What holds us together?

During the week I spent a fruitful day with an amazing bunch of people. Collectively they form a loose team, but it’s not conventional. Essentially it’s a series of disparate initiatives and projects that are held together by common values and ways of being, and driven by a fairly high-level vision.

Together they embody something profound, though they are not often in the same place at the same time. And sometimes the effectiveness of their connections can be variable or diffuse.

Our attention turned to how to strengthen these connections and engage with the transformation that is on the horizon.

And spider’s webs became something of a metaphor…

Powerful threads

The thing about spider’s webs is that they are extraordinarily strong. Weight for weight, the thread the spider spins is stronger than as steel.

Yes, they look fragile, but maybe that’s because we are using the wrong measure.

So what is the spider doing in spinning their silk?

On the web, they are doing two things. Firstly they are framing connections between points – usually variable foliage if outdoors – to make anchor points. This superstructure, made of dragline silk holds the web together, withstanding pressures like the breeze and light rain.

But the web can’t function unless there is a matrix of threads between these anchor lines. These flag silk threads are much more elastic. They not only give resilience to the anchor threads but also provide the fabric of the web to catch their prey. These micro connections are vital.

Therefore the silk the spider spins is doing two different things – anchor and connect – and the web needs both if it’s going to be a web…

Sounds obvious, but think about it a bit more. Where does this apply to us?

Firstly, it suggests we need anchor points. What are they? And where are the right ones for us? It has to be something consistent, that’s not going to just walk away…

Secondly, where are our connections? What enables us to be embedded in the matrix that will hold us up when the going gets tough?

That leads us to think about the nature of the connections. What is the thread made of?

Traditionally we might have said that this was just about roles and responsibilities. Someone has to be clear about what everyone else has to do.

But as we explored it further the current reality of the threads of relationship becomes even more real. The web isn’t a rigid structure, it is organic and flexible, created for a purpose. Without the purpose and connection, it is nothing.

So how can we strengthen what holds us together?

It’s not about the structure

The thing about spider’s webs is that they are unique.

They are one-offs in the sense that they are created for the local conditions on that particular day. Probably never to be repeated.

But there is also a range of different forms, depending on the species of spider.

Here in the valley, we might see a variety of shapes. From the common central radiating form with evenly spaced connecting threads, through to the apparently chaotic, multi-layered structure. And even those with holes in the middle, to tempt the curiosity of unsuspecting prey.

The other thing is that we usually don’t see them…

It takes particular conditions – usually early in the morning when there’s been a dew – for these to be visible to the passing eye. And I guess that’s the point. They’re not there to be paraded.

There is a lot in here to those of us who care about whether we and those around us thrive. Sometimes we just take it all for granted, but when we need to know what holds us together it’s great to learn from those who have done it really well.

Thanks for reading


This week

A little like my spider’s web, the threads of this week’s short doses of quiet disruptor wisdom are connected – if you look hard enough!