Self Organizing Work to Create Effective Collaboration

Posted on by Brandon Klein


Industrial Age models of work involve an established hierarchy that dictates what an employee will work on and when they will do it. This will get results, but at the expense of the total commitment of workers.



Informed, intelligent agents who have established a common context (alignment) for the work that needs to be done will achieve far more by organizing themselves than by being directed to do work. Set up opportunities for the participants to choose elements they want to work. The most obvious example is the ‘Vote with your feet’ portion of the synthesis conversation, but knowledgeworkers choose the teams they wish to join, as well. Some fabulous results come from simply asking participants to choose a book in the space, read it for an hour and discover what message they find therein.

If one sets up the ‘field’ for creativity and collaboration, it will happen of itself. People will ask far more of themselves than you can ask (or demand) of them.

With a knowledgeworker team, avoid the tendency to direct their work. Explain what needs to occur, and then let them figure out how to do it. They do much better when involved in the design. Trust that your knowledgeworker team will go there they need to be when they need to be there.

On the Act Day, by allowing the participants to choose the teams that will work and then which team they will work on, you set up highly motivated groups who will accomplish a great deal. Trust that they will do the right thing.

Related study is on the field of self-assembling biological models and complexity theory. A commercial computer game called SimAnt requires one to ‘run’ an ant colony, but the controls only let the player suggest courses of action. The colony seems to grow and prosper perfectly well without human intervention.

See Out of Control by Kevin Kelly