Firm Follows Form

Organisation Design Blog by Nathan Waterhouse


July 3, 2013

How to nurture & design your community

With so much of the interaction online being centered around its social nature, I’ve been wondering ‘can you design a community?’ When we first designed we began with some design principles to help steer our decisions. They included things like: optimism, being inclusive, etc. A big surprise to us was that, as time went by, those principles translated into community behaviour, which was immensely gratifying for us to see. Those principles informed how we designed the user experience, but also ended up being the beginnings of how we would recruit new team members, and informed our ongoing strategy as a team.

Building off those guiding principles and learning from some of the impact that the community has created – often spawning new physical communities like MiLES has done (transforming disused storefronts in New York and their neighbourhoods) here’s some initial thoughts on some principles for nurturing existing and designing new communities. My question for you: what’s missing? Do these translate to physical community creation as well as the online world?

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January 20, 2013

How to work with difficult people

How many times do you find yourself in a situation that feels uncomfortable, perhaps with someone who you just can’t see eye to eye with? What is your first reaction? Do you feel that fight or flight sensation? Do you respond by looking for a way to agree with them, backing down your position in the argument or do you look for a way to convince the other party that they are being unreasonable? Or do you try to change tack and look for what you both share in common? In Richard Sennett’s new book ‘Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation‘, he explores the history of cooperation and posits that most of these tactics are actually making it harder to reach a position of real cooperation. I went with some friends to hear him talk about his new book- here’s my reflections.

When we think of cooperation these days we tend to think of the soft fluffy kind – collaborating with people with whom we share common interests. Professor Sennett’s book is all about that less pleasant reality of conflict – particularly in communities and the workplace. It probably seems natural to us that we tend to draw towards those that are similar to us, those that share common interests and as a result avoid these unsettling circumstances. However, this tendency only makes it harder for us when we encounter those who are quite different and oppose our views, or come from different backgrounds and hold different values. Sennett makes the point that to be successful in life, we can’t avoid these situations, and getting better at cooperation takes dedication. There are four key skills Professor Sennett believes we all need to get better at if we want to improve our ability to truly cooperate in difficult situations and with people we don’t get along with:
October 10, 2010

A brief history of work. Part 1

What is the future of Organisations? In order to answer that question, we first must ask ourselves why we have organisations, and what purpose they serve. So let’s start with a definition (I like the wikipedia definition): An organization (or organisation) is a social arrangement which pursues collective goals, controls its own performance, and has a boundary separating – Read More –

February 23, 2010

How to make change easier

I thought I’d share some emerging strategies that we’ve been seeing across the work we’ve been doing lately, that all seem to cross the boundary of behaviour change and organisational change. I’d love to hear any thoughts or if you have your own pet ‘heuristics’: Don’t rush. Change takes time, so make sure you know – Read More –

May 28, 2009

Ranting about Gyms

Gyms, it seems to me, have become the church of narcissism. Nothing controversial about that statement, but it’s probably the wrong word to use ‘church’, as my real issue with gyms is that it seems like one of the places within cities where people congregate to enjoy a shared activity yet are entirely isolated from each – Read More –