Thursday, 12 July 2012

Searching for the big ”P”

(This is a picture I drew to remind myself about my purpose, that it's important to create your own path)

I quite like the word flourishing, being at one’s best.

Barbara Fredrickson, a famous scientist in positive psychology, writes that flourishing is not only about being happy and satisfied with life. It goes beyond that. People who flourish also do good and add value to the world. They are engaged with their families, work, and communities. Moreover, flourishing people are driven by a sense of purpose – that you do something valuable with your day and life.

This writing is mainly about purpose. Because I feel it’s important. There’s a lot of unhappiness and negativity in this world and I think some of it may be caused by people lacking purpose in their lives. Personally I can say that purpose is the fuel that keeps me going and doing things and feeling good about it. And by having a sense of purpose I don’t mean it’s necessarily something that’s stable and fixed. Purposes change, for me it’s a continuous journey of searching and re-defining.    

A while ago I read an article in Harward Business Review written by Gary Hamel. It was a story of a self-managed food processor organisation where there’s no managers and at the same time everyone is doing management. How come people are engaged and responsibly playing their part in the life of this organisation and the organisation seems to do well? Because they are not driven by management but their own personal mission. The purpose.

Organisations are relational networks of people who have different purposes. Usually the (what one could say) ”traditional” management tries to control these sources of energy by putting a formal layer (policies, prodecures, rules, structures…) on top of what actually happens. For some reason there’s an idea that by prohibiting people to act how they naturally would, we become better.

What happened there? When did we stop being humans at work place? In my opinion by controlling you can only cause that the fuel in people slowly runs out. Instead of that one could try cultivating the purposes and personal missions in people. The question is if organisations are ready to do this. Are they ready to create spaces for totally different types of informal conversations? I can say it’s not dangerous.


Fredrickson, B. 2010. Positivity: Groundbreaking Research to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive

Hamel, G. 2011. First, Let’s Fire All the Managers. Harvard Business Review December 2011.


  1. Was that article about Morning Star, Eerika? Where instead of job descriptions people write their own letters of commitment? It sounds a nice, encouraging place to work that resonates with Semco in South America and with Mondragan in Catalonia.

    I like you metaphor of purpose as fuel and I think it also a kind of compass that helps us keep a sense of direction.

    I've just read a lovely book by David Erdal, called "Beyond the Corporation - Humanity Working" that is very much about employee-owenership as a way of increasing transparency and accountability, which leads to more common sense, civility and kindness in the work place.

    I wonder if people started to "stop being human", or accelerated the process in 1911 when FW Taylor published his "Principles of Scientific Management" that begins, "In the past man has been first. In the future the system must be first" . hat has been compounded by the growth of the remote shareholder, acting via trusts and intermediaries and the growth in the contractual personal bonus system that focuses people on their own transactions above the overall common interest.

    I wonder how we can help make things better for everyone.

  2. I picked up on the same statement when 'did we stop being humans at the workplace'. I wouldn't have said that this was anything to do with a particular event or set of principles as pointed out in the previous comment.

    Most people never expect this level of 'humanity in the workplace. Over the last 3000 years, world society has only been gradually moving away from slavery to fuedalism to oppressive demogogueries to the machine of market capitalism, all of which have been propped up by the most fundemantal of human charactersitic - insecurity!

    So it is only now, when individuals in developed world coutries have the luxury of relative affluence that they are turning their attention to their relationship with their workplace.

    Would you agree?

    (Andrew Scholfield - Turku, Finland=

    1. Thanks for your comment Andrew. I do agree with you that we live in a very different world now than for example 100 years ago, and have very different needs based on how we perceive work and our social worlds now. Unfortunately in many organisations the fit between current understanding of how to work and the management system doesn't really exist. If you haven't seen it yet, there's a good video about the future of management by Gary Hamel. Here's the link: Enjoy! :)