What’s the thread running through your organisation?

Every organisation we walk into feels different.

What it looks like – cared for or tired?, what’s on the walls – art or marketing slogans?

What it sounds like – the underlying level of hum, laughter, phones ringing.

How it responds to you – does it notice your arrival and make you feel welcome, or ignore you?

What it’s for – Do you get a sense of why it exists? Is it important?

There are many traditions that believe we have a soul, from faith communites, to the ancient wisdoms.

I have always found the Myth of Er in Plato’s Republic valuable to read every now and then as a means of reflecton.

Whether or not you choose to believe in a soul, I suggest it is a valuable thought experiment.

What if, At the moment of our birth, we receive a soul, to pass it on when we die ?

What if our job during life is to ensure we hand it on in better condition than we receive it?

What if we applied the same idea to our organisations? They are created for a reason, to meet a need in the world – whether for profit, or social purpose, or both. From the time it is created, to it’s inevitable demise, it makes a difference of some sort. Does it leave its employees, customers, communities and the world a better place, or not? Does it care? Does it even notice?

Is it a giver, a taker or a matcher?

It has always mattered, and now it is becoming ever more noticeable, and our organisations more accountable. The population in general, and the younger generation in partcular, notice.

There’s a thread.

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

We can keep shareholders happy, make ourselves rich, maybe even famous – but what if we had as our most important metric the condition of the organisations soul? What if we pay attention to its thread?

I wonder what we would do different today?

The power of craft

I noticed an interesting article in the Guardian regarding craft beers.

Essentially the rise in popularity of craft beers has prompted many of the major “industrial” brewers to bring out brands purporting to be craft beers. In many respects, nothing new there. Our supermarkets have been doing the same with food brands for some time, creating fictitious but appealing names to lure the unwary.

What was interesting to me though was the response of a spokesman for the industrial brewers, which in my view makes their agenda, and connection to what they produce, transparent.;

“Whether it’s ‘craft’ is really in the eye of the beholder. What we do see is that the majority of people view craft beer as looking a certain way, with slightly more flavour, and generally new, or perceived to be new.”

The nature of craft is very specific. In his book “Craftsman” Richard Sennet describes many facets of craft, but amongst them are a continuing search for improvement, and a visceral connection between the artist, her work, and her audience.

Craft is the stuff of the soul. It has the signature of the artist, and defines the artists life.

Craftsmen do not make products, they make artefacts.

Craft is not a marketing tag, it’s a way of life.

It is very difficult to fake, particularly by big business.