There has to be a better way

Should 70% really have to be disengaged at work

For most of human history we were all hunter/gatherers. Then about 10.000 years ago we invented agriculture and most of us became farmers. We settled down in villages, which were later engulfed by nations and empires. We worked hard to provide food for our families. We bartered with nearby villages and were eventually subjected to tax, rent, and of course the 10% church donation to secure the afterlife.

We were born into our position, there was no corporate ladder, and we accepted the authority of the ones above us. Life expectancy was short at around 35 years, so we married early and spent most of our time with our families and the village.

Then came the age of reason, followed by the industrial revolution. Science and methodical thinking slowly grew on us and we experienced great leaps of innovation in the fields of technology, medicine and society. We moved to cities, got specialised jobs and were rewarded for working harder and thinking smarter. We invented hierarchal organisations, and profit became the measuring stick. Companies began competing for marketshare and growth, while inside the organisations we competed for position. The best performers got promoted and were rewarded with fame and fortune.

None of the luxuries we take for granted today would be possible without science or the industrial revolution. Life expectancy has more than doubled. We have the free market, iPhones and space travel.

But then there’s the flipside. Greater efficiency has led to a rapid increase in population while the desire for financial growth keeps pushing consumption per capita. While the population growth is showing signs of stabilisation we’re already over consuming, and are quickly running out of finite resources. Not to mention climate change and all that other fun stuff we’re doing to our planet.

We also invented depression, burnout and the pursuit of happiness. As depression is currently growing at 20% per year it’s never been a better time to be a physiologist, life coach, or motivational writer. I’m not suggesting we weren’t depressed our unhappy thousand years ago, but I think its safe to assume that the primary concerns were at the lower levels in Maslow’s yet unheard of pyramid of needs.

But I’m getting off track. Let’s get back to the workplace. A show of hands. How many of you are happy at work? How many feel engaged? Do you feel that your effort is valued or even valuable? How are your working hours? Do you feel that you’re in the right role, and is your company structure enabling you or making life harder? Let’s do another one. Would you go to work if you didn’t get paid for it?

No? The good news is that you’re not alone. A recent yearly Gallup study shows that approximately 70% feel disengaged at work. Most of us spend more than half of our waking hours at work, and we’re miserable. We’re caught in a circle where we accept that we’re unhappy at work, because it provides money which we can spend on things that make us happy, such as a a big screen TV, a larger apartment, in a better neighbourhood, or perhaps a two month journey to India to explore the meaning of life. The good news is that this behaviour drives consumption, creating more jobs, and more unhappy people.

During the industrial age we reaped the benefits from our move to cities and corporate jobs. We were awarded with longer lives, and an increased quality of life. But as we’ve talked about, progress came with it’s challenges. We can’t solve today’s problems with todays thinking. But what if we evolve the way we think…?

Would it be possible to create organisations where people are happy and come to work because they want to? Would it possible to create powerful organisations, that serve a greater purpose than profit? Could we slow down or even revert the damage we’re making to our planet, while at the same time ensuring a good life for all?

I think so. In fact I’ve recently been convinced. Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organisations’ takes us on a journey through how we we’ve evolved our thinking and worldview in stages from the archaic ages until today. Each phase get’s a color, and Laloux show’s how we’ve developed a new type of organisation for each stage. He goes on to argue that we’re in the mist of a shift in consciousness and in the early early stages of seeing a new organisation structure evolve. This new stage get’s the color Teal, hence the name of this blog.

I’m clearly a fan, but not in any way affiliated with Frederic Laloux. I don’t make any profits from his book, but If you’re one of the 70% who are not fully engaged at work I highly recommend you read it. I’m a management literature junkie, but no book has ever impacted me as much as Reinventing Organizations. The digital version is ‘pay what feel’s right’. I’ve already bought 4 paper copies.

This blog series will share my thoughts and reflections regarding Laloux’s book and around the concept of Teal organisations. It will also describe my own journey of ‘Going Teal’ with my company Seed Nordic. I hope to spark an interest in Teal thinking, and perhaps find people to cooperate with as I embark on my own journey.

So tag along. Hit that subscribe button, and let’s see where this takes us.

Click for Part two…