Origins and terminology

The three types of now-to-new work discussed in this article are creating alone, creating together, and helping others create.

Here, creating means conceiving and bringing into being something tangible or intangible, such as a web page, kitchen gadget, pharmaceutical product, work practice, theatrical performance, cathedral or space rocket.

The motivation underlying each type of work can be either generative (aimed at maximising the amount of value that will be generated downstream) or degenerative (aimed at diminishing or nullifying potential value, or generating anti-value). Degenerative motivation is often unconscious and its consequences unintended.

In the second part of the article I’ll examine the generative and degenerative aspects relating to each of the three types of work. But first, I’ll explain how I identified them, and this requires a deepish dive into the concept of power.

What is power?

According to Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, power is:

  1. The capability of doing or accomplishing something.
  2. The possession of control or command over others.
Definitions sourced via The Free Dictionary.
Robert Linthicum is the founder of Partners in Urban Transformation, a US-based Christian ministry dedicated to empowering urban churches and communities. In his essay What is Power, and How Can It Be Used for the Common Good? he states that power is the capacity, the ability, and the willingness to act.

An analogy: The car parked outside your house represents capacity or latent power. You are able to drive it, and you are willing to deploy that ability in order to ferry your teenage daughter into town.

Capacity, ability and willingness are prerequisites for effective action, which can be deployed for generative or degenerative purposes. In this article, I will use the term capability to encompass the three aspects of capacity, ability and willingness.

Let’s now consider the second definition: “The possession of control or command over others.”

This is a commonplace understanding and usage of the term power. But the definition prompts the question: “The possession of control or command over others for what purpose?”

This second kind of power is wielded in order to motivate an individual or collective to do something, or not do something, to the benefit of the person, group or institution wielding the power.

Power is exercised, an action ensues or is halted, and the power exerciser gains benefit (value). Definition 2 power is therefore a distorted form of definition 1 power, which is neutral.

The concept of power is meaningless without an explicit or implied purpose. Whenever we encounter the term, we must ask: “in order to accomplish what?”

I therefore propose adopting this working definition of power for the remainder of the article:

Power is the capability of accomplishing something, with or without the use of coercion, for the benefit of oneself, or others, or both.

Mary Parker Follett’s two types of power

Mary Parker Follett
Mary Parker Follett (1868–1933) was an American social worker, management consultant, philosopher and pioneer in the fields of organisational theory and organisational behaviour. She has been called “the mother of modern management.” (Source: Wikipedia.)

Mary Parker Follett originated the distinctions of power-over (collaborative power) and power-with (coercive or oppressive power).

Mary Parker Follett: Two types of power

“Power is one of the key ideas in management, and so is the concept of authority. However, most studies on power are rather instrumental, dealing with the place of power in management, and how to achieve it. Less attention has been paid to the essential concepts of power and authority themselves in management thought and how they have evolved. To clarify these concepts, and to better understand the notions of power and authority in management and their proper use in organisations, this paper goes back to one of the pioneers in management thought: Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933). She had an original vision of power, holding that genuine power is not ‘power-over’, but ‘power-with’.”

Source: Power, Freedom and Authority in Management: Mary Parker Follett’s ‘Power-With’ by Domènec Melé & Josep M. Rosanas, Philosophy of Management, volume 3, pages 35–46 (2003) | My emphasis
Starhawk’s three types of power(1991)
Starhawk, author of Truth or Dare

Click on image or here to order a copy of the book from
Starhawk (born Miriam Simos) is an American writer, teacher and activist, best known as a theorist of feminist Neopaganism and ecofeminism. Her book The Spiral Dance was one of the main inspirations behind the Goddess movement. In 2013, she was listed in Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People. (Source: Wikipedia.)

In her third book, Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery, she reprises (without crediting her) Mary Parker Follett’s distinctions of power-over and power-with, adding a third distinction: power-from-within.

Power-from-within is linked to the mysteries that awaken our deepest abilities and potential.
Power-with is social power, the influence we wield among equals.
Power-over is linked to domination and control.

Source: The Three Types of Power: an excerpt from Truth or Dare by Starhawk.
Starhawk: Three types of power

Rectifying the flaw Starhawk’s power model

Starhawk contrasts power-over with power-with and power-from-within. This suits her radical feminist agenda. Power-over is bad power. It is exercised predominantly by men, the misogynistic patriarchy, in order to oppress women. Power-with is good power, likewise power-from-within. These good forms of power are exercised in the main by women.

But Starhawk, whose books I have read and enjoyed, has made some fundamental errors, either deliberately or unintentionally.

  • The degenerative form of power-with is not power-over. It is collusive power, where two or more people act together for self-serving or nefarious purposes.
  • The degenerative form of power-from-within is not power-over. It is pseudo-power, often showing up as self-importance or bravado.
  • The generative form of power-over is not power-with or power-from within, but power‑to‑enable.
Starhawk: Three types of power

Power-over vs. power-to-enable

Our working definition of power is “the capability of accomplishing something, with or without the use of coercion, for the benefit of oneself, others or both.”

Power-over can therefore be defined as “the capability of accomplishing something with the use of coercion for the benefit of oneself.”

And so its converse must be “the capability of accomplishing something without the use of coercion for the benefit of others.”

On this basis, we could refer to the generative form of power-over as altruistic (“showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others”) power. Instead, I’ve chosen to frame and name it as power-to-enable, for reasons hinted at below and that will become fully apparent when I introduce the work of Robert Keidel and John Heron.

Power-over isn’t always about deliberately imposing one’s will on others and constraining their power-from-within. Sometimes it’s just a distorted form of power-to-enable, such as that displayed by an inept facilitator who sets the group a tightly-delimited task, unwittingly closing-off creative possibilities and hindering the group’s progress towards its goals. No malice is intended.


Pseudo-power was prominent in the girl power movement that flourished during the 1990s. Sloganeering, bravado and ‘attitude’ were adopted as proxies for real autonomous power. A more recent example of the phenomenon is described by Jill P. Weber in Girl Power or Pseudo-Power? on the Psychology Today website.

Robert Keidel’s three organisational design variables(1995)
Robert Keidel (website currently unavailable) is Clinical Professor Emeritus at the LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA.

In his insightful book, Seeing Organizational Patterns: A New Theory and Language of Organizational Design, he introduces an elegant model for improving the design of organisational systems in such areas as decision making, employee rewards and meeting management.

The central idea in the book is that an effective design must employ a judicious combination of three variables: autonomy, cooperation and control. Please note that these labels are neutral. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that autonomy and co‑operation are ‘good’, whereas control is ‘bad’.

The following graphic shows Keidel’s model applied to the design of decision systems, with the viable options indicated in blue type.

Robert Keidel's three design variables
View an enlarged version of the Decision Systems example
When people encounter the word control, they tend to think about its degenerative form, which correlates with power-over as defined by Starhawk and Mary Parker Follett. The autonomy of an individual, group or institution is being constrained or otherwise manipulated to the benefit of the individual, group or institution exercising control.

But there is a benign, generative form of control that I call control-as-a-service. Examples include Houston Mission Control Center, air traffic control and railway signalling systems.


“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is the captain welcoming you aboard our flight to Chicago. We’re just completing the paperwork and we’ll be pushing back in a few minutes. I’ve been asked to inform you that air traffic control has been abolished. As of today, planes will self-organise. My first officer and I will do our best to get you there safely and on schedule. Now fasten your seat belt, relax and enjoy the flight.”

Epistemological error is the misunderstanding of, or the outright refusal to accept, reality. The most destructive way to refuse to accept reality is to believe in the possibility of control. Control licenses the use of power (in the pursuit of control). If, as stated above, A can never cause or control B, then the use of power by A can only make matters worse. Power creates still greater “resistance,” leads to righteousness, hatred, and eventually chaos, if not carnage. One has only to watch what happens when parents “over” control their children to see that that is so. Control wreaks havoc. The literature on deviance and its control attests to that.

[…] There are only two fundamental epistemological errors. One is passive and the other is active. The passive error is to refuse to accept reality. That is a violation of the reality principle. “What is is; what ain’t ain’t.” Denying what is or getting mad about what is and insisting that it should be otherwise than what happened is an epistemological error. Erhard Seminar Training (est) derives much of its power from its success in driving this point home.

The active epistemological error is to try to control others and make them be what you want. That is an error because people (and all other organisms) are what Maturana calls structure-determined. That means that individuals always behave out of their coherence; they can behave in no other way. Control is impossible. Their coherence determines how they will behave, and no amount of determined attempts to control them can ever change that fact. Moreover, an individual’s coherence specifies his reaction to the other’s attempts to control him. The coherence will, in most cases, “respond” in a different way than was intended by the attempt to control. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Each successive attempt to make the horse drink results in the coherence (which is the horse) doing whatever it does under that particular perturbation. The coherence always determines. The best that can be achieved is for the owner of the horse to discover the perturbation to which the coherence (which is the horse) “responds” with drinking behavior.

Pathological families are full of individuals who repeatedly and determinedly inflict those epistemological errors on themselves and those around them. Because epistemological errors almost always preclude the outcome that they were designed to attain, those individuals are forced to keep trying—over and over. Accordingly, those families develop a highly redundant systemic coherence (i.e., “homeostatic rigidity”). Their attempts to control (themselves and) each other succeed often enough by chance to keep them going. So they keep trying to resist reality and trying to control, and trying to resist reality, and trying to control, and trying, and trying, and trying, and trying. … No wonder those families have such rigidly sterotyped patterns of interaction.

Source: Beyond Homeostasis: Toward a Concept of Coherence (pdf), by Paul F. Dell, Ph.D., in Family Process, April 1982 (pdf; 16pp)
See also: The executive’s trinity: management, leadership — and command, by Stephen Bungay, Ph.D., a director of Ashridge Strategic Management Centre (pdf; 34pp)

In the next graphic you can see the relationship between Robert Keidel’s design variables and the power distinctions proposed by Starhawk and Mary Parker Follett. The thinking behind my elaboration of Starhawk’s power model should now be apparent.

Robert Keidel: Three organisation design variables
Robert Keidel’s design variables suggest that if we want to conceive a new creation, bring it into existence and realise its value generation potential, then solo work and group work are not alternatives—both are essential, and must be properly integrated. Further, some form of enabling meta system, such as a coach, facilitator, project leader, or full-blown mission control function, needs to be in place. John Heron’s system of facilitation decision modes adds weight to this proposition.
John Heron’s three facilitation decision modes(1999)
John Heron is a psychologist, the originator of a participatory research method called co‑operative inquiry, and a group facilitator and educator in the field of co‑counselling. He founded and ran the groundbreaking Human Potential Research Project (later, the Human Potential Research Group) at University of Surrey from 1970 to 1977, and was one of the founders in the UK of each of the following: Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners, Co‑counselling International, Institute for the Development of Human Potential, New Paradigm Research Group, and Research Council for Complementary Medicine. Source: Wikipedia.

In his book The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook he describes the three decision modes available to facilitators: hierarchical (he also refers to this as direction), where the facilitator makes the decision for group members; co-operative (a.k.a. negotiation), where the facilitator reaches the decision with group members; and autonomous (a.k.a. delegation), where the facilitator hands over the decision-making process to group members.

The hierarchical mode Here you, the facilitator, direct the learning process, exercise your power over it, and do things for the group. You lead from the front by thinking and acting on behalf of the group. You decide on the objectives and the programme, interpret and give meaning, challenge resistances, manage group feeling and emotion, provide structures for learning and honour the claims of authentic behaviour in the group. You take full responsibility, in charge of all major decisions on all dimensions of the learning process.

The co-operative mode Here you share your power over the learning process and manage the different dimensions with the group. You enable and guide the group to become more self-directing in the various forms of learning by conferring with them and prompting them. You work with group members to decide on the programme, to give meaning to experiences, to confront resistances, and so on. In this process, you share your own view which, though influential, is not final but one among many. Outcomes are always negotiated. You collaborate with the members of the group in devising the learning process: your facilitation is co-operative.

The autonomous mode Here you respect the total autonomy of the group: you do not do things for them, or with them, but give them freedom to find their own way, exercising their own judgment without any intervention on your part. Without any reminders, guidance or assistance, they evolve their programme, give meaning to what is going on, find ways of confronting their avoidances, and so on. The bedrock of learning is unprompted, self-directed practice, and here you delegate it to the learner and give space for it. This does not mean the abdication of responsibility. It is the subtle art of creating conditions within which people can exercise full self-determination in their learning.

Source: John Heron, The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook (pdf; 428pp). He is talking about the facilitation of learning groups, but the three modes apply equally to action-focused groups.
A skilled facilitator is able to move effortlessly from one mode to another in response to the requirements of the particular situation.

The next graphic shows the strong correlation between his facilitation decision modes and Robert Keidel’s organisation design variables.

John Heron: Three facilitation decision modes
Was John Heron influenced by Robert Keidel’s model? The publication of Seeing Organizational Patterns preceded that of The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook by four years, so it’s a possibility. But Heron and Keidel inhabit very different worlds. My hope is that both men uncovered a universal truth independently of each other.

Jack Martin Leith’s three types of now-to-new work


Jack Martin Leith: Three types of now-to-new work

Create alone, create together, and help others create

Generative and degenerative forms and their potential consequences

Create alone
In recent years, I have read several items asserting that “all creation is co-creation”. Example 1 | Example 2

The originators of these items are mistaken. For a start, an idea is conceived in the mind of one person. This is not a ‘proposition’—it is how the creative process works. Other team members will develop the idea throughout the gestation period, but conception is a solo activity.

It needs to be understood creation is ultimately making a thought manifested in the physical world either by creating an object or an experience.

Source: Releasing Your Unlimited Creativity Approach, by Ken Ferlic.

Furthermore, it’s not unusual for a new value generator to be conceived, developed and birthed by a single individual, with no assistance from others. This website is an example. I write the words, make the graphics and do all the WordPress stuff with no outside help.

Creating the new isn’t always a group activity. For example, authors, journalists and songwriters do their creating without much reference to other people, and I’m doing so at this very moment, in my garret overlooking the rooftops of Bath. So let’s use creating an online article as an example of creating alone.

Reminder: Generative means bringing into being a physical or intangible ‘something’ that ultimately generates value for others. Actions arising from generative consciousness (orientation) are other-serving.

I am creating—conceiving and bringing into being—a web-based article, the primary purpose of which is to encourage entrepreneurs and business leaders to understand, embrace and maybe even implement the concept of generative enterprise. Any value I derive from this endeavour, beyond the pleasure I get from putting my ideas out there for all to see, will be a bonus.



High potential concepts are produced.

Without someone else in the room requiring my attention, I can get into a state of flow, access creative imagination (in contrast to synthetic imagination) and produce an online article that stands a good chance of fulfilling its purpose.

Concept integrity is preserved.

By choosing to work alone, I have eliminated the possibility that a co-author will try to dumb down or misrepresent my ideas, or want impose their own ideas, or force me to seek a compromise that might lead to a mediocre article.

The concept has a surrogate parent.

If I should decide to turn the article into a book, I will remain in the role of adoptive parent, speaking on behalf of the embryonic product and taking responsibility for its well-being until it is ready to stand on its own two feet.

I can create a website alone, but if the site is to be brought to people’s attention, I need to work with others.


Reminder: Degenerative means minimizing or cancelling-out the generation of value for others. Actions arising from degenerative consciousness are self-serving.

These are some of the undesirable consequences of creating alone:

Bold but unviable concepts are produced.

Without one or more co-authors to keep me in check, I could easily create an article featuring some magnificent concepts that defy the status quo and offer a truly new perspective, but that have very little prospect of adoption in the real world.

The chosen concept is stillborn.

Here, I decide to write an article about creative power, but the writing task is overwhelming and, with no co-authors to share the burden, I give up the struggle and consign the half-written piece to my archives.

Potential is never fully realised.

This is a state of affairs I know well: The article introduces some concepts that have real world potential. It is well-received, but instead of mobilizing a group of collaborators to help translate the article into a book, a conference session, a training programme and other value generators, I shift my attention to the next writing project, and the article’s value generation potential remains unrealised.

In 1545, Jacopo da Pontormo scored a major commission from Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici to paint the main chapel of Florence’s church of San Lorenzo. A contemporary of masters like Michelangelo, Pontormo was a distinguished but aging artist who was eager to secure his legacy.
Pontormo knew he needed to make these frescoes the crowning achievement of his career, so he sealed off the entire chapel. He built walls, erected partitions, and hung blinds so that nobody could steal his ideas or sneak an early peek. Trusting no one, he chased away local youth and kept human contact to a minimum. He spent eleven years holed up, painting Christ on Judgement Day, Noah’s ark, and Creation itself.
Pontormo died before his work on the chapel was done, and none of it survives, but the legendary Renaissance writer Vasari visited the site soon after the painter’s death. He reported a confused composition and unsettling lack of alignment, scenes that ran into each other every which way. Robert Greene writes, “These frescoes were visual equivalents of the effects of isolation on the human mind: a loss of proportion, an obsession with detail combined with an inability to see the larger picture.”

Source: Why Seclusion Is the Enemy of Creativity, by Eliot Peper, on Harvard Business Review

Creating alone is often the best way to initiate a create-the-new project, because an idea is conceived in the imagination of an individual.

But if I should decide to develop this article into a book, someone will edit my manuscript prior to publication, and many others will be involved in downstream activities, such as designing the book jacket, soliciting reviews, getting the book printed, doing the marketing, organizing book signing events, and so on.

Such activities are usually beyond the capabilities of a single person, although there are rare exceptions.


In the organizational realm, innovation work is generally carried out in group settings such as design thinking workshops, hackathons and project team meetings. Innovation exponents give repeated warnings about the myth of the lone inventor, and the terms ‘creating’ and ‘collaborating’ have almost become synonymous. But this way of working also has generative and degenerative consequences.
The group develops the idea into a well-formed concept, converts the concept into a product, service or whatever, and seeks to realise its potential.

Diverse views and talents are harnessed

Ken Blanchard, co-author of the One Minute Manager, captured the essence of this benefit of creating together when he said “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

People encourage and support each other

Conceiving the new and bringing it into being is often a long and arduous process; one that benefits from mutual support and encouragement.

Value generation potential is realised

The realisation of the value generation potential of a product, service, facility or other value generator is best accomplished by means of teamwork and collaboration with internal and external contributors.

Rich Co-creation

Rich Co-creation is the principal means by which a world-enriching enterprise accomplishes its mission and manifests its intent.

Rich Co‑creation is a way of getting things done in which all interested parties work together from the outset, on an equal footing and until the project is completed, with the aim of generating maximum value for all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem.

‘Interested parties’ means all those whose contribution, cooperation and consent are vital to the successful completion of the project.

Read more about Rich Co-creation

The dangers here are the collusion of mediocrity (Paul Levy) and failure to recognise that an idea is born in the mind of a single individual.

A saboteur or someone with a hidden agenda is allowed to hijack the proceedeings

The status quo prevails

A collusion of mediocrity arises

Here’s How to Spot Within 10 Minutes If Someone Has A Hidden Agenda, by Scott Mautz, on Inc.



Three modes of enablement


Flexibility in the use of decision-modes

I exercise unilateral political authority about learning when I take a meta-decision about whether to make decisions – for example about the programme of learning – hierarchically for the group, co-operatively with the group, or to delegate this decision-making to the group, or some combination of these. Even when I consult the group about whether to make planning decisions hierarchically, co-operatively or by delegation, I have still made, at a higher meta-level, a unilateral, hierarchical decision to do so. I have discussed this matter most thoroughly in Chapter 2 of The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook.

No facilitator can avoid the exercise of unilateral decision-making at these meta-levels. I make it clear at the start of a workshop what meta-decisions I have taken. I work with this most explicitly in a five day facilitation skills workshop. So I start the workshop proposing (i) that for the first day or so I will decide hierarchically on the training programme, both in order to present the trainees with issues which I think are fundamental, and in order to model such decision-making; (ii) that some time into day two or day three, I will shift over into co-operative decision-making to negotiate a contract between participants’ needs and interests and what I have on offer; and (iii) that on the last day or two we will have an autonomy lab, in which participants post up what they have to teach and what they want to learn, then everyone plans their own learning on a basis of self-direction and peer negotiation, and I will be a resource and learner alongside everyone else.

Source: John Heron, Helping whole people learn, Chapter 6 from Working with experience: animating learning, edited by David Boud and Nod Miller (1996).
John Heron—Dimensions and Modes of Facilitation, in The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook.

Read more about John Heron | this website | Read more about John Heron and his work (long, informative and worth the effort)

In this context, direction means enablement. [Say what is being enabled – the downstream generation of value.] It does not mean imposing your will. When I’m approached in the street by a visitor to Bath who wants to know the way to the railway station, the visitor is free to ignore my directions. I have no agenda beyond wanting to help.

The occupant of the metaphorical director’s chair, who might be a coach, facilitator, team leader or critical friend, has the job of:

  • Providing objectivity, keeping the overview and coordinating action, like an air traffic controller.
  • Guiding the project towards the accomplishment of desired outcomes and the manifestation of intent.
  • Monitoring developments in the external environment. Maintaining awareness of potential threats and opportunities.
  • Supporting and challenging. This is emphasised in a solo setting.
  • In a group setting, ensuring that all voices are heard.
  • When the time is right, galvanizing the individual or team into action.

The situation is a meeting, workshop, or collaborative gathering such as an Open Space event.

The enabler in this case is a facilitator, but in other cases could be a coach, thinking partner, team leader, project leader or boss.


It is the job of coaches, facilitators, thinking partners and leaders to help individuals and groups create the new and unlock value-generating potential.

In The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook, John Heron describes three modes of facilitation, which he calls hierarchical, co-operative and autonomous.

These ways of working can be deployed not only by facilitators, but also by coaches, thinking partners and leaders.

Free and legal download of The Complete Facilitator’ Handbook (pdf)

John Heron’s Introduction to Facilitation (web page summarising the three modes)

I have renamed the three modes to directive, collaborative and delegative, as I consider these labels more useful than John Heron’s original versions.

Adept practitioners are able to operate in all three modes according to the demands of the particular situation, and can move between them effortlessly, regardless of whether they are working one-to-one, with a small group, or with a large one.

Each mode has a corresponding degenerative form that limits the amount of value the actions of the individual or group could potentially generate.

When feeling under pressure or experiencing a sense of inadequacy, a practitioner‘s power-to-enable can all too easily degenerate into its corresponding egocentric, self-serving form, and constant vigilance is required.

A coach, or someone in that role, to provide encouragement, help me surmount obstacles or perhaps explain why I’m wasting my time. And to be a witness. A coach or facilitator makes sure that solo work precedes group work, and helps the group prevent groupthink, avoid pitfalls, eliminate constraints, acquire resources, address conflicts and make sound decisions.

John Heron, in The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook (and on my webpage here), makes a clear distinction between what he calls the hierarchical, cooperative and autonomous modes of groupwork design and facilitation. He points out that the facilitator must adopt the hierarchical mode when choosing to collaborate with the group or leave them to work things out for themselves.

All voices are heard

Outcome orientation and big picture awareness are maintained

Possibility and greatness are championed


John Heron’s label: Hierarchical.

Leading from the front, like the conductor of an orchestra.

Providing focus.

Ensuring that all voices are heard.

Engendering cohesion.

Remaining detached.

Setting the agenda.

Giving instructions.

Assigning roles to group members.

Inviting and processing contributions.

Ensuring that the process remains on track.

Keeping an eye on the clock.

This is the principal mode adopted by facilitators of Real Time Strategic Change events.


John Heron’s label: Co-operative.

Co-designing the agenda.

Working with the individual or group as an equal partner.

Sharing responsibility for the effectiveness of the process and the accomplishment of mutually-agreed outcomes.

Operating in this mode can include active participation in group activities. In an Open Space meeting, for example, the facilitator might join a session or even host one himself/herself.


John Heron’s label: Autonomous.

Assigning a task to the individual or group and letting them get on with it without supervision.

Respecting people’s desire for autonomy, fostering self-determination, and trusting them to find their own way.

Not monitoring progress or intervening in any way.

Staying in the background or leaving the room, while remaining fully present and available to provide assistance if requested.

This is the principal mode adopted by facilitators of Open Space meetings.

One of the main challenges for the enabler (facilitator, coach, therapist, boss) is to avoid the degenerative form of enablement — Starhawk’s power over: seeking to meet one’s own needs, or even the needs of others, by means of bullying, coercion, manipulation, restraint etc.

Parent-child dynamic constrains participants’ creative power

The facilitator’s own agenda is pursued

Abrogation occurs and potential value is nullified

Setting someone up to fail.


Autocratic: tending to impose one’s will on others in an insistent or arrogant manner; domineering. (view source)

This is the ‘power over’ mode described by Starhawk here although it is not gender specific. In essence, autocratic behaviour in an enterprise is a distorted form of enablement.Can elicit passivity, dependence, reluctance to participate, hostility, rebellion or withdrawal.

The difference between Directive and Autocratic is very subtle, and often more a matter of in-the-moment intention (conscious or unconscious) than character or personal style.


Collusion: a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose. (view source)

A facilitator in degenerative mode can collude in the creation of a turd by encouraging or allowing group members to believe that what was produced by their secondary imagination actually arose from their primary imagination.

Collusion on the part of coaches and facilitators is mostly an error of omission (not acting when action is warranted) rather than an error of commission (acting when action is not warranted). Constant vigilance is the warranted action.

In a group setting, collusion often occurs when the facilitator avoids ‘telling it like it is’ in order to avoid unpopularity or discomfort. As a result, the group produces something with diminished potential—something mediocre.

My thanks go to Paul Levy for his wise words on the topic of the collusion of mediocrity, some of which reappear in the preceding paragraph.


Abrogate: to end or cancel; to treat as non-existent. (view source)

Undermining people’s faith in their purpose and their power to manifest it.

When individuals and groups complete a delegated task, abrogative behaviour on the part of the coach or facilitator can nullify the fruits of people’s efforts and cancel any potential value that their work might have generated downstream.

Types of abrogative behaviour include being dismissive, damning with faint praise, responding with a joke, belittling, pretending to applaud the work while having no intention of taking it any further, or blatantly ignoring it.


The enabler lures people away from serving the interests of customers et al, and towards serving the interests of the enterprise or the enabler himself/herself.

In my corporate life, I had taken part in many facilitated workshops over the years and had by and large found them to be ghastly affairs. The professional facilitators would be far too controlling, far too smug and always seemed to love the sound of their own voice. OK, not all, but far too many.

Source: David Gurteen, on his Conversational Leadership website (view)


  • All real power is creative power, which is the ability to conceive the new and bring it into being.
  • Real power should not be confused with pseudo-power and anti-power.
  • Sometimes what appears to be power-over is a corrupted form of power-to-enable.
  • Value is not delivered, it is co-created.
  • There are five main types of value generator: products, services, facilities, establishments, and events.
  • Creating the new is organic, not mechanical.
  • Direction is a form of enablement, like giving directions to a tourist.
  • Creative power can be deployed alone or with others. Each has shortcomings that can be rectified.
  • Creative power can also be deployed by taking a meta position and helping others create in solo or group settings.
  • Examples of enablers include facilitators, coaches and project leaders.
  • A skilled enabler moves effortlessly between directive, collaborative and delegative modes.
  • If there is no designated facilitator in a group setting, it is possible that one group member will assume this role by stealth. Such pseudo-facilitators follow their own agendas and overrule any objections, with degenerative consequences.


Active and directed dissent is a better way to counter the cognitive biases of groups and individuals, and to sidestep groupthink. This is essential to increased innovation and creativity truly driving business.

Source: A Manifesto For A New Way Of Work, by Stowe Boyd.

Innovation takes more than having ideas and expecting others to immediately accept them. If your idea is important enough, then it is your job to take responsibility for it and see it through.

The Semmelweis Myth And Why It’s Not Really True, by Greg Satell, on Medium

Many human endeavors—from teams and organizations to crowds and democracies—rely on solving problems collectively. Prior research has shown that when people interact and influence each other while solving complex problems, the average problem-solving performance of the group increases, but the best solution of the group actually decreases in quality. We find that when such influence is intermittent it improves the average while maintaining a high maximum performance. We also show that storing solutions for quick recall is similar to constant social influence. Instead of supporting more transparency, the results imply that technologies and organizations should be redesigned to intermittently isolate people from each other’s work for best collective performance in solving complex problems.

Source: How intermittent breaks in interaction improve collective intelligence, by Ethan Bernstein, Jesse Shore, and David Lazer

It needs to be understood creation is ultimately making a thought manifested in the physical world either by creating an object or an experience.

Source: Releasing Your Unlimited Creativity Approach, by Ken Ferlic.

Power is at the heart of this world, not because the world is evil but because marshaling energy to make a better reality takes power. What I’m talking about here is unlimited in terms of space and time. This is not some little parochial dark power a fool uses to provoke fear. This is not a pond. This is the ocean. This is the big one. This is what is at the core of the individual. It is not neutral, it is not empty, it is not a system, it is not technical. It electric and alive. To put it another way, it is what you find inside the nut when you crack open the shell. You find the kernel. It says, “When you tap me, I give you energy, as much as you want.” However, for this to happen, the decks need to be cleared of certain obstructions. Certain roadblocks need to be pushed out of the way. This can be done.

Source: John Rappoport.

Jump down the page to see a list of related articles providing more information about value, anti-value, and the two forms of imagination.

Further reading

Collaborating Isn’t the Only Option, by Adam Kahane, on strategy+business

Creative ability and creative power, by Ken Ferlic, on the Releasing Your Unlimited Creativity website

Girl Power or Pseudo-Power? by Jill P. Weber, on Psychology Today

No bosses, no managers: the truth behind the ‘flat hierarchy’ facade, by André Spicer, on The Guardian

People Want Power Because They Want Autonomy, by Julie Beck, on The Atlantic (reporting on a study conducted by researchers from University of Cologne, University of Groningen, and Columbia University)

Power is Returning to the Source, by Umair Haque, on Medium

Problem-solving techniques take on new twist. For best solutions, intermittent collaboration provides the right formula, says Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School

Pseudo-power, by Scott Noelle, on

Really Big Picture Enterprise Architecture: On power and gender, by Tom Graves

The Truth About Collaboration, by Gunther Sonnenfeld, on Medium

What is power, anyway? by Tom Graves, Tetradian, on Slideshare

What motivates people to take action? by Jon Rappoport