How can we bring organizations to life? Share your thoughts with us.
Welcome to a brand new section on the Good Men Project. This new section addresses the current issues related to the field of Organizational Business. There’s much to do and lots to discuss.
As a coach, consultant, and facilitator, I believe that organizations and organizational life mean a great deal to our society. Nearly every one of us either works in an organization, sells to an organization, or affiliates with an organization. Sometimes all three! In the twentieth century, most societies experienced a dramatic emergence of organizations and their impact on economic expansion, professional opportunity, and popular culture. Organizations became a fixed aspect of many people’s identity. Personal and professional relationships, social status, and retirement options all flowed from an organization.
In the twenty-first century some organizations have emerged as global influencers of consumption, beliefs, and values—even more than entire nations! The choices that Amazon and Apple and Microsoft make, just to name a few, dramatically shape the lives of billions of people across multiple continents. Twitter and Facebook have literally altered the way millions of people communicate with each other, their home governments, and the rest of the world. Old stalwarts, such as IBM, GE, and ExxonMobil, work tirelessly to reinvent themselves and define the future.
Organizations leave an indelible mark on more lives across the planet than ever before. The choices they make about how to innovate, how to treat people, how to approach governance, and how to treat the planet matter significantly in the grand scheme of things. We all have a stake in what happens. We deserve an opportunity to share our voice about where this all goes.
In terms of moving forward, I want to set a tone. As I bring together multiple contributors and reach out to an engaged readership, I want to suggest a question to explore. My idea comes from a passage authored by Peter Senge, best-selling author and systems-thinker-extraordinaire.
In a foreword Senge wrote for the book The Living Company by Arie de Geus, he penned the following thoughts.
At the heart of this book is a simple question with sweeping implications: What if we thought about a company as a living being? This raises the obvious question: What is the alternative view of a company if we do not see it as a living being? The alternative view is to see a company as a machine for making money.
A living being, not just a machine for making money. Wow, that says a lot. Much academic writing has gone into the suggestion that organizations are organic in nature, that they have a personality, a soul, an essence. Many writers and leaders refer to their organizations in organic terms, such as a body or ecosystem.
This is great for the researchers, but how about the rest of us? How about the people who live and work in these organizations? What do we think and how do we feel? We all recognize that companies exist to make a profit, or at least be financially sustainable, but what else?
How might organizations come alive more fully in our lifetime? After we shape our organizations, they go about shaping us. Let’s our part of it consciously and deliberately.
As dozens of business and social leaders have demonstrated, there is no defined mold for an organization. It can be whatever we want it to be. Think of Tony Hsieh at Zappos.com or Jimmy Wales at Wikipedia or Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo. These leaders have all done what that challenges the thinking of what organizations can be.
Let’s explore this together. The more the merrier.
If we think of organizations as living, how might they bring greater life to our societies?