whether of a project, an organization, a relationship, a country, one's destiny, one's career, etc., is a difficult concept conjuring up at once both the security of self-determination, and the fear that comes from being responsible for/to another.

In either case: One must give up control to get control.

Its fear of losing control of course that makes this difficult, but even in the extreme (e.g. absolute dictatorships) some choices are left to the controllee, and thus ceded (however reluctantly) by the controller.

I used the dictatorship example for a reason: Its only through greater fear of outside factors that such groups gain power in the first place, and they must continue to use fear in order to retain it. The result is often a clear ability to control in the sense of stopping things from happening, but relatively little control over creative activities (you can absolutely stop me from writing good software, but you can't force me to create it). If you want to stifle participation and creativity focus on threats obligations and punishments in your communications with others. Make sure they are much more afraid of doing the wrong thing than they are of eager to do the right thing.

OTOH, control based on trust can be achieved simply by giving up control (if you love someone/something set them free), which is what's seen in the case of open source projects, personal relationships and other voluntary relationships. (Voluntarily is the only way to get someone's best work. No guarantees -- but no alternatives either). If you want to unleash creativity, worry less about consequences (both positive and negative) and obligations, and focus on communicating your intent and vision. Focus on clearing obstacles, rather than on creating them. Listen more than you dictate.

I'm thinking about organizational decision making of course. The former is very tempting (its perceived as more efficient) and common (its easy to focus in on the short-term needs of the situation) but only the latter offers the promise of unleashed creativity and total participation.

Note, that while hierarchy is the preferred structure for fear/punishment-based control relationships, lack of explicit hierarchy is neither necessesary nor sufficient for achieving trust-based control relationships (i.e. too little structure creates as much tyranny as too much structure). What is necessary is that all interactions and decisions be based on clear principles and due process (i.e. establishing clear -- and fair -- ground-rules, including rules on how everyone -- especially those doing the ruling -- will abide by them). The key to getting such relationships is letting the less powerful go first -- that's why its about giving up control rather than taking it.

Rereading this, I recognize that I seem to be stating this as a dichotomy: we must either choose one approach or the other. But like many things, its the balance of the two that leads to effective results: If we wish to engage the most creativity and/or participation of others we must not simply give up control, but also choose carefully what precisely we retain or cede control of.

Principled, due process-based covenants are neither simply controlless, nor controlling, but rather a blend of the two; the careful crafting of which results in an effective framework for negotiating relationships where control is given -- and retained -- by both parties. It is this that makes for effective social contracts -- not simply the choice of license, political scheme, contract-terms, organizational structure, economic theory, or subject matter.

And it is this that all fulfilling relationships are founded on.