Why is True Fellowship So Rare, Especially in Tech?

Why is fellowship in organisations, particularly in tech companies, such a rare phenomenon, and yet when it does emerge, it’s immensely powerful? What are the factors that make it so elusive, and conversely, the elements that make it thrive when it does manifest?

In the world of technology, competition and individualism often take centre stage, overshadowing the potential benefits of collaboration and fellowship. Could it be that the pressure to innovate, coupled with the race to stay ahead of the curve, pushes people to focus more on their individual achievements and personal wellbeing rather than the collective good?

There’s also the issue of diverse backgrounds and skill sets. With experts in various fields such as engineering, design, marketing, and more, it’s possible that this diversity might inadvertently create silos. Do these specialised domains lead to a lack of understanding and empathy among team members, preventing the formation of a cohesive, supportive environment?

And yet, when fellowship does take root within tech organisations, its power is undeniable. Why is that? Could it be that the amalgamation of diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences in a collaborative environment leads to breakthroughs and innovations that might otherwise be impossible? When individuals work together, for example with Ensemble Working, sharing their knowledge and challenging one another’s ideas, they pave the way for novel solutions and approaches.

Perhaps another reason for the potency of fellowship in tech companies is the sheer complexity of the problems they tackle. The adage “two heads are better than one” rings true, as the collective intelligence of a group working in harmony often surpasses that of even the brightest individual. In an environment where fellowship thrives, team members can rely on each other’s strengths, ultimately yielding better results.

So, why is fellowship so rare in tech organisations? It appears that the competitive nature of the industry, coupled with the diversity of skills and backgrounds, might pose challenges to fostering a collaborative environment. However, when such an environment does emerge, it unlocks the potential for innovation, breakthroughs, and success that are unparalleled in their impact. Thus organisations maigh choose to recognise and nurture the power of #fellowship to stay ahead in an ever-evolving commercial landscape.

The Meaning Of Fellowship

Fellowship – what does it truly mean in practice? Is it merely a group of individuals working in harmony like a well-tuned orchestra, or does it go deeper than that? Can we compare it to a swarm of bees, working tirelessly for the greater good of the hive? What is the secret sauce that transforms a group of individuals into a cohesive unit, bound by a shared purpose?

In practice, fellowship is the art of collaboration, where each person contributes their unique skills and expertise towards a common goal. Picture a jigsaw puzzle – each piece, although different, fits together perfectly to create a beautiful image. Similarly, members of a group bring their individual strengths and abilities to create a collective masterpiece.

Fellowship is also akin to a tapestry, weaving together diverse threads to create a strong, unified fabric. Each thread represents a team member’s background, perspective, and experience. When interwoven, these threads create a more robust and resilient fabric than if each strand stood alone.

But how does one foster such an environment? Communication, trust, and empathy are essential ingredients. Imagine a sports team – it’s not enough for each player to excel in their position. They must communicate effectively, trust in their teammates’ abilities, and empathise with one another to truly succeed.

In the workplace, fellowship might manifest in group conversations where everyone’s ideas are heard and valued, or in a supportive environment where colleagues offer assistance to one another without hesitation, even at the expense of their own personal goals and wellbeing. Fellowship is the alchemy of individual talent and collaborative spirit that propels a group towards success.

So, what does #fellowship mean in practice? It’s the orchestra playing in harmony, the bees working for the hive, the jigsaw puzzle pieces fitting together, and the threads of a tapestry woven into a unified whole. It’s the magic that transforms a group of individuals into a powerful force for change and innovation.

Ten Examples of Fellowship in Action

Fellowship enhances success across a broad range of industries, as it fosters innovation, growth, and effectiveness through collaboration and open communication. Notable examples of fellowship include:

1. Google: Encourages innovation through fellowship by fostering cross-functional collaboration and an open environment for idea sharing.
2. Pixar: Builds a culture of fellowship by promoting open communication and active participation in the creative process.
3. Southwest Airlines: Puts fellowship at the heart of customer service, ensuring its people work together for the best customer experience.
4. The New York Times: Reinvents journalism through embracing fellowship, which enables adaptation to digital transformation.
5. NASA: Harnesses the power of fellowship to achieve success in space exploration, relying on extensive collaboration among numerous professionals.
6. Apple: Utilises fellowship in creating iconic products by valuing input from various teams and promoting collaboration.
7. Starbucks: Embraces fellowship for delivering a consistent customer experience, fostering a strong sense of teamwork among its people.
8. Tesla: Drives innovation through fellowship by promoting collaborative problem-solving and breaking down departmental silos.
9. Netflix: Utilises fellowship in collaborative decision-making for strategic success, valuing diverse perspectives and ideas.
10. Zappos: Builds a culture of empowerment and fellowship, focusing on exceptional customer service through collaboration.

By implementing the principles of effective #fellowship, organisations can thrive in a competitive landscape.

How Peter Drucker’s Vision Has Yet To Transform the Workplace

💡 Imagine a world where creativity and collaboration reign supreme, where the collective minds of diverse individuals come together to generate ground-breaking ideas. Dive into the revolutionary perspective of Peter Drucker, the visionary who described a new way of collaborating that proposes we turn traditional work on its head.

➡ When it comes to Peter Drucker and his views on work and collaborative knowledge work, it’s really interesting to see how he differentiated between the two. Drucker is widely regarded as the “father of modern management,” and he had some pretty insightful ideas about work and the ways people collaborate.

In Drucker’s view, traditional work is more about performing tasks and following procedures. Think of an assembly line worker, a farmer, or a craftsman. They’re doing their jobs, completing specific tasks, and usually working independently or with minimal interaction with others. This kind of work focuses on individual productivity and efficiency.

Now, when we talk about collaborative knowledge work, Drucker had a different perspective. He saw this as a way of working that involves people coming together, sharing ideas, and creating new knowledge. It’s less about following a set process and more about being creative and adaptive in solving problems. In this type of work, the interactions between people are really important, and the goal is to combine their expertise and knowledge to create something new and valuable.

So, the key difference between the two, as Drucker saw it, is the way people work together and the focus on generating new knowledge. While traditional work is more about individual tasks and efficiency, collaborative knowledge work emphasises teamwork, creativity, and innovation.

Isn’t it fascinating how Drucker’s ideas from decades ago still hold up today? It’s like he had a crystal ball for understanding how work would evolve over time! Maybe his vision will one day come to pass.


Collaborative Knowledge Work and Management: A Mismatch Made In Hell

Hey there, have you ever heard of the phrase, “the best kept dark secret in the tech business”? It’s a term that’s been circulating around the industry for a while now and it’s all about how management is totally incompatible with collaborative knowledge work.

It may seem like a shocking statement, but when you really think about it, it makes sense. Traditional management styles are all about hierarchy, control, and rigid processes, while collaborative knowledge work thrives on autonomy, creativity, and flexibility. When you try to force these two worlds together, it inevitably leads to frustration, burnout, and failure.

The reality is that most managers in the tech industry are steeped in old-school management techniques that were developed for manufacturing and other industries with repetitive processes. These techniques simply don’t work in a knowledge-based environment where the work is complex, dynamic, and constantly evolving.

Traditional management needs rethinking and sidelined to suit the context of collaborative knowledge work. This means empowering employees, encouraging experimentation, and creating a culture of trust and transparency.

So, what do you think? Have you noticed any clashes between management and collaborative knowledge work in your own experiences?

Fellowship As Protest

Relationship-building is an undervalued but vital tool in the arsenal of the modern-day employee. It is not enough to simply march in the streets or hold a sign aloft; building connections with like-minded individuals and fostering a sense of community is essential to creating lasting change. However, many businesses today actively work to undermine relationship-building in the workplace, promoting division and competition among employees at the expense of cooperation and collaboration.

This insidiousness can take many forms, from pitting employees against each other for promotions to encouraging a toxic work culture that values individual achievement over teamwork. But through active relationship-building, we protest against these destructive practices and create a workplace that values fellowship, cooperation and solidarity.

By forging connections with our fellow employees and working to create a sense of community, we challenge the dominant narrative of competition and individualism. This is not just a matter of improving our own working conditions; it is a powerful form of protest that strikes at the very heart of the capitalist system that pits workers against each other for the benefit of the few.

So let us not underestimate the power of fellowship as a form of protest. By standing together and fostering a sense of community in the workplace, we can create a better world for ourselves and for future generations.

There are many people who, whilst being highly competent and able as individuals, will undermine and negate all attempts to build an effective team / unit / capability.

But you don’t have to hire them. And if you inherit one, you can fire or redeploy him or her – always assuming the higher-ups choose to value the relative importance of community, esprit de corps and the social dynamic over individual skills.

What do you and your culture value more – going far together or going fast alone?


The Limits Of Quintessence

My dear friend Alessandro Di Gioia recently invited me to write a post on the limits of Quintessence. So here it is.


Maybe “limits” is not the most helpful frame. Perhaps “constraints” might better suit. As far as I’m concerned, Quintessence has no limits in terms of what can be achieved (hence the name), but it sure is subject to a host of constraints holding it back from delivering on it’s potential.

There are no speed limits on the road to excellence [nor on the road to Quintessence – Ed.].

~ David W. Johnson


Alex subsequently elaborated on his question at my invitation:

  • When does Quintessence not apply?
  • What are the most common misinterpretations of Quintessence?
  • Quintessence is not a silver bullet because…?

When Does Quintessence Not Apply?

I propose it always applies, at least in collaborative knowledge (grey muscle) work (CKW). Generally, it applies when results are contingent on the relationships between people, and on effective cognitive function. Quintessence describes an environment, and the beliefs necessary to creating such and environment, for improved interpersonal relationships and cognitive function.

So if those things are not relevant in your context, I guess we can say that Quintessence may not apply there.

What Are The Most Common Misinterpretations?

I hesitate to answer this question, as my answer will only be a guess. Yet I guess some folks may misinterpret Quintessence in the following ways:

  • It’s a method, or framework – like Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, etc.
    It’s neither. It’s most like a blueprint or map of the landscape of beliefs (a.k.a. memeplex) within highly effective CKW organisations.
  • It’s about software development
    It’s not. It’s about folks working together, collaboratively with their brains. i.e. All CKW environments.
  • It can be handed down as an objective for the minions to implement
    It can’t. Shifting the collective assumptions and beliefs of a whole organisation (the basic premise) requires everyone to be involved, everyone to engage with surfacing and reflecting on the collective assumptions and beliefs of the organisation. In particular, those folks to whom the workforce look for cues.
  • It comes in a box
    It doesn’t. It comes in a book (two books, actually – Memeology and Quintessence). But there are no ceremonies defined, no practices required, no rules stipulated, no dogma. Just an invitation to ongoing dialogue.

Silver Bullet?

Quintessence is not a silver bullet because, although both magical (alien tech) and a solution to a long-standing problem, it’s in no way an instant solution. Becoming a Quintessential organisation is a long journey of self-discovery. Both for individuals, especially managers, and for the organisation as a whole. 

The long-standing problem it addresses is the myopia of organisations in respect of their real issues and challenges.


I hope this post has addressed the questions posed, and invites some further curiosity from y’all dear readers. AQA (All questions answered).

– Bob

Further Reading

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Quintessence: An Acme for Software Development Organisations. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].

Marshall, R.W. (2021). Memeology: Surfacing And Reflecting On The Organisation’s Collective Assumptions And Beliefs. [online] Falling Blossoms (LeanPub). Available at: [Accessed 4 May 2022].

How To Run A Collaborative Knowledge Work Business

Collaborative knowledge work (CKW) is not like other kinds of work. And few realise this. Even fewer realise that CKW necessitates a kind of “management” entirely different from traditional management. So different as to be unrecognisable as “management”. 

As the world transitions to CKW as its predominant style of work, this realisation is spreading. And the ensuing confusion and distress spreads also. We see this already.

The Priorities for CKW

  1. Avoiding Cognitive Impairment

CKW involves, primarily, the use of folks’ brains. A.k.a. Cognition or cognitive function. Organisations that cultivate an environment conducive to CKW and “brain-work” are, however, few and far between. Much more often, environment-induced cognitive impairment is the order of the day, every day.

  1. Interpersonal Relationships

The second key aspect of CKW is the collaborative nature of the work. CKW involves folks working together to achieve shared goals.Thus, interpersonal relationships become paramount.

  1. Play

So, how to cultivate an environment conducive to cognitive function and relationship-building? I have found that play best enables and supported these things. Whereas in the above paragraphs I have used the word “work”, we’re better off when we substitute the idea of “play”. Can you see the connection between improved cognitive function and relationship-building, and play?

Aside: We can take some of the sharp edges off the unconscionable idea of encouraging “workers” to play on the company dime by using the term “serious play”. By justifying it as a key to innovation. And by further obfuscating the idea of free play by calling it “simulation” or “gamification”. But that’s only candy-coating.

At The Quintessential Group we’re putting this all into practice, as we did with great success decades ago at Familiar. We’d be delighted to share our insights, approaches, learnings and experiences with you, should you be interested.

– Bob

Further Reading

Schrage, M. (2008). Serious Play: How The World’s Best Companies Simulate To Innovate. Harvard Business School Press.

Dynamic Work Design from MIT

Nelson Repenning at MIT has come up with a general approach to knowledge-based employees finding and fixing issues, and make improvements, in real time (video).

Four Core Principles of Dynamic Work Design

  • Reconcile activity and intent.
  • Connect the human chain through triggers and checks (i.e .Escalation: when and how.
  • Structure problem solving and creativity.
  • Manage “optimal challenge” – problems are useful as signals, and create useful “tension”.

Further Reading

Baskin, K. (2018). The 4 principles of dynamic work design. [online] MIT Sloan. Available at: [Accessed 21 Jan. 2022]. (n.d.). Discover Dynamic Work Design with MIT’s Nelson Repenning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Jan. 2022].

Getting Along

When all is said and done, all our artifices, all our strivings, all our efforts to organise work… it’s simply about figuring our how to get along (with each other). 

If we’re getting paid but not being productive, the payers will rankle and cavil, and they and we won’t get along. If we’re producing stuff that doesn’t meed the needs of our customers, they will feel frustrated and they and we won’t get along.  If we treat some folks like pariahs or cogs in our machine, they won’t feel valued or respected, and they and we won’t get along.

There’s really no more to work, and organisations, than getting along. In Rightshifted organisations, for example, such as the quintessential ones, folks simple get along better.

What does it take for us all to get along?

– Bob

We Can All Be Doing So Much Better

Looking on the bright side for 2022, there’s no real blockers to us and our organisations doing so much better in 2022.

And all it takes is reflecting upon, and surfacing, our collective and individual assumptions and beliefs.


The Rightshifting chart illustrates the awesome scope for “better” in our organisations:

Most organisations cluster around an effectiveness of “1”, whereas a simple shift in our assumptions and beliefs about the world of collaborative knowledge work could take us to becoming “3”, “4” or even “5” times more effective. That sounds like “better”, to me.

Quintessential Organisations

In my recent book “Quintessence“, I describe what organisations to the right of “4”, on the above chart, look like, feel like and work like.

– Bob

Still Rejecting the Idea of the Collective Psyche?

“Cognition extends into the physical world and the brains of others.”

~ Aron Barbey, Richard Patterson & Steven Sloman

A new research paper suggests that efforts to understand human cognition should expand beyond the study of individual brains.

Regularly readers will know that Organisational Psychotherapy rests, in large part, on the idea of the collective consciousness a.k.a. organisational psyche.

Check out this new paper for some confirming research (not that evidence or science sways people).

“Cognition is, to a large extent, a group activity, not an individual one,”

~ Steven Sloman

– Bob

Jira, Dogs and Chocolate

I’m a dog person. As such, I know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. They’ll happily wolf it down, of course. But then they’ll get sick, with a range of symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, panting or restlessness, excessive urination, and racing heart rate. In severe cases, symptoms can include muscle tremors, seizures, heart failure and death.

“Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning can take hours to develop, and last for days.”

Chocolate is toxic because it contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Theobromine is the main toxin in chocolate and is very similar to caffeine. Both chemicals are used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine and caffeine as well as people can. That is why dogs are more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects.

So it is with teams and Jira. Teams will happily embrace Jira at first, but then quickly sicken as its toxicity kicks in.

Clinical signs of JIRA poisoning can take days to develop, and last for weeks or months, even when the ingestion has ceased.

Teams and organisations use Jira is a way of communicating without talking with each other. It’s an impersonal substitute for common forms of human communication, and offers only a fraction of the understanding we get from actually interacting with one other directly. It’s toxic to finding common ground, and common understanding, especially in its typical mode as a “communications” nexus.

As an expert in team health, I recommend you avoid exposing teams to Jira in any form. Jira is an example of a tool with which it is far easier to poison your teams’ relationships, than to enhance them. Much like chocolate and dogs.

– Bob



Also applies to Slack, and maybe other tools too.

Non-dog People

I can remember many occasions where clueless non-dog people insisted on feeding chocolate to my beloved hounds, even surreptitiously after I’ve requested them not to. So it is with many managers, who, heedless of the health and social dynamic of teams, feed them Jira, regardless.

Scope of Ignorance

Most of the developers and development teams I used to work with when I was a software development consultant had a relatively narrow view of the skills and knowledge necessary to be “competent developers”. Here’s an illustrative graphic:

Generally, to make progress on improving things, and to earn the moniker of “software engineers”, a wider scope of skills and knowledge was necessary. Not only did these development teams lack this wider scope, they were both ignorant of the many additional areas of knowledge and resistant to learning about them. The common response was “What are all these strange topics, and NO WAY! do we need to know about them”:

Aside: Now I’m an Organisational Psychotherapist, their ignorance is no issue – and no stress – for me. They can learn or not learn in their own time. Progress is on them (and their higher-ups).

– Bob

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