The Antimatter Principle

Ever wondered how to go about creating the ideal environment for collaborative knowledge work? An environment that fosters engagement, commitment, and the joy and passion so essential to highly productive ways of working?

The Antimatter Principle is a single principle which, if adopted and observed, brings about just such an environment. And you probably know that – just like antimatter – such environments are incredibly rare, valuable, difficult to produce, and yet are by far the most powerful source of energy for organisations.

And like its namesake, such environments are also the very epitome of alienness.

The Antimatter Principle is the only principle organisations need to become wildly effective at collaborative knowledge work.

Inspiration

The Antimatter Principle is inspired in part by Jim Benson’s award-winning Personal Kanban, which has just two simple “rules”:

  1. Visualise your work.
  2. Limit your work-in-progress.

A second source of inspiration is Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication. NVC provides the theoretical, psychological and spiritual foundations for the Antimatter Principle. Future posts on this blog will explain these elements in more detail, as do some number of existing posts at my long-standing Think Different blog.

A Single Principle Is All We Need

Why make things more complicated than they need to be? Even two rules is one more than the minimum. The Antimatter Principle has just one rule:

“Attend to folks’ needs.”

The power of this simplification may not be immediately apparent, so please allow me to explain…

Attend To

Meaning, “pay attention to”. In a complicated or complex group endeavour such as developing a major piece of software, or tech product, we have the opportunity to pay attention to many things. What we pay attention to determines what gets done. Traditionally, these kinds of endeavours might pay attention to value, flow, cost, quality, customers or profits – to name just a few. But if we accept that people are central to this kind of work, then all these typical foci pale into insignificance alongside folks and their needs.

Folks’

Meaning, everyone involved. Software and product development endeavours typically involve lots of people. Not just the “doers”, but the “sponsors”, the “buyers”, the “users”, and a whole host of other groups and individuals. Some folks will obviously be in the frame from the get-go. Many other folks will only come into view as the endeavour unfolds.

Needs

This reminds us that we’re working for and with people, and all people have needs, many of these tragically unmet. Needs are the universal lingua franca of the human race. Sadly, much too often overlooked or down-played. Here’s a list of needs as an example of the kind of thing I have in mind.

Expecting folks to gaily subjugate their personal needs for the Man’s coin is not only naive, but flies in the face of decades of research.

What’s Alive In Us All

The Antimatter Principle asks us to remember to listen our own deeper needs – and to those of others – and to identify and clearly articulate what “is alive in us”. Through its implicit emphasis on deep listening – to ourselves as well as others – the Antimatter Principle fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. This is oh so simple, yet powerfully transformative.

– Bob

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