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The rise of the (un)inspiring organisation

Let me ask you two questions:

  1. Would you characterize your organisation as an inspiring place to work? 
  2. Is it a place where you every day become more engaged, smarter and energized?

If we look into the research on this topic too many people are not able to recognize those words when thinking about the organisation they work in. They don’t see it as an engaging experience and it is not as interesting as it could be. In brief, they are not as engaged as they could be. This is quite expensive and basically a waste of human potential. 

If we look at the commercial part of it – it is not good business to have people working for you that basically just want to get through the day before they can bring they passion, creativity and initiative to work somewhere else. Most businesses depend of the hearts and minds of the people working there and if they choose not to bring that to work we are potentially in trouble as an organisation. 

The second part is about a waste of potential and human capability. As humans we are capable of amazing things when we are engaged, inspired and motivated. But too often that doesn’t happen at the place we work and spent a significant amount of our time. The problem is definitely varied and complexed but here you’ll get some of the initial topics on our work in the field. 

The first problem is that too many organisations expect something extraordinary from their people, even though there is nothing extraordinary to fight for. There is no real distinctive purpose that separates the organisation from the rest and very often you’ll see a lack of prove in how serious the company is about its purpose . There is a lack of something real and important to fight for instead of the next quarterly sales figures or high-level PowerPoint plans. The people in the organisation are too often not part of a substantial and inspiring purpose. Something worth investing in. 

If the organization actually has a cool purpose, too often this is kept in the back and not fully used and executed in everything done across the company.

The second problem is that rule followers are rewarded while innovators and being held down or ignored. In many organisations is it very hard to test an idea, get just a minmum funding and go through a structured process of validation outside the usual corporate treadmill of linear thinking. The best thing you can do if you have an idea, is (sadly) enough not to go to your manager but instead somewhere else. If you want the best odds it is probably not up the corporate chain of command, but somewhere else your starting point should be. 

Start thinking about:

Do you organisation develop more corporate copies than corporate entrepreneurs? 

The third problem is a people problem. The funny thing is that every organisation is based on people, but not always runned with that fact in mind. Especially, mature and larger organisations are still based on a legacy and a mindset that people are instruments, regardless of how many D&I campaigns they run and fancy posters they can print. You will still see principles based on beliefs that people needs to be managed to get things done in the right way. We would argue that it is not the managing part that is lacking. It is the inspiration part. People don’t need more management. They need and inspiring reason to do something out of the ordinary, and there is a clear need of a more human-centered approach to business.

So what to do?

The first thing to do is to give people something worth fighting for. A true, distinctive and very ambitous purpose. It has to be bold, authentic, extraordinary and set a clear direction of every employee and leader in the organisation. Not as a new Corporate Social Responsibility initiative on the side of the business – but as a strategic choice and filter for every decisions – useful to the business, the people working there and the outside world. A purpose that connects people and sets the direction towards something bigger than the individual. When that is done it has to be implemented in everything that you do in the company. And yes, we mean everything!

If your company culture was a stock – would you invest in it? 

If you are serious about working from a core purpose it has to be used. It has to be transparent and integrated in structures, processes and core activities. Until that happens, it is a nice slogan. Get rid of the fancy posters, printing on coffee cups and so on. Do it instead and get your hands dirty by actually putting the purpose into everything you do.

The second thing is to start developing corporate entrepreneurs and having a structured process for experimentation and innovation. Let in the innovators from the organisation and have them come up possible solutions on well-known challenges you have – both internally and externally related to your customers. 

Ask them questions such as:

  • What obstacles do you see standing in the way of us being an even more inspiring organisation?
  • What should change if we starting taking the ideas from all of our people more serious going forward?
  • What kind of principles would help us test and validate ideas faster and with more impact?
  • If we were truly serious about our customer focus what would we do?
  • If we were truly serious about talent in our organisation what would be different?
  • How can we run smal, fast, low cost and low risk experiments as part of growing and developing our business?

The third thing to do is to challenge the leadership mindset and practice in the organisation. Ask all leaders about their core assumptions about how to develop people and creating results. What do they really believe is the right thing to do as a leader, to make it an interesting place to be and to deliver great results? Take those answers and test them up against the daily reality. Do we as leaders actually carry out those beliefs in everything we do? Do we follow through and put our money where the mouth is? If, yes great! If no, what should we start and stop doing right away with no excuses? 

These are just a few of our early and overall perspectives on a complexed and important issue. Being in a organisation doesn’t have to uninspiring but just the opposite. Press play right away.


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