Unfold your Inner Potential
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When organizational culture is built on (inter)-connectedness…

In last month’s blog I analyzed how Maslow evolved his thinking concerning his hierarchy of needs and added a level above the need for “self-actualization"; namely, the need for “selfless-actualization” which encompasses higher needs which are also biological: such as the need for love, friendship, dignity, self-respect, self-fulfillment. Read more...

At that level leadership is oriented towards a broadened life perspective and purposes which inevitably impact the essence of the organizational culture. What would organizational culture look like at the level of selfless-actualization? Would “collaboration” and “communication” still be the same? My questions may sound like a “science fiction” discourse to the ears of some. However, we constantly evolve. Imagining, intention-ing and en-visioning positive potentials is a way to create them.

The worldview we have inherited and we largely function in is largely “mechanistic”. It is characterized by the idea that pieces of matter are isolated individuals (atoms) related to each other only externally (1). In an ideal scenario, society runs like a well-oiled machine, where each of us plays a predetermined role and we reach our highest potential when we become highly efficient and effective. Capacity for creativity, spontaneity, self-movement or novelty are conceptualized within the boundaries of our role. Coordination is regulated through external rules and connections.

Within the above “mechanistic” worldview (2), organizations exist to act autonomously in order to enhance their self-interest to the maximum. Connectedness among the various stakeholders -employees included- exists only when it can not be avoided. Collaboration is then seen as a needed prerequisite for optimization of self-interest within the rationale of competitive behavior and remains limited in time and scope. As for communication, it serves the need to set the rules of the game clearly, to learn new information which may prove useful to maximize individual self-interest and aims at solving problems while the transaction of collaboration takes place.

The worldview that selfless-actualization promotes, is one that Whitehead (3)- a prominent British philosopher and mathematician- calls “organic”. In this worldview, connectedness becomes inter-connectedness, in the sense that there is a spontaneous exchange which influences all parties involved and transforms them both individually and in their common exchange.The nature of this level of collaboration is holistic and its foundation is the desire to act for the common good. Based on equality and mutuality among the involved actors, collaboration gives equal importance to the needs of all stakeholders and allows more integrated solutions- which will intrinsically be ethical. In holism, polarization -the divisive belief of opposites (when one is right and/or good then the other is necessarily wrong and/or bad)- does not exist. Holism (4) entails the acceptance of polarities as different expressions of the same and coordination is not imposed from an outside authority but it develops organically within the flow of the exchange. Communication, then, is much more than an exchange of information. It becomes sharing of the heart, based on a genuine desire to understand, to strengthen the interaction and reach the best solution for all parties involved.

(1)Ims, K. J., & Jakobsen, O. D. (2006). Cooperation and competition in the context of organic and mechanic worldviews–a theoretical and case based discussion. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(1), 19-32.

(2) Georgescu Roegen, N. 1971. The entropy law and the economic problem. Harvard University: Harvard.

(3) Whitehead, Alfred North. 1967a. Science and the Modern World. NY:The Free Press.

(4) According to holism, there is no dualistic separation of mind and body; “life” and “matter”. For instance, nature is not dead matter existing in a world ordered by cause and effect.

Eleftheria Egel