Human behaviour at scale can be daunting. Drive in any traffic and you will see people trying dangerously to get a personal advantage at the expense of others. Spend time in a crowded place and you will be pushed, passed and jostled as others seek to achieve their own goals at your expense. Crowds driven by transactional self-interest can be unruly and dangerous. Some organisations forget this as they seek to leverage self-interest for higher performance.

Surprisingly these moments are rarities in much of our life. These moments depend on anonymity and lack of community for self-interest to overcome the common consideration that underpins society. Only when community breaks down such as in failed states, war zones or pure market transactions, does this become the norm. Even in the worst of these crowds you will still see people letting others past, helping others and standing up for the rules of common decency. Anonymous transactional self-interest bends to consideration of human relationships.

I was reminded by Henry Mintzberg’s post on community & commons that our relationships are part of the shared commons of a community. Trust, consideration and thoughtfulness are all shared in community and used daily in our work and our relationships. Like any commons over-exploitation leads to depletion. To preserve the difference between anonymous transactions and relationships, we need the continued contributions of the considerate to restore the commons and show us the way.

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