If you’re familiar with this subject, let me know what it means for you. Today, for me, a self-organizing group is a collective whose members are surprised and delighted by what they become and do together. These collectives create themselves and contain members who become increasingly aware that the group is giving them more than they could imagine and plan as individuals. I study self-aware self-organizing groups: groups in which members recognize that the group itself is something special.
These collectives come fully into existence the moment group members recognize any of the following things:
- They get more from the group’s spontaneity than they do from their individual planning
- They generate energy together and are more creative, adaptive, resilient, and fearless thanks to the group
- They find their lives and work more rewarding, impactful, and fun (most days) because of the group
- They are accomplishing more than they as individuals imagined or planned thanks to the group
- They see the group itself as leader and teacher (group members demonstrate learning and leadership moving around within the group and some call the group leaderless or leaderful saying “We don’t need a leader.” or “We’re all leaders.”)
- They are grateful and feel lucky to be part of the group
- That together they are whole and happy this very moment
The collective becomes self-aware–through its group members and nearby others–that it is something unique, special, and important.
These collectives communicate a lot without words. They demonstrate more through group members’ energy, laughter, enthusiasm, humor, feelings of gratitude and growing fearlessness, and the ability to let go than they do with words. Diverse nearby others are drawn to them because of it. Nearby others drawn to the group notice that the group is different, pay closer attention, recognize the group in themselves, and try self-organizing at the group level for themselves.
People in them may start out believing that their individual expertise and background matters most, but they rapidly recognize that the group itself allows them to imagine and be more than they used to be. People in these groups recognize this quickly and quickly begin giving credit to the group itself, other group members, nearby others, the people who came before them, and to the people the group serves. As they do so, people and groups around them recognize them as leaders. Many recognize individual group members as leaders; those working most closely with them, like group members themselves, recognize the group itself as the leader.
Self-organizing groups appear to form around the eternal (that is, around things that persist across human experience, such as love, friendship, laughter, joy, fellowship, and passion) and can, therefore, themselves be very long lasting. Within them, self-organizing work groups naturally form to get specific work-of-the-moment done. Responding to the needs of the moment, those who most urgently feel the need come together, anticipate the need on behalf of the group, and then do the work that needs to get done. When that work is accomplished, the work group dissolves as quickly as it formed.