People often marvel at how well Rainbow runs. We have an incredible philosophy, curriculum, teachers, community, etc; but all of that doesn’t produce results without great systems. Five years ago, Rainbow adopted “Sociocracy,” also called “Dynamic Governance” — a governance system that collapses the hierarchy at specific times, so that everyone has an equal voice. Not only is this very empowering, but it seeds incredible innovation. It is a critical reason why Rainbow has become the innovative educational leader that it is.
There has been a lot in the media lately about Holocracy — the non-hierarchical governance system that Zappos has adopted. It’s not going so well, as this New York Times article notes. What is different between Holocracy and Sociocracy? The problem is that Holocracy “throws out the baby with the bathwater” by completely doing away with the hierarchy. Hierarchy, for all it’s problems (lack of innovation, lack of empowerment), has one really huge advantage — it’s VERY efficient. Sociocracy, on the other hand, is the best of both worlds. It retains the efficiency of hierarchy, while adding a level of systems that flatten the hierarchy for appropriate times. People have a voice in how the organization is run, they take on leadership and ownership, AND everything runs very efficiently. Best of all, in today’s world of fast-paced change, Sociocracy systems make Rainbow incredibly adaptable. As new ideas are introduced or problems arise that need to be solved (internal or external), innovative and effective solutions and strategies are quickly, often seamlessly, adopted.