Those were the questions Dr. Alexander Laszlo and Dr. Kathia C. Laszlo, a pair of PhDs, asked in a provocative essay written for the Triple Pundit titled Organizations as Communities, Invoke the Human Spirit.
Funny, my wife and I just had a conversation the other day dreaming about our own sustainability consulting service bringing a holistic approach to corporate and organizational cultures to impact communities in sustainable ways. Holding meeting outdoors and having a garden as the center focus of a work space are the things we'd love to entertain. Lauren hopes to study environmental ecology and social motivation and I hope to specialize in social change and sustainability pontification. By our power combine . . . In any case, I've always felt sustainability must also get its attention in organizational psychology. I've consistently advocated for an integrated approach to sustainability, leaving its investigation to asymptotic analysis, but reserving the application of sustainable methods in a holistic system. I've always thought the hippies had something good going by incorporating the concepts of nature into their systemic thinking. Now, at the convergence of mutual interest from another husband and wife team, I sense we are approaching to the actualization of my once hopeless ideals.
All rants and hopes, Lauren and I are idealists. We believe in the power of transformation through collective action but we realize the fault switch got stuck on capitalism’s worst moment: blind with ambitions without due regards for the breaking point of our human experience. We see this problem deeply intertwined with our separation from our communities, from our philosophies, from Nature.
We want to reestablish that connection; we hope to first teach ourselves about sustainability through holistic thinking and we hope to continue accumulate knowledge in our investigation of things. (In part you will find this theme consistently published here at The Green Elephant, and you will see this as a driving force behind our own selfish motivations.) If Lauren and I ever had a goal, we hope to engage and help others conserve, invent, and prosper. We would like to think we can help people hold meetings through the park in fresh air; plant a productive garden where we work; and we would schedule hikes with clients to show them the true inspiration about nature—the changes of seasons means better things for our children, for our children’s children; it is the wonders of things--in the changes we find the consistencies of growth.
According to Russell Ackoff “the principal obstructions to corporate development are usually self-imposed.” I've always felt our deconstructed thinking and the result of a unsustainable crisis are self-imposed. Dr. Laszlo and Laszlo observe that “[a]s more people come to value right livelihood and community, a new kind of organizational culture is fast emerging.” To me, this is the paradigm shift; this is the ideas taking form, functions seeking activity, and markets changing with the way we understand things--a by product of our investigation into things.
In the past, I've heard many entrepreneurial software companies incorporate work, play, and learning areas with the "work spaces" they have; some even arrange business meetings, workout sessions, and creative arts seminars conjointly. Their offices are often near a favorite coffee shop and Wi-Fi accessible green areas, or do those places seem to popup upon their arrival? Having talked o some of the people that end up working in the creative industry, I get the sense that they are not there for work to make a living; they are there to work to make a life. I often envy their choice, but I am to make my own or else it would not be the same.
I sense that major corporations are catching this hipster trend. Right here in Indianapolis, the most conservative city I've had the privilege to live, learn, work and play, Angie’s List adopts a “campus” approach for their employees. They have a gym onsite, daycare, and other amenities. Even though it requires more structure than a high-tech start-up to function efficiently and maintain a competitive edge, but it’s simply a fallacy to assume their living well and building a community philosophies hinders efficiency or Angie's List's competitiveness. In fact, providing a better working condition, encourage healthier life style, and encompassing living with work, gave Angie's List the standing to gain productivity. They have a better chance to retain talents and loyalty, and their bottom line lowers to drive a proportionally higher profit margin, not to mention their healthy care insurance costs may eventually drop due to their less at-risk work force.
Simply put, adopting a holistic and sustainable business life style with preventive and creative measures allow companies build social capital from the core: giving their employees happier lives encourages them to become the catalysts of their communities.
Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus of VISA International, notes that
“true community cannot be created top-down—a true community self-organizes by the cultivation of relationships and by a coming together around issues that matter to everyone involved. This is especially true for “knowledge workers” whose source of value is their ability to learn, create, and collaborate. Community provides a context for individual inspiration through collective aspiration and underpins high-performance teams.”
That's exactly what successful companies are doing. They are not taking their business to the least regulated landscape to pollute all they can and making quick profits. Successful companies knows they have to build lives, communities, and cultures that defines the core of their business. By making a corporate culture and company communities successful and holistic in a sustainable fashion can transform the company into a solid, socially responsible, locally beloved company. The leadership will have more vested into the community than just money; they will have vested their employees’ livelihood and the spirit of living well as a whole; and they will care more for the triple bottom line and the welfare of their kids' kids--not just how big their check will be next month. These leaders will more than likely to uphold social justice and environmental impacts when they valuate their performance and they will more than likely lead their companies into a global success deeply depended on their local resources.That is perhaps the future of our Corporate Social Responsibility, defined not only by the triple bottom lines, but shaped by the very communities that needs the corporation to exist in the first place.
Dr. Laszlo and Laszlo raises three things worthy of note and questions worth our time to ask:
Plenty of indicators show how unsustainable it is to continue depleting the human spirit in organizations. What are the signs you see in people who yearn for community? Where are the fertile conditions for the seed of community to sprout and bear fruit?
There are many things that pull people apart, but what are the issues and concerns that can pull you together? What do you all care about?
We’re not talking about small talk, but big talk! What are the questions that need to be asked? Who are the voices that need to be heard? How should the community engage in conversations that build trust, promote learning, and enable positive action?
As we build more cooperative and engaged living communities with a renewed sense of corporate responsible culture, we remember that Nature is the essence of our community. We can learn much from nature, more than we can hope to learn from all of the wisdoms of our sages ancient and modern, more than our politicians care to admit, and more than any business can fathom. The great teaching tells us that the spirit of things is with the investigation of thing – with the investigation of NATURE.