Many is Better than One

November 14, 2011 Comments Off on Many is Better than One

“While conventional views of power and authority seem to indicate that you should co-opt and capture other tribes, you can often achieve more by freeing your own people to maximize their vision alongside yours.”

– Seth Godin

In today’s world of mergers and acquisitions and nonprofit consolidations, I was struck by the conclusion of Seth Godin’s recent blog post.  I read it as yet another argument for the power of networks and decentralization.  There is so much good work to be done in this messy world of ours – why do we wish we could consolidate it under a single leader or strategy?

I think this dream of a singular approach to change is a vestige of the industrial paradigm.  It is a leftover of a myth of efficiency in which the biggest, baddest machine is the one that gets the most done.  But we thrive through diversity; we flourish through a multiplicity of approaches.

Autonomy is a major motivator – we should organize our work in ways that maximize our sense of autonomy.  Interestingly enough, some evolutionary theorists speak of a next stage which is dramatically more collective while simultaneously increasing our individual autonomy.  I think the internet points in this direction.

Part of the problem is that the many tribes approach often tend to mean many “501(c)3’s,” and this translates to the replication of administrative tasks that actually are much more efficient when they are consolidated.  This is further compounded by a funding system that likes to look for and bet on “winners,” and does so in a way that biases singular approaches to strategy.

Our challenge is not to figure out how to consolidate.  Our challenge is to evolve towards a system that supports diversity, decentralized ways to organize it and networked ways to fund it.

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