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This post is part-9 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction and overview of previous posts, check here.

Geert Degrande is a Flemish writer, author, translator, journalist, listener, and innovator. We met in 2009 as part of my personal self-discovery journey. Geert was a witness of the coming-out ceremony at the end of that journey. It was also the start of this blog in April 2009 with “Singing my own song”.

Begin 2015, Geert introduced me to Fabiaan Van Vrekhem, who was working with Geert on a book about disruption. To be honest, I was a bit suspicious, as after all these years, i have seen so much abuse of the buzzwords innovation and disruption.

We met for a coffee in Fabiaan’s offices in Brussels on a warm spring day in April 2015, almost day on day 6 years after my first blog post, I only realize now.

The connection was genuine and immediate. We had a long conversation about the essence of work and different levels of quality awareness.

I got hooked when the conversation went into the topic of letting go: those moments in your work maturation, where you are not interested anymore, because you want to move on to the next level. Where you delegate the execution of certain tasks to professionals.

I am just back from delivering a great edition of Innotribe at Sibos, where I had the pleasure of working with professionals from George P. Johnson and Collective Next.

Those professional are so good: they give me piece of mind that the work will be performed as imagined by its architect and curator. Where art and content and flawless execution meet and create a superior experience.

IMG_5875

Innotribe anchor person Akhtar Badshah with his own artwork in the background.

It is the result of months of build-up, co-creation and co-ideation; it is the moment to “let go”. And I have to confess I find it still difficult to let go.

Letting go is also my challenge when doing my artwork.

Leaving room for unplanned encounters.

As many of you know, I have gone back to artschool. Last year drawing: painting this year. Discovering the difference between drawing in lines and thinking in shapes and layers. Where the best discoveries happen unexpectedly.

IMG_5735 (1)

Study book Petervan – unplanned encounters of stuff – 2015

As part of the studywork, I dived into this great book about artists. And I had to think again about the layers of quality so well described in Fabiaan’s book.

33 Artists in 3 Acts

Letting go and delegate, like artist Jeff Koons in Sarah Thornton “33 Artists in 3 Acts”, where she describes the artist employing a staff of 150 people in his studio to execute his creations by the best craftsmen.

“Artists have become ideas people liberated from manual labor; they can delegate without compromising their authorship.”

“It is important not to confuse art with craft”

balloon dog jeff koons

Balloon Dog – by Jeff Koons

Fabiaan’s book “The Disruptive Competence: A journey to a sustainable business, from matter to meaning” came out in June 2015. I got a copy of the manuscript before that and invited Fabiaan to speak at our 2015 Rebel Jam on June 26, 2015. You can listen and watch the recording of his WebEx talk here.

cover fabiaan

The book is about letting go, delegating when not being interested anymore. And moving on to the next level of quality awareness. It’s a deep book about different levels of ambition and life quality.

map fabiaan

The 7 dimensions of value creation – courtesy Fabiaan Van Vrekhem

A good example of “letting go” is when you for example reached valuable craftsmanship. You move to the next level of value creation “service” and let the quality control craftsmen come in. Your interventions are now about service. As you mature in the essence of your work, you work yourself naturally up on the value layers.

  • Layers 1-4 are all about context management. That’s what many companies are good at.
  • Layers 5-7 are about context creation. That’s what not many companies are good at.

To go back at the start of this series on The Essence of Work, management and creation are different belief systems.

If you are already in context creation mode within an organization that is struggling in the context management mode, it is a source of frustration, for members of either belief system.

Again, the one is not better than the other. Trying to solve the problem as WE see it. This is coming back to Dave Gray’s belief systems: “as we/they see it”

The maturation is in the move

from “span of control”

to “span of support”

Making interventions at the 7th dimension, the dimension of societal progress – is about meaning-making. This is the dimension of societal context, the dimension of sense-making:

We are prepared to pay more for meaning than for matter

The 7th Dimension is to become a source of influence to make people aware on how to interact. This is where “let other see what I see” comes in: let others discover what they can see if they become multi-sensory sensitive and aware.

This becomes even more important in a world that is moving fast, in a world full of uncertainties.

The methods of planned certainties

don’t work anymore in an uncertain world.

The more uncertainty, the more unknowns.

You cannot solve the unknown with the known, you can only solve the unknown with what you become aware of, and that is consciousness.

People are on a growing curve. Because they have a certain potential capability present, they look for more information, more data so they can use their capability at the full.

The organization has to become “aware” of this learning-progress-maturation need of their collaborators.

This is different from “I look for a job where I can learn”: that is in essence is an egocentric desire, where the individual wants to suck more knowledge (aka value) out of the system that he/she contributes. The maturity happens when that person starts to realize that a balanced caring life is more about putting value back into the system.

How many levels can your organization integrate to create a potential context machine for your collaborators?

When people outgrow their role, they get frustrated because of the unused potential. They are determined by responsibilities that no longer fit their level of capability.

As we have seen, Fabiaan describes 7 layers of value creation.

I would claim there is another level.

Where it is about pure beauty. The sort of beauty that is not of this world. The sort of beauty that only can be captured in ballet, or in poetry, or in multi-sensory performances.

ballet

Theatre de Chaillot in Paris on May 2. (ALAIN JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a word for that, I discovered recently: ETHEREAL

Ethereal means “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world.”

Like in “her ethereal beauty”. Synonyms are: delicate, exquisite, dainty, elegant, graceful, beautiful, lovely, fragile, airy, fine, subtle, unearthly, aery, aeriform, airy, aerial, gossamer, celestial, supernal.

What if we would set that as standard and norm for the essence of our work?

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This post is part-3 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.

Alexa Meade Art-1 - Aligned with Alexa (2010)

Artwork by Alexa Meade - Aligned with Alexa (2010)

In Part-1, we learned how my needs inform my beliefs. My beliefs inform my actions. My actions result in effects. And those effects confirm or adjust my needs. We ended Part-1 with the promise to dive deeper into values and needs and how they are the fundamental building blocks of the essence of good work.

There is much taxonomy of needs, and I just picked this one by Shasta Nelson in Huffington Post some years ago. The needs are nicely grouped in the following categories: Connection, Physical Well-Being, Honesty, Play, Peace, Autonomy, Meaning.

How does your work allow you to progress on these dimensions? I tried to highlight below for myself some of the needs that are not fully met, where I could use some stretch, where there is room for progression and growth.

  • Connection: affection, appreciation, belonging, intimacy, safety, warmth
  • Physical well-being: air, shelter, touch
  • Honesty: presence
  • Play: joy
  • Peace: beauty, harmony
  • Autonomy: space
  • Meaning: awareness, clarity, discovery, self-expression, to matter

This list I share here is not an exhaustive list of my met or unmet needs. They are just some examples. There are other ones that are too personal, and don’t feel right to share on a public blog.

The bottom-line is that we have to be honest and sincere about our needs, and definitely not try to change them, or to lie to yourself about them, as Dave Gray suggests in Liminal Thinking:

“There is nothing you can’t lie to yourself about very convincingly, including covering up that you are lying. You do this naturally and unconsciously.”

“This is self-sealing logic at work. New information from outside the bubble of belief is discounted, or is distorted, because it conflicts with the version of reality that exists inside the bubble.”

So what is inside/outside of our bubble?

I believe it is common knowledge that happiness at/in work happens when your personal values and the values of your employer/customer are aligned. Values are part of the bubble.

The areas of alignment are much broader and diverse than just “values”. We have to align at the level of beliefs; and because our beliefs are informed by our needs, we have to look into whether your “job” is satisfying your needs.

There was a great paragraph 6) in James Altucher’s 2013 post “10 reasons why you have to quit your job this year”:

I will define “needs” the way I always do, via the four legs of what I call “the daily practice”. Are your physical needs, your emotional needs, your mental needs, and your spiritual needs being satisfied?

The only time I’ve had a job that did was when I had to do little work so that I had time on the side to either write, or start a business, or have fun, or spend time with friends. The times when I haven’t is when I was working too hard, dealing with people I didn’t like, getting my creativity crushed over and over, and so on. When you are in those situations you need to plot out your exit strategy.

Your hands are not made to type out memos. Or put paper through fax machines. Or hold a phone up while you talk to people you dislike. 100 years from now your hands will rot like dust in your grave. You have to make wonderful use of those hands now. Kiss your hands so they can make magic.

One can argue, “not everyone is entitled to have all of those needs satisfied at a job.” That’s true. But since we already know that the salary of a job won’t make you happy, you can easily modify lifestyle and work to at least satisfy more of your needs. And the more these needs are satisfied the more you will create the conditions for true abundance to come into your life.

Your life is a house. Abundance is the roof. But the foundation and the plumbing need to be in there first or the roof will fall down, the house will be unlivable. You create the foundation by following the Daily Practice.

Aha! The Daily Practice! James must have been reading Integral Life Practice 😉

IFL Book cover

A good starting point indeed to look further into our needs – starting point is a little bit of an understatement here – is the work of Ken Wilber on Integral Life and the use of the AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels) model for personal growth.

ILF the 4 AQAL quadrants 2

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

And within each quadrant, you have many lines of growth possible. Let’s have a look where Ken Wilber puts “needs”:

IFL needs in quadrant

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

The curvy lines/arrows labeled “needs”, “values”, etc are specific areas in which growth can occur.

Levels are higher-order structures that reflect different altitudes of consciousness. In the quadrant above, the concentric circles give an indication of those different levels growth. The more to the outside of the quadrant, the more you have progressed. Sometimes those levels of progression are indicated in colors (more on that later in this post).

The point I am trying to make here in the context of the “essence of work” is that alignment of personal values (the “I” quadrant) with the values of the organization (the “Its” quadrant) is limiting our experience.

For work being rewarding, satisfying, and meaningful, we have to do the same mapping/alignment between the “I” quadrant and “Its” quadrant for other lines of growth such as needs, but also morals, cognition, self-identity, interpersonal relating, emotions, aesthetics, kinesthetics, and spirituality.

Each line is unique in that it can develop relatively independently from each other. In other words, you can have progressed a lot on the interpersonal relation line, but be mediocre on your needs- or value-consciousness. This is very similar to the work on multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner at Harvard University and his work on Project Zero. From Wikipedia:

The goal of his research is to determine what it means to achieve work that is at once excellent, engaging, and carried out in an ethical way.

Project Zero’s mission is to understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines at the individual and institutional levels.

Alexa Meade Art-5 - Hesitate (2012)

Artwork by Alexa Meade - Hesitate (2012)

In that sense, the well-known Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is just one particular lens on our needs, and only on our needs.

Wilber’s book does a great job in putting Maslow in context, and comparing different lines of development and related models and research.

ILF levels together

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

Across the different lines of development, the levels of consciousness/awareness are indicated in colors of the rainbow, from infrared at the bottom up to ultraviolet and clear light at the top. Most readers will recognize the color code from Spiral Dynamics, the Teal Organization, etc.

Picturing your own more integral self-image of yourself is called a psychograph. Here is an example of a partial psychograph an Environmental Activist.

Psychograph example

From Ken Wilber’s Integral Life Practice

You can decide to focus on your strength-lines or your weakness-lines of growth.

Good work – not only the end result, but also the journey of making/creating it – is work that allows you to stretch your lines of development and to become an integral human being.

The essence of work goes beyond fulfilling your needs. The essence of work is to inspire yourself and others to produce work that has those eternal qualities of life.

The essence of work is about systems alignment.

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