So begins a great article in the Guardian (http://bit.ly/1DlL6rT). The journalist picked up the story of Buurtzorg from the book “Reinventing Organizations” and wonders if it heralds a fundamental alternative to the story that we are doomed to reduce public services to reduce costs. I hadn’t quite looked at it that way, but I find it a very powerful thought.
Buurtzorg’s case shows that sometimes we look for saving in the wrong place entirely. The real savings in home care comes not from shaving of 1 minute of changing a compression stocking. It comes from giving such great care that patients heal faster or become more autonomous, and so come out of care much more quickly, reducing care by hours, weeks or years, not minutes. And that the key to that is small, autonomous teams that aren’t prevented to give good care by well-meaning but flawed centrally-designed procedures, policies, bureaucracies… I’m convinced this applies to all of health care (think hospitals!), not just home care.
This morning, there was a 10 minute piece on this in the BBC’s flagship Today program, for which both Jos de Blok and me are interviewed (how cool is that? :)). Jos impressed me again with his simple common sense - he has a knack for making anything other that self-management sound gently absurd. (http://bbc.in/1FSCudX, starting minute 33).
The guardian article stimulated me to think about it more broadly, beyond home care and health care. The more I think about it, the more I’m excited by the prospect that new forms of thinking will bring the same kind of breakthroughs to many domains. Take teaching. The real savings don’t come from reducing costs for teachers. It will come from children no longer dropping out, from children feeling so whole, so valuable, so powerful (as they do in the ESBZ in Berlin I speak about in the book and many other innovative school that are popping up) that they don’t drop out, don’t fall on the wayside, don’t turn to crime to make a living or feel powerful.
Or take our flawed justice system. We know from experiences everywhere in the world that restorative justice systems work better for victims and for perpetrators. And they are radically cheaper to run, as the rates of incarceration go down dramatically as do the rate of reoffending. Imagine what we could do with all the money saved by closing prisons, and how much richer the lives of our communities would be.
Perhaps it will take a few more years for these ideas to be acceptable in a broader public discourse. I’m curious when a political will pick up on these ideas. In any case, I think Mark Thompson, who wrote the piece in the guardian, is onto a very powerful idea: what if we could increase public services rather than cut them, but adopting a different perspective on purpose and different management practices? He’s got me thinking about this a lot. I think indeed we are told a lie. Not lied to on purpose. But there is another way to deal with budget cuts that could, paradoxically, help us shift to better times.
Un update on the last few months
“Reinventing Organizations” came out half a year ago, and I want to share with you a bit of the wonderful and unexpected journey it has been. The book got a furious reception! So much so that I have been overwhelmed and have failed almost completely in keeping the blog and the facebook page alive.
Here is an update, in random order, of the many wonderful things that have been unfolding. This post is also meant as an invitation if you want to participate and contribute in one way or another.
A word-of-mouth phenomenon
Soon, the book we hit the mark of 10,000 books sold. That's a very rare mark to achieve for any book, let alone a self-published book that isn't stocked in any book store and was launched with no PR and no marketing budget. It's all thanks to so many of you talking enthusiastically about the book with friends and colleagues. This just fills me with joy and gratitude. I've received many emails from readers telling me they resonated so deeply with the book that they bug everyone to read it :-) Some have bought 10, 20 or more books to offer them as gifts.
The book is starting to change organizations
The book is starting to transform organizations, and that really thrills me of course. I’ve been contacted by organizations ranging from 2 to… 60,000 people who are inspired to go “Teal”. In the mix are the most wonderful organizations, from established businesses to tech startups, from art venues to retreat centers, from men’s groups to hospitals… More people seem to be ready to embrace this change at the top of organizations than I thought a few months ago
I’ve been invited to give many talks. One was filmed and beautifully edited and is now online:
Perhaps you have friends or colleagues who you’d like to share the ideas of the book with, but who might not want to read a book about it. The video can be a great way for them to hear about the main ideas of this work.
Readers taking it into their own hands
What I totally love is that quite a few readers have started to give talks about the book too! If you feel like giving a talk yourself, you can find here some of the slides they put together (as well as the ones I used in the video above). We can create a bit of an open-source community here where we exchange and build upon each other’s presentation materials.
And it’s not just talks.
The book will be published in Danish, German and French in the Spring of 2015, and probably in Dutch too. Thank you to the many readers who have spontaneously reached out to editors to make this happen! (and who are currently scheming for translation into Mandarin, Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Brazilian, Spanish…)
A few wonderful projects on their way
A few wonderful projects are on their way to build on the book’s content. Several of these projects have been initiated by readers, rather than me, which is just great.
These projects are pretty exciting, but I’ll hold back and wait until we are further along to share more. (Do subscribe to updates if you want to be informed)
And in all this, there’s been much learning for me
On a personal note, the last few months have been quite a journey. I’ve been humbled and overjoyed to witness how much the book resonates with readers. For me, the research that lead to the book helped me shift my inner dialogue from what is broken with management today to what is possible. It seems the book has helped many readers make the same hopeful shift.
I also learnt that I was right in follow my heart in the way I published and marketed this work. Early on I decided I would self-publish the book, rather than seek the endorsement of a big name in the publishing industry. I also read quite a lot of material on how you should market books, and quickly decided these marketing practices didn’t feel right. I thought about doing the whole Twitter and Facebook thing, and found this wasn’t for me. So I basically decided I would just listen to what feels right, and that brought me to take a contrarian approach to pretty much all the accepted practices in publishing and marketing a book. That the book is turning into somewhat of a phenomenon despite all this can only be explained as either a mystery, or the vindication that we should follow our hearts in whatever we do.
There has also been a more painful learning. I’m learning to say “no”, something I know I needed to learn for a long time J. The number of emails I now receive, and the number of invitations to connect or to give talks simply exceeds what I can offer, and there no longer is a way for me to say “yes” when I shouldn’t. Boy, I’ll be happy when I’ll have mastered that skill, and more generally when I’ll have learned to maintain and appreciate a very simply life in the midst of what now feels like overwhelm.
In the last few months, I’ve become really interested by the concept and the practice of the gift economy. You may know that the book is available in “Pay-What-Feels-Right” mode. With some clients that asked me to help them in their organization’s journey to Teal, I’m also now working based on this principle. I’ve written a blog post about the topic, and I know I’m just at the beginning here. The more I reflect about the gift economy, the more I feel this is how I want to work in the future.
An open invitation
If you want to incorporate the ideas of the book in some of your work or some form of project, go for it! Give talks about it, create a webinar, include it in your consulting work. I think we need more soulful businesses, nonprofits, schools and hospitals, so whatever you do, I’ll be really grateful.
I don’t want to mess with trademarking concepts from the book and then licensing this work. Of course I put energy and some skills (I hope) in formalizing these ideas, but they really are not mine. They come from the extraordinary organizations I researched. And I would claim that they come from a deeper source, that is releasing these ideas into our consciousness at this moment in time.
This being said, if you make explicit reference to the book or to me in the marketing of your offer, and make sure it doesn't sound like I would vouch for your offer. I want to avoid any confusion with clients who might assume otherwise when the see the reference to the book.
And if the content of the book helps you earn revenues, you can ask yourself, in line with the principles of the gift economy, if you feel it would be right to gift something back to me. There is no obligation to give anything. Just listen to you heart, and see if it wants to give something back.
I'm grateful and curious
I’m very grateful for all that is unfolding, and curious what comes next. Feel free to share with me how the book or this blog post is resonating with you. I will read what you send me, and thank you in my heart for it. If I do no answer, don't be mad, I’m learning to manage overwhelm ;-)
A personal post
Researching and writing "Reinventing Organizations" has felt like work of the soul to me, something much in my life has prepared me to do. In many ways, the process has been wonderfully easy. We often hear from people saying how writing a book or getting it published has been a painful process. I was blessed that everything just seemed to flow (even though it was of course a lot of work), an indication perhaps that this was work I was meant to do.
And yet, there have been much personal learning for me in the process. For instance, I've learnt (well I'm still learning) to say "no" to many of the demands I get for connecting with readers, giving talks and doing consulting, simply because the numbers of request exceed what I can offer. Saying "no" has always been difficult for me, and now life has brought me to a place where I simply have to learn to do it, and learn to do it as gracefully as I can.
One type of learning I wasn't expecting was that I'd become fascinated and learn to work in the gift economy. Hey I didn't even really know about the concept (I got a crash course reading Charles Eisenstein's book Sacred Economics). The idea, to oversimplify, is to live from abundance, from a place where you give your time, your skills, your passion, and others give back (in money or otherwise) whatever feels right to them. No more contracting, no more fixed prices. Instead, much more love for the work and deeper connection between people.
The book as a first experiment
I started experimenting with the book. You can purchase the kindle/iBook/pdf version of the book at $9.95 from any major retailer of from this website. Or you can download it in pay-what-feels-right mode (my term, I prefer it to "pay what you want", which to me has got somewhat of an ego-appealing "I-can-do-whatever-I-want" kind of ring to it). You download the book for free, and make the moral commitment to gift back, a month later or whenever you are done reading, whatever amount (or other gift) feels right to you.
The experiment has worked wonderfully for me. I'm of course very happy when people buy the book in paper version or the e-version at a fixed price. It means the ideas get spread, and I get a few dollars of income. But I just love the pay-what-feels-right. Any donation triggers an email into my inbox, and stirs my curiosity: what has this book been worth to this person? Has she left a personal note?
I've had someone in Kenya donating $2, and telling me that was a big donation for him. And I've had readers give me $100 and $200 because that's what the book was worth to them. (Here is a nice blog post of someone talking about his perspective as a reader and why he ended up giving more than the list price).
Of course, the usual fears popped up at first: will people not just take advantage of the system? Why will anyone buy the book if they can just download it and never pay for it? But somehow these fears faded as quickly as they came up. Some people do indeed download the book and never donate. And you know what? I feel that's ok too. I guess that just comes with the territory. Overall, I feel I've received as much if not more than what I've given. Somehow people respond to this experiment in wonderful ways, it creates a goodwill I didn't anticipate. I get back so much from readers in all sorts of ways that I can't even begin to say how blessed I feel. And, if I'm honest with myself, I'm somehow proud of myself that I did go for this experiment. And I guess that feeling good about myself, even if it's the good old ego flattering itself a bit, isn't such a bad thing, is it?
Consulting in the gift
And so I've started working at times in the gift in my other work too. As the book is getting a lot of traction, leaders of many different organizations ask me to be a sparring partner in their journey to transform their organization. This is wonderful work to be involved in! With some of them, that are open to the idea, I now work in the gift. At the end of every quarter I tell them how much time we've spent together, and they donate whatever feels right to them.
Most people actually prefer working with a fixed price. I guess it is because the fixed price takes away the possibly awkward discussion about how much you give. And I can fully understand that. Let's put ourselves in their shoes for a minute: If I give less than Frederic was expecting, will he be hurt, or think I'm stingy? And if I give more, am I giving too much? But it's precisely in that question that lies the genius of the gift economy, because it pushes us to reflect on what value we have exchanged, on our relationship with money, and our relationship to one another.
Inviting everyone to take ownership of this work in the spirit of gift
The spirit of working in the gift has also found its way in my relationship with consultants and trainers who are incorporating the insights from the book into their work. Within a few days of the book being published, people asked me if they could take this material and build consulting offers or training offers around it. My response, off the cuff, was "of course, just go for it!"
I didn't want to mess with trademarking concepts from the book and then licensing this work. Hey, of course I put energy and some skills (I hope) in formalizing these ideas, but they really are not mine. They come from the extraordinary organizations I researched. And I would even claim that they come from a deeper source, that is releasing these ideas into our consciousness at this moment in time.
Since then, though, I've come to give a slightly different answer. I still don't want to trademark and license. I don't want to control if and how people use these ideas. I think we need more soulful businesses, nonprofits, schools and hospitals, so I want these ideas to spread as much as possible, and I'm really happy that so many people want to play a part in this. But rather then just say "do whatever you want", I found that the principles of the gift economy make sense to me here too.
And so now, when people ask me if they can use this work in their consulting or in trainings or seminars they develop, I tell them "sure, go ahead". And I add two things:
Just the beginning
I'm sure this is just the beginning of the journey for me. I sense that our economic system will shift, slowly at first, and then more and more toward the gift economy. I wrote this blog post because I'm eager to open a conversation around this topic. What thoughts do my early experiments trigger with you? Have you practiced working in the gift economy? If you do, how is it going for you? Have you been on the other side, giving back to someone for his gift? How did that feel for you?
If you want to dive deeper into the subject, read Charles Eisenstein's book, or join this Facebook group on the topic of the gift economy.
This is a post written by Tony Chamberlain, author of "The Congruence Framework". It gives a wonderful overview of what the book is about, and so I'm delighted that Tony agreed for me to publish it here. It is based on a piece Tony wrote a few weeks ago, where he contrasts the findings from my research with his own "Congruence Framework)
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Many writers and commentators refer to this expansion of global consciousness as the ‘rise of mindfulness’.
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There is much interest today in mindfulness practices in organizations. Even Wall Street banks are starting to offer their overworked bankers courses in mindfulness. Mindfulness is often used as a way to help people deal with pressure, stress and unhealthy corporate cultures. It is interesting to note that the practices for ‘evolutionary purpose, wholeness and self-management’, which characterise ET organisations, weave mindfulness deeply into the fabric of the organizations. So much so that few organizations researched by Laloux spend much time talking about the concept. Mindfulness is no longer an add-on.
If you are interested in deepening your understanding of the topic, you can read Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. If you would like to be updated about new posts, click here. You can also follow me on Facebook.
If you are interested specifically in Holacracy, the best place to start, in my opinion, is to participate in a free online webinar at Holacracy.org, where you can experience, among other things, a meeting run along holacratic principles.