Gwen Kinsey: Helping leaders build a bridge to the future, GwenKinsey.com.
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How do we create workplaces where every voice is heard and matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Gwen Kinsey: Workplaces are a microcosm of what’s going on in the world. The schisms and splits that are impacting us aren’t just happening at work. They’re happening everywhere. Joseph Campbell perceived over 70 years ago that healing this artificial split between I and We would be the challenge of our time.
I’m reminded of Joseph Campbell and the work that he did. In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell talks about the natural tension between finding value in individual purpose vs. community purpose. What’s amazing is more than 70 years ago, Campbell saw that this perceived gap between individual purpose and community purpose would widen. Campbell knew that this schism would be the challenge of our time. He said that healing this artificial split between I and We is our foundational work. Our job with a capital J is to figure out how to balance that natural polarity.
In our workplaces, we spent these same seven decades getting smart about what processes we could create to help individuals reach discreet, replicable goals. We used mechanization and efficiency frames. We designed systems to refine individual control—control for efficient replication become our primary focus. We used that same frame in our education system. We stopped teaching children how to learn and started turning out employees. Heck, we even apply efficiency goals to our private lives. Only we’re figuring out that time management systems can’t help us control much at all.
Our systems are breaking down. The problem is we’ve missed an essential question: How do we balance the natural tension between what’s best for the individual vs. the community at large?
This dynamic is a natural part of every living system in nature. Ask yourself in nature, which has more value…the individual or the community? Nature treats this as a false choice. Both are important to a healthy ecosystem.
Nature provides terrific insights for what dynamics must be present to balance this polarity of purpose between the individual and community:
One dynamic is that the community’s purpose is to improve the life, health, and sustainability of everything within the entire ecosystem. The community can’t endure unless it serves and benefits all.
Another dynamic is that each living entity’s purpose is to serve through its role within the community. An individual can’t stay healthy and relevant unless it adapts within the community as the community changes.
So, to create a world where every voice matters, everyone thrives, and innovation happens naturally, we need to heal the artificial schism between individual purpose and community value. Unfortunately, our ego gets in the way. The ego is the unconscious thinking part of our brain that has us behave as though human purpose can be independent of a healthy community. Nature knows better.
We are struggling because we’ve designed our ways of interacting and systems for control and replication. They aren’t designed to bridge the artificial split between the community of We and me.
To balance both, we have to shift from ego-centered thinking to adaptive, natural system wisdom.
Note: This is a preview of the full interview. The complete interview was selected by Apress for publication and continues in The Future of the Workplace.