“Many of us have been socialized to understand that constant growth, violent competition, and critical mass are the ways to create change. But emergence shows us that adaptation and evolution depend more upon critical, deep, and authentic connections, a thread that can be tugged for support and resilience. The quality of connection between the nodes in the patterns. Dare I say love.”
— adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy
“A basic truth is not invented but discovered. The more basic and universal it is, the more obvious it is apt to be and the harder to perceive, even though it lies in full view.”
— Louis O Kelso
“What if the way we respond to the crisis, is the crisis? What if justice is getting in the way of transformation? What if a different kind of gesturing is required in this time…something deeper than a solution?”
— Bayo Akomolafe
At SheEO we follow the energy. SheEO has no major milestone documents. We do, however, have a shared vision of a shared future that we continue to live into, deepen, and shift our approach to as information and the world changes. This is called emergence, and it is the key organizing principle of all life on earth.
Emergent phenomena are: non-linear, self-organizing, and they evolve in an open-ended way. Examples include: human consciousness, flocks of starlings, democracy, and the global economy. All of these phenomena exhibit properties unique in combination that their component elements (e.g. cells, birds, people, and money) do not display in isolation.
Take human consciousness: you cannot throw neurons, cells, the brain stem, etc. in a corner and get consciousness. All of these component parts have to interact and combine in unique ways to emerge something unexpected and difficult to predict.
Physicists and biologists describe the origins of life in these same terms. Life thrives when it adapts to its environment in real time, co-evolving alongside other elements. This also means that when we try to impose rigid structure on top of life (including ourselves and our institutions) it usually fails to produce the outcomes we want.
Chaordic (mixture of the words chaos and order) is another word to describe this. Organizations thrive when they ignore their best laid plans and adapt as new circumstances and information arise. Dee Hock, one of the leading thinkers on chaordic organizations, defines chaordic as the behavior of any self-organizing and self-governing system or organization that “harmoniously exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos.”
As we write this, the world is adapting to a global pandemic and its catastrophic health and economic consequences. SheEO tapped into the energy of our collective wisdom and generosity to sustain, support, heal and reinvent ventures. This crisis has become an important proof point of our emergent model.
Believing we are constantly in control is an illusion, and when we build non-emergent institutions we often replicate the very problems we wish to solve. Hock says, “It is not complicated. The nature of our organizations, management, and scientific expertise is not only increasingly irrelevant to our enormous, societal and environmental problems, it is a primary cause of them.”
At SheEO, we always try to adapt to new information, evolve our strategy in real-time, and stay agile. Like a flock of starlings, we adapt using information from those within the network to determine our flight path.
Reflection question: How do I experience change in my life? Do I welcome and embrace it? Or resist and deflect it? How can I become more open, adaptable, and willing to experience both external and internal change and growth?
BOOK Braiding Sweetgrass — Robin Wall Kimmerer
SITE Chaordic organizations — Dee Hock
BOOK Engaging Emergence — Peggy Holman
SITE Warm Labs — Nora Bateson
BOOK Emergent Strategy — adrienne maree brown
BOOK A Beautiful Constraint — Adam Morgan and Mark Barden