Friday, March 11, 2011

The group: connecting at a deeper level and building consensus

The genesis of an open enterprise centered around a material product is somewhat different than that of an open source software project. Usually, the product idea emerges in a particular space, in a given context. The individuals around it are not always chosen, sometimes they are part of it from the beginning. These individuals have particular skills and they provide crucial resources that help to move the idea to the prototyping stage. Even before the proof of concept, before the working prototype is created, a groups is already formed. It is very possible that these people who first aligned their interests to concertize the idea diverge in their opinions on how to commercialize it. The group goes through a crisis during the transition from R&D to a commercial entity. This crisis becomes more serious if the plans for commercialization that are proposed are very different. This is what I am dealing with at this particular moment. What is the best way out?      

My own assumptions:
  1. The world is going through a major transformation
  2. The open model or something similar is a viable economical model 
Possible reactions:
  • My partner doesn't agree with 1. and doesn't understand why we need to wary about 2. 
  • My partner might agree with 1. but disagrees with 2.  
  • My partner might entirely agree with 1. and in principle with 2., but the time has not come yet for 2. to be true.  
  • My partner is in total agreement with me. 

Other possible sources of problems
  • Technological literacy: The open model requires the use of specific internet-based tools. Some people are not very comfortable with these tools, and that might act as a deterrent. 
  • Culture of work and work ethics: Evolving within an open collaborative group requires certain skills and an understanding of the underlying culture and ethics. Some people simply don't feel comfortable sharing, or don't understand the norms regulating social interaction within these types of groups. 
  • Emotional barriers: 
    • A feel of devaluation: Some people understand that the world is changing, and that despite their experience their skills don't match anymore with the new environment. This might feel as a devaluation and can be very frustrating.      
    • Finding comfort in the familiar: The person might unconscionably chose to stay in denial, taking comfort in the familiar old world.   
    • Fear of the new or of the unknown: The person might be uncomfortable with the idea of change.
    • To risky: The person prefers to let others open the way, being not very confident in her own abilities. 

I asked Paul T. Horan, a collaborator from CotW to advise me on how to proceed. I find the process he proposed very promising and worth summarizing here. It consists of an open discussion in 4 consecutive steps.

1. Discuss our ideals
2. Find a common ground
3. Define long-term objectives
4. Establish short term goals

Participation is key to this process. No judgments are made, sometimes people are confronted to their own fears and biases during these processes and become vulnerable. Empathy and compassionate listening is key. The goal is to eliminate the irrational and to converge towards a rational middle ground.

Stay tuned for the results...

No comments:

Post a Comment