By: Jennekin Dicks
WHAT DO YOU PREFER AS THE PRIMARY IMAGE OF HOW YOU WORK?
Moving hard and fast in a race to win? Or being in a settled yet dynamic network of action that has impact in and beyond the space it occupies?
Because honestly, those are your two distinct choices for success. And whichever you choose in your mind, is what is going to dictate the systemic reality you create or perpetuate, and therefore a large part of the reality you experience. And let's be perfectly frank: that reality is either going to be optimised for trust, generosity and connection, or it is not.
Feeling like your organisational culture is regularly tripping you up? Or maybe you think of it as a ticking time-bomb? Even when you can point to yourself and just about everyone around you as kind, well-meaning people? Perhaps it would be helpful to read on.
To race, or not to race... (To race, or to build a settled networked dynamic...)
Let's start with the option of being in a 'race'. This is where there is an understanding (and it is obviously a common one) that the organisation is competing against others for its survival. It is a cover story at best, because really any organisation is a construct, and the real 'survival', is about the gain and therefore security of each separate individual who relies on that construct for their income, career momentum, status, and whatever else they need from it to feel secure in their now and tomorrow.
Of course there is nothing wrong with needing income and career security, but let us at least be honest about why we care about the 'competitiveness' of any organisation which we support in its race.
And for the love of humanity, let's be honest about the systemic realities created within and around a racing entity.
First of all, if you're in a race, not winning means losing. So the mentality has to be that winners are grinners, as that's where the best prize is at. And when the true purpose is to compete and win so there can be maximised personal gain (whether said differently in vision and mission statements or not), it will influence how people react to one another and what they give attention to.
Apart from the fact that people then start to compete against one another inside the organisation, (performance KPI's tied to the organisation's financial performance, anyone?), it obviously also sets up competitive relationships beyond the organisation. In a world crying out for collaborative problem-solving and fast innovation inside businesses and across whole industries, this is the pits. If you ask me, we don't have time for this, and future generations are going to look back and think us utter fools for our selfishness as we compete with one another, rather than tackle our reality together.
The second problem in the 'race', is that any kind of winning in an already competitive market, will require a hard focus on the milestones and goals that are set on that very narrow race path. Not what sits next to it of course - those would be distractions. Like wanting to eliminate negative impacts on the environment. Or caring for people so they don't break.
It is difficult to argue for what exists adjacent to the winning path, when that narrow path is considered the only valuable path, and it can therefore be 'proven' that distractions slow progress on that path. I mean, as an individual, you could broaden your focus and give attention to the other things, but then you're not fully performing within the recognised, celebrated and rewarded winning path. Bye-bye optimised gain. Bye-bye optimised security. Hello connection to your own humanity and true self-respect perhaps... but of course that doesn't pay the mortgage.
Then, building on this organisationallly driven need to win and the necessary narrow focus on a pre-determined set of race goals, we get to the third problem in the race: connection and community. Or rather, a lack of.
On the narrow racing path, with hierarchical value and power assigned accordingly, with and people viscerally aware of their placement in that race, groupings and identities will form. A linear compartmentalisation emerges, with people's belief sets and behaviours adjusting to that compartment. Out front and winning? At the back and battling it out? Somewhere in the middle trying to motivate those behind so you can hit your goals and impress those in front? Different pressures and concerns are front of mind for each group. Different viewpoints form. Sub-cultures emerge. An 'us and them' is inevitable.
Mutual respect and understanding? Unity as a Team? An appreciation for diversity? Only in words, not in reality, as long as there is a race on.
The networked alternative.
Your thoughts are welcome
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