On October 1st I was invited to the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, in Lisbon, Portugal, to give a presentation about S3 to researchers from the neuroscience programme.
Alex Gomez-Marin PhD, a neuroscientist at the unit, and one of my generous hosts while staying in Lisbon, invited me to present to colleagues at the centre. Alex had also booked to attend the 4 day introduction to S3 residential programme that Liliana David and I then ran at Biovilla, near to Lisbon, beginning the following day.
In preparation for the presentation, Alex explained what I could expect from a room full of his scientist buddies – technical questions – requests for clarification of terms – inquiry about previous research and evidence that sociocracy is effective, etc. He also explained that people’s time was precious with presentations usually lasting 50 minutes and that past that duration would probably be a stretch.
Alex anticipated that we could expect perhaps 8 or so people to attend the presentation. As it turns out, S3 seemed to be of interest to more members of the faculty than he’d imagined. Around 25 people showed up promptly in the 3 minutes preceding 11am, our intended start time.
Having made my lack of academic background a part of the record I relaxed into the now familiar process of presenting an overview of the S3 foundations. As usual I included a generous amount of reference to the meta stories of humanities current situation, organisational change, and topics of power, habit, accountability and consciousness.
As it turns out, everyone stayed for the hour and 10 minute presentation, and with the exception of 2 people with matters to attend to, others remained for the 20 minutes of Q&A that followed. I’m told by Alex that this is a very good sign!
Whilst explaining about Drivers I invited everyone to reflect on a tension they were currently experiencing in the course of their work within the organisation. Here are 2 of the examples that came to light:
“We’re operating in a larger system with limited resources. There is a need to produce in order to justify one’s presence and in order to generate a sense of security.”
“Collaboration gets stuck and can lead to frustration and anger. There’s need for improving efficiency and for clarity of roles.”
When asking who in the room related to the first Driver, there appeared to be some reluctance for hand raising at first, yet when I invited an honest show of hands, more than half obliged.
Almost as many related to the second statement too, and my comment expressing relief that this situation was similar in many other organisations I knew of, brought relaxing laughter.
During lunch I had the pleasure to talk further with Zachary Mainen PhD, Director of Champalimaud Research, where we excitedly discussed possible ways to study the effectiveness of S3 in facilitating organisational improvements, and for comparing it with other frameworks. He also extended an invitation to return and share more of S3 with the faculty soon.
Here are some testimonials and reflections from those who attended:
"I was very positively surprised. In a very short period of time he managed to pass the idea very well and to anticipate most of my doubts. It was important to stress that sociocracy is not an easy thing to implement, and that we must avoid being naïve about it. He answered very well to the questions that were posed and I become interested in getting to know this proposal better. Like I shared at the meeting, I have a friend who is intending to join a community of families that want to live by sociocracy principles. When she told me about it I was less convinced that this is possible. But today I started thinking that it is actually worth a try."
"Sociocracy 3.0 as explained in the talk looks like the best method of achieving a fair and balanced division of power amongst elements of a group of people by giving voice to all elements. Compared to other existing organizational systems this looks by far as the being more satisfactory to all individuals involved and with a potential for the group to evolve into a more conflict free situation. This will work very well with people that have respect for other human beings, that are at least reasonably concerned about their wellbeing and that find that we are all equal. However, to my experience this will be difficult to apply when people are too self-centred and/or have need to exert power over others. Furthermore the belief in individual superiority, either intellectual, material or even spiritual can undermine the dynamic of the group.
Still, I do think that this is the way to go and would be very happy to be part of a sociocratic group."
"How could one even disagree with what was said in general? I found, though, that the questions were answered with great precision and knowledge of the issues at stake. I would have liked to have more time to see how this is put in practice, specially to solve problems in situations where people do not share the same values or method"