Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"...Working With, For, and Through Other People."

Wharton professor Adam Grant has written on the importance of having a "giver" culture in companies.[1] "In giver cultures," he writes, "employees operate as the high-performing intelligence units do: helping others, sharing knowledge, offering mentoring, and making connections without expecting anything in return. Meanwhile, in taker cultures, the norm is to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in return. Employees help only when they expect the personal benefits to exceed the costs, as opposed to when the organizational benefits outweigh the personal costs. Most organizations fall somewhere in the middle. These are “matcher cultures,” where the norm is for employees to help those who help them, maintaining an equal balance of give and take. Although matcher cultures benefit from collaboration more than taker cultures do, they are inefficient vehicles for exchange, as employees trade favors in closed loops.

"The essence of the law of consecration is charity," explained Hugh Nibley, "without which, as Paul and Moroni tell us, all the other laws and observances become null and void. Love is not selective, and charity knows no bounds...How do you keep the most important commandments? the apostles asked, and in reply the Lord told them of a man who was neither a priest, nor a Levite nor even of Israel—a mere Samaritan, who did not wait for clearance before yielding to a generous impulse to help one in distress who was completely unknown to him: "Go, and do thou likewise!" (Luke 10:37) was the advice—you are on your own."



1. See Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (New York: Viking, 2013). 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Restoring the Mundane: Expanding Joseph's Project

I've been reading Terryl Givens' latest book Wrestling the Angel, in which he dedicates a chapter to Joseph Smith's meaning of Restoration:

Smith believed himself to be an oracle of God, subject to moments of heavenly encounter and the pure flow of inspiration. But he also was insatiably eclectic in his borrowings and adaptations, with an adventuresome mind, prone to speculation and fully comfortable with the trial and error of intellectual effort.[1]

But Smith's "task would involve neither simple innovation nor ex nihilo oracular pronouncements upon lost doctrines alone, but also the salvaging, collecting, and assimilating of much that was mislaid, obscured, or neglected."[2] Whenever Smith found value in an array of sources (such as Masonry), he

modified and recontextualized what he had found. His expressed theological rationale seems exactly modeled on Augustine's gloss of the Old Testament story of the spoiling of the Egyptians. On the night of their exodus, the children of Israel "appropriate to themselves" their enslavers' riches, "designing them for a better use." Just so, Augustine argued, the "heathen" have truths which, like gold and silver, they are "perversely and unlawfully prostituting to the worship of devils." It is the task of the Christians to "take them away from them, and to devote their proper use in preaching the gospel."[3]

This project could be expanded to incorporate everyday activities and resources. This is the concept of sacralizing the mundane: the gold and silver of the everyday are reoriented--consecrated--to their "proper use" in serving God and man. Perhaps "restoration" goes even further than mere Christianity.


1. Terryl L. Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 39.

2. Ibid., 37-38.

3. Ibid., 39-40.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reimagining Business

According to business professor Raj Sisodia, business is:

  • Good because it creates value.
  • Ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange.
  • Noble because it can elevate existence beyond a subsistence level to achieve full potential.
  • Heroic because it lifts people out of poverty.
But in order to remain such, business must evolve. Sisodia suggests a new model of "conscious capitalism" based on the following four tenets:[1]
  • Higher Purpose
  • Stakeholder Integration
  • Conscious Leadership
  • Conscious Culture

I plan on working some of this into my upcoming paper for the Faith & Knowledge Conference.


1. See John Mackey, Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).

2015 Faith & Knowledge Conference

My proposal for the 2015 Faith & Knowledge Conference at the University of Virginia was accepted.

Title: “Labour…Is Their Religion”: Toward a Mormon Theology of Work 

Abstract: Despite the Platonic ideal, ordinary people do not spend the majority of their time in the act of deep contemplation. Instead, they are performing the seemingly menial tasks of daily life. This largely consists of one’s form of employment. Finding meaning in the lone and dreary world of day-to-day work has been a point of increasing interest among management experts and organizational theorists. Their findings yield fruitful insights, especially given that one of Mormonism’s earliest forms of consecration was a business organization known as the United Firm. The “inspired fictionalization” of the United Firm revelations is an early example of Joseph Smith’s cosmological monism, transforming a business entity into the ancient “order of Enoch.” This sacralization of the mundane was further elaborated by Brigham Young and recognized by non-Mormons as an oddity of the Utahns. The metaphysical overlap of the temporal and spiritual realms can influence the way modern Mormons conduct their business, inspire “Zion-building” within organizations, and pave the way for a Mormon theology of work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feeling Good About Work

[W]hen we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it -- meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc. And the good news is that if we added all of those components and thought about them, how do we create our own meaning, pride, motivation, and how do we do it in our workplace and for the employees, I think we could get people to both be more productive and happier.[1]

So says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his 2012 TED talk above. The concept of creation and challenge being a part of meaning and purpose is very similar to the idea of eternal progression, especially its later incarnation found in the writings of B.H. Roberts and John Widtsoe. Part of human well-being, happiness, and flourishing comes from our ability to create value in our lives and the lives of others. And it demonstrates why work is so important.


1. The studies references by Ariely are Dan Ariely, Emir Kamenica, Drazen Prelec, "Man's Search for Meaning: The Case of Legos," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 67 (2008): 671-677; Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, Dan Ariely, "The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love," Journal of Consumer Psychology 22 (2012): 453-460.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Resolving Conflict

Best-selling author Jim Ferrell[1] has a TEDX talk on a subject he's covered several times in his work with the Arbinger Institute:[2] conflict resolution. The presentation is applicable to home life, organizations, and beyond. When we stop engaging in self-deception--when we get "out of the box"--we stop viewing others as objects and instead as people with inherent worth and dignity. This can bring us a step closer to a more human economy and business.


1. He's authored several Mormon-themed books, most recently Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012).

2. See Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2010) and The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2006).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Human Economy

A recent article at Harvard Business Review (part of a series prepping for the 2014 Global Drucker Forum) argues that during the 20th century, "the mature economies of the world evolved from being industrial economies to knowledge economies. Now we are at another watershed moment, transitioning to human economies—and the shift has profound implications for management. Why the change in name?

Economies get labeled according to the work people predominately do in them. The industrial economy replaced the agrarian economy when people left farms for factories; then the knowledge economy pulled them from factories to office buildings. When that happened, the way workers added value changed, too. Instead of leveraging their brawn, companies capitalized on their brains. No longer hired hands, they were hired heads.

In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts. The know-how and analytic skills that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy no longer give them an advantage over increasingly intelligent machines. But they will still bring to their work essential traits that can’t be and won’t be programmed into software, like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit—their humanity, in other words. The ability to leverage these strengths will be the source of one organization’s superiority over another

The author presents evidence that managers are recognizing more and more the human element of organizations:

The management community knows on some deep level that humanity is important to enterprise success. In hiring, a recent study of over 1,000 CEOs indicates that above all they seek candidates who are “collaborative, communicative, creative, and flexible.” (Contrast this with the Knowledge Economy’s premium on sheer intellect.) A recent study entitled “Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions” finds a majority of executives insisting that “human insights must precede hard analytics.” Elite business schools now offer "soft skills” courses, ranging from the art of giving feedback to the practice of meditation. Companies are trying to outcompete by branding themselves as “human” (Chevron is the “human energy” company and Cisco is the “human network”)—so much so that Ad Age has proclaimed “human” the newest marketing buzzword.

The corporate ladder
This is inspiring. Business organizations are communities fundamentally built on relationships: relationships between co-workers, managers, executives, and customers. Too often, employees can be reduced to numbers, to costs, to objects. Co-workers see each other and/or their bosses as competitors for higher positions and raises. This zero-sum outlook leaves organization members vying for promotions in a constant battle to the death on the corporate ladder. 

Seeking out those capable of "human insights" will allow businesses to put aside their petty conflicts, united their organizations, and get on with their true purpose: serving society.