Sociocracy – Freeing Potential, Harvesting Value

Love is the Essence of Life 02I spent earlier moments in life perplexed at how relationships that began in so much love could so easily deteriorate towards separation and disconnection. This phenomenon seemed to contradict the perspective of my younger self, a growing cognitive dissonance between longings for love, joy, peace and a world I began to discover, emerging from my cocoon of innocence, where fear, violence and separation also thrived.

Alongside a thousand discoveries I’m so grateful for since these earlier times of self-perpetuated suffering, one that I particularly treasure is the realisation that to meet another in disagreement can be deeply intimate and enriching for our relationships – PROVIDED that I can stay in contact with the other and conscious of the fact that the behaviour is not the whole person but rather, just an expression, in a moment, and from a particular point of view.


As one who spent childhood in an environment where anger was a crime, the discovery that it concealed a deeper need was lost on me until much later. It’s been a long journey, requiring considerable inner re-parenting and self-reassurance to arrive at a point where I feel comfortable to connect with this expression of vital life force and to welcome it in the other too.

In Sociocracy we say to separate the person from a role that they fulfil, and to evaluate people for their actions in fulfilling that role. To share appreciations as well as to offer improvement suggestions (a feedback sandwich). This is one of the many parallels I see between adopting a Sociocratic point of view and practicing non-violent ways of communication (NVC). To separate a person from the behaviour that they are momentarily identified with, to invite a conscious enquiry into this behaviour in order to establish the deeper reasons for acting this out and to understand the need that is being served.

When I look upon these behaviours as being roles that I act out to take care of a deeper need, I discover a positive side to the intention behind the action. If this is not honoured then likely the identification with this way of being deepens, rather than relaxes – or I collapse under the burden of self-criticism.

Sometimes in Sociocracy we discover that a person is carrying out a role exactly as the role description suggests but that their actions do not serve the need. In such a situation there is value in amending a role description to guide the person to practice a different set of actions. On a personal level, it’s sometimes the case that behaviours don’t serve a need, but that an individual is simply following a policy created by those who came before. Other times it can be that for some reason a person discovers that they have misinterpreted a role, that the essential expression of the role is just fine and with some amendments they are able to realign behaviours in a way that is far more fitting the situation. Whichever, fundamental to both is that there is an openness to explore what is actually happening, to look at all sides and to embrace the moment of review as an opportunity to improve, to grow and to learn.

Sociocracy is inviting a both/and perspective. There is an opportunity to hear all sides and to draw out the wisdom that is seeking emergence from every point of view – whilst remaining effective!

To practice separating the stories that temporarily fuel my sense of righteousness from the conclusions I make about the other, and to reach instead beneath the belief system that charges my outrage… I discover the vulnerable child within me and find that all of these behaviours are simply a repeat of those strategies I adopted at an earlier time. My best effort in those moments to stay safe, loved, alive and in the absence of being conscious of any more suitable alternative.

I smile sometimes, if not crying with the pain of it, to discover how those strategies adopted as a child, that in some way once helped me to avoid experiencing more pain, separation, discomfort, become the very behaviours that now lead to me manifesting these things that I so wanted to avoid.

I discover that at the essence of what I judge are those parts of myself that I most need to re-embrace in order to realise a more whole expression of my potential. That judgement is a symptom of coming into contact with a part of myself that I disowned because I was somehow judged for expressing this myself at some point, and by the people who I wanted to be in connection with, safe at least, and who I wanted to accept me. I mean a part of me, naturally arising, that they judged because of some previous experience that instilled in them the idea that such a way of expressing was fundamentally “wrong”!

It’s an inheritance, a perpetuation of the Ancestral mythology, only the story was incomplete and the fear that goes with not believing it as real contains within it the accumulation of every moment of vulnerability that those who followed were somehow unable to embrace. It’s quite some inheritance this ancestral deficit of unfelt feeling and unrealised needs.

I’ve been amazed and relieved to discover that at the essence of every behaviour and perspective that I have learned to judge another for (and sometimes felt so righteous about), lies a positive essence that is vital for my greater wellbeing. Also, that the degree to which I invite a distorted expression of these opposites into my life through the vehicle of another is a mathematically precise indicator of the degree to which I’ve disowned it in myself.

Key identifications that I’ve awakened to in my journey have included imperatives that I must:

  • please others, thereby disowning connection to the part of me that could please itself
  • take care of and give to others, yet disowning the part of me that can be held by another and can receive as well as give
  • be perfect, disowning the part of me that flourishes in a world of infinite possibilities
  • know everything, thereby separating myself from the potentiality that lies in not knowing – the student, the one who wonders at the miracle of life’s vast expression, the one who is open to learn more through the realisation of how little he knows
  • work so hard and always be doing something, disowning the part that is simply be-ing… and so on.

Whilst Sociocracy offers tools to make decisions effectively together, harvest collective intelligence, improve effectiveness and give everyone a voice in the decisions that affect them (and includes mechanisms to scale across complex organisational systems without losing soul)  on a deeper level it’s also inviting us to step into a place of accountability for ourselves, our choices and actions. We have the opportunity to take ownership of our potential as creators and to become more responsible (response-able) to meet each moment and to navigate the complexity of changing environments and shifting needs.

Sociocratic practice facilitates a transformational process, not only within groups and organisations that utilise it, but also within each of us. It serves as a stepping stone into a way of perceiving life that lies beyond the forever polarised ideology of “right” and “wrong” doing. To embrace instead a more triune world view where we discover that every perceived problem, challenge, difficulty, conceals life’s wisdom seeking emergence into conscious.


  1. thanks for this AND on such a solstice. with love and gratitude Sue

    • When I think about the complex degisn subject I come from a different perspective. First I am a big fan of reading history and most of it is business history (great material for parties if you include some accounting jokes). Funny thing it seems that when you compare the present business environment with history the present is not complex compared to the past. I think or at least I am accepting that simple vs complex is the same as flexible vs what I call crystallized. When any system gets needlessly complex it becomes hard to change and is not flexible in the way it can be used. In business terms you end up with a system that can not be changed and when the pressure gets to high it collapses. In game terms the needlessly complex is boring because any choice you make produces the same result each time and no house rule can really fix it or in other words the choices you can make will not do much to change the outcome so you might as well roll a dice or draw a card and call it. However a simple game can be easy to learn and still provide you options that allow you to use creativity to get a wide range of results making the game more enjoyable. Once you are bored with the properly degisned game a few simple house rules will spice it back up and you can continue to enjoy it. It is not a cut and dried concept so I hope this helps explain my view of it.

  2. Well Jake, as you know I’m a systems tkheinr and analyst. So yeah I have some sympathy with the arguments put forward by Hock and their ilk. But a truly simple on/off or yes/no system has the same effect as a highly complex one. It leads to dumb decisions. Having worked in complex systems that give you a great degree of freedom to frame for yourselves, it can lead to decision paralysis but on the other hand having worked in systems that give far too much framing (yes or no), it stops you being able to make judgement calls and can lead to some very bizarre examples of decisions.I prefer to think in terms of inputs and outputs. Inputs, the rules that bind if you will, should always be clear and precise, not necessarily simple’. The outputs, or actions taken in a game can therefore be multiple and complex, because the rules that govern them are easy to comprehend, if not simplistic. You can for instance have many clear, precise or simple inputs and still be able to comprehend all of the myriad of complex outputs a game will let you perform. If those inputs become convoluted or hard to grasp that does often lead to far less outputs being available to you. An example of this is magic in Warhammer, most people know that the complexity of that system and it’s poor framing actually lead to only a few rational’ decisions on the board. All that input complexity leads to output simplicity, and a reduced number of valid options.

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