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The dance between formality and spontaneity

Source | LinkedIn : By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Every #organization has its own energy or culture. Certain organizations tend to be more conservative e.g.formal dress code, set protocols. For instance, in a defence establishment, there are more norms of what is acceptable behavior and what is not. In a manufacturing firm, the standard operating procedures are followed quite rigorously. On the other hand, in startups, people are on first-name basis and there are fewer rules. There are often discussions and debates on which is better and why?

A certain amount of formality is needed: it has to be given its place. It’s like the bones in a body; without it, the body cannot hold itself up. It gives form, helps maintain orderliness which is essential for an organization, any institution. It improves communication and brings clarity to what is expected from people. For example: knowledge of what role one is playing in an organization helps one become clear about expectations others have from them.

Too much structure can reduce the agility and responsiveness to external changes

Typically larger, older organizations tend to have higher degree of formality. While it has its advantages, too much structure also can reduce the agility and responsiveness to external changes and new developments.

Hence to balance this, a certain amount of spontaneity is also essential to improve a sense of communion, belongingness and to create space for learning. Some workplaces have play-zones built into their design and are bright, colorful in their appearance. In others, there are opportunities created to have fun and connect with others as humans and not just role-holders. This is absolutely essential if we want to create a culture of continuous learning and sharing. The phenomenon of inspiration, the kindling of a spark within a person is spontaneous as is the birth of an innovative idea or the appearance of an intuitive thought.

Spontaneity is the core of one’s existence, formality is the outer shell. When the outer shell is thin, it can reflect the inner light.

However just spontaneity is not enough to build a sustainable organization; it must be blended with formality too. Spontaneity is the core of one’s existence, formality is the outer shell. When the outer shell is thin, it can reflect the inner light.

Similarly, organizations can have norms to bring in formality; and people can follow norms externally without losing their internal sense of freedom and spontaneity. Norms need to be revisited periodically; they are created to meet a purpose and over time, that purpose tends to get diluted as the original context changes. Leaders must be able to sense when a norm has outlived its purpose and renew it!

Read On…

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