Jean-Michel Cornu : Cooperation in 28 keywords

10. Influence of environment : a posteriori choices, external constraints, legitimacy, exchanges

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 10. Influence de l'environnement

As we have seen it, cooperation presents various facets, some really depending on people with the aspects of convergence, involvement, awareness, group coordination. Some depending on the structure of the group itself, its size, its goals, its maturity, common elements. But some also depend on the outside, because a group is not completely independent from it. One of the facets, we have seen it already, is on post factum choices, i.e. we saw that a group in an abundance of opportunities would have the opportunity to choose, aferwards, rather than planifying before, and then, that would allow a better adaptation to the impredictability of humans, of innovation, of the world in which we are living. In fact, other aspects are important. For instance, what are the external constraints ? It's interesting because some constraints are stimulating or paralyzing. Often, when constraints are too many, we are paralyzed. But to be honest, when you were a student, when were you doing your homework ? Obviously and probably at the very last moment just as I was. And so this constraint to do your homework in time can be particularly stimulating. Besides some group which are going to produce guides or actions for others, etc., if they don't have deadlines, well it's easier if it's an event, but when it's a guide or a software or whatever you like, they have that little difficulty, occasionaly, of not having this external stimulation.
So the question is not : “Are external constraints a good thing ?” but : “How are they experienced ?” Are they experienced as a stimulation or on the contrary as something paralyzing ? Besides finally, concerning that constraint, sometimes, despite everything, a group can enroll in a hierarchy. You can have a group in a firm, a working group. You can find a group in a community, the more numerous, or else in the whole world, with plenty of people who are expecting you to do something. At this very moment, what is your area of freedom ? Can you enlarge it in order to do things whatever happens without being paralyzed by expectations ? One of the great difficulties is the difference of rhythm between the public's expectations, the chief's expections – if the group depends, at some time, on a city council, a firm or else. What will happen ? Is the rhythm going to be the same than the one we are going to be able to produce ? The other aspect, the last one which seems interesting, is to know : Does your community spends its time “running after”, after people, saying “Well, we planned to do that and we are going to try to make it” or does it spend its time “running before” and then, it's the people which are following you ? We have here a context better than the other.
Third aspect : legitimacy. Is your group legitimate to the outside world? Here, we will find again the stages of maturity : child, teenager, adult, as with humans or the very inside of a group. When starting, a group is not very visible, it's a bit like a child, so it's a “child” group. You belong to the group “Whatnot”, fair enough but it is completely unknown. It's OK, it's OK for you but I could not care less. Occasionaly, at a given moment, when the group starts to be visible from the outside, it can have a tendancy to do his teenage crisis, i.e. trying to take position against the others. Some, besides are fundamently positioned like that. The only thing is that we have observed that groups which were fighting others often end up fighting themselves and divide themselves in groups. So, it's a stage, which is usual in the beginning. It it lasts, it can be problematic. And then the third stage, is to have on the contrary a more mature, legitimate group... You belong, for example, to Oxfam, to Wikipedia, it's great, you get a real recognition, you are a good person, and then this will also help people to join your group because you are really legitimate.

Fourth and last thing, I was going to say on the “culinary” side of the group, the exchanges. A group is like a living being, and therefore it swallows things, people, ideas, loads of stuff, information, and then some people are going to go out of the group – it's absolutely normal that people come and go and have other ideas, do other things, have other information. The question to ask is : “ In the end, how many persons, information, ideas enter or exit the group ? Of what quality ? Of what diversity ? Have people joined the group at some times and since then no one did and so the group is calcifying ? Or else eventually : No one joined but then finally a new generation appeared but as there wasn't anyone between, we found it hard to link both generations together. You see, these are problems very close to cooking, i.e. : Am I eating regularly ? Is my food diversified enough ? Of good quality ? And a group swallows people, in the best sense, but it spits them as well. It swallows information, ideas, rejects them too and so a healthy group is a group which exchanges people, information and ideas. All that to say that we have seen together all that was to be seen to understand a group's environment in terms of post factum choices, environment and abundance and in terms also of external constraints, legitimacy or exchanges with the group.