The strength of the Pack

Mowgli soon learned a vital lesson, the Law of the Jungle:

…For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Ester showcased the Law of the Jungle in last Wednesday’s special edition. In that video, 4 kids follow a deductive process to understand the differences between living in the city and living in the country. They reach the conclusion that the city is an effective way of consolidating offer and demand (jobs, education, leisure options, …) but at the same time produces an unsustainable way of living (pollution, stress, …) The video shows how strong the method of collective thinking is, for each Wolf makes contributions and the Pack finally settles into a conclusion.

The Pack is stronger because it builds on the contribution of many. The Pack is stronger as long as the Pack remains united, as internal differences threaten to break it. The role of the coach is to handle that tension, not to guide or manipulate the conclusion. There are methods that facilitate this delicate balance. Thinking Based Learning is one of them. Design Thinking is another popular method for solution design that we’ve adopted at work, with great success.

Design Thinking uses this hourglass graph to illustrate what happens, emotionally, to the Pack applying the method.


Part of the session is spent fostering divergence among the Wolves. Divergence is good because divergence is creativity, is options, is outliers, is richness. Divergence at the same time is risky. It threatens to break the Pack, Wolves become Wolves, attached to their ideas and propositions, fighting hard to impose their individual points of view. The coach must have the tools and methods to turn it around into a downward slope of convergence. Convergence will bring the Wolves together and regroup them into a joint conclusion. There is nothing more powerful than a regrouped Pack that has struggled and has agreed. There is some emotional primal instinct playing here. We belong to the Tribe and we will die for our Tribe. A Tribe that successfully resolves internal conflict is stronger. A coach helps create the conflict, and guide its resolution.

When I was a kid, we would every now and then have group assignments. Group assignments, without a guiding hand that manages this dynamics, turned people into Lone Wolves. Everyone that has gone through this know what I’m talking about: the clumsy split of tasks, the guy that does not commit to deliver its part, the other guy that simply won’t follow what was agreed, the endless discussions, the one that finally stitches it all together and curses. I think most of us hated group assignments. Today, I crave Design Thinking sessions. What is different then, if both imply a group of people working towards a common objective? The method and the coach.

During more than 30 years of my life, I have believed team work was bullshit. Today, I believe and follow the Law of the Jungle. So much as to believe that the role of a manager is no more and no less than to become a coach. It is not to make decisions. It is not to give direction. It is to help the Wolves dissent and contribute, then regroup them into a stronger Pack. The Pack makes the decisions, the Pack sets the direction, and the Pack is always stronger than the Wolf, no matter how clever or wise.

Enough assisted communism for today… enjoy the weekend!