Are you a consultant, trainer or coach loving or living in Barcelona (Spain)? You are welcome to this open networking group for consultants.

Barcelona is an attractive international city. There are many reasons to decide moving here as the mild climate, rich culture, easy-going city and the exceptional architecture dominating life. Furthermore, perhaps you would prioritise the high-quality health services, good flight connections, top business schools and universities or start-ups.

Whatever the reason could be, many consultants are living in Barcelona with high professional level, great talent and specific knowledge or skills. Most of them are not Spanish or they even not work in Barcelona but internationally.

Altogether, we cover a vast variety of fields. This group aims to create a collaborative cluster and business ecosystem with a critical advantage. Because we live here, we have the opportunity to meet personally. This is what we call the Barcelona connection.

Some of the activities we boost at the group

  • Brainstorming and contrasting ideas
  • Peer evaluation of projects
  • Test of products/services with low-risk audience and expert feedback
  • Specific business projects coming up between members

Furthermore, interaction always generates an output. We frequently see common projects and cross-collaborations between members. This is just as a short list of advantages of a collaborative ecosystem:

  • Business perspective. I will never know everything.
  • Company size. I can always join others.
  • Product portfolio. I cannot cover all clients’ needs.
  • Sales Support. I could do much more if supported. Let’s share!
  • We altogether cover many countries, languages and cultures.
  • As a group, we can compete much better.
  • I should not be working on administrative tasks. Let’s share!
  • Investment projects. I would invest if I were not alone.

From occasional mingling to more serious professional collaboration, whatever you prefer, you are more than welcome to join this LinkedIn group at or even better, join our Meetup group at

We believe in open networks providing support for collaborative interactions to boost new opportunities.

Join us now!

Harvard Business School

A few weeks ago I was with Manel Peiró PhD, Academic Vice-Dean of ESADE Business School. On his desk was a copy of the new book by Michael Beer, professor at the Harvard Business School, “High Commitment, High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage”. Since his doctoral thesis had discussed the commitment in medicine, we started to talk about the topic.

Many researchers based on the premise that a high level of performance is a direct result a high level of commitment. In Beer’s research focused on the commitment of leaders, may be true. But not so when we talk about teams.

In my research on the cooperation model in complexity “Cooplexity”, I show that after an initial individual dimension of knowledge acquisition, cohesion is a definite key factor in the development of the group. When the group becomes conscious of itself as a unit with its meaning, we call them a team. However, a cohesive and highly committed team doesn’t get the best results just only by those facts. When the group becomes a team in the full sense, we still need something more. It is the self-coordination function as a natural and spontaneous process to achieve coordination in a decentralised manner, sharing alerts, visualising cross opportunities and focusing on a common goal. At this level, two factors help getting results, equal relationship and the establishment of criteria for action.

Cooplexity Model Summary Table

IndividualKnowledgeExplorationProactivity oriented to resultsData gathering
Decision making
Control of the objective
Proactivity oriented to relationsInteraction
GroupCohesionCommon projectGroup integrationCooperation
Trust generationEquality
TeamSelf-coordinationInterconnectionsEqual relationshipMutual consideration
Criteria for actionDefinition of criteria
Unification of criteria
Alternative criteria

So when we talk about high-performance teams, commitment is a necessary but not sufficient. Without cohesion, self-coordination is not reached, but it is the latter which ensures a high level of performance.

I’m proud to share my research inviting you to:

  1. EVALUATE: preview and download the second edition for free at Google Docs.
  2. BUYTHE BOOK in pdf (€6.99), ePub (€9.99) or paperback edition (€24.00).
Ali G

Ali G

A Quiz & Satire

The current fashion for things entrepreneurial is at risk of clouding the day-to-day realities and challenges that you may face when deciding if a life of an entrepreneur is for you . Too many vested interests from educational institutions, to employment ministries , through to venture capital, private equity and wealth offices plug the notion that starting or growing an existing business in an entrepreneurial way is for everybody.

It is Not.

The plethora of suppliers and information provided to the entrepreneurial eco-system makes it increasingly difficult for us to decide if setting our own destiny as entrepreneurs is for us.

  1. We’d like you to take this short quiz inspired by Scott Shane and see how  consumed by entrepreneurial mythology you are. Be honest and let us know how you do.
  2. And after that we’d like you to enjoy the slightly dated, admittedly profane, yet acetic insights offered by the Ali G video. Satire and comedy can sometimes reveal hidden truths in phenomena. Even a younger Donald Trump makes a guest appearance in the video. We hope you enjoy and learn from both.
  3. Share some of the myths that you think surround entrepreneurship? For example, How do the the quiz & video make you feel about being an entrepreneur as a life choice? What things about being a Founder does the video throw up for you? What do’s and don’ts for example can we learn from the quiz and video?




Executive Decisions In Radical Uncertainty

Entrepreneurs: Masters of the Unknown

“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.”  William Congreve, 1670–1729, playwright.

 A Rational Trap

For two centuries the underlying assumptions behind much decision-making theory have been enshrined in the idea of rational economic wo/man’s ability to control and manage profitable future markets by choosing preferences from a given environmental spectrum of risk-weighted expectations. Executive training and learning programs have followed these assumptions blindly and reinforced the portrayal of business decision-makers’ behaviour as rational and a practice that can be disseminated in simulated, normative workshop experiences.

In recent times and immediately after the demise of that most rational Master of the Universe i the financial capital marketplace- we have begun to search for alternative explanans of executive decision-making. Explanans that diverge and challenge the partly failed and classic economic view of business decision-makers as rational. Heuristic and behavioural economists have begun to find acceptance and develop valuable insights into the financial marketplace for example, by offering valuable ideas and accounts of the stochastic character of capital market agency ii.

The Uncertain Turn

Central to a number of these new ideas is the notion that future markets are uncertain, unknown, at times unknowable, and that business decision-makers needn’t be rational in order to succeed. They go one step further to suggest that uncertainty itself is a pre-condition for economic opportunity and growth. The economic notion of uncertainty dates back to ideas contained in Knightian Uncertainty iii that make a distinction between risky and uncertain futures. Current manifestations of this argument are found in the Black Swan Hypothesis iv.

Neuroscientists have also begun to decipher this distinction and are recognizing the fundamental role played by uncertainty in human learning and value-based decision making. The distinction made in neurology is between unexpected uncertainty (unknown and unknowable futures), estimation uncertainty (knowable futures) and expected uncertainty (risk) v.

Despite these contemporary developments and increasing support for an uncertain view of the world, one that is unpredictable, random, bounded-rational and unexpected vi , the vast majority of executive-level development designs continue to be locked in a deterministic and rational explanandum of business decision-making.

We have argued previously vii that Business Schools reinforce this view with programs and MBA offerings which assume that tomorrow’s leaders and executives need to enhance their capacities either in the risk calculus of unknown futures or in assimilating future scenarios based on recent samples of data and experience. Our argument is that too little attention in executive development design is given to decision-making for uncertainty.

Entrepreneurs Have It

We believe that entrepreneurial decision-makers offer a paradigmatic route out of this malaise. Entrepreneurs re-construct uncertainty as a force for opportunity and value, and therefore, their orientations are a must-have in any executive-level, decision maker’s toolkit.

The Effectual Method of Entrepreneurship viii and the Cooplexity Model for High-Performing teams ix adopt uncertainty as a central premise in arguing for a reform of executive and leadership decision-making development programs.

Effectual Cooplexity


Both these approaches conceive successful entrepreneurs as Masters of the Unknown.

Effectuation evokes reasoning at the individual level through which entrepreneurs control their immediate resources and capabilities and thrive in uncertainty because they have no innate desire to predict futures. Instead, they create/make future markets in the unknown. Effectuation provides an immediate contrast to the dominant causal reasoning prevalent in most executive learning designs.



Cooplexity evokes communicative rationality x at the Cooplexity Modelteam-level, to demonstrate how, using experiential play designs xi  we might simulate entrepreneurial activity where leaders in high performing teams create and generate future markets from immeasurable and subjective heuristics in “unknown” unknown situations.

Play Time

It is the spirit and substance of entrepreneurial play that we present in a future post as offering a significant and timely opportunity to design alternative decision-making programs for the early 21st Century’s Corporate Executive to whom unknown and uncertain, rather than risky or known markets, offer the most exciting business opportunities.


Author’s Note: To learn more about our playful approaches to Executive decision-making in Uncertainty & Ambiguity you may want to Sign-Up to the Cooplexity Institute’s Open Program in Barcelona this September


i Jones, Daniel Stedman. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton University Press, (2014).

ii Dachel, Jaroslav, Eva Duchácková, and Jarmila Radová. “A Criticism of the Paradigm of Rational Choice in Uncertain Conditions through the Lens of Behavioral Economics.” (2016).

iii Saes, Maria Sylvia Macchione, André Cavalcanti Rocha Martins, and Paula Sarita Bigio Schnaider. “Entrepreneurial Decision-Making Using the Knightian Uncertainty Approach.” Revista de Administração (São Paulo) 48, no. 4 (2013): 716–26.

iv Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House, New York, (1998).

v Payzan-LeNestour, Elise, Simon Dunne, Peter Bossaerts, and John P. O’Doherty. “The Neural Representation of Unexpected Uncertainty during Value-Based Decision Making.” Neuron 79, no. 1 (2013): 191–201.

vi Pushkarskaya, Helen, Xun Liu, Michael Smithson, and Jane E. Joseph. “Beyond Risk and Ambiguity: Deciding under Ignorance.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 10, no. 3 (2010): 382–91.

vii Gonsalves, Edward, and Ricardo Zamora. “Cooplexity: Entrepreneurial & Executive Play for Complex Environments.” Redmond, 3rd Serious Play Conference, Washington, (2013).

viii Sarasvathy, Saras D., and Sankaran Venkataraman. “Entrepreneurship as Method: Open Questions for an Entrepreneurial Future.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 35, no. 1 (January 2011): 113–35.

ix Zamora, Ricardo. Cooplexity: A Model Of Collaboration In Complexity For Management In Times Of Uncertainty And Change. S.l.:, (2012).

x Habermas, Jurgen, D. E, and others. The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Beacon Press, (1984).

xi Mainemelis, Charalampos, Yochanan Altman, Alice Y. Kolb, and David A. Kolb. “Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space.” Journal of Organizational Change Management 23, no. 1 (2010): 26–50.


Café Rouge Oxford

Some months ago I went to the Café Rouge Restaurant in Oxford and we had one of the most interesting service encounters ever.

I was having dinner with my wife. This was not the first time we’d visited it and on previous occasions we had tried a very nice wine that was recommended by one of the waiters. We couldn’t remember the name so we tried a different one. In the middle of the meal, when we had consumed half the bottle we recognised the waiter from our last visit and asked for the same bottle of wine. He approached us from his area (waiters have a designated area of responsibility) and told us that yes, he remembered us and the wine was a Malbec, a kind of wine originally from the south west of France (Burdeos and Cahors). In fact, he remembered even where we had been sitting at the time. I don’t have a very good memory for names and places so when these things happen they impress me a lot.

After a while our waiter came and asked us if everything was ok or whether we needed anything. The question was obvious because we had just been talking with this other waiter and he probably noticed. We explained the situation and how we’d mistakenly chosen the wrong wine because we hadn’t been able to recall the name. What happened after was not so straightforward. He went to ask something to our known waiter and immediately after he talked to another person that we couldn’t identify at that time. Then he came and offered to change the bottle for the Malbec, but we declined because the current wine was also good and we had already drunk half of it. But he insisted so much that we finally accepted. In a moment we were drinking our preferred wine.

The level of satisfaction was very high and the associated feelings extremely gratifying. The situation was so unusual that made me think deeper. My first analysis was from the waiter’s perspective. I made an association with the situation and the John Poindexter(1) Model (Zamora Enciso, 2011 pag. 68). For those who are not familiar with it, his model, based on the Knowledge Pyramid (DIKW) from Russell Ackoff (Ackoff, 1989) distinguishes between:

  • Data. This is gross data. In this case the bottle of wine we had.
  • Information. Data in context. Understanding the situation. We wanted a different wine.
  • Knowledge. Understanding what the information means. We had a kind of feeling of frustration. That is why we asked the waiter who had served us before.
  • Options. We decided what to do according to the constraints. Clearly in this case change the bottle or pass.
  • Action. Execution. Asking for permission from the boss who was the person we initially didn’t identify and change it.
  • Finally we had an interaction that produced a great satisfaction.

But then I began to consider a couple of simple questions from the business perspective. How was it possible to have workers so involved? What was the underlying policy? The first thing we have to notice is the waiter’s proactivity, which means a lot. The Oxford Dictionaries define proactive as an adjective “(of a person or action) creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened”. Proactivity is central to the Cooplexity model (Zamora Enciso, 2011), a model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change. Complexity is related to emergent behavioural patterns and human interrelations are clearly complex because of our capacity to make different decisions. According to the model, “proactivity oriented to results” and “proactivity oriented to relations” are key factors of the first level or knowledge level. In both cases we recognize the activities of the model (data gathering, decision making, control of the objective first and interaction, interchange, relation after) in relation to the waiter’s actions.

At this point it is worth thinking about their objectives? For sure it is not profitability because it was possible to avoid the expense. Instead it is easy to assume the option of emotional satisfaction and therefore loyalty (we have repeatedly gone back since then). When I remember the situation I can still visualise a kind of emotional connection. It couldn’t just be acting. I know what is called Emotional Labour, a term coined by the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild as “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display” (Hochschild 1983). His work, explained from the perspective of theatre where the customer is the audience and the service provider the actor, proposes that managing emotions is one way for employees to achieve organizational goals. Thus, there are two processes involved, surface acting (managing observable expressions) and deep acting (managing feelings).

Not enough. It cannot be so simple. When the waiter that attended our table went to ask his colleague, it seems he was checking the wine we wanted. This approach must only be done based on a trusting relationship. Any other situation of mistrust would result in a lack of action. We can clearly find again a parallelism with the second level of the Cooplexity model, which is related to cohesion. In this case the awareness of a common project, and the two factors “group integration” (cooperation, implication) and specifically “trust generation” are present.

Finally, in order to ensure the emergence of self-coordination (third level of the model), it must be a policy oriented to people, supporting initiatives, encouraging ideas, creating a decentralized environment, giving them a certain level of autonomy, demanding results instead of procedures, asking for responsibility and not just the standard expected performance, etc. When the situation is complex, an executive cannot manage the whole business, cannot be everywhere, cannot make all the decisions and cannot be aware of everything. The identification of “local” opportunities and risks depends on the people who are in contact with a situation which demands the last two factors of the model, “equal relationship” (mutual consideration, respect) and “criterion of action” (definition of a criterion). The definition of a criterion is not only a problem of defining the objective (already done) but also the way it can be reached. Therefore acting and empathizing are two key dimensions of this criterion.

That is when I can clearly apply the concept of high performance team to all of them as “a small number of interdependent persons that are spontaneously and naturally coordinated, with the motive of a common project, thanks to a feeling of membership resulting from a determined level of cohesion, making decisions based on shared knowledge” (Zamora Enciso, 2011 pag. 7).

But if I include us having dinner then we were a system considered as “a series of parts that interact with each other to work as a whole. Nevertheless, a system is more than the sum of its parts; it is the product of its interactions (Kauffman, 1980).

And it works. I can assure you!


(1) John Poindexter was director of the Information Awareness Office (IAO), an official body depending of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), responsible of the development of projects like ARPANET, the first information transmission network by packets, predecessor of the present Internet.



Ackoff, R. L. (1989). From Data to Wisdom. Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 16, 3-9.

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kauffman, D. L. (1980). Systems One: An Introduction to System Thinking. Mineapolis, MN: Future Systems.

Zamora Enciso, R. (2011). Cooplexity: A model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change.

Phineas Gage

Some weeks ago I attended the last Advanced Research Seminar of the Leadership Development Research Centre (GLEAD) at ESADE. The issue presented was the Antonio Damasio’s Somatic Marker Hypotheses (SMH). The presentation started with the well known case of Phineas Gage

I was intrigued by the story so I began to read about reaching to some interesting points.

Phineas Gage is probably the most famous case of a person who has survived severe damage to the brain. On September 13, 1848, he was working on the construction of the railroad outside the town of Cavendish, Vermont. He was using a tamping iron to compact the sand that covered explosives put into the holes made on the rocks. Perhaps because the sand was forgotten he provoked an explosion that projected the instrument through his head entering on the side of his face, passing back of the left eye, and going out at the top of the head through the frontal lobe (See video).

Phineas not only survived to the accident but also from the beginning he seemed to maintain intact his intellectual capabilities and no feel pain. He recovered both mentally and physically but his personality was changed. His character became irregular, irreverent and rude, showing little respect for their fellow human beings. Also he had become impatient and stubborn, but capricious and hesitant at once.

Linking emotions, personality, and areas of the brain:

  • The mentioned Somatic Marker Hypothesis of Damasio is argued under the assumption that somatic markers provide a signal delineating which current events have had emotion-related consequences in the past. As a consequence they guide the decision making process in complex and unpredictable environments. It belongs to the field of the Affective Neuroscience, a discipline concern with the underlying neural substrates of emotion and mood. In this area, the Limbic System is one of the anatomic models more broadly supported. It was proposed by Paul McLean in 1949 and even though it has been criticized on both empirical and theoretical grounds, remains the dominant conceptualization of the “emotional brain” today. MacLean viewed the brain as a triune architecture consisting of three interacting systems. The reptilian brain, the most ancient and responsible of primitive emotions such as aggression and fear. The “old” mammalian brain which elaborates the social emotions. And the “new” mammalian brain or neocortex, which represents the interface of emotion with cognition and is the seat of top-down control over emotional responses originating within other systems (Dalgleish, Dunn, and Mobbs 2009).
  • Cases as the Phineas Gage where the ventromedial region of the frontal lobe is damaged show that even though the intellectual capabilities remain there are consequences that produce emotional inability and inappropriate social behaviour.
    There is an interdisciplinary field of research between the Affective Neuroscience and Social Psychology called Social Affective Neuroscience that seeks to understand phenomena in terms of interactions between three levels of analysis: the social level which is concerned with the motivational and social factors that influence behaviour and experience; the cognitive level, which is concerned to with the information-processing mechanisms; and the neural level, which is concerned with the brain mechanisms (Ochsner and Lieberman 2001).
  • Following the present line of arguments we have to differentiate between emotions and feelings, being the first, body states related to non rational processes generated in the subcortical structures. They would be basic mechanisms that respond to stimulus in an innate way. The feelings will relate the emotion with the object that excites it gaining consciousness of the emotion through rational processes at cortical level. Thus we have primary emotions, innate and preorganiced, that depends of the limbic system and secondary emotions which occur once we begin experiencing feelings and forming systematic connections between categories of objects and situations, on one hand, and primary emotions, on the other (Damasio 2006).
  • At this point we should distinguish between the basic emotions and those nonbasic emotions built using the first as if they were building blocks. Even though there is the assumption that there exist a small set of basic emotions, theorists disagree on how many or which they are. Nevertheless nearly everybody includes anger, happiness, sadness and fear (Ortony and Turner 1990).

Finally we see why Phineas Gage despite having recovered physically was never the same again. The damage caused prevented him basic emotions needed to evaluate daily situations and to relate with others. The personality changed forever.



Dalgleish, Tim, Barnaby D. Dunn, and Dean Mobbs. 2009. «Affective Neuroscience: Past, Present, and Future». Emotion Review 1(4): 355-368.

Damasio, Antonio. 2006. Descartes’ error : emotion, reason and the human brain. London: Vintage.

Ochsner, Kevin N., and Matthew D. Lieberman. 2001. «The emergence of social cognitive neuroscience.» American Psychologist 56(9): 717-734.

Ortony, Andrew, and Terence J. Turner. 1990. «What’s basic about basic emotions». Psychological Review 97(3): 315-331.

Collaboration levels in the Cooplexity model

One of the conclusions that came as a result of the research of the Cooplexity (Zamora Enciso, 2010) model was that the collaboration is not always possible. It depends on the level of maturity that a group has in terms of consciousness of itself. The groups with better results passed through the three levels of the model, knowledge, cohesion and self coordination. In parallel with them appear three degrees of possible collaboration.

With the first that I identify as the Alliance everybody wins and nobody loses. The agreement is obvious and nobody rejects it. As soon as an opportunity for collaboration under these circumstances appears it is accepted.

While the group evolves and the integration process follows it course, new opportunities for cooperation, that although not harming anyone, do create unequal benefits. Here is where the group usually reaches agreements that produced benefit is attributed to one’s self earlier or later as compensation or reciprocity. It is the interchange level or Cooperation. In day-to-day reality we could consider that the win-win negotiations are located here. A value and according compensations are negotiated. The level of cooperation is not a bad one although we can still consider that it produces optimal results for the group.

Global necessities are attended in the third level at the same time as individual ones, but contemplating the group as a whole, as a system, as an entity with its own differentiating personality and particularities. That way its members feel that they have made an important qualitative jump. This is the Collaboration level.

When reaching this point it becomes necessary to make an essential distinction between cooperation and collaboration. Cooperation is linear, concrete, oriented to an objective. In cooperative work the tasks are subdivided between the members and which one works separately. Coordination is important in terms of who does what, how and when (Nezamirad, Higg, & Dunstall, 2005).

Collaboration is a creative process between two or more persons, with complementary abilities that interact to create a common understanding that nobody previously had and would not have been able to acquire alone. Collaboration creates common contents about a process, a product, or an event. In this sense, there is nothing routinized. This is something that did not previously exist (Schrage, 1990).

Collaboration is a state that has many components and one of them is cooperation. Cooperation also is about a common purpose but at a lower abstraction level, more operative. Collaboration is a creative process where the result is the emerging product as a consequence of interaction. If cooperation needs coordination, collaboration needs self-coordination.

Trust is very important in the last level as we assure that although actions apparently contrary to individual interests exist, these decisions will not be judged as transgressions or aggressions but rather as a search for common benefit that includes the individual that takes it into account and finally balances it.

In the Collaboration level the individual and common objectives lose their differentiation. They should be achieved together and in a balanced manner. Going to the other extreme, that the group “only” thinks of a group is not positive, it should also think of the individual. Like as in a company, the dichotomy is proposed among the objectives in a clear manner from a conceptual point of view but hardly defined from an operational point of view. To go after one’s own interest is only logical; to do it only with attention placed on common interest (even at the expense of the individual) is also logical. The problem lies in reconciling both objectives in a balanced manner. Unfortunately here, as in the majority of complexity situations, there are no recipes. Neither more nor less it is a case of obtaining balance between individual and global interests.

Curiously when the group is integrated, it is perfectly capable of understanding it and achieving it, but it is very important that it does, as we are in the final process of evolution. Previously, any attempt to achieve common benefit by the more collaborative participants is rejected when considering that individual benefit is at risk. To be collaborative in the long term, the individuals should also achieve their individual objectives or have a reasonable expectation that the cost of collaboration will be compensated earlier or later.

When the agents or not interdependent, survival is reduce to win-lose competition, where the strongest individual survives. However in complexity this is not applicable. Interrelations and interdependencies cause the most selfish decision to be precisely the most collaborative. Not only that, the interested use of resources with the sole aim of obtaining individual yields will be rejected by the group. On occasions, decisions taken in this direction were identified in the groups, with disastrous results for the cohesion and regressions to previous more individualist positions. These groups could have obtained worse results after a crisis than those obtained in previous game cycles.

Somebody could think that those who only intermediate for their own interests are more selfish or interested. On occasions, this assumption may not be totally right. The degree of collaboration observed in the groups was directly related with the level of trust and therefore with the perceived level of risk. There is a natural tendency in all human beings that pushes them to survival. Therefore perceiving risk releases a series of self-protection mechanisms that push one to take-up more individualist positions. In the measure that the group increases the level of trust among its members and reduces in parallel the perceived risk of the decisions it takes, it becomes more capable of showing collaborative attitudes. Therefore the trick consists of regulating the key to trust and risk to allow the appearance of such decisions.

Robert Axelrod in his work The Evolution of Cooperation contributes some keys that we can perfectly recompile here. Using the famous game “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” created around 1950 by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher and later formalized with its current name by A.W. Tucker, Axelrod invited experts in game theory to a tournament. The competition consisted in sending programs in which the participant should choose between making a cooperative decision or a non-cooperative one faced with a series of repeated interactions of the game. Among them all, the strategy called “Tit For Tat” from Professor Anatol Rapoport of the Toronto University always won. What was surprising is that its strategy was also the most simple. It consisted in that the first decision was always cooperative while after it systematically repeated the decision of its opponent (Axelrod, 1984).

As in the Tit For Tat strategy, that group that initiated its activity in a corporative manner, that is giving the system and opportunity, advances more and goes further in the processes of the model. Likewise the reciprocity concept, a key on in the Axelrod work was like a consequence of complementarity of the interests of the group, of its capacity to reject cooperation if the expectation of returns did not exist and of the real and close perception that the cooperative effort would be compensated. That way one would be cooperative of the other party was also and would generate common benefit. To the contrary, this would not be so if the other weren’t.

When extrapolating these teachings to the reality of groups, therefore we have to take into account that the size of these play against the perception of individual contribution and the expectation of returns. In addition, it would be a negative factor if the benefit of cooperative effort were unequally shared among the members giving way to a less clear expectation of reciprocity. When designing teams and compensatory policies, thus it would be necessary to divide large group into smaller teams to improve this perception.

By integrating collaboration levels in the model, we observe that the Alliance level is accessible to any series of individuals with coinciding interests. The level of cooperation would be at the reach of those groups that have initiated integration processes and have minimum trust, sufficient to sustain the negotiating process and the establishment of compensations on equal terms. When the minimum level of trust is missing negotiation cannot progress even though both parties consider a potential agreement as beneficial. Finally the maximum level of collaboration forcedly needs to be situated at the highest level of the model.

Axelrod, R. (1984). The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.

Nezamirad, K., Higgins, P. G., & Dunstall, S. (2005). Human collaboration in planning and scheduling. In 7th International Workshop on Human Factors in Planning, Scheduling and Control in Manufacturing. The Netherlands: The University of Groningen.

Schrage, M. (1990). Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration. Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.: Random House.

Zamora Enciso, R. (2010). Cooplexity. A model of collaboration in complexity for management in times of uncertainty and change.


ESADE – Executive MBA

This year I have been invited again to participate as assistant professor at the Experimental and Reflective Learning Week within the EMBA program at ESADE Business School.

This program is under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jaap J. Boonstra. Boonstra is former Dean at Sioo, interuniversity centre for organizational change and learning and professor in organizational change and learning at University of Amsterdam.

One of the most impressive learning from last year was “The 12 Dilemmas of Change”. It is a change development tool currently used by Boonstra from his own consultancy firm in Amsterdam.

It consists on a survey able to define the “profile of change” of an organization. Conveniently clustered, the results can identify differences on how each group perceives the company. The board of directors, the middle managers, a specific department or section, a country company or an affiliate, all of them have different perspectives. Hence different approaches must be taken to pursuit the processes of change.

Once the aimed profile has been defined it is possible to identify potential focus of resistance and discriminate solutions depending on how far they are on each of the twelve concepts. All the company politics are affected, recruitment, compensation, performance appraisal, selection, training and development, succession planning. This systemic approach ensures the whole success by applying local actions within a general strategy.

The 12 Dilemmas of Change are:

  • Dilemma 1: How much openness towards approach?

Solution-oriented versus Problem-oriented

  • Dilemma 2: How much participation?

Presentation of final proposals versus Consultation and participation of personnel

  • Dilemma 3: How strongly to structure and formalise?

Formal and controlled approach versus Informal and flexible approach

  • Dilemma 4: How much room for adjustment?

Once-only linear process versus Permanent iterative process

  • Dilemma 5: How much time pressure and monitoring?

Strict control of time schedule versus Time schedule dependent on process

  • Dilemma 6: Which change organization?

Projected organization versus Emergent organization

  • Dilemma 7: Which process rationality to use?

Economic and technical rationality versus Socio-political rationality

  • Dilemma 8: How standardised should change be?

Uniform implementation versus Differentiated implementation

  • Dilemma 9: How to read resistance?

An obstacle someone must take versus an expression of involvement

  • Dilemma 10: Involvement of managers and line leaders?

Informed about goals, plans and duties versus Full involved from the beginning

  • Dilemma 11: How much openness towards units in own organization?

Arrange internally versus External coalitions

  • Dilemma 12: How much participation of customers, business partners and public?

Closeness towards environment versus Openness toward environment

Recommended reading:

Boonstra, J. J. (2007). Dynamics of Organizational Change and Learning. (J. J. Boonstra, Ed.) Chichester, West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Howard Gardner publishes in 1983 Frames of Mind establishing by first time its theory of the multiple intelligences. In a later work he summarizes them in the following way (Gardner, 1993): Linguistic Intelligence, Logical-mathematical Intelligence, Spatial Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence and Intrapersonal Intelligence.

Of the seven, we are concerned the last two. He defined as Interpersonal Intelligence the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. It is the ability to identify their moods, temperament, motivations and intentions. It enables you to read the intentions and desires of others even when not shown.

The Intrapersonal Intelligence refers to the internal aspects of a person, access to one’s own feeling live, one’s range of emotions. It is the ability to discriminate between these emotions, providing and guiding one’s own behaviour. A person with good intrapersonal intelligence has a viable effective model of himself or herself.

Earlier other authors related emotional content with the concept of intelligence. Edward Lee Thorndike introduced the concept of Social Intelligence toward the years 20 but at that time the definition of IQ and their corresponding test to measure monopolized all the attention.

It was in 1990 when Peter Salovey and John D Mayer introduced the concept of Emotional Intelligence (Salovey & Mayer, 1990) organizing the Gardner personal intelligences (interpersonal and intrapersonal) in five major competences:

  • The knowledge of one’s own emotions
  • The ability to control the emotions
  • The ability to motivate oneself
  • The knowledge of other people emotions
  • The control of relationships

But it is not until the appearance of the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman when popularizes the term. In the words of Goleman, is in these other characteristics that we have been called emotional intelligence, features such as the ability to motivate ourselves, to persevere in the effort despite the possible frustrations, to control impulses, to postpone the bonuses, to regulate our own moods, to prevent the anguish interfere with our thinking skills and, finally, but not least important, the ability of emphasize and rely on the other (Goleman, 1995).

On the basis different frames of generic competencies (MOSAIC, Spencer & Spencer, Boyatzis and Rosier), Goleman relates twenty-five competences with five dimensions of the emotional intelligence (Goleman, 1998).

At present are being very used two tests nof the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. The Emotional Competency Inventory (ECI) created in 1999 as a variant of the dictionary of Goleman and the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI), an evolution in the ECI created in 2007 and that is becoming de facto in the standard of measurement of the socio-emotional competences. The ESCI offers a way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, giving them precise, focused information on exactly which competencies they will want to improve on in order to meet their career goals. (Boyatzis, 2007).

The ESCI measures 12 competencies organized into four clusters:

Self Awareness

  • Emotional Self-Awareness (Emotional Awareness)

Self Management

  • Emotional Self-Control
  • Adaptability
  • Achievement Orientation (Achievement)
  • Positive Outlook (Optimism)

Social Awareness

  • Empathy:
  • Organizational Awareness

Relationship Management

  • Coach and Mentor (Developing Others)
  • Inspirational Leadership
  • Influence
  • Conflict Management
  • Teamwork (Teamwork & Collaboration)

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences. The Theory in Practice. New York: BasicBooks.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality (9), 185-211.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury.

Boyatzis, R. (2007). The Creation of the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI). Boston: Hay Group.

NCSL Distributed Leadership Full Report

There is no a closed body of theory around the concept of distributed leadership. Different authors propose definitions without that still have reached an agreement on the matter. Among them, perhaps the two most significant are Spillane and Gronn. Both raise the concept from their research and publications at the start of this decade among which can be highlighted as particularly important at the time:

Spillane, J. P., Halverson, R., and Diamond, J. B. (2001) “Investigating School Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective.” Educational Researcher, 30 (3). April 2001 (download).

Gronn,P. (2002). “Distributed leadership as a unit of analysis.” The Leadership Quarterly, 13, 423–451. (US $ 19.95 en ScienceDirect).

Both approaches have their origin in the implementation of the leadership in schools and are based on the fact that the framework prevalent until the moment in which the leadership was focused on individuals and their positions is incomplete.

For Spillane, Halverson and Diamond leadership must be understood as a distributed practice, stretched over the school’s social and situational contexts. In their scheme, leadership practice is not simply a function of an individual leader’s ability, skill, charisma and cognition. And this is especially true If expertise is distributed.

For Peter Gronn the division of labour within organizations provides two roles fundamentally opposed, one focused on activities and tasks and the second in controlled and performed. This simple and antagonistic view does not correspond with the real complexity of the natural world where in fact exists a hybrid situation where the degree of distribution of the role of leadership varies. The approach of Gronn, much more sophisticated from the conceptual point of view deals between other aspects the distributed leadership from the perspective of the Complexity Theory (as a emerging pattern of collective behaviour when there is interdependence) and from the team approach (spontaneous collaboration, use of synergy, coordination).

Since then distributed leadership has been associated at times as shared, delegate, democratic, dispersed, etc. In an extraordinary research work carried out by Bennet et al. all the literature on the subject is reviewed so far:

Bennett, N., Wise, C., Woods, P., & Harvey, J. A. (2003). Distributed Leadership: a review of literature. Nottingham: NCSL National College for School Leadership, The Open University and University of Gloucestershire (download).

The authors identify three distinctive elements of the distributed leadership among the different approaches that analyzed. Firstly, distributed leadership highlights leadership as an emergent property of a group or network of interacting individuals. Secondly, distributed leadership suggests openness of the boundaries of leadership. This means that it is predisposed to widen the conventional net of leaders, thus in turn raising the question of which individuals and groups are to be brought into leadership or seen as contributors to it. Thirdly, distributed leadership entails the view that it is possible to forge a concertive dynamic which represents more than the sum of the individual contributors. Initiatives may be inaugurated by those with relevant skills in a particular context, but others will then adopt, adapt and improve them within a mutually trusting and supportive culture.