Why Convivial?

Keeping team members motivated, engaged and energised is a challenge for any organisation. The term ‘convivial’ as it is used here infers working together in a way that respects and values everyone’s contribution. This interpretation of convivial is derived from Ivan Illich’s 1973 book ‘Tools for Conviviality’.

I intend [conviviality] to mean self-directed and creative interactions among people, and the interaction of people with their environment; and this in contrast with a conditioned response to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man made environment.

(Quote adapted from Chapter 2, ‘Tools for Conviviality’, Ivan Illich, 1973.)

While the book is now somewhat dated, Illich usefully outlines a number of challenges that can only be overcome by building convivial interactions. These are:

  • Biological degradation – ‘The only solution to the environmental crisis is the shared insight of people that they would be happier if they could work together and care for each other.’
  • Radical monopoly – ‘By “radical monopoly” I mean the dominance of one type of product rather than the dominance of one brand.’
  • Overprogramming – ‘The relationship between what can be learned from ordinary living and what must be learned as a result of intentional teaching…’
  • Polarization – ‘The underprivileged grow in number, while the already privileged grow in affluence.’
  • Obsolescence – ‘ In a society caught up in the race for better, limits on change are experienced as a threat.’
  • Frustration – ‘There is a form of malfunction in which growth does not tend towards the destruction of life, yet renders a tool antagonistic to its specific aims.’

In using LEGO® elements in training, it does occur to me that these are a very convivial tool. While made of plastic, the bricks are well made and last an extraordinarily long time. Bricks purchased today are built on the same system and can still interlink with those made in the 1950’s. In model making the elements work nicely along side of other craft materials and stationery. Creating models can be simply learned in a short period of time and while it is certainly true that an experienced builder can do amazing things, even a beginner can build most ideas by simply stacking bricks.

The benefit of working in a convivial way extends to everyone. All our team members are more actively engaged, motivated and happy. We progress more effectively and create a better result for the organisation. In this way of working everyone wins.

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