March 2nd, 2007

Why I care about being and doing

I’m fascinated and very excited about sociocracy, having participated in a weekend workshop led by John Buck (assisted by Mitch & Osa). John stayed at my house for the weekend, and we clicked deeply and had long animated talks of mutual interest, including the discovery that both of us develop and teach “empty tools” with beautiful, powerful underlying theories. In addition to NVC, I do research in computer science, especially in language design, and with a focus on issues of “being” vs “doing”. (Here are some visual examples. More info and a publication list link on my home page). In listening to John in the workshop, I lit up, noticing how the spirit, intention, and logic of sociocracy brings my two chief interests together.

I joined a sociocracy e-group recently to get some help in understanding about where our group’s recent steps in sociocracy implementation match the understandings and practices of folks more steeped in sociocracy theory & practice. I shared my questions in Trouble at the beginning. Sharon V’s responses to that those questions have already been very helpful to our (NVC) organization

Next, I noticed my inner dissonance around language use, as described in Getting past labels and more clearly in Being and doing in the language of sociocracy. Much of my computer science research is focused on the question of being-vs-doing. That same distinction is a very important tool in NVC, but with an opposite emphasis. And again in Buddhism and meditation. Now I’m tuning into the sociocracy again, and I notice this apparent contradiction of using words that say what people are when trying to describe what they do. So I’m fascinated with the question of what’s going on here. What is by conscious choice and what is unconscious habit?

I want to shed light for me and stimulate curiosity and collaborative exploration. My desire is to participate in the evolution of both NVC and sociocracy and a deep synthesis of them. My hunch is that the style of language & logic design research that I’ve been doing for the last 20 years could make a valuable contribution to the theory and practice of sociocracy. Besides live & teach NVC, what I do well is create languages of being where others typically choose doing, and then demonstrate how the being-oriented (“declarative”) languages have much stronger compositional properties than the traditional doing-oriented (“imperative”) languages. It struck me (pow!) only a few days ago that the benefits of compositionality for software creation very well might translate into the realm of collectives that have vision, mission, and aim. In software, compositionality is crucial in maintaining clarity and simplicity and correctness (behavior meeting specification), while scaling up. Languages and designs that have weak compositionality (particularly, traditional doing-oriented languages & designs) tend to have lots of bugs and performance problems. I’m guessing that something similar is true for human organizations.

At first, in writing Being and doing in the language of sociocracy, I was seeing the two options of “people are” (Facilitator) and “people do” (facilitating). Then it occurred to me that “functions are” (facilitation) is a third option. My guess is that this third option is the most powerful place to reason, speak and compose, in the arena of life that sociocracy addresses. If I hadn’t written the “Being & doing” post, I don’t know if & when that piece would have clicked into place.

Now I imagine taking the deeply life-centered values of NVC consciousness, and all I’m learning about evolving its theory & practice to fulfill those values more deeply and consistently, and bringing that consciousness and skill into the wisdom, logic, and methodology of sociocracy, and I about burst with inspiration.


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