The observations and opinions offered here relate to three key ideas:
- The Internet is having some deeply disruptive influences on “how we usually do things” because individuals and organisations are having to adjust to life in an increasingly inter-connected world
- For many of us what we do as our “paid work” (i.e. in our “sold” time) is disconnected from our whole selves and what we do that we feel is of genuine value in our own (“free”) time.
- Real wealth is not limited to material wealth
Connection with Teal
The connection with Teal ideas can be seen through some quotes from the video Lean and Agile Adoption with the Laloux Culture Model :
- The guiding metaphor for a Teal organisation is a living system
- Aligned around a higher purpose
- Not valuing profit above any other outcome
- Newer perspectives (e.g. those in Teal organisations) are better able to deal effectively with increasing levels of complexity and interconnectedness.
Connections with U.Lab, Work, work and Teal.
I’ll also draw on some ideas from:
- Leading from the Emerging Future: – From Ego-System to Eco-System Economics: applying theory U to transforming business, society and self by C. Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, 2013
I’ll differentiate between two kinds of work.”Work” (with a capital “W”) signifies the kind of work someone does with deep commitment knowing “I’d do it whether I got paid or not”. “Work” is often done in free time, contrasting with “work” (with a lower case “w”) which is paid work done through necessity to pay the bills. For some people “work” and “Work” are aligned. For some there is deep disconnect and a continual dance between doing the “Work” that is their passion and doing the day-job “work” – which may have to be wage-slavery work, totally disconnected from personal purpose.
The connection, or disconnection, between our whole selves and our work selves is a recurring theme in Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux, and his ideas of greater alignment in Teal organisations.
It is arguable that elements of having true “Wealth”, in contrast to merely material “wealth”, are aligned to doing “Work” rather than the worst kind of wage-slavery “work”.
Disruption and the Internet
Idea 1 – The Internet is having some deeply disruptive influences on “how we usually do things” because individuals and organisations are having to adjust to life in an increasingly inter-connected world.
The further we are getting into the 21st century the harder it is becoming to disentangle our daily lives from the presence of the Internet. Some of these changes are happening behind the scenes, others are obvious to us. Elements of the Internet have become so commonplace it is hard to imagine life without them, even if we are old enough to have lived a pre-Internet life. (More on this in Time Travellers All.)
Within the Teal for Startups working group we have (through our collaborative work) a shared reference point for the impact of the Internet. Our collaboration illustrates some of the ways that our relationships with each other, with information, and even with time and space have altered with the arrival of the Internet.
Some questions and answers demonstrate the point:
Q – Where does the Teal for Startups working group (with a focus on value) work?
A – It’s hard to say. We usually ask individuals that question at the start of our online sessions. It’s helpful to konw locations and acknowledge geographical distance, because that reflects time zone differences, and it’s important to be sensitive to the extra effort and inconvenience that time zone differences can cause.
Q – So, if you have people in different parts of the world, does that mean are you a national organisation with representatives abroad, or an international organisation?
A – That question doesn’t reflect our reality. Our group is made up of individual contributors joining in from various locations across the globe. We are local and global, with nothing in between. This is different from the old “geographical hierarchy” way of thinking about organisations i.e. local, regional, national, international, then global. The Internet enables flat, transnational organisational structures, with rapid horizontal flows of information. The flatness is comparable to Teal organisations with structures where layers of management have been stripped out.
Q – So, what about your main office? Where is that?
A – There isn’t a physical office anywhere. We don’t need a location with shared access to documents in filing cabinets. We collaborate on documents that we can all access “in the cloud”.
Q – What about holding meetings?
A – Few of us have met face-to-face. We meet online, and when we do that we’re able to include audio and video streams. We usually include some “meeting and greeting” before we get down to the actual work. Seeing and hearing each other helps us to get some feeling of “who is who” and to relate to each other as people. Online meetings enable us to connect in real time, and we can connect between times asynchronously through emails and our Facebook group.
Q- How’s it going?
A – We’re finding our way together. We don’t know each other well yet. In addition to that we’re not completely comfortable meeting in our online space. Interactions are a bit clunky because we’re lacking the clues of eye contact and other body language to decide who speaks when, plus there are documents to flick between (and sometimes edit) and there is a text channel to write into. We don’t have the easy familiarity of face-to-face norms of behaviour to drop into. We have to accept
Q -So what do you have?
We have the communication channels of the Internet, a facilitator and a shared purpose. We also have the Teal ideas in Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux as our starting point. In a way Teal is our shared cultural norm – although we’re all fairly new to the ideas, and not very “fluent”in applying them. The Teal connection is a bit like everyone agreeing to speak in the same language, but the chosen language isn’t the first language of anyone in the group. We’re still discovering how best to work together. We’re learning from each other and learning with each other, building trust, developing strategies and co-creating knowledge.
Q – So do you prefer your Internet based way of working or would you rather be working face-to-face?
A – That’s a bit like asking someone mid-flight if they’d rather continue the journey by car instead of by plane. It’s not a relevant question. Of course face-to-face has its benefits, but it has severe limitations of same-time and same-place. It’s not sufficiently geographically inclusive to be a relevant option for us. We don’t live in the same kind of location-bound, face-to-face world that people inhabited in the last century, or even ten years ago. We’re in a different environment now. It’s a connected, Internet based, local-global space. Information flows much more quickly than it used to do. Everything is more fluid. It doesn’t make sense to wait until people can get together face-to-face before “coming together” to share what people know and assist each other in deciding what next steps to take.
Working for rewards other than money
Idea 2 – For many of us what we do as our “paid work” (i.e. in our “sold” time) is disconnected from our whole selves and what we do that we feel is of genuine value in our own (“free”) time.
The idea of work that is done freely is strange to some people and familiar to others. Anyone who has been a stay-at-home parent with a couple of under-fives is familiar with the reality of doing valuable work for no money. There are endless other examples, many of them to do with creative arts, or independent scholarship. Within the Teal for Startups working group we once again have a shared experience for reference. We are giving our time and knowledge freely, in a collaborative creative endeavour. There is no financial payment as a result of involvement (no fees, no per diems or allowable expenses). Exactly why we are doing this will vary from person to person, but we have all chosen to contribute for reasons other than money.
Idea 3 – Real wealth is not limited to material wealth.
Going back to the idea of the difference between “Work” and “work” I’ll refer to non-material wealth as “Wealth” and material wealth as “wealth”. As individuals, we have an intuitive feeling about the emptiness of “wealth” where there no Wealth to go with it.
I won’t labour the point of the relationship between personal Wealth and wellbeing. Much has been written elsewhere, including World Happiness Report 2013 and work by NEF about The Value of Money: Challenging the Preconception (or see the summary). I will turn instead to a brief consideration of the Wealth of startups.
There are many kinds of startups and generalisations are dangerous, so I’ll narrow it down a little. I’m thinking about the kind of startup that develops from an enthusiasm or passion of the founder, and has to do with digital technology or services that involve little physical “stuff” (so there is no heavy investment in premises or stock). Typically such a startup will have little to show on a traditional financial balance sheet, but will have considerable Wealth in terms of what the founder knows, the founder’s personal network and reputation in the field and so on. As the startup grows this Wealth increases and continues to be invisible on the balance sheet.
Related issues for consideration related to startups
It is helpful to have the shared perspective outlined above if the Teal for Startups working groups considers other related issues such as:
- The value of community and collaboration in a connected world
- Startups and social businesses
- The difference between a “Techie Startup” (i.e. aiming to be the next Facebook or airbnb) and other startups
- Techie Startups and the commercial value of their communities
- Social businesses and their value to the communities they serve
- Competition and collaboration
- Copyright and intellectual property
- The statement that “information likes to be free”
- The wealth of the commons
- Ideas of scarcity and abundance in an information rich world
- The deep disconnects between life as we have previously lived it and life in a connected world
The items in the list above are not all directly connected with considerations of Wealth is Startups, but are related to the statement quoted at the start of this post that “Newer perspectives (e.g. those in Teal organisations) are better able to deal effectively with increasing levels of complexity and interconnectedness”.