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  • Stephen Scott Johnson

Effortless Collaboration (the Change Leaders Manifesto revised)

Updated: Aug 22

The essence of any purpose-led organisation is to recognise why it exists. Be it high-performing teams, customer tribes, or grassroots communities – every organisation on the planet was established to fulfil a need in society – its higher order purpose. Spanning products, services, stakeholders and more, higher purpose champions a greater good and ensures the people an organisation exists to serve remain at the forefront of its focus.


Since first introducing the Catalyst DNA™ higher purpose framework to the world, it’s caused a few ripples. The full engagement blueprint is in my book, Emergent, and this week I’m going to share the elements that help teams identify their higher purpose and create a manifesto. At the centre of this activity is the Catalyst Engagement System™, a collaboration framework that codifies the essence of movements to fuel and sustain change. I developed Catalyst over a decade working on high-profile engagement projects such as the United Nations ‘World Malaria Envoy’ and Alliance for Climate Protection ‘Live Earth’, helping achieve results for their most critical causes. But first, to challenge an often-confusing point of view amongst leaders I work with, a manifesto is not a mission statement or a perfectly crafted vision and set of company values. Rather, a manifesto is like a lighthouse – a beacon in the darkness that advances a set of ideas or plan of action – inspiring people to connect with a higher purpose and co-create as part of something bigger than themselves. If you’re a leader frustrated by a lack of engagement, collaboration and performance, you’ll want to read on.


An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it — William Bernbach


The Catalyst Engagement System™ is like sacred geometry, bringing order to complexity by changing the culture of how leaders and team’s work. Catalyst equips organisations with the vital ingredient that is missing in most corporate change agendas – passion-focused higher purpose – empowering people with confidence and capability to lead change and innovation as a movement (as opposed to top-down, hierarchical change, which fuels fear and is done ‘to people’ not ‘with people’). I’ve been teaching Catalyst methodology for the past decade, equipping teams to collaborate effortlessly and solve their most complex challenges.


The three main elements of the Catalyst Engagement System™ are:


1. Positioning: The alignment of organisational strategy with a clearly articulated higher purpose; synthesised as a manifesto that forges connection, trust, and alliance.


2. Performance: Essential systems and tools that address incoherence and equip an organisation’s stakeholders to collaborate autonomously and interdependently, inspired by a higher purpose.


3. Partnership: Cohesion between champions of change; that is, the leaders, first-followers and wider community of people who co-create and sustain the desired transformation.


If you consider the millions of dollars in failed team building and corporate engagement programs, then wondered how it is possible for people from diverse cultural backgrounds, values, and interests to mobilise as a single organism to affect change – people who essentially don’t know each other – the answer is a higher purpose manifesto. From Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March to Love is Love and White Ribbon – at the heart of all great movements is a manifesto – a living narrative (what you love, believe, and are committed to) wrought through compassion, outrage, hope, competition – a desire to be more. There is a lot we can learn from grassroots movements to transform the culture and impact of organisations, and over the coming weeks I’m going to show you how to apply these principles to elevate your leadership and catalyse collaboration.


Getting started: create your team’s Manifesto


Let’s start with the first cycle of the Catalyst Engagement System™, which focuses on three main tasks: Identify | Influence | Align. Once a higher purpose has been identified, I’ll show you how to mobilise people to bring it to life in authentic ways.


Get your team together and ask the following questions:


• Who do we exist to serve? *This is the essential first step to articulating a higher purpose


• What do our community (employees, customers, stakeholders, the market) say about us?


• How can we authentically connect people – to see what we stand for as an extension of their own values and beliefs?

• What would inspire people (employees, customers, stakeholders) to donate their time, energy, and passion? How can we communicate this meaningfully?

• How can people contribute to the design and evolution of our higher purpose – to make a difference by becoming part of the story as they share it with others?


Learn how to create a manifesto for your team or business and make a higher purpose real for your people.



Until next time...