that comprise it cannot weather the shift in the market as they are. If you take new ideas and apply old models, you won't get anywhere."

Now where did I hear that before?

Here's an interesting article about autocracy and custodianship. It doesn't frame it in P2P terms, but that's how I see it. One social organizational example in the emerging P2P meme is holacracy, as we've been discussing here. The article highlights the difference in leadership approach, noting of course that the autocratic way is the dominant one and why of course we have rampant inequality of the kind still maintained since feudal lords. And it ain't democracy in any way, for custodianship is built into its design. He goes into specifics for government, corporations and universities.

In the Robertson/Klein link above, another idea is this:

"What if businesses were more like the free market; full of innovation and iteration? They could evolve quickly, meeting the demands of the market around themselves, while simultaneously allowing all the people who run them to be more engaged and invested."

This is a naive view of 'free markets,' at least as they are today. He might be talking more about how Adam Smith originally envisioned them but capitalist markets today are not at all like this. They both need a good dose of this thread.

From the recorded conversation: In a discussion on discerning an organization's purpose it is different from what the individuals want it to be as their property (around 24:00). And yet that is exactly what capitalism is about, private property (including capital) governing the means of production, and that governed by top-down leaders (governors). Robertson realizes that the organizational structure of this type of governance is the problem, but he doesn't contextualize it to the broader socio-economic structure of capitalism, which is based on private property. Per the first statement above he understands that the organization is not the property of the founders or board members, yet still believes in an idealistic notion of 'free market' capitalism as a societal organizational structure.

If he see into this more deeply he'd see, like Chomsky, that Adam Smith's vision was far more like libertarian socialism, as is what Robertson describes as holacracy. He's acknowledge the 'tension' I'm describing and process it via prescribed holacratic principles and come to see that holding on to some remnant of capitalism is unconsciously reinforcing some of the very principles he claims to overcome with holacracy.

Of course this would create another very real 'tension' in that one of his biggest sponsors, Mackey's Conscious Capitalism, won't like this and will fight it tooth and nail. And perhaps even because holacracy unconsciously assumes capitalism is the best economic system it will remain unseen, as it serves as a 'market' to sell its products.

At around 26:00 Robertson discusses how our ego assumptions and projections are made transparent by holacracy and thus allows for us to overcome them. I'm suggesting that capitalism is one of those assumptions and projections that is not at all transparent. Or overcome.

At around 46:00 Klein asks about how holacracy relates to conscious capitalism. Robertson notes that the conscious aspect is the best one can do to create better leaders in the corporate structure. But the organizational structure itself makes it difficult to impossible to implement the holacratic kinds of change necessary. The structure itself must change which is what holacracy is. Perhaps later Robertson will address the capitalism part of conscious capitalism in the same way? At 53:00 he reiterates something from above, that the free market structure liberates us per Mackey's statements, but nothing more, yet. Again not realizing that it is the evolution of capitalism (or perhaps devolution per Smith) that creates the exact type of corporate structure holacracy seeks to overcome.

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