The Bi-Directional Nature of Organizations

:::For you who don't work with me, this image is a vintage bi-directional microphone:::

I've been doing a lot of thinking on why people join organizations. We are born into our families and work based on opportunity, but our organizations...charitable causes, activist groups, churches, hobby clubs, etc. are of our own choosing.

And given that they require time and energy, my question is why? What engages us enough to become part? (You might at this point be wondering about the people who have never joined anything, but I'm pretty sure they aren't reading this blog.)

My theory is that it isn't what we give that makes us join organizations, but what we get. After all, organizations that take from us tend to drain us. We burn out. We quit.

But organizations that give something in return...those that provide a sense of belonging, the glue of shared purpose, those that make us feel appreciated, those that help us grow in our personal gifts, that make our lives more satisfying...those are the ones that we continue to pour into. The ones where work feels like play.

The thing is it is a delicate balance. Take too much without giving back and you'll starve your members. Give too much without any requirement and you'll become a circle of whining navel-gazers.

It seems the most sustainable organizations have a structure that supports bi-directional flow. They take and they give...creating a virtuous circle where there is balance between gifts given and gifts received.

Like a fountain, water goes in and water goes out. Start pumping air, and the motor burns up.

Unfortunately, while fountain pumps are interchangeable, the structure that creates bi-directional flow in organizations is not. Each organization and it's members are unique. They vary in size, makeup and purpose. What is life-giving water to some is vinegar to others. (Take artists for example....ask one to do a spreadsheet and it will feel like a chore. Whereas for an accountant it is pure heaven. But, ask an accountant to create a sculpture and...well you can complete the analogy.)

I'm curious if when organizations start showing signs of a lack of balance in flow if people notice. And if they notice, do they know what to do? (I'm not sure I do.) After all, you can tweak meeting times, frequency, program and methods...but none of that ever really seems to work. (And varying opinions on the subject can be deadly.)

I wonder if like fountain pumps, sometimes there is simply blockage. Maybe the internal gears need to occasionally be cleaned, so that bidirectional flow can happen again.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall