Bring Meaning to Work and Purpose to Spirituality

Hello Everyone, I hope you are enjoying this Thanksgiving! Indeed, we all have much to be thankful for. Yan and I have had many conversations about power and hope, and as I thought about it, especially using Theory U as a concept, a more accurate description might be “hope and power” emerged. The reason that I switched the words, I believe that “hope” illustrates the left side of the “U” and “power” highlights the right side of the “U”. Hope has many characteristics, starting with the dialogue/relationship/belonging or conversation with self, then with others, and finally with the “whole”. Power describes the activity, or action required along each level. The continuum of hope and power, highlights the movement of the “head, heart, and hand.” (Head > heart > hand)

This line of thinking has generated questions for me:

What hope and subsequent action must I apply for myself?
What hope and subsequent action must I apply with others?
What hope and subsequent action must I be for the world?

By way of reflection, it appears that I would answer each of those questions three different ways while struggling with VOJ, VOC, and especially, VOF. As I overcome those “demons” it appears that I am closing in on the real “Self” and the real “Work.”

I would welcome you thoughts.

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Very nice synopsis, Gerry!

It's very critical to distinguish between hope and power precisely for the reasons that you spelled out. In reality, things don't always follow neatly the order as depicted by the U. When we are born into this world, we "naturally" act with power before we could hope consciously, even if it's only to suckle our mothers' breasts - quite a feat for a new born of a few days old! In business, I would venture to say that most folks fall into it and behave mindlessly long before they become conscious of what they have been doing. Thus, it is not unusual for people to start on the right-hand side of the U and develop the capabilities on the left-hand side later on, after some serious damages have been done. The more critical question is if, not when, they would tune their attention in that direction at all. Most people turn away even when they become conscious of and are presented with opportunities to wake up, out of VOJ, VOC and VOF as you pointed out. Because of that, life and business remains a scramble of short-sighted interests in field 1 or at most 2.

I just finished the book "Good Business" by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, the author of the better known work, "Flow". At the end of day, a good business is a happy business. But how can one achieve happiness in life, let alone business? As the Austrian psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl said, happiness cannot be attained by wanting to be happy, it must come as the unintended consequences of working for a goal greater than oneself. At field 3, this greater goal is defined primarily in terms of humanistic or moral ideals - we are each other's keepers in brotherly love. My experience has been that although this is a necessary step to open heart, it takes the awakening of one's soul to get the job of transformation done. Mihaly has some very good insights on the soul of business and individuals working in them. He defines transformation as "the cutting edge of evolution"; evolution as "primarily concerned with the increase in the complexity of the organisms" and, finally, "a person who is fully differenciated and integrated becomes a complex individual - one who has the best chance as leading a happy, vital, and meaningful life". More than anything else, in my opinion, it is this desire/drive for happiness that will turn out to be our salvation and it will not happen anywhere else other than in business. This is bacause "in our time the most powerful segment of society is the one engaged in business." With such power comes responsibility of hope. Through the lens of theory U, left-hand side or learning used to take place in schools/universities, the bottom of U or values used to be instilled by churches/temples and only the right-hand side or the actions of making a living take place in businesses. Now we need to bring them all together. Only the business has the power and therefore the responsibility to keep that hope alive. No, it's not enough to make money in business as usual and do charities on the side. As Mihaly pointed out, "the challenge for the future is to make the operations of business itself responsible for the improvement of life", which in turn require that "the language of business must include the values of church, temple and the great philosophers".

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