everyone contributes

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“It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.”

John Maynard Keynes

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 “man trapped in the world of machines, unable to grow as a human being and become himself.”

Clockwork Condition (the unfinished sequel to Clockwork Orange)

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This is not about collaboration in the traditional sense. I tend to believe most collaboration discussions are misguided <utopian> and most actual collaboration leads to consensus and a less-than-optimal conclusion. That said. Every organization would benefit if every employee was able to maximize their potential which, in simplistic terms, means everyone contributes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everyone ‘contributes’ now but what I mean is everyone contributes to the whole of the system and not just their part. I imagine what I am suggesting is dialogue throughout the organization which creates an exchange of information, knowledge, ideas and even execution.

“If you really want a Learning Organisation you must build the capacity to change the internal dialogue. It is dialogue that has created who we are and only a change in our dialogue will change that. Networks will decide on their topic of conversation based on their sense of identity.”

Atkinson

Through interactions with the knowledge, and each other, the organization itself continuously improves – sometimes in small increments daily and sometimes in velocity driven shifts with emergent opportunities – and the people continuously improve. But it is also not just improvement in the traditional sense it is also improvement in terms of efficacy. One of the most overlooked and underdiscussed aspects of successful business is the alignment of resources to ‘the idea’ <strategy>. A paper trail certainly offers a schematic of who and what is available and when but the truth is it is only through conversations, and dialogue, where the nuances <which can make or break any strategy> can be discovered. Additionally, I would also note that an innate sense of organizational identity is crafted by the individuals within the organization through each and every interaction, iteration and action. But when everyone contributes there will be a constant tension found in the pushing & pulling and the tug of war between those who see the world pragmatically and those who envision the possibilities which keeps shaking the business etch a sketch. All of this happens within the frame <boundaries> of the organization culture and principles. Yes. All of that happens when everyone contributes. It is a constant feeding frenzy of what is and what will be fed by what people want & need driving new ideas and new ways of doing things and better ways of getting things done and … well … a better version of who you are as an organization.

And therein lies the power of purposeful possibilities: finding the “better” within what is.

This is a version of always seeing what will be, what could be, driven by ‘what is.’

I call this ‘better inside for a better outside’.  The better inside is obvious. This is purposeful adaptation and a constant fine tuning of how things are done and products & services offered.

But we cannot, and should not, forget that all of the ‘better inside’ feeds a ‘better desire’ outside.

Pragmatically customers want a better product, better efficiencies, better effectiveness and a better benefit offered.

From a possibilities standpoint your customers, even the business decision makers huddled over productivity reports and P&L statements desire something better than a good numbers report. Sure. That is the day-to-day ‘meet the needs state’ type stuff going on in their heads but at some point, they lean back in their chairs, either in the office or in the comfort of their home, and they desire, maybe even need, to see something better to validate themselves as human beings beyond simply ‘doing their job well.’ They want to feel they have done something better, offered something better or contributed something better, or, being dynamic themselves beyond their own practical purpose. When everyone contributes there are a greater sense of meaning and impact which is easier to articulate in your own head as well as to others that aren’t involved in the business but involved in your life. Contribution has a nice ability to translate well everywhere.

Anyway. My next point on everyone contributes. There are a lot, a shitload, of crazy smart business people out there. But there are not a lot of crazy smart business people who seem to be willing to do something crazy like ignore the business books “plan to success” blueprints. I imagine my point is that most businesses don’t consider ‘advantage’ as temporary. They see it as planned or when it actually happens, they treat it as sustainable.

And ultimately that becomes their downfall.

Windows of opportunity close. And often they close quickly. And maybe that is where the ‘sustainable’ belief really screws most businesses. They jump through the window of opportunity, and let’s say they even treat the stark contrast opportunity correctly, they then act like they are going to stay on that side of the window.

Wrong.

Bad decision.

Windows of opportunity are meant to be jumped through, opportunity maximized, and then you jump back before it closes again. I will say this. Windows CAN be held open for a bit but only of everyone contributes. Because windows of opportunity, for the most part, are unplanned, if people and resources flow to the opportunity that opportunity can be exploited and expanded upon. The corollary to that is if everyone CAN contribute it is more likely you get a better cue as to when to stop <which is actually one of the trickiest things in business>.

Anyway. My next point on everyone contributes is, well, lets call it the collective mind or the relationship between people and accessible knowledge through technology.

The cloud elevates all businesses to the level of the best generic technology <note: I do not know of one company/business who does not have access to Cloud technology>. Think of it as the common power grid from which a business opens up for business daily. But the real power of the cloud is it elevates the greater potential of any business as it taps into shared information to supplement, and compliment, the institutional data – while maintaining privacy of the institution itself. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out here that “people” <memory, knowledge, skills> represents institutional data in a significant way. That said. While the cloud represents an almost limitless pool of ever-growing knowledge and data, let me say that the cloud, in and of itself, can be just as stupid, if not stupider, than any one individual. More knowledge, used poorly, simply makes one stupider rather than smarter. The collective knowledge is only as good as who uses it.

As a corollary, individuals, and small groups of people, within an institution <augmented by the cloud collective knowledge> get smarter iteratively (even if they misuse knowledge because they learn from mistakes and discuss). Conceptually they get smarter than the cloud due to understanding of context and experience. I mention this to provide the possibilities and problems. When everyone contributes there is just a likelihood that everyone gets smarter as they will get stupider. Ponder that.

“In all things that are purely social, we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress. There is no defense or security for any of us except in the highest intelligence and development of all.”

Booker T. Washington

In the end. We are in the midst of change. I will not call it disruptive because I simply think it is transformative. The context and dynamics of the world have shifted and business, as business does <albeit kicking and screaming>, will shift to optimize against the new dynamics. I would argue at the core of this transformation is an increased ability to learn AND need to learn. Paradoxically, the learning most impactful will take place on the periphery or edges of the businesses. This shift is even more important because I view this transformative change not as incremental change <slow & steady>, but rather discontinuous <asymmetrical> evolution which can radically reconfigure opportunities <and problems> from the expected ones. This means knowledge dissemination isn’t simply about distributing information/knowledge, but what kind of knowledge critical to the business model AND the discontinuous opportunity. This means shedding some of what one knows and adding some new to create an optimal strategic decision. It is an art of knowledge that arises from analytics of the context, instinctual sense of interconnectedness <and dependence>, lateral thinking and imagination. It will demand that everyone contributes everything they are capable of – not just some title or existing responsibility. This also requires some change in how we think about thinking. As Brian Arthur, Santa Fe Institute, says “retreat and reflect: allow the inner knowing to emerge.” In a world suggesting we need to move faster we need to give thinking, and thoughts, space. Far too often we try and squeeze our thinking believing if we strip everything away the truth will be uncovered. The truth is we would be more likely to think of something useful if after watching and listening and gathering information if we stepped back and let all those thoughts and scraps of information roam in the empty space a bit. In addition, it helps if you think on the periphery looking in rather than from the middle looking out. What I mean by that is we can far too often get caught up in attempting to wrangle things we know which sometimes means the solutions or ideas simply work in that moment (becoming less optimal from that point on – natural degradation). Instead, if you perch on the edges, the periphery, you can see how an idea plays out in the empty space as well as if there is anything beyond the periphery that may change your view. How do you do that? Well. Have everyone contribute.

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“We get together on the basis of our similarities; we grow on the basis of our differences.”

Virginia Satir

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Written by Bruce