Misalignment creates problems
Without alignment all sorts of things can go wrong–from car wheels that pull to one side, to spines that ache from fatigue. And then there’s the misalignment that occurs between us. When group misalignment occurs, we lose our ability to invent solutions to challenges and opportunities. Therefore, if creatively solving mission-critical issues is important, you’ll want to achieve alignment early on.
Alignment is part of the secret sauce that makes ingenuity (between us) possible. Think about a time you were misaligned with colleagues or friends. My strong hunch is that those were deflating moments. My hunch also is that it was pretty difficult to work together in ingenious ways. Why? Misalignment diminishes both our will for and our skill to perform collective ingenuity.
Now think about a time you were aligned with a group. Remember the moment when you all achieved a “collective yes” about some aspect of your work. My guess is your alignment energized your joint action. And, if you maintained that alignment, it likely spurred creative solutions that moved your mission forward.
As you think back on both scenarios, I know it’s obvious to you too just how important alignment is–especially when the stakes are high. So…the is this: how can we create more alignment around important work so that we increase the possibility of collective ingenuity?
Here are two actions you can take that will increase your collective alignment (and the possibility of collective ingenuity).
Create and sustain and shared view
People confuse alignment with complete and total agreement. You don’t need complete agreement (on an issue) to be aligned. What creates alignment is a shared view of your challenge or opportunity. Ironically, we often try to create a shared view by eliminating views until there is only one left (usually the one we like the most). This strategy of elimination is actually counter to the process of alignment. We create a shared view, not by eliminating perspectives, but by weaving perspectives together until a more robust idea takes center stage. This is why our conversations matter. Dialogue is the way we weave perspectives together. Dialogue is the way we see together. But to do this we have to be open to ideas that are different than our own. We have to weave those differences into a better insight that can lead to ingenious solutions.
If your tribe is stuck and unable to gain alignment, it’s likely that people are vying for a dominant perspective rather than weaving a variety of perspectives together. Again, weaving perspectives together is the counter intuitive part of alignment. It feels like alignment is about agreement around one idea (sort of the king of the hill mentality). When we take the king of the hill approach, we do a lot of “convincing and persuading” to get others to see our view. They may do the same in return. Alignment though is about discovering how pieces of perspectives can all layer together to give us that better insight. And it’s that better insight that leads to ingenious action.
Create and sustain emotional investment
There is also an emotional component to alignment. Once a shared view is discovered, energy is required to sustain that view and and then act together. That needed energy is emotional engagement. The good news is this: emotional engagement is often a natural result of finding a shared view. Once people discover their collective view, it often evokes emotional engagement. In fact, if someone is not emotionally invested in the work, it’s often because he/she doesn’t really share the collective view of that work. It’s always a good idea to explore if the emotionally disengaged person shares the view of the tribe.
Of course we all know that initial emotional engagement doesn’t last. Emotional disengagement can occur when someone loses the shared view and needs an opportunity to reconnect (realign).
Realignment then is also key to sustaining collective ingenuity.
However, sometimes re-connection is not possible. This is when it may be time for the disengaged person to leave a group or organization. People that stay, when they are fundamentally misaligned, are doing a disservice to the tribe and to themselves. Over the course of time with any organization, or volunteer group, or group of any kind, we all need to reconnect and realign to a shared view. When we do, it leads us back to emotional engagement. But if we can’t, we should ask why we are staying and what consequences could result if we stay in a disengaged manner.
If realignment cannot be achieved, why are we staying?
All of this reminds us that, emotional engagement is a powerful force. It increases energy for alignment and the hard work of required to turn desires into realities. Tend that engagement well and never take it for granted.
Alignment Enables Alchemy
You long for more collective ingenuity and the alchemy that comes from ingenuity. But to get to that holy grail of alchemy, you’ll need to pass through the land of alignment. And not once, but over and over again. If you take the time to align and realign, you’ll find your shared view and emotional engagement fueling the inventive solutions you need.