It turns out that what drives us is not that much different from what drives every other organism on the planet – and probably beyond.
We crave connection to others – to be part of a group, at the same time as we crave autonomy – the freedom to make our own decisions.
Resolving this paradox has determined our survival and our contentment since the earliest times.
We cannot survive, even now, on our own. No matter how independent we think we are, we’re not. We cannot survive without the help of others. Isolation is terminal.
On the other hand, if we choose belonging at the expense of being ourselves, that’s as bad – survival as subjugation. A wasted life barely worth living.
We know when our lives are beautiful – things are in balance. We experience receiving and giving as part of something that makes our lives worthwhile. That may sound very kaftan, but reality is we all know and revere those all too brief moments that are like that. Just because we can’t measure them, or predict them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
If Starlings can do it……..
Starlings do not have a head office, or HR departments, or policies. They just hang out with other starlings, work in sync with those next to them and be themselves in that context. Behaving in this fashion confuses predators, who can only pick off those who are separate from the murmuration. Independence has its price.
Next most vulnerable are those on the edge of the Murmuration, so everybody takes turns at being at the edge, rather than the safe middle. Leaders and managers please note,
The end result is awe inspiring to behold. A defintion of beauty, created by birds being themselves with others, just doing their thing. No plan. No Strategy.
Given that every living organism on the planet comprises pretty much the same elements, just arranged very slightly differently why are we so different?
Or, if starlings can do this, why can’t we?
The answer of course is that we can. We have spent around 99% of the time we have been in our current sapien form on the planet in groups of 150 or less. The indigenous people we have left still do. They know those around them as well as they understand their surroundings and although there are differences in status, there is no organisation chart, and certaintly no HR. They flex their structures in much the same way as starlings murmurate – instinctively, according to need and threat. They self organise.
I’m intrigued by what is happening in many organisations at the moment. For the last four months, I’ve watched many organisations cope not just well, but thrive as they’ve used the power of the internet to effectively “murmurate”. Often, driven by the disruption that Covid has generated, combinations of Zoom, WhatsApp and other tools have linked those who do to others who do in getting things done whilst managers look on in a state of bewilderment trying to take credit.
The boundaries between our organisation, suppliers, clients and others become very porous and left alone, stuff just gets done. I wonder what would would happen if we sent managers on holiday, and suspect that without a need for mostly needless control, the answer would be more of better.
Balancing autonomy and belonging.
Perhaps a difference between good leaders and good managers is that the leaders create worlds of shared significance, and managers resource it. Emotional resonance and operational support. No direction, no control, no permissions in sight. Organisationally, we not me.
One of the things we are learning in the small experiment that is Originize, is that conversations around what matters to uncover shared significance can weave magic.
We are diverse groups – puzzlers and mystics – all doing our own thing who meet together, once a week, with no leader and no agenda to talk about what we’re noticing – in our businesses, in the wider world, with each other. A small group within a larger murmurating flock of those who balance autonomy and belonging. Neither subjugating or being subjugated.
Just hanging out improving each others lives.
Beautiful Businesses are possible
I’ve long been a fan of Alan Moore’s work. I love the immediate tension between beautiful and business – when was the last time you read “beautiful” in a business plan or strategy, or heard it mentioned in a weekly management meeting?
Yet, I believe it to be increasingly not just valid, but essential. If we can balance beautiful and business by balancing autonomy and belonging, we can create remarkable organisations that create real value for everybody involved.
As it becomes increasingly clear that whatever we’re going into post Covid, it’s not where we were, it seems a positive aspiration. To enable those around us to be themselves whilst hanging out together doing stuff that matters.
Less planning and effort, more doing and enjoying.
We can learn a lot about effortless beauty from Starlings