We Space Theory
Charles (Kalev) Ehin, Ph.D.
As currently defined, management “consists of the interlocking functions of creating corporate policy and organizing, planning, controlling, and directing an organization’s resources in order to achieve the objectives of that policy.” The overarching emphasis in this scheme is on control including demand of high performance from all employees.
What’s the success rate of such systems? Quite low. Gallup surveys regarding workforce engagement consistently show the following:
- 33% fully engaged.
- 51% partially engaged.
- 16% actively disengaged.
So, what’s the underlying problem? There, of course, is no “silver bullet.” However, the management model described above was developed by Henri Fayol in 1916. Fundamentally, the scheme is based on a “machine” metaphor and foreign to human nature. With social neuroscience now coming into prominence we can do much better “if” we choose to do so.
The concept of “We Space” is based on the latest neuroscience-based research. It, therefore, avoids confusing control with order and machines with people. Its main emphasis is on the productive influences of supportive relationships.
As stipulated by neuroscientist Dan Siegel, “Of all the factors in human life that predict positive outcomes supportive relationships are number one.” Sadly, it’s a “human” factor seldom discussed in business settings.
So, how is high performance defined from a “We Space” perspective? It’s self-initiated commitment:
- Founded on supportive relationships.
- Mostly subconsciously driven.
- Collaborative context dependent.
- Conventionally virtually unmanageable.
The dynamics of high performance basically consist of three interactive features as shown by the diagram below:
Communications and transactions are “cognitive” explicit processes. Conversely, relationships are primarily “subconscious” emergent processes. The cognitive elements of the equation have and continue to receive most of management attention because they are visible.
Although supportive relationships are more essential for high performance they have been almost completely ignored. In essence, up to now the focus has been primarily on 10% of the social dynamics of an organization. Is it a wonder that costly bureaucratic systems still govern organizational life?
As neuroscience expert Tali Sharot delineates in The Influential Mind, our brains evolved to control our bodies so that our bodies can manipulate our environment. Hence, we’re driven to be “Causal Agents” internally “rewarded” when in control and internally “punished” with anxiety when not.
Accordingly, “We Space” is a neuroscience-based construct explicitly designed to help organizations develop collaborative social environments promoting the expansion of productive supportive relationships. That, of course, is the key for increasing member engagement and performance with minimal loss of individual causal agency.
Specifically, “We Space” is defined as “an emergent mutually rewarding and threat avoiding safe zone formed by the supportive relationships of two or more people. It allows members to interact with each other without bias and unwarranted expectations in order to make better choices.
The concept of “We Space” is not a cure all but it is solidly based on self-organizing principles which are:
- Anatural process of human relating.
- Deepand fundamental to human interactions.
- Unenforceable by any set of rules.
- Founded on integration and belonging—maximizing causal agency.