If you’re a manager, I think you might be interested in some tips for transforming an unmotivated context into one that fosters generative action by your team.
There’s a question that clients with needs similar to yours often ask.
“How do I motivate the people on my team?”
In this case, I’d like to offer you a new perspective on reality by introducing an alternative question (more on the power of questions: here). It might help you to change the perspective from which you observe your field.
“How can I transform a crippling and paralyzing organizational context into a generative and action-enabling one for me and my colleagues?”
To answer this question we have to start from a distance trying to understand 3 aspects:
- what is a social context
- what are its characteristics
- how you can observe it to feel empowered to act in a generative way
THE SOCIAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT
Your organization is a social context composed of different elements. It includes people, the physical or virtual spaces where they meet and the interconnections. These may be mediated by the organizational structure or generated spontaneously.
Lastly, like any social context there, there are rules. They may be institutionally defined or conventionally shared. Their purpose is to ensure the achievement of the ultimate goal for which the organization exists.
If you look at the organization as a social context, you will see that there are many different components within it. I mean policies, administrative, logistical and operational processes, people with different and unique characteristics, hierarchical systems and departments.
Why is it that some of the movements that you act in the system do not produce exactly the effects that you had imagined before designing the action? Precisely because there is this quantity and diversity of elements.
In the long run, these unwanted or unintended effects can lead to a paralysis of the system. The cause is the absence of processes of generative action by the people who constitute it.
In order to break out of this impasse that does not allow for action to avoid unpleasant consequences, or those that the system could not support, it is essential to observe the context through a new point of view.
A NEW POINT OF VIEW TO FAVOUR GENERATIVE ACTION
It is necessary to abandon the analytical view, which sees each variable in a position of isolation from the others.
The new view to adopt is the one that allows to observe the whole as a complex set of elements, which interact through unique and unpredictable dynamics.
My proposal for a new perspective derives from an evolution of the scientific paradigm that occurred in the last century, following the development of the principle of indeterminacy developed by the physician Heisenberg.
This passage has allowed the development of a new dynamic of interrelation between the observer and the object of observation.
The interrelation, in this case related to your organizational context, allows you to consider the parts that constitute it in a relationship that is itself dynamic.
By looking at the organization through the dynamics that constitute it, novel characteristics emerge. These can also be observed as emerging patterns and characteristics.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE THAT FAVORS GENERATIVE ACTION
When acting within a complex context such as the organizational context, the starting point for fostering a sense of self-efficacy is then the perspective through which we see reality.
By self-efficacy, I mean people’s perception of their ability to complete tasks and persevere in achieving goals.
In this case, if you keep looking at the context as a set of pieces connected to each other in a linear way, you will always be inclined to try to calculate the causal effects that each action will have on every single element.
This is impossible nowadays. The best way to observe the complex social reality we are part of is through systemic thinking.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF SYSTEMIC THINKING
Adopting systemic thinking makes it possible to observe the context not only as the juxtaposition of different elements that in their interaction produce effects on the system. It is necessary to look at the context as a complex system, in which a large number of elements interact according to action-reaction logics that are not defined a priori.
Through the logic of action-reaction it is accepted that, once a disturbance element is introduced into the system, each element has the possibility to react to the new one in an absolutely unpredictable way.
It is through the acceptance of such a logic that you can give space for the development of generative actions in the system by the people who constitute it.
It is evident that the process of adopting systems thinking is not simple and immediate. One element that helps this path of transformation is the degree of readiness of the system. But ready for what? To activate itself in the event of change in a flexible way. This aspect can be defined as the degree of resilience of the system.
With this first article I wanted to clarify the framework through which it will be useful for you to look at your organizational context in order to foster greater enablement of people and activate a transformation in the way they collaborate.
In the next one I will try to answer the following questions:
What is meant by a resilient system? What are the guidelines for development that can help develop this characteristic further?
If you’d like to explore this topic further here are some recommended readings for you:
- “La scienza della vita”, Fritjof Capra
- “Prede o ragni? Uomini e organizzazioni nella ragnatela della complessità”, Alberto Felice De Toni & Luca Comello
- “L’impresa come sistema vivente. Una nuova visione per creare valore e proteggere il futuro”, Massimo Mercati
See you in the next article!