It's been a week since I finished reading Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. With the added perspective that has come since, I see Nicholas A. Christakis's book offering two big takeaway ideas. The first is the need for diversity amidst cooperation. When everyone is on the same page, a pattern of failure emerges. The agreement becomes excessive. Compatibility becomes too important. Consensus becomes collusion which then silences dissent. This reminds me of similar patterns with groupthink among top executives and governmental cabinet ministers. It also ties into a pattern I previously explored here of unavoidably bad decisions.
The bigger takeaway from this book gives us a pattern that's new to me. When one of more of us have adopted a cooperative role, there is a predictable pattern of other roles that emerge. Not everyone follows the examples of the cooperators. Acts of cooperation, sacrificing for the greater good and supporting others' successes attract role conflicts with free riders, punishers and loners.
- Free riders: It's inevitable that some will feel compelled to take advantage of the generosity as free riders who fail to do their share, take some responsibility or get some of their own needs met independently.
- Punishers: The combination of cooperators and free riders infuriates another portion of a tribe, gathering, team or community. These punishers feel compelled to attack, discredit and exclude the free riders. They react to signs of dependency with counter-dependent tactics, hostile-vindictive behaviors and
- Loners: It eruption of dramatic conflicts, hysterical reactions and irreconcilable differences produces a cadre of loners. These individuals are better suited to survive on their own than by being brought down by the entangled role conflicts. The constraint environment produced by their isolation induces more personal resourcefulness, problem solving and freedom from excessive obligations.
As I tied this pattern to the model for open/closed rational/irrational minds, heres the ways they've combined thus far:
- Cooperators are OPEN MINDED and RATIONAL. They are effectively listening to others, learning from differences and finding ways to serve others interests. Their situations are COMPLICATED by their awareness of so many varied points of view, agendas, common interests and opportunities for collaboration.
- Free riders are CLOSED MINDED and IRRATIONAL. They are incapable of functioning in less dependent and exploitative ways because their state of mind is CHAOTIC. They are haunted by past memories, chronic anxiety and apprehensions about reoccurrence of misfortune. They cannot structure their own activities, discipline their urges or focus their efforts for extended periods of time.
- Punishers are CLOSED MINDED and RATIONAL. They get easily provoked to attack free riders because they cannot relate, empathize or feel for the others. Their mindset is linear, reductionistic and logical. They rely on SIMPLE methods, diagnoses and solutions as if the situations they face are actually SIMPLE. They assume their literal reading of evidence is realistic and underlying dynamics, complexity, inter-relatedness and evolving processes can be appropriately dismissed.
- Loners are OPEN MINDED and IRRATIONAL. Their minds embrace paradoxes which causes them to stand out from the crowd and handle greater COMPLEXITY. They are open to inner guidance which gives them ways to function very effectively on their own. Their non-reactive, non-judgmental and non-dual awareness feels emotionally detached from the other roles while feeling deeply satisfying, significant and purposeful. (I speak from personal experience here).
Thus it seems to me that these roles are like the four seasons of every year or the four sides to any square. It takes all kinds to make the whole arrangement.