O p e n     F l o w     
DESIGNING  ORGANISATIONS  TO  CO-CREATE  THE  FUTURE       
INSPIRATION      •      INTEGRATION      •      INNOVATION  


THE PRINCIPLE OF THE CIRCLE

One principle which is common to all three approaches we use is the priniciple of the circle. The circle is a universal archetype that since the first campfire has helped people hear others' stories, catalyse collective wisdom, and make decisions together to organise human structures and activities. In the modern era the circle has gradually been replaced by hierachy and the meaning of circle's power almost lost. Recently, however, people are re-discovering the power of circle, whether in quality circles, learning circles and governance circles.

We find circles in:

  • Lean-flow operations and management: QC Circles, Kaizen Circles, Hansei Circles, Hazard Sensitivity Circles and the circular motion of the Kanban (in its origianl lean context, not in its current agile meaning).
  • Sociocracy where the circle is one of the 4 main principles, where an organisation is structured in linking circles. The circle is applied in circle organisation as well as in the rounds in governance meetings.
  • Open space is fundamentally arranged around the opening and closing circle, breakout sessions naturally form circles.

The circle has been use since times immemorial as a way to unify a tribe, a team or a group to enable full inclusivity of participants. The circle is therapeutic. The way we arrange our seats determines how we relate to each other, how society functions. By changing the way we sit we can change the world. The circle is at the core of community, collaboration, engagement, equivalence and empathy.

We are particularly interested in the Circle and children's fire, a practice found in certain Indian tribes in America: Whenever a decision has to be taken, all members sit around a fire in circle formation and express their point of view in turns, until a consensual perspective emerges. Then the fire in the centre itself is asked - the fire represents the next 5 generations of children, so almost 200 years into the future - the decision is evaluated against the commonly emerging sense of the long term futre represented by the central fire - hence the fire is called the children's fire. If only we also considered the children's fire in all major decisions we take.

The circle is fundamental to the way groups and organisations can function in harmony. In everything we do at Open to flow, the circle principle pervades.


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