Make It Easy, Make It MoreJuly 22, 2010 Leave a comment
I have been blessed these past few months to have been in steady conversation with Adam Pattantyus of Merrimack Management Associates. Adam’s background is a fascinating blend of military, industrial engineering, management, and clean technology professional experiences. He is deeply thoughtful and committed to helping bring about the transition to more sustainable ways of being. And he is the co-purveyor of a promising product and service in the form of an on-line operational infrastructure for collaborative action. I learn so much from each of our interactions, and our meeting last week left me thinking about how to make much needed collaboration both easier and more ambitious for those interested in realizing deep social change.
Among other things, Adam noted that in his experience, what often gets in the way of collaboration is the upfront demand to subordinate to new governance structures and to letting go of certain self-interests that do not assure a net gain. This serves as a disincentive to join up in the first place, or can discourage otherwise enthusiastic joiners who find that the collaboration does not obviously deliver value in its early stages. How to overcome this? Start by setting up a low threshold for initial involvement. “Make it easy on them,” says Adam. The first step may be to simply create a situation where participants can find one another and share their individual commitments, without an expectation of signing up for joint projects. Over time, certain partnerships may form as shared interests and complementary services/ attributes make themselves evident through the collaborative platform. In other words, value is discovered. Adam’s firm has accounted for this by creating staged environments and tools that build from connectivity to alignment and the potential to take action together.
The other insight with which Adam left me is his conviction that the reason society isn’t proactively changing at the pace he and others (this blogger included) would hope is that the change model is incomplete. There tends to be a reliance on joint action for setting new policies and creating awareness, both of which are necessary but not enough. The third leg is to recognize the change capacity of the marketplace, something that has seemingly become lost on many as “the market” has become ever more virtual and inaccessible. Beyond connecting and convening people for action, if we were able to create mechanisms for them to reclaim markets and guide investments to support their shared values, then we might be making more headway. Again, this is part of the “market shaping” package Adam is working on and to me it offers a new take on collaboration and network-building that is less often mentioned in the social change world, which is to leverage collaboration not just for redistributing the pie, but making it bigger and more locally grown.
There is still much for me to chew on here, but suffice it to say I look forward to my next meeting with Adam, and I’m curious if you have any thoughts on what I’ve mentioned here.