Voluntary subordination

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Some call that provisional delegation. See Greg's definitions of delegation.

This is practiced within Sensorica as a substitute to instituted power relations (he is my boss). It is about explicitly expressing a need of ephemeral (for a limited time) hierarchies (subordination and trust), in a specific context. Since it is explicit it is not servitude.

Voluntary subordination has a limited scope. It doesn't extend to all situations or to the entire network. This is what makes it different from instituted power. Moreover, the affiliate entrusted with a process, in a particular context, is not always the same. This affiliate is chosen according to a real time estimation of abilities, which is based on past contributions or activities. In every situation, when needed, this affiliate is the best candidate at that particular moment. A role map can be used to help everyone determine that.

The affiliate entrusted to lead the process must retain a collaborative attitude and put in place a process by which feedback and opinions are gathered and considered.


Voluntary subordination evolved within Sensorica during meetings in projects. People didn't understand the meaning of p2p and decentralized organizations. They thought that horizontal governance means that everyone has equal access to decision making in all times, in all circumstances. In reality, in a particular context there is always someone who knows more, who is better positioned to carry the burden of decision making, especially when it comes to technical decisions. Sensoricans used a role map during some important meetings, which is a chart that presented in real time who's doing what and how much (see also role system). The role map raised to everyone's consciousness who's more entitled to lead in a given decision making process, as a proxy to contextual knowledge and technical understanding. This alone had an impact on the group dynamics, reducing deliberations and oppositions that would slow down the process.

Subordination is about trust, a leap of faith, which is connected to a degree of lack of data, information or understanding. There is no need to trust when we totally understand the process and can predict the outcome. Since it is impossible for everyone to share the same level of knowledge, understanding and wisdom in all situations, or very costly for an organization to raise everyone at the same level, trust becomes an important mechanisms to curt corners and really on someone in particular who has the a good potential to lead the group to the best outcome. This is a compromise, a solution in a situation of high complexity and limited resources and limited time.