Being Generous With Your Gift

Everyone has some innate talent, some “thing” they have.

That “thing” is available in nearly endless supply, since it’s part of every person’s essential nature.

Some people are helpful. Some are just full of hospitality. Others are humorous. Still others are organizers.

Everyone has lots of whatever talent they were born with. I like to play with ideas. I’m not sure that’s a talent. This is OK, because other people who value this tell me they enjoy me sending them interesting links and books on topics of interest. So, apparently I do have some kind of valuable talent there.

If you have a nearly endless supply of something, it is easy to offer it to others.

If the receiver does not have that talent or that “thing” you have, and you provide it absolutely free, including being free of any obligation to reciprocate whatsoever, then you have just created something out of nothing.

Repeat: Something out of nothing.

That thing that you have loads of: helpfulness, a talent at being organized, your ability to do research, humor, whatever it is– it costs you next to nothing, because you have an endless supply of it. It’s part of your nature. You cannot stop yourself. It’s not like you have any choice in the matter.

I have a friend, she is totally amazing at Myers Briggs and other personality profiling tools. I gain tremendous value from what she perceives as automatic and natural- and in 100% abundant supply.

I value her talent in this area higher than she does!

Surprise: The thing you have so much of is often valued more highly by others than it is by you yourself. And when someone who lacks your gift receives some of it from you, you create value from nothing.

At scale, as a norm, in a culture, this idea has the potential to create tremendous amounts of value and wealth in various forms.

This is emphemeralization: doing more and more, with less and less, until we are doing everything with nothing. The idea as expressed by Buckminster Fuller has to do with technology, yet it can be applied to social technology, too.

As a culture hack, being generous with your gift is hard to beat.

The Moral of the story:

You have a gift.

You have loads of it.

You can afford to be freely generous with your gift.


Related Links:

Ephemeralization (link)



Can large acts of generosity be harmful? Yes, they can.

Consider the potlatch, a ceremonial event in the lives of certain Pacific Northwest indigenous tribes. According to the history of potlatch, large acts of generosity were used to signal wealth and high social status in the tribe. Taken to extremes, hosts of potlatch events sometimes ritually destroyed valuable objects as a signal of power and wealth. When generosity is used for social posturing, the resulting sense of obligation can be harmful for giver and receiver alike.

In a previous post, I discussed the radical and potentially revolutionary nature of developing a practice of mindful generosity. It comes with some pitfalls of course.

One way to stay out of trouble as a generous person is very simple: intentionally keep your acts of generosity small. By doing this, you avoid creating discomfort on the part of the receiver,  signaling real consideration for the person who is receiving what amounts to a small gift. Small acts of generosity amount to an invitation, from the giver to the receiver, to be in relationship.

The practice of “gifting small”  sidesteps the difficult feelings of obligation that are often associated with large gifts.

Small acts of generosity are useful for creating a new and far more interesting world than the one current one– the one dominated by contract and economic exchange.

What might be called microgenerosity — the art of engaging in small and frequent acts of interpersonal generosity– is an interesting idea to play with.

Small acts of generosity can make your world a place where interpersonal  relationships– rather than impersonal transactions– are the new normal.


Related Links:

The potlatch (link)

“…In the potlatch, the host in effect challenged a guest chieftain to exceed him in his ‘power’ to give away or to destroy goods. If the guest did not return 100 percent on the gifts received and destroy even more wealth in a bigger and better bonfire, he and his people lost face and so his ‘power’ was diminished.”

Generosity Gone Bad (link)

“…Knowing the signs of the wrong kind of generosity can help you spot them, in others or even in yourself, in advance.”

Previous Post: Generosity, Thrivability and Self-Organization (link)


Generosity, Thrivability and Self-Organization

Harrison Owen is the formulator/composer of the Open Space meeting format.


Harrison is fond of saying these two things:

  • All systems are open
  • All systems are self-organizing

In this essay, I am assuming you have a good grip on what ‘open’ and ‘self-organizing’ mean.

With that established, let’s move right into a discussion of generosity and its role is self-organizing systems.

Self-organizing systems are composed of agents. Like people, for example. Agents exercise their agency, that is, their autonomy. Law of 2 Feet. One way to express your agency is in the withholding or releasing of your time, or your effort, or your attention. Or your money! When you choose to release some of your time, effort, attention, money etc to someone else, you are exercising your agency (Law of 2 Feet) by being generous.

By giving a gift. It’s an act of agency. An act that contributes to the level of self-organization overall.

This has very serious implications for building a new & thriving world.

Because anyone at any time can be generous to anyone else for any reason, generosity has very serious implications for building a new & different (thriving) world.

In a culture that strongly values generosity, anything can– and will– happen.

Acts of generosity contribute  to (and are part of) the mysterious, unknowable process of self-organization.

Now, what’s really interesting about this is that every act of generosity, however small, is immediately disruptive to the current system…the broken one…the one with the story that’s not clearly not working.

The one that’s going away.

The one dominated by contract, and economic exchange.

Imposing Agile Practices: Does It Actually Work?

The OpenSpace Agility approach has created some questions. Some of these questions, collected from around the web, appear below. Some of the questions are very specific and very interesting (I think.) I’ve included them here. These particular questions are harvested from recent interactions with professional Agile coaches who are active on Twitter.


Related Links:

OpenSpace Agility  Explained

20 Minute Video of Daniel Mezick Explaining OpenSpace Agility Agile on INFOQ

OpenSpace Agility Client-Interview Videos



The Questions:


Q. Guide them through change, but not impose. What if they don’t want to change?

A. Respect the no. Let the org…the self-organizing system…figure out how to address this problem.


Q. Would you let a developer you were paying personally choose their own approach?

A. This is a non-starter kind of question. The typical context of an Agile adoption is an existing organization with an existing IT department or development team group.

Q. Are there any constraints you’d be willing to impose or mandate?

A. OSA tolerates the “imposition” of an Agile direction, even though that can be a problem. The Agile direction has to be in service to something- something besides Agile itself.

An Agile direction, articulated by formally authorized leadership.

Agile: in service to what?


Q. So you are willing to impose constraints?

A. The idea is to open up a conversation about how Agile ideas can help. We invite the folks to play with the various Agile practices. Iterations, Retros, and so on. We explain to them that they can try any practices they like which do not offend the majority of the Agile Manifesto’s 4 values and 12 principles. We encourage them to know the Manifesto well, and find practices that align with those values and principles.

Practices change, principles don’t. We explain that and turn them loose into a time of “authorized experimentation.”

Q. Deliver working software every two weeks?

A. Iterations are an Agile idea that aligns with the Manifesto: “Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.” Let (aka “authorize”) the teams to experiment with that!

Q. Work in a cross functional team?

A. Once again, allow experimentation. Do not “mandate collaboration. “

Q. Plan in functional slices of the product?

A. Allow experimentation. Do not mandate behaviors. Instead, ask them to align everything they do to the Manifesto.

Q. Those are constraints. They are also agile process. But we can’t say that we are mandating agile?

A. The output from an experiment is learning. In OSA we invite experimentation. We invite learning.

We make the distinction in OSA between the naming of an Agile direction, and the mandating of specific practices. Direction-setting is an important activity for formally authorized leadership. In OSA we stop short of mandating specific practices. Instead we invite the teams to experiment. Martin Fowler in 2006 writes the important essay “The Agile Imposition”. This is essential reading for anyone considering mandates of Agile practices. Quoting that essay: “So I hope I’ve made clear that imposing agile methods is a very red flag.”


Q. I’m starting to wonder if there is a nuance here that I am missing. This makes NO sense to me.

A. The nuance is: human engagement powers successful process change. Disengagement can slow down and eventually ruin your process-change plans. Therefore, engagement is essential. OSA is all about creating engagement on the premise that human engagement is absolutely essential.

Q. Are we really talking about an approach or disposition? We invite rather than mandate? Like non-violent comm.?

A. Invitation is respectful and can create engagement. Coercion and mandates are fundamentally disrespectful, and can create disengagement.

Q. “…I would place constraints on team such as I want X feature in 2 week Quality MUST be high. Outcome focused. “ What’s the difference between that and mandating agile?

A. The difference in the OpenSpace Agility approach is this: we place the people inside a period of time when the primary outcome is learning, through experimentation. The period of experimentation is actually a designed experience.  It is designed as a rite of passage. See also


Q. Is it the social implications of agile we don’t want to mandate? Not the process aspects?

A. OSA is a sociological approach based on opt-in engagement. Remember, the premise is that human engagement is essential. Jeff Sutherland has data on Scrum (see saying teams can double productivity and double again. A central hypothesis of OSA is that higher productivity is correlated with higher levels of human engagement.



Q. Like, I won’t mandate you trust someone? Or be vulnerable in a retrospective? Or create safety for someone?

A. I’m sorry if you think you believe that this kind of thinking and action can be forced on someone by some kind of external authority. I have never seen it done.

Q. I won’t mandate you like each other, or work as a high performing team?

A. High performance is mostly a function of self-organization. Self-organization is a goal of OSA. We create the conditions for self-organization to emerge. We do not pretend we can manufacture or mandate it. In OSA we create the conditions and the conditions always include a legitimate (opt out with no sanctions) invitation.

Q. I’d suggest there is no way to mandate that stuff anyway. You can only mandate behavior or process compliance.

A. In a prison, you can mandate behavior compliance and process compliance. Are workplaces prisons? I guess some kind of are…maybe.

Harrison Owen is fond of saying that the Law of 2 Feet is always active—that is, people are exercising their options, including the option to disengage. A central premise of OSA is that you cannot actually mandate behavior or process compliance, because people “check out” and disengage on you instead of playing your mandatory-to-play game. Good games have opt-in participation. That requires the consent of each player.


Q. Like, my desired result is you work in a team & deliver a working tested increment of product every two weeks?

A. Yes, this is much closer to the idea of OSA: we name the issues we are facing , we suggest some experiments with Agile practices. We inspect the experiment. The constraint is “use any practice that supports and is not obviously in conflict with the 4 values and 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto.”

Q. Again, we must be arguing some semantic nuance I don’t understand

A. Again, the central idea is very simple: Engagement is essential. Great teams, great products and great organizations exhibit very high levels of human engagement. Engagement is essential. Mandates tend to dampen engagement while invitations (such as an invitation to attend an Open Space meeting) tend to increase it. Engagement is essential.


Q. If you are willing to mandate team based iterative and incremental delivery, how is that not mandating agile?

A. First, learn to differentiate between mandating an Agile direction and mandating specific Agile practices. The constraint is is “use any practice that supports and is not obviously in conflict with the 4 values and 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto.” From there, common sense governs. Quote from Martin Fowler, Agile Manifesto signatory: Imposing Agile methods on a team is in conflict with the principles of Agile and have been since inception.” See also and


Q. (say) they are failing now doing ad-hoc or waterfall. What if they want to do an 18 month waterfall process? Can I ask them not to do that?

A. See the above question. In OSA we start and end in Open Space. In between we experiment with practices, using the Agile Manifesto for guidance. Make sense? Quote: “An important consequence of these values and principles is that a team should choose its own process – one that suits the people and context in which they work. Imposing an agile process from the outside strips the team of the self-determination which is at the heart of agile thinking.” – Martin Fowler, “The Agile Imposition”, see

Q. Okay, you’re willing to mandate producing value every two weeks?

A. No. There is no mandate, there is an invitation to experiment and create learning. Again, the Agile Manifesto is the guide: Is the idea of producing value every two weeks consistent with the Manifesto? Yes, it is. The difference in OSA is that we are inviting people to play a game, we are not mandating this or that.

Q. What kind of result then can I mandate? Valuable software on some regular interval?

A. Why mandate a specific outcome like iterative delivery when you know you need the human engagement of the team? In OSA we teach the Manifesto and invite the teams to try an experiment, for example experimenting with Scrum. The difference between the mandate and the invitation is huge. The mandate is experienced as command-control and coercion, both of which reduce engagement. The invite is experienced as a respectful request to engage in a game. Every good game has opt-in participation. See also


Q. What if they want to do an 18 month waterfall process? Can I ask them not to do that?

A. In OSA, we “explain the why” of the Agile experiment, in an invite to attend an Open Space meeting. That invite is an invite to explore a theme, a theme like “Agile: In Service To What?” or “What Do We Want Agile to SOLVE?” We then schedule another Open Space about 12 weeks out. In between, we authorize experimentation with Agile, defined as using practices that support the Manifesto principles. Is an 18-month waterfall process consistent with that? No. And in this scenario, the folks themselves will not go that way, because an 18-month waterfall would not be in alignment with the Manifesto principles.

Q. Can we mandate that people show up and do work or do I have to invite them and coach them on that 2?

A. This is a silly question.

Q. I am desperately trying to understand the POV here. I am trying to understand that nuance. What is the difference between mandating agile and mandating some of the other outcomes that folks have suggested? Maybe you can do a post for me or something, because honestly, I am really, really confused.

A. A central premise of OSA is that engagement is essential. Mandates reduce the sense of control and belonging. This kills engagement. It is really, REALLY this simple.

Q. Is the nuance I am missing that people have to be invited to participate, but if they don’t I can coach them out?

A. The nuance you are missing is that the very people who are allergic to your mandate are often the people who have the very best ideas on how to make Agile work inside their team and inside their company.  Inviting all the people to experiment and then inspect the results has a way of getting people in. Those who do not get in receive feedback from peers on what is working and what is not. A goal of OSA is to get everyone in.


Q. Is the nuance I’m missing that we have to take a disposition of invitation, we have to lead, coach, and help people along…

A. Yes, a premise of OSA is that engagement is essential and that mandates can kill engagement. Therefore, we replace that disengaging mandate with an engaging invitation to play a game: the game of experimenting with Agile practices to see if they actually work.

Q. …we all agree that they can’t do waterfall, not produce incremental value, allow defects to carry forward, else they leave?

A. We issue an invitation to attend a themed Open Space meeting. After that we play with practices and see if they serve. Quote: “Not just should a team choose their own process, the team should be control of how that process evolves.” – Martin Fowler, The Agile Imposition. See

Q. I’m not pushing a side, i am trying to understand and no one can explain to me what it means not to mandate.

A. To not mandate means to invite. To be inviting. To replace the coercive command-control mandate with an invitation to play a game of experimentation which will be inspected. This tends to engage people. The premise is that engagement is essential.

Q. Dan explicitly asserted that you cannot mandate an agile transformation. We have done this many times with great success.

A. I love success stories and I am sure you have many. Let’s run the numbers. Since 2001, the year of the Agile Manifesto, that’s about about 13 years, I’m guessing there have been over 10,000 attempts at successful adoption of Agile. (That’s probably low). I’m also guessing that 99% of these have been implemented as mandates of Agile practices. Right? Is that a fair and reasonable assumption? By that measure, the 500 or more legitimate success stories are actually outliers! Those 500 success stories represent about 5% of the sample, meaning there is a 95% lack of success is this hypothetical example.

Say there were actually 1500 verifiable success stories out there, about the mandate of Agile practices. In the language of wagering, that means you’d still be about a “6 to 1 dog” (with odds about 6 to 1 against you) when making that bet.

There’s loads of experience data. Where in that data is the overwhelmingly positive evidence that mandating Agile practices actually works? There is a lot of data from organizations like Gallup which shows that engagement is correlated with things that are really good, like employee retention and employee morale and better products.

Question: Where is the evidence that these mandates of Agile practices are actually increasing employee engagement?

Q. So I am trying to understand what he means. There is some nuance I am clearly missing. Trying to understand what that is.

A. The nuance is very simple. People have to be willing. You can create indirect opposition, resentment and so on by forcing agile practices on people without their consent. The clear solution is to replace the mandate of practices with a genuine invitation to experiment with them.

Q. I think you can mandate going to agile, but then have to win the hearts and minds of the people involved.

A. Almost. You can win the hearts and minds of the people involved. Mandates create feeling associated with a loss of control and belonging. In his book DELIVERING HAPPINESS, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh explains how the senses of control and of belonging are essential for human happiness. See page Appendix A page 233. When people lose a sense of control, they may tip into the state of Learned Helplessness. Martin Seligman did experiments that exposed this dynamic. It stems from a lack of perceived control. Is this what we want to start happening inside our Agile adoption programs? See also: and


Q. But if they choose not to participate, and that is their choice, they may have to find employment elsewhere.

A. This is true. However, in OSA, the adoption is emergent and adaptive—not prefabricated and forced via a mandate or coercion. This is a very big difference from the mandated approach. In the OSA approach, the adoption has emergence baked in from the beginning. Everyone is invited and those who opt-in are co-creating it.  Everyone has a decent sense of control and strong sense of belonging. The group senses things together, along with the person who no longer fits. Authority does not tell the person they are fired. Instead, emergent order creates a shared sense of agreement about reality by and between the members. When the new culture of learning takes root, the unengaged person and the tribe both realize what is no longer working.

Q. I’m not suggesting we enslave people, but if I decide to run my company using an agile approach that is not debatable.

A. As the owner, if a command-control approach works for you, great. Keep doing that.

Q. I will teach, coach, mentor, help them understand, be kind and gentle along the way and give them time to learn.

A. That is a good idea, consistent with the Open Agile Adoption approach.

Q. But if there is no option but to do agile or leave, that is fundamentally a mandate.

A. In OSA, formally authorized leadership works from a belief that people actually want to do great work, and will do great work if you create the conditions for it to emerge. Essential elements of these conditions include a sense of control and a sense of belonging. Invitations to engage can encourage both. The sense of control and belonging show up when people are actively making decisions about the customization and tailoring of practices they are choosing with others in the group. The co-created agreements associate with a sense of control and membership.

Q. Maybe as you suggested the word mandate carries some baggage for people that I don’t have. Like calling people resources.

A. What it is called does not matter: if you reduce the sense of control and sense of belonging below a certain level, or lower, the participants will stop playing the game and check out. When that happens, it’s “game over” and the Agile adoption is dead in the water.

Q. Ah, so mandate implies one-way communication. That is insightful… I didn’t interpret the word that way.

A. Yes, and an invitation is a two-way communication. The OSA approach replaces mandates (which can feel coercive) with an invitation (which can feel inclusive.)

Q. Okay, so that is insightful for me too. I think agile is a way of working, but it doesn’t require an agile mindset.

A. Yes, and if there is no Agile mindset at the beginning, that probably means the folks at least have to be consenting to what is happening. If there is no mindset and there and no consent, what is there? Answer: compliance, resentment, learned helplessness. See also

Q. If I act with agility, the feeling of agility will follow.

A. Maybe. If you are willing. If you are experimenting. If you have actively consented to play the game. If you have AGREED to “act as if”, to “suspend disbelief”, to “pretend this might work” for a little while.

Otherwise, maybe not. The feeling of agility is probably not going to happen if you are feeling compelled, coerced or forced. If you are feeling a low sense of control and a lower sense of belonging.

Where there is no consent, there is often a general feeling that something just ain’t right. At first, you may have difficulty being able to name and identify these feelings.

Q. I don’t believe that it is an effective strategy to transform 6000 people through cultural indoctrination

A. Open Agile Adoption is not a cultural indoctrination program. There are NO  attempts at “persuasion” to get  “buy-in” from teams, in OSA. This is because genuine engagement is deeper than that.

The OSA method is a way to introduce process-change through a consent-based approach that uses invitation and the use of Open Space to create an experience. The OSA experience is designed to encourage self-organization at scale. It creates the conditions for a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.

Q. I believe you have to get the systems in place to enable agility and that will allow the mindset of agility to follow.

A. A core premise of OpenSpace Agility is that people want to be part of creating the solution (sense of belonging) and want to consent to that (sense of control). When you force Agile practices, there is no experimentation. There is no belonging as there is no shared-agreement. There is simply a forced march to collaboration. A forced march to “mandated collaboration”. This is a terrible idea.

Q. I do believe [OpenSpace Agility] is very contextually sensitive, not impossible to do it the other [mandated] way.

A. Almost every big change in almost every organization is context-sensitive. Right?
A core premise of OpenSpace Agility is that engagement is absolutely essential. Another core premise is that a mandate of practices can quickly reduce levels of engagement by reducing the senses of control and belonging. If this is true, then OpenSpace Agility is widely applicable. It is applicable in almost any enterprise that wants a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.

Q. Dan just happened to say that my way doesn’t work and there were no examples of it working. I disagreed and offered to introduce him.

A. I say that mandates reduce engagement, and that engagement is essential for a rapid and lasting Agile adoption. If your way is to mandate, I am doubtful it creates rapid and lasting Agile adoptions.

I am sure you have some success stories in your sample. However, the sample size across the entire Agile experience is at least 13 years of mostly-mandated Agile adoptions, worldwide! That might be 10,000 or more attempts at mandated Agile adoption. So, if Agile-practice mandates are a good bet, and actually work, we’d by now  be able to point with pride to thousands upon thousands of verifiable and unmitigated success stories.  Right?

Thirteen years and thousands of attempts to force Agile practices. Where are the thousands upon thousands of verifiable success stories?

Why is it a crime to ask this question?

Where is the “mound of data” with verifiable results that strongly support the mandate of Agile practices?

Q. The only thing I wanted to assert here is that both ways can work.

A. If Approach-A works 15 time out of 100, and Approach-B works 85 times per 100 trials, both can be said to work. At issue is the expectation. One, Approach-A, has very negative expectation, we can expect on balance to fail (LOSE MONEY) most of the time. The other, Approach-B, has very positive expectation; we can expect on balance to succeed (WIN MONEY) almost every time. Both can be said to work some of the time. They have widely different “expected value.”

The mandated approach might work maybe 15 times per 100 attempts. Are those actually good numbers? Are we actually happy with that? Today, we are collecting data on a NEW approach. An approach that focuses on engagement, on the premise that human engagement is essential from the very beginning.


The OSA approach assumes human engagement is essential. It replaces the mandate with the invitation. It is an approach that attempts to improve the odds for success in getting a rapid and lasting Agile adoption, by acknowledging the reality of imposed mandates and replacing those mandates with opt-in invitations. The method includes leadership storytelling, the use of Open Space, deliberate experience design, game mechanics and more, all in service to the creation of rapid and more lasting Agile adoptions.









Culture Technology Wants To Be Free

Culture technology wants to be free.

Quick, answer this question: what kind of world are we building? An open, flexible, free-to-innovate world, OR…a closed, rigid world where just a few people can slow down or even STOP innovation… cold…with restrictive licensing?

Listen up…

Triads as described by Dave Logan in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP is a micro-culture design.

Scrum as described by Jeff Sutherland & Ken Schwaber is a culture design for teams.

Sociocracy as described in the book WE THE PEOPLE by John Buck is a culture design for large groups of people.

“The Core” from Jim and Michele McCarthy are a set of 11 commitments and 11 key interactions- a culture design for teams of up to 10 people. 

These culture designs are games– social games with goals, rules, roles and feedback loops. These are social systems designs.

Here is a quote to consider:

The field of system dynamics is leading to the new profession of enterprise designer. Methods now exist for designing the structure and policies of human systems so that the systems will better serve the people within them. Several decades of progress in system dynamics point to a new kind of management education. Such a future education will train a new kind of manager for the future. I anticipate future management schools devoted to “enterprise design.” Such business schools would train “enterprise designers.”…just as successful aircraft are possible only through skilled designers, so in the future will successful corporations, countries and social systems be possible through enterprise designers. Enterprise designers will be able to reduce the number of mistakes in the structure and policies of social institutions. -Jay Forrester, December 15, 1988, Sevilla Spain



Here is another:

In response to the demands of software, various high tech development disciplines have been articulated and “packaged up.” We have created several seminal management “movements” (such as Agile, Scrum, XP, etc.). These movements represent the birth of culture engineering and are primitive compared to what will soon follow. -Jim McCarthy, September 2012, CULTUREcon Boston



In my book THE CULTURE GAME, I explain how culture is a game.

Games can be and are designed.

If a culture is a game, it can be designed, just LIKE a game.

The current pace of change in business and society is unrelenting.  To rapidly IDENTIFY and rationally RESPOND to change, we must re-invent continuously. We must design new ways of organizing. We must INVENT new structures that are responsive to change.

And therefore, the time has come for the big shift: the shift into a new era of design…the era of social system design. An era where we routinely create, refine and re-create ever-more effective ways of working.


The Golden Age

The massive changes in society we are experiencing today are being created and amplified by software technology. Software is the dominant influence now: it is the engine of relentless change.

Because of this, we are on the threshold of a golden age,  a new era where social system design has suddenly become VERY important. For businesses, the implementation of good designs that serve the people who populate them is now a huge competitive advantage.

The various skills and disciplines from computer software (analysis, design, code, implementation, testing and maintenance, the use of patterns, refactoring and the like) are being ported to this new discipline. This is beginning to give rise to a new movement…a movement whose goal is to design and implement not computer systems but social systems… social systems designs that serve the people who populate them, instead of the other way around.

What can slow this movement?


What can accelerate this movement?


There’s an alarming trend in culture design. Some individuals and organizations are marketing social system designs while attempting to lock up their designs through licensing.

This is the OPPOSITE of what is needed now.

For example, anything published under the Creative Commons “Atribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives” license prevents those who build on it from selling or distributing those innovations.  This is a serious impediment to innovation at a time when the need for innovative culture design is accelerating. This license is bad for innovation. That why Creative Commons says plainly:

“This is not a Free Culture license.”

Jim and Michele McCarthy led the way by example, in 1999 by publishing The Core Protocols, their “social IP”, under the GNU-GPL license. Under the terms of this license, the The Core are published with two key features:

  • First: if you make a work derived from a GPL-licensed work, you must make it available on the same terms.
  • Second: if you distribute your derivation, you must make the “source code” that it is based upon available to absolutely everyone you distribute your derivation to.

These features of the GPL license encourage innovation at a time when we are on the verge of a new era: a Golden Age of culture design. Lack of attribution is also very big problem solved by open source licensing: people who do good work need to be recognized as the author of it, because that encourages them to do more of the same.

If your work is easily co-opted without considerate attribution, and an attendant increase in your reputation, why bother?

Open source licensing for culture designs is THE solution. The alternative- locking up “social IP” with restrictive licensing– PREVENTS others from distributing and profiting from innovation in the social sciences.

In one extreme case, an “integral” entrepreneur marketing a work derived from the work of others attempted to protect that derivation with a USA patent.

The USA patent was not awarded.

If it was, anyone that tried to build on that work would have to pay the patent holder a royalty!

That “integral” entrepreneur is now publishing a social system design called “holacracy” under one of the most restrictive licenses ever– the so-called “Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives” license which prevents those who build on the design from selling or distributing any derivative works.

This license impedes innovation!!

Moral of story: Some Creative Commons licenses impede innovation, and don’t take my word for it- Creative Commons also says so. The so-called “Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives” license DOES NOT encourage innovation. This is NOT an open source license.

What the world needs now is social intellectual property that is published under licensing terms that promote— instead of attempting to lock up– and prevent– innovation. With true open source licensing, innovators publish their works with intent to promote innovation. Truly open source licenses contain provisions that not only honor the originator, but also see to it that the originator’s ideas and work are ported into the future, attached to the innovations of others who build on the originators work.

Do you have a culture design? Consider publishing it under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA-40) license. This IS an open source license!

The nasty Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 (the one that the “holacracy constitution” is published under)  is NOT an open source license. Far from it! You cannot distribute ANY of your innovations on that work. You cannot recoup your valuable time and effort by commercializing your innovation.

This license IMPEDES innovation.



What kind of world are we building? An open, flexible, free-to-innovate world, with a commons, OR…a closed, rigid world with NO COMMONS where a few people can slow down or even STOP innovation… with restrictive licensing?

Social technology must be free to build on, derive from, and innovate. Otherwise, we’ll go backwards 30 years and kill an emerging golden age in sociocultural system design & engineering.

Culture technology wants to be free.


Related Links: Culture Technology

Triads from David Logan (link)

Scrum from Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber (link)

The Core from Jim and Michele McCarthy (link)

Sociocracy from The Sociocracy Group (link)


Related Links: Licenses and Licensing

The nasty Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives” license, a license that actually discourages innovation in culture design. Note: The so-called “holacracy constitution” is published under this license! (link)

The Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license, a license that promotes innovation in Culture Design. (link)

The GNU-GPL, a license that promotes innovation in Culture Design. (link)