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.