Finding People to Live With and Make a Living With (Take Two)

finding people

My book Finding the Sweet Spot (see right sidebar for details) suggests a variety of approaches to finding people to partner with in Natural Enterprises. One of these is illustrated above. The idea is to approach a problem with an open mind and as much data as possible, and engage others to help solve it. Here’s a brief walkthrough:

  1. Articulate Unmet Needs (That You Care About): Do your research. Explore. Visit. Converse. Discover what’s needed that is not being met. Tell a story that illustrates the need, and a second story that imagines it being solved. But don’t jump to solutions, and don’t start with a solution. Students of complex systems know that an understanding of the problem co-evolves with the emergence of possible solutions, so what is important is to articulate the problem or need, and not rush to solutions. Who needs your gift now?
  2. Appeal to People’s Sense of Purpose: Your Purpose is what you were always meant to do, why you’re here. It’s personal, and the articulation and discussion of needs will draw in people whose Purpose is aligned with solving that problem or filling that need. This is not a persuasive process — you’re appealing to the latent interest that people already have in the subject. Those who respond will bring additional stories and additional research to improve the articulation and substantiation of the need.
  3. Craft the Invitation: You already have part of the solution team by virtue of having appealed to people’s sense of Purpose. Now the invitation, Open Space style, is crafted to draw in people who have the Gifts and Passions to come up with solutions.
  4. Complete the Solution Team: Now you bring together people who share your Purpose, and who have the Gifts (things they do uniquely well) and Passions (things they love doing) to collectively find approaches to address the problem or need effectively. When you find people who have the shared Purpose, shared Passions and complementary Gifts, you’ve found the partners you want!
  5. Collaborate & Innovate: Using techniques like Open-Space, brainstorm innovative and adaptive approaches collaboratively. You’ll end up with the raw material for a host of experiments. Some of them will work, others won’t. But now you’re working with people who share your Passions and Purpose, and whose Gifts complement your own, you won’t stop until you’ve found a set of solutions that make a difference. And in the process, you’ll learn more about the needs and problems you’re grappling with, and evolve even better answers.

The book explains this in a lot more detail, but you get the idea. Need, Shared Purpose, Invitation, Convocation, Conversation, Collaboration, Innovation. It’s a natural method of collective problem-solving, and it has the advantage of helping you find the people you were meant to work with.

Recently I wondered: Could such an approach also be used to find the people you were meant to live with — in Natural (Intentional) Community?

As I reflect on the recent fracturing of our massively centralized financial system, and the fragility of our massively centralized political, social, health, business, education and other systems, I grow more and more convinced that Natural Communities and Natural Enterprises, if they are to be resilient enough to survive the threats facing us today, will have to be small-scale, bottom-up, networked and as self-sufficient as possible (the last two qualities are by no means contradictory).

I’ve referred as well to some surveys that suggest that, while Dunbar’s number (150) is the maximum number we can maintain meaningful social relationships with, the optimal size of networks is either 5-7 or 40-60 (the two sizes being optimal for different purposes). Putting all this together it seems it would be appropriate to try to evolve Natural Communities of 40-60 people made up of Natural Enterprises of 5-7 people. If 5-7 people working together seems a small number, consider that their main customer base is only 40-60 people. Also, there are some very powerful enterprises that have only this small number of partners — they network with other small enterprises with different Purposes to meet larger needs, collaboratively, and the Internet and other conversational, organizational and virtual presence technologies make this increasingly easy to do.

Some of the oldest advice for finding the person you were meant to live with is to get out and enroll in some activity where you can meet others who share your Passions. And the method above suggests one way of finding the people you were meant to work with is to get out and enroll others in some activity around a shared Purpose. So which would work best for finding people to live with in a Natural Community?

I’m thinking about the amazing group I spent three days with this week on Bowen Island BC. We were, in a way, an instant Natural Community. We shared a Passion for facilitation and a Purpose of enabling better conversations and hence making the world a better place by empowering people, bottom up, in their communities. We talked a lot about the objectivity of the facilitator, and when it was best for the facilitator to be a ‘content provider’, bringing a point of view, new knowledge, ideas, even provocations to the group, and when it was better for the facilitator to be a process manager only. And even when it was appropriate for the facilitator to largely do neither, and let the group find its own natural process.

My sense is that what made that group so magic was the fact that, as professional facilitators, they are very astute about the process of opening space, drawing people out, letting solutions emerge etc. and hence are extremely competent self-managers and very effective collaborators in just about any imaginable situation. And they all know themselves very well, which is enormously helpful in optimizing productivity and keeping conflicts and negative emotions in check.

natural economy

So perhaps the ‘rules’ for people who are meant to live together (in Natural Community) and to make a living together (in Natural Enterprise) are these:

  1. Those in a Natural Enterprise need to have a shared Purpose, complementary Gifts, and Passions that are consistent with their Purpose and Gifts (i.e. in the Sweet Spot) so they love what they are doing (applying their individual Gifts) and what the Natural Enterprise is doing (realizing their shared Purpose).
  2. Those in a Natural Community need to love each other. This is more likely if they have a shared Purpose and/or shared Passions. But mostly, I suspect, it’s chemistry — it’s either there or it isn’t. I trust nature to tell us who we should love, and hence live with, though there are some who believe that communities based on love will tend to lack essential diversity. 
  3. To be effective members of either a Natural Enterprise or a Natural Community it’s essential that people know themselves well — what their Gifts, Passions and Purpose are — and have a good number of the core set of twelve capacities that I outline in my book (excellent instincts, critical thinking skills, imaginative skills, creative skills, attention skills, communication/storytelling skills, demonstration skills, learning skills, responsibility, self-management, passion/energy and collaboration skills — including facilitation skills).
  4. Ideally, a Natural Community (of around 40-60 people) will coalesce in such a way that its needs are met by the Natural Enterprises (each of around 5-7 people) of its members, making it substantially self-sufficient. This would also save an enormous amount of valuable time and energy since the Natural Enterprises would be within the Natural Community and there would be no need to travel from one to the other, or for what we call work-life balance.

This is a tough recipe, and because of the love factor, it isn’t one that can be orchestrated. It needs to be a self-managed process. In pre-civilization times it would have been much easier — there were far fewer people to choose from, and the self-knowledge and twelve core capacities were present in almost everyone (as a Darwinian necessity). And there was no education system to pound these capacities out of us.

Nevertheless, it just makes sense to me that this is the natural way to live. It’s effective, resilient, sustainable, responsible, and joyful. It draws on the best of all of us. It taps into our inherent social nature.

To find the people for our Natural Enterprise and Natural Community we need first to know ourselves, and to cultivate as many of the twelve core capacities as possible. Then we need to put ourselves out there, authentically and honestly and fully, by offering and accepting invitations that will connect us with others who share our Purpose and our Passions, and help us find those we were meant to live and make a living with.

Perhaps it’s not so difficult after all. It might only take a lifetime.

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2 Responses to Finding People to Live With and Make a Living With (Take Two)

  1. Dave…that Open Space invitation link is hosed – I haven’t yet restored all the pages I lost when my wiki was hacked. Link to <href=”http://www.michaelherman.com/publications/inviting_guide.pdf”>Michael Herman’s pdf instead

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Fixed. Thanks, Chris.

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