Sat 16 Aug 2014
Thu 14 Aug 2014
Ten years ago I travelled to Vilnius to deliver a speech on global work illiteracy, arguing that a lack of knowledge of what work is is as dangerous as a lack of clean water or education. Ten years on I still question whether we really as interested in understanding what work is, or is it all just a sausage machine. I now work with the next generation hopefully helping them to cope with pace of change that we see all around us.
Below is the text of that speech given in 2004. Has anything really changed? I’m reflecting on this and hope to write more on that theme shortly. But here is a good starting point.
Congress, Chair, fellow delegates…
There are some 2.6 billion workers on the planet.
We can hardly grasp the numbers. But, I believe we can help every single one of them. This is more than a a question of economic need. The need is to raise our sights as to how we can be make work liberators of those we train – to make all others we meet into organization developers themselves – let us make the case for making work about human potential, human inspiration, and human capability. The industrial age needed mass production leading to mass consumption. We are in the arc of change; the very definition of work is changing – but work should be a profitable experience, shouldn’t it? – Not gray, crushing, or boring – as it is for so many.
If I can be technical for a moment and give a brief contextual overview and proviso before I continue: I mean this in a rational-contingency setting; and this is not all about macrobehavioral issues. If we eradicate work illiteracy with organizations then the boundary buffers are more understandable by all and internal learning grows; AND we reshape organizations in more stable ways that more radical or transactional methodologies may eschew. I am trying here to find meso-solutions that will allow organizations to be ethnologically viable as the preferred way to get humans to work together, even in a world of new groupings, and also to take human factors that ruin work: boredom,overload, irresponsibility, and conflict – and produce big solutions that go beyond coaching the individual and create successful organizations. The task of the next 25 years must be to totally eradicate work illiteracy: that is none should enter the workplace without an understanding of what work itself is. To me this is the same as saying none should be denied access to clean water, or literacy.
Simply giving an education in handling money and credit as the Grameen Bank does in Bangladesh, or creating entrepreneurs through schemes such as Trickle Up, can transform a life forever. Giving people tools to understand work produces more political stability and creates hope.
It remains the number human activity for cocoa workers at the Kuapa Kokoo initiative in Ghana, to factory workers in Durham, North Carolina struggling to see their jobs going to maquiladoras in Mexico, or the Best Practice initiative for international business set up in 1992
in mainland China. We, ourselves, will work more than we sleep, eat, are married, or raise children, more than we were teenagers, or will be retired; it is the number one human activity, we do it statistically for the greatest part of our lives; when we reach 45 we are only half-way
through our working lives.
Yet work is a benefit that some 1 billion on the planet of working age do not properly enjoy. The World Bank has the unemployment figure in Africa alone at 180 million persons. Again, I am not a social economist, I am an organization developer and as such look to how can we make work for the benefit of mankind; and yet, for many, the majority, work remains a grey and crushing experience.
So any thoughts? Well, first and foremost let us turn the ordinary worker into an internal organization developer. Let us freely free that they in turn may free: without chaos, and with purpose. No more workers who do not know. No more. Too many have years of without even the most basic education in how to manage debt, or their daily schedule.Work no longer needs to be grey and crushing for anyone – provided we are able to freely free, to inspire by giving away all we know. We are moving into a world where hoarding knowledge is no longer an option, we are no longer “gatekeepers”, holding onto ideas will not gain us an advantage!
What does have REAL advantage and value is reputation and integrity – the flipside of not owning the knowledge is that your names are known; and the pervasiveness of a name is fast becoming the only currency of value – for I cannot disseminate ideas fast enough – but you
and your personal impact, your integrity cannot and does not change – I call you because I read about you, or how about you, or another tells me about you – not your ideas…
We are now coming into a new role that goes beyond consulting (Where I do not share the knowledge), and coaching (Where I may refrain from training) we are the GUIDES, the PATHFINDERS, the LEADERS, the DIPLOMATS OF BUSINESS, and as such we show organizations how to uncover knowledge that they can fully own, make them totally eradicate work illiteracy, fully educate and train their workers in much more than jobs or even what work itself is, even more than business theory – again turning the ordinary worker into an internal organization developer.
I see it as our job not merely to educate but to transform, not just to train, but to raise the very expectations of what we all can be. When we begin to talk about work itself let us not suppose that we cannot succeed, but rather that success is within reach – it is our task to convince
others that groups work precisely because of the best of human nature: to allow people simply to demonstrate through their own lives the best that humans can achieve lies in being allowed to have a dream, the doing of the dream, and passing that dream on to just one person. People who are by nature rather than character creative, determined, and focused when they enter a workplace find that they are essentially stuck doing automated tasks, or jobs that seem to have little or no value: put crudely work is often more than not interesting, it is greyand crushing. While Weber and Ford were right a hundred years ago that specialism makes for efficiency it does not make work interesting or challenging. But what is the answer? Organizations are designed to keep the same person in the same job role. I have a problem with that, while defined routine is good psychiatric medicine, boredom is definitely not. We understand the cognate processes and behaviorism behind boredom all too well: both in terms of developmental neuropsychiatry, its effect on ADHD and type A personalities, and also through the work of the Yale Group in the thirties through Clark T Hull, John Dollard, and Neil Miller.
Are we truly stuck with this conception of work as boring?
My plea is that we move beyond coyness of the ideas of actualization into something more vital and heroic. That we as organization developers agree to tear down the dark satanic mills and invent new ways for old organizations to continue – but in ways as yet unimagined:
to teach individuals to not fear the organization, but to directly and immediately understand that the best and highest ideals can apply to the endeavor of work.
My vision is a world where work is not grey, or crushing. In the same way that access to clean water has been UNICEFs major goal for the past 25 years we have in our hands the ability to eradicate the disease of boredom at work: for if I truly have depth of knowledge then even the routine takes on a new shape.
Finally I cannot do any of this alone; I really at the beginning of the journey; please tell me your story, please help me to get this vision out; I hope you share my journey; and I hope at the 50th World Congress, when I will be 65, to report that work has changed more than we thought possible.
Thank you for your time.
Vilnius, June 2004, 26th OD World Congress
Fri 24 Jan 2014
In April 2001, the precursor to Business Intelegant, RouseArts, started. Its keywords then were new thinking about work and global English and leadership training with cross-cultural meaning. The original white paper is on the resources page of this site. It was a fun time, and what started with one serious client, grew.
When RouseArts became Business Intelegant in 2002 it became a going and growing concern and for the next six years its keywords were still new thinking about work, leadership and language training as one tool, and organizational development and coaching, all for international organisations. Chairing the 27th Organization Development World Congress was good affirmation. It also led to speaking as a full-time job. Especially, thanks initially to the Connées and Procivitas, in some of the best schools across Europe. Having spoken to some 4,500 teenagers now years about life skills, the discovery that teaching was an attractive challenge was a meaningful one.
In Sweden, teacher training four long years. Sometimes intensive, sometimes not. However, what is certain is that it is not to be entered into lightly, ever, but especially when older. And on top of that, try to avoid doing so if you are older with three daughters. I always remember the head of Deloitte on hearing we were having twins succinctly sum it up: “That’ll be challenging…”
Well, yes. But being a qualified teacher provides another dimension.
Business Intelegant continues evolving. Most of all it has people at its center, not just ideas. What was learnt from others along the way is used every day, even those who are no longer with us who were very dear colleagues, and so Business Intelegant continues. And continues to thrive.
The keywords for 2014 and hopefully the keyword is still new thinking about work, and with that, education, new technologies, and also just fresh thinking on diferent subjects in all its forms. To mark this third stage Business Intelegant will become simply Intelegant during 2014. Intelegant is a learning foundation. Here’s looking forward to the next dozen years!
Fri 23 Aug 2013
Matthew Horst at CostCo
This letter of thanks was written to the CEO and board of CostCo. Reading it one reflects on two things, firstly, there is no way WalMart is ever getting a letter like this with their slave, command & control atmosphere, that is, frankly, inhibiting work developments in the US, and secondly, Talent is not a good degree, and good clothes: it’s effort, application and desire. Well done CostCo!
Dear Mr. Sinegal and Mr. Jelinek,
Throughout the 90s, my older brother Matthew worked part-time at a grocery store. He was punctual, cared for his customers and he completed his work (clearing grocery carts from the parking lot) with excellence. But, the part-time minimum-wage salary, lack of benefits and toxic work environment prevented this job from becoming a career.
When a Costco opened up in our neighborhood (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) in the late 90s; its reputation for treating its employees with dignity preceded it. Matthew applied immediately in hopes of joining the Costco team. A few short months later, Costco took a chance on him. Today, 11 years later, after several promotions, consistent pay increases and with a supportive team around him, Matthew has found his career. The very generous salary and benefits package allow him to enjoy life in a debt-free home in a great neighborhood, within walking distance of Costco.
For his entire life, Matthew has been classified and known by his “special needs”. Since the day he began at Costco, however, his coworkers and customers have valued him because of his unique strengths. There are many companies which “succeed” at the expense of their workers. I am a firsthand witness to a counter-intuitive company: Costco succeeds through the flourishing of its employees.
Matthew worked for years in the Costco parking lot (bearing the wind, rain, cold and snow), taking pride when it was free of carts. And, true to the rumors (that Costco promotes from within), he eventually was given the opportunity to work in the warehouse as a cashier’s assistant, supporting customers as they check-out. He absolutely loves his job…and his customers absolutely love him.
Matthew raves about his friends at the eyeglass center, bakery, pharmacy, food court and customer service desk. He always talks about the tire crew members who allow him to park his bike under their watch–and make sure it is tuned and safe to ride. He pays tribute to his many supervisors, each of whom has taken special care to help him succeed. Matthew enthusiastically participates in Costco’s Children’s Miracle Network partnership month, the annual Christmas party, and he recently won an employee Biggest Loser competition (losing over 65 pounds).
Costco has become much, much more than an employer to Matthew. Thank you for giving him a chance. I have always deeply believed that Matthew does not need any handouts — he just needs opportunities to apply his incredibly unique gifts and abilities. The purpose and care with which you approach business has literally changed the course of my brother’s life and has been an unspeakable blessing to him and to our family.
My warmest thanks,
Wed 21 Aug 2013
This piece by Herb Greenberg of TheStreet takes a wry look at career hopping – anyone under 40 will recognise the symptoms…
I get exhausted when I look at my LinkedIn resume: Way too many jobs to keep up with, including the latest new gig at TheStreet, which is really little more than a return to the second-longest stop along the way.
But still, with eight full-time jobs in 40 years, plus two from very early in my career that for some reason are not even showing up on on LinkedIn — not to mention a bunch of side gigs — mine appears (optically, at least) to be the resume of an obsessive job-hopper.
My longest job ever, at the San Francisco Chronicle, lasted for 10 years. My shortest, at a Wall Street risk arbitrage firm, had me headed back to the newspaper biz after a little more than a year. The 1987 stock market crash didn’t help, but I was ready to leap — and the real-world experience of that job has helped me in every job since.
From that point on, starting with my job as a daily columnist in San Francisco, I changed how I viewed working. Building and running the column was like starting a business. It launched my brand and firmly established who I am professionally. Since then, I’ve always approachedall my jobs as businesses. Salaries equal income. My name is Herb and I’m an Intrapreneur.
And I have this rule — and I tell this to my kids and anybody else who asks: A job, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is not a prison. If you’re bored, feeling underpaid, underappreciated, want to live in another part of the country or world (my reason for this move: to get back to San Diego) or you’re just too ambitious for your own good it’s okay to change jobs*. (*Just make sure you have the new one before you leave the old one! And never, ever burn bridges.)
I also advise: If you’re going to make a change, put yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing so forces you to challenge yourself. It doesn’t always work, but even my stumbles have been stepping stones to something better. Several times I even veered away from journalism — once to the arbitrage job; I was woefully out my league. But I always refer to as my sabbatical. Another time I joined a friend to start an investment research firm. It lasted two years. It was successful. It was also, at times, extraordinarily stressful —in a way only partnerships can be. (We parted and have remained good friends.) And I value the experience.
Don’t get me wrong, job-hopping has its downsides, especially if you have a family. Starting over is never easy. Leaving friends is harder. And the older you get, the more a move to a new region makes you feel like you’re crashing a party.
Then there’s the issue of loyalty, or lack thereof. Many employers simply don’t like or trust job hoppers. It has never been my intention to leave a job. I always start as if it will be long-term, which is why we have always bought a house, rather than rent, when we change cities for a job. But you also have to look out for yourself, especially in an era when companies across-the-board (notably in my industry) have shown an increased lack of loyalty to employees.
As one friend reminded me the other day, “Change is good; it reminds you you’re alive.”
No atrophy here.
P.S.: We’re on our fifth and last cross-country move back to the city we call home. Truth be told: Moving gets old, very old. (Watch for a future piece from me here on the logistics of long-distance moving; we’ve become pros at it.)
Mon 19 Aug 2013
This piece from Jeff Haden (who can count me among the 100,000 readers he has on LInkedIn) reflects new developments in motivational psychology: we now talk about identity (and marketers live for that, right?), rather than personality.
Here it is…
We all have huge personal goal we want to accomplish: A big, challenging, amazing goal. We think about it, dream about it, obsess about it… but we never accomplish it.
That could be because we also talked about it, because according to some studies, people who talk about their intentions are less likely to follow through on those intentions.
Say you want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, a grueling five- to seven-month trek from Georgia to Maine. (Having completed about 2% of it, I’m not so well on my section-hiking way, much less thru-hiking.)
You’re having dinner with friends and you tell them all about it. “Oh, wow!” one exclaims. “That sounds amazing. But won’t it be super hard?”
“Indeed it will,” you say, puffing out your chest, and you share what you know about tent sites, shelters, infrequent showers, and the cool trail name you’ll get.
It’s fun. It feels awesome to bask in the glow of people who admire you for wanting to take on such a huge challenge.
It feels… it feels like you’re already on the Trail.
It also means you’re less likely to someday be on the Trail, because according to this study, “When other people take notice of an individual’s identity-related behavioral intention, this gives the individual a premature sense of possessing the aspired-to identity.”
In short, you already got a huge kick out of people thinking of you as a Trail hiker… so now you’re less motivated to actually be a Trail hiker.
Sounds counterintuitive, right? Aren’t we supposed to share our intentions so other people can support and motivate us?
According to NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer, one of the authors of the study, that’s not always the case. Gollwitzer thinks the issue lies in our sense of identity. Each of us wants tobe certain things, so we naturally declare those intentions even if we have not yet becomethose things.
Describing how I plan to run a marathon, how I bought running shoes and joined a gym and created a training plan, certainly makes me feel good… but it also makes me feel like I’m already part of the way to being a marathoner even though I haven’t trained at all.
Sometimes declaring what we want to be and how we will get there causes us to feel we are farther along the path of becoming who we want to be, and therefore makes us less motivated — even though we’ve actually done nothing but talk.
So try it. Pick a goal. Create a plan to achieve it. Get help, get guidance, get input from other people who have accomplished that goal… but otherwise keep your goal and your plan to yourself. Don’t talk about it: Focus solely on doing the work required to achieve your goal.
Then, when you do achieve your goal, hey, feel free talk all you want. If nothing else you’ll enjoy how surprised your friends are when they realize you’ve accomplished something awesome, something they didn’t even know you were attempting.
But my guess is you won’t talk about it, since the personal satisfaction of achievement is infinitely sweeter than public acclaim.
Mon 15 Oct 2012
Sun 22 Jan 2012
As we move into 2012 we are now a century on from Ford and Taylorism.
But don’t we still treat work as a time and production issue rather than a creativity and results issue?
Regrettably, the century old idea that being seen in the office is the same as hard work is hard to break. More and more studies show that, as Parkinson’s Law stated, work fills the time available. Interestingly several large companies have been extending the idea of hot-desking to one of time: you come in, you work hard for two to three hours, give it your all, and amazingly production increases, motivation increases, sales improve and retention improves.
Do we only give lip service to the ideas of new work, creativity, cognitive process and cognitive progress, but when push comes to shove, do we still want our pound of flesh for the dollar invested? We cannot hope to break the 9-5 cycle until we see that effort is the marker not simply the minutes logged – and honestly, let’s face it, in a hundred year’s time, do we still want work to look like it does today for our children’s children or do we want to get the job done, be thinking while sailing, playing golf, or, exotically, sitting in the thought space in our flying cars; whatever the future may look like, one things for sure, we don’t want to be filling up all our lives with wasted hours.
The intelegant solution is to reward effort and results, not longevity.
Sat 3 Dec 2011
As we approach the heart of the holiday period, I was asked in a seminar in Gothenburg, Sweden, for a little thinking about what makes success and happiness at work? Well, that’s putting you on the spot! Luckily, I have been thinking about this quite a lot during 2011 and so may I humbly suggested that a simple mix of 1) good decisions, 2) a solid work ethic, and 3) being well motivated, might get us some of the way there.
Looking forward to 2012 I hope that these qualities will be keep us all going strong.
Fri 14 Oct 2011
As the recession seems to go deeper and deeper talent programs are suffering – not the new talent, though they may be LIFO, but those who expected to be promoted are, according to several sources, finding themselves in several major corporations struggling to achieve their own goals.
This causes two issues: one: the employer has a disgruntled employee, who may not want to leave, but feels like they are stuck, and secondly, there are dangers of bottle-necking in the organisational structures.
Any cures? The best is make the work challenging – rather than the position. There is a lot of evidence that those who feel they are still valued and challenged by their roles in the organisation are better performers. Challenging work does not mean more, it means identifying the key indicators and working on those.
These are tough times and good clear objectives helps.