Helping individuals to find meaning and teams to develop a shared sense of purpose in work
A STORY TOLD IN FIVE CHAPTERS
6 Minute Read
Resolving the biggest issues of society is always the greatest source of opportunity for long-term progress of any institution. But this requires considering not just the short-term interests of the organisation, but also the moral and ethical dimension of what it does - how it contributes to creating a society that is more just, sustainable and prosperous.
Walk into the big offices of an organisation anywhere in the world and you will find big brains honed in big universities mulling over big data trying to spot big opportunities. But most big institutions or companies conform to the logic of rational thinking and established best practices - looking for future success by examining past performance or the experience of other “better” organisations. This approach to decisions and policy development based on existing knowledge usually results in marginal or incremental improvements.
Few of us will deny that warm tingle we feel when we help people or the inner voice that asks ‘is this really the right thing to do?’ Emerging science from disciplines as diverse as neuroscience and economics is converging with what we’ve heard from great thinkers and artists for thousands of years - that humans are not simply self-interested. Instead, a more nuanced picture is developing, which reveals more about our altruistic nature. One where we are constantly balancing innate urges to look after ourselves and to help others.
What happens when you honour people’s altruistic urges and bring different sources of knowledge to your deliberations? When inner voices and feelings are expressed? Inevitably, new options will emerge that would have previously been overlooked, decisions will be made based on a fuller understanding and additional sources of value will be discovered.
To grasp the greatest opportunity requires the construction of new ways of being together, new ways of relating to one another, new ways for organising individual and collective affairs. It requires us to set aside our preconceptions that we need to be competitive over scarce resources that so often confines our relationships. It requires abundant thinking.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
If you were to listen into conversations around the office coffee machine or the work WhatsApp group, invariably there will be discussions on why the organisation is taking certain decisions or actions; the dilemmas people face and injustices they feel. You would hear deliberation on the consequences of organisational policy and actions on the lives of people inside and outside the organisation. With this exchange a collective wisdom of what is the right thing to do is being developed.
But often in an organisation this knowledge is not given the same value as expertise that comes from other sources. Policy and strategy is often the domain of the specialist and the organisation can become over-reliant on their specific tools and techniques . Although these approaches might seek the opinions and preferences of the broader organisation, it does not always spot the potential solutions that might sit with those who see and feel the impact on society. Often the black and white, big data trumps what the people experience in multi-colour.
If decision makers have a chance to hear the experience of those on the ground, there is a greater likelihood of more organisational capacity being used and less chance that steps forward are overlooked or dismissed. Enabling them to find ways for the organisation and society to advance together.
Humans may not be able to walk on water or catch a bullet in our teeth, but there is a magic that happens when people connect. Thoughts appear from nowhere when you are together that you couldn’t have on your own. Ideas can be conjured out of thin air. Concerns can disappear in a flash when they are shared. These minor miracles make 1+1 equal more than 2. But when the conditions are overly competitive and informed by self-interest, loveless relationships also have the potential to be destructive. One plus one can result in less than zero.
Abundant thinking requires and enables meaningful relationships between people and their organisation, their team and themselves. Relationships that tap into collective wisdom. Combining rational thinking with the gut reaction that comes from feeling if something is or isn't a good thing to do.
Often this is simply about having conversations around the purpose of what is being done. To consider not just the material and financial side of things but also to deliberate on the moral and ethical dimension. This requires institutions to spot where these conversations are already happening, and help to formalise and legitimise them. This enables the discourse to flourish and a system of thinking to develop across the institution organically.
This approach is about having practices and rituals embedded in everyday activity. Organisations already know the benefits of building a sense of togetherness but can compartmentalise it within out-of-the-ordinary activities – retreats, courses, away-days, coaching or external inspiration.
To build the capacity to use your wisdom is similar to building any capacity, for example, physical fitness. Some people may have all the knowledge, the skills and motivation to do it on their own. But for most people (and institutions) accompaniment by someone else makes it more likely to become habit forming.
The Loop accompanies organisations to help them enable individuals to find meaning and teams to develop a shared sense of purpose.
For many individuals work isn’t simply a way to earn money, but it is also a place of social connection, a place to find meaning and a way to contribute to society. These things, that may have formerly been the preserve of family or faith or leisure pursuits, many people now expect to be able to get through work as well.
Through conversations we help individuals contemplate how they balance what they love to do, what they are capable of doing and what their organisation needs of them. This process of reflection helps individuals to pursue what they find fulfilling for themselves and useful for the organisation.
Whether it is the annual away-day, the monthly meeting, the daily huddle or the post-work meal, within any organisation there are many times teams will get together, both formally and informally. These activities may be to plan and update on shared activities or to build social bonds. Anytime people gather together, it has a potential to be life-affirming. But these moments can also act to build a sense of competition and conflicting interests, which can build disunity amongst the team.
By creating environments that are just and inclusive for all participants, then you are better able to access the experience of the team and develop an understanding of each other's perspectives. With collective wisdom and stronger bonds, comes the capacity to generate more ideas about how to better collaborate around a common purpose.
The Loop works with decision-makers who develop policy and set the collective conditions of the organisation. We help them to seek knowledge from those experiencing policy and share the stories of success in the organisation. This will help decision-makers to be able to adapt strategy and policy to the purpose of the organisation.
Such activities also highlight to policy-makers the limits of the knowledge within the organisation. So we help organisations create partnerships with researchers to explore deeper questions. For example, in the past we have connected economists to bankers to explore questions of incentives and educational psychologists to sports associations to inquire on the motivations of young players.
WHY DO THIS?
Should one pursue abundant thinking to achieve the ends of developing ideas and creating value? Or is it an end in itself, purely for the sake of creating meaning for people in their work? Maybe it isn’t an either/or situation?
Pursuit of a more just society both enables and requires a change in how we relate to each other. It enables and requires things that were once viewed as problems to become embraced as learning opportunities. It needs people who were work acquaintances to become fellows around shared goals - a familiarity with others to become an affinity with them. It requires and enables two-sided debates to become all-inclusive deliberation. In our experience, an organisation pursuing a purpose and people more fully connecting to each other is a symbiotic relationship where the line between what is “leading” and what is “following” is indelibly blurred.
So it might be worth considering what might happen if one’s motivation were purely to achieve specific goals? Or what would happen if no thought were given to the actions that occur as a result of stronger social bonds?
Your reason to do this, as with everything, is not to be found just in one person or a group of people's heads or even on the pages of this website. But it can be discovered in the spaces between us all.
WHO WE ARE
The Loop was born in the 80s and was a product both of the sentiment of the time and of technological advances. Organisations wanted to transmit their agenda to stakeholders and manage their reputation with the public in the light of their actions. With new ways of distributing video content and increasing scrutiny by the media, we produced broadcast-style programmes featuring the CEOs of global organisations distributed on VHS to thousands of employees. We also prepared senior executives on how to deal with the media when things went well and when things went really wrong.
But over time attitudes changed, new technologies emerged and The Loop changed what it did and how it did it. The priorities for organisations evolved, and they wanted to relate to their stakeholders in different ways. The internet meant that there was greater integration, with physical distance and time zones no longer a significant barrier to connection.
As you would expect from a company that is this old, we have also changed and matured over time. As well as different ownership, a new name and a few different logos, we also evolved from being an agency that had a set process of "doing it for/to you" and we are now an adaptable network that helps organisations to do it for themselves and build their own capacity. To paraphrase the saying, where we used to fish for you, now we help you to fish for yourself.
The red thread that runs through our history is that regardless of what and how we did things our purpose has always been to help build relationships. People's innate desire for connection doesn't change, even if the possibilities of how, with whom and to what ends, is evolving all the time.