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Supporting organisations to bridge the gap between strategy and action at moments of change, making sense and shaping conversations with Big Pictures.

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Filtering by Category: Leadership

Why do some leaders struggle with the idea of self-organisation?

julian burton

 

I was at an ODNE conversation this Monday and one subject that came up was about what self-organising meant. We reflected that it can be hard to get a grip on what this word means, let alone work out how to advise leaders how they can create its enabling conditions. I have an insatiable curiosity, so consulted the oracle; Wikipedia!

Self-organisation is a process where some form of overall order or coordination arises out of the local interactions between smaller component parts of an initially disordered system. The process of self-organisation can be spontaneous, and it is not necessarily controlled by any auxiliary agent outside of the system.

And the dictionary; the spontaneous appearance of orderly structure and coherent pattern.

So to apply these definitions to the conversation itself that we had that day, self-organisation meant that the relationships and conversations in that very room were organise themselves without any one person being in control, within reason. Within the simplest of liberating structures, the group decides what to do, when to do it and how, without any external direction. No one person dominates the group by closing down others' honest opinions. I don't think we had any conflict that day, but if there were any, I would hope that we would have courageously surfaced it as a source of diversity and not avoided it. And that is the really hard stuff.

Together, without planning, we enabled the sort of spontaneous and improvised conversation in which new, shared meaning was being created and relationships nurtured; i.e. organised coherently. I suggest that the new order, or gestalt that we created felt energising and motivating. We had co-created new, more coherent and satisfying patterns of experience, relationship and knowledge, all in the space of 3 hours! 

So the learning for me is that, when I struggle to understand a highly abstract term such as self-organisation, I need to drop down into my felt experience and sense what are the qualities of conversation I'm living in. If I feel more alive and connected and inspired in that moment, its probably because others are feeling the same. And in the midst of our self-organising, we are typically not aware that we are, our attention being on the content of the conversation.

If you were at the same meeting as me, what did you experience? How does my description land with you? How could we learn together more about self-organisation in the next meeting?

BTW, this painting was first shown at the Art of Complexity exhibition at the LSE in 2003! Thanks Eve for hosting it x

Who are you really doing it for?

paul stroud

 

Employee engagement initiatives can often be motivated by a desire to increase performance. The hope is that staff will reciprocate the care shown to them and want to commit to going the extra mile. 

However, a desire for increased discretionary effort to improve performance can seem self-serving to staff and undermine any genuine care for their wellbeing. This can result in cynicism and distrust, the expectation of more discretionary effort becoming a contradiction in terms. If a gesture of care and commitment from the leadership is perceived by staff as fake, the impact on trust and goodwill may be quite counterproductive, increasing the likelihood of disengagement that could lead to a lowering of performance. 

So, before starting an engagement or change activity, ask yourself: who are you really doing it for?

Could you drop your armour?

Elinor Rebeiro

A common theme we have been noticing recently is a want or a need to shift to a different style of leadership. This new way is dialogical, open and all about collaboration. It is a huge shift and with it comes the challenge of what it really means to transition to this new way of being. The implication is that it means taking a risk, and going into the unknown.

In this shift how easy is it to throw off your protective armour and be ok with being truly vulnerable?

What would it take for you to be able to do it?