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We blame corporations for contributing to climate change and governments for not taking action against the threats to sustainability and our very (continued) existence. But it is not our corporations or governments that exploit both people and Nature in pursuit of ever increasing profit and growth. Continue Reading »

It’s All In Our View

There is little doubt that the Newtonian-Cartesian based worldview which informed the Industrial Revolution has provided a system of thought for ordering our world and correspondingly for solving problems and realizing tremendous benefit. These benefits have come through the application of positivist science that brought wonderful advances in the field of medicine and technological innovation. Unfortunately this worldview is an egoistic materialist mechanistic worldview that has guided us in making our world an inhumane world; one where man’s inhumanity to man is quite prevalent.

 

As Albert Einstein exclaimed “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them!” In spite of this warning, there is no evidence that those in authority (yes those we call leaders) ever challenge beliefs and assumptions underlying the current worldview. Failing to think critically and to apply different ways of thinking as they place all attention on material results those in authority don’t understand the interrelatedness of problems and thus waste time in seeking to control each problem as if separate from all others. Clearly it is foolish to believe that the people—who profit from the current worldview and its associated way of thinking—will do anything significant to bring about a new worldview, a new world order and thus the elimination of recurring problems.

 

However quite consistent with the materialist worldview, there is no shortage of people—and organizations are people my friend—with financial resources seeking to profit from the adverse effects of the worldview. According to this worldview it makes all sorts of sense to view the problems created as a result of this worldview as an opportunity for more material gain—in this way this system of belief causes people to exploit each other in a vicious (suicidal) cycle thus ensuring the (self) destruction of all that is alive, even its adherents.

 

So we have organizations (if not complete industries) seizing profit-making opportunity emanating from problems caused by their very actions such as: the reduction of arctic ice; the decline of public education; the inherent healthcare needs of people; and a growing concern for sustainability. Where’s the outrage?

 

It is understandable, in light of the predominate worldview, why many simply see these profit seeking schemes as making economic sense and just good plain old entrepreneurialism at work. In other words, when material gain is everything, people will not only excuse self-interested behavior of business enterprises they will rationalize it as a way of justifying their very own subliminally acquired material self-interested way of life.

 

In a materialist worldview everything is an object to be exploited (having only instrumental value) and thus everything secondary to one’s material gain. So what’s the difference between the above money making schemes and the corner drug dealer’s pursuit of profit from people’s addiction to drugs? Well some might say dealing drugs is illegal but drilling for oil, providing sightseeing cruises and extracting public funds in support of privatized education are not.

 

Narrow View of Things

According to Milton Freidman, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” And since the law and ethics are not synonymous, there is no (legal) requirement for ethical responsibility. Consequently following this line of thought corporations haven’t any responsibility to “do good”, only to stay within the law—to do no harm. In short, if it isn’t illegal it’s not in violation of responsibility—it is however irresponsible business. Granted these profit-seeking opportunists are not breaking the law—perhaps it should be considered illegal—but what they are doing is quite harmful to the continued viability of life and that’s morally wrong and inhumane.

 

Milton Friedman and his many free market fundamentalist adherents—following an egoistic materialist worldview, an atomistic view and understanding of things—advance a business intent that is ultimately destructive. That is to say, from the perspective of life this view is the wrong view. Because our world is a deeply interconnected holarchy of living systems where everything is deeply and reciprocally interdependently related—that is dynamically complex—acting upon a narrow material self-interest maximizing intent is, if nothing else, unavoidably adverse to life itself; it is tantamount to committing suicide.

 

With this worldview as their guide, it is not surprising that many nations, particularly the so-called industrially developed nations, are incapable collaborating on issues that involve (their) economic activity. With what’s-in-it-for-me being the guiding principle for deciding what action to take, it should clear why there is no ‘we’ coming together to solve our common problems. When it’s all about ‘me’ there can be no ‘we’!

 

There Is An Alternative Worldview

Human beings (as well as all that is alive) need a life-supporting environment; but earth does not need a human population to continue. Because we are dependent upon Nature and each other (yes we depend on ‘we’) we mustn’t strive to exploit Nature and each other. Rather we must seek to ensure our viability by acting in harmony with Nature and all people, thereby sustaining life-supporting qualities of our world. We cannot continue our adherence to a worldview that is so narrowly focused on the materiality of reality wherein everything is but an object to exploit.

 

Because the conduct of business and its underlying economic theory touches much of life in society, continuing to conduct business guided by its materialistic worldview—following the maxims of egoistic materialistic capitalism—in all probability will destroy the life supporting capabilities of Nature as well as our selves. The fact is that change won’t be probable, and nothing will fundamentally change for the better for everyone in society, unless and until the intent of business is guided by the living systems worldview.

 

A living systems worldview would help us understand how deeply interconnected we are to each other and to Nature. Thus harmony with not mastery over Nature would be the guiding principle of how to relate to Nature and each other. The goal in life would not be to acquire as much material wealth prefiguring a material addictive society but to actualize one’s human potential, prefiguring a self-initiating and self-actualizing society. Thus following the principle of harmony people will interact in a cooperative if not collaborative way toward helping each other to unfold and develop as human beings—not as things with possessions. In this way the individual and the collective would not be opposing divisive concepts but intimately connected and integrating conceptualizations of a human life.

 

But all of this requires a change in worldview. More succinctly, nothing can or will change until we change our worldview! Attending to the leaves and branches, while maintaining the material worldview, in an effort to deliver symptomatic relief will not be sufficient. Only the transmutation of the system at its root—a change in the underlying worldview—will dissolve the problems.

 

Sadly, because we’ve internalized the underlying beliefs and values of the materialist worldview and because we are not consciously aware of this worldview and how it is directing our actions, the needed change will only come about when the pain of continuing exceeds the pain of casting it aside. Unfortunately, as is the case with many addictions, the felt need may be too late coming.

 

What’s this Worth?

Robert Reich’s article Work and Worth presents a ‘what’s it worth to society’ argument regarding what various people get paid for what they do. Reich’s argument centers on the societal value derived from the actual service provided. Continue Reading »

Let’s imagine that we surveyed people asking them whether they are in favor of   quality. What would we likely find? There is little doubt that overwhelmingly their response would be yes. What does this mean, what does this imply? Continue Reading »

Management gets rewarded for delivering results, and those (employees) who perform in their work get results. Hence (quite understandably) management must identify and embrace performers.  The more performers there are the better (and easier) it is, especially for management.

 

Accordingly those who have been categorized as ‘a performer’—those who are above average—are often held up as exemplars: They are models of success, the standard bearers of what hard work and dedication to the job, to the organization and the economy can mean for each individual.

 

Who wouldn’t want to be labeled a performer? What manager, what organization wouldn’t want all to be above average? Clearly we must all aspire to be above average. If only every individual would just pick him or herself up by his or her own bootstraps! Continue Reading »

The foundation of our economic system was formulated in the 18th century, at a time when the understanding of humankind was quite limited. Yet we continue to adhere to its precepts as if this 18th century understanding was a full and complete understanding.

The conduct of this (egoistic) capitalist system rest upon the following set of assumptions and precepts: a) the world is a material world explainable as matter-in-motion; b) humankind has no interior essence and is, like the planets above, grounded in matter and the material; c) the cause of human action is external and material; d) with no shared or common interior essence there is no inherent ‘We’ only ‘Me’ as independent individuals; e) each individual is his own property and destined to improve his lot in pursuit of selfish pleasure through material gain; f) the wealth of a nation is the linear sum of the material gain of individuals; and g) Nature’s bounty is limitless and ours’ individually to act upon, dominate and exploit to satisfy our individual pleasurable pursuits. With these assumptions and rules as the guide what could possibly be the future for people and Nature? Continue Reading »

Work-Life Balance

The balance of work and life is something many of us are concerned about and struggle with. That is we are concerned about the amount of time (and attention) that work demands from us in our life. Though several tactics have been offered these tend to make the conflict between work and life tolerable they don’t dissolve the conflict.

 

So let’s give this—the whole idea of work and life being in balance—a bit more critical thought.

 

How did we come to this view?

Business management scholars define work-life balance in terms of the two needing to be in harmony. This implies the two must be blended into one. But if the one is life (i.e. the whole) and the other is work (i.e. the part) does this not mean that the part must harmonize or be congruous with and within the whole? Yet the remedies offered (e.g. telework, flextime, time management, exercise more) speak more to making peace between the two than creating harmony.

 

This balancing act view is a corollary to the neoclassical notion that the economic system is an independent separate and distinct system outside of and with no responsibility to society apart from the creation and accumulation of material wealth. Therefore work in this system, though necessary for meeting one’s basic human needs especially in industrialized society, is also outside of one’s life—hence the need for balancing work and life. It is becoming ever more evident, since technology has made it possible to tether people to the organization’s work, that work is overtaking life.

 

The need to put these in balance implies that work and life are either two distinct and separate things and/or that work and life are opposing activities. In the notion of work-life-balance it seems clear work is something other than life; that `it is outside of life and not an inherent part of life. As evidenced by the surface level tactics offered, generally there is very little regard that one’s life (apart from work) is critically important. The focus of most research is about the effect upon work performance that work-life balance could have—the focus is on the organization’s work not a person’s life.

 

Work has supplanted life

Most of us work a very long time—not because we want to but because we have to. Moreover we place more attention—if not all attention—on developing a career and very little attention toward developing one’s life. Some of us—the few fortunate ones—are able to save a portion of what we earn with the intent of using our savings as the means to support us retiring from work with the hope of enjoying life before we die. That is to say, most spend a lifetime working with very little enjoyment realized with the hope of having some measure of joy before it is over. Clearly we spend the vast majority of our time with work consuming life.

 

How could a part supersede the whole of which it is a part? Just as a cancerous cell overruns the body rendering the whole unhealthy and far less viable, work crowding out life does not lead to harmony in life; work being in life must not be placed above life. In spite of the fact that it is unhealthy we continue structuring and managing organizations and life as if work and life are separate and all too often opposing activities.

 

What sustains this way of life?

Our economic system establishes and furthers a material values orientation leading us to define the measure of life in society (i.e. success in life) in materialistic ways. Everything we do is externally and materially referenced. This orientation also places results above process. With societal culture support, we are encouraged to either supplant life by work or subsume living life into the concept of building a career, one that will result in greater material gain. This material and external referencing has even changed how we view and relate to learning. We are more focused on what education will get us than what can will do for us persons. We attend school not because learning is essential to our development as human beings but because it is a ticket we must have punched if we are to get on the career train to success (i.e. a high paying job).

 

Thus for many the objective in life is to build a successful career; we aren’t enabled if our goal is to develop our humanness. Developing our potential, becoming more of what we are, is a life-long process yet we deny it in favor of having a career. Consequently we become increasingly egoistic and alienated from life itself and less and less authentic, never quite getting to realize our very human potential.

 

An egoistic economic system and the time we spend in organizations makes all this possible. The profit-only-focus of business and its associated fear-based management practices facilitate a materialistic view and a competitive way of being by making the satisfaction of our basic human needs contingent upon us delivering (the organization’s) material results. Thus instead of people unfolding consistent with a (human) development orientation, people’s focus is constrained by a materialistic orientation and their time and efforts limited to satisfying their basic needs, conditional of course upon their performance. The rat race is not just metaphor! So we spend a lifetime developing a career only to find in the end we’ve neglected life itself. Life is all we have so it shouldn’t be put on hold for a career!

 

We aren’t born as little careers in need of construction; we are born as human beings in need of human development. The sooner we acknowledge this the sooner we will see the way to joy in life is by framing work to support our very development and not as an activity that takes us away from the joy in life. No amount of telework or flextime work will do it!

 

How could work enhance life?

The organizations we spend a large portion of our time working for need not be black holes within which life’s energy can’t spring forth. We shouldn’t have to choose between a career and realizing joy through life’s activities. People shouldn’t have to wait until they retire from work to realize the joy of living.

 

Human potential actualization is severely diminished in the neoclassical economic system because this system limits the focus of work to the pursuit of maximizing material gain and requires people to become externally and materially oriented. Consequently this system for humanly productive activity is far too narrow, limiting and constraining which inhibits rather than supports our development. In other words, human development requires a system that rests upon timeless inner human value (an enlivening vision), not things of outer value.

 

Of course economic activity involves the material world but it also involves the living world and therefore it circumscribes the rules of human action and interaction. Because the economic system provides the context within which the vast majority of people in society exercise their capabilities and because it defines success and how to achieve it, it therefore plays a significant role in the cultivation of human potential.

 

I am reminded of the ancient Chinese adage place a monkey in a cage and it is the same as a pig, not because it isn’t clever and quick, but because it has no place to freely exercise its capabilities. Even Max Weber with his notion of the iron cage cautioned us against organizations becoming a machine that limits our freedom in casting us as its cogs. It should be clear, organizations mustn’t be instruments for the exploitation of people and Nature for the purpose of maximizing material gain they must be human activity systems (living social systems) supporting both human development and human progress.

 

So what do we need to change for work to support our development through life, not oppose it? We don’t simply need leadership—which by the way is not a synonym for positional authority but an authentic expression of one’s personhood—we need business organizations with a different intent as well. What we as people need is to be engaged in humanly productive relationships with each other and our work. We need a work environment that supports actualizing the potential that we each present. We need to cease trying to control and begin enabling each other. We need to be facilitated in our development as human beings.

 

Quoting from The intent of business, “We must acknowledge that people seek to gain more from work—from exchanging their labor—than material gain. Human behavior cannot be explained by an algebraic equation; we are not machines nor are we simply highly intelligent trainable animals.” We aren’t merely units of behavior to be manipulated and controlled in service to the desires of an employer. The work we do must resonate deep within us—affording us meaning—and inspiring us to give expression to our potential thus realizing joy in the activity of work. No joy can come from doing meaningless work no matter the amount of money gained!

 

Since enacting fear restricts freedom and limits action, management practice must cease using fear-based methods that rely upon extrinsic factors to control behavior and promote a material values orientation. Instead those in authority must truly care to learn and practice care-based methods of management if joy is to be realized through work in life.

 

Care-based management seeks to foster intrinsic motivation using positive energy through the creation of an autonomy and relatedness supporting organizational environment. The intent then is not to control others but to promote and support self-initiation, collaboration, non-attachment and engagement. Research has shown these to positively influence self-esteem, learning and creativity—the very things we need to realize in life. Work-life integration not balance—making work meaningful—will be far more humanly productive than seeking to a balance between work and life could ever be.  

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