David has a dream

[This is part of the Autumn 2014 edition of e-O&P.  Click here for the contents page.]

To make some cross-boundary working happen, the editorial team planned a ‘Gathering’ for September, so I thought it would be interesting to try to join up some of the LinkedIn groups I follow.  I posted a question in the AMED group (“How should we describe the radical re-think we need about organising?”) and ‘shared’ it across a number of other groups under the heading: “... wondering about synergy.”  There were a number of interesting responses though I can’t really claim they amounted to much in the way of synergy.

Louie Gardiner was kind enough to review my draft and I found her comments helpful so have included them in the blue panels.

It’s a bit presumptuous of me, I know, to reference Dr King in my title but I believe that the transformation of society is necessary and possible. 

  • Necessary ... because our existing models of organising  are not sustainable and cause too much suffering
  • Possible ... if we can unlock the synergy between the many wonderful and creative ideas which are currently on the loose. 

The problems of society are profound and complex.  How shall we learn to adopt sustainable lifestyles?  How shall we educate the young?  How shall we take care of our elderly?  How shall we reconcile strident adversarial ideologies?  ... or even moderately conflicting short term interests?  

No central body, however wise and well-intentioned, will ever be able to sort it out.  We must learn new ways of working together, or slide into chaos. 

Ah!  Chaos! 

I’m not very optimistic about our capacity to learn as individuals, never mind as a society.  So perhaps the slide into chaos is inevitable.  Now ... the concept of chaos (in my layman’s understanding) offers the possibility of the emergence of a new order. 

Perhaps we can slide through - or with - chaos.  I understand that the prospect of emergence is enhanced by optimising three aspects of the chaotic brew: 

  • The diversity of the ingredients – because an understanding of the challenges and the opportunities is not accessible to any one person or group, but is scattered through many minds in our infinitely varied ways of seeing the world 

  • The connectedness of the ingredients.  For emergence to occur, the scattered pieces of knowledge must be able to find each other, to cohere – if momentarily, to form a new picture which we will only be able to see when we can all see it

  • The quality of the connections – so insights can be perceived through the noise.  

“... synergy between the many wonderful and creative ideas ...”

To try and make some cross-boundary working happen, the e-O&P editorial team planned a ‘Gathering’ for 11 September, so I thought it would be interesting to try to join up some of the LinkedIn groups I follow.  I posted a question in the AMED group (“How should we describe the radical re-think we need about organising?”) and ‘shared’ it across a number of other groups under the heading: “... wondering about synergy.” 

A reasonable number of responses appeared in four of the groups (see table below) but there seemed to be more speaking than listening and more energy for introducing solutions to cross-boundary working than inquiry and open sharing of experience and triumphs and disappointments. 

Perhaps I am naive to hope for anything else from a networking social media site.  It felt like a party with everyone constantly scanning for someone more interesting to speak to.  It is an incredibly crowded party, after all.  Social media has infinite diversity and connectedness.  How can we improve the signal quality and enable more fruitful dialogue? 

Looking at Eoyang’s criteria, presented by Louie, above, I think we need to be building a container.

The responsive groups                                                 

The blue link in the group name will take you to the relevant LinkedIn pages.

Link to group discussion topics

AMED

Great Insiders

Unreasonable Learners

Lancaster University MAMLL,

Totals

Group’s area of interest

Management education and development

Mutual support for internal  consultants

New thinking about gov’t and business

Management learning and leadership

Connections across boundaries

Comments

23

13

15

10

61

Contributors

9

5

6

4

24

All these groups share some appreciation for the problems with hierarchies and the value of cross-boundary working.  While agendas are subtly different, I feel we are all pulling in more or less the same direction. 

I left out a group which didn’t seem to recognise the collaborative spirit of inquiry I was hoping for.  There was only one response: “the <group> virtually always has 'Joined up Thinking' as a way of life, with masses of accredited positive outcomes and not the average 70% failure rates that plague all the non-joined up thinking projects”. 

Any suggestions for further experimentation or exploration will be greatly appreciated.   Please post your thoughts here, or contact me directly: david.mcara@petrotechnics.com.  

About the author

David McAra is a member of AMED Council and of the e-O&P editorial board.  

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