Don’t forget the humans: Keeping the organisational soul in its right place

There’s a growing trend in organisational thinking to consider companies and other organisations to be distinct entities with a ‘soul’ of their own. Like an organism that evolves separately from the humans that created it. With this mindset, the role of the humans changes to listening and sensing where the organisation wants to go next and then acting on that.

It’s a powerful metaphor and can be useful to bring people together in service of something higher. But it’s easy to become attached to a belief that the organisation really is a separate, almost living entity. The risk is that we diminish the importance of the needs of the humans who are working together.

I’ve written about the subject before, for readers of Frederic Laloux’s excellent book Reinventing Organisations who may become overly attached to the organisational soul myth, but I wanted to write a standalone article for a wider audience. So here it is.


We don’t have to be happy all the time

“I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over our society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?” – Eric G. Wilson Against Happiness, in Praise of Melancholia

Unfucking the world, Reinventing Organisations and transforming NixonMcInnes

In recent months I’ve been publishing articles elsewhere on the web rather than this blog. I thought it would be a good idea to keep everything joined up, so here are a few things I’ve been writing about.

First up, some thoughts about how we perceive the world, and the notion of needing to change it: I’m giving up trying to unfuck the world and so should you.

I’ve also been exploring the importance of individuals (not groups) holding a vision for their initiatives: Resolving the paradox in Frederic Laloux’s wonderful book Reinventing Organisations; and on a similar theme, another article on breaking the taboo of authority in organisations.

Here’s the backstory about my company NixonMcInnes being radically transformed. The consulting business has been decentralised into an ecosystem of independent initiatives. The Meaning Conference which grew out of NM is happening for the 4th year on 12 November 2015 where 350 people will gather in Brighton to explore the future of business. Earlybird tickets are on sale.

Power and love

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” – Martin Luther King

Event: Meaning 2014 for better 21st century business

Lee Bryant

We just launched Meaning 2014, the NixonMcInnes conference for better 21st century business on 18 Nov 2014 in Brighton. I’m really excited to be curating the event this year and I have a particular emphasis on building businesses that leave people meaningfully better off. The speaker line-up is shaping up really well, and we’re also making more time on the day for conversation and participation.

Check out the announcement or the event website for more details. There are a limited number of earlybird tickets available if you book now. Hope to see you there.

My first year back in the UK. Here’s what happened.

A year ago I returned from 16 months travelling around the world. Here’s what’s happened since:

  • I was only in the UK for two weeks, then jumped back on a plane across the Atlantic. I spent an inspiring week at the first ever International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec City learning about the state we’re in and the call for a new economy. I also had a small disagreement with Peter Marks, then the CEO of The Cooperative Group.
  • From Quebec I headed down to the US to spend two weeks with the WorldBlu team, exploring freedom centred leadership at BluCamp.
  • Inspired by the coops summit, I came back home and set up The Brightoneers in order to build a community around a better vision for the local economy. The launch meet-up almost got out of hand with 150 people registered, and the group now has over 300 members with over 20 meet-ups held. It’s been fun, but now needs much more focus and a specific goal. Still thinking about that.
  • Through The Brightoneers I got in touch with Dan Webb of Good Money. We’ve been talking on and off about creating complementary currencies to work around some of the problems with our broken money systems. Hoping we’re going to make something interesting happen in this area before long.
  • I spent a few months working as a WorldBlu Ambassador, helping to build the movement of democratic workplaces. I focussed most of my attention here in Brighton and the city now has one of the greatest densities of WorldBlu-certified democratic workplaces in the world. Nice.
  • I learnt about mindfulness and started practicing meditation. This is potentially life-changing but also highlighted just how much of a day-dreamer I am and how I struggle to hold my attention on anything. Still a lot to learn and improve.
  • I joined the awesome new consultancy colab as a non-exec director. The founder, John Shewell is one of the most purpose-driven people I know. He’s on a mission to transform public policy and enable communities to drive the changes they need to increase wellbeing for all. We also have a hell of a great laugh working together.
  • My travel-weary body has been slowly getting back to a respectable level of fitness. Got back into running, triathlon, mountain biking, road cycling and took up Crossfit. Seem to be having an annoying number of little niggly injuries though which is annoying.
  • Since May, I’ve been working with Wired Sussex getting a bunch of activities started to provide learning and support for creative & digital entrepreneurs. We just finished a wonderful pilot project, The FuseBox Amp, which the inspiring participants enjoyed a lot. This made me very happy! It was certainly one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on.
  • I started working a lot with Charlie Davies. A fool and a genius, Charlie has taught me so much about developing Very Clear Ideas, the true essence and nature of money and about how the purpose of a company comes from its founder. He’s become a great friend too.
  • My sister Tess had a baby and I become an uncle to a beautiful baby boy. Yay!
  • I’ve had some other lovely trips – mountain biking in Afan, Wales; snowboarding in Austria; and a wedding in up-state New York which was absolute carnage.
  • The irresistible lure of NixonMcInnes, the company I founded and left in 2011, has proved strong and I’ve been hanging out there a lot recently. I think founders always have a special relationship with an initiative and it’s a great place to be exploring exciting new ideas. More about this soon.

All in all, a pretty amazing year. I wonder what the next 12 months have in store.