November 1, 2001
In this issue:
Newsbrief: Visa Founder Makes Valuable Distinction
Editorial: The Abominable Org-man: A New “Missing Link,” by John Renesch
Newsbrief: Fast Company Salon in San Francisco
Newsbrief: Shell Commits to Alternative Energy Research
Visa Founder Makes Valuable Distinction
Dee Hock, founder of Visa International and founder of the Chaordic Commons (formerly known as Chaordic Alliance), writes in the Commons newsletter (Summer 2001) that “every organization has no reality save in the mind.” Purpose and principles “have far more to do with the beneficial effect and success than all its resources and management techniques,” he writes. Without a purpose and a set of principles behind it, he contends, the organization resorts to compelled behavior which is “the essence of tyranny.”
Many years ago there was a movie that popularized the idea of an abominable snow man, a creature found in the high mountains of Tibet. Legend had it that it was the “missing link” in the evolution of human beings, extremely large and hairy man-apes that only a few locals had ever seen. The movie depicted an expedition in search of this “Abominal Snowman” and the term “missing link” became part of our culture’s lore for several generations until the more recent reports of Big Foot “sightings.”
A while back I was watching a sporting event on television and listened as former Olympic athlete-turned TV commentator Diana Nyad was telling a story about Roone Arledge, TV Sports innovator and father of ABC-TV’s Wide World of Sports. She told of working with Arledge during a telecast and noted how different he was when he was “just plain Roone” versus when he was being what she called the “organization man.” Her comments reminded me of how much people change when they are working, wearing their “organization” personality, so that they make different decisions, act in different ways, even talk differently than if they were being completely themselves.
During a recent talk, I was making the point that “business people” were people first and foremost, and that many of us had taken on some kind of persona when we were at work, like a Jeckyl/Hyde thing. There was a young man in the very front row who argued, “Well we were told how to behave at work, like not to get close to anyone because that could compromise you.” He clearly thought he had to be different at work than at home.
I could only imagine how many other bits of advice people have been given over the generations about how to be or how to behave (or how NOT to be or behave) at work. All this advice comes down to NOT being completely ourselves but rather becoming some sort of hybrid – part human being and part organization.
Now when you realize that the modern organization is still largely seen as a machine – a machine in which the people within it are seen as “parts” in the machinery – then this hybrid is part human and part machine. As a by-product of the Industrial Age, the working man or woman has “devolved” in such a way as to think and act like a machine. It is no wonder then that more and more people are feeling a loss of their humanity. It is because it is true! They are shutting out their humanity to be more like the machine and less like the human being.
This hybrid – this “org-man” and “org-woman” – is like the missing link of yesteryear, the “Abominable Org-Man.” And, like the boiled frog syndrome suggests, the transition has been slow and gradual over the past century or more so that people have been lulled into a trance-like state where they think they should be content. But those who are discerning – those who spend some time in introspection – can tell something is amiss. Maybe they can’t articulate it but they know something is wrong. “Something” is missing.
That “something” is their souls. Putting in their hours and buying all the trappings of the successful executive or professional or trade worker seems to satisfy some of their needs – like their external whims and desires. But their inner lives are wanting something more, which defies definition at least according to the five senses. Most people cannot put their finger on why this inner rumbling perpetuates. Since they cannot define it, most of them squelch it, or pretend it isn’t there, or tell themselves they’re nuts to feel this way. After all, they say to themselves, I’ve got this and that. How can I not be happy?
We humans are evolving toward higher and higher levels of consciousness and have been for billions of years. So any steps backward are bound to feel odd. This is evolution in reverse – or devolution! Becoming “Org-Man” or “Org-Woman” requires us to deny a very special part of ourselves – our soul. And this aspect of our humanness is critical to our continued evolution to higher levels of consciousness.
Since organizations are hot houses for growing these “missing links” it is easy to see how they suck energy from people, and become life-draining to those who give up parts of themselves in order to conform to some unwritten rule about how they are supposed to be at work.
The successful and sustaining organizations of the future will be those which find ways to nurture the human spirit – body, mind, heart and soul – so the entire person comes to work each day, and is encouraged to be fully and powerful themselves. Then these organizations will get the benefits of having whole people applying all their energies without any artificial constraints. Life-affirming organizations will be getting back in step with the natural evolution of human-being-ness.
Fast Company Salon in San Francisco
Fast Company magazine’s Heath Row participated in a lunch/salon today which John organized at a San Francisco restaurant. The roundtable consisted of ten people. Heath is a self-pronounced “social capitalist” and is the coordinator for FC’s “Company of Friends” network which consists of 40,000 people in 165 cells or local communities, in 35 countries. There is no cost to join a local group of “Friends.” See here for more about the Company of Friends .
Shell Commits to Alternative Energy Research
The chairman of Royal Dutch Shell gave a remarkable speech just three weeks after the tragedy of September 11th, pledging between $500 million and $1 billion over the next five years to develop new energy businesses, concentrating primarily on solar and wind energy.
About John Renesch
Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, futurist, and consultant/executive coach. John served as Editor-in-Chief of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has created a dozen business anthologies on progressive business subjects, including consciousness, intuition and leadership. These books include New Traditions in Business, Learning Organizations and The New Bottom Line. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing.
John is also an international keynote SPEAKER, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the newly-formed Association for Spirit at Work.