Yesterday Stowe Boyd wrote a commentary (Getting to Trust: Better Swift than Deep) in response to my post about trust and collaboration, saying that the way of the future is connectives, not collectives; cooperation, not collaboration.
He goes on to recommend assembling ourselves with swift trust, align professionally around a common goal/vision/alignment, get short-term projects done, and then disband and move on, verse trying to establish deep trust, which is a much stickier, longer and more political process.
I just want to clarify what it is we’re experimenting with, as Stowe hasn’t been the only person lately who misinterpreted it as attempting to form some kind of unified hivemind.
What it’s not:
A sacrifice of self-interest.
What it is:
A collaboratory. (a “center without walls”)
A surrender of attachment to ego. (healthy ego = good. being full of yourself = not so productive)
(I brought this Brian Eno quote up a few posts ago, but I’ll reiterate):
Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.
Individuals immersed in a productive scenes will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenes, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.
The geography of a scenes is nurtured by several factors:
- Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
- Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.
- Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success. (Collective Epic Wins!)
- Local tolerance for the novelties — The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
So, this is really about culture building.
Just like on this blog, where I attempt to host a creative learning environment, where it’s ‘safe’ to be vulnerable and express your opinion and engage in generative dialogue, the idea of the collaboratory is a creative learn/make/do environment as well. (I want to make this happen in an online environment, which we’re doing now using enterprise collaboration software, Confluence Atlassian.)
Its mission statement might be something like:
To provide creative entrepreneurs and business owners the tools and ongoing support to bootstrap their ventures from inception to maturity, so they can have a continuous positive impact on systems and culture.
I also want to make this happen in my local physical environment, via the Beacon Collaboratory.)
And there are two principles I think are really important to put out there that so that the environment continues to be flexible, fluid, and adaptive, instead of rigid, homogenized, or prone to ‘groupthink,’ and these are human agency & enlightened self-interest.
Somehow I never came across the word “agency” until grad school a few years ago, but I think it’s a critical concept for contextualizing growth, empowerment and manifesting your intentions.
“Agency is the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity) to act in a world. Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.”
My interpretation is simply that human beings each have the capacity to make choices and decisions. I’m tempted to go so far as to say we have a responsibility to do so, but then my spiritual training would tell me that we are each on our own path and it’s not my place to determine the moral obligations of others.
A lot of what I discovered in my social theory education enlightened me about the degree to which we are programmed by our environments, culture, and institutions, and especially by the media. I believe we are generally trained to do what we’re told and to not do too much thinking for ourselves. That would be the suppression of agency. I find it dangerous to mindlessly take actions without deeply questioning one’s internal navigation system, and asking oneself if it makes sense or contributes to happiness or well-being.
So becoming consciously aware of oneself and one’s deep values and beliefs help to provide an internal compass towards agency, verse following an externally mandated one. Having the capacity to make your own decisions and choices.
Whereas agency frames the capacity to act, enlightened self-interest frames the rationale of its implementation.
“Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.
Another way to say this is “do well by doing good.”
Another way to say it is “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
And yet another way to say it could be “helping each other help ourselves.”
My interpretation of this phrase is that we still retain our individual expression, we still build our own “brands” and communities, we still create our own customized versions of products and services.
BUT, we do so in a way that is mindful and pie-expanding, not exploitative or creating false scarcity. The idea is that we can create value and wealth for the world, which ultimately serves ourselves, because we live in the world.
If a business is created that links a local food supply chain from farm to table, everybody wins – the farms, the food co-ops and grocery stores, and the people who are able to purchase locally grown organic food.
If a business incubation and mentorship project is launched, everybody wins – the businesses owners who are sharing their wisdom, the budding entrepreneurs who are going to grow the economy, the community/customers that are going to have new ways of being served, and the city that can be proud of the ways they are demonstrating resilience.
The examples can go on and on, but this is essentially the vision I am actively working towards.
I believe in a social and economic future that is convivial, vibrant, thriving, and life-enhancing for all. We live with passion, manifest our dreams, and don’t cause suffering to others in the process. We engage in a process of continuous learning and mutual improvement. We have fun playing infinite games while still getting shit done. We are alive.
The future is now.
responses from the noosphere:
Civil Disobedience said:
Booyah! Well said!
Thanks for this post Vanessa, you´re quite productive these days 😉
I think what also has to be taken into account reg the trust debate is reliability. In times that are individually felt as more and more dynamic, complex and “unpredictable”, the perceived feeling of insecurity is increasing. This ultimately leads to a reorientation towards local groups of people really knowing and trusting each other because they share time and various experiences. I think it´s simply a question of effectiveness and human needs in the end. We want to establish some stability in the dynamic world, we are build for social interaction and relations with all senses.
We are more than a brain with 10 fingers.
Neal Gorenflo said:
Both have their place, though if you want to build the collective muscle of a new group it’s best to start with a small, easy, time limited project.
You can also tackle a big project by breaking it down into small, manageable modules.
It’s all about moving participants up a ladder of engagement, as they say in the activist world. In the world of commerce, where you’re trying to sell something, it’s called the sales funnel.
The value of social media in this realm is that it’s lowers the initial step on to the ladder so that many more people can begin climbing, therein lies the opportunity down the line to have a larger number of people significantly engaged.
The thing about social media is that it doesn’t necessarily guarantee better outcomes from collaboration, the importance is that it primes many, many people for giving it a try. Then it’s up to teams to use a process that does this – gets the project done successfully while simultaneously building the group’s capacity to take on a slightly bigger project next time.
Venessa, You rock! This article summarizes exactly what I am working on in Nashville, to be rolled out across the country, then internationally.
Hi Venessa; I’m not sure of the tie in but I keep finding myself in a strange conversation with people about strong ties and week ties. There is a group of folks who are adamant that strong ties are evil and the cause of all silos whereas weak ties are the blue sky lubricant of all innovation. Their argument is based on the now classic Granovetter paper of 1973 which is in fact quite compelling. I don’t believe it is that simple though; weak ties are awesome for the exchange of information as new ideas can cross the globe at the speed of Twitter. They are also critical for the spread of propaganda, fear, marketing messages, rumors, politics, scams, etc. On the other hand, strong ties act as a vetting mechanism that filters out many new ideas along with the slag, but they are important for the storage of knowledge, culture, and social priorities – the so-called DNA. What you seem to be looking at may be both: a currency is articulated for it’s ability to store AND exchange value. This requires varying degrees of strong / weak ties but this is where the research seems to fall apart. I am not certain there is a middle ground because, like currency, the accounting system and the vetting mechanism cannot exist under the same platform. There would be a conflict of interest – hence Enron. I have been contemplation conditions in which the output of one platform becomes the input of another, and vice versa. Not sure what to call this except “integration”.
Jeff Mowatt (@peoplecentred) said:
There was a phrase in what I posted as a comment to your blog yesterday:
“Call it compassion, or call it enlightened and increasingly impassioned self-interest. Either way, we are all in this together…”
It goes back to the critique of traditional capitalism which the core argument for a human or people-centered form of economics, which ends:
“Economics, and indeed human civilization, can only be measured and calibrated in terms of human beings. Everything in economics has to be adjusted for people, first, and abandoning the illusory numerical analyses that inevitably put numbers ahead of people, capitalism ahead of democracy, and degradation ahead of compassion.
Each of us who have a choice can choose what we want to do to help or not. It is free-will, our choice, as human beings”.
It is around the same time that laissez-faire capitalism begins to have a profound influence on US economic policy under the guidance of Alan Greenspan. His ideology derives from the philosopher Ayn Rand who declares a total rejection of the collective and control in favour of the individual.
This may be found in the PBS Frontline video The Warning which is included in the study guide for our seminars at the Economics for Ecology conferences at Sumy.
Jeff Mowatt (@peoplecentred) said:
The foundations described above lead into practical application. This takes the form of bottom up localised development in an experimental project in the Tomsk regionl in Russia. moving to the UK in 2004.
It is a transition from corporate economics of production centred profit maximisation to a post growth scenario of local food and energy production and distributed manufacturing in a sharing and people-centered local economies.
The term people-centered economics derives from the work of Carl Rogers and his advocacy for person centered therapy in which the subject, given the resources to resolve there own problems may flourish and grow.
Thank you for sharing this, Venessa. In the spirit of co-creation, let me put how I understand.
Its mission statement might be something like:
To help creative entrepreneurs and business owners take steps along their way by connecting them with networks, tools and mutual support to bootstrap their ventures from inception to maturity, so they can manifest quicker towards a continuous positive impact on systems and culture.
David Hayes said:
No doubt you are familiar with COMMON and its mission to connect people together and harness the power of true, rule-breaking creativity to launch socially beneficial businesses?
John Tropea said:
I presume the background to some of Stowe’s thoughts is this article
Collaboration seems to be a big bucket to include lots of things..so it becomes semantics.
At work I deal in KM, networks, engagement ,etc…but I just use collaboration in my job title, as everyone then gets the gist
Did you see this short video clip on agency and sociology
Gee, I punched out that comment like a powerpoint slide…
What Dominik said. The problem with the kinds of ad hoc, project-based, one off relationships Boyd described is that they leave the individual isolated without a safety net, and thus leave the project-based model of p2p collaboration open to cooptation (as free agents become a precariat) by capitalist business firms.
The kinds of relationships you and Dominik talk about overlap to a large extent with de Ugarte’s phyles, as a platform for providing transparency and reputational guarantees, risk and cost pooling mechanisms, etc.
Whether p2p is coopted into a corporate capitalist framework or becomes a separate model of self-organized production in its own right, depends on who has the most leverage from owning the means of production and being able to walk away from the bargaining table. Ongoing relationships facilitated by common platforms reduces precarity and individual vulnerability, and potentially gives p2p communities the leverage to pull down the pillars of the capitalist temple.
Nick Jankel said:
I whole-heartedly share your intentions and vision with all my work (I run a training / accelerator programme for change-makers and social innovators heavy on personal growth / leadership, amongst other things). However I want to point out some nuance on Randian thinking. Enlightened self-interest captivated me at one point as a 3rd way between left and right wing. However upon much investigation, in my self and in philosophy, I have come to the conclusion that it is slightly skew whiff. Action coming from enlightenment is motivated from an overwhelming sense of oneness and the compassion it engenders. It is what Schopenhauer called Mitleid, compassion – which he believed was the sole, non-egoic driver. “The everyday phenomenon of compassion,…the immediate participation, independent of all ulterior considerations, primarily in the suffering of another, and thus in the prevention or elimination of it…. Only insofar as an action has sprung from compassion does it have moral value; and every action resulting from any other motives has none.” Interestingly, new research from psychologist Daniel Batson supports this. He has spent his career exploring altruism and the health benefits of it. “Those who turn to altruism as an antidote for depression, meaninglessness , and tension will find it does not work. To use altruism as yet another self-help cure – providing a means to the ultimately self-serving ends of gaining more meaning and better health – involves a logical and psychological contradiction. As soon as benefit to the other becomes an instrumental means to gain those self-benefits, the motivation shifts from altruistic to egoistic. So if it is empathy-induced altruistic motivation – rather than simply helping behaviour – that produces the health benefits noted, intentional pursuits of these benefits may be doomed to failure.” So I prefer a 3rd way that is grounded in creative collectivism, co-creation driven by well-formed, ‘strong’ Freudian egos who have experienced the peace and truth of ego-less, heartfelt action. I am passionate about inspiring, empowering and peer coaching a new breed of Bodhisattva entrepreneurs. Check this:
Curtis Faith (@inflector) said:
Nice Nick. “Enlightened self interest” is a conceptual bridge between those who believe self-interest is the natural condition of man and those who see compassion as our natural state.
Even those who believe purely in human self-interest as the driving force behind our progress and civilization must conclude that pure-self-interest does not benefit the self because it operates in a world of others who don’t reward those who exhibit no regard for others.
So “Enlightened self interest” is the middle ground where all of us can start to examine new ways of working together, whether we believe man is selfish, selfless, or somewhere in between.
Nick Jankel said:
Agreed. In practice enlightened self-interest and creative collectivism would often look very similar. Good middle ground. However I do think that system architects and design thinkers must really keep our intentionality as clear as possible from the debris of Modern hubris and dualistic assumption.
Venessa Miemis said:
i wish we didn’t have to use wordsmithing and phraseology at all, b/c then we argue about the words instead of just live the practice. but i guess we have to start the dialogue somewhere.
Maybe it helps to zoom out a little: 3 mins about Cooperatives: http://youtu.be/KALLFDpuHUE It´s not exactly what we are talking about here in my understanding but I just wanted to point out that there´s a lot to build on. Maybe that could be an approach instead of “phraseology”. What is there to be remixed?
Suzana Milijasevic Djuric said:
I really like your post and agree with you. But in the same time I have a question for you or for someone else from this group who can help me.
I’ve been working for almost 15 years in a marketing agency. Actually, I was one of the partners. It was a full service marketing agency, but through time we became like media salesman. In my heart and soul I’m a creative person, so you can imagine how much I didn’t like that situation. But, an important information for you that all this was happening in Serbia. Our market and the country suffered a lot of difficulties in last 25 years, so it can’t be compared with any western economy, but we live here and must go on.
Finally, I decided to leave the agency. Now, I’m a chief mastermind of a new strategic branding agency for small and medium businesses. The concept or the way of thinking you wrote about is something what I’m implementing in our brand solutions. Creative thinking, being out-of-the-box is our basic principle. We really analyze the complete situation of a company (our client) and always create solutions which can differentiate our client and move them forward. Now you are wondering which is my question when we already do the right thing.
Yes, we produced more than 10 creative solutions for different potential clients during last 6 months, but we couldn’t sell any of them. Why? You can say that we are not good in sales, but my opinion is, because or surrounding is not supportive, as you wrote.
Business owners, which we contacted are not satisfied with their current results. We suggested them solutions which can make them and their brands very successful, but every solution includes them too. They have to accept and consistently implement those solutions in their businesses. Here comes the real problem, that they are not ready to put in enough effort, they are not ready to accept that they must have a clear vision and that they have to be committed to their goals. From their perspective, it would be nice to have an agency which will do everything with almost no investment. That’s impossible! I know that this situation looks very strange to you, but you have to understand that our country is still in transition and many actions are happening more by accident, not by plan. Lack of patience, unreal expectations (about profit), not enough sense for long term investments etc. Those are some of main characteristics of our and neighbouring markets (The Balkans).
I’m aware that I can’t change anybody but myself, so we are working on promoting our capabilities online to attract some foreign clients who already understand the importance and necessity of services like ours and will appreciate our knowledge, creativity, originality. But we have no references to put them on to our web site. Who will believe me that I’m capable to solve their marketing problem and to make their brand successful if they can’t see any of our references?
Common sense says that we have to get some references from our neighbourhood, but in our case it is impossible. What can we do? How to attract first, bravest client who will believe us and give us an opportunity to show what we can do? Do you have some suggestions? Despite the fact that I’m living in Serbia, Internet gives us a tool to collaborate and cooperate with anyone in the world (who also have internet). My vision is to make our start-up agency a successful agency specialized in strategic brand development for small and medium businesses. Project orientation is one of our basic principles. So, if you have some ideas and advices, I would appreciate them.
Suzana, I see your concern, some of the difficulties in your environment and your willingness to learn and change. Great courage, too. For my reply, let me pick one of your four questions, and you get to decide which one I am answering. My answer has two parts.
1. there is a famous book about marketing that might help if you read it twice, two weeks apart. Mark your calendar, then download the free first four chapters of Permission Marketing. If you decide not to get the book, read the free part anyway again in two weeks.
2. This is just my experience with professional services in a foreign country, may not work for you, but then maybe worth a try: No one wants to be the first customer for something untested, just based on a self-declaration. Everyone feels better with proof from someone they can trust, and you point it out, a reference customer.
So with any new service we make the first customer an offer they cannot refuse. There are at least two ways to do that: a limited but functioning service for free, or service with an agreement about future payment if there are extra sales. If sales rise after the marketing campaign (for what ever reason) a small percentage of the extra sales is yours. The what ever is in there because it saves the work of figuring out what really worked and what didn’t. That needs some experience which comes after helping a few customers with their marketing.
Good luck in delighting others so they talk about you.
John Tropea said:
Interested in Venessa’s readers thoughts on altruism and the study of mammals, esp primates
Altruism is only locally disadvantageous
“Darwin clearly understood the fundamental problem associated with the evolution of altruism: It is locally disadvantageous. Place an altruist and a selfish individual next to each other and the selfish individual wins. How can a behavior evolve in the total population when it is never at a local advantage?
Darwin also clearly understood the nature of the solution: Altruism is advantageous at a larger scale. Groups of altruists out-compete groups of non-altruists, even if altruism is selectively disadvantageous within each group. This is the theory of multilevel selection, in which different traits are favored at different levels. The term multilevel selection wasn’t coined until later, but the whole point of group selection theory was to solve the problem posed by a conflict between levels of selection.”
But is this mutualism, or altruism…is it to do with survival and reproduction as the fundamental drive…
Status is who we are – our mammalian origins
Where does altruism fit into this…mammals seek dominance because the serotonin feels good
And your thoughts on the empathy-altruism hypothesis
Venessa and Nick: In Ken Macleod’s “The Cassini Division,” the Earth centuries from now is governed by a libertarian communist ideology — which was deduced from the starting assumptions of Stirnerism. Altruism within the collective, according to that ideology, is the most rational path to achieving one’s self-interest in the long run.
Ria Baeck said:
I have been researching this whole field of what is needed and what can contribute to come to this point where you have the experience that the field in which you talk, share and work is expanding – and all the other beautiful words that you used in your previous blog entry.
I think the ‘enlightened self-interest’ is not good enough here.
You write: “I believe in a social and economic future that is convivial, vibrant, thriving, and life-enhancing for all.” – I think that is what balances the other factor of Agency: care and service to a vibrant whole. When that is the shared purpose of your group, then I think they will be committed to do what is needed; building trust – or not. It might just be there maybe?
There are many pitfalls on the way to this point, as we are so used to individuality and self-interest and don’t live from the perspective that we are just one expression of the whole.
A lot more to say here, but you might check out: http://www.presencing.com/projects/collective-presencing – although keep in mind that it is in a language that is maybe not yours. Scroll to the bottom to click through to the maps and models.
John Doe said:
“The thing about social media is that it doesn’t necessarily guarantee better outcomes from collaboration.”
John Tropea said:
I’ve snipped some superb insight by Chris Harrington and added some notes
The drive to compete comes mainly from scarcity, not only human nature