Tami Simon on Integral Naked - Enlightened Business Practices
April 28, 2008 08:41
Enlightened Business Practices. Part 1. The Birth of Sounds True.
The founder of America’s largest producer of spoken-word spiritual material shares the inside story behind the origins of Sounds True, one of the world's leading exemplars of integral business practices....
"In a way, I gave birth to Sounds True, and then over the next decades Sounds True gave birth to me...."
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Who: Tami Simon is the founder and president of Sounds True, a multimedia publisher dedicated to "the dissemination of spiritual wisdom" and North America's leading publisher of spoken-word spiritual teachings.
Summary: In this compelling dialogue, Tami Simon and Ken Wilber discuss the origins of Sounds True, one of the world's very first organizations to operate along genuinely Integral principles. In the discussion, she summarizes these principles as the "multiple bottom lines" of purpose, profit, people, and planet. She shares the intentions behind each of these guiding principles, and talks about their impact upon the day-to-day work environment at Sounds True. Tami then goes on to discuss the intimate relationship she has with the company, and the profoundly transformative effect Sounds True continues to have upon her to this very day.
There is a common misconception among many aspiring integral leaders that organizations must organically evolve through the same general developmental stages individuals grow through, and therefore need to become conventional before it can become post-conventional—moving through an orange organizational system before it can move to a green organizational system, before then making a "momentous leap" into integral and post-integral organizations, etc. While they may share many similar qualities, we cannot confuse the properties of social holons (which can skip stages) with those of individual holons (which cannot). As such, businesses, organizations, or any other collective entities do not develop the same way as individuals, and do not necesarily move through developmental stages in any sequential fashion whatsoever.
One useful metaphor for the way organizations orient themselves developmentally is to use the example of a poker game as a social holon: if you have six people (individual holons) sitting at a table playing poker, all of whom are at the red stage of development, you've essentially got a red game of poker. If three of those people leave, and three new green people come to the table, you've got a game that is half green, and half red. If all six people then leave, and are replaced by six turquoise players, then it immediately becomes a turquoise game of poker, with no need to move through amber, orange, or teal stages of development.
Simply put, if you wish to create an integral organization, staffed by integral individuals, with the hope of creating integral output, you need to have integral structures in place from the very beginning. These integral dynamics often differ greatly from conventional organizations, and typically include a mix of policies that are simultaneously as loose as they are tight, exactly the sort of "flex-flow" that second-tier employees thrive upon. For example, you would likely find as much emphasis upon flexible hours, practice-nurturing cultures, and fun work environments as you would upon tight timelines, strict procedures, and maximized productivity. Integral organizations tend to recognize the wide array of motivations, needs, and working typologies of its employees, and tries to offer enough stability and flexibility to accommodate all these factors—after all, a happy employee is a productive employee, right?
While businesses do not by necessity move through these stages in a sequential manner, it is worth noting some of the features that commonly define organizations at particular stages of organizational development:
- A red organization is essentially the modern-day equivalent of ancient warlord societies, in which a single founder, leader, or owner dominates every aspect of the business (for the better or worse of all) with blatant disregard for other opinions, ideas, or perspectives.
- An amber organization typically features a rigid hierarchy of leadership, in which everyone knows their place, their function, and their duties. Ideas and decisions move strictly downward, from the leader, CEO, or board to management, all the way down to the employees. Mobility in the organization is often a result of aristocratic, nepotistic, or fundamentalistic politics.
- An orange organization also tends to have strict hierarchies in place, though these hierarchies are usually meritocracies in which promotion is based upon ability, drive, and aptitude. Decisions still tend to move down the organization, though there are often channels by which new ideas can float up the managerial chain.
- A green organization often tries to eliminate hierarchies altogether, instead forming sociocratic structures based entirely upon principles of flexibility, freedom, and flow. In these systems, every perspective is given equal weight when it comes to the decision-making process, often by means of voting or consensus.
- A "second-tier" business is one that values both aptitude and altitude in decision-making, while seeking to create hierarchies that are simultaneously fluid and structured. These companies explicitly aim to balance structural efficiency, cultural cohesion, best practices, and personal growth and happiness—all in service of a commonly-shared vision of unity, transcendence, and integrity for the world.
It is no secret that the Integral altitude is currently rising as a real cultural force in the world, in much the same way that green began to arise in the late fifties and early sixties. As this new Integral population continues to emerge and organize itself into a viable spiritual, political, economic, and ecological force, it will surely look to the incredible successes of Sounds True and the leadership of Tami Simon as cherished role-models, genuine beacons of enlightened business, laying the ground for an entirely new vanguard of Integral organizations to come.
We invite you to enjoy this fascinating discussion.
Click here for full dialogue!