We-Q is the new i-Q.
In primary school ‘We’ values dominate. Children are strongly encouraged to share, sing, play and undertake joint projects together. The emphasis is clearly on learning the skills of listening, cooperating and collaborating. ‘Me’ behaviours such as snatching, hoarding and selfishness are very much frowned upon. At this early stage of child development society deems ‘We’ values as vital for building the ‘good citizens’ of the future.
The mood music changes dramatically in junior and secondary school. Wholesome ‘We’ values are quickly chucked overboard and replaced by ‘Me’ values.
At this stage it becomes all about Me against my classmates, competing for the limited resources of high grades, a high i-Q and consequently, we are told, a bright future.
Very little, if anything, evaluated in the exam factory that school has increasingly become, is undertaken as a ‘We’. Young people aren’t tested on their ability to get on with fellow students or to collaborate, empathise, facilitate and build on others’ ideas. There isn’t currently an exam or qualification in ‘Building trust and effectiveness within a group or team.’
In fact, quite the opposite. Collaborating and exchanging ideas and information can come dangerously close to being seen as ‘copying’ or plagiarism, which are both severely punished. Those teachers who do try and instil some ‘We’ practices, fight against the inherent ‘Me’ paradigm of the system.
This powerful ‘Me’ culture continues and is amplified right through to the end of the education conveyer belt. It accelerates on through the interview/recruitment/selection process, and finally into employment itself.
When young employees join the world of work, they encounter another jolt for which they are largely unprepared.
In organisations pretty much everything of any importance is done through a ‘We’. Formal and informal teams form the backbone of the organisation. One’s ability to influence the group, whilst building trust with as many people as possible, is the key to organisational success. In other words ‘We’ values and behaviours.
The TV series ‘The Apprentice’ demonstrates what happens when young adults with strong ‘Me’ values try and succeed with ‘We’ based business tasks. The grotesque and hilarious spectacle of huge inflated ‘Me’ ego’s attempting to assemble and manage effective teams then follows. Using crude posturing, scheming and bullying the hapless hopefuls more often fail than succeed. The winner invariably has demonstrated the highest ‘We-Q’ skills of the lot.
In the US, it was Donald J Trump who ‘The Apprentice’ participants were competing to impress. Now President Elect, The Donald displays ‘Me’ values on a monumental scale.
For him making America Great again is all about a return to traditional forms of strong hierarchical power, the good old pyramid. And looking back he has a point. Traditionally, power based on hierarchy has kind of worked for some. The biggest beasts with the loudest voices got heard.
Increasingly, however, it is agile teams who are faster, leaner and smarter. Built on innovation, high trust and very close working relationships, they are outfoxing traditionally structured businesses. The most successful innovative organisations embrace new collaborative ways of doing things. The future belongs to ‘We’ business cultures.
The ability to collaborate, cooperate and co-create, are the hallmarks of nearly every single successful capitalist venture of any meaningful scale that has emerged in the past 5 years. These organisations take operationalising employee engagement very seriously indeed.
In all human activities I can think of, when people are related to as intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive, feeling, valued colleagues whose voice needs to be heard, they grow to reach their true potential. People absolutely love to be part of such a culture, and give back so much in return. The collective impact is that the group innovates, collaborates, and thinks deeply about all possible consequences of their actions and decisions on all stakeholders, including the non human world.
The only way we are going to solve the challenges we face, socially, ecologically and economically is through a fundamental shift from a ‘Me’ to a ‘We’ culture. Rather than nurturing and valuing a high i-Q, we need to be consciously developing a high We-Q.
Simon Confino Jan 2017