“You don't see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.”
Robert Shaw

Chaos: Making a New Science

Ceptr CEO

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A few days ago I was invited to listen in on a conversation where some Ceptr friends tried to deal with questions on organizational structure and whether whatever organizational structure there was needed a CEO and/or COO. I am going to try to zoom in on the CEO question as a reflection on the wider context.

I will start with what wasn’t brought up in the meeting at all: what is a CEO? Because this wasn’t brought up the conversation seemed to gravitate towards an unspoken but conventional assumption of what a traditional CEO (at least in my mind). I would vaguely describe it as someone who is brought in to introduce and sustain structure and order through authority (in this case authority that would be willfully given). Given some of the core narratives that have shaped Ceptr this felt like an inconsistency at least, possibly even a betrayal of values. Ceptr is about creating a technology which evokes dyamic and adaptive self-organization – an idea inspired by nature. I would want to see the organism that is Ceptr live in such a way. A forest doesn’t have a CEO, why does Ceptr need one? Can centralized authority be a foundation for creating a system of distributed authority?

Can there be another kind of CEO? These thoughts are inspired by the work of Frederic Leloux and his work Reinventing Organizations and by some of the inspiration I experienced in the existing examples introduced in Better Companies: Equal Footing.

The primary responsibility of a CEO is to listen to what wants to be. It is not to figure out or decide where an organization needs to go. It is to listen to listen carefully to what an organizations is asking to become. The primary action of a CEO is to direct attention and energy throughout the organization so that it can gracefull move as a whole towards that which wants to be. It isn’t to make sure that everyone is executing a predetermined plan. It is to notice and share with others that by bringing together our wills, resources and gifts we have created emergent conditions and that something is emerging.

Such a CEO cannot exist in a hierarchical and centralized organization. Such a CEO resonates with a different form of organization. If there needs to be a process of recruitment (whether its direct hiring or onboarding) then that process needs to be informed by the emerging story not by some centralized decision about recruitment which falls on the shoulders of one person. If there needs to be a process of funding then that too should not fall upon the shoulders of one person to direct and control, but is shaped to be in service of what wants to emerge. Maybe this CEO is a modern-day shaman-like figure … an intimate keeper of story.

If I look at Ceptr in this context, it already has a defacto CEO. If I try to imagine this defacto CEO being placed in a traditional CEO role, I can see him rejecting that notion … which is what seems to be happening. It goes against his nature. A traditional notion of CEO would undermine him and undermine Ceptr. His rejection of it is an act of leadership. I believe, the challenge we are left with is not to find a CEO, but to find a way to create conditions for an organization to emerge around the CEO we already have.

I would like to also touch lightly on the subject of man/woman. I believe we need to better discern between man/woman and masculine/feminine. I believe we need to give rise to feminine qualities and that confusing that with woman can be distracting. I would very much like to create and partake in an organization that is shaped by a better feminine-masculine mix (to avoid male dominance). I  believe our defacto CEO is a good example of this.

 

 

 

 

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