Designing change

by eskokilpi

Mainstream thinking sees a community on a different level from the individuals who form it. The social is seen as separate from the individuals. From a Designing Change -point of view, this would mean different plans and actions on the individual level and different plans and actions on the communal level. And this is how we often think.

Another, newer, approach sees individuals themselves as social. Both the individual and the social are then about the same thing: interaction. The main difference from the first approach is that the individual and the social cannot here be separated or even understood separately. Both our individual and organizational lives are co-created in an interconnected network.

The human mind is not located and stored in an individual. Rather, what we have called the individual mind is something that arises continuously in relationships between people, in communication. This is also how organizations are born and how they develop.

If you want to change things, you have to understand what happens in that communication. Designing change starts with studying the patterns of interaction and then influencing interaction.

Interaction starts always with acknowledgement. It is about granting attention to others and making room for them in our lives. Thus how we connect has tremendous significance. Who do I acknowledge and who acknowledges me? The modern version of hierarchies is inclusion and exclusion. Who do I talk to and who are the people I don’t talk to. Who do I listen to and who are the people I don’t listen to?

In this model, communication takes the form of a gesture made by an individual, that suggests a response from someone else. The gesture is also called a bid. There is no linear causality from the gesture to the response. The response is always a choice. The meaning of the gesture can only be known in the response. If I smile at you and you respond with a smile, the meaning of the gesture is friendly, but if you respond with a cold stare, the meaning of the same gesture is contempt. Gestures and responses cannot be separated but constitute one social act.

Do you turn towards me or do you turn away when I talk to you? Not answering is turning away. Is your response constructive although you don’t agree with me, or do I see it as destructive? The thing is that neither side can independently choose the meaning, or control the conversation. It is always co-created.

Change starts often with recognition between new people with different views and different approaches, evolving into a creative, complementary sense of consciousness. Designing change is sometimes about new connections, new people taking part. It is about new agendas, asking different kind of questions and pointing to different kinds of issues.

It is especially about analyzing how and when we get stuck in the forward movement of thought. Is it in endless advocacy, instead of collaborative inquiry? Is it in self-absorption? Is it about a “me” instead of an “us” orientation in the way we interact?

The requirement for efficient work is not necessarily to have common goals or to reach agreements. Creative work is a movement of thought that is always based on working with differences. Paradoxically you always need people who agree, but equally, you need people who don’t think like you. Thinking develops best through constructive friction and argumentation.

The most important metrics are about how the common narrative develops? An organization should be seen as a pattern in time, a continuing story. New people join this narrative and people leave. Work is dynamic participation and influencing how the story develops towards the future.

The key management role is to enhance the speed of the interactive movement of thought, often expressed as the entrepreneurial capacity for transforming ideas into customer value.

There can be no change without changes in the patterns of communication. Organizations of any kind, no matter how large or how small they are, are continuously reproduced and transformed in the ongoing communicative interaction.

The distinctive characteristic of a high productivity organization is the capacity to generate expansive, positive, emotional states. Emotions can thus be seen as the driving force behind cognition and action. There is a lot of truth in the sentence “I don’t remember what you said, but I remember how you made me feel”.