How close to reality is your perspective? How come that witness reports of an incident can differ so much, or even contradict each other?

The following quote says something about different perspectives and how they can evolve over time.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

There is a difference if you’re designing an object, appliance or even a process, compared to designing a room, space or a building for people to be in. A house or a workplace is a physical structure with material properties and form but also a container to live and work in. That makes it more than something you design and build according to specs. It is the combination of human individuals working and living together, each with their own identity and perspectives that make it more complex. Unless you design and organise the workplace purely like a functional machine, and expect employees to fit and operate according to specs.

However this is not the only perspective on how to organise ourselves, and how we have done so throughout time. Think about different tribal forms or market mechanisms.

These days it is all about platforms. However if you see a participant on a platform, e.g. Uber driver, AirBnB host, or a flash delivery service, as an easily replaceable component, then you may have become part of a more flexible human powered machine.

What has lower accident statistics, a traffic light or a roundabout? A traffic light has a separate controller directing traffic. That must be really safe because the computer is always right? Wrong! If it wasn’t for the people using the junction with traffic lights, then probably, yes. What do you do when you have to stop at a traffic light? Check your phone, think about something else, look around? You’re likely to momentarily switch off. Unlike a roundabout.

I grew up in Haarlem and until a few years ago the roundabout at Delftplein was notorious among everyone trying to get their driver’s license (featured image: Magic Roundabout Swindown). You had to think about so many things trying to cross it.  When you approach it you’ll be checking other traffic already on the roundabout, and possibly oncoming traffic approaching it and how fast they go. When you’re on it you’re engaged with traffic around you and how to get off at the right exit.  This is a full-on experience and you’re the (only) one in control.  It is a coordination task between people.  

How is our workplace organised? Does it resemble a junction with traffic lights or is it more like a roundabout? Do you feel engaged? Is there a difference at team level than at other levels? Is there a need to change? Could it change?

What about your local community, sportsclub, school environment?  What if the traffic-light-computer is another person, or group of people?

In Cross-silo Leadership, Harvard’s Amy Edmondson addresses the value of horizontal cross-boundary collaboration and discusses these 4 enabling practices:

  1. Develop and Deploy Cultural Brokers
  2. Encourage People to Ask the Right Questions
  3. Get People to See the World Through Others’ Eyes
  4. Broaden Your Employees’ Vision

Edmondson continues;”The core challenges of operating effectively at interfaces are simple: learning about people on the other side and relating to them. But simple does not mean easy; human beings have always struggled to understand and relate to those who are different.”  She also acknowledges that formal reorganisations have their limits because of costs, confusion and time consuming.  And “worse”, she says, “every new structure solves some problems but creates others.” Still there are companies like Haier, Zappos and Handelsbanken that have done it. Buurtzorg was formed from the ground up on these principles.

At Leading from Love we create spaces inviting human connections and a sense of belonging. Breaking through silos and allowing humans to get into their agency, and organisations and communities to flourish. In a roundabout way you get back to where you started, doing what you’re best at; being human.