Esko Kilpi photo

I am not I

People in companies are often stuck in narrow, repetitive patterns of conversation that provide them with numbing, repressive and even neurotic experiences. We should look at communication, not competences, as the most predictive group activity there is in forecasting viability and agility. The opportunity provided by interaction technologies lies in the widening and deepening of communication leading to new learning, to new voices taking part and to new enriching conversations that can cross siloed organizational units and stale process charts. A key management challenge today is to understand that the only way to guarantee agility and resilience is to actively and widely participate in the conversations that matter in an enriching way.

There are two distinctly different approaches to understanding the individual and the social. Mainstream thinking sees the social as a community, on a different level from the individuals who form it. The social is separate from the individuals. “I” and “we” are separate things and can be understood separately.

A totally different approach sees individuals themselves as thoroughly social.

Both the individual and the social are then about interaction, where the individual is interaction “inside” and the social is interaction “outside”. The interaction inside is silent and private, while the interaction outside is vocal and more public. The main difference from the first approach is that the inside and outside cannot be separated or understood separately, both are sides of the same process of communication. The individual is the singular of interdependence while the social is the plural.

If we subscribe to the second approach, the main importance of social platforms and the new interaction technologies is in creating new opportunities for learning — in the formation of who we are. An individual recognizes herself, as a self, in the recognition of those she recognizes — including the people she follows and who follow her on Twitter, who connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn, who like her updates on Instagram etc.

In this way of thinking, we leave behind the western notion of the self-governing, independent individual for a different notion, of interdependent people whose identities are established in interaction with each other. From this perspective, individual change cannot be separated from changes in the groups to which an individual belongs. And changes in the groups don’t take place without the individuals changing. We form our groups and our followerships and they form us at the same time, all the time.

Identity is a pattern in time.

Richer connections and more challenging, more exploratory conversations leave people feeling more alive, more inspired and capable of far more.

Credits: Doug Griffin

More on this: Joi Ito: “Resisting reduction”. Kevin Slavin: “Design as Participation” “You’re Not Stuck In Traffic — You Are Traffic”