Flourishing from Work: Good or Bad for Business? For You?: Recommended Readings

Clifton, J. and J. Harter (2021). Wellbeing at Work: How to Build Resilient and Thriving Teams. New York, Gallup Press. Dig in a little deeper here.

Pirson, M. (2017). Humanistic Management : Protecting Dignity and Promoting Well-being. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Pope Francis (2015). Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home. Città del Vaticano, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Sisodia, R. and M. J. Gelb (2019). The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World. New York, HarperCollins Leadership.

Wiener, N. (1954). The Human Use of Human Beings. Cambridge, MA, Da Capo Press.

Can you flourish from work? Because of work? Is flourishing from work good for business? Or is it bad for business? What about for you?

While a lot of people are talking about flourishing at work today, there is no consensus. Many people think it is either (1) inefficient to bring feelings and vulnerability into the rational process of efficiently converting inputs into outputs someone will value, or (2) it is just plain dangerous to do so. And, there is growing evidence that flourishing at work leads to flourishing in life. So, what is flourishing at work, and how does that flourishing impact business results? These five books address these questions, providing many case studies and lots of data, from across the globe on what flourishing is, how high-performing organizations are evolving their capacity for flourishing at work, and why this is required to address some of humanity’s large-scale issues. Let’s explore the five books, briefly, by alphabetical order of the authors.

Clifton and Harter synthesize lots of data gathered recently by the Gallup organization, looking at their five elements of wellbeing (career, social, financial, physical, community), with chapters dedicated to lots of data and examples about what healthier and higher performance looks like. They also frame four risks of NOT creating a net-thriving culture, as well as provide a roadmap for you to take on your own net thriving. Very accessible.

Pirson interweaves scholarly research in business with classic philosophy to build a framework for thinking about a more humanistic management, putting human dignity and well-being at the core of business practice and research. For those seeking to frame why and how they are proposing more humanistic ways to manage their business, Pirson provides an entry way to that logic, peppered with references to robust thinking about why and how a humanistic approach is more powerful.

Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Lauato Si’ puts the flourishing human being, in community, at the center of the process for dealing with massive issues in our common home, our living earth. Our current choices are damaging this common home, which is causing a decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society. There is another path, of creativity, collaboration, and dialog. The consequences of flourishing from our organizations might be our capacity to creatively collaborate on addressing these massive challenges to our common home.

Sisodia and Gelb find that not only can people flourish at work, how we come together can actually be healing. Healing individually and as groups. Across companies and communities. They provide many examples of groups that are thriving and having huge impact, through their healing processes at work.

In his classic piece, Wiener shows how understanding humans as living feedback systems emboldens how organizations and society might engage them. People are more “patterns that perpetuate themselves” than “stuff that abides,” capable of extending themselves through their attention and intention into greater-than-self purposes. While quite technical and theoretical, at the founding of cybernetics, Wiener provides solid and simple frameworks to remember that people are amazing, evolving beings, and using them as cogs in a machine is a huge waste.

From the very practical to the very theoretical, from the very grounded to the very spiritual, these five books suggest that we humans can indeed flourish from work, and that human flourishing is good for business and good for you.

Leadership for Flourishing

Reimagine leadership as empowering human flourishing. A group of us have come together, from across the globe, to work on this. Human flourishing, leadership, character, and actual impact.

How do these elements fit together? Do people who figure this out and practice this every day do better? These are the questions we are asking. Find out more about how by visiting us at https://www.leadershipforflourishing.com.

You can also see an overview of this emerging thinking in the free online “Leadership for Flourishing” course offered by our colleagues at the Oxford Character Project and the Harvard Human Flourishing Program.

Guest Post — The Science Behind Our Yes!

What is the science behind your Yes!?  

For those of you who prefer audio or video, Maureen and I explore this in a radio interview.  If you prefer text, Lou and I explore this in a blogpost.

We welcome your insights.

Measuring Success 2.0: Recommended Readings

Keller, S. and B. Schaninger (2019). Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley.

Phelps, E. (2013). Mass Flourishing: How Grass Roots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Stiglitz, J. E., et al. (2019). Measuring What Counts: The Global Movement for Well-being. New York, The New Press.

Nobel laureates in economics, economists, and strategy consultants. They have spent many years thinking about how society today measures success. They all suggest that today’s “obvious” measures of success miss huge amounts of value. They leave most of the value on the table. They even plain miss the mark. Basically, we are measuring the wrong things, in that the things we measure don’t tell us what we want to know.

We want to know both how well something has done and its capacity to keep doing this. Its performance and its health. Our current measures of performance focus mostly on performance–how well we did. We made money, we scored a goal, we got a 10/10 on the exam, we were promoted. This performance data only tells how we did. It doesn’t tell us anything about how we got the resources we used, how well we used them, or whether we can continue to get them. In other words, these performance measures don’t tell us whether we extracted all of the value out of the system to get our past results, or we have nourished an even richer system from which we can continue to produce great results. Did we extract value from the future to get results in the past, or did we generate a rich future while performing well in the past?

A common measure of sustainability looks at the net value an ecosystem generates today and its capacity to continue to do that in the future. In simple evaluation, this is called the net present value. The value generated now plus the potential values generated in the future, discounted by the risk of getting to that future. The performance these authors look at measures what we have done. The health they look at measures what we will be able to do. To know whether we are better off, now, we need to our performance and health. These authors plow through massive amounts of data, from the very macro to the very micro, to show how measuring performance and health leads to far better outcomes and far higher well-being.

McKinsey consultants Keller and Schaninger show that a robust, comprehensive organizational health index guides an organization towards strategies and actions that generate greater performance over time. This provides a way for aligning the organization internally, with higher quality execution and constant renewal. The practices that support organizational health also lead to greater awareness of one’s environment and the capacity to respond to changes in it, leading to more probable and greater performance.

Economists Stiglitz, Fitoussi, and Durand show that macro-economic initiatives guided by well-being are far more successful than GDP-only designs. They use data to show why we need to move beyond GDP, compiling many examples of how different countries are integrating well-being into their measurement systems.

Economist Phelps finds that prosperity is best measured by flourishing, the ability of people to engage their fullest capacities in a a task, as well as their ability to express themselves creatively, growing into their greater potential. While these factors are critical to understanding what has driven past growth and technological development, they are not usually included today in economic thinking. They need to be.

To measure our success, from the very micro level of individuals to the very macro level of whole societies, we are better off when we understand and evolve the systems we have that drive our performance, managing them in ways that continuously increase the health of these very systems. Performance and health are not tradeoffs, extracting the value from one for the other, rather they are indicators of the generativity of the system, and indicative of the underlying agreements than support that performance and health. These are great reads, full of data, with clear frameworks for what we can measure going forward.

Your Grit (perseverance and passion): 4 Levels

In this podcast, Freakonomics UChicago economist Steven Levitt explores “grit” with Grit UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth. Characterizing grit as perseverance and passion, they explore different ways people think of their own grit. Listening to this podcast, having reading Duckworth’s book, I realized that you could think of grit from an ecosynomic perspective from four different levels.

Noun level, where I focus on agreements based in what is already finished. At the noun level, grit (nGrit) is about my own node, the immediate space around my own self. I have an executable goal that I can achieve with my existing capacities. I have enough grit to read a book today, or climb that mountain this week.

Verb-noun level, where I pay attention to agreements based on what I am developing in relationships and capacities (verbs), as well as the outcomes (nouns). At the verb-noun level, grit (vnGrit) is about my own node and its links to other nodes. I have an intermediate-level, developmental goal, that I achieve as I grow. I have enough grit to strengthen my capacity to read more and more deeply, or climb that mountain, coming out stronger than I started.

Light-verb-noun level, where I focus on agreements based in my beingness, my potential, what I am becoming as I develop relationships and capacities, and the outcomes of that tangibilizing process. At the light-verb-noun level, grit (lvnGrit) is about my node, links to other nodes, and the centers of the circles of linked nodes. I have what Duckworth refers to as a top-level goal, often a deeper shared purpose to which I have the grit to contribute, that is in my potential to grow into being able to achieve. I can see that I will be able to read ever-more challenging books, and even begin to write books. I can see that I could climb ever-more challenging mountains, and maybe in different ways.

Ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, where I focus on agreements based in the deeper purpose I feel called to serve. At the ecosystems-of-sacred-hospitality level, grit (eshGrit) is about the liminal space generated by the double pull of transcendence away from herenow and immanence completely in herenow. In my grit, I have an existential-master goal, which defines and guides every aspect of who I am and what I do. I am in service to reading or climbing, continuously in the process of cotangibilizing my service to that purpose, evolving what I understand is in my potential to realize along the way.

Grit. Perseverance and passion. What that means to me depends on what I see as my reality. Nouns only. Nouns and verbs. Nouns, verbs, and light. Ecosystems of sacred hospitality. Each level of reality engages orders of magnitude more grit, all which is inside of me to choose.

Purpose Is Now Mainstream-Obvious

Our colleagues on the mainstream’s leading edge have now taken up “purpose” in a serious way. Purpose is no longer a nice-to-have, leading-fringe thing. It is not just for the systems thinkers and esoterically-oriented leaders out there. Connecting to the motivating reason that organizes everyone’s efforts in an efficient, effective way generates much greater value. People who do not know why they do what they do are now proven to be far less efficient and effective. Not good.

Finding your deeper shared purpose is straightforward to do. Mostly it takes you asking. Why do we actually do what we do? What gets us up in the morning, really? What gets our creative juices flowing?

The data-driven folks, with access to a large percentage of the organizations in the world, are now proving that purpose has come mainstream.  The benefits far outstrip the costs.  Leading thinkers at McKinsey have shown that if you do not help your employees find purpose, they will leave. The global survey folks at Gallup show that you need to start with purpose to get your people’s best performance.  The global consultancy Deloitte suggests that purpose-driven companies are built to flourish.  Even the medical establishment is getting on board, showing that people who do not connect to their purpose die earlier.

Why Is It A Surprise That It Is VERY EXPENSIVE To Disengage The People You Already Engaged? Some Are Figuring This Out

The folks at Gallup, whose global studies have shown that most people are disengaged at work, are now finding and studying groups who are actively working to not disengage their people. A 2020 report found four factors that drive higher engagement.

Actually engaging with the people who already show up at your work is possible, and the organizations they study are showing how. From an ecosynomic perspective, these organizations are making a very difficult and challenging move, from deep scarcity where they treat their people as replaceable machine pieces to respecting that these people actually know something, might actually be learning something, and might actually care about what the organization is doing. This is a huge step on the way to becoming an organization that stops saying No! to human creativity and begins to say Yes! to human creativity. It is a big step, and Gallup researchers have teased out four of the drivers that these leaders are taking in this step.

Here is what they describe, in the four drivers, and an initial ecosynomic description of what these drivers highlight.  

  1. High-development cultures are CEO- and board-initiated. This driver highlights the ecosynomic Economic Lens, which asks the question of how much resource is available.  In high-development cultures, the CEO and board signal to the organization that (a) development towards purpose is also an important resource, beyond just outputs and outcomes, and (b) organizational resources are available to support this.
  2. High-development cultures educate managers on new ways of managing — moving from a culture of “boss” to “coach.” This driver highlights the Political Lens, asking who decides and enforces.  In high-development cultures, decisions are made by the primary relationship most relevant to that decision, meaning that individuals make decisions about their own potential, learning, and engagement, supported by others in that process, with the group deciding for the group’s processes.
  3. High-development cultures hold managers accountable. This driver highlights the Cultural Lens, asking the question of what criteria or values are used in decision making and enforcement.  In high-development cultures, leaders throughout the organization are held accountable, based on values of potential and learning and outcomes.
  4. High-development cultures practice companywide communication. This driver highlights the Social Lens, which focuses on the question of how people interact.  In high-development cultures, the rules of the game focus on explicit communication across the whole organizational ecosystem, across levels, functions, and geographies, supporting the shared engagement and understanding of outputs, outcomes, development, learning, and potentials. 

These are very real examples of what Gallup is finding across many organizations.  What many others are figuring out. These are realities available to you.  It is VERY EXPENSIVE to shut down the people you already have.  It is far LESS EXPENSIVE to say Yes!, to engage the people who you already have.  Your choice.

Want a Daily Practice for Thriving?

For thousands of years, people across the planet, everywhere, have founds ways to thrive. Within their local context, they have learned how to live a good life, a life well lived. They have learned how to see what is actually happening, with an ever-expanding embrace of reality and how they want to engage in it. In today’s modern world, many of these practices from other cultures, other places, and other times are presented as modern solutions. You might find that some of them work for you. It is mostly about trying it, keeping at it, and seeing what it does.

A practice for thriving designed for today’s contemplative practitioner is the Integral Polarity Practice (IPP). Building on wisdom traditions, with modern practitioners in mind, it works with transcending polarities–seeming opposites, often pulling in different directions–to bring more of your own creative Yes! to the world. Developed by my colleague John Kesler over many years, IPP supports your development and integration of stages of awareness, what some call “growing up,” and states of awareness, also called “waking up.” This practice is directly applicable to your own development, to your relationships, and to your organizations.

Say YES! to ALL Children Flourishing in Public K-12 Education — OOMA Is

All children can flourish in public K-12 education. While it is not a reality yet, the OOMA network in Massachusetts is taking its first steps in a collaborative, systems approach to saying Yes! to all children. 100%. Not just some of the children, in some zip codes, some of the time. Everyone everywhere everyday.

In the June 2021 issue of the Eton Journal for Innovation and Research in Education, editors Jonathan Beale and Iro Konstantinou share a piece Wayne Ysaguirre, Hardin L.K. Coleman, and I wrote, “A Bold Vision to Advance Racial Equity and Prepare Underserved Youth to Thrive in Work and Life.”

The article describes the collaborative, strategic-systems approach taken by our colleagues at Open Opportunity MassachusettsInstitute for Strategic Clarity, Social Impact Exchange, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Wayne, Hardin, and I describe our article in this brief 6-minute video.

Choosing Your Agency, Everyone Else Is: Recommended Podcast

Your Yes!  It is yours.  With it you can align what you pay attention to, what you care about, and what you do with your purpose. You can choose to give your will, your intention, attention and action towards a future you love.  

To be clear, your will is being used.  Always.  The question is who is using it, towards what purpose.  

If it is being used towards your Yes!, that’s good for you. If you are unaware of this use of your will, it can still be somewhat impactful, towards your Yes! Being aware of this allows you to align your attention and action with your intention towards it, reaping far greater results, in a much more engaging way, for you.  If it is not being used towards your Yes!, then it is being used towards your No!  That is not good for you, as the net result is always negative.

In this episode of the podcast Choiceology, Prof. Katy Milkman explores who usually controls your decisions, your actions.  It is still a choice, one you can make or let others make for you.