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How to differentiate between the need for individual and/or collective responses?

When it comes to solution-seeking and problem-solving behaviours, I invite you to think of your responses as a two-sided coin. Whatever challenge, change, or opportunity, you're likely to need one of both sides of this coin with individual response on one side and/or a collective response on the other. This article invites you to flip that coin based on what you need to accomplish within any given situation.


Why consider these approaches in the first place? As mentioned in a previous article, preventing the hyper-individualization of collective issues is a key part of facing personal and professional curveballs. The main invitation here is to hold yourself accountable for your actions in any given situation, as well as hold others capable of doing their best in any of those given situations as well. By deciding that an issue can only be solved through your actions alone, you're missing a key piece. You do not exist in a vacuum. Your actions are impacted by the actions of those around you to some extent. Your actions impact others' to some extent as well. Instead of hyper-focusing on yourself, the invitation is to take a step back and get a clearer understanding of the broader context in which the curveball is taking place.


What does understanding the broader context mean when it comes to an individual or collective response, though? It looks like mapping out a challenge, change, or opportunity and identifying the type of response that will catalyze the desired change. For example, these can be issues of communication, transitions, relational ruptures, team-building, duplication of efforts, loss of purpose, new endeavours, and more. On the one hand, the important piece to keep in mind is that reducing collective issues to individual responses will always be an incomplete way of addressing these. On the other, the same mismatch takes place when amplifying an individual issue and making it a collective one when individual responses are vital to any collective effort.


The invitation here is to come back to the 3 pillars below:


  1. You don't exist in a vaccum and are not meant to white knuckle your way through it all

  2. There's so much that's out of your control

  3. There's so much that is in your control


From these three pillars, the next invitation is to map the situation you're facing in order to sort out the type of responses you need:


  1. What's the current state?

  2. Do you have as much information from as many sources as possible?

  3. What might you be missing and how might you fill that gap?

  4. Does it require an individual response or shift in your personal behaviour in order to get closer to the desired state?

  5. Does it require a collective response or shift in your group/team/community dynamics in order to get closer to the desired state?


With a clearer map, the third invitation is to get a sense of whether you need an individual response, a collective response, or, as is the case most of the time, both. To get a sense of that, I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:


  1. When it comes to your individual response, what's in your control and what can you influence?

  2. What supports do you need in order to achieve the change in individual behaviour that will get you closer to where you want to go?

  3. When it comes to a collective response, who are the key players that you need to connect with?

  4. When it comes to a collective response, how might you contribute to it?

  5. What Why will you come back to in order to nourish your individual and collective efforts?


For more articles on breaking the cycle of chronic overwhelm when facing change, challenge, or opportunity, catch up on existing articles here !

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