Category Archives: Worth Reading

Recommendations of books, blogs, articles, websites, and other resources related to democracy and sociocracy that are worth reading. Includes works on systems theory, self-organization, equal rights, cooperative organizations.

The Definitive List of Culture Hacking Books

Image of BooksAt, Daniel Mezick has compiled an intriguing list of books that discuss various approaches to changing cultures. All organizations develop a culture, a common language and ways of doing things. They communicate in specific ways, share common behavioral expectations, and value similar values. These are not always positive or even productive. Even when they stand in the way of effectiveness and harmony, they persist. Culture hacking is changing that culture from within the organization.

These books provide an understanding of cultures and describe tools and techniques for instigating change in formal and  informal organizations. Underlying culture hacking is an understanding of effective culture design. I’ve read some of them but  this is a new field for me and I look forward to working my way through them. If  you are also interested in understanding organization cultures, I recommend this list and invite comments. It also includes, we are happy to say, We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy by John Buck and Sharon Villines.

New titles are added to the list as they emerge. A plan is afoot to also provide information in the form or ratings, rankings and reviews.

The Definitive List of CultureHacking Books

About Daniel Mezick

Dan Mezick is a coach and adviser to executives, project sponsors, managers and teams using Agile and Scrum. His consulting firm, New Technology Solutions, Inc. provides Agile training, coaching, and consulting to companies that include The Hartford Insurance companies, Siemens Corporation, Sikorsky Aircraft. He writes on Agile and Scrum for the Agile Journal, the Scrum Alliance, InfoQ. He also led the Manifesting Agility Stage of the Agile2009 conference and is the founder of Agile Boston, a regional Agile community and one of the largest Agile user groups in the USA.

His also the author of The Culture Game: Tools for the Agile Manager for those who hire people and convene meeting. “Tribal Leadership is a kind of operating system, The Culture Game is a kind of application that runs on it. This book is the first to define #culturehacking, the first to build upon the work of Tribal Leadership, and the first to state in print that #Agile builds a Senge-style learning organization.”

Legal Information & Resources in Plain English

Legal information and an understanding of the  law is essential in building and preserving democratic organizations. California has long been a leader in making legal resources available to non-lawyers. California and New York, two of the largest and wealthiest states, have excellent state resources on legal information for citizens. Two good sources of legal information:

Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB)

Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) LogoContinuing Education of the Bar (CEB) by the University of California and the State Bar of California is designed to support continuing education for attorneys in California by providing legal information in many forms. Its mandate is California law but many of the resources are applicable to national issues. When discussing California law, however, the information can still be very helpful because you can learn about the issues you need to consider.

The offerings are extensive and include practice guides, forms, books, courses, and online resources. The CEB Blog provides legal information that is detailed and authoritative but thankfully written in plain English. It is one of the ABA Journal’s Top 100 ways of staying informed. Reading the blog on even a casual basis builds a vocabulary and develops alert signals in your brain that something may have ramifications for your organization or your place in it to become or remain free and equal.

The CEB program was founded in 1947 to cultivate the professional development of California lawyers by offering formal Continuing Legal Education (CLE). The program has grown to include a wide array of award-winning practice books, guides, and CLE programs and sets the standard for the research, writing, and presentation by lawyers. They offer numerous kinds of support and information.

Nolo Press, now Nolo: Law for All

Nolo Press Founders One of my favorites since it was founded in 1971 by two legal aid lawyers who had been working with low-income families in the San Francisco Bay area since the late 1960s. Charles (Ed) Sherman and Ralph (Jake) Warner wanted to help people who didn’t qualify for free legal aid but couldn’t afford lawyers. There were almost no sources of free or low-cost legal information and what was available was written in legal jargon.

To address this need Sherman wrote How To Do Your Own Divorce in California and Warner  with Sherman and Myron Moskovitz wrote The California Tenants’ Handbook (with). Publishers refused to publish them because the legal profession at that time controlled access to all information about the law and to the courts.

In Latin, nolo means “I don’t choose to.” Without choosing to, Warner and Sherman founded a publishing house, and solicited Toni Ihara to help. What followed was an array of  do-it-yourself legal guides including works on debtors’ rights, personal relationships, business formation, and estate planning. Nolo became the pioneer in the popular law revolution.

Now part of a larger conglomeration of companies that provide related products to consumers Nolo has online resources, software, and a million other things, in plain English, for your legal education. I have found their guides to be equally valuable in explaining what you can do yourself and when you will should have legal counsel. At the very least, being informed reduces your legal fees because you aren’t paying $400 an hour and up for a lawyer to explain what you can find out in a $25 book.

Highly recommended:

Ordering Copies of We the People

You can now order copies of We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy through the A Deeper Democracy website. They are available as individual copies and in bulk orders of 10 and 20. Links are in the navigation menu above.

Shipping to countries other than the United States and Europe is still a problem but contact us and we can try to make arrangements. We currently ship from the US, the UK, and the press is promising shipment from Australia soon.

For Bulk Orders of We the People

Discounts on Orders of Ten or More Books

Whenever possible we attempt to make the books available to study circles and workshops at a discounted price. Increased security for imports and exports has made this much more difficult for addresses outside of the United States and Europe.

You do not have to have a PayPal account to order — just use the second option on the PalPal page.

For Shipping to the United States and Europe:

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10 Copies: $180 plus $25.00 shipping to the United States and Europe

20 Copies: $324 plus $35.00 shipping to the United States and Europe

For more copies, please contact us for a quote.

For orders to countries other than the United States and Europe, please send an email to to discuss shipping costs.

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We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy

Cover image for We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy

We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy is the first comprehensive presentation of the history and theoretical foundations of sociocracy by native English-speaking authors. The book includes personal narratives by the authors of experience with sociocracy, a history of its innovative development by Gerard Endenburg as a practical application of consent decision-making, extensive discussion of how the principles and methods are applied in organizations, and “How To” chapters.

In addition to sample bylaws and practical guides for circle meetings, the appendices include historically significant articles:

Frank Lester Ward, “Sociocracy”
Kees Boeke, “Democracy as It Might Be”
Gerard Endenburg, “Rational for a New Social Structure”

The text also includes an extensive Glossary and Bibliography.

Individual copies are available at or directly from Press.

Click here to order from Amazon.

Click here to purchase individual copies from Press.

Click  here to purchase multiple copies shipped to the United States from Press.

Click here to purchase multiple copies shipped OUTSIDE the United States from Press.

The cover photo was taken by Graham Heywood of Cotgrave Village, Nottinghamshire, Uk. It was chosen for the cover as an image that conveys the sense of harmony and peacefulness that was Gerard Endenburg’s vision when he began working on a method for implementing sociocracy.



Grassroots Governance & Accountability

Cityscape, Kathmandu, NepalAn article appeared today in Repùblica, a newspaper in Nepal, on the need for participatory, transparent, accountable, and inclusive governance. An OpEd essay written in support of a proposed freedom of information law it presents the reasons why applying these principles will strengthen governance at the grassroots level.

Only when citizens are informed, they can stand up for their rights and hold their government accountable for its actions, decisions and management of public resources…. Wider citizen participation in governance is being backed by democratic theorists and social activists who show that participatory approach has worked well in many countries. From Brazil´s daring experiments in participatory budgeting, to China´\s recent enthusiasm for engaging the masses in deliberative forums, to the expansion of grassroots democracy in India, changes are already taking place.

Though local community organizations in Nepal are more transparent and accountable, disclosing how they use public funds, this practice is not widely recognized or replicated by at the national level. Nepal is an ethnically diverse country and inequality is deeply embedded in its history of discrimination resulting in many ethnic groups alienated from mainstream development and governance processes. Although regulations for government grant funding require that local committees are composed of 33% women, the lack of informed and educated women results in local elites and political leaders manipulating allocation of resources because there is no accountability.

Engaging citizens requires them to believe in their own power to change their lives and communities. Empowering them to participate in decision-making, implementation, and oversight also requires that the state implement participatory budgeting process, public audits, public hearings, and citizen report cards.

Reinventing peoples´ role in this way – ´from users and choosers to makers and shapers´ – has profound implications for how citizens come to be seen by the state. However, current governance modality in Nepal is yet to fully recognize citizens as “active players” from its conventional view of citizens only as passive recipients of public services the government doles them out.

Legal frameworks and policies are alone not enough, if they fail to be implemented.

“Revisiting Governance” by Pranav Bhattarai in Repùblica. Accessed online 31 July 2011.

Thanks to Greg Pettengill for sending this article.

How We Decide and Why It Matters

Book Cover for Lehrer's How We DecideA wonderfully readable update on brain research is Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide that looks at how our emotions affect decisions and what the brain tells us about it. Lehrer worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, is editor-at-large for Seed Magazine, and  publishes regularly in major magazines and newspapers. He has both the education to interpret brain research and the ability to write about it clearly — welcome ability. And the results of this research are fascinating.

The brain is constantly growing and changing based on the information it receives, whether that information is emotional, social, or physical. Our “gut” reactions  are fast and accurate because our brain has decoded the information faster than we could rationally analyze it. First we know, then we know we know. Unfortunately, our gut feelings are often difficult to explain or even understand and we ignore them, going instead for the response that sounds right.

One of the subjects Lehrer examines is expertise. The reason sociocratic organization works is that it establishes feedback loops that provide information about performance. Malcolm Gladwell has reported that people become proficient when they have worked at something for 10,000 hours. The Beatles were able to outperform other bands at such a  young age because as teenagers they had a unique ability to perform frequently. Lehrer’s research shows that isn’t all of the picture. The expertise comes from the feedback received while gaining that experience. The interactions and measurements that come from audience responses and the musician’s experimentation. It isn’t the playing; it’s the recognition of mistakes. Analyzing one’s mistakes improves performance but recognizing mistakes is more likely to happen with an audience.

The sociocratic organizational structure is designed to ensure feedback. Measurement and analysis are fundamental at all levels. Looking at what is working and what is not. Lehrer talks with Bill Robertie who has become a world-class expert not only chess but in poker and backgammon. Unless all that practice includes analysis of his decisions and their result, his play would not have improved. And negative feedback, he says, was the best kind. We learn from our mistakes.

A fascinating study by Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, looked at the results of praise on children. Half were praised for their intelligence, the other half for their hard work. In later studies, those who had been praised for hard work actually performed better. Those praised for their intelligence were careful to choose easy work in order to retain the view of themselves as intelligent while those praised for working hard, worked harder and chose the harder studies that allowed them learn more. The differences were not just “statistically significant.” Those praised for working harder raised their scores by 30%. The scores for those praised for their intelligence fell by 20%.

Loss aversion fundamentally affects our decision-making in all areas of our lives, and opens us to manipulation by marketers and unreasonable responses to news, to information about the stock market, for example.

Impulsivity is a higher predictor of low SAT scores than academic performance as early as kindergarten. Brain development in children diagnosed with ADHD is on average 3.5 years behind that of other children. Brain research looks at all these phenomenon and studies how one brain functions in the face of the same emotional desires as another, and which one is successful in achieving a satisfactory solution. And the results are unexpected and unpredictable.

The ability to achieve a clean-slate, a brain ready for making new association that lead to new insights, is essential. The insight is achieved in a flash of energy, then the slate is clean again, waiting. Herbert Simon said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Lehrer also reports on studies of satisfaction — one shows that for each hour of increased time commuting, one needs to earn $40,000 more to make the commute worth it.

A striking conclusion is that anyone who wants to make difficult decisions better or more often, needs a more emotional thought process. With education and information, time spent consciously  contemplating the alternatives will probably be counter-productive. “The hardest calls are the ones that require the most feeling.”

Research like this has led to a change in how authority is viewed everywhere from the cockpit of major airlines to hospital surgeries. Staffs are trained to question authority when things don’t feel right. Don’t presume that the person with the degree or the title is making the best decision. Decision-making in complex pressure-driven situations is too hard for one brain to sort out.

An excellent and well-written book that is highly recommended. (Yes, this is author whose book “Imagine” was discredited because the author “manipulated and fabricated” quotes by Bob Dylan. To my knowledge none of the quotes were considered uncharacteristic Dylan. This is still a good book.)

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Boston and NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. To buy the paperback at Amazon.

Maverick by Ricardo Semler

This is a wonderful little book by the CEO of Semco, a corporation in Brazil. His father started the company and in 1980s passed it along to his rather young son who built a new kind of corporation using “open management” and advocating a “natural” and “democratic” workplace for “industrial citizens.”

In 1984, Semco acquired a Brazilian subsidiary of Hobart and Semler describes how he began changing the structure of management. It began with lunch hour talks between the managers and workers that convinced the managers the workers should be more involved in decisions about their jobs, the products they made, and their work environment. The women, for example, led a coup that not only got the smelly men’s locker room cleaned up but led to new lockers and the conversion of unused production space to a game room used at lunch and on breaks. Plants appeared on the shop floor the way they appeared in personal offices. Workers began to paint the shop, each worker choosing the color of the column nearest their station.

They formed a cafeteria committee to improve the world’s worst food “outside an institution without bars.” Then they changed the company policy of paying 70% of the cost of lunches to a sliding scale with top management paying 95% and the lowest paid floor sweepers paying only 5%. Workers share 22% of the profits.

From dirty lockers, plants, paint, and lunch subsidies, workers formed committees and began looking at production and products improving processes, safety, and economics as they developed new products, techniques, and finishes. All worker initiated, often on their own time. Semler says the strength of the groups was their diversity: factory workers, engineers, office clerks, sales reps, and executives. The leaders were chosen by the committees based on their capacity to lead — calling meetings and leading discussions.

The workers themselves established and posted scoreboards above the factory floor to keep track of daily production for each product. When their self-determined quotas were in danger because parts had not been delivered the workers travelled to the suppliers to pick up supplies and worked through the night to finish before the end of the month.

Maverick is filled with such stories in which the workers are empowered and once empowered increased production by developing better processes and increased sales and profits by designing better products. All are inspiring and useful in making arguments for changing your workplace. This book was an all time best seller in Brazil when it was published there in 1988 as Turning the Tables. Semler was then 34. This is not a book about business; it is a book about work.

Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler. NY: Tableturn, 1990. Buy the paperback from 1995 at Amazon

The later and similar book is The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way We Work published in 2004 when he was a visiting scholar at Harvard. This book is less specific in giving examples and more motivational, encouraging people to think the way Semco management thinks in order to find the best solutions for their organization. In the end, I find this approach to be less useful. Feels good but what do I do on Monday morning? Available Used at Amazon

The Spirit of Democracy

Book Cover: The Spirit of DemocracyThe Spirit of Democracy by Larry Diamond is a very readable analysis of the growth and deficiencies of democratic governments around the world. In 1974, only 25% chose their governments in free elections. By the mid-1980s, two of every five states were democratic. By the mid-1990s, the Berlin Wall had collapsed and three of five states were democratic. Further, Diamond notes, democracy had become a zeitgeist, a spirit of the time. It had also shown itself capable of becoming the world order.

Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and co-editor of the Journal of Democracy. In this book, he examines the nature and quality of democracies and finds both conflicts in cultural values and deficiencies in practice that limit the growth and spread of democracy. Without addressing these, democracy will be less secure in the countries where it is established and it is less likely to spread.

One concern is a conflict in values. Cultural values in the West include individualism, freedom, and equality which favor democracy. In contrast, those in the East are order, family, and country. An authoritarian government nurtures dependency and offers a sense of security that is lacking in a democracy that values individualism and self-reliance. How can democratic government address this difference?

The next concern is the more headline grabbing deficiencies and the ways in which these countries need to improve in order to become fully democratic. Some of the major deficiencies include the poorly educated making self-defeating choices and corruption as a social expectation. Diamond analyzes these in detail and this is where the reader will find a treasure trove of information and ideas for further research and analysis because everyone could be addressed by applying sociocratic principles.

This is an interesting book for those who are interested in international affairs and those who are looking for good research topics. Endenburg found that people needed the democratic experience before they could operate sociocratically, so democracy is an important topic for sociocracy.

The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World by Larry Diamond. NY: Henry Holt, 2008. Bibliographic notes, index. The appendix includes charts of information from Freedom House and the Human Development Index that present international statistics on various measures of democratization of governments.At Amazon