I spent Monday at the Listening Post. There were about 35 professional psychodynamic consultants sharing what is going on in the world, right now. The same thing happens globally at dozens of countries and the consolidated report is published by OPUS.
We start with 1.5 hours of associative work, “Insight”. I really love this technique. All sitting in a spiral and freely sharing experiences, dreams, encounters, emotions. Next we were searching for emerging themes in smaller groups, one group talking and other groups listening. Finally trying to find a crystallized hypothesis.
It is always a wonderful to experience true dialogue in this size of a group. And to meet so many wise people.
A very common theme throughout years has been how the small individual will survive in the changing world. Very natural. Sometimes I hear a flavor of whining, but this is the right place for it.
Groups are no more
The main insight for me was, what it means for individuals, that there are less and less real groups to belong to.
It seems that people nowadays belong to networks rather than groups. Companies base their organization on virtual teams, virtual networks or multi-dimensional matrices. Professional global networks at work, Facebook at private life. These networks are vast, because of the modern communication, web 2.0. So globalization is personally true for most of us. At the same time organizations as well as these networks have become turbulent.
How do individuals react?
The membership of the network is very different from the membership of a group.
The group instincts are not satisfied in networks.
A group gives a lot of feedback to you. A limited number of people meet face to face and there is the non-verbal communication. You can track not only your relation to others, but other relations in the group. You get a lot of feedback about yourself and your position in the group, thus your social survival. You have a bi-directional relation to “the group”.
But networks are very different. You don’t get feedback from “the network”, or it is indirect and delayed. The network is truly open, you don’t know with whom you are competing for the status in the network. This concerns especially virtual networks, but also happens in real life virtual organizations.
You become uncertain about your survival. Fear and worry appear.
This competition is not only a game in Facebook or other virtual environments. It is real in labor market. Monster compares you with anyone on the globe. Companies dream about the “resource database”.
Competing by your personal identity
When you belong to a group, the group contributes to your identity. You are “a member of the Team”. When you belong to a network, especially a large and open, your position is based on your personal identity. In networks your compete by polishing your identity according to the norms of the network. Identity may include for example number of connections.
The uncertainty and the changed meaning of identity are both promoting a nowadays typical behavior. You are putting a lot of effort in refining your identity, even stretching the limits of realism. At work you are available 14/7. You never know what is enough.
Individual coping by looking for stable ground
During the Listening Post there were comments about downsizing, retreating to solitude or focusing to philanthropy. The connection to nature was brought up. Several referred to meditation or similar approaches to get the connection to one’s true self.
These may be means to get in connection to something that is felt greater than the unstable, faceless and unfair business world. This may be very empowering by reducing anxiety, giving more energy and freedom of choice.
Since the very common virtual organizations are unsatisfactory and cause waste of energy, there must be a great potential in skillful use of groups in organizations.