FLYING OFF THE GROUND
How do groups get anything done? How do you organise a group of individuals so that the output of the group is something coherent and of lasting value?
The one usual answer how any group gets any-thing done is – you start an institution. Whether private or public, for profit or not profit, large or small, you gather people and use the institution to coordinate the activities of the group.
But it is never easy to gather and organise resources, particularly ones involving finance. For one, the lack of it often is the main reason why many a well-intentioned group fails to get their institution flying off the ground.
THE PARADOX OF GROUPS
Let’s frame this observation up more clearly in this fashion. You are at a party, and you get bored. You say “This isn’t doing it for me anymore. The people I wanted to meet aren’t here and I’d rather be someplace else.” But even if the party fails to meet some threshold of interest or expectation, you still don’t leave. Then, ten minutes later, one person stands up and gets his coat.
What happens next? Suddenly more people are getting their coats on at the same time, which means that everyone had decided that the party was not for them either.
While humans are fundamentally individual, they are also fundamentally social. Every one of us has a kind of rational decision-making mind, one where we can assess for ourselves what’s going on and make decisions to act on them or not. But, we are all also able to enter viscerally into emotional bonds with other people in a group setting that transcend the intellectual aspects of ‘you’, the individual.
This is the paradox of groups. It’s obvious that there are no groups without members. But there would be no members without a group because alone, what would you be a member of?
So there is this very complicated moment of a group coming together, where enough individuals, for whatever reason, sort of agree that something worth-while is happening, and the decision they make at that moment is: This is good and must be protected.
So what is required to make a long-lived group successful? The answer to that simply is – collab-oration and coordination.
Collaboration is where a group of two or more forms under purpose of some common effort. It re-quires upholding some common values, a division of labour, team-work and coordination. And, when you add the words ‘focus’ and ‘priority’ into this formula, it makes for a very potent force called – collective action.
The key point about collective action is that the fate of the group as a whole becomes important. It is characterized by people wanting to fix or get some-thing done quickly – say, coming up with an organisational plan, profiling a bundle of products or services, writing copy for promotions or raising funds, all which can be enormously productive if they participate and share the challenge of achieving it just as much.
In any group that is formed to undertake an enterprise, actions speak louder than words. But individuals are prone to promising to do things saying, “I’ll do this and I’ll do that”, but for the most part, never really end up doing much or anything at all. They become your own worst enemy.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what spells the difference between an institution’s success or failure.