Relationships are pathways to the intelligence of the system

by Didier Marlier on Saturday November 28th, 2015

For years, I have been looking for a client that would be brave enough to organize, in the context of one of their convention or seminar, a blind dinner in restaurant such as “Dans le Noir”in Paris, or “Blind Kuh” in Zurich. The purpose of taking your whole team there, would be to sit people who do not know each other that well and let them discover each other in a different way (using one sense less and the others more). I always trusted that the result would be surprising and team members would get to know each other under a new light (if I may say so). Any volunteers?

So when, recently, Carlos Ferreira, a Brazilian former executive, turned psychoanalyst, with whom we frequently work, showed me this clip, I smiled. This is exactly what I know will happen.

Too good to be true? This is also what I first suspected. So I took some information on whether those portrayed were “real” or just actors faking it. A friend, who has been pretty high up with Coca Cola kindly went to the news and came back, saying they were true people who had never met before.

“Relationships are pathways to the intelligence of the system”. This title, extracted from a text of Margaret Wheatley, says it all: If you wish to create an intelligent organization, ensure its people connect with each other. I find the here below extract of her article very relevant:

“Through relationships, information is created and transformed, the organization’s identity expands to include more stakeholders, and the enterprise becomes wiser. The more access people have to one another, the more possibilities there are. Without connections, nothing happens (…) In self-organized systems, people need access to the intelligence of the whole system. Who is available, what do they know, and how can they reach each other? People need opportunities to “bump up” against others in the system, making the unplanned connections that spawn new ventures or better integrated responses. Where members of an organization have access to one another, the system expands, including more and more stakeholders. It is astonishing to see how many of the behaviours we fear in one another dissipate in the presence of relationship. Customers engaged in finding a solution become less insistent on perfection or detailed up-front specifications. Colleagues linked by a work project become more tolerant of one another’s diverse lives. A community invited into a local chemical plant learns how a failure at the plant could create devastating environmental disasters, yet becomes more trusting.”

So what gets in the way of us “connecting” with each other?

  • For sure, it doesn’t help to work in poorly designed buildings, looking more like soviet or Ceaucescian architecture of the 1950’s where linoleum floor lead us to cold and plastified single offices (if you are a boss) sometimes crammed with four people (if you don’t have the luck to be a boss)
  • As written here many times, a corporate and/or national culture plagued by “Power Distance” will create a disconnection and suspicion which will end up being very costly to the organization
  • Silo and internal competition little by little make us see the internal competitor as a worse enemy than those outside. As we all learned in History classes, civil war has always been nastier than “conventional war”
  • A lack of strategic clarity: Is the other SBU a friend or a foe? Do we work together or not?

And our common experience could come up with tens of other reasons why people find it difficult to connect with each other. But, rather than tearing down our buildings into pieces, seek to radically reduce the Power Distance (which is sometimes deeply ingrained in the local culture), forcefully break the silos or provide strategic clarity why wouldn’t we start by showing curiosity towards our people? Why wouldn’t we invest in a 30’ walk in different parts of our organization every morning and chat informally with our employees? That may reduce the prejudice and fear and get us closer and will be far healthier than gathering them around a sugar bomb in a pitch black room, to get to know each other…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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