Friday, 6 December 2013

What's in it for Us?




I don’t normally respond to key news items unless they’re very topical to this blog, eg the CIPD’s social media report earlier this week - the mainstream media, and some other bloggers, already do this very well.  And I prefer to mull over issues, tie themes together, and produce something hopefully a bit deeper if more generic a little later on.

However, I thought I should comment on Nelson Mandela’s passing.  That’s partly because I’ve been working in South Africa quite a bit over the last couple of years and feel more connected to events there than I would otherwise.  And partly because his influence is clearly much stronger than most things that come and go in politics and the economy etc.

Having said that, I’m beginning to get a bit fed up on the continual reporting, and agree with the prevailing sentiment on Twitter last night that giving up the whole of BBCs 1, 2 and News to this was unnecessary, and I would have quite liked to have still seen Question Time and This Week thank you very much.

So rather than discuss Mandela I want to focus on one of his qualities that I think applies, or should apply to organisations too.  This is his desire to be inclusive, and even the subservience of his own needs to do so.  I think that stands in stark contrast to what we see in just about all Western business and even public sector organisations today, and is self perpetuated by a lot of what we do and say.

More than anything, this is the omnipresent desire to respond to the ‘What’s in it for Me?’ question.  And whilst sometimes we may need to do this to achieve certain objectives, its central focus within organisations has created a highly transactional environment, centred on selfishness and competition and downplaying co-operation and collaboration which we know is so important in today’s society.

Even most of the thinking around newer approaches like social business still takes this ‘what’s in it for me’ paradigm as for granted.  To me, it often means we’ve lost the contest (change vs current state) before we start.

We’ve got to start trying to get people thinking about 'what’s in it for us?'!  Until we move some way towards that, organisational life is always going to be nasty and ineffective.  Hopefully Nelson Mandela’s life can act as an example of how we need to change.

So let’s forget about the flowers and incessant news coverage, and just get on with business, but thinking about others rather than just about ourselves.


Also see: Ubuntu - changing social thinking (not that I saw much sign of this in the Autumn Statement yesterday!)  And perhaps this one: Team GB’s Golds / On Competition.


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