vision in an open collaboration (gift circle week 22)

We were making a mini-documentary about our gift circle this weekend for a 48 hour film documentary challenge.

One of the interesting things that came up was the different ways people saw our circle as. And what perspective would the video show of what our circle as.

We could make a video more from a perspective of the tribe that we had created or more from a perspective of gifting.

{note from me two days later: the video is now done. here it is . I think its pretty cool. It ended up being a synthesis of different ideas of what it should cover }


This perspective of what a project is also leads to different visions of what it can grow into.

And the question in an open collaboration such as ours is which vision do you choose, and how do you choose it? Do all people have an equal say since the process is non-hierarchical?

I’ve run into this issue before in the open collaborative projects I’ve been in before. As more people come into the project they sometimes have a different vision of what it can become. Do they then get to choose a different direction than what the founder wanted?

My sense is that the history of a project is important, and there is an importance to lineage.

My sense is also that not all visions are equal. There are some more powerful visions. And its also possible that others in the group may not be able to recognise the power of a vision.

So my sense is that when making a decision on which vision to follow, there is some weight given to what the vision has been historically. But that the vision can also change. (See some recent internet companies that changed courses and visions – Flickr started as a video game company, twitter started as a company  doing something quite different)

With regards to how to determine which is the most powerful vision – I am actually not sure yet how a group goes about it, especially if some people in the group don’t have the capacity to see further ahead. Perhaps what is needed is some kind of meritocracy, where the peers get a sense of who has the better abilities to sense visionarily ahead and give them more cachet and say in the matter. Sometimes this visionary is the founder of the project, sometimes its someone else who comes in who can see how to take the project to a another level.

Visions can also be a synthesis, so different people coming in later to the project may add parts to it that help the vision grow. At the same time though the group has to be able to judge when its good to grow the vision so it has more parts. Sometimes its better to have a very simple lean vision – so rather than integrating in more , one pares away.

In the sprial dynamics model of levels of a social system at the blue and orange levels there is a liking for hierarchy in making decisions. So in general in those systems it would be the leader making the vision. At the green level a preference for non-hierarchy consensus processes or equal say processes arises. So green level co-operatives like the idea of one person one vote. At the next level yellow a system begins to recognise that all people are not necessarily equal. Some people may actually have better insight or vision, and so those voices can be given more weight. At this level there is also a better understanding of how to integrate different people’s ideas.

There needs to be a inner growth process that accompanies higher level ways of group visioning. At lower levels (blue) people are used to embodying a power dynamic in all discussions. At green people have tried to rise above this dynamic by using an equality dynamic. But that dynamic is imposed externally and is not organic. At yellow and higher levels the power dynamic starts to be transcended. You dont need to relate to people hierarchically or as equals. Rather you listen to what your voice says inside. You decide on what to do not based on what the relationship is supposed to be.


5 thoughts on “vision in an open collaboration (gift circle week 22)

  1. I feel like I’m jumping into a long-standing conversation and am not up on the storyline, but let me throw some stuff at the wall. The design thinking model supports emergence but only where there’s relevant structure introduced (see the lava lamp ) — structure on the right and fluidity on the left.

    There’s a critical algorithm needed. The strategy could be represented in the form of a storyboard. No one would suggest that the players at Pixar don’t have input to the process, but there are clearly visions which act as part of the ‘constraints’ from which the designs emerge. As well, there will be conflicts. If you listen to the director’s backchannel cuts from “Finding Nemo” ( you’ll hear how the leadership trinity went on road trips to talk out/thru the issues. There is still leadership needed, leadership which relies on the input and dissonance of all the contributors to have something meaningful to work through and resolve.

    This isn’t an either/or, it’s a both.

    I think this mostly reinforces what was said here.

  2. Hey Rotkapchen.
    Thanks for your comments.
    In the lava lamp essay link they talk about balancing structure with chaos (an openness to anything goes) to get the most interesting results to arise. Thats the edge of chaos in complexity theory. I like that.

    I think I am looking for a structure in the form of a facilitation technique that allows people to collaborate on visions whilst being aware of lineage, merit, and ability. This structure would be open enough that it can allow many different contributors to come and effect it. But not so loose that the whole thing falls apart.

  3. It’s all the same thing. If you look at the graphic continuum — mystery, heuristic, algorithm, binary code — realize that what all solutions need are a combination of all of these.

    The problem today is that for cost-saving purposes everyone is hyper focused on algorithms and binary code (also think of these as analogies for other things — a process is an algorithm — it makes something repeatable — a process with no variables is binary code — it’s inflexible). The reality is that we can never design for every possible scenario so there will always be exceptions. That means that every system has to have accommodations for exceptions (or from the vernacular of a system that believes that it can/should be perfect — failure). Allowing for human intervention to solve problems on the fly is where the heuristics come in (you can have high variability algorithms or processes to manage for some of the ‘known exceptions’).

    There’s a lot more to what’s in that article than you may be ‘seeing’.

  4. Hi Rotkapchen,
    In rereading my reply when i say “I think I am looking for a structure” i realise it could read as if it was saying looking for something different than what you were saying. I meant it to mean I agree with you. I think the way is a combination of the mystery, heuristic, algorithm, binary code. That we need the form and the unknowns.

    One question is to ask what does leadership look like at this boundary between order and chaos. I think we don’t necessarily need the command and control hierarchical leadership. We can create different types of systems. Leaders in those systems do not necessarily have command and control power.

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