No Man can live in isolation. No society can remain detached from other operating societies. No country can afford to be reclusive from the comity of nations. No person, society or country, hence, can be isolated islands.
The only story I have ever read about a person living by himself is Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’. Defoe wrote this story in the year 1719. To save himself from savage animals or even unseen humans, Robinson built a den, and named it ‘My Castle’. Surviving from a wrecked ship, he used the lifeboat and later swam to the nearest island, which wasn’t inhabited by humans. The principal lesson learnt from this story read in fourth standard was that Robinson lived in constant fear, filled with anxiety on a desolate island; it also established for us students that man is truly a social animal. He maintains sanity and ability to think rationally and needs the company of others ... human beings.
Loneliness is a curse, he recognises. It will be extremely difficult to judge and assess, if in isolation he found peace, ever. Most mystics go into hibernation of sorts to seek spirituality, but Robinson was no ‘seeker’, hence devastated by his unfortunate condition.
Man is a social animal, is the first lesson of any civics class at school. That is to say the obvious. Once the family of Adam and Eve kept growing, the need to know and understand each other kept growing too, because each was different, with distinct thought, skill and abilities. The weakness of any sorts in one was supplemented by the strength in the other. Humanity grew based on the need to accept the concept of interdependence.
The theory of interdependence is built around the concept of social exchange principles, that provides for defining it as, ‘the process by which various people interact with each other, and in doing so, influence each other’s behaviour and thought patterns. In the process there is a solid exchange of experiences’. Kurt Lewin, the German-American psychologist, who is considered the pioneer of social organisation, was amongst the first to define interdependence, and he stated, “The essence of a group is not the similarity or dissimilarity of its members, but their interdependence... A change in the state of any sub-part changes the state of any other sub-part... Every move of one member will, relatively speaking, deeply affect the other members, and the state of the group.”(quoted in Wikipedia, also).
In reviewing the significance of interdependence, it must be borne in mind that the levels of dependency change and alter depending on individual behaviour and responses. Greater dependence by one upon the other can lead to imbalances in relationships. There has to be an equilibrium and mutuality of dependence to make a team work, efficiently and productively.
In the very early part of my career, as management trainees, we were introduced, to the concept of ‘joint personality’ by Mr. Agha Hasan Abedi, the president of the institution. A management guru, who lived much ahead of his times. The concept was based on the age old premise, that two heads are better than one. The explanation he would give, almost to the degree of belabouring it, that it is only through keen cooperation that best corporate results are achieved. The joint purpose and objectives remained aligned to the joint personalities that were entrusted with tasks. Self interest, if any, was made subservient to joint interest. He as a capable manager infused passion that allowed for self interest to expand itself to become mutual interest. For some colleagues the transition from self interest to mutual interest was easy, however there were pockets, who did not commit to it wholeheartedly. This transition is the most critical aspect of interdependence. He was passionate about the management concepts he espoused and expected all colleagues to follow and adhere. It worked well by and large at all locations.
In the arena of international political and economic order the role of interdependence plays a crucial role in preventing major conflicts. Regardless of the differences, both the USA and China cannot afford prolonged trade wars; their economies are intertwined. The concept of interdependence has gained more traction with the interconnectedness that has happened owing to progress in communication and related technologies.
The transformation outcomes of interdependence are either negative or positive feelings. The emotional responses are guided by acceptance of the need to seek cooperation between persons and teams. In the working environment, whenever there are two or more processes and different teams involved, there is opportunity for having greater efficiency based on the understanding between teams.
The concept of task interdependence is best described when to reach a common milestone there are two or more tasks dependency on one another. The chain of activity to complete a task is dependent on an interconnected basis. There could be situations where each team or each member of the team can contribute differently to a project, this would call for mutual collaboration.
Positive interdependence brings promotive interaction, negative interdependence creates adversarial interaction. The promotive interdependence facilitates cooperative behaviour, inclusive of mutual assistance. Positive dependence leads to healthy cooperation, whilst negative dependence ushers cut throat competitiveness.
In say a car assembly plant, the line cannot move, unless the identified individual performs the task, there cannot be step two without the first having been accomplished. This is referred to as sequential dependency. The team effort is sequenced. The assembly line’s productivity can be impaired by a single inefficient constituent.
Managers and leaders must spend sufficient time with teams to bring home the many benefits of the concept of interdependence; how it unifies to create mutually beneficial results, for the organisation and personally too. No effort should be lost, to draw upon the team members the high value the concept of dependency generates in the overall productivity and success of the organisation.
– The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist