Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier
Within this blog I am dealing again with words. But not only with words, but actually what they mean, with the ideas behind it. Also, what excellence means has to be spelled out eventually. We know what we are talking about.
Excellence comes from Latin excellere and means "outstanding". It could also be derived from excellentia, which translates as "excellence". There are excellence initiatives to create a special sustainability of organizations and cause corresponding strategic discussions. And a recognition of excellence (committed to or Recognised for Excellence) in the field of quality management (EFQM model) is here an important quality criterion, and seal of approval which companies can apply for. Being outstanding and excellent: with excellence, companies clearly stand out from their surroundings. Why should this only apply to the processes, structures or products? Even Work can certainly be made high quality. More precisely, the mutual cooperation. This is not necessarily to think digital, but in the sense of excellence a thrilling experience. Especially when considering the often-used background of the previous organization of work – Taylorism.
The ancient Greeks had their own word for excellence: Arete (ancient Greek = ἀρετή = arete). However, this word means even more. "Excellence" as a property of people was directly connected to Virtue and a successful lifestyle. The related state of mind of eudaimonia (ancient Greek = εὐδαιμονία = eudaimonia) as "succeeding in life" presupposed possession of Arete. Arete occurred not only with respect to the suitability of a thing but especially in the performance of tasks related to the purpose for which they are intended. To be good for something, in the sense of a high level of fitting in for a specific goal would certainly be a good measure for a good collaboration. It is even more surprising that this question is rarely, if ever asked in the organization of work processes. This too is still quite spectacular non-digital. But also an exciting experience.
Work of special quality
But the most interesting is probably the experience, that suddenly, with the possibilities of cooperation in the digital space of action all, these questions about excellence play a role again. In fact, both on the part of employees and indeed in the sense of a successful Lifestyle and in the sense of organization and a suitability for its own purpose for example, the manufacture of innovative products or offering outstanding services. A social collaboration with digital platforms, one might say, allows excellence for all participants. After all, the customers and stakeholders are integrated into the cooperation. They are ultimately the ones who can and will assess the Arete in terms of suitability for the organization to meet the needs. Not least from the point of whether the product or service is beneficial to their own successful life management. Therefore, another exciting experience is that Arete marks a succeeding Social Collaboration as Work of special quality.
An excellent alternative model
As much as an excellent social collaboration is only possible via a digital platform, as little is it a (pure) technical subject. The difference that usually arises is that you can organize cooperation in the operational context differently. This in turn depends on how you imagine the people who perform the work as part of the cooperation. The still valid blueprint is one that organizes a “singled-out” or rather a hierarchically mediated Collaboration of a-personal Individualists in the company. For this, all sorts of tricks – for example extrinsic incentives (rewards), or harsh punishment - are used to establish the suitability for cooperation in people. Otherwise, there is chaos. People characterized this way have no special interest in the work process or the products they manufacture outside of work, nor is work a contribution to a successful life. The excellent alternative model is that of a social collaboration of real existing people.
An excellent collaboration means that the employees are visible as individuals in a community (in their profiles and activities), and as such participate with their skills and expertise in the creation and design process. They collaborate digitally on an equal footing as peers. Connected via the group, they are involved in the development of all parts of the result. To ensure this, they are equipped with personal competencies. Further, they decide in the group process, how the skills of the other people involved are best distributed and used to complete the tasks. In the end, the result presents more than the sum of the individual contributions. To this extent, only a Social Collaboration is a real Arete: only it is suitable both to the purpose of producing high-quality products and services, as well as in terms of a successful life (Eudaimonia) of the employees involved. Exactly this circumstance makes it economically the more efficient and excellent form of cooperation (see also our essay "High performance through collaborative cooperation" here). And thus for businesses to a real experience of practical excellence. We, gladly and with conviction, help to make this excellent experience.