Jean-Michel Cornu : Cooperation in 28 keywords

2. First counterintuitive aspect : the post factum choice

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 2. Un premier aspect contre-intuitif

A first main facet of cooperation concerns strategies to use and especially when choice is concerned. Often, we consider that everything needs optimization. Moreover, our culture is a culture of optimization. But as we will see, this is not completely true. In this purpose, let's have a look at the strategies as we know them and especially the planning strategy, the most famous one. It is 300 years old. Well, it was used before but there has been a scientific understanding of planning for only 300 years. Briefly, one could say that it's about “managing rarity”. What is rare ? Money is rare, labor is rare, raw material is rare and to manage rarity we are simply going to forecast in order to avoid spoiling. So in fact, this is what we might call a planned method. I manage rarity and in fact I am only willing to forecast. The problem is that since then it was discovered that some things are not predictable. Well, not predictable … We can imagine that we can predict a certain number of things. That is what Ford meant when saying “I will sell cars the color you want as long as it's black”. But in fact, today, it's no longer completely true, because despite everything, people buy cars the color they want and people in your group do extremely varied things, and anyhow they do whatever they want. For that, let's try to see if we can find strategies concerning predictability. Then, obviously we can't choose, a priori, once things have been decided, as in planning. Therefore we are going to choose during a time of negotiation. That is exactly what is happening in economy when prices are chosen. That is to say that we are going to negotiate at a certain time and that we are going to price while selling, according to supply and demand, and then we have found a first solution. This solution is interesting, obviously different from the first, but it allows us to understand that in the end, the system is not bad but a little blind. Therefore, it is a system of balancing. It tends to regulate prices very well, but wealth not as much. More than that, it deregulates wealth and it regulates prices, so people who are rich get richer and the poor get poorer and at the same time it operates in a number of cases. One could say : but in the end, these two systems have been much opposed, the planned system and the economic system, but can't we think a little bit further ? And when you look at this scheme, then, one could say : “But there is a fourth aspect that we did not see : it's abundance.
So abundance. What is abundant? Many things can be abundant. Information is abundant. Today, we live in a world of over abundant information. So this means that there are also over abundant systems. Let's imagine now that instead of choosing before (planning), instead of choosing during (negotiation), we choose after. What would that mean ? That would mean trying to have a maximum choices and to select the best in the end. So let's imagine that I choose a group, that I ask a question. I have no idea if the person I have in mind, because he knows the topic well, is going to answer. He might not, and maybe someone that I did not expect to answer, will and then I will choose, afterwards the best answer. At this very moment, I follow another logic, which is the logic of choosing post factum, which is fundamentally the logic of cooperation. It is interesting, because when we look at this scheme, we see 3 strategies. We could obviously imagine a strategy of predictability and abundance. But, well, it's too obvious, so we don't need a great strategy. But if planning is managing rarety, we are going to see that with cooperation we can manage unpredictable events, people, innovation, research, new ideas, etc. And the whole cooperation will be based on this aspect. So, on one hand we have “managing constraints” and on the other hand we have “managing opportunities”. That means that today, there is not ONE system better than the other. Let me have a little fun trying to imagine the planning of Research. That means that I am going to ask you “What are you going to discover in 2017 at 9:15 a.m ? This is obviously stupid, and if it was to happen, it would mean that the system is ill-suited. For Research, it will be better to try to choose afterwards what we do best, rather than trying to predict and impose to people to look exactly for “that”, because “that” is what has to be found. Moreover, there is an interesting word : “serendipity”, which talks about what we discover by chance : the Sticky Note, Penicillin, anyway plenty of things. Now, let's imagine that I make the opposite mistake : I cooperate when I should not. I would like to send a man on the Moon, and with the method of choosing afterwards, if you are still following me, I send a hundred rockets to the Moon hoping one will get there. Unluckily, human life is rare and precious, so it is not necessarily the right strategy. So this means that there isn't a best strategy, there are several strategies : How is our world ? Is it rare or abundant? It is both. Is it predictable or unpredictable ? It is both. So, at certain times, planning is needed and beside, someone who is managing groups sometimes need to manage constraints in a correct, planned way. At other times, we will negociate constantly and after, and this is much more counterintuitive because more difficult, we will manage on the contrary an abundance of possibilities and choose, afterwards, and at this very moment to manage new opportunities. We have here the keyword which allows to understand where we are. There is no “best system” but we are going to see that today the approach of the strategy that I will call “cooperation” very close to the strategy of innovation, is a strategy in some way rather counterintuitive, because opposite to what we are used to doing. We will talk of abundance when we used to talk of scarcity. We will talk of unpredictability when we used to talk of predictability, and that is completely anti-cultural. We don't really like that but with the economy, we slowly begin to get used. Overmore, when we used to go from scarcity to predictability, we are going to use unpredictability and for that we are going to use abundance to manage it, so, as you can see, everything is opposed, everything is reverse and so we are in an interesting situation, i.e. that I am going to have fun saying that in the end, cooperation means being opportunistic, a usually negative word meaning being lazy but clever. Well then, we must be able to delegate. So you will see that many things which seem logical in a system will be the exact opposite in an other system. Therefore, first key, very important, cooperation, it is one of the 3 strategies. Even if from time to time with a group, planning is needed. But we will try to choose, afterwards, with abundance to manage unpredictability.