Saturday, November 17, 2012

Contented Connectivity: The Happiness Mantra for Organizations

Organizations are set up to deliver. Classical theory of organizational delivery hinges around motivation. Organizations are expected to deliver in an optimal manner when people in the organizations are motivated to deliver. Motivation is expected to occur when people feel fulfilled. Fulfillment is observed to occur at two levels; first when people feel that their achievements meet or exceed their aspirations, and second when their achievements are recognized and rewarded. Recognitions and rewards are perceived to occur, from an organization perspective, at two levels; first when the aspirations of the people are aligned to organizational goals, and second when organizational goals are achieved through individual, and team, achievements. However, there is a more fundamental paradigm of organizational delivery that focuses on natural ways of human contentment and connectivity.

What we have in organizational-people interactions is a complex maze of perceptions and realities. The mismatch of perceptions and realities and of facts and imagery leads to turbulence in organizations marked by de-motivated employees, failing performance, missed goals and relative dissatisfaction of both people and organizations. This negative circle is detrimental to productivity and delivery of organizations. The root causes are complex and often invisible, and cannot be managed by planned interventions such as performance management or people development. This blog post proposes that there is a more fundamental foundation than motivation which all organizations must aspire for  to achieve the best levels of productivity and delivery in a natural manner.

Contented and connected

It needs no emphasis that organizations are platforms for collaboration amongst their people constituencies. Without genuine and effective collaboration, organizations cannot deliver to their full potential; they may not even survive the competition. Collaboration in an organization requires that its people are contended and connected. This paradigm is the opposite of what is normally found in practice in organizations that are filled by motivated and individualized approaches. The former paradigm of contended connectivity is based on the positive principles of human psychology as well as oriental spirituality which reflect two essential characteristics: first, one must be at peace with oneself as well as the environment, and the second, one must stay connected with one’s inner self and the outer world through introspection . The later paradigm of motivated individuality is based on the principles of modern management and western social thought which reflect two essential characteristics: first, one can and must go beyond the natural comfort zone to deliver and earn rewards and the second, people must fundamentally be organized through formal structures and systems of the rational mind.  
It is easy to see the difference between the two paradigms. The first is self-administered while the second is the externally imposed, from an individual’s perspective. The second paradigm which draws its sustenance from various motivational theories, starting from the Hawthorne studies, needs constant external attention for sustainability. In fact, the second paradigm is not even truly sustainable as it collapses without external props. The first paradigm, on the other hand, draws inspiration from within, and therefore is truly sustainable. There are fundamental differences between the paradigms, however. The first paradigm requires a relatively well-rounded personality which is brought up with less of materialism and more of spiritualism. Obviously, in today’s world this has been taken up as a motto only by a few enlightened institutions. The second paradigm requires any personality that is prompted by materialism and relativism. Obviously again, most institutions find it expedient to shape personalities on material and competitive quests. 
Contentment versus motivation
Contented is the state of being happy with what one has and what one achieves. It may seem to be a retro theme to suggest that people in the organization should be contended rather than motivated. Being motivated means being driven by a factor or a combination of factors beyond the natural behavior to perform and seek rewards.  In a classic sense, motivation suggests a factored drive-in of performance while contentment suggests a status quo with what one has. The difference between the two concepts is, however, more than semantic. Motivation as a driver is intrinsically materialistic and artificial, and is also stress producing. Motivation is an affected behavior of people seeking constant fulfillment beyond what a human being needs. Contentment, on the other hand, is intrinsically spiritual and natural, and is actually stress relieving. Contentment is an intrinsic behavior of people which is both psychological and biological. For example, when one becomes hungry one tends get contented once the hunger is satiated. On the other hand, a motivated individual driven only by rewards cannot stop seeking materialistic fulfillment even if it is far beyond what his or her life needs.
Contentment, as an oriental principle of life, teaches people to find happiness in what one can find in life. It dissuades people from seeking a utopian world. Given the imperfections that could occur in man-made organizations, contentment helps one to attain equanimity in the face of several stress producing challenges. Motivation, as a Western principle of management, exhorts people to look beyond the base without exploring how the base itself can be intrinsically reinforced. Motivation in some ways is like a superstructure built on weak foundations. In matters of human physical health, immunity and prophylactic approaches to wellness are far more effective and enduring as well as less costly than growth factors and therapeutic approaches to treating illness. In matters of organizational behavioral health too, resilience and perseverance approaches to high performance are far more effective and enduring as well as more effortless than motivation based rewards to bettering performance.   

Connected, despite specialized
Modern organization owes its structures and processes to the concept of specialization. Specialization has been the foundation of the evolution of civilization whether it was functionally established (for example, musician, teacher), socially established (for example, royalty) or religiously indoctrinated (for example, the Hindu caste system). Specialization helped in deepening of knowledge and excelling of practice in the domains but it also led to formation of barriers between the various specializations. This has led to functional, social and religious stresses resulting in volatility in the development of human race. It is not surprising that organizations had to be formed on the basis of specializations but it is certainly concerning that specialization has led to silo formation in organizations. As a result, much like in the case of motivation, organizations resort to various internal and external forums to connect silos. Just as an unenlightened individual believes that he or she is distinct and differentiated in the universe , an individual who is dogmatic in specialization fails to see himself or herself as a part of the organization.
A connected organizational ethos helps functions deliver organizational goals effectively. The foundations of organizational connectivity occur at two levels; one individual and the other functional. The connected individual believes that he or she exists in communion with his or her inner self and in connectivity with every other individual. He or she recognizes that both in gross and subtle manners his or her existence impacts, and gets impacted, by the presence and absence of other organizational members. The connectivity of functions is also viewed and shaped by individuals from their individual lenses. An unconnected individual gets blinded to the relevance and importance of the other functions, and to that extent, fails to grow beyond his or basic core. In the organizational setting as in the social milieu there is no alternative to stay connected while being specialized. The relative success of residential schools and campuses is due to the forced connectivity such residential life enjoins on the residents. The success of the mammoth public sector units such as steel plants in the post-independence India is largely due to the residential townships and the related connectivity which helped individual and functional connectivity.
Contended connectivity, the natural way
An organization which has its people contended and connected would ipso facto be a stress-free and happy organization. But would it be an efficient and effective organization without the commonly used motivational and specialization tools? The answer lies in preparing the individuals to understand themselves in a holistic fashion from the childhood through the schools and colleges. While it should be the responsibility of the homes and families to teach children good values in the socio-religious context, it must be the responsibility of the schools and colleges to teach how an individual can reach contentment and connection by discovering one’s complete self. From overcoming physical and mental limitations to reaching the full potential of one’s body and brain cells should be a part of the curriculums both at school and college levels. An intrinsic personal awareness and execution process based on self-discovery, duly aided by such teachings brings in contentment without any artificial props of motivation.  And a person who is in equanimity with himself or herself stays connected internally and externally.
Organizations can reinforce the contented connectivity paradigm by ensuring equality and equity in organizations. By being an equal opportunity employer and by being equitable in talent management, organizations can avoid the factors that induce stresses and strains in organizations. Lack of equity is a fundamental destabilizing factor which is sought to be countered by various motivational programs; this is much akin to symptomatic therapeutic programs that seek to treat illness. Leaders in organization, who are circumstantially and evolutionarily experience and demonstrate ego states are often impediments to the virtuous processes of contended connectivity. Development of executives, managers and leaders from the grassroots level on the paradigm of contented connectivity is an essential need for organizational excellence. Recruitment of well-rounded mature individuals and enabling them discover their fuller potential and fulfill them all through the careers is a sustainable strategy to efficiency and effectiveness in organizations. Contentment and connectivity of people would make organizations communities of happiness as much as epitomes of delivery.      
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 17, 2012