In 1534 a group of men, some disillusioned soldiers, some students, all a mishmash of Spaniards, Portuguese and French gathered outside paris to form an order. The Company of Jesus was a commitment to each-other and to their cause.
to “enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct”
You don’t have to be Christian, Catholic or even religious to have some respect for that kind of commitment. A vow of poverty and a future of unknowns. These men were a special type of person, who would stay committed to their cause through untold hardship. Upon forming, the Jesuit Priests split up and set out to complete the tasks given to each member by the pope.
There are two parts of the story about this order that are relevant to the introduction of social computing in to an organization today.
The first is the story of the constitution of the order. The founder of the order, Ignatius of Loyola, was tasked with creating a constitution and set of rules for the brotherhood. I am sure that having to live within the Catholic Church, easily the largest enterprise of the day, did not make this easy.
His approach, and one we should replicate, was methodical and took place over a period of six years. Ignatius of Loyola did not draw up arbitrary rules as I can only imagine would have been common in the church, instead he introduced rules or customs and tested them out, getting rid of ones that didn’t work and keeping the ones which helped move the order forward. Instead of pretending he had the answers, which as leader would have been typical, he chose to do what was sensible.
The second lesson, or perhaps warning, is how hard the work of the Jesuit Priest was at this time. The thankless journey in to unknown populations to spread a gospel that most people didn’t understand or particularly want. This is the role of the Enterprise 2.0 Evangelist in a large organization today. Behind you, you have the enterprise, playing the role of the church, and in front you have a hostile population.
What can the Priests and Priestesses of Enterprise 2.0 do to be successful? How can a mid-level employee bring social computing in to their organization? Is it hopeless? Are the Jesuit Priests of Enterprise 2.0 bound to a life of pain and rejection? Take a page from the Jesuits. You have to go in to unknown cultures, unknown places with unknown risks and you have to put it all on the line. You must live the faith in the most stubborn way possible and only then will your message be seen and heard. Above all else, the Jesuits aimed to live their faith and be examples rather than simply act as preachers. The impact of this was profound.
Few societies have entrenched themselves so successfully across the globe as the Jesuits, they have been resilient to change and catastrophe over the years and they have, arguably, been successful in achieving many of their original goals.
Leave your views of religious orders at the door, I know I had to, and take a look at the story of a small group of revolutionaries who created one of the most distributed, organic and innovative organizations that the world has ever seen.