What is powerful? Where does it come from?

Rider: Jeremias Gomez Lugar: Valle Nevado, Chile (Tambo) by JC Labarca Accelerating with gravity, the resistance of loose powdery snow raising large plumes behind me as I choose the direction down the contours of a mountain makes me feel incredibly powerful. This feeling comes from the balance of known skills against unknown terrain, converting potential to kinetic energy while teetering on the edge of chaos but remaining in control.

There is an aspect of control to it, but when someone states “that is a powerful person”, typically a different image of what powerful means comes to mind. It made me wonder, who is considered powerful? Where do they draw that power from? It seems so subjective with some negative connotations that I decided to look at power itself, and where it comes from.

The first result returned from this inquiry in Google was interesting enough for a full read. The title WHERE DOES POWER COME FROM? matched the inquiry nearly exactly, except mine was asked a little more quietly as I always feel yelled at with all caps. A fairly simple answer appears on page 3 out of 14.

“Power comes from Purpose”.

The concepts presented are complex to me, so I continue to re-read portions and other related material. This article was my introduction to the intriguing Appreciation-Influence-Control (AIC Model). Appreciation, Influence and Control are the terms used to describe the three universal power relationships found in any system.

  • Appreciate through listening. Appreciation describes the kind of power most characteristic of our relationship to the “whole” system.
  • Influence through dialogue. Influence describes our relationship to parts of the whole system which we do not control.
  • Control through action. Control describes the relationship of the individual part of the system to itself.

I also like this clarification of the process from Appreciation-Influence-Control (A-I-C) a self-organizing process, which calls back to power as purpose and could easily be implemented in a workshop.

AIC is an organizing process which consists of:
a) identifying the purpose to be served;
b) framing the power-field around that purpose — those who have control, influence and appreciation relative to the purpose;
c) selecting those with the most influence relative to the purpose (stakeholders) from the three circles and designing a process of interaction between them; and
d) facilitating a self-organizing process which ensures that the stakeholders:
d1) step back from the current problems to fully appreciate the realities and possibilities inherent in the whole situation;
d2) examine the logical and strategic options as well as the subjective feelings and values involved in selecting strategies; and
d3) allow for free and informed choice of action by those responsible for implementing decisions.

The AIC process reminds me of the RAPID framework I recently learned about through a course I took while employed at Yahoo!. What I really like about AIC is it explicitly calls out to the benefit of self-organization.

According to the AIC philosophy, a powerful system unifies people around a purpose. It balances the potential energy of intent against these kinetic energy power types of appreciation, influence and control. Control is at the individual level in action, influence is achieved over others with dialogue, and through listening we can gain an appreciation of the whole.

New questions arise for me. What determines the scope of appreciation, influence and control within a system? How does someone increase this within an organization?

What are your answers? Do you have other questions?

This entry was posted in #agile explained and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What is powerful? Where does it come from?