From meaningful work to meaningful business (a reflection)

Last May I had the opportunity to partecipate at the #RethinkMaterialism Annual EBBF Conference in Geneva (Rethink Materialism speech) and to attend the inspiring presentation of Kate Cacciatore, where she talked about what makes our work meaningful, based on the study of Marjolein Ups Wiersma (the Map of Meaningful Work).

I have been really touched by her speech and by this inspiring map that I think really makes the point about “sense making” in our lives and in our work: what the map teaches us is that meaningfullness of work comes from the reconciliation and integration of what really matters to us (being) with what we concretely do in life and work (doing), both to express our full individual potential and to benefit others, experiencing a sense of unity and belonging.
Doing what you really are in sinergy and unity with the working community you belong to, for the sake of a higher purpose…
As a counselor I immediately found the idea of this reconciliation very similar and consistent with the work of Carl Jung when he talked about “integration of Ego and Self” as a lifetime essential work for the wellbeing of individuals.
Self and Others, Being and Doing reconciliated as a result of a process of deep understanding and “open hearted” dialogue among an organization…it sounded to me as a Holy Grail…

But my question was “how”?
I mean, how it would be possible to make it happen the reconciliation and integration of these four “realms” of living (being, doing, self & others) considering the complexity of an organization and the risk to fall on the ideology of good business?
That question invited me to reflect about the design of a process of internal dialogue, that may help to unlock and facilitate a sense making process within the organization. Leading individuals, teams and companies themselves to higher level of motivation and fulfillement (meaningfullness of work) and consequently towards a better success and a better future.

Let’s imagine this facilitation process being grounded on the Map of Meaningful Work, to ensure that the company plan – which would be co-created – will make sense and will be meaningful to the organization itself: a vision and a plan able to unlock the power of “will”.
I imagine the process would move through three different layers of conversation addressing – in each of them – the four quadrants of the The Map of Meaningful Work (Integrity with Self, Expressing full potential, Unity with others, Service to others):

Conversation 1:

Designing the company Self switching from “mental planning” to “intuition and listening” and unlocking the power of truth (allowing people and teams to share what has to be shared, with no worries if something may be felt unconvinient to be declared). It’s the time to reveal and listen to feelings and emotions which are useful to get to the “WHAT MATTERS MOST” within the company community (nothing to do with Branding or marketing illusions, we work with what makes the company real and concrete, relevant, valuable and useful).

Questions as such, may help to reflect on what is the company “Self” that emerges from what company people find meaningful:

1) Sensing integrity with self
What makes sense to me related to my work & the organization I belong to?

2) Sensing what helps us to express our full potential
What is the capacity or talent I can express better in my workplace?

3) Sensing unity with others
What common intent fires all of us on and infuses us with enthousiasm?

4) Sensing how we can serve others through our work and business
What is the valuable change we want to bring into our working practice and business environment?

Deep listening techniques, low judgement attitudes and intuition technologies would guide and stimulate the flow of individual and collective perception.

Conversation 2:

Designing different or brand new behaviours that will lead to meaningful actions and projects as a proof of company Self.  It’s about switching from the logic of “claiming” (i.e.: creating fascinating brand positionings or pay-off) to the logic of “facts”, letting your facts tell your story to the rest of the world.

Again, some stimulous may guide the conversation towards the ideation and prototyping of what behaviours and acts would manifest more honestly our organizational truth (our inner values, our intent, …):

1) Acting integrity with self
What’s new should happen  in my personal working practice, to make me proud of myself and my company?

2) Acting what helps us to express our full potential
What specific personal results will make my efforts worthy?

3) Prototyping behaviours that build unity with others
What new or different behaviours will reflect the company Self,
that matters to us?

4) Prototyping how we can serve others through our work and business
What is (or will be) the final proof of the value we can benefit our stakeholders community?

Systemic thinking, role rehearsal techniques and embodyment practices would guide and stimulate the flow of understanding and the co-creation of the behavioural and action strategy.

Conversation 3:

Designing a strategy of inclusion and sharing, that “opens” the organization and make it a “community”. Being a community is about learning and developing the capacity to dialogue, to listen, to see in the eyes of others, to foster solidarity, to see “the whole” and not only the “own”.
It’s not about being good, not at all. It’s about being smart and wise: being a community obliges you to open your perspectives and to think differently because you must consider a wide range of needs and expectations.
And if you accept the deal, for sure you will strive…but you will end to be a much smarter, innovative and flexible organization able to survive and be successfull within a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous).

What may be the stimulous questions to drive the conversation?

1) Sharing & including based on self integrity
What is/are the stakeholder/s that matters most to me?

2) Sharing our full potential
What can I give through my work??

3) Including others
How can we evolve our governance model to include stakeholders in our decision making process, building emphatic relationships and better collaboration?

4) Sharing how we serve others through our work and business
How can we share our results, to inspire others?

Stakeholders dialogues and “sensing journeys” (as fostered by Prof. Otto Scharmer in his Theory U model) may be the main techniques used to acquire the ability to feel stakeholders needs instead of just knowing them. It’s about going beyond researches and analysis, beyond data and powerpoints, to sense the needs that are out of your office as they were your own needs. It’s about breaking the wall of “cynicism” and minimize the “emotional distance”, so that you can feel the urgency and the desire to do something relevant and meaningful as an individual, as a professional, as a team, as a company.

The Map of Meaningful Work reminds us that if you want to create positive and valuable change within an organization or a business, you cannot start from statements or plans but you need to start listening first.
Before being directive you must be emphatic and trust what matters to you and to your people. And that may be the most rich ingredient to build your organization on: if you think in long terms…”no meaning” means “no business”.
Finding meaning has a cost, because it requires to listen to what’s true and that may be uncomfortable and challenging through time (i.e.: be consistent, say No, making difficult choices, invest time and money in taking care of relationships, renounce to your personal plans,…).
In spite of how challenging it may be the application of the map of meaningful work, I find this perspective really fascinating and worthy to be taken into consideration, paying attention not to fall into an ideology but staying practical and keeping your feet well grounded.




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