Self-organization

Protests against oppression in Turkey are in full swing. And if you are willing to listen, the New Young Turks can teach your organization two great lessons:

In the midst of war, Turkish protestors built a fully functioning free public library.

In the midst of warlike situation, Turkish protestors built a fully functioning free public library. Why and how did they do it?

Here is the first lesson: The protestors -who are young, highly educated, highly skilled, internet-savvy, white collar employees- demonstrated that in this day and age no mess, no corruption, no restriction could be and will be hidden. Regardless of the geography and culture you operate in, the Gen Y is the future of your organization. These young people value collaboration, group thinking, collective decision-making, equality, mutual respect and being recognized. If your organization does not genuinely believe in and practice these values, expect to face tough times soon…

The second lesson is far more interesting… While clashing with brutal Turkish police, protesters organized open yoga sessions and an open library at Gezi Park. They cleaned up the park… They formed a semi-professional chorus, organized tango nights and classical music recitals. In the middle of complete chaos, without a leader how did these people self-organize? How come they were able to distribute free food? Who ordered them to organize free walk-in clinics? Once the protests were over, they established speaker’s corners around the county. Was this protest an international conspiracy? Here is an even more intriguing question: Why did they self organize? Actually, the answer is far simpler than you might think. Carol Pearson says: “A shared purpose individually vitalize and collectively galvanize people.” Below is a wonderful story from Seven Life Lessons of Chaos – Timeless Wisdom From the Science of Change, an absolutely must-read book. See how life is all about self-organization…

Wilfred Pelletier, a Native American from an Ojibway community north of Lake Huron, says his people aren’t into organization; there’s no need for it “because that community is organic.”  Pelletier gives an illustration of how his unorganized people nevertheless get things done.

“Let’s say the council hall in an Indian community needs a new roof…. It’s been leaking here and there for quite a while and it’s getting worse. And people have been talking about it. Nobody organizes a committee or appoints a project leader.” Nothing happens, in fact, until “one morning here’s a guy up on the roof, tearing off the old shingles, and down on the ground there’s several bundles of new, hand-split shakes – probably not enough to do the whole job, but enough to make a good start. Then, after a while, another guy comes along and sees the first guy on the roof. So he comes over and he doesn’t say, ‘What are you doing up there?’ because that’s obvious, but he may say, ‘How’s she look? Pretty rotten, I guess.’ Something like that. Then he takes off, and pretty soon he’s back with a hammer or a shingle hatchet and maybe some shingle nails or a couple of rolls of tarpaper. By afternoon, there’s a whole crew working on that roof, a pile of materials building up down there on the ground, kids taking the old shingles away-taking them home for kindling – dogs barking, women bringing cold lemonade and sandwiches. The whole community is involved and there’s a lot of fun and laughter. Maybe the next day another guy arrives with more bundles of shakes. In two or three days that whole job is finished, and they all end up having a big party in the ‘new’ council hall.”

Who was responsible for deciding to put a new of on the hall? Was it that first guy on the roof, a single isolated individual, or was it the whole community? ”How can you tell? No meeting was called, no committees formed, no funds raised. There were no arguments about whether the roof should be covered with aluminum or duroid or tin or shakes and which was the cheapest and which would last the longest and all that. There was no foreman and no one was hired and nobody questioned that guy’s right to rip off the old roof. But there must have been some kind of ‘organization’ going on in all that because the job got done. It got done a lot quicker than if you hired professionals. And it wasn’t work; it was fun.”

Chaos theory would answer that the “organization” in Pelletier’s roofing project was self-organization. It began with chaos-all that disorganized talk beforehand about the leak. The first guy on the roof was a bifurcation point that became amplified. The feedback between the first fellow and the next one who came along started a cascade that coupled the community together around the project and then the system got the job done.

As the above story demonstrates, you don’t need a central planning department for everything. All you need to do is to gather interested and capable people around a common goal and give them permission. Allow people to self-organize and witness magic taking pace within your organization. As I was writing this paragraph, the #duranadam movement has started and it is spreading organically all around the world. No need to look for conspiracy. Just watch the short below video and see how movements start!

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About Soydanbay

I am a passionate brand consultant who has a rare ability to combine rational thinking and creative intelligence. I give my clients the freedom to express their brands and deliver compelling customer experiences. I love branding. Actually I am obsessed with it.

Posted on June 18, 2013, in Change Management, Depth Psychology, Organizational Training, Organizational Values and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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