Mutual Thriving Networks: from Silos to Synarchy


If we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be ‘as gods’. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another. ~ Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

When I left my career as a lawyer and corporate executive, I was intent on following my bliss and expressing more of my creative side in an entrepreneurial endeavor. I opened a high-end stationery and gift boutique, expanding into a second store four years later.

I quickly learned that my passion for artisanal stationery and bespoke invitations was a fraction of what was required to nurture and maintain a successful retail boutique. Fortunately, I also had a passion for business and living into our motto of ‘Expect the Exceptional.’

Throughout the majority of my twelve years in that career, however, I perpetually felt like a ‘one-armed paperhanger.’ I was called upon to be superior not only in the essence of my craft, but also in sales, marketing, and social media; technology; systems and operations; employee hiring, training and retention; facilities management; bookkeeping and accounting; strategy and vision; and more.

I was constantly spinning many plates in the air, and feeling like I never had enough time, attention or energy to do any of them well.

Whether a business owner, solopreneur or employee, the same energy is pervading the lives of many individuals ~ all attempting to wade through the juggling acts of work, personal and family lives. And, although played out on a larger scale, it is no different for corporations.

The conditioned mainstream belief seems to be that in order to succeed, you must do it all and you must do it better than the others. In this framework, we are pitted against each other, competing for seemingly scarce resources in an effort to survive.

How is that working for us? Does it feel uplifting, healthy, or harmonious? Does it ever really deliver on the promise of success, happiness, fulfillment or security?

Under the tremendous weight of this impossible burden, we are beginning to realize that this makes no sense.

Nothing in nature can survive on its own. We are wired for interconnectivity.

Photo by Randy Fath

In the conditioned matrix paradigm of separate siloed structures, where the system in which we are operating is so out of alignment with our true nature, we are doomed to fail from the beginning.

It seems clear that we must align our operating system and the containers in which we work more with our natural state of being and with Nature itself.

What if we didn’t need to do it all alone?

What if we didn’t feel like we needed to master it all, while feeling inept at most of it?

What if we could focus more in our Zone of Genius and less on tasks that fall within our zones of incompetence, competence and even excellence?

What if we could come together in a spirit of sharing our gifts and resources ~ all focused on a shared vision and each bringing a unique piece of the puzzle?

What if we could really tune in and act on our inner knowing, the one whispering to us that there is a better way?

From Silos to Synarchy

Photo by Léonard Cotte

Synarchy describes the organic self-organising nature of a like-minded group dedicated to the highest values. Synarchy occurs as those [group members] come together to share, inspire, co-create, and prosper through their ideas and innovations. ~ Richard Rudd, founder of Gene Keys

As I read through Richard Rudd’s description of Synarchy in his Golden Path Program documents, I was like a bobblehead, nodding vigorously as I read his eloquent description of these concepts that have been incubating in me for years.

Our consciousness has shifted beyond the walls of the systems and structures that have defined our culture to date. The blueprints for new organizational structures that better suit the ways we now desire to live and co-create together as a society are beginning to bleed through our awareness.

We are moving beyond our fear-based need for control and competition, realizing that no one of us can possibly have all the answers, and feeling ourselves drawn to work together in a more interwoven, harmonious way. As part of this shift, we are inevitably moving past the need to serve only our individual and corporate selves and feeling an increasingly loud calling to serve something greater.

Synarchy needs the elements that make up hierarchy, but without the ego. At its core, synarchy always has the beating heart of a higher ideal, and … the members of a synarchy all serve the ideal in their own unique way. ~ Richard Rudd

When we come together in a spirit of co-creation, something magical happens. Synergy is generated ~ a whole is created that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Within organizations, many are drawn to this new-paradigm model of Round-Table Leadership ~ where people come together around a shared vision, each bringing their unique genius that together form a beautiful symphony.

What really lights me up, though, is the vision of engaging in this way of operating across organizations. A round table of round tables!

Can you imagine the exponential impact this can have, especially when the organizations are coming together to manifest a shared vision that serves the greater whole?

The Seed of a Vision

Photo by Sushobhan Badhai

Through my careers as a corporate vice-president & general counsel, a small business owner & retailer, an entrepreneur, information marketer, and coach/consultant, I have seen this play out first-hand.

I have seen my innate tendency to bring various pieces of the puzzle together and the magic that happens when we begin talking and sharing our unique perspectives.

I felt this palpably in a conversation during a small-group mastermind retreat I was hosting several years ago. In a group of industry-leading stationery boutique owners, a few began sharing their distaste for the bookkeeping and accounting aspects of their business.

One member, a former CPA, laughed and said, “I love crunching numbers! I’d be in heaven if I could sit in the back room all day focused on the finances of the business.”

Of course, we all looked at her like she’d arrived from another planet and had a good laugh about it.

Then I began to ask each of the members what they would be in heaven doing if they didn’t need to focus on all the other aspects of their business. Each of them jumped in excitedly sharing their love for entirely unique facets of the business:

  • creating beautiful window displays and visual merchandising
  • purchasing, selecting just the right products and lines that were both special and sold well
  • design and layout of invitations and stationery
  • creating the systems and streamlining operations of the business
  • engaging in vision and strategy

I could feel the excitement in me mounting as I said, “Do you realize the amount of unique talent that is right here in this room? With all of you working together, and each of you operating in your zone of genius, you could create a collection of the most amazing stationery boutiques in the world!”

The idea didn’t go anywhere, and may have been ahead of its time, but I’ve never forgotten the potent energy that moved through me at the awareness of this concept.

A Round Table of Round Tables

What if we could bring synergistic businesses together, in service of a common vision, and in a way that allows each of them to focus on their passion and purpose work?

Here is a recurring vision that lights me up ~ I’ve been calling it a Mutual Thriving Network. I’ll try here to walk you through the basics of this concept, using organic food & farming as just one of many ways the energy of Synarchy could be generated in a grounded business model.

In Boulder, Colorado where I live, we are big fans of local and organic food. Imagine that we set an intention to increase the consumption of local organic food in the Boulder/Front Range region by x% by 2025 in a way that is sustainable and serves all contributors, the community and the land.

We create the container of a Mutual Thriving Network ~ a round-table structure ~ to support, harness and amplify the energy of this intention for positive impact in the region.

The shared intention is the sphere at the center. The planting of this stake in the ground creates an attractor field, magnetizing in the key players who are essential to bringing this vision into reality.

Each of the players seated at the round table, represented by a sphere, is an individual with a particular skill set or a leader of an organization, initiative or body of work.

Each is a sovereign entity bringing his/her/its genius ~ a unique, essential and complementary piece that interlocks beautifully with all the other spheres.

Each sphere has at its center a clear purpose ~ the service it was created to express. And each sphere’s purpose is aligned with the group vision of increasing local and organic food consumption in a regenerative way.

Example of synergistic players in a Mutual Thriving Network

In this configuration, each of the spheres and the entire network is supported in flourishing and fulfilling its core purpose. All for One and One for All.

Unleashing Genius through Shared Operating Services

Inevitably, there will be a great deal of overlap between the member organizations in many of the functions required for day-to-day operation of their businesses, including Finance, Legal, Technology, Personnel, Marketing, Sales and Communications.

It’s a strong bet that those operational functions do not fall within any of their zones of genius.

What if we could take those functions off the plates of the individual organizations and reallocate them to ones for whom those services are solidly within their zone of genius?

At a small scale, this could look like a Shared Operating Services team that is maintained by the Mutual Thriving Network. At a larger scale, this could take the form of another Mutual Thriving Network devoted to serving other Mutual Thriving Networks.

Shared Operating Services mutual thriving network

Tremendous efficiencies could be gained simply by eliminating the redundancy of tasks previously performed by the various organizations on their own, freeing up more resources for the organizations to focus on their genius work.

Now imagine if those services were performed by an elite corps of people operating from within their respective zones of genius. Then layer in the incredible synergies that can be realized by these people not only working together and communicating as a self-organized team, but also serving a network of organizations who are working closely together.

This way of working in Synarchy opens up entirely new levels of interconnectivity and holopticism.

Far beyond a conventional mastermind group or a think tank, the players in a Mutual Thriving Network are organizations that are interoperating ~ actually conducting their business ~ in a synergistic way.

From Incubators and Accelerators to a Nest for Life

Photo by Landon Martin

The Mutual Thriving Network model takes the concept of startup accelerators to an entirely new level. Accelerators provide support and resources for a fixed term (usually three months) to a random cohort of businesses, all geared toward a demo day, pitching to equity investors, and ultimately focused on growth and high rates of return for the accelerator and other investors. Most in the cohort are anticipated to fail and a few are expected to provide crazy rates of return to spread the risk.

Imagine instead that you are part of a cohesive, symbiotic group of businesses ~ all focused on a shared vision that is entirely in alignment with your vision. Your participation in the group not only furthers your individual mission but is essential to the shared mission of the group, which impacts the world in a tangibly positive way.

And, rather than being launched out of the nest and left to fend for yourself after only three months, you are supported throughout the life cycle of your business by a group of businesses who are in it with you, whose success is fueled by your success and vice versa ~ and who help to hospice your venture when its season and reason for existence have passed.

The rising tide lifts all the boats. ~ John F. Kennedy

From Maps and Manuals to Emergence

Photo by kazuend

The new-paradigm models of leadership and organizational structure defy formulaic templates and blueprints.

Why? Because the structure and operations of each is co-created by the people who are drawn through resonance and synergy to manifest a shared vision.

At the center is the flag of the shared vision, a force that generates its own attractor field. We don’t need to create rules or one-size-fits-all models. We simply observe who is called to the table and why, and for the most part allow what wants to emerge through this space.

More listening, less telling. More sharing from unique perspectives, less implementing of ‘the right way to do it.’ More leading from genius, less managing from roles and titles.

You don’t build a synarchic business. You allow a synarchy to grow. You provide the right elements and conditions and it grows by itself. It is an organism rather than an organisation, and like an organism that is connected to the whole, it is also self-organising. To govern such a model requires a gardener’s light touch — you must be able to listen and use your intuition to read the signs that life sends you. ~ Richard Rudd

These co-creative pods of businesses could emerge in any sector, in businesses large and small, in start-ups and established businesses alike. The possibilities are as limitless as the imaginations of the people drawn into these initiatives.

There are myriad forms these Mutual Thriving Networks could take with many points along the spectrum ~ from a cooperative group sharing ideas, support and centralized operating services, to a commons approach with varying degrees of resource and revenue sharing, to models that have not yet been revealed even in the minds of our visionaries and futurists.

Flower of Life ~ sustainable, regenerative expansion

And I get positively giddy imagining the next fractal expansion of this model, where round tables of synergistic businesses begin connecting with each other to form a constellation of Mutual Thriving Networks. And the next fractal … a galaxy of Mutual Thriving Constellations.

Be still my holofractalgraphic heart!

A Harmony of Rebels … With a Cause

Photo by Bethany Legg

This emerging prototype of business organizations as living dynamic organisms, embodying Round Table Leadership and coming together to interoperate in Mutual Thriving Networks, is currently not for those who require proven models or who derive a sense of security from external structures and a predictable path forward.

No, these new-paradigm models flip the known business world inside out and upside down. For some, that is a terrifying notion. But for the pioneers and trailblazers, there has never been a more thrilling time to be alive and engaged in the world of business. The possibilities for positive impact through one of the greatest vehicles in our culture are endless!

The emergence of a sustainable, regenerative economy requires those of us who are pathfinders to come together to play, to experiment, to “fail” repeatedly, and to share our successes with these new models.

Over time, more early adopters and later those who require ‘tried and true’ models will inevitably be drawn by the increased results generated through these innovative prototypes.

Richard Rudd, in the Gene Keys Golden Path Program, describes beautifully the maverick archetype that is required to bring Synarchy into business:

The model of Synarchy demands individual rebellion, not as any kind of Shadow reaction, but as the foundation for higher consciousness.

Rebellion is a quality of the spirit, which is not to be confused with social rebellion. You rebel against imitation. You rebel against the tendency of the Shadow to make you believe you are a victim. When therefore a group of such people come together in openness and integrity, the possibility of a higher communion occurs. Then we experience that rarest of things: a harmony of rebels.

With a rebel yell … more, more, more Synarchy!

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