Jul 152012

At the Stoos Stampede in Amsterdam we discussed what the mission of Stoos really is and if it would require something like a manifesto.
The discussion we had is wonderfully reflected in blogs by Mark, Fabian and Peter. The outcome – some phrases put up for discussion here – is not a manifesto, but a vision:

The goal of Stoos is to bring together people, to facilitate learning opportunities and to help people discovering better ways.

So what do you think about that?
Admittedly, at a first glance this may not quite sound like the call for a revolution.
But let’s take a closer look – if you think this through, it suggests a new paradigm.

Think of how change works in the old world

You read a book or you attend a training to learn something, usually some method XYZ. Afterwards you try to convert what you learned (or better: understood) into practical use – you «implement» the method.
One could also say: You consume other people’s knowledge, and then you apply it to your own specific situation or problem (assuming that it helps).
Or to put it more provoking: You leave a good part of the thinking to somebody else.
– Wow, Taylor would have loved that!

Now what’s the caveat with this approach?
Problems, especially ones related to complex systems and human beings, tend to be as unique as the people and organizations involved in them. So solutions you learn somewhere else rarely fit exactly to your situation. What then follows is typically an attempt to make the two ends meet. This distracts you from your original problem, and may let you end up with a situation which is even more difficult than before.
Do you recall occasions where the use of a certain method or tool got more attention than the real problem to solve?

And this is the Stoos approach

Stoos takes a different approach. We say we want to help people to learn and to have moments of enlightenment. We don’t have a manifesto or a certification you can adopt or try to be compliant with. We want you to find your own better way, totally focussed on what is your unique situation.
It’s not about adopting something predefined, but about discovering what suits you best. You don’t learn things the abstract way and spend energy trying to convert them into practice – instead you get inspired and then learn by doing, focussed on your immediate outcome, and getting instant feedback.

The two approaches are radically different

The old world changes what people do (e.g. by a new process), only hoping that this would also change what in fact really matters – the people’s mindset and habits. This is tedious, as such changes can really only come from within.
The new way changes people’s minds almost as a byproduct – they create their own ways, and when they discover something that works for them, they obviously continue to use it. It is their own insights, their very knowledge driving mindset and habits, not somebody else’s instructions forced upon them.

If we take our lessons learned seriously, then discovering your own better ways is in fact the only possible approach for achieving change. Their is no standard “one best way” in dealing with unique complex systems anybody could adopt – also not a Stoosian one.

Acknowledging this is probably one of the biggest shifts in mindset compared to traditional thinking. While methods do contain a lot of valuable knowledge, they need to be understood as inspiration – not as bibles of ready-made solutions.

So Stoos is not only about a radically different and better way of management – it’s also about a much better way of achieving change. Learning not for a one time change, but as a mindset towards continuous adaptability and improvement.