We are in the middle of the European football championships and being a Danish national means being in quite a strange position and set of emotions. It is no longer JUST football/soccer considering the recent events surrounding top player Christian Eriksen and the Danish National Team, it is an excellent example of what team really means at its core. We have a team of players, a team of trainers, a team of physicians, a team of physiotherapists, a team of cooks and nutritionists, a team of logistics, a team of communication…and in total we have ONE team. Let’s try to remember and recognise the whole team, not just the players and the trainers but all those that in fact enable those teams in a mutual effort – team is about US more than THEM.
The opponents are like us
It is however also a lot about THEM, but that relates to the opponents, which we should and must recognise for the same reasons – seriously recognising the competition is vital. Assessing the enemy is a key element in any military strategy and often we find the expression “going (in)to battle with the enemy” – the operative word being “with”, although we are doing it “against”. From a different perspective, we can claim that all football/soccer teams are friends because they are not mutual enemies and only have one common enemy – those who want to end the game entirely (fat chance of that!).
Perspectives are important, Luciano Floridi’s method of Level of Abstractions (LoA) and Gradient of Abstraction (GoA) can teach us much when we analyse, diagnose, and synthesise contexts.
The individual team’s team members are all part of a whole team, and sometimes we talk about having the spectators as a 13th player – then also part of the team. But there are many spectators virtually – wow, what a huge team. And the incident with Christian Eriksen has made an entire nation the team, no longer JUST football – it’s personal. The scope of purpose (Ozlem Brooke Erol, Nuria Chinchilla, Carlos Rey et.al.) binding together the other teams has been expanded – the purpose of football is bigger than JUST football.
Organisational wellbeing – DEI basics
The same is the case in organisations – as should be evident, the wellbeing of teams, team of teams all rely on the wellbeing of the individual (i.e., #trust and #psychologicalsafety, Amy C. Edmondson). It should also be evident that teams are diverse, and inclusiveness is needed to preserve the diversity and to maintain that equity is a requirement.
Equity, not in the sense that everybody is identical or even equal, but in the sense, for the structure to thrive, individuality must be nourished – everybody has equal rights on some levels of abstraction, the same goes for duties, and at the same time they are not the same for everybody.
Hence, DEI (Vivian Acquah) is an individual concept that requires individual reflection, a reflection that must also encompass the reflection of the community/team paraphrasing Edgar Morin “the whole is made up of individuals and the individual has a part of the whole in them”, and further that the sum of the whole is more than the sum of the parts, but at the same time, less than the sum – indicating that purpose is not just affordances, but also constraints.
Purpose directs – when it is honest
The point is that purpose is directive, it requires commitment and a degree of consensus to create engagement. The connotations of exclusion should primarily be individually driven by choice (freedom) and widening the inclusion comes from the attitude of courageous patience (Bob Chapman). In the end, both inclusion and exclusion must be based on sense, does it make sense in the context. It is worth remembering that any inclusion per definition holds elements of exclusion – even heaven and hell are separate.
I sense complexity emerging. Addressing teams automatically implicates phenomena such as loyalty and solidarity which to a certain extent can live with only codified commitment, but great teams are engaged – they are committed and beyond commitment at the same time.
We see opposing forces showing solidarity to common causes, yet it doesn’t mean they are loyal, and we see loyal friends showing solidarity to opposing causes, yet it doesn’t mean they are disloyal to their friendship. This shows us that motivation is not straight forward and establishing a common purpose isn’t either – in the end it is a battle of personal values, why, how, what, where, when and to whom we commit and engage.
This is a very common mistake when both individuals and organisations formulate a purpose. For a purpose to live (initially survive) is must as a minimum have consent, to live (beyond survival) it must have commitment and to live (thrive) it must have engagement – because passion is critical to any cause, and life.
The adept modern organisation understands this and are meticulously attentive to the popular concept of internal competition – because it risks breaking up the whole, not just separating, but creating exclusion. You cannot build an internal team based on internal exclusion, attempting to do so will create teams of exclusion. Once you have created exclusion you have passed through a liminal process – you have deliberately created a species of distrust on which you intend to build the organisation – the proverbial “Us and Them! (ref. Pink Floyd: Us and Them – a fine DEI song “There’s room for you inside”).
The common purpose can and should unify and not separate, another common mistake in individual & team perception – your first obligation lies with the organisation, the team and you can only come in second. At the same time, you can only achieve this by being loyal (true) to yourself, otherwise you are not only deceiving yourself, but also the team and the organisation – self-deception is identity self-mutilation because you’re betraying your values. Compromising on the other hand is not self-deception, it is a conscious choice (preferably made in freedom). Having the courage to choose this path requires immense strength and is immensely helped by a trusting and psychological environment.
Handle with care – analogies become heuristics!
Reverting to the military strategy because the analogy is flawed. In organisations we should not fight each other, we’re supposed to collaborate from the “what’s in it for US” perspective. On top comes the “no-harm” ethical demand which elevates the community to aspire above the law behaviour and the successful organisations of the future will be those that goes even further, they will uphold the ethical ideal of “doing Good” in the widest sense of the concept.
Their purpose is fused with a collective perspective because they have realised, we are all in the same boat, some by also realising there is only one boat – that is, if the global boat is to sail for more decades, centuries, and millenniums. And it all begins and ends with the individual – you’re not relieved of YOUR duty, because your neighbour doesn’t subscribe, consent, commit and engage, there are no excuses. How you contribute to a better world will differ, but you must find your contribution because that’s what creates meaning, sense, and purpose.
The sense of the event and the event of sense
Recent events on the pitch have amplified a sense of community – by contingence, by pure coincidence of almost divine timing. No one, and I mean no one could have foreseen the event. That doesn’t mean we cannot develop a sense of the event – the event of meaning and the meaning of the event. Contingence is the iron hard necessity of life to paraphrase leadership philosopher Ole Fogh Kirkeby.
To develop a sense for the event we must recognise this and recognise the complexity of life – all that lies beyond and outside causality. Our mindset needs to change – while keeping our hard-earned reliance on causality we must welcome and work hard on relying on complexity. A simple example with profound impact is to stop thinking about planning, and instead think of it as preparation for the event. Fixed plans are a figment of our imagination, but they are very useful for preparing for what comes next, but still just “one” tool to help us prepare. This is also why we see recurring although fluxing interest in concepts such as scenario building and customer journeys and stories – it is a recognition that we do not know for sure, we are guessing although trying to do it in a qualified manner.
Embracing the unexpected
When the unexpected produces the emergence of unexpectedness happens, we can only assess in hindsight. Eriksen is a key player in the national team (no.10) and his abrupt absence has emerged a nation as a team, not actually because of football but because of sympathy and empathy with Eriksen and his loved ones, because we would not wish that to happen for anyone (the golden rule).
We can only speculate, but I believe that the team and individuals have gone beyond the level of true commitment to a level of engagement that is built on the appearance and emergence of a higher purpose – although the goal is still to score goals and win games. The other players have not just taken responsibility, nor committed to their responsibility, they have engaged themselves in the mutual responsibility of the same purpose before anything else (we must remember that the tournament is also a commercial opportunity for players to promote themselves).
Only when the team comes before the individual can there be success.
- Rey, Carlos., Bastons, Miquel., & Sotok, Phil. (2019). Purpose-driven organizations: Management ideas for a better world (p. 138). Springer Nature.
- Floridi, Luciano. (2008). The method of levels of abstraction. Minds and machines, 18(3), 303-329.
- Morin, E. (2002). Seven complex lessons in education for the future. Unesco.
- Morin, E. (2007). Restricted complexity, general complexity. Science and us: Philosophy and Complexity. Singapore: World Scientific, 1-25.
- Berggreen, Per B. (2018) We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people. LinkedIn.
- Floridi, Luciano. (2019). The logic of information: A theory of philosophy as conceptual design. Oxford University Press.
- Morin, Edgar (2008). On Complexity, Hampton press Inc.
- Chapman, Bob and Sisodia, Raj (2015). Everybody Matters – The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People like Family. Portfolio Penguin.
- Kirkeby, Ole F. Management philosophy: a radical-normative perspective. Springer Science & Business Media, 2000.
- Kirkeby, Ole Fogh. The virtue of leadership. Copenhagen Business School Press DK, 2008.