The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Indivisible Benefit

In her 1989 Massey lecture, Ursula Franklin makes a distinction between indivisible and divisible benefits.

To explain her point, she describes the example of someone who received the help of friends to grow a good crop of tomatoes. Once they are ripe he can decide to share that crop with the friends who have helped.

If a group of people decides to clean a river bank then these people create an indivisible benefit by removing the garbage. Everyone who passes by that river bank can enjoy the cleaned landscape. In a similar way, if someone throws garbage into nature, then it ends up there for everyone who passes by.

In her lecture, Ursula Franklin reminded us that western cultures have given governments the obligation to care about these indivisible benefits. They include peace, clean air, safe roads, drinkable water and alike. Most of which we take for granted.

In organizations, we can also find indivisible benefits. One of which is the culture of that organization. With culture I mean the way members deal with each other, the space allowing them to build trust in one another. While all the members of the organization contribute to the culture they also expect the leadership team, to guarantee the culture as is or to enhance it.

While there are many ways to deal with culture, there are two things which are transforming it:

Role modeling the expected behavior oneself and caring about all the members in the organization.

Caring for all the members in the organizations is based on flexibility. It implies to see them as a group and watch what is happening in the group as well as seeing each and everyone as an individual.

Seeing the members of the group as individuals also gives leadership an opportunity to impact the culture. They can do so by showing the individuals how they contribute to the group as a whole.


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