Guest post — Similar Fundamental Assumptions Found in 17 European Groups Living the Ecosynomic Paradigm (#4 in a 4-part series)

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

In earlier posts, I shared observations from 17 European groups living the Ecosynomic paradigm about how they were similar in outcomes and experiences, and in processes and structures.  In this last post, I will share some of the similarities I have found in their fundamental assumptions, trying to highlight similarities that distinguish them from their peers.

One of the patterns I saw underlines one of the major research findings of Ecosynomics. It is closely connected to the story I shared in my first blog; groups with high levels of harmonic vibrancy (HV) often collapse when working with lower HV groups. One expression I hear, over and over again, “After listening to your research findings, I finally understand why our project costs always explode when working with certain groups. With other groups it just works fine. I now see the obvious. We are working on the basis of different agreements.” This insight is also underlined in their practices of recruiting. “I now also see why our very strict recruiting process is vital for our future success. We would rather invite an interested person into an ongoing dialog and lasting relationship than just looking at her current abilities, skills and past achievements.”

To understand this expression I had to first understand one of the unique practices, structures and processes: in these high HV groups it is not possible to apply for a job. They do not “sell positions,” as they describe it, rather “the right people with the right competences grow into a specific organizational need.” Their recruiting and matching process is more one of growing together over a period of time by creating relations. This period can last from several months to a year. When I asked one of the group’s leadership why they do not solely focus on job interviews and or assessment center techniques, they nearly laughed at me and said, “How will you ever really grasp a person in her full potential, her drive to do things, and her actual capabilities to work, if you create a competitive, resource limited and transactional setting?” I asked “So what do you do?” They replied, “We start to build relationship with as many people as we can… the best of them stay. It is as easy as that.”

Other patterns I see include:

In all of the high vibrancy and some of the high to medium vibrancy groups, I found a collective willingness to work on agreements. One of the most striking examples is the case of a 25-year old NGO based in Germany. Their survey results reflect a group suffering the costs of sub-group competition as well as medium effectiveness in using and developing existing capacities to enact higher level outcomes in their projects.  The data in this case is based on the responses of more than 90% of the group members. All of them validated and agreed with the diagnostic results in a two-day strategy workshop.

Despite my experience in other medium vibrancy groups, the members of this group described many experiences of high levels of Harmonic Vibrancy in temporal and spatial pockets, leading me to an understanding of what this might look like. This created a very fertile ground for a fast-paced process. Our common analysis brought us to the understanding that the group suffered a collapse in vibrancy due to collapsing the agreements that enabled them to realize a balanced interplay of the five different allocation-mechanism relationships.  They noticed that, some years ago, they started to focus on the OTHER as the dominant mechanism for allocating the resources they need to generate the outcomes they want. Thus, they unintentionally collapsed the primary relationships to SELF, GROUP, NATURE and SPIRIT. To make the next steps and to move to higher levels of vibrancy, we started to walk through the first steps of the O-Process.

    1. We started by making visible the current state of their shared reality, in their underlying agreements and costs of scarcity.  All of the group members agreed that they would want to let go of the scarcity-enacting agreements, in order to be able to enact new, more abundance-based agreements.
    2. By applying collaborative inquiry techniques, the group created an alignment about the deeper shared purpose of their NGO. They made explicit that they could not reach this purpose with the old agreements. “We agree that we have to change our agreements, and we collectively decide to change the agreements that will lead to the reality that we experience.”
    3. The very self-reflective leader of the group started the next step by sharing her deeper values, needs and possible contributions. It was amazing to observe that, despite the presence of very strong personalities, no aggressive egos mutilated this invitation. By making this first move, she opened the space for individual reflection and inner stillness to happen. Every single member of the group started to share his and her deeper values and possible contributions to the deeper purpose of the organization. Since all of them aligned in step one and two on the deeper purpose of the group, it was a straight forward move to bring their intentions and possible contributions into alignment as well.
    4. Due to the alignment on the deeper purpose of the group and of the individual values, needs, and possible contributions, they all started to create a first understanding of the possibilities they have to make that move. This happened during the second day of the workshop and was a very intense process. People started to let go of the old. Afterwards they said, “It felt like a healing or cleaning process… amazing.”

Their journey is not yet over: it just begun. And, what makes all the difference, they now share a space of possibilities they all see and relate to together. They have to find ways to transfer the existing commitment into shared actions. This workshop happened nearly one year ago. Just three days ago, I received a message stating, “Thanks again for the process we started. We made big moves and the doors you started to expose to us are still wide open. We are on a good path.” I was very touched by this e-mail since it reflects why I am doing this work: “Support groups to move into abundance-based agreements.”

Finally, another very simple but obviously powerful assumption can be framed as, “As long as we can laugh about our self and our ego, we are fine.” In all of these vibrant groups, I found a very strong sense of self-humor.  In German we would call it “Selbsthumor.” To me it is amazing to see that this kind of basic principle serves as a cleaning mechanism for the group. It helps them stay focused on the issue and the common purpose and not get lost in energy-depleting structures that emerge when single egos are way too dominant. Self-humor nearly always helped to equalize the energies in the room and to bring all into one movement, a movement towards the shared purpose.


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