Peter Koenig has spent the last decade researching principles for how founders organise and materialise their enterprises, projects and initiatives – what he calls sourcework. We talk about the role of source and source principles and the idea of seeing organisations as energetic fields. We talk about why his work has sparked debate in “new ways of working” circles, as well as how we can use the lens of source to diagnose decentralised organisations when we seem to get stuck. Peter also shares some insights from 30 years of running money seminars, and why money is such a great place to hide our deepest shadows.
- Upcoming money workshop (based on Peter's work) by Tim Malnick
- The Role of Source introduction workshop by Tom Nixon
- A website about source principles curated by Tom Nixon
- Peter’s website
- Tom Nixon’s blog about Reinventing Organisations and source (with a comment from Frederic Laloux at the end)
- Frederic Laloux’s video on new roles for top leaders, including the role of source
- Peter’s book 30 Lies About Money
Lisa Gill: So Peter, I thought maybe we could start with the work that you've done around source, and perhaps you could explain to listeners what that source work is and how you came to develop it.
Peter Koenig: Yeah Lisa, thank you for this question. You're talking to what has become one of my passions, so I'll just start and if you want to break in anywhere, just please break in because I can talk for hours about this. But as you know, I've been running money seminars for more than 30 years about the relationship to money and almost in every single seminar that I've had, I've always had people who have thought about doing things for the future; starting projects, initiatives or companies or something they want to do in the future but don't think they can really start now. And very often they come and say in the money seminar, "I need to get some money and finance together first and then I can start to do really what I want to do in my life or my initiative project, start a company or association", whatever. So, for many, many years, I was always saying in my money seminars, yes, but nobody ever starts any kind of initiative with money. Because that had been my own experience and I'd heard so many stories of people who'd started things, and they never started with money, they always started with an idea which they were passionate about. And then if it started working the resources, including money, (but not just money) would seem to follow, not to lead.
And I referred to this person who starts something as 'a source', because I'd learned that from one of my partners back in the 1980s, and he called himself a 'source' rather than a 'founder' and I liked that word, because it seemed to be more expressive of the role somehow. So I always said it's always a person who is a source and sources something and at a meeting in Belgium in 2009, somebody asked, "What do you mean by 'source'? What does the 'source' do?" And I rattled off without having really thought about it, what I tend to do and what I thought other people did, and this person happened to be from Belgium's major business school. And he said to me, "We don't have anything like that that has ever explained anything like the way you do. You must come and give a talk about this." And, I said "this is really strange because it seems so obvious to me." But he started to raise doubts about whether this was in the vocabulary in the trainings that are ever taught. And I started to look at my experience in history with business schools and realised that nobody had ever taught me this. So that was the start.
I then went and tested it in Quebec a couple of weeks later, with 12 entrepreneurs in a sort of experimental group. I just described what I do to realise my projects, and asked everybody else, "Now you go one by one, I'd like everybody to tell me how do you realise your project?". It's all about realisation and manifestation. And to my great surprise, and actually, everybody's great surprise, everybody said what I had just described was exactly what they did. And, that was the start of what I call 'the source work' because at the beginning I thought they were just being nice to me. I said, "This is what I do but I don't expect anybody else to do the same thing. It's sort of a loose hypothesis, if you like. You may be approximately doing the same thing". But then everybody said, they did the same thing. And when I had this experience repeated in different places, (the second place I did it was in Brussels, the third place Berlin, because I really wanted to check it out), I found there's something here which seems to be in common that entrepreneurs, that people who start things, do which isn't written down anywhere, and, I went from thinking of it as a light hypothesis, called it 'source hypothesis' beginning, then after about six times I had this experience, I called them 'principles', maybe, and then after about 12, times, I started suggesting might even be 'laws', but I thought that was too strong, so I backed down to 'principles'. And I've called them ever since, 'principles' ('source principles') and had now, this experience of this resonance towards them, repeated hundreds of times and in different kinds of iterations. And where they are challenged. I've been inviting challenge all the time from the very start because I'm putting out something which seems to be wrong, I want to know, and I want to be able to test. So where people do feel challenged, or are challenging me, I invite that. And then I want to have concrete proof, if I'm doing something wrong, I need to have evidence which is at least as strong as the evidence that I've been getting to be able to make a change. And I'm willing to make a change, but I need to have some very strong evidence. So that's a very long answer to your question.
Lisa Gill: It's a good starting point. And I think I'll come back to some of the common challenges that come up when I talk to people and when I've seen your work discussed out there. So perhaps a good place to go from here then is for you to share some of the principles that you've developed over the course of testing this out, some of the things that seem to be common around this role of source.
Peter Koenig: Gladly. So the work started in 2009, what I call 'sourcework', (I like to put it in one word), and at the beginning I didn't have any principles, I was just sharing what seemed to me common sense until a good friend, Charlie Davies said "You need to put numbers on things. Come up with 10 principles", and he did the first draft of 10 principles, which was very helpful. And I started working with his draft and actually, over time, I was still refining, developing this. It may sound complicated, but I've now come to 26, like the alphabet, and I think it will stay at 26. My standard version is now 26. But many of them, (it may sound long), but many of them are interrelated. So it's a body of work which has numbers of principles which interrelate with one another. So the first one, (and they're all pretty simple, actually), but the first one is that for every initiative, for every project, for every enterprise, there is only one person who is 'source' or one founder. And for people who have founded things, this is usually very, very clear. But particularly in recent years, people like the idea ideologically of co-founders, co-creation, and so forth, this has got into the whole vocabulary. So this particular aspect can be quite challenging for some people who call themselves 'co-founders' and they can feel quite challenged and come up with some ideas around it.
On the other hand, to my own surprise, when I started having people coming in as co-founders in my source days, more often than not, and by large numbers more often than not, when they call themselves 'co-founders', I would say to them first of all, with my heart beating quite strongly, "Which one of you is it? Is he or she the founder? Which one? There's only one of you." And I thought, oh, gosh, I'm going to start a conflict. I would say about 39 times out of 40 everybody knows, and they say, "Well, actually, I think it's you" or somebody points to themselves and says, "Well, actually, it was me". And the beauty of it is, and why I stay with this and like to do it is, that it seems to resolve, instantly, many questions when people do that. Not for everybody, but for many, many different cases, it explains why things have got a bit more complicated when we try to be co-founders and figure out that, if I'm a founder, I'm trying to give responsibility to somebody else that they can't really take on because they're not getting the proper information, because they aren't the founder. They aren't the source. So I've had too many experiences like that to easily get away and admit to co-founders, but everybody is on an equal level of responsibility, let me put it that way.
I do invite people to demonstrate to me. I've always been from the start saying, "OK if you if you really think this and you're convinced, come and demonstrate it to me, because I really want to learn and see how this thing works. If it's really working smoothly for you and everybody, I'm the first person who'd like to know how." And I've offered this invitation for the last 11 years and I haven't yet had one person come back with an initiative, where the people aren't in some sort of situation claiming to be co-founders but are not really fully in their power, I would say, the general response I get from people who would like to believe it, and would like to bring some kind of evidence. But I'm still waiting for the first one. So if somebody does, (and I'm not excluding it totally), but if somebody does, I'd like to really research and see how it works. But up to now, there seems to be such positive results in helping people to look and see; who could it be, (if we're not sure yet), who could it be who could be the source, identifying that person and understanding the role there. So that's the first and quite important principle. And then the other principles look at the role then of the source. Is it okay just to carry on talking like this, or do you have another question?
Lisa Gill: Yeah. Well I always have a lot of questions but I think the opportunity will come up and I think the role is a very important part of source. So yeah, please.
Peter Koenig: So I started to research then what is the role? How can we define what this founder does and distinguish it from other roles in an initiative? And it started to become clear quite quickly what the role the source has. I now define it in three roles, actually. One is to actually receive the vision for the initiative or the project or the enterprise. It's like a receptive role which comes in the form of an idea, but many people have ideas. And the distinction to make between somebody who has an idea, somebody who is source is that the source is the first person to actually take the risk, to say, "This is going to happen, this is what I'm going to do, and you can join me, you can come in if you like", like offer an invitation to the number two, the second and third person, who may have similar ideas, (they'll never be identical), but quite similar ideas, possibly. So the source is the person to receive the vision and then actually take the first step to the realisation. And that involves an investment of oneself and taking a certain risk, and the risk can take various forms. So that's the first role.
The second role is then that when the source is clear on something that they communicate it. Now, clarity is the organising principle for a source. So most of the time, we all are not clear with our projects and initiatives. And this tends to be just a fact of the life. Probably at least 80% of time, we really don't know what to do next, and we're looking for what to do next. But if we take a decision while we're not clear, it's almost inevitably a bad decision. So the source has to invest a lot of time and energy in getting themselves clear to know their project, in which direction it should go next. And almost invariably when they do know, when you are clear, all you need do to have it manifest, is to communicate it to the people who are working with you. So communication of that clarity is the second step, and the second role.
And the third role is one which would not be understood or seen yet by people who are running organisations in conventional ways, because it involves describing an organisation in an entirely different way, than how it's normally seen. Now, how is an organisation normally seen? If you go as a consultant into an organisation, into a company and say, "Please show me your structure", you'll probably have a piece of paper pulled out from somewhere or a chart on the screen, which shows an organigram with boxes and you're supposed to be able to understand what's going on by looking at the head of departments and their subordinates in terms of job descriptions. Now, this worked very well for industrial society and producing widgets. But today it has its very strong limitations and I tend to look at an organisation from a source work perspective, as a field of energy. It's like when an initiative is started with this risk, it's like the founder is actually creating, (you could call it) an energetic field. And it's a field or, if you don't like the word energy for this, you could say it's a field of influence. So just look at any founder anywhere, they are influential persons influencing other people and they're influentially, influencing things. Look at Richard Branson, look at Steve Jobs. I mean, you're looking at big influencers there but, just somebody who decides to hold a party or does the cooking tomorrow; it's like they're influencing other people and they're influencing things. I much prefer to look at an organization as something more organic in terms of a field of energy or influence.
And then the third role comes into view, which is different to like a conventional control of people, control of structures, control of this strategic planning, the third role is actually managing the boundary of this field. Because the source person, the source needs to decide what's in the field; what's in and what's out, what belongs to the field, what things do I want to see happen within the field of influence that I've started, (which I might call 'organisation'), and which things shouldn't be in it? So, particularly if I'm working with other people, and there's no project that can not work with other people, I mean, ultimately, customers, but also collaborators, and, and, and... So there are other people involved, and so it's a full time job, for a source to just be doing these three things; to be managing the vision, which is dynamic, because it's not static, to communicate the next steps that need to happen when you're clear, but a lot of the time, you're not clear, so you're spending a lot of time trying to get the clarity of what needs to happen next in your operation, and then thirdly, to maintain the boundaries, so that there's a sort of integrity there with your original vision, that it's really manifesting, really happening, and think you're not allowing things in that actually would weaken this integrity, and things would start to happen which you feel uncomfortable with. So that's what I would describe as the three main roles of source.
Lisa Gill: It's so interesting, because what I'm learning more and more, and having spent sort of five days with you in New Zealand just recently as well, is the paradoxical nature of this role of source. And so I remember when I first came across your work, as you described, being challenged, and thinking, hang on a minute, this goes against everything I was starting to learn about - more decentralized ways of organising. And I remember that our mutual friend, Tom Nixon, he had a nice way of putting it that what you're describing, these three roles that the source plays, I think it can conjure up images again of the kind of charismatic leader or the sort of heroic leader, which is a sort of old paradigm now, a bit out of date I think. And actually, what Tom said is that it's more of a vulnerable visionary, that there is a lot of humility in the role of source. It's this paradox between being very clear, as you said, and having some kind of creative authority about what's in the field. And yet, at the same time, there's no coercion going on, it's much more transparent in terms of, "Let me be clear about what this is, and if you're interested and you voluntarily want to support me in realising that vision, great." Now we have two adults willingly working together on this thing, which is a total paradigm shift in my opinion.
Peter Koenig: Yes. I totally agree. Totally agree because this kind of collaboration, once again, one we haven't learned, we haven't been educated in, in, let's say, the conventional paradigm of our education. What we've learnt in terms of collaboration is like on a production line. You get a half-produced product, or a quarter-produced product from your left and you're in a linear process and you're supposed to do something with it, and pass it to your right. And that linear process is what we call collaboration, normally, but of course, it's totally inadequate for what's required now, which is collaboration between creative people who are left to their own sources because we want to have innovative sources within our field who are creative, who don't need to be told precisely what to do. And that requires a completely different kind of collaboration, than people on a linear production line with job descriptions, who actually do need to be told precisely what to do it and when to do it, and so forth. So I love what you're saying. Exactly. It is a paradigm shift and it needs to be, in a sense, this is what we're doing with the source work, we're in training, that we're helping this form of collaboration to emerge. And, as you say, it's a paradox because in a sense we are still enabling what one might call a hierarchy, but it's a different kind of hierarchy. It's not the old hierarchy, and at the same time, we are actually creating the flattening of the organisation which is the ideal of those who died ideologically, wanting that, we are actually doing that. So I love the way you're describing it. That's the paradox we're in here, and you can only really understand it through having the consciousness that understands this paradigm shift.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, and I think that's been a key piece for me is understanding the inner work. I came across a term recently 'leader smithing', which I quite liked. 'Leader smithing', like, if you're a blacksmith, you know, you would always been in this lifelong process of honing your craft and this real commitment to consciousness.
Peter Koenig: That's nice, yeah.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I'm kind of curious now, if listeners by this point, if perhaps some of them are fans of Frederick Laloux's book, 'Reinventing Organisations', they may already be squirming at some of the things we've talked about so far, because I know that when I first came across your work, there were quite a few blogs that Tom had written that were stirring up quite a lot of really interesting debate. And I know that you've talked to Fredrik and I know that he's also evolved his thinking somewhat, and he refers to your source work in the illustrator version of the book, and also now in some of his videos. What is your perspective on looking at source work in the context of Frederick Laloux's work in terms of orange and green, and teal?
Peter Koenig: I'm not an expert on spiral dynamics, although I have a parallel system and I know, superficially. I love Frederick Laloux and his work. And actually, thanks to Tom who you've mentioned, he actually came the first time we met to one of my, I call, 'Source Days'; a day long introduction of source work in Brussels. And then we had the opportunity to meet afterwards. And I asked Frederick Laloux, "In your book, you've done nothing else pretty well than interview, what I call, 'sources'..." And he'd been to the Source Day, so he was able to recognise that they're all founders. If you read through the book, the information is all coming from sources. And I said, "How come the role of these people were not included in your theory actually?" And he was very quick and honest to reply. He said, "Actually, I could have done but I was fearful. I was frightened." I said, "What were you frightened of?" And his answer was, "I was frightened that people would think that I'm supporting the orange and red levels, whereas I'm trying to get them to understand teals and the other level, so yellow, and turquoise and teal". And then I said to him, "Yeah I can totally understand the fear, but you know what's going to happen, don't you?" And he said, "What's going to happen?" And I said, "You're going to be attracting nothing but greens." And his reaction was, "Oh my God, I think you're right!" And if you look that is actually pretty well what's been happening, and after a while I think Fred would have to speak for himself, but I think he's seen that's why he started following my source work, because he got to understand the limitation in terms of not recognising the role of the Sources. And, bringing it into his whole theory as well. And that's what he's started to try to do, I think in his way; he's trying to do it.
And answering your question in another way, I really do acknowledge and like, even if it hasn't integrated my work, which he couldn't do at that time because he didn't know, but even if it hasn't it's still doing a great service, (his work), great service, because if you look at his various levels, he's bringing people up from the level before, well okay, bringing them up to green, where I would say the challenge is that many of these greens think they're yellow or turquoise and they've just got it at an intellectual level. But actually, there's a whole transformational step between green and yellow, which people have to go through, a great amount of inner turmoil and transformation you could say, and the impression is given that this is just another step on the ladder like all the ones before. And it's not. But he's bringing them up to green and I think then what will happen to many, and I think it's happening already, is that many will find this a limitation. They're trying to produce this co-founding thing where everybody is equal, everybody has equal rights, finding that actually, the stuff happening behind the scenes with somebody who is trying to be more equal, unconsciously, or unconscious processes, but doesn't like somebody else being in control of something else and it's making decision-making very long and costly, energetically as well as with money and everything else, time. And bumping up against that limitation all the time, until somebody is actually developing more, gets fed up with it all and says, "Blow this, I'm fed up with this, it's really not working." And then, what I say, is they start to develop their source, (I like to use the word), developing their strengthened source in another way, but getting clearer in another way. And finally, there's an inner transformation taking place, which will move them up to the next step.
Now, the next step in my view is not quite how it's described in yellow, (because I think what happens to most people, (and this is what I worked on with a with a colleague many years ago), the next step is that having said, "blow this", (and I'm being polite with the word 'blow'), "blow this, this is not working", it's like the person then goes into a space where they're saying, "I've tried everything now. I really had all this ideology, I tried to make it work and it hasn't." And the next step is they come and say, "Now I'm in it for me". The next step is actually a very egotistical step. And one sees a lot of these egotists in companies. And people feel a bit challenged when I say this sometimes, but very often there is a higher level of consciousness and those that are criticised and the greens are the criticising. These egotists who want to have a nice Porsche or a Ferrari say "Now I want to have a bit more money and I'm really fed up with this. I've done that bit". So they come on to being egotistical and it's actually not bad at all but it's not the end of the journey, of course. Because with the red Ferrari or the Porsche and running after power, looks a bit like red, but it's not red anymore. But you like the nice things in life, etc., that comes to a limit at some point also. And then we turn towards what these other levels which you could describe, 'servant leadership,' (or they're given different kinds of terms), when purpose comes really into view, people start then to look, see the limit and come to look at what their purpose is, their mission is in life, etc, etc.
Yeah, I think where I get really excited about the possibilities that your source work offers, is that I think many of us, (and I'm including myself in that, because I, myself have been on a journey of being a bit in my green blind spots), come across a lot of people who are wanting to be a self-managing organisation, they (are) wanting to be more conscious in how they collaborate together, and I'm seeing them really suffer in things like, as Tom describes it, as 'creative entropy' - really well-intentioned people coming together with wonderful ideas and energy and self-awareness and awareness of each other and a lot of care, deep care, for each other. And then they're so upset when it all sort of falls apart with a toxic climate and things don't get done and there's this sort of shadow stuff going on, but we can't quite put a name on it and we don't quite know how to create a culture of accountability that doesn't look like the things that we're trying to reject, we don't know what power or authority or leadership looks like, if not the things that we're trying to move away from. And so, there's a lot of people feeling stuck and confined I think, and I find that using this source work as a lens can be very liberating as a way of like diagnosing and being like, "oh, that's why" because it's not clear or actually we can all agree that this person is the source, and we can be okay with that and we can all willingly step into that". (It) Doesn't become a dictatorship suddenly, because we're still conscious human beings drawn to this purpose, but it just makes things a little bit clearer, a bit more transparent, and it can be really freeing in terms of suddenly energy channels get unblocked and it's like, "Oh! now we know what we can do when I know what my role is."
Yeah. It's very nice to hear you describing this, you're describing this for me very accurately, beautifully accurately. At least at the start with the diagnosis, there's a whole process which can take time after the diagnosis, but actually, one of the things that one of my people called Stephen Merckelbach, (one of the people who's learnt about sources, written a book on it. It's going to come out in English soon), can be very helpful. He's turned the way I described things round a bit in a very good way. I think he helps everybody to see first that they are a source. So everybody is a source of something and helping you to see what you're the source of, can take away some of this initial resistance of the somebody who's more of a source or who was the original source in my field. But after you recognise that you are the source of something, it can help you to recognise that you are actually in somebody else's field, and that somebody else was the source of this field. So he's kind of turned it around. I've always been starting with the founder, who founded something, and looking at the people who the founder has attracted within their field. But it can be very useful also to look and see everybody is a source and you may be a source who has founded something from scratch, but you may be already a source who's actually planted yourself into somebody else's field. And just to acknowledge that you've done that means that you have to look at what they were source of so that you can acknowledge what they've been doing too, and how that is to your benefit and mutual benefit. So I like that way round of looking at things now very much too.
Yeah, I like that. And I know you've talked about how, in organisations, you can have people who are aware that they are a source, and then people who have a kind of employed mindset; "I'll do the minimum that's required to not get fired or to not get in trouble or do my nine to five, and then I'll go home." And so to me, there's something also about recognising our agency and that we have a choice always. And I think it plays into - I have a lot of conversations on this podcast with people about this paradigm shift from parent-child dynamics in organisations to more adult to adult, and part of that is not just a 'top-down' transformation, but also a 'bottom-up' transformation, (if I can say that way, which is also a little bit outdated). But in a sense, the people who have had traditional roles of power, like managers, yes, there's some inner work for them to do in terms of being open to other perspectives and taking responsibility for their power. But there's also a huge piece of work for people who haven't traditionally had power to do in terms of learning and practicing to make decisions, to ask for when I need, to challenge things, to question things, to create proposals, to be a source of initiatives, and when that happens, I think only when both of those shifts in those directions happen can you have a truly self-managing organisation or a truly teal organisation. That shift needs to happen in both of those different power dynamics, I think.
Yes, again, totally agree with you.
Topics in this question
Lisa Gill: We're in danger of just rubbing each other's egos here.
Peter Koenig: You express this very nicely, Lisa, very very beautifully. And, in fact, it doesn't matter really where you are, whether you're a manager or not a manager, you could bring it back to the levels to Frederick's, or spiral dynamics', levels. So the way I see it, up to a certain level of, (for want of a better word), consciousness, you're not ready to manifest, your, (let's call it) mission or something stronger, that you feel what your life is about. You can create a party or you can invite people for dinner and you're using these same principles. But when it comes to your life, it requires a certain level of development in a development of what you could call your connection to your inner source to actually step out and take responsibility and actually start something in life. And that's whether you're a manager in a big organisation with so-called, lots of responsibility, or whether you just have another job right down the hierarchy, it really doesn't make any difference as far as I'm concerned. We'd like to think that people in top management positions are more heavily, more highly developed, consciousness wise. I think this would need some research, I'm not sure that's actually necessarily the case. And if we think okay, now, these are the people that need to be developed, because they have reached this position, we may be on the wrong track.
When you're looking into in terms of a field, you're looking for different things. So when people ask me to look at their initiatives or their enterprises, I'm not looking at their organigram and their structure in that way, I'm looking at who's the source here, who started it? If it was started, historically, who's holding that position right now? Because if it's still alive, this thing as one of the source principals, there must be somebody holding this energy, holding this field now. And who is it? And then who, who are the people? What is the line in terms of power or authority and responsibility in this particular body? And who are the people there? And very often, these people are not necessarily in these management positions, it needn't be the CEO or somebody who's got the so-called powerful positions. And that's what makes this source work very fascinating, because what I've found and felt very intuitive to me. If you're not dealing with the people in this, what I call 'source line', you're dealing with people who are not in a position to take decisions. So you may be for example, wasting an enormous amount of time being asked to give a proposal on your favorite project or something like that, to somebody whom have all sorts of different requirements, and then eventually you deliver, and they say, "Well, yes, but I have to go to somebody else" or "I have to put this to my committee", etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. When you go to a source person with your pet project and you recognise that they are in this line, they will love you from the start just for the simple recognition, because they may not be recognised of all the responsibility they actually are taking, very often the case, and you will get instant very good advice usually.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I've seen someone had a slide at a conference a few years ago of a comparison of like an organisation chart with all those boxes, and then they had actually mapped the sort of social influence whereby, I can't remember what they called it, but it was a totally different person at the center there than the person at the top of the conventional organisation chart so I think it's very enlightening when you start that line of inquiry.
Peter Koenig: Yeah, it's much more interesting for a start and you change the whole dynamic of the conversations that you're having because you start to get different information coming through, and very often, it's very subtle relation information about relationships, or something thing like that, which are actually absolutely key, not about functions, but about who's connected to whom and whose passion is it to do something in the organisation? They're really looking after it. So if you want to get involved in that particular thing, or if you have a proposal that involves, you must talk to that person because it's not just a function, it's somebody's life and they're caring about something. And can be as profane as looking after the flowers in the office or something like that and as important as employee salaries. And the principles work the same way, whether it's considered important or not.
Lisa Gill: Yeah. I'm curious because it's all been a lots of agreement right now, so maybe we can dive into some more challenging questions. So one of the common challenges of the source work that comes up, (I know you've experienced it, and I've experienced it in my conversations with other people, particularly in my circles of people working with new ways of working), is the question, can a small group of people or can multiple people hold that role of source? Because a lot of people feel like, "I don't like that there's just one person with this sort of centralised role." I'm convinced that in our initiative, there are multiple people holding that role. So what's your response to that?
Peter Koenig: Well, as I said at the start, as far as I'm concerned, for any role, there's only one person and a source as the person who's taken the initiative. Now, it's not always easy to convince people about that I agree with you and my experience is that if people really have such a strong sense of ideology around this potential sharing, if it comes to the point where there's no inroads, then they just have to have their own experience of that, until they come to the limit. I may be ultimately wrong with this so as I say, I do open myself to to be challenged right to the end, but the people who really insist on this, I insist, they need to bring the evidence that this is working in a fluid way - what they're talking about. So if they were able to bring this to me, I would be challenged, really. But up to now, I haven't had any experience of this fluidity in terms of experience based on this ideology, understanding perfectly the ideology, because I had it myself once. It's going back a while, going back 20, 30 years, I was really right to believe in self-organising systems and I think I mentioned to you once, I was in a group for 10 years. We called ourselves 'self-organising' and were experimenting with this and actually, I had the belief that we were, until after a certain point, I recognised looking with hindsight very clearly who the source of this particular group was, which explained so much of what happened within the group during the 10 years. It explains totally, I needn't go into details here. But this notion of shared responsibility, I think this is what it comes down to ultimately, and it gets translated into shared vision, and shared purpose, which I feel is extremely dangerous for the people that are working in it because it tends to lead to a compromise where everybody is compromising on their own power and authority and responsibility for the sake of what we would like to believe could be shared, but I have lots of evidence to show now that you can't really share these aspects. But it's dangerous because people tend to as I say, lose themselves and lose their power to what I would now call, 'a phantom', which is in their own minds, and in a sort of collective mind but has no basis on the ground in reality. So I would return and, (this is the thing that people don't like sometimes), to insist that there's one source for each initiative with a very singular vision, and a very singular purpose related to that person, and in a sense, the calling is had to materialise, or she has had to materialise something.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, I think it's interesting in contrast with another guest I had on the podcast, Bryan Ungard from Decurion who's part of the Deliberately Developmental Organisations movement, and he talks a lot, and many other people in this field of new ways of working talk about organisations as being a living thing, having its own soul, having its own purpose, its own will and listening to the organisation for what it wants to become, and things like that. So I guess that perhaps falls into what you're describing of where it can become dangerous, potentially...
Peter Koenig: Yes this is what I believed too originally and it's like an extrapolation from a heart. Basically, there's an atom and then there's a molecule, and then there's a cell, and then there's a body and then now extrapolating from that, of course, same principles, it's a self-organising organisation. But the other things we're looking at nature, and here we're looking at a human created enterprise, like a human created thing from an idea. Now you could say, it's self-organising, in the sense that we come to a mystical beliefs now. Do you believe in God? Don't you believe in God? Is it secular? Do you believe in secular paradigm or a mystical paradigm? So, if you believe in God, then you could believe it's self-organising, I think. Because God has impregnated your idea, and the whole thing is, you know, sort of round like that. Now there are people who believe in social systems and secular things who might dispute that, but I would say it's not worth trying to get into the mysticism, in terms practical things, in terms of looking at the usefulness. When people say, "Well, where do my ideas come from?" I don't know where ideas come from and I haven't met anybody who really does know. You could say from God, but I don't think it's worth looking at. I've had people in my Source Days, who have been, for example, founders of a petrol station, and very profane kind of businesses and they equally have inspired ideas of what the next thing to do is with the petrol station, and it doesn't really matter where they get these ideas from. They're going with the same process.
Lisa Gill: It strikes me that I think about what Yuval Noah Harare says about stories that a lot of things that we assume are things like companies, money, these are all stories that we collect and believe in, and I think if you look at organisations through that lens, the source work makes a lot of sense - that an organisation can't be a living thing. Yuval Noah Harare says, a good test is, can it feel things? And an organisation can't feel things. But a source can, a person who's holding the role of source can, so you know, okay, that's real, that's not a story that's a person. So I think yeah, sometimes for me, the danger of talking about organisations is if it's this living thing and talking about listening for its purpose, and so on. My suspicion is that there is someone there playing the role of source, but it's maybe not transparent and so what we're really listening to is them and not the organisation, and that can become a bit tricky. And I think you're right, I think we can lose a bit of agency then like, "well, what does the organisation want? Is it this ? But no, apparently it's not that. Okay!"
Peter Koenig: So, what I say is that the organisation's source, if one's talking about that, the organization's purpose, excuse me, is the purpose of the founder. The purpose of the source, the vision is the vision of the source. And if it isn't, the whole thing is weakened. It needs to be that actually. And I agree with you about story. So, ultimately what we're talking about, (the source work), I can acknowledge too, is a story. It's a story, (if you like) that I'm making up for the moment, because it came through me. But my deepest belief is that we should create stories that are useful, and while they're useful, they should be used and if somebody comes along with a better story afterwards, I'm the first one to say, "Well, okay, I'll ditch my story, we'll go with a better one." So as I say, if shared responsibility in terms of power, authority and responsibility, if somebody comes with the evidence, this is working, and their story is working better than the source work, I'll be the first to ditch the source work and say, "Okay, I go with yours." And who knows, it might, at some time in the future, even be so. I'm even open to this possibility, but it seems to me quite far away at the moment and there seems to be a lot of mileage for people who are coming from conventional systems, conventional organisations. There seems to be a lot of usefulness still in just the way you've described, Lisa, in unpacking, in looking at what's happening in their systems through a different lens, and being able to identify things that they weren't able to identify by looking at it up to now from how they've been trained to look at things. So that's the value. There seems to be a lot of usefulness still around in that.
Lisa Gill: What would your advice be, or what would you share with listeners in terms of how the how the source work relates to decision making? Because I think there's a misconception sometimes that "Oh, right, okay. So if we acknowledge the source, then they need to be involved in every single decision and that seems incredibly inefficient and dictatorial. And it was interesting to me to hear that you spent some time with some folks in the sociocracy world, and you applied the source work to the lens of consent-based decision making. So what would you say about decision making and how source work relates to that?
Peter Koenig: Right. So if you understand that you've got a field with the founder as the source of the whole field, it's the source, who takes 100% responsibility, and takes the decision for the whole field. But you've got people within the field, and hopefully, they are sources too. I call them 'sub sources', but some people don't like the word 'sub', so they've been called 'specific sources', they've been given various names. Charlie Davies, liked to call them 'agents', I call them still 'sub sources' because they are sources and they need to take the 100% decisions of the particular areas of the field that they are operating - their particular field within the fields for it to work well. And there, they have total agency or should have total agency, and the only thing that the source of the whole, within whose field they're in, should be looking at is, what they're doing, does it fit the larger field? Not the details of the operation but does what they're doing fit within the larger field? If it fits, that's part of their role to say, "Yes, this is in, go ahead. Even if I don't like the color of the carpet you're choosing in the office, and I would never do what you're doing, this is your field, you've taken the responsibility to create it, you go ahead and do it." That's what a good source would do of a whole operation - wouldn't intervene because the intervention, (we're talking about pure delegation), the intervention in the sub source's field will demotivate the source and the person would want to go off and create elsewhere. So the decision making; you're 100% responsible for what you have sourced so on the other side, you have this 100% decision making power. It's the other side of the same coin.
Now, coming to sociocracy and so-called 'joint decision making', I have a different context of what's happening there and I have worked with people in sociocracy so I do know a little bit about what you're talking about. So in my view, what's really happening there is that you have somebody with responsibility in the inner field as a whole or in a sub source position and you have a circle of people who are helping that person. So, what is called 'joint decision making' is not really so in my view. What happens is that the person who is the source, took the initiative for that particular part of the operation is looking to get clear. So of course, they're asking advice of the other people in the circle and they're going round and round and round, but what we'll see will happen is the moment they're clear and say, "We'll go this direction, I think now I'm clear", you will see there'll be instant consent, even consensus in the group. So I would reframe what is seemed to be happening there in many sociocratic groups, is that actually, it's a source getting clear, and the others are really being very, very helpful. And when it's redefined in that kind of way, what I have found is that it is really helpful for the whole sociocratic group - when they understand that that's what's happening, because everybody can take their own position as source then. And we're not all trying to make decisions. Let me add one more thing: Why do I think it can't work, this joint decision making? Because from all the evidence I've been getting, when you initiate something as a source you create this field of influence, you get a download of information starting with the vision, but you're being informed all the time. All the time. It just doesn't stop, the ideas keep coming, gushing through you. But they only gush through you, the same ideas don't gush through anybody else, because they're related to you having created this particular thing. So that's why I say you can't then delegate this power or share this power with somebody else, because then nobody else is getting the information and the information to actually be able to take a decision. And I have so much evidence of that now, till the cows come home. So what it feels like is that somebody's trying to impose decision making on somebody else out of a need that we should all be equal in the circle, and we should all, have a say, and be able to say "No". Okay, say "No" if you're helping the person to get clear, but once the person is clear, if you are sensitive at all, you will feel it, and you won't have any resistance at all, even if you don't understand intellectually, why the decision, why we should be going in a particular direction.
Lisa Gill: I'm thinking more now about your experience of what sources can do in order to perhaps become more conscious sources and perhaps we can talk about that with the example of the nonviolent communication movement, as I know that you've worked alongside them for many years and have some kind of interesting observations about that. What would you share in terms of nonviolent communication and also the work that's needed from those of us as sources?
Peter Koenig: Well, your question leads me directly into what I've been calling for now a good 30 years to my money work. So it started to go called that and still is that because it has to do with your relationship to money and advancing yourself. It started with questions on my own relationship to my money and other people's relationship to their money, and how one can change your relationship to money to start off with. And it turned out to be what I would now call 'consciousness work' and related to your identity. So if you want to develop and become a more conscious, a better source, let's say that, it means developing, what one might call 'consciousness', and how this looks is that each of us is everything. Each of us has the ability to be totally good, and totally evil. We're born this way. But in our experience, in our life time experience, what happens is that we dissociate from certain aspects of ourselves. We dissociate from certain aspects which we consider good, and we disassociate from certain aspects that we consider bad. Now, the consciousness process, as far as I'm concerned, is about reclaiming these parts, which you could say, are parts of our own identity, which belong to us, and actually strengthen ourselves in our interior, and we become more and more ourselves as whole beings. And the more we do that, the stronger sources we become, and the more capable we are at manifesting our mission in life, our calling, or whatever you like to call it.
Now, as I mentioned, there are parts which we like to consider good. Like I'm a happy, joyful person, and I'm secure, I'm free, I'm a nice guy, etc. And there are parts that we consider are not nice. So I'm not a nice guy, I'm a bastard, I'm a terrorist, I'm a Donald Trump. And now we come to nonviolent communication. I'm really a violent man. Now, many people who have experienced violence in their lives, maybe already in childhood, from a parent or something, make a decision, say, "I suffered so much, I will never be violent". And then discover that they don't want to be violent, but then they have children or whatever, or they're in a relationship, and because it belongs to us, this part doesn't disappear, we can just push it down. First act of violence is trying to push it down. But if that's not working, then you might try taking a nonviolent communication course. And so you learn this nonviolent communication language, but underneath it, maybe you're still pretty violent actually in the language, ultimately, if you're provoked is not going to work but you might find yourself being equally violent with the language and in secret. And I've worked with many of these people, also because I happen to know closely, Marshall Rosenberg and what he really wanted and understood his process very well and deeply and I'm grateful for him for what I received from him too. So the solution, the resolution is not to say, "Well, I'm not a violent person, I'll try and resolve it with this kind of language", but it's actually to say, "Actually, I am a violent man". And it's okay to be violent. It's okay. There's a part of me that is also Donald Trump and I love being Donald Trump.
So it's like reclaiming these parts to ourselves one by one, as this is how my money work works. We use money to look at the parts that we're dissociating from ourselves. Money turns out to be an extremely efficient way of developing our consciousness in this kind of way, reclaiming parts to ourselves and as we do that, this is what I refer to in gaining consciousness. So we become more and more conscious. The more conscious we become, the more we can use these parts of ourselves, including violence, when it's appropriate, to realise our mission and our purpose in life and actually, it becomes transmuted into an expression of love. So we're more loving to ourselves, we're not trying to suppress, we accept ourselves as we are and we see the beauty of using what we may have judged before as parts of ourselves, as not being 'me', but see that everything has its potential use. And that's another aspect. But in a different way, I can come to the subject of source from that aspect of developing my own inner source becoming more and more whole as a being, more conscious as a being, and then being able to make my contribution ever more so. So again I'm answering rather long, but it's my rather long answer to your simple question.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, and it sort of circles back a little bit to what we were talking about earlier with spiral dynamics and also there are parallels in Robert Kegan's work in adult development, vertical development that as we become more conscious, we have access to our current level and all of the previous levels. So it's not about rejecting or deleting parts. But having more choice, having more consciousness having more available, and recognising that, yeah, as you say, we have all of these things within us and if we try to suppress them, inevitably, they leak out in some way. And that's why tyranny of structurelessness in organisations, when we try and get rid of hierarchy, and I learned this early on in my journey. I was very anti-hierarchy and now, I understand that if we try and reject hierarchy, we try and eliminate it, it shows up anyway, in sort of shadow hierarchies. It's there. And so actually, it's much more productive, much more healthy, much more conscious to be transparent, to make it visible, to talk about it, to do it consciously, out in the open and name it, and then we can do something about it and check in with is that what we want? Is that in service of my purpose or our purpose together or not?
And in terms of talking about the money work, I think there is great potential there and I think it is a learning edge for people exploring new ways of working to really interrogate our relationship to money. So I guess, on that front, in terms of the potential for teams, to reinvent how they do salaries, for example, or how they distribute money, I'm wondering if you could share, what are some of the lessons or insights that you've gained from the money work that you could share with people who are curious or interested to reinvent how money is distributed in their team or organisation?
Peter Koenig: Well, that's a difficult question to answer just like that in terms of lessons and insights, because I can answer on many different levels. It starts off as very personal work. So I wouldn't recommend anybody to put other people through their organisation into this work without doing the work themselves, with them or before them, so that they know what they're putting their people into. And it is very strong development work. And it's almost like an accelerated consciousness process. So it's good for people who would want to do something different with money, to know that from the start because there's no guarantee in advance how things are going to come out if you put people into this. And the relationship to money is incredibly important in terms of answering the big questions that we have globally, right now, because the relationship to money flows through just about every aspect of life that you can imagine. So if you want to develop yourself in all the other fields like nutrition and health and you do meditation and yoga and God knows what, but you stay fixed with your relationship to money and think that that's got nothing to do with your spirituality and so forth, you're way off the wrong path, you're way off actually. So at some point, it needs to be integrated within your relationship to money and work and life needs to be integrated with everything else that you're doing because it's all one. And opening up this very taboo subject is not anodyne because in that it turned out (this what my research revealed), very much shadow aspects and very often the shadow aspects that we wouldn't want to look at at all. I won't explain it now but I can explain why we have deposited our deepest shadow aspects in our relationship to money. And there's like a cycle, a vicious circle cycle which, when you open it up, when you open up the subject, you're opening up a bag of worms in a sense, which has both sides. You might be opening up stuff that you actually, on one level don't want to look at at all, because you've deposited it so deeply in your shadow. On the other hand, you're opening up an enormous bag of potential energetic potential, to realise things that wouldn't be realisable for you otherwise.
So this is why first of all, it demands a certain level of inner work, consciousness work, to start off with before you would want to open this up. And then there's another level, when you're in an organisation, and you're ready to open it up to other people in your organisation. So that's what I would give as input to somebody looking at it. I've had business leaders come into my money seminars, from large organisations, and originally, rather naively, I thought, the next step is they'll be bringing this work into their companies and had to learn that the first step is to come themselves, and they may even be thinking of bringing it into their organisations when they come, but it turns out to be something so personal very often, that actually, they want to use it, first of all, for their personal life, nothing to do with bringing it into their business. There's a sort of time delay there which has to be accepted and then they may not want to bring it into their business, because particularly if they're a bit old school, it gives them an advantage. So they have to go through giving everybody else that same advantage. There may be some aspects of that which are still playing around.
So for those that are ready for it, I wish everybody in the world would be ready for it. We would advance enormously and we would accelerate our ability to answer the big questions in life that we would have, but I have to accept taking it step by step, and my my own work is to train practitioners at the moment to be ready for this. And things are moving forward and more and more training, getting more and more practitioners doing this money work. What I described before is like reclaiming projections, reclamation, with more and more are doing this work, and it's going in a good direction. And timing, (I don't know how long things take, I'm very bad at timing), but I encourage everybody who feels ready to come and do this work with money to get into it as soon as they feel ready, really, because it is transformative.
Lisa Gill: Yeah, that's really interesting. And it's good what you say because I think I can get a bit excited about the money work and like, "oh, all teams should do this". But I think what you're saying, it needs to start with self and it's very personal inner work, and then we can invite people if they're willing to explore it on another level. I really do think that in terms of people who are interested in exploring these new ways of working and self-management and all of this stuff. I think many of us in the green world have stories about money such as, money is dirty or bad, and organisations can have a tendency to push money away. And I think the opportunity is for us all to, (and you know, I'm on this journey myself, I know I have lots of money stories to blame) but there's an opportunity to see money as a tool - as something that can be used to help us realise our purpose or not.
Peter Koenig: Yeah, that's the purpose of this money work actually - to do precisely that, to have money be the facilitator that it was originally invented to be. Because if you look at the role it's playing in so many people's lives, now, it's more like the obstacle. It's become like the obstacle rather than the facilitator. So that's the work we do in the money work, is to turn it back around and have it become a facilitator for people's lives.
Lisa Gill: So in wrapping up our conversation, there are people listening, who are on journeys of their own, perhaps towards becoming a self-managing organisation, or maybe they're on their own journey, as a source or doing their own inner work. So, with all of the work that you've done over the years with source and money work and identity work, what would be your advice? What are some tips for the journey that you would share?
Peter Koenig: Oh, boy, thanks for the question. I think there's only one really right now, which is really pressing, particularly in this time of transition which we just talked about, and that's really about listening to your calling, your deepest calling right now. And I'm speaking to people who have a certain level of consciousness and maybe are free from worrying about their financial conditions, not because they're millionaires, irrespective of their financial condition, it has to do with their level of work and consciousness. So if you're at that stage that would be my tip; to listen to your calling right now, particularly with Coronavirus and everything and to just follow that energy, because that's the greatest contribution that you will make and continue to make. It'll keep you most lively until you die, and you will die lively, as opposed to what happens with many people, they're already dead, but just being kept alive. So that's really my deepest message here with the whole work and of course. It relates to nourishing what I would call your 'source', and your your relationship to source however you like to look at it, whether you believe in God or don't believe in God, like there's something moving within a thought, which is energetic and has life, and to nourish that.