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Day 23/01/2014

What If In All Domains of Experience, the Working Definition of the Individual Were His|Her Capacity for Growth & Change?

Here at rethinked…* we are all about experimenting with and developing strategies to empower individuals to lead fulfilling fluid lives across all spectrums of experience. Some of the biggest obstacles we run into in pursuit of this goal are the limiting cultural dichotomies that result from contexts not geared towards human growth– student versus lifelong learner [knowmad], employee versus individual. Yes, our identities are composed of myriad facets that come into greater focus based on the context in which we are operating, but our experience of self is fluid and does not discriminate between a classroom and a hiking trail or the office and our kitchens. The problem is that, so often, we evolve in contexts that acknowledge only very narrow slivers of our abundant selves. Schools, for example, tend to have rather rigid definitions of students, promoting and encouraging certain character traits at the expense of others–obedience, patience, memorization. Same with companies and employees. The issue with creating these rigid and reductive definitions of human beings based on context is that it forces us to suppress much of who/what we are, and as a result we disengage from the present moment. What if there were a better way? One where we did not keep staring at the clock, waiting impatiently for the “work” or “school” day to be over?

Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey and Andy Fleming’s concept of Deliberately Developmental Organizations— seems to offer a promising alternative. DDOs are organizations that seek to fundamentally rethink…* the  company-employee relationship and eradicate the false “work-life balance” we have been taught to strive for, by focusing on their employees not simply as workers, but as individuals and nurturing their need for personal growth and development.

How’s that for a powerful what if–what if in all domains of experience, the working definition of the individual were his or her capacity for growth and change? How much more fluid and salient could all aspects of our lives be?

“As one executive in a high-performing company we have studied explained, “If work and life are separate things—if work is what keeps you from living—then we’ve got a serious problem.” In our research on what we call Deliberately Developmental Organizations—or “DDOs” for short—we have identified successful organizations that regard this trade-off as a false one. What if we saw work as an essential context for personal growth? And what if employees’ continuous development were assumed to be the critical ingredient for a company’s success?

The companies we call DDOs are, in fact, built around the simple but radical conviction that the organization can prosper only if its culture is designed from the ground up to enable ongoing development for all of its people. That is, a company can’t meet ever-greater business aspirations unless its people are constantly growing through doing their work.

What’s it like to work inside such a company? Imagine showing up to work each day knowing that in addition to working on projects, problems, and products, you are constantly working on yourself.  Any meeting may be a context in which you are asked to keep making progress on overcoming your own blindspots—ways you are prone to get in your own way and unwittingly limit your own effectiveness at work.”

Source: Does Your Company Make You A Better Person? via Harvard Business Review, published January 22, 2014.

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