Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Jon and Susan,

Thank you for continuing to challenge my thinking. Between you, you sent me off in the directions of  “Dr Graves and Spiral Dynamics” and “Cargo-cult Science” (see Meet Dr. Graves and Spiral Dynamics ref Teal and T4S and  Cargo cult science – wikipedia – relevant FASST as an experiment).

Reference Social Dynamics I was particularly interested in the connection between systems theory and developmental psychology. In The long version of : “My Why” and FASST I refer to a similar combination of systems and psychology in my work in the 1970s and early 1980’s.

Reference cargo-cult science I appreciated the  observations on experimentation and transparency. It helped to remind me that FASST is about finding out. It is an experiment.

You have both been contributing to various conversations in the T4S space (about purpose and  challenges that we need to face through new ways of doing things) and the emphasis in T4S is of course on Teal Startups. It is natural for you, (and for other people who meet me and FASST in T4S) to expect FASST ot be an example of a new Teal organisation which is a startup. However FASST is primarily an experiment. It is an experiment in collaboration, which will use the ideas and procedures of Teal organisations and Holacracy as the basis for its cultural norms. The experiment is in its very early stages. FASST is more of a “Starting Up” than a “Start-up”.

FASST is an experiment

FASST is an experiment, and If I’m conducting an experiment then there should be some question that I’m trying to answer, some area of knowledge that I’m investigating, I should have a hypothesis to test.

The area of knowledge that I’m investigating is cross disciplinary. It relates to many aspects of life in an increasingly connected world. For years I’ve been exploring aspects of the transition from “life as it was before easily available Internet access” to “life as it is becoming through the Internet and suchlike”. I could point to plenty of sources – academic research, opinion pieces, practical projects, as well as work I have done previously – to provide the conceptual background for this experiment.

Some of the important ideas behind the FASST experiment are:

  • An increasingly interconnected world
  • The impact of rapid flows of information on slow, rigid, command-and-control organisational structures
  • Pressures towards collaboration rather than competition
  • Collaborations across silos
  • The role of generalists in building bridges between different specialisms
  • The role of facilitators who “hold the space” and enable dialogues and collaborations
  • U Theory
  • Teal organisations
  • Holacracy
  • Heutagogy  – the study of self directed learning
  • The “sociology” of Open Source software development
  • The use of social media and online tools for information sharing and collaboration
  • The changing world of work – fewer “jobs for life”, emergence of social enterprise, the “precariat“, increased self-employment, driving for Uber etc,
  • The benefits of communities of interest, communities of practice, and peer-to-peer support.
  • The isolation faced by many innovators
  • People expressing desires to “change the world”
  • Searches for meaningful work
  • Need for effective collaboration to tackle the many “wicked problems” we face

The hypothesis

If FASST is an experiment then the question that my experiment addresses should be expressed as a hypothesis. Doubtless there are “correct ways” to express a hypothesis, but I don’t know what the correct ways are. I’ll just say what my hypothesis is in ordinary language and maybe someone will help me to knock it into more appropriate shape later.

My hypothesis states that the ideas and processes of Teal organisations and Holacracy can enable effective collaboration between people and organisations in a way that is appropriate for life in an increasingly connected world.

Testing the hypothesis

I need to run experiments in order to test the hypothesis. Every collaboration that takes place in FASST will be a micro-experiment.

Method (as I imagine it at present)

This is the method as I imagine it at present:


Set up FASST as a “container for experimenting with Holacracy” (i.e. I launch FASST with the help of Sally as facilitator)

The launch process gives various outcomes including:

  • Clarity of purpose, clearly expressed
  • The Glassfrog software populated with my current roles and with additional roles waiting to be energised.


Once FASST is launched I approach people who have expressed an interest in the FASST experiment (only a handful at first). Show them Glassfrog. Invite them to express their interests in the FASST experiment in terms of roles (Sally to facilitate the process).

I already have a couple of people committed to joining in and several others who are interested in joining once FASST gets going. I expect this kind of process.

  • Newcomers select one or more roles for themselves from the available roles that are waiting to be energised (this can be a single, small role).
  • Newcomers explore with  Sally and me any initiatives they are currently working on (either alone, or as the leader) that they would like to bring into FASST
  • They express those initiatives in terms of roles they are already energising
  • They explore blockages in their initiatives in terms of tensions and of roles that need to be energised
  • They define the missing roles and add them to the collection of available roles that are waiting to be energised in FASST
  • They share details of the new available roles with others who are part of FASST so that we can select roles we are willing to energise

Typical missing roles that won’t take much time might be “a listening buddy” (who will be available for a weekly one-hour skype session) or a similar commitment as a “hold-me-accountable buddy”. Other small roles are likely to be to do with information handling or presentation, such as “proof reader”.

Part one of the FASST experiment

As the experiment progresses we will be able to see if the following happens

By energising small roles in each others initiatives the people involved in the FASST experiment will:

  • Build trust
  • Get to know each others initiatives
  • Discover each others strengths and needs
  • Become “at home with holacracy” in a natural “learning-by-doing” way
  • Move towards becoming a supportive, collaborative community
  • Start to create an archive (or information commons) related to the ongoing stories of the initiatives.

Gradually there will be a greater take up of roles, as people join FASST who have time to spare and are looking for new interests. This is where the holacracy culture will come into its own, to enable people to find ways to fit in, and to prove themselves. It will give the people who are leading initiatives an easy way to attract extra help and absorb it in a gradual, low-risk way, (i.e.with minimal “opportunity cost” around making best use of time offered by new volunteers)

Subsequent parts of the experiment

As the community grows we will be able to do more ambitious experiments. The long term vision has been described in FASST – an introduction and invitation It includes reference to how FASST will be able to generate income. This is an important aspect of testing the original hypothesis that “the ideas and processes of Teal organisations and Holacracy can enable effective collaboration between people and organisations in a way that is appropriate for life in an increasingly connected world.

Bills have to be paid. If FASST is to grow as a community, and if it is to support members of the community in their initiatives then income generation is an important aspect. In my imagination the FASST experiment continues to develop, and it goes on to explore these more challenging issues. Once money starts to change hands then the organisational structures need to be more formal. FASST will move into experiments as a business when it has people to energise roles related to financial responsibilities and governance.

Experiment or exploration?

I don’t have a formal research background so I don’t know what we’d need to measure in order to test the hypothesis properly. Experiments usually have a control group, and I don’t see how we could run one.  Maybe I need to define some missing roles that will need to be energised before the exploration can become an experiment.

Maybe, for now, I should be describing it as a exploration rather than an experiment.

Maybe its final shape will be a mixture of science (to do the work of proving the hypothesis) and arts (to develop and express the analogies that start to make an appearance in Time Travellers All (not a blog, an essay) and T4S and FASST, rockets and time-machines )

Thanks to you Jon and Susan

As I said to you, Jon and Susan, at the start of this open letter “Thank you for challenging my thinking.” Trying to reply to you helps to push me on in clarifying the ideas.

I wrote this after your responses to T4S and FASST, rockets and time-machines In those responses you raised issues of “being of service” (thank you Susan) and you, Jon, raised various issues that I’ll cluster together for now as related to “connections” (between organisations, tools, people etc.)

I hope you can see now how it would be much easier to take some practical steps regarding your responses if FASST was already up and running and we could explore “what next” in terms of tensions and roles waiting to be energised.