The Tragedy of the Commons Meets Its Match in True Storytelling for Traders! By, Dr. Ken Long

Advice on how to build voluntary, high-performance, mutually supporting teams!

During the Van Tharp Institute weekly webinar on June 13, 2022, the topic under discussion was the use of True Storytelling Circles as an effective technique in developing collaborative learning environments based on the principles of Safety, Trust, Truth and Opportunity.

The general idea is that self-directed collaborative teams, who trust each other and are open to the creative insights of others (without judgment or criticism) are able to generate a number of extraordinary new opportunities. But before you reach those transformative opportunities, you must have confidence that the details of the opportunity are actually true. So, truth is a precondition of opportunity.

Similarly, trust is a precondition of truth. Because the world is a challenging place where lions, tigers and bears coexist with liars, cheats and deceivers, we’ve learned to be careful about where we place our trust. Before we tell our truth, we weigh the consequences that can come from unfiltered, unprotected, naïvely optimistic truth-telling. The world teaches pretty severe lessons to the unwary, so it is no wonder that people develop defense mechanisms. But that trust is essential in encouraging people to tell the truth about deeply held convictions or opportunities that they wish to share.

It also turns out that safety is a precondition of trust. Before we even enter the process of learning to trust each other and tell each other truths, we need to feel a sense of safety in our environment against external threats as well as internal challenges to our mutual efforts.

Therefore, when you are proposing to build a high-performance team of diverse individuals, to share the multiple points of view and insights that each one brings to the table, with the intention of finding and exploiting opportunities for mutual benefit, you would be well served to pay attention to the principles of safety, trust and truth and lay the foundations for successful long-term mutual benefit.

It turns out that the groundbreaking work in True Storytelling by my doctoral mentor David Boje and the good folks at the True Storytelling Institute have been engaged exactly in this kind of work for many decades. It’s been my privilege to work with him as my doctoral mentor and as a trained facilitator. Under his guidance, I’ve been able to successfully navigate my way through the Covid era by using True Storytelling techniques, through Zoom, leading directly to many of the breakthrough systems and concepts we’ve developed over the past several years. I described these briefly in the webinar on June 13th which is available for replay through the Van Tharp Institute. I’d encourage you to give it a listen.

The Commons

What I do want to say is that communities of practice, that are developed by traders, have the features of what is called a “Commons” in the modern world.

“The Commons” is reasonably well-defined in Wikipedia as…

“…the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable Earth. These resources are held in common even when owned privately or publicly…”

It turns out that a voluntary, collaborative digital space like a traders’ community of practice or team has exactly the same qualities as the Commons in the definition above. As such, it is subject to what is known as “the tragedy of the commons”.

Once again, Wikipedia is helpful here, defining the tragedy of the commons as…

“…a situation in which individual users, who have open access to a resource unhampered by shared social structures or formal rules that govern access and use, act independently according to their own self-interest and, contrary to the common good of all users, cause depletion of the resource through their uncoordinated action…”

In my practical and scholarly studies with Dr. Boje, I have examined the challenge of creating healthy, productive, safe, trusted and truthful sacred story spaces in our True Storytelling Circles. From this work we have identified eight principles of effective management which I think are well suited for traders who are looking to build mutually beneficial, voluntary support groups and collaborative teams So That the People May Thrive.

In the spirit of giving and mutual benefit that is characteristic of True Storytelling, I am happy to present these to you. I can report from extensive practical experience in this area that these really are profoundly helpful in developing your high-performance trading team. We are using these principles in our just-started Creativity and Resilience Training for Traders as well as in our Foundation Workshop. I’d be happy to work with you in further understanding and applying these principles. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

8 Principles for Managing a Commons

  1. Define clear group boundaries.
  2. Match the rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

Keep your risk measured and your powder dry!

Dr. Ken Long

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