What Power Is More Resilient, Coercion or Collaboration?

Why do some people coerce people into doing things?  Why do others invite people into creative, collaborative work together?  Which is more powerful?  Which one is more resilient?

Power is the amount of energy for a given period of time.  In physics it is calculated as the work done over a period of time.  More power can get more work done in the same amount of time.  Power, or the energy available, to get things done can be used to get things done for oneself or for others.

There is an old saying that power corrupts.  Having power often leads people to the power paradox: while they get their power–the energy to get things done–from others because of their work for others, they can also begin to use the power to do things for themselves.  In the power paradox, people who begin to use their power for their own ends, start to lose their access to and grip on power.  To maintain their relative power, they have three options.  They can get more power through co-benefit, by doing things that benefit others, who give them the energy to do work.  They can co-opt the energy of others through coercion, forcing others to give them their energy.  They can decrease the power of others, through coercion, tipping the balance of power back in their own favor.  So, people can increase their relative power by (1) doing good for others, (2) coercing others, or (3) decreasing the power of others.  With the first, power is co-generated–they get more power, and others keep their power.  With the second, power is diffused–they get more power, and others lose their power.  With the third, power is dissipated–others lose their power to heat, to self-preservation.  The first is generative.  The second and third are coercive and destructive.

Power gains that are based on destruction must be less resilient, over time, than power gains based on co-generation.  Resilience is the ability to continue to function when the context changes.  While coercion can appropriate the energy of others, it must be mostly in the form of the energy resources of others, the capacities they already have.  Energy gained through generative interactions often engages (1) the energy resources of others, and (2) their development of relationships and capacities over time, and (3) engagement of their creative potential.  While destructive forces can get (1), generative forces can engage (1), (2), and (3).  That has to be more resilient.

In our Institute for Strategic Clarity research on groups that focus more on coordination, cooperation, or collaboration, we find that collaborative efforts engage people around a deeper shared purpose, to which everyone contributes their unique gifts, their energy resources and learning and potential.  We find that cooperative efforts invite people to contribute shared resources, and that coordination efforts assign people to use their own energy resources to do their own work, which might be pieced together later.  In the three cases of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, each group keeps their power, and is invited to contribute ever greater levels of it to the group effort.

In coercive efforts, the power of others is diminished.  It is co-opted by the coercive enforcer, taking the other’s energy, their will, and using it for the coercer’s purposes.  This can be done consciously and unconsciously.  In conscious coercion, the coerced know they are being coerced, that their energy is being usurped for another person’ purposes.  Bullying fits in this category.  In unconscious coercion, the coerced have often unconsciously accepted a set of agreements where their energy is used by the coercer for the coercer’s purposes, without the coercer knowing that this is what they are doing.  Many social settings fit this category, such as the use of fiat currencies to enrich the currency owners–we get loans and pay interest rates, with no clue as to how the monetary system works.

In collaborative efforts, the power of each individual and of the group is increased.  The energy is co-generated by the impact resulting from the engaging and leveraging of the unique contributions of each individual.  Everyone keeps their power and ends up with more.

In coercion, someone ends up with more, and others end up with less.  In collaboration, everyone ends up with more.  Which leads to greater resilience?

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Impact Resilience with Network Power

“Complex systems have somehow acquired the ability to bring order and chaos into a special kind of balance. This balance point–often called the edge of chaos–is where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either. The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life,” according to author Mitchell Waldrop in Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos.  What does this mean for social systems, systems of human beings?

As the most complex system that sustains us as human beings, life’s stability is found at the interface of outcomes and development, of the already-finished state of nouns that are balanced by the becoming state of verbs.  Life’s creativity is found at the interface of development and potential, of the becoming state of verbs and the possibility state of light energy.  Finding this interface, where life is creative and manifests, evolving as some innovations work better in the ever-changing environment, is the power of healthy networks.  Embedding a process of evolutionary discovery and alignment with a deeper shared purpose scales network power into tangibilization power, where deep collaboration brings orders of magnitude greater impact and resilience.

Revisiting Agreements–Are Your Agreements Static-Dead or Dynamic-Living?

Most of us humans tend to act and interact as if our agreements, the guidelines for our interactions, are fixed.  If they are fixed, they are permanent, static.  Dead.  If they are fixed, then they cannot be changed.

And, if they actually are agreements, a mutual understanding, then we can decide what they are.  This means that we can change them.  They are just agreements.  They are changing, impermanent, dynamic.  Living.

If they are living, then agreements are constantly evolving, changing in content as the context changes.  If they are constantly evolving, then it would probably be a good idea to revisit them periodically.

In my own practice, I used to focus on making the best decision.  After all, I have advanced degrees in the decision sciences.  And, once I had followed a good decision making process, and made a good decision, I was done.  Complete.  On to the next decision.  A few years ago, I began to see the brilliance in “rushing to failure,” learning from trying something, making mistakes, and adjusting.  Much more interesting.  And, it was a mind shift to focus on getting to the awareness of the mistakes quicker.  While the rewards were high with this focus on failure, the fail language brought in lots of scarcity and feelings of weakness.  We were constantly asking about and focusing on our failures.  Good learning, and a bit debilitating in the language.

A couple of years ago, a colleague and I started experimenting with the practice of tangibilization.  Through the O Process, we would imagine possibilities, see a pathway of relationships and activities to manifest it, and a tangible outcome.  We would then look for the feedback in the pathway and outcomes, over time.  With this feedback, we would re-envision the possibilities, adjusting the pathways and outcomes we saw.  We were engaging an evolutionary process–learning and adjusting.  Over time, we saw that in this process we were constantly revisiting our agreements, adjusting them based on what we learned along the way.  With this realization, we shifted our language from “rushing to failure” to “revisiting our agreements.”  Now we actively seek and celebrate the feedback, with a reinforcing feeling, continuously evolving our agreements.

At first, this might seem inefficient.  Surely it is more efficient to decide once and be done.  Less time spent on process.  Right?  Back when we focused on making one decision and being done with the process, we observed that we actually ended up spending much more time on fixing the consequences of agreements that no longer worked.  This is analogous to the observation that most organizational work is spent correcting mistakes made from poor planning.  This does not mean spending endless time talking through every agreement over and over.  That IS a waste.

We found that it was far more efficient to continuously iterate the O Process, remembering the potential, pathways, and outcomes we saw, comparing those with what actually happened, and adjusting.  This is also known as the scientific process.  It turns out to be much more efficient and effective to revisit our agreements frequently, adjusting based on the feedback we received from the universe.  We learned that our agreements are dynamic, alive, so we revisit them continuously.

3 Ways to More Yes!

Yes!  A powerful word.  It invites, it engages, it moves.  And, with relatively the same amount of effort, there are 3 completely different outcomes available to us, based on the agreements we choose.  We can add another Yes!, we can multiple by Yeses!, or we can scale to Yeses!  The co-investment and risk are about the same, and the reward or return can be much greater.

If we see the world as nouns, as already finished, we see outcomes.  We use resource power.  We add Yeses. With a strong Yes, an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, we add another Yes!, and we have the resource strength of 16 (8 + 8).  That is twice as much as we started with, a good return.

If we see the world as verbs and nouns, we see development and outcomes.  We use network power.  We multiply Yeses.  With the same strong Yes (8), we multiply times 8, getting 7 other 8s to join us, achieving a network strength of 64 (8 * 8).  That is 8 times as much as we started with, an even better return.

If we see the world as light and verbs and nouns, we see potential, development, and outcomes.  We use tangibilization power. We raise Yes to the power of Yes.  With the same strong Yes (8), we raise it to the power of 8, multiplying 8 by a factor of 8, scaling to 16,777,216 (8^8).  That is much, much more than we started with, taking advantage of reinforcing dynamics.

Another way to look at this in how many people we can serve with our efforts.  If you serve eight with your capacities, and I serve eight with my capacities, together we can serve 16 [8+8].  We add our efforts, transaction completed.  If we combine your capacities and networks with my capacities and networks, we can serve 64 [8*8].  We multiply our efforts and develop relationships and capacities.  If we unite our unique contributions, in service of a deeper shared purpose, we can invite, engage, and cohost service to 16,777,216 (8^8).  We engage a purpose and evolve how we manifest it.

We can either add, multiply, or scale our Yes.  It is a choice.

Do you have examples from your life?

Increasing Your Leverage into Networks

The power of a network is found in its core and periphery.  As we explored in a previous blogpost, the power networks have over resource hierarchies is that they are strengthened by the same push and pull, from the core to the periphery, that tears apart resource hierarchies.  Network power increases with the strengthening of the core and the periphery, while resource power comes from the strengthening of the core or the periphery.

In most networks, the relationships to the core and the periphery are usually assumed to be static, fixed.  There is either a relationship between two nodes, or there is not.  A recent paper in Science magazine, titled “The Fundamental Advantages of Temporal Networks” suggests that most relationships between nodes in networks are not static, rather that they vary of time.  For temporal networks, where the relationships between are sometimes active and sometimes not, paying attention to the links that are active greatly increases the effectiveness of a network intervention.  From an ecosynomic perspective, this suggests that it is valuable to pay attention to the experience of vibrancy people are having, which is connecting them or not, and the continuity power of being connected to the deeper shared purpose.  Co-hosting this experience brings out the most relevant, activated links in the network, leveraging the capacity of the network to scale impact faster, at a much lower cost, the definition of high leverage.

The strength of a network is in its scalability, the number of nodes the core can support, and in its speed of transmission.  These factors enable networks to have far greater impact.  However, as the core and periphery of the network strengthen, the purpose of the network often begins to crystallize. In many networks, the focus becomes the health of the network itself.  It becomes about the network.  However, if a network is temporal and not static, the focus shifts, from pushing strongly on relationships that are assumed to be static (a high-energy push), to a continuous inquiry through relationships that are assumed to be temporal (continuity-powered relevant pathways of contribution). The focus is about the pathways of relationships that manifest an impact, not the network in its own right.  This shift in focus leads to faster transmission through the network of relationships with far less energy.  The Science article finds anecdotal data, explained through a mathematical model, that supports this idea.

The Power of Continuity

Does it make a difference if you care about what you do?  If you are really passionate and committed to what you give energy, or if it is just something that you do, because there is nothing better to do?  I observe that it makes a huge difference.  When I am connected to the power of that passion and commitment, I experience far greater energy.

Does it matter how much you are connected to that passion and commitment?  From not connected at all, to only connected briefly at times, to connected frequently, to connected much of the time.  I experience that how much I carry the commitment and passion with me influences how much energy I give to that commitment.  When it is high, I am a continuous ambassador for the passion.  Like with my family.

In our fieldwork right now at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, we are developing measures of this continuity power–the power of being connected to the deeper shared purpose, the love of the future for which I give my will.  In understanding the geometries of agreements fields, we are exploring how to assess continuity power as one of the key geometries.  “Continuity power” relates to (1) the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, (2) the utility one has for closing the gap, and (3) the time that one is connected to that deeper shared purpose, of closing the gap.

Using the analogy of power, which is the amount of work done in a unit of time, and where work is the force applied over a distance, we see that the distance is the gap, the force applied is the utility to close the gap, and the time is the time dedicated to closing the gap.  Power = Work / time = (Force * distance) / time, or Continuity Power = Utility * gap / time.  Graphing out this function in the three dimensions shows an interesting geometry, where not all ranges of each of the three variables is possible.  We will be mapping this geometry and sharing the mapping of what we find in the world of human agreements fields over the next months.

This formulation also leads to some interesting initial insights, which we are now in the process of checking in the field.  Let’s work through the three elements: utility; gap; and time.  If the utility to close the gap is weak, maybe because of other priorities, then the work to close the gap will seem to be too great, which will lead to the need to reduce the gap.  The easiest way to reduce the gap is to lower the desired state towards the actual state.  This is a classic systems archetype, known as drifting goals.  If you do not see or connect to the deeper shared purpose, then the time connected decreases significantly, requiring much more continuity power to get the work done.  If the work to be done seems to be too much, this is probably a symptom of a low amount of time connected to the deeper shared purpose.  If it seems to be just too much work to be done to shift the system towards the desired state, then the easiest solution is to reduce either the force or the distance, the utility to change the system by closing the gap or changing the gap.

Conversely, as the time increases that you are connected to closing the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, the continuity power required to get the work done decreases.  This suggests that it takes far more energy to move the system (to close the gap between the desired and actual states) when not connected to the deeper shared purpose.  It is much more efficient to move the system when connected more continuously to the deeper shared purpose.  It does seem to make a difference if you care about what you do, and how much of the time you are connected to that passion and commitment.  We will be field-testing these insights into the geometry of continuity power in the agreements fields over the next months, sharing here what we are finding.

 

Are You Low-skilled Labor Or a High-quality Craftsman? Depends on What You See

From one perspective, hundreds of millions of people working on the manufacturing floor, in offices, and in service jobs around the world are low-skilled labor.  They are filling blue-collar jobs.  Applying the agreements evidence map to the agreements underlying this low-skilled labor perspective, we find assumptions that people only bring the capacities to do work that they have.  This is an expression of resource power, focusing on the nouns, the capacities available right here right now.  From this logic, whoever has more resources to bring to the game has more power.

The agreements evidence map points to another perspective, one where many of the people in these jobs bring capacity to do work and they are experts at their craft, bringing deep levels of experience in collaboration, and very high-quality processes to their efforts.  They know what they are doing, and they are very efficient at it, continuously learning and furthering the craft.  The agreements evidence map shows agreements based on network power, focusing on learning and development of capacities and relationships, as well as outcomes, the verbs and the nouns.

Are the people in these hundreds of millions of jobs, low skilled or high skilled, labor or knowledge workers, replaceable cogs or expert technicians?  Is a knowledge worker only a professional, or might it depend on the level of craftsmanship brought and the level of agreements underlying the position?  It might depend on what you see, on the underlying agreements.

Network Power — Recommended Reading

Ramo, Joshua Cooper. The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks2016, New York: Little, Brown and Company.  Click here to see Chapter 1.

Most of the power gained and used in the past has been through accumulation of resources (nouns), using a dominance in the amount of resources to conquer peoples and usurp their resources.  Whether this was soldiers, weapons, food, or money, having more than the others gave you power to go and get more from other peoples.  This is a world of dominance mapped in the geography of territories.  Who had what controlled access to and accumulation of what resources.

In The Seventh SenseRamo, a seasoned traveler and senior executive of Kissinger Associates, suggests that the landscape of power is experiencing a shift in kind, more so than a shift in degree.  It is not just more power, rather a completely different kind of power, and this new power is mopping up the brokers of the old power.  This new power is network power.  The seventh sense is the ability to see the lines of network power, of the ebb and flow of connections, where the focus shifts from mapping the geography of territories to mapping the topography of gated spaces.  The power now comes not from who controls the territory but rather from who controls the gated spaces.  Think Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Skype, Google.  Where maybe in the past you were what you had, now you are what you are connected to (p 35).

Ramo shows how this seventh sense has enabled groups with relatively small amounts of resources to completely overrun groups with vast resources.  They did this through a massive scaling up of connections to an ever-expanding core, to a protocol for connection.  Control of the core, of the protocol, is control of the connections.  The power comes from simultaneously strengthening the core along with the periphery, through all of the connections in the network.  “In connected systems, power is defined by both profound concentration and by massive distribution” (p. 116).  Concentration at the core and distribution to the periphery of connections.  Those working with “resource power” have to focus on either the core or the periphery, concentrating resources at the center or the top or at the periphery or the bottom.  Centralized or decentralized.  This ability of network power to work at both the core and the periphery, at the same time, causes those working with “resource power” to be pulled apart as they try to move towards centralization or decentralization and back (p 118).  They do not know where to put the resource power, and this movement back and forth is much slower than the ability of networks to respond.  This same movement, simultaneously towards the core and the periphery, strengthens network power and tears apart resource power.

In ecosynomic terms, network power is the power of agreements at the verb-noun levels.  Resource power is the power of agreements at the noun-only level.  Working at the verb-noun level of development of capacities and relationships, which manifest in outcomes, one is surfing in the constant ebb and flow of the concentration-distribution push and pull.  Working at the noun-only level of just outcomes, success comes from having more nouns, with no conscious connection to the dynamics over time and space of the verb level of agreements.  Tangibilization power is then the ability to work at the light, verb, and noun levels, infusing the infinite power of possibility serving a deeper shared purpose into the ossifying purpose driving the core and periphery of the network.

The Seventh Sense brings together, in a very readable form, lessons from history, a wide variety of ancient philosophies, and tons of recent anecdotes to highlight the specifics of this emerging, vastly more powerful way of engaging the world.  I highly recommend it.

The Regenerative Power of the Tangibilization Process

We human beings require heat energy to live.  Through the process of living, most biological beings take in energy, break it down into useable parts, and then release the remaining energy, which other beings then take in.  Where does this energy chain start?  How is it generated in the first place?  It starts with light energy that is converted into the chemical energy our life depends on, through the process of “primary production.”

Primary production” is the process by which autotrophs (such as plants and algae, from the Greek for self-nourishing or self-feeding) take in the energy from light or inorganic chemicals and produce the chemical energy that feeds the heterotrophs (such as animals, fungi, most bacteria, and protists, from the Greek for other-feeding) in the rest of the food chain.  You can see a NASA animation of the global primary production process here.  While most of the food chain takes in chemical energy and breaks it down into smaller units that are oxidized to release energy for its own use, with one level’s outputs being the next level’s inputs, autotrophs take light energy and build up larger units of energy.  The autotrophic process regenerates the energy process, increasing the quality of the energy that the rest of the system breaks down for its energy source.

Nature found a way to generate the energy it needed for life (biotic beings) by converting light energy into chemical energy.  This energy is measured in joules or calories.  This is the flow of energy in the biotic and abiotic realms.  Our research into the ecosynomics of human agreements suggests that maybe nature also found a way to generate the energy it needed to tangibilize possibilities into specific outcomes, to transform potential ideas through the creative process into observable nouns, things.

We human beings require creative energy to live.  We live in a world of possibilities, of pathways for learning and developing relationships, and of outcomes.  We experience this creative energy through the set of five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  We call this creative energy of human-interaction the lumens (from the Latin for light).  Where does this lumens-energy cycle start?  Like with the primary-production process, which starts by converting light energy into chemical energy, the tangibilization process starts by converting light-potential, in the forms of possibilities, and uses the creative process to convert that light potential, described in physics as an information-rich field of possibility, into learning, relationships, and outcomes.

By understanding the biological process of regenerating chemical energy, from the source of the food chain, ecologists were able to define sustainability as the ability of the environment to generate energy faster than that energy is used up.  Unsustainable is when the energy is used faster than it is regenerated.  By understanding the creative process of regenerating human-interaction energy, from the source of the possibility-development-outcome chain, Homo lumens is able to define impact resilience as the ability of people to choose abundance-based agreements that recognize and engage the human-interaction creative energy that is already there.  Low impact resilience is when the human-interaction energy is not engaged, leading to today’s global disengagement epidemic.