Sharing Ecosystems

Daniel Burm

I am convinced that the next blue ocean of agile minds can be found in the creation of sharing ecosystems that are built on shared purpose, trust, intuition and a facilitation of the deeply wired human urge to cooperate as a collective. Understanding that modern day individualism is smothering our effectiveness is a catalyst for our drive to start working together and forming the effectiveness of these systems.

We start to understand that survival of the fittest is, even for humans, less important than survival of a species. Nature learned this a long time ago, with birds flocking to maximize survival rates and schools of fish doing the same. Humans became soloists a long time ago, when everything to support our lives was abundant. The need for teamwork apparently dropped off somewhere and became less important. It’s only sparsely we see naturally inclined teamwork in action.
Maybe you have seen the show “extreme home makeover” or a localized version of this show. You see a family that struggles in live, and instinctively you feel with them. You want to help this unfortunate family and so do the people on the show. The way in which they pull together and build amazing new homes is absolutely amazing. The families that receive this kind gift are filled with pure joy when they see the new roof over their heads, and also the builders become overwhelmed with emotion as a result. I love this show because these emotions are real. We are simply wired to react this way. (for more on this subject please watch the documentary “I am” by Tom Shadyac.)

What puzzles me, is that if we are wired by nature to enjoy cooperating effectively in a collective, then why do we encounter problems with it in our workspace. I think the main cause of these problems lies in the lack of shared purpose that motivates us, and the ability to trust each other in the pursuit to be purposeful. Maximizing income, and therefor your own benefits, is not real purpose that is felt across your organization. This doesn’t work in complex environments like the IT companies we are used to support with agile. Real purpose, mastery and autonomy however do, as Dan Pink shows us in his illustrative video on this subject. Others, like my colleague Olav Maassen, recognize this as well, trying to channel mastery into new forms for the workspace and beyond.
Another great example of seeing Dan’s findings in action, in my opinion, is the IDEO initiative openideo.com. People can literally join forces and find solutions that actually help to solve collective real world problems. They do so for free, just because they want to. Talk about working together to change the world! Although you can score points for helping in openideo, showing off your mastery in product and idea development, I think the greater driver here is the urge to help others in a collective fashion. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have an openideo in every company out there? We have so much knowledge, creativity and willingness in-house to collectively bring our companies to the next level. We only need to truly engage our co-workers.
That’s were autonomy comes into play. We should trust each other enough to facilitate more autonomy in the workplace. Provide room to your stake-takers and become genuine stake-sharers on route to joint company stakeholdership. Why not trust on one another rather than being fearful of the negative impact on our own stakes. I guess this also has to do with purpose somehow. Idealistic purpose with no sense of realism leads nowhere and maybe even worsens the status quo.

As agile consultants and coaches we try to foster teamwork and consult in change towards sharing ecosystems. I guess we could say we are blessed to have nature on our side. I guess we can also say we need to balance idealism and realism in creating purposeful systems and that this requires a significant level of trust within our clients organization. Although this may sound pretty far away, why not start with people in your direct circle of influence. Try to be as transparent as possible towards your client. Work together and build trust through trust, paving the road to change.

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