Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Holacracy & Human Ego (Part I of II)

Transcript: Interview of Beena Sharma with Brian Robertson & Tom Thomison (Part I of II), on March 10, 2011. See part II.

Brian:  Welcome to our next call in our topic, “Holacracy & Human Ego”.  Today we have Beena Sharma on the line with us, and Tom is with us as well, from HolacracyOne. 

We are going to dive in with Beena.  I have actually been really looking forward to this call ever since Beena attended our Holacracy certification training.  It must have been your second or third time through it. I know you have been through it three times now.


Beena: Third time yes, I am happy to say.


Brian: Yes, and you shared some notes here with me, spontaneously on the fly in the workshop, about how Holacracy supports ego development and about how different structures and capacities that tend to show up at the later stages are built into the system.  You had this list that was just brilliant and fascinating.  Some of them I was aware of and some of them I hadn’t even thought about before.  It’s your nuanced understanding of that, combined with your work in polarities, which we’ll get into a little bit here. I’ve been looking forward to this call and I thought it would be great to get some of that wisdom out into the community here and help spread this knowledge.  So, thanks for joining us.  Maybe as a kick off, Beena, do you just want to give a brief introduction?  What is your line of work and what is your focus?


Beena: Sure.  First of all, thanks so much for inviting me.  It is very, very exciting for me to work with Holacracy and see how other technologies that I am working with inform Holacracy and are actually informed by Holacracy,so it’s very neat.  It is sexy and exciting for me to triangulate, if you will, the three areas of Holacracy, ego development, and polarity management.  My background is in large scale change and organizational work.  I have been focusing a lot on leadership development.  In the last five years I have done more work on organizational culture with a developmental focus.  I have been training with Susanne, as you know, for six years.  I am a certified scorer in the MAP instrument.  I have been training in Polarity Management for ten years with Barry Johnson – the original author and developer of the tool kit concept.  I have been working with you guys, I think, for four years now, since the first time I got oriented to Holacracy.  So my work brings all of this together in ways that are very exciting, and I am very happy to share and to point out that it is growing.  The knowledge is growing.  All of us are creating knowledge as we implement Holacracy, and I am very happy to be part of the community.  I also want to take this moment to thank you, Deborah, for all of your notes and the Q&A.  It was very helpful for me to go back and read some of that to reconnect again with how I have worked with it, and how polarity and ego development can impact our understanding of applying Holacracy.


Brian: Yes, for those listening – if you haven’t seen it, that’s a link that Deborah Boyar here posted to the community forums to a blog she has been keeping of detailed notes from all of her implementations together, and there is some great content in there.  You can find it on the forums if you haven’t seen it already. 


Great! Let’s go ahead and dive in!  Beena, so maybe just to start with, you could frame for us a bit about – when you went through the training and you started hearing all these things, how do you see Holacracy supporting development and/or taking capacities that are markers of advanced development and building them in?  What are some of the things that jump out at you the most from what you have seen?


Beena: Because I have been working so much with polarities, that was actually the first big insight.  I was so excited by Holacracy– the structure, the process, the intention, the articulation, the philosophy – and it just made sense.  Everything made sense.  It made sense every moment and because my training in polarities and my understanding of polarity dynamics has taught me that when something is functional, it means some polarities are being managed well.  I ended up really trying to look into what are the polarities that Holacracy manages well.  So just for a moment, to define polarities: polarities are kind of interdependent values or strengths or characteristics that tend to be seen as opposites, but are actually interdependent qualities that are both required for a system to be functional over time.  This applies to both individuals and organizations.  For example, we might speak about something that we are not happy about and that we might complain about. In connection with leadership, we might complain that this leader is very controlling or we might define somebody’s behavior as being very myopic or very tactical, and each of these actually points to the over focus on one value, which actually has wisdom behind it, and points to its interdependent value actually not being seen, and it is positioned as a complaint.  Somebody who is very controlling means the person is exercising their own direction, but not willing to listen, which is the other piece.  So what we want the leader to do is not be so controlling, not be so directive, but actually listen to others and engage and help others to participate.  We don’t realize that when we ask a leader to be very participative, if they neglect the controlling and the directive part they can become overly “participative”, and this then leads to the opposite complaint that this leader is not directive – that this leader is spineless.  This leader is only interested in others’ views and doesn’t have their own view.  We don’t realize that on a day to day basis we are continuously seeing what is missing.  We are continuously stating our preferences and not realizing that we are all operating in the field of these interdependent, opposite values, and we need to learn how to value both. 


You can see that in leadership and you can see that even in an organizational culture.  I just worked with a client and we did a focus group, and I heard from the group that we really value relationships in this organization, but we are scared to really be authentic and not hurt other people.  So it is very clear that here, the other pole is to speak one’s truth, but the trick and of course the art and the significance of the process or need is, how do I do both?  How do I speak my truth and be authentic and how do I take care of everybody?  That is the question.  That is the question that points to valuing both.  That is just sort of an introduction to how we see polarities. Not all opposites are polarities, but all of the polarities can be seen in opposition.  They need to be integrated to help a system or an individual be fully functional and successful and effective.  Is that good for an introduction, and is that useful?


Brian: Yes, that is great.  I was wondering, can you give just a few more examples of different polarities just to give a sense for what you are talking about even more?


Beena: Yes – since this is a short call, I’ll just jump into what I see in Holacracy, and people who are familiar with Holacracy would be able to recognize.  So some polarities that Holacracy really manages well are:  one is discipline and freedom.  What Holacracy does with its structure and processes is provide a discipline.  It is rigorous about the discipline.  However, it is completely freeing because you are not tied to predicting or sticking by what happened before; you are completely free to respond to what is reality, and what is emerging in the moment. The discipline and freedom is a great polarity that I think Holacracy has in its DNA.  Another is agency and collaboration.  Agency is having one’s own autonomy, sharing ones truth, taking responsibility for what one sees, so in this case the sensor who surfaces the tension is expressing agency.  However, the response to that tension comes from the group.  It’s a collective response to the tension on behalf of the organization.  The whole system is collaborating to address the tension to refine the proposal to make the proposal workable, so it is a fantastic harmonizing of agency and collaboration.


Brian: Another great example of that one, I think, is the Integrative Decision Making process itself used for governance. It’s a collaborative, integrative process where everybody has a voice, where everyone can sense a tension and get it processed, and we have a collaborative process for defining autocratic power that we can then go execute in our roles with agency.  It’s this beautiful blend of both of those poles.  We are not over privileging autocracy nor are we over privileging a more collaborative group process. We are giving a collaborative process to define agency and then allowing that agency to execute agentically.  I love this about the polarity harmonization – it is not a least common denominator.  We are not finding some compromise between collaboration and agency.  We are actually using each to enhance the other.  It is safer to have more agency when we have an incredibly collaborative process to define what that agency is going to be.  It is safer to have a highly collaborative, integrative process when we know that we can go and use agency afterwards to get things done fast.  


Beena: Absolutely, yes.


Brian:   Maximizing both sides of the poles in a positive and using them so we don’t get the negative side of that pole.


Beena: Yes, absolutely, and the thing about polarities is that they need to be harmonized all the time.  So at any one point in time it is quite okay to privilege a pole because the context demands it, yet over time the other pole is addressed at appropriate times in order to bring the system balance, so that you are not left in the downside of over focusing on one end and neglecting the other.


Brian: Yes.


Beena: So the over time piece is important.


Brian: Yes, and we have dynamic steering to get us there to do that, so we’re not trying to build the perfect system that maximizes both of these forever after.  It is in the moment, in the context and then being fluid to change to something else in the next moment, in the next context.


Beena: Right, and if you look even at dynamic steering as terminology or as a title or as a phrase, it’s a paradox.  It is dynamic and it is steering.  The steering implies control and dynamic implies flexibility.  That is just another little example to point to.  The fact that there is a rigorous and structured process and there is a dynamic philosophyand if you [had] either of these it wouldn’t be functional.  For example, you could come up with a dynamic philosophy as a reaction to the conventional, rigid, structured, predictive process and you could reject it.  You could reject that and say we need to be dynamic and then explain not having the rigor by saying its dynamic.  That is chaos.


Brian: That is chaos, right.


Beena: By the same token, you could focus on the rigorous and structured process, recognizing that that is needed; if we really want to achieve anything we need that.  Then say that because we have this, we can’t be dynamic because we need to be rigorous.  It is a very difficult argument to actually not defend or defend either way.


Brian: Yes, it is.  That reminds me of an organization I went into as a consultant.  This was back in my software development company.  It was a big company that had a little internal war going on between one department of auditors that wanted disciplined, clear process and structure, because of the public company’s auditing needs that had to get met, or else they were out of business.  On the other side was their software development team that was using an agile method, and they wanted total dynamic flexibility to respond on a dime.  Each side felt that the other was just a negative, bad opposite that they couldn’t possibly integrate without harming what they did.  I laid out Holacracy for both sides and showed them how it got both needs met.  Ironically the auditors who wanted a clear, disciplined, structured process said, “I love it.  It is even more clear than what we are doing now; you will never sell it to those ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ guys.”  When I told the agile software team about it, they said, “We love it.  It gets us more adaptability, and more flexibility than we have now.  You will never sell it to those auditors who just want everything locked down.”  It is fascinating to see how these polarities are often perceived of as being so at odds that there is no integration – that they are in an either-or relationship and that whichever one we prefer, we tend to see the other in its negative.


Beena: Exactly.  Even the language is reflective of that as you just said.  The other group saw the gain as adaptability, but it was seen by the other group as flying by the seat of their pants.  They described the other group, not in terms of rigor and clarity, but in terms of having everything locked down, which is a negative thing.


Brian: Exactly.


Beena: So in making these fine-tuned distinction, value and language clarification is a big part of the maturing process, which is a part of where ego development comes in.  When you make these distinctions and when you change your language from defining it as a negative to really looking at what is the value and how do we clarify the language around seeing the wisdom, it actually helps you to hold both.


Brian: Yes that totally resonates.  I love this as a general principle – if I understood you right – the general principle you hold as a way to look at any method or system, or whatever, to look at, what does it do with polarities?  Is it privileging one side at the expense of another or is it doing a dynamic harmonization across the polarity?  You can really look at a lot of things that way and get a sense for do they hold water, based on how they work with polarities. 


Beena: Yes, I would agree.  I use it as a quality check for any model or any framework.  If I come across a new concept or a new tool, a new technology, I am looking to see - does this system or framework privilege some poles and neglect others?  If it does, I know that there is dysfunctionality imbedded in it.  There is a predictive power to the polarity dynamic you can predict because that is the way it works.  If you privilege one, you will end up in the downside of over-focusing on that one and neglecting the other.  You will face the difficulty of not having the interdependent value that is required, actually, to maximize the value of what you are privileging in the first place.  To neglect the interdependent value undermines the very value you are trying to support. That is also interesting.  So from your example in dynamic steering from the rigor – if you are looking at the rigor and dynamism within Holacracy– if you focus only on dynamism you will get the benefit of that for some time, and then over time if you don’t bring rigor into that you cease to be dynamic.


Brian: Yes.


Beena: A couple of other examples, if I may, of polarities within Holacracy?


Brian: Please.


Beena: Holacracy does a great job of supporting the system to leap, act and experiment on the one hand. It is action oriented.  Just do it.  Take the decision that you need to do, now.  On the other hand it also has a process for reflection, reviewing and revising and changing things.  In a way it is similar to being dynamic, but what it does is it balances action/experimentation on one side and then review/reflection on the other, which is why it is so functional.  The other polarity I was thinking of is that Holacracy provides time and space for each individual to be heard.  The natural inclination is for us is to think, “Oh, time for everybody to voice it?  Oh my gosh, this is going to take years!”  On the other hand, it has achieved great speed and quick decision because there is a process to do that.  There is a way to do both that makes it so effective, so you have this sense of patience in Holacracy that over time you feel you can bring up everything that you sense.  Everything that comes on your radar, there is the space to bring it, to voice it, to articulate it and we can very quickly and nimbly, adaptively as a whole system, move forward. That is a great polarity that I think Holacracy ensures is managed well.  Another one I talk about was the polarity ofevolutionary purpose and expedient purpose, which I really love.  While there is the reference point of the evolutionary purpose of the whole system, in the moment we are focusing on the expedient purpose… what is expedient now? What is the next step? What’s the next action?  What’s the most workable?  What don’t we have to do until we actually need to do it?  And to me all of that is speaking to addressing the expedient purpose… however the larger frame is that we are moving towards our evolutionary purpose. I think that’s really a beautiful polarity to see in Holacracy. And I have several others, but I think these are good, basic ones to look at.


Brian: Yes, absolutely. It also points to, I think, one of the interesting things I’ve noticed in presenting Holacracy to various people and organizations, there’s almost something in it that somebody’s going to really resonate with. And there’s usually something in it that’s going to be really alien that’s just going to be uncomfortable at first. I think that the natural factor of having so many polarities integrated is that whatever our own preferences, it’s likely that we’re going to find a polarity in Holacracy that totally embraces our preference and totally embraces its interdependent opposite. So, that’s both the hook and the challenge. And it’s fascinating to see — I see people really strongly resonating -- and it’s different parts for different people -- but then they get the challenge of the interdependent opposite that’s actually not only embraced, but it’s by embracing it that we make more space for our preference, for our preferred side of the pole. I think that has an interesting effect, at least anecdotally; I’d love to get some good data on at some point on the development of the people who are living in this system and going into it — when they see everything they know to be true embraced even more than they’ve seen it before, and they see its opposite actually forming it and structuring it. That’s a fascinating experience to have a mirror held up to your own preference and its opposite, and how both support your preference — how the opposite actually is needed as a mutually interdependent piece of what you prefer.


Beena: Yes.


Brian: …even when it’s something you tended to demonize maybe naturally.


Beena: Yes, and because of the rigor of the process and the discipline to stick to the process, it helps people hold their attachment a little bit more loosely. If you didn’t have that rigor, it would be easy for people to hold on to what they prefer.  But I think the process ensures there’s an invitation for me to see it and to integrate the other perspective.  And that’s why it’s also a huge lever for maturity.


Tom: Yes, I think that’s a really good point and something that I very much appreciate, Beena, you bringing to the table.  We first did the interaction styles exercise — actually in our very first training, really pointing to the biases that we each hold as individuals and facilitators, and what we found, interestingly enough, is that it also pointed to the polarities that those styles might embody.  So, when you took the course, you kind of embellished and fleshed that out in a much more rich framework, looking at all the types of polarities that we as humans can see or resonate with. And then we are now able to articulate that even better in terms of the separation of the polarities that are being resonated with and the people that have them. So we’re not trying to integrate the people, but the process is trying to integrate the polarities at play. Right?


Beena: Yes.


Tom: So we’re not trying to get people to agree with their own preferences, or to integrate individually, but to allow the resonance of the polarities that they see or they prefer and allow those to come forward. So there’s a de-coupling, a de-personalizing of what you can see, and then what’s being integrated with the process of Holacracy’s Integrative Decision Making.


Beena:  That’s great. Thank you. Actually, thank you, and I’m glad to hear that you are taking it to the next level, and there’s another reason why that’s useful; at an earlier developmental stage people are able to identify themselves by the broader patterns, and you will find a lot of people resonate with the styles as they are defined and articulated, like I’m the, you know, “behind the scenes” guy, and they resonate with that definition. At the later stages of development, people are seeing more distinctions, and at the next level of granularity they may not identify with the whole package. They may say, “Yes, I think I’m like that but in some situations I don’t do that. So now they begin to think of contextual variations, how they are different in different situations, and for people who have that heightened sense of awareness it’s useful then to look at the pole preferences within each pattern. So, a “behind the scenes” person tends to prefer a particular way of behaving, and so when you break it down we can identify with the pole preferences and it still gives them a developmental or a learning sort of goal, to  “Okay, now I can integrate the opposites,” and they don’t have to be stuck with the idea that they’re not quite the whole package. You know what I mean?  So, it helps people identify the aspects of the type, rather than reject the whole type because I don’t see it inside myself. And so, working with the polarities that are within each type of the pole preferences rather but then each type is very useful for some people.


Tom: Yes, that definitely hit home as well.


Brian: Just to clarify for those listening, what Tom’s referring to and Beena was just responding to, too, is a model that we rolled out in our five-day Certification Training to highlight some of these polarities at play, and how our own preferences can either get in our way or be harnessed for what we bring to Holacracy. We do a little module where we identify different natural patterns of preferences and then show how Holacracy actually harmonizes the polarities behind them. So, that was that model.


Tom: And it was first introduced as a way just to demonstrate that we all have natural biases and preferences. And I think what we uncovered through that exercise is what Beena is pointing to was fleshed out is that we move away from the self-identification of “I am a such-and-such type,” or “I have a such-and-such temperament,” or “I prefer a certain polarity.” We de-couple that languaging from the person to the process that’s being sensed. And we integrate the processes. We integrate the poles. We integrate the preferences, not the people.


Brian: So, let me move on, I want to take a question here I see from Kallie.


Kallie: Tom, what you were just saying was very helpful but I was just struck in the middle of the earlier conversation of how this idea of polarities and how it plays into Holacracy is really helping me understand why Holacracy works. I mean I certainly see it. I took that first course but, you know, trying to explain it to somebody - why is it that there’s something in it for everybody? Why does it work?  Why does it help evolution?  And to me this is explaining why. It’s because it’s not leaving anything out. So, thank you. This is a great topic.


Beena: You’re welcome. Yes, and to me, that makes for a more integral and integrated approach, which can be sustainable over time. Another couple more things to point out, Brian — is there time, or do you want to go somewhere else?


Brian:  I have one more comment on the polarities piece before we move on.


Beena: Yes, what I want to say is on the polarities piece.


Brian: On the polarities piece, then go ahead.


Beena: So, some of the polarities I pointed out are kind of obvious because they happen at different points in time — so there’s a kind of separation of time and space when you focus on one thing. So for example when you focus on experiment and act you know you’re doing it in the tactical meeting, you’re coming up with next actions. You’re doing the project, sort of tracking, and then when you do the review and revise, that’s happening at another time, you know when you’re doing proposals, you’re surfacing tensions and you’re refining proposals — so you can still see that these are two separate values that are being addressed, or separate processes.  What strikes me also about Holacracy is the paradoxes that you see that make it even more powerful, and the way for this purpose that I define a paradox is when you have these interdependent opposites or poles coexisting — at the same time, simultaneously. So the time and space collapses and you have them both right there. And that’s paradoxical because our brain, which is more function, our logical brain can’t understand how can both be happening at the same time? And that’s sort of so, sexy and so interesting so the couple that for me stand out in terms of paradoxically what are the polarities that we see, the one I really like is there’s less egoism and there’s greater engagement simultaneously as a result of Holacracy. That means there’s less, sort of, investment and there’s more investment. There’s less investment in one’s own way of looking – there’s a greater investment in what’s best for the system. That’s one that I see that’s almost paradoxical and the other one is delay, postpone, don’t act, and at the same time be utterly responsible to what is needed right now. That’s another paradox. Emergence and speed is another paradox. And then I love this one – there’s a subjective expression with an objective holding. So I have the freedom to really subjectively express my interpretation of reality in the form of a tension, and I’m invited and asked to hold it objectively on behalf of the system and not be attached to it. I mean how beautiful is that?


Brian: That’s cool. That’s really cool. I love how you can articulate and pull those out. That’s just amazing work, Beena. Really, really cool pointing out.


Beena: And then the rigor and relaxation – almost with Holacracy you can relax into reality. And there’s rigor that holds you. To me, this is yoga. The meaning of yoga is union – its union of opposites – so yoga is essentially about collapsing duality and I think Holacracy does that. I mean I never defined it that way myself before but it just came up in the moment. Holacracy is a yoga. It’s an organizational yoga.


Tom: Yes. That really makes a lot of sense.


Brian: It really does. I love it. The integration of the polarities and especially the paradoxes too - for me just the - it still, even after working with it so intensely for so many years now it astounds me. Just to see it is –it’s almost mind boggling, like you said – how can this be – and yet you experience it first hand with these paradoxical experiences that the brain almost doesn’t believe can happen simultaneously and yet you’re in two simultaneously different experiences at once. It’s very, very weird. Really cool.


One other comment I wanted to make on the polarities, and then I’m really curious, Beena, to get some of your thoughts on some of how the structure builds in capacity. I wrote a blogpost on this a while ago called “The Limits of Company Values”. And this was a learning for me back when I was building my software company, and so many of our progressive organizations today are really tuned into this whole values driven company mindset, and trying to uncover core values and then align with core values, and that’s exactly what I did when I started my software company ten years ago or so now. It was actually through the success of that – it built an amazing incredible environment for so many reasons – but with the success of that came with a new awareness, which was that all of these values that we’ve articulated are polarities, and by institutionalizing a privilege to one side of the pole, we were also institutionalizing a rejection of something else the organization needed. This is I think a real challenge for the values driven organization even though there’s so much in that that is a leap forward from the modern norm. Instead, and this was the question that really came true, came alive, for me by seeing the success and the dark side of the company values approach was instead, how do I not build an organization where we have institutionalized the bias towards one side of the pole while rejecting its valuable opposite. But instead how do we hold a space where all values can arise and can collapse in the moment to whichever one is going to be most useful, given the purpose, and then let it go and collapse on its opposite, if that’s what’s needed to be most useful, given the purpose. So how can we move from institutionalizing a set of values to holding a space where we all can tune into whatever values we bring naturally ourselves, bring them forward and let the organization find the most useful one right now for moving us forward. And that is a shift beyond just building the organization around some limited set of human values, some limited set of polarities and moving to an organization capable of dynamically harmonizing multiple polarities. Does that resonate with your experience Beena?


Beena: Absolutely. I’m going to take a risk here and say I know the answer. What I mean by that is an organization needs to articulate values in pairs. To me this one of the most blinding insights I got when I first started working with polarities that values come in pairs. Period. So whenever you pick any value, absolutely any value that’s important and then you ask yourself, well what if I overdid this? You know? You would realize that if you overdid this, you would end up in the downside or a dysfunctionality or a mess or a difficult situation and then you would recognize that well, what I need to heal this or balance it or harmonize it with is its interdependent opposite. So organizations can do a huge service to themselves by not having linear unipolar value lists, but really come up with values in pairs. Anybody who’s working with a company, an organization, a trainer, a teacher, a resource would do a great service to the organization by helping them look at values in pairs. And that goes for competencies, even leadership competencies – we say that leaders need to be transparent and authentic. Well that’s great, but they also need to be cautious and prudent. If you were totally transparent and authentic and you let everything hang out, you would realize that you would create chaos in the system. Or you say that leaders need to be visionaries. Yes, great. They do need to be, but if they’re only visionaries then you’re going to say he’s got his head or she’s got her head in the clouds and her feet are not grounded in reality. It’s very natural for us to see what’s needed, but it usually comes up as a complaint. And so that’s the other thing that the polarities work helps us to do is to not really complain about what’s wrong with what is, but to heal what’s wrong with what’s missing. So the downside of a pole is related not to inherently the privileging of that pole – the downside is because what is left out is causing the downside. So you don’t have to let go of anything – you simply have to include – in order to bring about that balance.


Brian: And I love that that shifts the exercise from just choosing a preference – a pole and collapsing to it and all that negative. It shifts that to, not just what are our human values that we are going to privilege, but rather what polarities are most critical for us to focus on and harmonize here, which is actually a totally different question than what are our values even if you express them by value statements.


Beena: Absolutely. Yes and even if you chose to articulate it as “what are our values” to make sure that “what are our values in polarities” and then the learning process is, “How do these really in the moment do the best job of knowing what’s appropriate, what poles, to what degree of preference is appropriate in a particular situation” – because it’s never a 50/50 – its never that I need to do equal amounts of focus on individual and team. In a certain context, you need to put all your eggs on the team, and in a certain context you actually need the support from key individuals to get the benefit of doing both.


Brian: I love it. That really resonates. I’m with you on the answer. That’s awesome.


Beena: Okay, great. I wanted to move on.


Brian: I was just going to say, let’s move on. I know you have some other insights – I want to make sure we have time for them.


Beena: Yes. I actually had an epiphany just five minutes before I was getting onto this call, which I’m dying to share. Before that, just a little bit about the ego development process – so you had great calls with Susanne and Terri, and so I just want to point to a couple of other things about ego development that I think are reflected in Holacracy. In no particular order, let me talk about sensing and empowering each individual in the organization to become a sensor, and validating and legitimizing that. That is a maturity vehicle or a maturity move because you see that as people develop from earlier stages to later stages, what they can sense and what they can be aware of increases. It's like what's on your radar expands. So you can see more and more and you can see more fine-tuned, more nuanced signals than you saw before. So the fact that you are creating sensors in the organization means that you are actually developing the antennae of each individual and that is a greatly, greatly supportive of the maturing process. Other things in Holacracy actually support that because since you're not so attached to the position you've taken in the past you know, you are being adaptive, you're being dynamic, it opens up your ability to see more because now you're not pushing anything away. You said in one of your calls about the ruthless focus on reality. Because it frees me to acknowledge reality, I'm not suppressing anything, I'm not repressing anything, I'm not rejecting anything. Now, when I'm open, I see more and when I see more, I share more and when I share more, everybody sees more and then we all see more. That’s a very, very big part of, I think, the maturing process over time; you are developing sensitive sensors that all become mature through the process.


The second thing I want to point out too, is that whole focus on reality. One of the ways of defining maturity is that people who are more mature or who are at later stages of maturity are closer to reality. It's as simple as that. The maturing process is when you begin to look at your own filters and you begin to acknowledge what is real, what's not real, what you've created, what you've constructed. You're continuously searching for getting beyond what you've constructed, to really get in touch with what is. That is sort of a subtle description of that trajectory and soin Holacracy then your whole focus is on reality and you are helping people to not have blinders on. You're helping people to have more courage to look, to see and to express what is, which is a maturing process.


Brian: We've talked about that a lot.


Beena: And there are a couple of other things, which I have actually already posted.  I’ve posted a little list on the discussion forums, so I don't want to repeat that. But I do want to talk about the epiphany unless you want me to pause and see if there's a question or response to what I just said.


Brian: Let's do both. So, just inviting everyone here if you have any thoughts to share you're welcome to click the raise hand button on the lower left of the online interface. If you're in the web browser or type it into the chat for us and I'll call on you as soon as we can and integrate you as we go. If you're just calling in on the phone, then you're going to have to wait and hold on until we have an open space later, which we might depending on timing. If you're with us here on the online platform and you have anything to say, please feel free to jump in. Just click the raise hand button on the lower left or type something. Any feedback is welcome - comments, reflections, remarks, questions, whatever's coming up. With that said, while people are typing some things in, in the meantime, I couldn't agree more with the comments: “It is really exquisite.  That's just brilliant. The articulation, the clarity with which you could point that out is just absolutely amazing.” But that said, I think there is more coming!


Beena: Okay, thank you. So now just to relate polarities and ego development. We do know that people at postconventional stages of development naturally harmonize opposites. They begin to see that either/or is not adequate for the complexity that they can see. They begin to see both and. That is how we naturally move into a more sophisticated understanding of reality. So, from another perspective, practicing and working with polarities is a great tool to move from a conventional mindset, to a postconventional mindset. Which then follows, that if Holacracy is harmonizing all these polarities, it's a great vehicle for moving people from a conventional mindset to a postconventional mindset. Holacracy itself is a major maturity delivery vehicle in a system. That’s the epiphany that I had today was when I was looking at all the polarities that Holacracy manages well.  For example, speed and quality quick decisions, time and space to be heardresult focus, purpose focusedintentional, emergent;rigorously structured and dynamicexpedient purpose, evolutionary purposeagency, collaboration. Of all of these polarities, if you look at the first pole they’re all conventional values, and the second pole, the inter-dependent poles are post conventional values.  You can see that. You see the movement in conventional. You move from independent to inter-dependent. You move from having an intention to really being open about what's emergent. You move from something that’s rigorous and structured, you move from that to dynamic. You feel that shift from conventional to postconventional, and the epiphany that I had today was what Holacracy does.  It helps integrate the conventional and the postconventional, which means it helps you include and transcend and it doesn't give you the option of transcending and excluding, which happens in the messy process of human development. We all know that in our aspirations and in our transformational sorts of effort and endeavors, it's very easy to transcend and exclude, because we see the benefits of what's not yet there. We see what is pulling us in terms of rising to pull us up to the next level. We use the energy from rejecting what was there before to push up towards what we want, and Holacracy doesn't allow that. It doesn't allow you to exclude. It's very rigorous about including, which means it has such an integrity that it helps people be more whole. So this is to me, like, again, an epiphany, which just came five minutes before this call; I was thrilled to notice how solid the system is from this perspective.


Brian: Yes, Yes. Wow.


Tom: Yes, thank you for that.


Brian: Yes. That really, really resonates. It's funny, I've worked with this so much day in and day out, that it becomes very ordinary. It’s just the way Holacracy runs.  It's the way we live.  It becomes very normal. I have to say, this talk has really reignited my own sense of awe about this practice and about this system. When you really look at it - all of those things it does, in a grounded way that helps an organization be more effective. You know, it's equally relevant today for the world's challenges and organizational struggles. Yet it has all of these other beautiful capacities filled in.


Beena: Yes, it's incredible, and I think it's our responsibility as practitioners and as anchors of this approach to help articulate the depth of what, we are initiating or supporting or enabling so our clients can see it too and be energized.  Energized by it rather than have a feeling that “oh this is overwhelming.  There is so much to work with” -- and it's really not easy. It's not easy because this is dealing with a matrix of paradigms that need to shift. It's not just a few paradigms so, I think it's very energizing for us to be more present to understanding our own realities as individuals in our unfolding and to be present to the unfolding of the collective and the system in an open way that Holacracy encourages. And it creates the platform for us to do it. It’s incredibly liberating.


Brian: Yeah I love that word and it is so much my experience in the process – it is just, in a word – liberating. You don’t have to understand  everything you just beautifully articulated to just be in the process and get that experience of liberation.  It is liberating as everything we are, everything we bring, all of the wisdom we have is embraced or enfolded in some way and more, and there’s a liberating quality to be ourselves and be a part of the system that uses us.


Beena: And if I may sort of summarize what you’re talking about, one of the core reason that’s liberating, is because it is liberating to be free of the either/or mindset, and it is liberating to be free of our preferences  to the extent that we can use them in the service of the collective. I just worked with a client where we worked on their culture and the polarities that they were struggling with in their culture, and for the first time their culture was articulated in terms of polarities and the one thing we heard -- they had six hundred people go through the program -- the one thing we heard consistently at the end of every session was people coming up to presenters and saying, “This is very freeing. This is very liberating.” So that you don’t feel this internal resistance that comes up when you are listening to somebody point to only one of the poles. I think one of the secrets – I mean Holacracy is much more, but one of the fundamental secrets of the success of Holacracy is, I think, its harmonizing of polarities.


Brian: It’s such a beautiful way of summarizing it. Just looking at that one core aspect it communicates so much. Deborah asked a question here. I think you probably just hinted at some of the answer just then - how do you present Holacracy to a more conventionally minded organization or people within that organization in terms of the polarities?


Beena: I might actually not talk about polarities conceptually, because it’s hard to in a sense grok it just by talking about it, so what  I tend to do  is work with it implicityly myself and then watch and observe when I’m hearing a person or a subgroup pull to work the particular pole in the conversation, and then I might do it just in time, or just in the moment, pause and say, let’s just observe a little bit of what’s going on and then first I would affirm the pole that they are pulling towards – rather than resist it. I would talk about yes why there’s wisdom in it, and then I would ask  that group if they’ve ever experienced when it’s overdone or the opposite is missing.  So I might language it in a way that either references what they have already heard, so they  understand it in their own context, or I might just ask a very simple question and help them see and acknowledge, because I know that they will experience it. It’s just that when we privilege something, we  over tolerate the downside because we can’t dare to think that we would have to let go of that value, but nobody’s asking you to let go of the value, but just to recognize that something else here is missing that could actually help you get more benefit out of the values that you’re already privileging and focusing on or preferring. So basically – my answer would be: keep it simple, keep it slow, listen to what’s popping up and if it’s obvious follow where the client is going and help them see what they’re not seeing by using their own example.


Brian: That’s so similar in what I do in teaching Holacracy as well. Just naturally, when somebody pushes against part of it and I sense it’s because they’re resonating with the value of something else on the polarity, I first affirm how Holacracy first helps get their value met, and show them how that is embedded and validate that and show how the opposite actually helps them get more of that. It’s very powerful to pull that and work with the polarities and highlight in that way. It is just one of the most powerful ways of highlighting this and when you have a system that naturally embraces so many polarities and harmonizes them in real time, it’s actually pretty easy to get around resistance and concerns if you can help tune into those polarities and show them in the system.


Brian: Well we are unfortunately out of time. I get a sense that we can probably continue for a while – this has been just utterly fascinating, Beena, and I just so appreciate your capacities to point out these underlying polarities and paradoxes in such exquisite language. Really enjoyable, and it ignited my own sense of passion for this work all over again. Thank you so much for joining us, for sharing that with us and thanks everyone for joining us; it was very inspiring. Thanks so much. 


Beena: Thank you so much.  I look forward to more writing and talking about it, and practicing it.  Thank you everyone.

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