This post is for my friend Ali who asks questions that keep me young at heart. Today Ali asked “Does familiarity decrease the generated happiness?” [within a group]
I’d like to start by saying that I have zero interest in putting up barriers to human happiness. So if you disagree with what I say here, please be happy about it. I will be. 🙂
An easy way to answer this is to ask yourself, Ali, to honestly answer this question:
- Does receiving and reading the comments that strangers made on your last slide deck (http://www.slideshare.net/hudali15/ads-dispersal) make you happier than receiving and reading the comments that Bas and I (intimate group members) made?
The answer to that question is your answer.
Here’s mine. In my experience, happiness is a collective phenomenon, even while we feel some elements—such as wonder, awe, and delight—also as individuals. I’ve experienced and observed that happiness happens in clusters and that it spreads following “paths of most acceptance” when we open ourselves up and let others in. Self-organizing groups make this spreading easier, in part because members within them become progressively more open and happy, and less fearful, and it’s simply easier for people around them to see this and experience this with them. At the community level, happiness appears to spread even more simply, but I’m way too early in my understanding to say much from that perspective yet. I’m not sure that words are even the best way to demonstrate that.
From our self-organizing group example (you, me, and Bas), I’d say, for us, familiarity increases happiness. Yet our familiarity is a living, growing, evolving familiarity. There are levels of vulnerability and intimacy and learning within us as a group that we have moved through together and many, many more yet to move through. At this point, I honestly don’t believe there is a limit unless we want there to be one—certainly not one that can be achieved in a single human lifetime. My experience within my own family has taught me this as well. My husband, sister, parents, and extended family are more enjoyable to be with and interesting to me now than ever before! (most days) 😉
That said, if you, for example, decided in the future that there were other bloggers you’d rather be talking with than me, and you began to show up here once/month out of a sense of obligation—not out of a genuine interest in connecting and learning together—at that point you might start asking half-hearted questions or stop asking questions entirely. If that happened, then my happiness would go down (as I suspect yours would too). At that point, happiness would decrease.
But that’s not what’s happening with us. We are continuing to evolve and change and grow together. Your questions cause me to think. You bring ideas out of my head and put them squarely before my eyes where I can get a decent look at them. We come up with collective ideas as well—ideas that don’t fully exist within us as individuals but that we find together as a group.
I’ve also experienced and witnessed self-organizing groups help members recognize when what matters most has changed to them as an individual and that its time for them to move on. So I am pretty certain in my own life today that a decrease in happiness due to non-evolving (aka dead) familiarity will not happen. Because I wish only the best for you, Ali, and this includes when the best for you means less, or even no more, time with me. When familiarity stops evolving can it be called familiarity anymore? I’m thinking here of two miserable individuals trapped in an unhappy marriage and allowing all sense of connection and intimacy to die. They still know each other, technically, I suppose, but I’d argue that they really don’t. They’re moving ever farther apart, and as they get farther apart, so grows their anger, resentment, and apathy. We have an old saying here: “familiarity breeds contempt.” That saying is out of date. We know better now. Apathy breeds contempt. And apathy comes from lack of intimacy and connection.
That won’t happen with us, Ali. You and I can’t settle for less. Because here, our group always gets a vote. Self-organizing groups push and pull us toward happiness even at the expense of the group itself. If you begin showing up here out of obligation, or asking rote questions out of an “I should” sense of duty instead of a genuine desire to be here learning together, I will notice. I will begin to suggest to you that what matters most to you has changed and that you need to explore what has changed and, possibly, consider moving on. You will do the same for me. As a researcher, I cannot be certain of much. But I am 110% certain of that. 🙂
You stretched a simple question into a lovely post. The idea that jumps to my heart is “Lori truly is the Butterfly Lady”! She is capable of expanding simplicity into horizons of spiraling emotions and knowledge coupled with new oceans of knowing what we do not know..
You see Lori in the USA you have a weekly index called The Happiness Index. I would develop a Fear Index, if these are measurable. People should do what they fear and familiarity takes away fear. But as we delve into new oceans of knowledge and uncovered ignorance we shall never reach a stalemate of fearing nothing.
A lot to think about
An idea jumped into my head and I am going to follow it vigorously. It is not only simple rules that lead to complexity and self-organizing. It is also simple comments and simple questions . A simple question leads to expanding our thinking. For me, it honored me by devoting this post to Ali. This is a great outcome and honor.
The rule then
simple questions and/or simple comments lead to new directions around which self-organizing groups organize
Will this comment spur a butterfly effect? Wow! Another idea came to me. If every comment is going to do that then a self-organizing group will keep experimenting. No time is left for familiarity.
Hey Ali, it’s been my experience that self-org groups are groups of learners. Co-experimenters. Time for getting closer as people is built in while time for experimentation is created and sustained. We become creators of time–it’s quite a remarkable thing to experience when so many today (at least where I live) are often too busy to even look at others, let alone speak to them.
I’m thinking now of the men’s friendship group I studied, which meets Thursday mornings for an oatmeal breakfast every week (literally 52 weeks a year). Doesn’t sound all that exciting if you stop there but… It started with 6 members who needed support and learned from each other. The group continued to prioritize learning and has now been together for more than 20 years. Today they have 52 speakers a year, including many from their own membership but also innovative men and women from around the state and beyond. Inspired by them, other groups have formed seeking a similar magic. They have only two verbal rules for themselves: 1) meetings start on time, and 2) no projects (no working together on their outside-the-group work). All other “rules” are taught by example, not language. For example, its clear that they expect people who disagree to enjoy disagreement, stay in friendship, and not allow themselves to move into anger. But by living this “rule” themselves as a group, they don’t have to speak it. Whenever somebody tells me that I am studying “the radically new” or “on the edge” I think of this group, whose members range in age from their mid 50s to mid 90s. 🙂 If I called them radical or new I’m pretty certain that they would giggle, even though they themselves are aware that how they’re organizing is far more effective than what most have ever experienced at work.
Self-organizing work groups—that form to get specific work done—do appear to have a shorter life span (dissolving as their work is finished) but often re-form into different self-org groups, centered on friendship, for example. Today I prefer to start in friendship, and move into work if we’re compelled to do so, because groups centered on the eternal (friendship, laughter, fellowship, joy, love) need not end for their members to continue evolving. The groups I study taught me that. And once I’d seen it in them, I could recognize and experience it in my own groups.
Whoops, meant to say that the men’s friendship group now has well over 100 members. 😉
I have just finished analyzing the Lori-Ali-Bas Group. I extracted information from your blog as of last June.
I first extracted the main concepts that we discussed. I tried then to draw the linkages among these concepts based on our exchange of comments. I drew the concept map of my findings. I even drew the social network map of these discussions. Funnily enough the SNA (Social Network Analysis map) had lots of tetrahedral shapes. It is somehow similar to the quartz crystal. Do SOGs develop a quartz-like structure? I would say at least partially.
I am going to prepare my slide deck based on these findings. I shall only publish the work around 7th January 2012 as people are busy preparing for Xmas.
Have a good day
Wow, Ali, very cool. I look forward to reading it.
In the meantime, this morning I heard that its somebody’s birthday today. Happy birthday!!
Yes, Lori as Bas remembers my birthday more than I. I remember it because my daughter Sarah shares me the same birthday (Dec. 10). Sarah celebrates and I have to out my hand deep in my pocket. This statement made Bas laugh out loudly.
Ha! Hope you both had a great day and that your hearts are full even if your pocket is empty.