(pssst….Don’t Tell Anyone) We’re PEOPLE! Human Economics, the new Business Hip

A few points to ponder for starters:

  • The human dynamics of change are powerful and can be a deal-breaker whether a new continuous improvement initiative, strategic shift, organizational re-structuring, or even something simple as a new assignment;
  • The importance of a culture and values fit between employees and the company is clear. Yet, hiring and promotion decisions are typically based solely on competencies and achievements;
  • The Blue Zones longevity study, Gallup-Healthways wellbeing index, Engage For Success wellbeing / engagement report all provide increasingly clear evidence of a powerful correlation between whole-person wellbeing and not only increased levels of engagement but that people can live longer, more productive and more stress-free lives;
  • The new, enhanced well-being includes spiritual factors: sense of purpose, belonging, sense of community, values. Yet, focus remains nearly exclusively on eating your veggies and exercise;
  • The obsession over STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in education, at the expense of instilling values, ethics, norms in young people means that the emotional development of young people in the education system is embarrassingly, dangerously short-changed.

But the evidence is overwhelming, experts are in violent agreement: we’re human beings! That realization may be causing a few ripples, but we need a tsunami. I’m going to lay out some “whats and whys”. Would love to see some “hows” from you experts out there.

From a recent HBR article by Dov Seidman From the Knowledge Economy to the Human Economy:
In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts. The know-how and analytic skills that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy no longer give them an advantage over increasingly intelligent machines. But they will still bring to their work essential traits that can’t be and won’t be programmed into software, like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit—their humanity, in other words. The ability to leverage these strengths will be the source of one organization’s superiority over another.

Seidman references findings from a global study by IBM in which over 1,000 CEOs participated, that executives are placing a high priority on hiring people who are “collaborative, communicative, creative, and flexible.” Another study finds “…a majority of executives insisting that “human insights must precede hard analytics.” (Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions)

In The Effective Executive Peter Drucker made this observation:
Direct results always come first. In the care and feeding of an organization they play the role calories play in the nutrition of the human body. But any organization also needs a commitment to values and their constant reaffirmation, as a human body needs vitamins and minerals. There has to be something “this organization stands for,” or else it degenerates into disorganization, confusion, and paralysis.

McKinsey on Meaningful Work
The McKinsey Quarterly ran an interesting piece, Increasing the ‘Meaning Quotient’ of Work by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller January 2013. Note—the download link may require registration.

There are several quotients out there. IQ is, of course, intelligence quotient. Thanks to Daniel Goleman and others, just about as well-established is emotional quotient (EQ).
Intelligence quotient: derived from standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. IQ tests are designed to measure a person’s general ability to solve problems and understand concepts. This includes reasoning ability, problem-solving ability, seeing relationships between things and ability to store and retrieve information. Because IQ tests measure capability to understand not quantity of knowledge, IQ scores remain stable no matter what the person’s educational attainment level.
Emotional Intelligence: human qualities that are widely recognized as differentiating outstanding leaders from competent managers —self-awareness, self-management, empathy, social skills.

Along comes the New Kid, Meaning Quotient, a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what’s being done has not been done before or that it will make a difference to others. The McKinsey article likens meaning to flow, championed by positive psychologist Mihàly Csìkszentmihàlyi’. (chicks-sent-me-highly, his own phonetic interpretation).

The article does a deep dive into what business leaders can do to create meaning. Meaning is an essential driver of higher workplace productivity: MQ was tapped by executives as the most essential to performance and results of the three quotients. This article is highly recommended reading.

IQ + EQ + MQ = Q cubed
The sum is greater than the parts, and one can be destructive without the others. And all three have attributes that contribute to an environment capable of supporting increased levels of engagement:

  • Intelligence Quotient: skills, tools, systems, capability to do the job, results / contribution;
  • Emotional Quotient: relationships, values, inner harmony / well-being, growth; satisfaction with the job and the work you do;
  • Meaning Quotient: alignment, connection to the top, hearing the calling of the work; immersion in the task at hand because it is challenging and to my liking (Mihaly’s “flow”).

IQ DESCRIPTION: ability to solve problems and understand concepts. Reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, perceiving relationships between things, storing and retrieving information.
IF IQ IS HIGH: Able to more easily acquire the right skills. Given the right tools and systems, should have the capability to do the job and deliver results.
Low IQ: inability to perform, incapable of understanding more complex task-intensive expectations.
Hi IQ, low MQ: higher order motivation of purpose is untapped. Capability is underutilized, skills are bottled up. Skating by, bored with the work. Personal agendas pursued by highly skilled manipulators when they don’t know or don’t care about the purpose.
Hi IQ, low EQ: survival instinct, reluctance or fear to perform, too paranoid to work with others. “Me first” because I’m better than you and I can’t trust you anyway.

EQ DESCRIPTION: the human qualities that differentiate outstanding leaders from competent managers, but also at the heart of healthy work relationships and environment. Self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills.
IF EQ IS HIGH trust and respect are both high. Constructive conflict, sense of humor, a general feeling of “we’re in this together,” and a corresponding ability to collaborate effectively.
Low EQ: office politics, bruised egos, avoidance of tough issues, bickering and fault-finding.
Hi EQ, low IQ: inactivity for fear of looking bad, being wrong. The person doesn’t feel capable, whether a personal or support issue. There is significant internal conflict and stress when a high EQ person struggles against these issues.
High EQ, low MQ: feeling frustrated, discouraged. Tendency to take the meaning disconnect personally. If there is a solid emotional connection the feeling is why the heck should I care this much? But I just can’t help myself, it’s the way I’m wired.

MQ DESCRIPTION: a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what they’re doing will make a difference. Also reference Mihaly and flow: the work is challenging and has personal relevance.
IF MQ IS HIGH it can be a peak-performance experience: high stakes; excitement; challenge; feeling that work matters and it makes a difference at work and in the world. High commitment to achieving goals.
Low MQ: people put minimal effort into their work and don’t fully utilize their skills because they don’t see the point in doing more than getting by. “It’s just a job” that gives little more than a paycheck.
Hi MQ, low EQ: people see and buy into the big picture but may be ruthless in finding their place in it, or in the way goals are attained. For them, the end often justifies any means to get there.
Hi MQ. low IQ: while they hear the calling loud and clear they still need significant, specific guidance for things that need to be done. They may try harder but they simply lack the capacity to deliver results.

The McKinsey article ends with this:
Of the three Qs that characterize a workplace likely to generate flow and inspire peak performance, we frequently hear from business leaders that MQ is the hardest to get right. Given the size of the prize for injecting meaning into people’s work lives, taking the time to implement strategies of the kind described here is surely among the most important investments a leader can make.

Of all the human needs beyond basic survival needs the most powerful is purpose. We need to feel that what we do matters and that we are making an impact.

I have a vague memory from my higher education days, way too many years ago. It was the belief way back then that the New Millenium would be the age of humanity, of realization and attainment. That vision has so far been a delusion, but it may finally be coming to fruition. We must first divorce ourselves from our love affair with making stuff better—a transformation that requires heaping helpings of change management, especially for the human dynamic elements.

The Knowledge Economy is dead, long live the Human Economy. I can’t wait for the coronation.


One thought on “(pssst….Don’t Tell Anyone) We’re PEOPLE! Human Economics, the new Business Hip

  1. Pingback: The ROI of Human Economics | One Pond-Ripples

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