ALE… Self-Organization without Management?

Yesterday Rini van Solingen asked me if I would tattoo the ALE logo on my arm. I answered:

“Absolutely not, because I have no idea in which the direction the network will be going!”

After this reply I realized that it nicely illustrates how I see my position in the ALE network: OK, I might have some influence, but I have absolutely no power of control. And that’s how I like it.

Of course, I understand this can be confusing for people who are not used to self-organization without management. They come to me with questions about the ALE2011 conference, perhaps thinking I’m some kind of manager. Or they assume I must have some hidden agenda to manipulate what is happening. After all, someone must be controlling this amazing new network, isn’t it?

Well, the answer to that is:

“No, not all self-organization needs control. Leadership yes, but not necessarily governance.”

And certainly it won’t be me trying to control the network. The people will do whatever they do. And if I like the activities I will support them. I already gave away ownership of the LinkedIn group and the Twitter account. And the website will follow too, if someone takes good care of it. In fact, my wish is to prove that self-organization without management, at a European scale, can work. It would be silly to sabotage the experiment myself, wouldn’t it? 🙂

The ALE2011 unconference is a great example. I was not involved in the original idea, nor the organization. Other people did all the work. But I fully endorsed it because I liked what they were doing. The same applies to the Bathtub conferences, ALE university, and anyone else who starts an activity under the ALE brand. (Hint, hint!)

Note: Coming up with ideas is easy. Execution is all that counts! And in the case of ALE 2011 all the credits go to Olaf Lewitz, Marcin Floryan, Oana Juncu, Marc Clemens, Franck Depierre and dozens of others… I thank them all for doing an amazing job. And for not bothering me with things-to-do. 😉

As long as people do cool things, I will support the network as best as I can. But when the network starts turning into an alliance or consortium, I will just as easily peel all the stickers off my t-shirt, netbook, coffee mug, diary and pillow.

My own interest is primarily in the area of change management. I am trying to learn what it takes to influence and change social systems, like teams, organizations and… communities. My latest presentation “How to Change the World” deals with this topic. Indeed, I tried some of the ideas with the ALE network, and it appears that they worked. Now I will spend the next half year going around conferences to share the ideas that I stole copied from many sources. Because lots of people are struggling to be better change agents. Just like I have struggled for 15 years! Maybe I can make a minor contribution that as well… 🙂

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