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Why do we need more human organisations?

by John Drummond

Our new report The Human Organisation has just launched. In it you’ll find a deep dive into the nine characteristics of more human organisations, the four workplaces, and the five key workplace behaviours.

But why do we need more human organisations? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “let me count the ways”…

Conversation: Last month (March 2021), a report from Harvard found that less than 2% of conversations ended when both participants wanted.1 Conversation is the core unit of any organisation and gets little focused attention.

Reward: New insight into how the brain’s dopamine system works suggests that a small, unexpected reward is more motivational than a guaranteed large bonus.2

The senses: Our senses are the route to our emotions, and yet employers give little attention to the role of our senses in the workplace. For example, we don’t use sound strategically and yet, according to record producer and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin: “music taps into primitive brain structures involved with motivation, reward… emotion (and memories)”.

Currencies: We still think of money as the primary currency in organisations at the expense of other currencies like time, influence, skills, social contact and opportunities to explore.

Innovation: It is still a social norm in organisations to be critical of colleagues who try and fail. “Failure and invention are inseparable twins,” says Jeff Bezos. For every great Amazon product, like Alexa, many more fail. These include the Amazon Fire Phone, Amazon Restaurants and Amazon Destinations. Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen put it like this: “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Our social nature: We are social by nature. That much is clear from our experience of lockdowns during the pandemic. Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini from the London Business School put it like this in their new book ‘Humanocracy’: “Our organisations allow us to do together what can’t be done alone. No single human can build a car; launch a satellite; create an operating system; train a doctor; erect a building or mobilize a movement.”

Empathy: Empathy, according to British psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen in his new book ‘The Pattern Seekers’, is one of the major contributors of the human ability to innovate. This is also a core idea from one of the world’s leading idea companies IDEO. And yet, is empathy seen as an especially important attribute of today’s managers?

Humour: According to a recent survey, 84% of executive leaders believe employees with a sense of humour do better work. Yet a Gallup poll of 1.4m people in 166 countries shows that the frequency with which we laugh or smile each day dramatically declines around the age of twenty-three, implying that work is a serious business.3

Request your copy of The Human Organisation report here. And remember, it’s a green paper, so we’d welcome your views.

1 Published March 9th, 2021 on PNAS
2 Behave by professor of neurology Robert Sapolsky
3 Humour, Seriously: Why Humour Is A Superpower At Work And In Life, by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

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