Monday, 1 June 2009

The inherent unkindness of organisations

In his May 27 blog Word-of-Mouth Starts with Kindness Zane Safrit states unequivocally that

Kindness is inherent in all of us. Unfortunately, we encounter too many obstacles, of our individual and collective making.”

I think I agree with Zane though I’d put it like this: The attribute most ignored, even denied in organisations is our passionate desire to do good things together.

Most people just LOVE to do good things together. They’ll even do it for free if the vision is “good” enough and process “together” enough.

That love is kind of like the
Higgs Boson of community: the force that gives substance to community; that brings community into being.

Community materialises out of interpersonal space through communication relationships. The quality of community is dependent on the quality of communication.

Viewed that way the obstacles to achieving good things together are the bad communication habits and the associated assumptions that we first learned at school, developed at university, and now typically unconsciously perpetuate at work as managers and subordinates:

Success is essentially individualistic and competitive; collaboration is a burden; the manager knows the right answers; communication is from the manager; work is tasks; knowledge is information and information is power; and individuals are to blame for their own success and failure.

In truth, vital community and vital business depend on kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, openness, and forgiveness; and on collaboration to generate good data, to interpret it into information, to comprehend it into knowledge and to practice it wisely and imaginatively.

So the challenge is to unlearn the communication habits and the assumptions about organisation that first imprinted us at school where industrial-mode education determines that we are organised in rows, facing and obediently receiving our training from the authority at the front who demands that we produce our ‘own work’ to the specified nature and standard.

Then, as managers and subordinates we perpetuate that model of unkindness and wonder why our organisations lack community (call it lack of engagement if you like).
. . . . . . . . .


  1. Love your post. Love this point: "In truth, vital community and vital business depend on kindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, openness, and forgiveness". And then you follow that great point with our need to unlearn our industrial age education system of tidy rows and tidy thoughts.

    Thanks for the link.