It is nearly impossible for humans to collaborate. How we can do this better?
This is the story that is told. Humans do not ‘do’ collaboration well.
And for over thirty years, this was my experience.
I have always been a natural convener, bringing amazing, wholehearted people together around a purpose they cared about. And for thirty years having these experiences falling into a ‘messy human heap.’
A shared purpose was not enough to hold the shape of the collective.
Intelligence and self-awareness were not enough.
Like-minded people…was not enough.
How do we enable amazing, diverse, wholehearted people to come together, to work collaboratively on a project they care about, and to do so elegantly, in a way that enables the maintenance of individual agency within community? That also has individual and collective development built-in by design?
I wanted to believe that elegant collaboration was actually not only possible but easy.
There are a few myths we need to bust. Syntropic World practices myth busting as part of our DNA.
The age-old story that humans are selfish, self-serving, winner-takes-all as the standard way of being.
The myths we have been told about our cruelty, our capacity to harm others to ensure our power and status is assured.
I am not questioning that we have psychopaths and sociopaths. Yet I propose that these people are the slim minority.
As Rutger Bregman has written so well and thoroughly in his book, Human Kind, the overwhelming evidence is that humans are good. They will do good when given the opportunity and ecology.
We might consider that there is a systemic impulse to keep us believing in the selfish gene, the selfish self-serving human. It serves the neoliberal platform of the individual and the individual’s libertarian rights. My rights. (Never ask me what I am responsible for though.) Small government. (Because government is incapable of doing much at all – except the lunar mission, the nuclear bomb, the enigma machine, electronic tape…and ALL of the most complex multi-stakeholder missions and technological innovations we have seen so far, bar none. Reference Marianna Mazzacato’s work. ) The ‘those who work hard’ get rewarded myth. (Tell that to the woman who walks three hours a day to get fresh water, before she starts work. Or the person who works three jobs to give their child an education.) Meritocracy. (Perhaps on an equal playing field. But when the playing field is bolstered for some by the ‘right’ connections, knowledge, access, resources, gender, race, status..meritocracy is another scam.)
We might consider that this story of the selfish human is the lie.
Our most pressing problems, the ones we must solve if we want a world with a future…such as…how we account for, measure, share and acknowledge value and contribution (what we have called work, or having a job, or skill), how we enable power and power asymmetries, knowledge and access and the asymmetries in both, our model of money, wealth, governance, legal codes, safety, security, education, work…democracy, integrity, transparency, the use and misuse of resources, how we think about the future, whole systems, health, age, dignity…all of these problems require human coordination.
Elegant human coordination that unlocks intrinsic motivation from each individual participant as well as the collective, and in so doing opens the path to synergy beyond our wildest imagination.
Perhaps this capacity, to elegantly coordinate humans to solve our most pressing problems, enabling polarity, chaos, passion, fierce commitment, radical generosity, and love…yes love…spiced with laughter, tears, intimacy, respect…
Perhaps this is the most pressing need we have right now.
This capacity is not just about stakeholders. Easy is it to reduce the complexity of human coordination and collaboration to boxes. The messy human heap happens because of the complexity and diversity, the polarities and perspectives that live within the collective.
Our work at Syntropic World is very focused on creating ecologies to enable elegant human coordination and collaboration.
After thirty years of failing to do this, in 2015 I succeeded to bring a team of twelve strangers together to co-create a world-class event over 6 months with multiple moving parts. We had zero event experience. No HR person would ever have seen the possibility of such a diverse team being able to get past go. Yet we did.
It lived in the enterprise architecture, the threshold crossing agreement, and activities we created as the only way people could participate. What we call the Syntropic Trust Manifesto. (You can download it here. It is in the Creative Commons. We invite you to use it with attribution.)
When I started teaching the work of the Syntropic Enterprise Masterclass, it was designed to go deeper into the framework and thinking behind the Trust Manifesto. To give people a lived experience, rather than the theory. We call it Syntropic Surfing. (Learning to surf by riding the wave.)
The Trust Manifesto is a template, not a fixed structure. One of the key components is the Synergistic Audit which is an exercise and activity that requires time and commitment.
I learned something that most of us know. To create the ecology for collaboration we need a container, boundaries. A threshold crossing. (Or the right of passage.) We give people sovereign choice to make that crossing or not. We are all better as humans when we have boundaries for ourselves and our lives. Road rules serve us all. Structures of relationships – when not too tight or too loose – enable better relationships. An artist with a boundary makes better art.
Strange it is that most people resist this type of boundary/threshold crossing. They do not want to impose, to create hierarchy. To be ‘bossy boss.’ To insist that people do some heavy lifting, make an investment of time and effort before they are able to become active participants within an enterprise or project.
Strange it is that even if the project is in its very early days, we step over the human relational dynamic. The complexity of the transcontexual that lives between us. We do not take the time to honour relationship, relational design, this very threshold crossing, to enable human synergetics.
We now have enterprises around the world adapting their own Trust Manifesto.
Not theory. Applied.
Collaboration and human coordination are not easy. It takes time and investment, particularly in the build of the foundations, to create ecologies for such.
But when we do this well, when we spend as much time as steward leaders working on the shape that holds our enterprise together, the human relational dynamics, the enterprise architecture, as we might do on any other element of our enterprise, the evidence is in the unleashing of synergy, where the sum is far greater than the parts considered separately.
Creating synergistic ecologies is the greatest opportunity humanity has to solve our most pressing problems.
This is a significant part of our work at Syntropic World.
If any of this speaks to you and you would like to know more, please consider the Syntropic Enterprise Masterclass. We have two options for enrolment in the 100% live version this year. Or you can access the On-demand version at any time. With nearly 200 graduates in 22 countries, and a wonderful community of practice.
“So we have to be idealists in a way, because then we wind up as the true, the real, realists.” Viktor Frankl