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Join us in a battle for better businesses!
Work Has Become a Global Health Hazard
After 50 years of “new work” and countless restructurings, agile transformations and yoga classes, we appear to be stuck in a hellish swamp of good intentions: better work remains squarely out of sight…
Our organizations are still more often suffering machines than wellsprings of well-being; mental health in the workplace, according to an ILO survey, has decreased almost everywhere in the world, and correlated physical illnesses like heart attacks are on the rise. In the UK, 74% of the working population profess to be stressed out. Jeff Pfeffer, the American management professor, sums it up: bad jobs are destroying our lives. In the US, “the paycheck” is already the fifth leading cause of death.
And even on the inside, it seems, we are slowly withering away. In vain, we continue to yearn for more meaning at work… A recent study found that over 70% of respondents lack deeper significance in their daily work activities. The majority of jobs continues to offer limited opportunities for creativity or personal growth. In addition, more than 50% of people believe that our businesses still pay little attention to the real problems of our planet.
good organisations wanted!
Read more about a vision of organizations designed to foster and cultivate social flourishing. Our narrative is grounded in a commitment to crafting environments that go beyond profitability and growth metrics. It delves into the essence of organizational culture and design, illustrating how organisations can transform for good to bring out the best in both individual and collective potential.
the good organISations manifesto (Click on the icon for pdf)
We argue that a more fundamental change in how we think about work and how we design organisations is necessary. We build on neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics and suggest that a shift towards “eudaimocracy” might help to craft organisations that foster “organisational aliveness” and contribute positively to society. Drawing upon moral philosophy, sociology, complexity science and positive psychology we start to develop a set of principles and practices that could pragmatically bridge business ethics and management. In this context, we especially highlight the need to revise institutional governance, establish virtuous communities and develop practical wisdom and agency across the organisation. Using the concrete example of traditional HR processes, we examine how a novel approach could help to foster individual and collective flourishing and more radically address some of the shortfall of previous approaches.
Good Organisations in 10 Minutes: From Agility to Excellence
It's Not Just About Good Work, It's About a Good Life
What is good?
There are many ideas, proposals, and leadership models scattered across cyberspace and it has become hard to know what to believe in. Most of what’s being proposed today remains entrenched in an instrumentalist paradigm. Concepts like net zero, net positive, sustainability, ESG or SDG center around "doing less harm" while essentially maintaining the status quo. But reducing bureaucracy or offsetting CO2 emissions isn't the same as doing good.Hence, it's disheartening to note that discussions about business ethics, often display a blatant lack of regard for the fundamental principles of ethics. All too frequently, morality is reduced to a mere cost of compliance or reputational risk. This is a grave misconception. As leaders, it's imperative that we grasp the true essence of ethical behavior, as a considerable portion of our most important business decisions hold moral significance. In a nutshell, doing good work is not the same as doing it "right" - it is not about what we do, but who we are and about bringing to life the best in ourselves at and through work.
Lighting Up the Flame:
In other words, “good work”, is always an end in itself. It is not primarily about making money or producing goods, but about cultivating our potential to flourish. And our “freedom to flourish” is always socially constructed: only in relation and friendship with others can we happily "become human" and realize our own calling. The concept of flourishing combines:
- Personal development: the feeling of personal fulfillment that comes with an increasingly integer and agentic sense of self, and the joy from developing our unique personal capabilities, strengths and wisdom
- Virtuous Friendships: the belonging we feel by being ‘held up’ and realising our self in quality relationships with others
- Contribution: a deep and ‘spiritual’ sense of significance and transcendence, by contribution to a greater cause and the common good
Building on these considerations and combining virtue ethics with positive psychology, neurobiology, and evolutionary theory, we define "good" work as a social process that combines personal growth, the development of capabilities and friendships, and a profound sense of significance through recognized contribution to a shared and greater good. In essence, good work involves the vocational pursuit of personal excellence and the gradual becoming of the best people we are meant to be.
What is a Good Organisation?
We originally chose the title "good organisations" simply to be as inclusive as possible. "Organisations" can include for profit, non profit, and public institutions. "Good" relates to the ambition to bring to life both the highest quality of professional management, as well as the best in ourselves. So, Good Organisations "seek to enact our highest human potential to enable the good life and sustainable prosperity of all", by deliberately developing organizational excellence at three interrelated levels:
- A sustainable and just society for good. Businesses act honestly and take joint care of the economy and their ecosystem through all their activities, products and services — beyond simply maximizing stakeholder utility, customer satisfaction, or shareholder profits.
- Generative communities. Businesses enable mutual development of members and partners, within open communities. By nurturing participation, trust, virtues and quality relationships, good organisations can “create” both good products and good people.
- Meaningful work. As trustees for the development of individuals, businesses create opportunities for members to excel - developing expertise and wisdom to deploy talents and creativity in their organisational roles, whilst cultivating character and contributing with pride to a shared purpose.
PS: What is the meaning of the flower? The single purple flower superimposed on the "flower of life“ symbolises how individual and collective flourishing are intertwined, and how as humans we can only truly live our individuality in a caring and compassionate togetherness. Purple is the colour of wisdom, bravery, spirituality and nobility.
If you want to learn more about our theory and the foundational research of academic colleagues visit our research page.
How do Good Organisations operate?
Let’s be clear. We are not arguing against making organisations more efficient, customer-centric and adaptive, but we do suggest to do it for a different purpose. Profit isn't an end in itself, but must serve to enable social flourishing and justice on a larger scale.
But that clearly takes more than new narratives or polished purpose statements. We must ask ourselves: what is our best common potential? What is our moral identity? We have to develop our organisational character, bringing our aspired good to live and enfusing virtues into our structural frameworks, routines and systems, and we have to enable members to unfold their excellence in their work.
This calls for a new organizational blueprint. In our work, we emphasize the intentional development of virtuous social practices in generative communities, which we call 'micro-organizations,' alongside the refinement of corporate institutions and governance, which we frame as 'corporation'. Individuals are then linked to this developmental context through roles, which they are encouraged to develop further with wisdom and courage.
But its not just about cultivating each organisational "component", but also about the connection between them. Truly virtuous organizations need to nurture a moral environment that combines care, integrity and compassion with a genuine commitment toward mutual elevation for the greater good. They need to enable a holistic development of individuals and communities.
In order to do so, we must continue to evolve organizational design, striking a progressive balance between local affordances within micro-organizations, individual growth, and the need to foster shared learning and a coherent external value proposition. And that’s difficult. In our research, we can clearly see that with growing scale corporations turn instrumentalist. To counter this, we must overlay the existing financial governance with disciplines for collective reflection and participation, essentially creating a living organizational constitution. The ultimate goal is to first connect people, structures and culture, thus nurturing organisational wisdom, identity and character, and then to enable a reflective equilibrium that continually actualises the potential of the organisation to create social flourishing.
Join our global chase to find good organisations!
the Hunt for good organisations
Are you an MBA or business student eager to explore the transformative power of purpose-driven companies? Or a management professor looking for a challenging teaching module to develop the ethical leadership of your students? Or someone who might personally know or work in a good organisation? Then you might want to join us in a global expedition to unearth the world's Good Organizations!
- For students: This project is a journey to dive deep into the nature of responsible business, learn about unique approaches to meaningful work, uncover new insights to personal development and leadership, and contribute to a global movement reshaping the future of work!
- For management rebels: We invite you to become a part of this exciting endeavor by sharing your suggestions for "Good Organizations" that deserve recognition. Your contributions will provide fresh insights and perspectives to this global initiative and help our students to shine a spotlight on organizations committed to making the world a better place. Join us in celebrating organizations that are truly changing for the better.
- For teachers: Join the movement by launching your own hunt!
What's It All About?
The "Hunt for Good Organizations" is a groundbreaking initiative sponsored by Duke University, US, and the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. This unique course promises a transformative journey, empowering students to redefine their perception of organizations and leadership, and examine their own role in shaping a better world. Over the course, student teams will embark on a quest to identify and interview exemplary companies that are transforming their business and operating models in the spirit of goodness. Their mission: to uncover what sets these organizations apart and create insightful case studies that capture "the difference that really makes the difference". Through the elaboration of these case studies, we aim to empower our students to make more informed choices and actions in their own future careers.
Why Is This Important?
The "Hunt for Good Organizations" is more than an academic pursuit; it's a movement. We are dedicated to identifying and celebrating organizations that are actively contributing to a positive societal and environmental impact. Our students will delve deep into these organizations, uncovering and promoting the remarkable ways in which they enable the greater good. But we're not stopping there. Our plan is to share these case studies and best practices with a global audience to stimulate collective learning. Furthermore, we aim to develop robust measurement instruments that can objectively recognize and evaluate good organizations worldwide, facilitating qualification and continuous improvement against the highest ethical standards.
Making a Global Impact
In a world grappling with pressing issues like climate change, inequality, and social injustice, the role of organizations and leadership has never been more crucial. Therefore, our mid-term objectives are ambitious. We aspire to establish an alternative economic narrative that champions an economy for the greater good, with "Good Organizations" leading the way. We believe that by acknowledging and promoting organizations that are actively embodying positive change, we will not inspire others to follow but also set new benchmarks for businesses as forces for good, driving a systemic shift in leadership and business education. By engaging with this initiative, future employees and investors can make informed choices, supporting organizations that align with their values and avoiding those that fall short. Simultaneously, we want to attract a wider academic and public audience to our change initiative, generating vibrant interest and potential future collaboration.
The next global hunt for good organizations commences in November 2023! Find out more in our Hunt for Good Organisations course hub (FOR PARTICIPANTS ONLY)!
Example Criteria for Good Organisations
Good organizations prioritize the common good, fostering a culture of integrity, fairness, empathy, and compassion. They emphasize community and character development, facilitate personal development through lifelong learning, while promoting a just and transparent compensation system. These organizations embody a holistic approach that balances the needs of employees, stakeholders, and society, based on clear ethical principles and a deep belief in the spirit of humanity. By embracing the essence of goodness, they not only create better workplaces but also contribute to a more humane and sustainable future.
- Commitment to the Common Good: Good organizations prioritize a purpose beyond profit, actively contributing to the common good and caring for the environment and society. Good organizations prioritize the well-being of society and the environment over mere profitability. They act honestly, take care of their surroundings, and go beyond traditional stakeholder utility, demonstrating a core commitment to the common good.
- Community and Solidarity: Good organizations foster a sense of unity in diversity, emphasizing quality relationships between members. They actively support teamwork and promote virtues such as empathy, compassion, helpfulness, and trust.
- Cultivation of Character: These organizations emphasize mutual character development among their members, nurturing qualities like integrity, fairness, empathy, tolerance and cvility. They promote personal growth and virtues as central aspects of their culture.
- Mutual Growth and Learning: These organizations encourage continuous triple-loop learning, self-reflection, and critical thinking. They emphasize regular "breathing spaces" and collective reflection, cultivating a deep collective consciousness and a sharp moral compass. They also encourage lifelong learning, promote intelectual virtues such as critical thinking, curiosity and justice. They offer support for individuals to realize their full potential, going beyond standard learning practices.
- Ethical Principles in Company DNA: Good organizations fundamentally implant ethical principles in their company culture and all organisational institutions, like routines, measures and processes.
- Transparent and Wisdom-Based Decision-making: They promote transparency and trust within the organization, encouraging open dialogues and civic participation. Decision-making is often decentralized, allowing employees autonomy while aligning with the common objective, based on individual and collective wisdom.
Share your suggestions with us at email@example.com and let's inspire a world of organizations for good!
Your Suggestions So Far
- P4Q and Panefisa in Bilbao
- Morning Star, Patagonia, Valve, Handelsbanken
- Vaude, Weleda, MyMuesli, Alnatura, Ökofrost, Mindera, Latro Kimya, Ten23Health and Niaga=
- Jaipur Rugs, Ian Martin Group, Teach for All, 10Pines
- Viisi, Haluk Can Hurs Latro
- Enel, Roche, Orsted, New York Times, Refinitiv, spun out of Thomson Reuters
- Victorinox, Merck, Grohe, elobau, BKK ProVita, Schneider Electronic
Pioneer new ways of working in your own team or organisation
deliberate vocational development
Organisational transformation is hard at the best of times. Today, most leaders recognise that our old-style “big programme” approach to change is doomed to fail. We do not need one-off “big bang” restructurings, but new ways to embed continuous learning and development into the very fabric of our organisation.
Deliberate development of the enterprise requires us to closely connect the organization with ecosystem and society. On the one hand, to ensure a vital connection with and adaptation to evolving needs of stakeholders; on the other hand, to honour the role of the organisation as a constitutive organ of society and to foster its contribution to a shared blueprint for collective prosperity.
How to lead systemically and nurture profound transformation? Our journey evolves in three stages:
Such “continual” transformation requires the concerted effort of many, but we believe it cannot succeed without the stewardship and personal transformation of senior leaders. Shifting from agility to excellence is, above all, a leadership commitment to role model and embody a different “way of leading” in order to systematically elevate the energy in an interconnected social, organisational, and stakeholder ecosystem, and to serve the organisational potential for good.
- Lighting the Spark: Unleashing your best “leader self” by further developing practical wisdom and leadership virtues.
- Crafting Hot Spots: Energizing your team to develop individually and together. Finding the strongest levers for excellence and starting to experiment. And then bringing that energy to your team’s task.
- Creating Ripples: Building on the learnings and practices to connect with teams and stakeholders across the organisation. Spreading the stories and sharing your passion.
What is a gLab?
The core idea is simple. In a gLab we want to look at how we do things around here - how we relate to each other, our customers, our stakeholders, our tasks - and ask one simple question: are we bringing our highest potential to life? On that basis, we will seek to inspire our daily work and cultivate “team excellence” to enable the flourishing of all.
Refine the "Good Organisations" concept
- Experiment with creating reusable practices for leader-centric business transformation
- Deliver tangible benefits for all participating leaders
- Enhance the development and flourishing of the involved teams
- Ignite the spirit of good leadership
- Develop a case study showcasing successful "Good Organisations"
- Establish a "Good Organisation" Flourishing Index and associated success indicators
- Contribute to the creation of training courses for members of the leadership society
- Evoke the ethos of good leadership as a guiding light for responsible entrepreneurship on a global scale
Enhance the effectiveness of the participating teams ("gLabs")
- Create a good work environment, promoting higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction
- Accelerate team engagement, creativity and learning
- Improve teamwork and collaboration, boosting overall team performance and productivity
- Refine leadership development, fostering more effective and conscientious leadership, and amplify leadership impact within the "working groups"
- Establish "hot spots" as focal points for sustainable and transformative development, fostering contagion within and across individuals and teams
- Recognize, replicate and celebrate "virtuous leadership practices"
- Contribute to a positive cultural shift, aligning the organization with values such as responsibility, ethical conduct, and employee well-being
- Develop the partner organization as a responsible and socially conscious entity, potentially attracting talent and opportunities, while contributing to a positive global business ecosystem
launching a glab
- Our objective is to gain insights into how to craft good organisations that enable human flourishing in the 21st century
- Civic Humanism is at the core of our work: the Olympic flame is a symbol for the noble spirit of leadership
- Every gLab is a first ”prototype” - not a “pilot”. Pilots are there to succeed, prototypes focus on maximising learning
- In order to qualify our hypotheses we adopt a scientific approach to enable evidence-based diagnosis and measurement of progress
- Works on real organizational issues in real time
- Integrates personal and organizational capacity building
- Supports learning experience with high-quality content and concepts
- Uses experiential learning inside the daily working environment (not separate task or space)
- Builds collaboratively and engaged relationships
- Holds difficult personal development through a supportive environment and clear structure
- Creates communities of leaders through peer to peer learning
- Develops powerful questioning and active listening skills
Finding Best Practices for Good Organisations
In this section we will present some initial ideas for the creation of good organisations, focused on individual devleopment, micro-organisations and corporations.
Micro-organisations: crafting jobs - from role to vocation
- Personalised and proactive role / task design based on individual strength/desire/opportunity for excellence (within org opportunities)
- Flexible job titles, dynamic and multiple/multi-faceted roles/tasks
- Continual adaptation of autonomy / complexity to enable learning
- Professional guilds and memberships inside/beyond organisation
- Continuous education, self-managed learning objectives, coaching
- Peer-to-peer learning, buddying and apprenticeship, mentoring
- Joint definition of (ethical) quality and professional standards
- Team roles, awards rituals to enable information sharing and “friendly competition” (for the individual and common best)
- Co-definition of cross-team common principles, shared standards, protocols, interfaces, ways of working to enable org excellence
- Active experimentation with different decision-making methodologies (e.g. by advice, consent, majority, consensus)
- Development of procedures for the just allocation of opportunities and resources for individual development and collective excellence.
- Revise objectives and budgets, targets and measures, performance management and compensation, org structures etc to balance production and development
Quality Connections & Virtuous Relationships
Co-Creation: Calculative Trust
- Select for the quality of givers; seek to rule out takers, respectfulness
- Enable small-risk cooperation, build shared standards and expectations
- Bias to always make first a cooperative move, psychological safety
- “Shared incentives” to enable collaboration, community norms
- Collaborative / relational practices (active listening, generative dialogue)
- Micro practices to show emotional caring, to show joy, to show gratitude, humour, to create positive emotional energy-within-teams
- Bias to trusting – practice more reliance, kindness and openness
- Initiate shared onboarding, buddy-support and partnering systems
- Celebrating shared success, support playfulness, create strategy jams
- Community bridge builder roles, corporate facebook, f2f meetings
- Micro practices for community support, pledge of interdependence
- Bias to trusting – practice more disclosure of self
- Initiate “adopt a novice” system, employee clubs / voluntary activities
- Craft a culture of helpfulness with the work group, community awards
- Micro practices for awe and compassion, random acts of kindness
- Cherish efforts to connect with & serve wider stakeholder ecosystem
Corporation: Re-embedding Values within Institutions
Success Measures & KPIs
- Balanced measures for responsible business (financial, non financial)
- Sustainable flourishing of stakeholders, society, planet
- Ethical stories and language
- Virtuous role models/awards
- Selection for empathy and relationship skills, character, virtues, play and energy, community role modelling
- Structures and coordination
- Bottom-up/top-down balancing of all teams
- Flexible job, role and team structures, information transparency to support local decision making
- Move towards self-management, cross-functional and customer-centric working teams, stakeholder service
- Shared team incentives, 20x max average pay, living salary
- Profit participation schemes
- Performance management separate from pay.
- Excellence through subsidiarity and continuous development
- Systematic upskilling of managers and HR
- Norms for virtuous, civil and respectful engagement, solidarity, trust, diversity
- Budget and policies to enable community building
- Flexible transparent co-budgeting - not monolithic
Community and Development
- Technology Platforms to enable communication, exchange, organisational journeys, assistance in routine work, budget pooling, work and resource pooling, project market places
- Established routines to request help and “huddles” across teams
- Time-budget: 10% reflection time, sabbatical week, stakeholder days, no-meeting Fridays, recovery time
- Investment budget for development work, lifelong learning, individual/peer coaching, mentoring, academic learning etc
- Cross-company development: systematic knowledge sharing, global talent/career management, professional practice model & communities, practice-to-practice audits, ethical trainings, internal coaches and supervisory groups