Half a Hexagon
shaping simple ideas in a complex world
Monday 22 March2021
Like me you will doubtless be remembering the 'Last Monday' of a year ago when Lockdown loomed. I was in a packed Ivy Club on the edges of London's Covent Garden having lunch with someone I didn't actually know that well and we both had the sensation, I think, of knowing that we were part of a fading reality.
The Plausible Promise
Indeed so. You are reading this connected to me by something rather unreal, the invisible rope of the internet. In a minute you're doubtless going to connect again in a meeting of some kind, pulling the virtual strings together as we have had to do for the last year.
Not in-person but in the promise of the personal, aided and abetted by our Zooms, our phones, our laptops, but really by our minds. What we believed in pulled us through and that hasn't changed has it. We've believed in connection and community and we've formed it any way we could - hence the extra hours on Twitter, the multiple Whatsapp Groups, the mass volunteering.
It was Clay Shirky who first talked of the 'plausible promise' of social tools and online connection, back in 2008 with his seminal book 'Here Comes Everybody'.
I came across the phrase again reading The Workplace Community by Ian Gee and Matthew Hanwell about how to build cohesion inside organisations (don't you love the blue 'Belonging' illustration - it comes from the wonderful illustrated workplace book No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy).
And this weekend I came across the idea of plausible promise again listening to the excellent BBC Sideways podcast of thinker Matthew Syed and an episode about about happiness and hierarchy.
In this episode which is super interesting, Matthew Syed explains how different management theories about people have created promise only, often, to dash it on the hard rocks of behaviour.
For me the lesson of the last year has been all about behaviour. We have had time to notice how we behave, how we want to behave, how we can't behave - and therefore how we might as we go forward.
The Power of Thinking.....and Not
And to better understand how we behave I've been reading both an old book and a new one.
The old book is Abraham Maslow's The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, which was published in 1971 after his death (and after he had decided that five hierarchies of need weren't enough and had added another two layers).
It is summarised very well here but I just love the way his mind worked and how he tried to bring us along with it, writing:
"it is a tough job to try to be orderly about disorderliness, and rational
about irrationality, but we've got to do it".
But a very good companion piece to all of Maslow's intense, chewy ideas about meaning is the business anthropologist Simon Robert's lovely intuitive book about, well intuition, insight, and his belief that "our bodies are immensely powerful tools for understanding and making sense of data".
Well, one thing I know from the last twelve months, the last 51 Mondays without breakfast lunch or supper meetings is that those of us lucky enough to be here, well (or well enough), have created new cultures of belonging, new plausible promises, and that's because we are more than data, and we can connect more than the invisible ribbons of the internet will ever know.