We all have our moments of connection. Those moments when we feel alive, connected to ourselves, to those around us who matter, to what surrounds us too. Sometimes moments of great strength, but also of great vulnerability - it is often outside our comfort zone that we find a greater connection! I realised this when I got into the car with the newborn in the back seat: my driving style had completely changed...
For a while now, I have been observing how work can, or cannot, offer this kind of connection. I've been observing how the world changes and how the world of work is slow to adapt. I've been watching as the diseases of disconnection, whether called burn or bore out, continue to proliferate under our helpless gaze. I observe how things that we take for granted in real life (freedom, respect, fairness...) are denied in the world of work.
Since my doctoral thesis almost 10 years ago, I have been looking for ways to reconnect with the world of work. I am experimenting with other ways of doing things, but also of being together, inspired by the successes and failures of my predecessors, companions of intuition, the intuition that another world of work is possible.
Nurturing our needs as human beings
Work certainly nourishes through material remuneration, but it cannot be limited to that... About connection in the context of work, the work of Deci and Ryan, with the theory of self-determination, is among the most convincing. My main takeaway from this is that nurturing our human needs at work, particularly autonomy, inclusion and development, fosters a connection to self, to others and to the work itself.
- Autonomy is the ability to lead one's life and to try to make sense of it.
- Inclusion is the possibility to be fully oneself and accepted as such, as a member of a group recognised for its intrinsic value.
- Development is the ability to grow as a person.
So we experiment with new ways of doing things that best satisfy these needs, new structures (rules, procedures) leading to new ways of seeing things (a new culture). Or the other way around: making people see things differently to influence the way they act. It is interesting to note that some currents have sought to nurture these needs in isolation: there is a risk of losing balance. Promoting autonomy without thinking about inclusion can lead to individualism. By promoting inclusion without development, we potentially create "Care Bear" communities...
Horizontal organisation... or not
With the word "autonomy" being dropped, some readers will already have the word "horizontality" in mind. "Yes, I know, I have a cousin who is in a startup where they do everything horizontally".
However, this word has little meaning in our contexts. To manage complexity, which grows day by day, we must use verticality. The whole of nature is witness to this, everything around us is assembled to form systems, which in turn assemble to form larger ones, vertically. It would be madness to want to flatten all the cells of the human body on a single level. It would also be crazy to think that there is one cell in the brain that is the leader of all the other cells and that this one is always right no matter what the subject is, simply because it is the leader. It would be foolish to think that communication, or even collaboration, coordination, is only vertical. Yet there is order in this chaos... Like the organisation of nature, another way is possible for management, which must integrate vertical and horizontal models... We call it, for want of a better term and in a very generic way, Collaborative Governance.
Thus we most often use a circle structure where individuals have autonomy within a clear framework of responsibilities, where the rules of the game are as clear as possible for everyone, and where neither teams nor job descriptions constitute boundaries...
Collective intelligence... or stupidity?
How can we give everyone their rightful place? How can we ensure that multiple intelligences are fertilised? These are real questions, which deserve the greatest care. All too often, collective intelligence is brandished like a magic incantation, as if it were enough to gather people in a room for collective intelligence to emerge. Unfortunately, this is a real challenge, and collective stupidity is never far away when inappropriate processes are used. One only has to look at the difficulties modern democracies have in making the right choices in the face of pressing challenges. Does this mean that we should go back to a good old-fashioned dictatorship? Another way is possible, again...
The tools exist, but they are not all easy to handle. Especially for generations that have learned far too little of the "soft" skills that are at stake here: openness, listening, letting go, while at the same time taking the initiative, trusting, caring...
Authentic Words and Relationships, a newfound vulnerability...
The last key aspect I would like to address here is this notion of authenticity. In "Reinventing Organizations", Frédéric Laloux used the word "wholeness", and this was probably the most complicated concept for management technicians to grasp. This capacity to be oneself, with its more vulnerable parts, its contradictory and negative feelings, and its needs, is so differently implemented in each person... The capacity to say things in an authentic and benevolent way is really damaged today in organisations. At first, we thought that all we had to do was open up a space to talk and it would be filled with our deepest secrets... It was not so. It is true that we have to open these spaces and give the mandates. We must also propose techniques that allow us to express ourselves sincerely without hurting - Non-Violent Communication is a very interesting tool. And we must also accompany this change, bearing in mind that the behaviour of historical or emerging leaders is even more influential in this sphere…
"It's great, but in my company, we're not ready yet!"
I hear this phrase in every conversation I have about my job. I reply that no, indeed, no one is ready. That we are all somewhere, that there is a step to take and that there is an experiment to be conducted. A fight to win. No magic sauce fits everywhere, it's each one's road, each one's path, step by step... Would you like us to help you to make the first one?
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