Back in the 1760’s we began transitioning from creating goods by hand, to using machines to craft our products. We gave up quality, in some ways, for quantity and efficiency. In this transition to the industrial revolution we started to change the way we saw work, and our relationship with life and creation.
This Old Paradigm of organizations see the company, and everyone in it, in a mechanistic, highly logical and structured way. In these organizations employees are expected to behave in a way that exhibits minimal emotion, and a high sense of control, focusing only on results. People are expected to ‘follow the rules’. This reduces our level of creativity, our innovation, and ultimately our level of engagement, productivity, and fulfillment. According to Nobel Memorial Prize winning Economist Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006) “The only social responsibility of business is to increase it’s profits.” Not taking care of people, or regarding the Earth. We awarded him, for benefiting humankind.
Society was built around these mechanist organizations. Where we follow routine (the 40+ hour work week (9am – 5pm), and separate our work and our lives. Play on the weekends, work on the weekdays. This would lead an entire society, to think in a structured & linear, inside the box type of way. Leaving the body, our biorhythms and personal cyclical way of living, to the wayside. One example of this, according to NIH, is the fact that 1/3 of Americans don’t get enough sleep everyday. Another, is that according to the Global Organization for Stress, 75% of Americans say that they experienced moderate to high levels stress levels in the past month.
In our mechanistic organizations, we centralize power. We do this by focusing power at the top, in the hands of the CEO who makes informed decisions and delegates information, orders, and control downwards. They typically make 399 times as much money as the typical worker, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This slows decision making, information processing, and depletes employees overtime. This is the triangle at work.
In our aim for efficiency and productivity, we removed the soul from our work, constricted our life force, and numbed our creations.
Now we can have both.
It was in 1978 that James Grier Miller came forward with the concept of Living Systems Theory, which is the understanding of how natural systems interact, behave, change, evolve, and self-organize.
In the same way, the New Paradigm of structuring, guiding, and empowering an organization requires acknowledging how the system interacts, and evolves with itself. Margaret Wheatley, one of the first people to bring forward the idea of the organization as a living system observed that to create higher levels of health and flourishing, we have to find ways “…to connect it to more of itself.” When everything is more connected, there’s more communication and feedback, creating efficiency in how information and energy are distributed and diffused. For example, if you were watering your garden and had a set amount of water, you would want to make sure that the whole garden got watered, and that all the water didn’t collect in a puddle over a few flowers. That’s efficiency, and nature does it naturally.
In these organizations, since information is shared more broadly, people are empowered to make decisions within a guided group. Whether lead, or self-organized, these groups are given more autonomy and space to take more responsibility for the outcomes of the organization, than in a mechanistic organization. This autonomy opens up possibilities and allows individuals and teams to be creative, flexible, adaptive, and expressive with their work and creating results for the organization.
Leaders who adopt this mindset, heart set, and structure could be thought of as a gardener: tending the organization to design for the people and processes within and around the system (stakeholders, customers, vendors, etc.). When we design for flow, alignment (Soul), learning, coherence, and intention – we release human potential (what’s possible for the system) within the company.
When we design for flow, alignment (Soul), learning, coherence, and intention – we release human potential (what’s possible for the system) within the company.
Alignment: The North Star (or Soul) of a company is the purpose or mission of the organization. Crafting teams, stakeholders, and collaborators who share the soul of the company creates a sense of unity within the environment. People who share the soul of an organization were willing to take a pay cut to do so (68%), would consider leaving if it didn’t align (46%), and are more likely to consider it a great place to work (70%) according to Qualtrics. Gen Z is even more likely to desire alignment between themselves and the company they work for than any other generation.
Learning: Instilling a culture of continuous learning and improvement contributes to workplace satisfaction. Employees are 3 times more likely to stay at one of these organizations, have a 1.7 times higher job satisfaction, and are 1.4 times more engaged – according to The Energy Project. You also create a group of people that learn, grow, and become better and more capable overtime.
Coherence: When we design for coherence, according to Heartmath (a balance and energetic alignment between head and heart) we’re designing for resilience, longevity, presence, teamwork, and more personal energy within each individual.
Intention: Due to the work of Lynne McTaggart we know that when groups gather with a collective intention, it’s amplified. We now know that we can heal each other, love each other, and empower each other – at a distance. We can also manifest more powerfully, quickly, and effectively. Our intentions act like carrier wave signals through the quantum field, carrying information that collapses energy though observation. The catch is that you have to take your mind off of yourself, and focus it on others.
Flow: Openness, honesty, and vulnerability open up floodgates for trust, cooperation, and collaboration that allow deep connection to form and group flow to emerge within a team. Having exercises and practices to build these within teams will break down barriers and ignite flow and harmony within the group.
Appreciation: Encouraging and appreciation strengthens any company culture and environment. When we genuinely see someone for their efforts, we empower someone. According to Dr. Robert Emmons they feel more safe (less stressed), you improve their immune function, they sleep better, it creates more trust and loyalty between you, they want to give more to their work, and they enjoy being around you more. Once people are appreciated, their lives change. What you appreciate, appreciates.
When leaders design for all of the above and see their organization as a living, intelligent, evolving system, and treat it as such – Magic happens. Valuing the health, potential, and process of each person within a company will draw out the highest from each individual. This naturally leads to higher profits, increased growth rates for companies, and happier customers, stakeholders, and collaborators.
This is what collective success looks like.
You could spend a lifetime studying organizational design, business philosophies, and leadership but so far I’ve landed here. This is how I see organizations developing, growing, and succeeding in the future. I also see them pulsing with the seasons. Expanding and contracting with the shift from summer into winter. Honoring the shifts in the cycles of the Earth and the cosmos, as we honor the rhythms of our bodies and our hearts.
Humanity is so young, if you think about the long term. We’ve only just begun, and I believe we’re entering a period of harmony with each other, and the planet. I believe it will manifest in how we relate, how we do business, how we build our lived environment, and how create our sovereign systems. This is the circle at work.
It’s Heaven in the making.