In this transcription of a podcast (see link below), I explore the concept that a company or organisation, just like a person, has a purpose it is attempting to bring to life. What then is your role in making this happen? I share how Lego Serious Play is a powerful methodology to support this process of company self-awareness.
I would like to share with you an interesting idea around the formation of a company or an organisation. Think about ourselves as human beings – we are made of different types of cells with massive diversity and, incredibly, filled with all kinds of amazing and wonderful activity that keeps our body in balance and moves forward and growing, on all levels.
Now think about a company for a moment. For those of you who are co-founders or founders of a business, you create a business as an extension of yourself. In some way it is like having a child. You take your own ideas or concepts – the things are important to you – and you put them into this child or baby that you created. The values of the organisation are the values of the founder or leaders and that might be where the business stays. It reaches a ceiling if the founder isn’t able to move the business beyond that. But let’s say that he or she is able to do that. What happens is that over time, the business expands and builds the team, creates a strategy and moves forward. We get to a point where the business is its own ‘thing’. It’s a person . From a legal point of view our law treats a company as a juristic person – a non-natural person yet still with the rights of a person.
In reality, we see this individualisation process take place. After a certain period of time the business is no longer about a particular individual or the founders but develops its own energy as an ‘entity’. It wants to grow, develop and become more of itself. If we think back to ourselves as human beings, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are on a mission to find our purpose and live that purpose. That purpose is unique to every single person. Each one of us has a purpose that we are here to fulfil. The way the world works is that we constantly want to expand, evolve and grow. From a science point of view, the universe is literally expanding all the time and we too are expanding. We have an in-built urge to do so. When we resist our own growth journey, that’s where things become very tricky and challenging. When we hold onto the old ways of being or onto old habits that no longer serve us, that is when we get into trouble. In organisations as well, there is this urge to grow and expand all the time.
Now perhaps you are in an organisation or even a large company where you feel like a little liver cell hanging out in the liver. You are with other liver cells so you feel fine, yet you are part of a bigger entity and might feel disconnected from the overall picture. Perhaps you are frustrated that what you can see in the leadership team is a quest for profit above all else or that there is an unethical mode of operation. At the same time, we need to understand that this huge organisation – this whole entity – is also trying to deliver a greater purpose, in spite of leaders’ behaviour or the culture in play.
If you look at the work of Otto Scharmer in Theory U, he talks about this amazing concept that something is wanting to be born through us. Individually, something is wanting to come through us in this world and that’s our purpose. We evolve and expand as that’s what the universe wants to do. Organisations have the same opportunity. They are a cluster of individual cells of diversity that all want to give birth to something through it. Amazing organisations that focus on this bigger purpose are ones that realise there is a bigger purpose and actually strive towards understanding that purpose and bringing it into reality, thereby giving birth to something meaningful in this world through the activity of all these cells.
Each of us in our teams or clusters in the liver, the heart, the left leg or right toe are all in a process of supporting this bigger picture coming to life. So perhaps you’re feeling that you’re in an organisation, large or small, where you are part of the cog but are not necessarily able to influence the bigger picture or outcome or maybe the bigger outcome that is consciously focused on is not what it could be.
What I would suggest if this applies to you, is to focus on where you are and that is your team. Focus on what you can do to give something life through your team by being the best you can be as a team. It is quite challenging, especially in larger organisations, to envisage how you are actually going to create company-wide change. Some companies have very entrenched behaviours and a culture that cannot easily be influenced. What you can do in your cell cluster or in your part of the world is to focus on what you can bring to life through your team that is meaningful for the team, the organisation and for each person in the team individually. If we can have organisations that focus on little clusters doing their bit and bringing to life the bigger purpose, we can create massive change. As Margaret Mead was known for saying: a small group of people, who perhaps feel powerless, actually have the power to make the change. We cannot wait and expect the change to happen from top-down. It has to happen in the very cells and in the very activity where everyone finds themselves.
So just as we as individuals are on a growth path and have a mission to fulfil, so are companies there to fulfil a mission. Otherwise, why would they exist? Yes, on one hand, the purpose is to generate finance and to create economic well-being for everyone who is connected and influenced by the company, yet what else could that organisation be about? What bigger purpose and reason is that organisation existing to fulfil? As a leader, chief executive officer or board, what could you do to support thinking much bigger around the purpose of your organisation? What are you giving birth to in this world that is meaningful and putting more into our world then you are taking out.
In my work with Lego® Serious Play® or LSP, a incredible methodology of organisational growth and human development, there is an opportunity to tap into this bigger reason and purpose to discover what is wanting to give birth through the organisation, a particular team or a business unit. LSP is a process of putting a team into a very fun, creative and non-threatening space to explore deeply-held ideas and challenges that we don’t perhaps see on the surface of our day-to-day work. It does this through the power of metaphor and storytelling as we build Lego® models in answer to questions and we tell stories of our models in a very structured process. We uncover what is trying to emerge and the learning, growth and purpose that is trying to make itself visible through the team or organisation.
It helps us to see the organisation as an ecosystem of all these different cells and bodies so that we see things in context and how things are related. So, if you’re having an activity in your business where there is frustration, you can see how that particular area impacts the entire organisation or the bigger picture. The ecosystem become more aware of itself, which is a critical part of the growth process of us as individuals and indeed critical to the expansion of the universe itself. Why would the self-awareness journey be different for an organisation? Processes like LSP are incredible tools to help the organisation become aware of itself and to develop self-awareness of how the different parts interact and where there is disharmony that holds back the opportunity for fulfilling the higher purpose, whatever that might be.