How are you maintaining your Edge?

The world has changed. Change is the new constant. In frustration we seek ‘out of the box’ solutions, oblivious to the fact that we are still clinging to the box we are in.  Could it be that we are all barking up the wrong tree?

When we encounter an iceberg in the open sea, as formidable as it appears over the horizon, what we are seeing is but a small fraction of its entire mass. Similarly, organizational politics and game playing only represent a minor symptom of a much greater problem that lies deeply rooted within the very fabric of the organization.

In the near term the impact is the compromising of the quality of feedback starting from the business environment and working its way up through the organizational structure all the way to senior management. It will experience a significant decline in innovativeness, as well as a dramatic increase in bureaucratic rigidity.

The greatest impact is only fully experienced after a period of time- that being the poisoning of the well of the organizational culture. Competitiveness replaces co-operation at all levels within the organization. Ultimately, the organization loses touch with the outside world as a kind of psychosis sets in. From this point onwards total collapse is inevitable.

The crux of our model posits that those within the organization can be divided into three social orientations- Players, Troopers, and Outsiders.

Players are those social magicians innately skilled at playing the game of life. They are expert at playing those around them, playing whatever role best suits their purpose. They look upon life as a game and they are out to win.

The Trooper represents the “everyman” in this model. The overwhelming majority of the group will fall into this category. On the positive side of the ledger these individuals are hardworking, steadfast and loyal- the people who you can rely upon to get the job done day in and day out.

However, on the negative side of the ledger, they tend to be risk averse and have a strong need for authority and control. For the Trooper, clearly defined rules and a system of reward and punishment that is unambiguous and fairly applied are essential.

There are many categories of Outsider- original thinkers, artists, those of moral substance, to name a few. Each of the categories of Outsider shares a common trait – an insight into a deeper order hidden to most. For the thinker it is the essential blueprint that lies embedded inside the structure of all things. The artist experiences it as the genie of inspiration. Meanwhile, the individual of substance is guided by a moral rudder that supersedes logic – an innate ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This shared connection to a higher calling at once sets the Outsiders apart from others.

These three social orientations will interact in predictable ways. When placed in a larger group context these interactional patterns generate a characteristic structure. I refer to this as the Circle Square Pattern. Its key features are:

The Circle- Players can be great assets to the company when their energies are directed to the outside- selling to clients, PR with stakeholders, etc. However, there is a shadow side- their impact on those around them in the workplace. Over time the Players will squeeze all the Troopers and Outsiders out from positions of power, creating a tight inner circle at the top dominated by Players.

The Square- In order to ensure their position at the top the Players need a loyal and compliant management structure to deal with the day to day running of the organization. The Troopers are ideally suited to fulfill this role.

The Circle and the Square combine to create a cult like atmosphere throughout the organization. Guidelines become rules. Rules become dogma. Those who obey are rewarded, those who question, the Outsiders, are removed. Over time a robotic groupthink begins to dominate the organization and the lock is complete with no way out.

The key to fixing this problem is to re-introduce the Outsider back in to the mix. With the use of a proprietary diagnostic applied to the interaction patterns between the three groups, the Outsiders are identified.

The next step will be to assemble the selection of Outsiders in a casual unstructured environment such as the local pub or café. Once the group is assembled, our role will be to ensure that the flow of conversation should be as easy and natural as possible. The objective at this stage is to form the group organically.

Now, once the group has formed, the focus shifts to generating a stream of actionable projects directed at improving the quantity and quality of the transactional flow within the organization. As the projects are identified, it will separate the wheat from the chaff. The wheat being those ready and willing to try something new, the chaff being those trying to resist or even subvert the change initiative.

At the outset it will only be the Outsiders who are directly impacted by the transition. However, over time the Troopers will start to participate in the process as well. Once a sufficient proportion of this population becomes actively engaged, the tipping point is reached. At this point the organization will experience a spontaneous shift in consciousness. This will be evidenced by the precipitous change in the rate of change, and in a very short period of time the organization will have completed its transition into a new paradigm: the fully conscious organization.


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