A child is born helpless. The boundaries they have in those first months and years are essential to their survival. Without guidance, an eight-year old will not make the right choices, but by following directions, children slowly learn what is expected of them and start acting accordingly.
Maybe we don’t acknowledge it at the time, but often it is the boundaries we have experienced growing up that help us to feel truly free in our adult lives.
However, it is not as simple as a smooth line on a graph that begins with complete protection and ends with freedom. The line moves up and down according to how secure you feel.
The search for boundaries
I grew up in the suburbs of Stockholm. I was blessed with an idyllic childhood that helped me grow up happy and confident in my environment.
Then, when I was fifteen, I experienced an extremely traumatic event that devastated my family. My world imploded. Life, which had to that point been picture-perfect, became cruel and hard. That combined with being in my mid teenage years I realized that I needed boundaries. So the young Axel started searching them out. Wherever I went I looked for direction and reassurance. When life is uncertain you need clearer guidance on how to live it.
As we try to navigate the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, uncertainty has returned to us all. Our goals have changed. We will gladly sacrifice some of our freedoms for a steady hand. For economic support and clear governmental guidance.
And we are confident that, as certainty returns, the boundaries will lift.
Most people accept that we need this model to protect the most vulnerable in society.
But should businesses operate with the same authority?
Many of them do — even when times are good. Bosses and leadership teams set boundaries on strategy and standard operating procedures. Staff are subjected to rules around timekeeping, holiday entitlement — even what clothes they wear.
To me, this is extraordinary.
At best, it represents an outdated commitment to hierarchy. At worst, it can have a disastrous effect on authenticity, creativity and employee wellbeing.
But what it really shows is that companies operating this way are insecure.
Because the more secure you are in a group of people, the fewer boundaries you need.
Guided by collective security
At Mpya Digital, we have tried to create a collaborative culture where people can shape their own rules. Everyone contributes to strategy and direction, but our purpose is set in stone.
In our business, expertise trumps hierarchy every time. I don’t pretend to have all the ideas and solutions needed to run a successful company. Often my colleagues are much better qualified to make big calls on how we operate in certain areas of the business. By giving them a voice, we are allowing them to pursue their own personal energy and dreams. That means we have to have a fluid and democratic attitude to boundaries.
More importantly, we have to have a strong sense of collective security.
It took a lot of time and effort from all of us to get to where we are today. At the beginning, when you are just starting out and your business is a blank canvas, it can be scary. You don’t know people well yet. It is easy to fall back on rules and processes as a way of getting things off the ground.
But if you can get through that and build a feeling of solidarity and shared purpose, you can create a company without boundaries. And that is a marvellous thing.
With Mpya as my platform, I feel like I have completed my personal journey beyond boundaries. Finally, I feel completely secure and comfortable with my colleagues, my surroundings and my role.
Mpya has given us all a safe environment for ideas to flourish. A prestigeless culture built on trust and authenticity. A place where we can all thrive.