You’ve just got to keep reminding yourself that control is failure. — Daniel Taylor
That probably sums up my theory of both parenting and technical management.
The quote appears in Deep Economy. Taylor’s president of Future Generations a 3-4 Million dollar a year nonprofit working in Afganistan, China, Peru, and India on programs. The idea is to create seeds by aiding communities to activate problem solving on a problem, and then to replicate that across regions to achieve scale.
Here’s another quote: “Change happens not because of how we invest our money. Change happens because of how we invest our human energy.” I don’t think that’s quite right. It’s right to focus on the human energy; coordinating that is the hardest part. A franchise business model solves this by creating a rigid structure and channeling the labor through that. But what does he mean by “our human energy;” if we means by that the community members then yes. If he means by that the organizers then not so much.
The first quote is a delight because it’s clear he knows that when you create these systems you can’t prescribe how the human energy will be coordinated; you can only attempt to create a context in which that coordination emerges. This is particularly necessary when you maybe uncertain what problem your solving, how your going to solve it, and what issues will arise as soon as you get into it. At that point you want frameworks that enables the human energy to remain engaged. At that point it’s unlikely control is going to be much help.
Oh sure, there are of course are plenty of systems where control is a means to success. Your lucky if you’ve got one of those, since such systems scale more easily. Once you get them blocked out you can replicate them: some standards, some mass produced capital equipment, some training, some quality metrics, some architectures of control. You see lots of that in large scale franchising. And it appears that to a degree the folks at Future Generations do just that. If their seeding attempt succeeds they attempt to replicate the pattern for solving a problem developed in the first community into others. Stamping out of duplicates. But the problems they are grappling with requires much more adaptable problem solving schemes; so I suspect that the duplicates feature substantial variation.
Interesting. This is a kind of grass roots franchising model. If one community puzzles out how to run a farmer’s market, a community tool shed, a library, a wifi network, knitting circle, etc. etc. then others can mimic that.
Notice how there is a two step process here. In the first phase you need to attempt to get a solution to emerge that works for community members, at all. In the second stage you want to strive to get it to replicate. These probably call on different kinds of entrepreneurial skills. But the build out is where you can create really significant change.