Mo Gawdat (Solve for Happy) and Anahita Moghaddam (Neural Beings) delivered one of the most inspiring talks at the Masters & Robots Conference organized by Digital University in Poland (SingularityU Warsaw Chapter). They made me believe that the future state of corporations can be positive.
Is it positive today?
I don’t think so.
When we ask employees are you happy at work? How do you feel about the future of your profession and your organization? Many people express fear, discontent, and dissatisfaction. Many people feel disconnected from corporations and lack a sense of purpose and meaning. Wherever we look around us, we are witnessing an increased feeling of uncertainty, turbulence, and change. This feeling has recently culminated in the notion of ‘VUCA’, the idea that the world has become increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The exponential growth of technologies (artificial intelligence, robotization, digitalization, big data) that transform every segment of business and life inflames that feeling evermore.
Mo and Anahita argue that the old model of an organization running like a machine is not sufficient for the future.
What defines the organization as a machine? This metaphor was coined by Frederick Taylor in 1911, who claimed that the most efficient and effective workforce was like the well-oiled machine. Therefore, managers focused on effectiveness, competitiveness, continuous improvements. In this model the smartest people in the room, so the people with high IQ and crunching numbers abilities were recognized and promoted. The whole educational system was built around knowledge, numbers abilities. This model is still present and popular in many organizations in the world. This model is not sustainable for the digital era, the era when machines are taking over a lot of jobs humans used to do and machines are much better than humans. We are not machines and we shouldn’t be competing with machines.
Mo and Anahita offer to look at the organization differently, to look at the organization as a living organism.
What are the attributes of such an organization?
- Learn-it-all mindset instead of a know-it-all mindset. In other words in a “living organization” people develop a growth mindset (continuous learning, curiosity, experimenting, questioning status quo)
- Adaptation – seeing everything as a process, including myself – constantly evolving, changing, transforming
- Importance of prosocial qualities such as inclusiveness, collaboration, patience, compassion, empathy, well-being
- Recognizing EQ (emotional and social intelligence)
- Creating joyful cultures, when people live and work fully (engage, feel, express what they feel)
To build such organizations we need leaders who understand that they are “living organisms”, who feel, dream, create. We need leaders who are authentic, integral, and human. Because, before leading people, leaders must lead themselves first.
What do the leaders of the future start with?
- The definition of success: How do I understand my success? How do I define my organization’s success? Beside financial criteria, what matters to me?
- Inner values: What are my core values? Who Am I? What do I stand for?
- The purpose: What drives me? Why I do what I do?
- Impact: What change do I want to make on society, the environment, people?
- Well-being: Am I happy and peaceful? Am I healthy? Do I have positive relationships with family and friends? Do I carry on anger and anxiety?
It is the leaders’ role to create positive organizations, employees will be happy to work for. “A positive organization consists of individuals with positive minds. When individuals feel safe, valued and clear about the guiding principles of the organizations they work for, they are more likely to be happy, creative and motivated. In a positively inspired organization, values are clearly defined and communicated. Values inform the smallest details ranging from the choice of toilet paper to executive decision making.”
I hope that the digital era – will be the era of living organizations.
Disclaimer: This article was inspired by Mo Gawdat and Anahita Moghaddam’s presentation at the Masters & Robots Conference. It was not consulted with Mo nor Anahita. It represents my lessons and thoughts around the transformation of organizations’ models inspired by the speakers.