Cool stuff: Different Work | Your Big Adventure | The Fish Pond
Do you know the feeling at the end of your holiday you spent with a group?
That was fun. Glad it is over. Let’s do this again sometime.
I’ve done some fantastic organized travel tours. Traveling for a month with people you have never met before through a strange continent.
At first everyone is on his own. Getting comfortable in the group setting.
Over time a cohesive group occurs. You find out you have common hobbies, know the same people, went to the same college. You also learn about the different backgrounds, life stories that make the people who they are. Great stuff when you are drinking beer in the dessert.
In the end you shake hands and say goodbye. Just before little annoyances become big problems. Just on time.
It was fun. Looking forward to the next trip.
Groups are temporary.
There is a point when groups are created and when they collapse.
Projects are interventions in a larger organization. After your project is finished things have changed. You altered structures, processes and people’s lives inside the host organization.
You do this with a temporary team: the project team.
You do this with a temporary organizational structure: the project.
While creating change in the host organization, people will push back to the project. People will interrupt. People will ask question. People will have strong opinions.
While creating change, the environment changes too. Reality is different than we thought it would be.
A group has to be able to cope with adjustments while still being able to perform its function. It has to have resilience. Resilience is the ability for a system (like a group of people) to absorb disturbances and still maintain its function.
In my view there are three balances that create resilience in groups. This are delicate balances. Unstable balances.
It’s hard to maintain the right balance, and that’s why a resilient group is always of a temporary nature.
The three balances are:
- Diversity – Homogeneity
- Open Mind – Closed Mind
- Public Information Flow – Private Information Flow (or Transparency – Secretiveness)
A resilient group has these balances right.
The balances are unstable. You can only make it last a little longer. You cannot create it forever.
It is temporary. Always.
Balance One: Diversity – Homogeneity.
There is a delicate balance in groups. One of homogeneity vs cognitive diversity. (“Homogeneous (adjective) means consisting of parts or people which are similar to each other or are of the same type.” Wikipedia)
Cognitive diversity creates different viewpoints, different ways of problem solving, other ways of looking at the world in general. This clash of perspectives produces creative solutions. Diversity creates resilience.
Cultural diversity can provide different interpretations of situations. The difference is upbringing, history and personal experiences shape your brain, color your views, create your filters. It’s not the cultural diversity per se that is of importance, it’s the resulting cognitive diversity that is of essence.
Homogeneity makes sure the group operates as one. Providing a common understanding, shared beliefs and having a culture ensures the group stays together in rough times and communicates effectively.
But it’s a delicate balance.
Too much bonding creates exclusion from outsiders, the bullying of deviants, resistance to change and a strong risk of groupthink.
Too much diversity can cause a lack of coherence and low social support.
Why is this balance hard to maintain?
In general people prefer like minded people. In an environment that changes this means that homogeneous groups would become larger. It is more comfortable to be among “your own people”. So, a changing environment the natural balance would shift toward homogeneity.
Homogeneous closed social systems become less and less resilient. Because of their lack of diversity and lack of outside feedback. When the environment keeps on changing, these groups will collapse. These social systems cannot perform their function under the new conditions.
On the other side, if all the members of the group focus on their being different from the rest to become comfortable (deviancy), the lack of bonding will cause the collapse.
In the next post I will describe the other balances.