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Holacracy in creative environments

hi all,

Had an intro discussion with a PR company full of "creatives". 

Their tension is about following a strict process and that its not something they are used to. Of course this is typical, and best is to experience it for a few months. Learn them to process their tensions, and learn them to define their accountabilities that are fit for the creative work they do.

What I need: Who can share a reallife story about an Holacracy implementation in an organization full of creatives. What worked for them and didnt in the implementation? Were they successful? And if so, what especially did they get out of it?

6 Replies
Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Koen,

I implemented Holacracy in a  consultancy company founded by 4 theater actors.

Acually, they'd rather quickly play the game and got into the process, as they realize it is efficient and clarifying.

Ma perspective is that it coulb be easier to practice with creative people instead of technical ones... who could try to challenge the process at any step.

Hope that helps,


Davi Gabriel da Silva

Hi Koen,

I faced a similar challenge in a product development company full of millenials and designers. That is a fact: they usually complain about the strict process. I found that a good solution is to offer them the benefits of the rules. That is, explaining that the process gives more space to the individuals for solving their own problems through experimentation. I usually explain that the IDM process is not a brainstorming, because we want to quickly put the proposal into practice and test its effectiveness through trial and error. 

I hope it helps you

Karilen Mays

Koen: Many teams think that their team is special, and that Holacracy will not work for them. Setting the expectation that it will take 6+ months to give it a fair try will help.

Consider Zappos, where many teams are "creative" and doing brand work, marketing, even party planning, etc. and all sorts of creative things. In most companies of 100 or more, there are some people doing this "creative" work. So I would suggest that this is a broader issue that many teams have faced. I worked with a company of 20 who work on projects, including a large creative component. They do design and development work. This team was very open and got benefit right away. We also worked with a production company; the structure was awkward, but some people took to it right away; it truly depends on the individuals involved in my opinion.

I don't have other cases of whole organizations, but I do have more of teams within larger organizations. Making Holacracy onboarding and bringing creativity to learning Holacracy can be fun and unique if people put their creativity to it, so there may be an opportunity there. (Like one newer team I work with now claps after governance proposals are passed, as a simple example.)

Jeff Kreh

Koen, there are proven benefits for creativity when it comes to structure. Shakespeare embraced the structure of iambic pentameter, which is tough to compose and still sound coherent. A creative person will overcome the personally imposed limitations of structure when s/he embraces the possibility that the structure allows the opportunity to exercise creativity in a dependable and predictable fashion. Holacracy isn't formless, it is like a plant that is being constantly tended, pruned, guided to meet emerging opportunities and challenges . . . the goal is to become so clear on the way we're all tending the plant that we can trust our own and each other's tending intension.

One final analogy: as a performing and studio musician tasked with creating audio art, structure is absolutely essential. The key to creative expression is comfort with the tools (i.e., the instrument, the song's patterns, the lyrical ideas and phrasing, etc.). A guitarist plays scales in every key and mode to perform the right note at the right time in the emerging reality of an impromptu solo, which is as true for highly pattern or rule driven music as it is for freeform jazz.

The fact that there are exceptions to this analogy does not automatically mean that the critics who balk at the idea of practicing are the one in a million prodigy who is beyond improvement through practice. They might just lack the maturity and humility to admit their weakness and risk being improved by something other than their own immaturity and pride. Holacracy will naturally challenge such creatives. However, for the creative willing to admit that there is potential for discovery through pressing up against temporary barriers, holacratic practice may just unlock the latent creativity that only comes from problem solving.


Koen, in our office (running holacratically 7 months and counting), it has been worth our time to take a few time-outs to talk collectively about how things are going. A few elements have been helpful to emphasize (and we've been lucky enough to have peers identify these for one another, rather than top down sharing):

1. Tactical and Governance are not the only meetings or discussion arenas available for staff - these are only 2 specific types of meetings. staff may use other time to noodle subjects to their heart's content,

2. the intention of Holacracy is to put structure around distributed leadership and bring healthy accountability to a healthy anarchy, simplifying rather than complicating life for everyone,

3. everyone shall take several turns practicing the roles of facilitator and secretary to get a solid feel for the process from all angles,

4. finally, using examples of how Holacracy solves specific requests staff had previously identified and made regarding transparency, clarity, authority, etc.

Good luck!



Koen Veltman

hi all, thanks for these reflections! Fully agree that Holacracy fits all environments. For me it is all about making the transition happen. And support the relevant underlying behavior shifts that are most beneficial for a specific client to make so they get the full Holacracy experience. 

@jean-michel: I might reach out soon if we can connect our two clients so they can share their experiences. PR advisors with theater actors. should be interesting anyway. I'll keep an action on my list for it.