BY DYLAN FLAVELL

After founding and leading a people advisory firm, Curve Group for the past decade, I’ve recently ‘rebooted’ to lead Spring Point, a purpose driven team, committed to connecting business strategy and human potential. Our intent is to change the way we work to improve the way we live. This post, and my next two, are reflections (and projections!) that sprang from creating this ‘2.0’ business; and they serve as a philosophy and the principles for much of our work here at Spring Point. I hope they resonate in some way.

change the way we work, improve the way we live. Work equals life.


WORK LIFE OSMOSIS - PART 1 OF 3

The barriers that separate work and life are being re cast; a source of great struggle or a light on the hill if we can embrace this paradigm shift for the opportunities it holds.  Importantly, I’m not talking about ‘Work Life Balance’, as has been spoken of for the last decade (often manifesting as the compartmentalisation of work and life arrangements). In fact, I’m talking about the opposite. ‘Work Life Osmosis’ is a bigger concept and sits at the heart of economic productivity and personal wellbeing.  The works of Dr Simon Albrecht and colleagues on the Job Demands Resources Model over the past decade give weight to this beyond my practice-based perspective. It’s the intersect between creating value and loving what you do. Critically, we think it provides a key to unlocking exceptional performance, by helping to dissolve the barriers between work and life, thus pooling our physical, emotional, and social resources to overcome challenges and solve complex problems. It has the potential to debunk the adage working to live vs. living to workby no longer seeing life and work as explicitly different.
To unpack this concept more practically, I draw on my working life, spent with over 400 organisations globally. Walking corridors and interacting with these various organisations and teams often reveals stark differences in work practices and mindsets of employees that directly impacts their propensity to see and solve important problems. In one company we find knowledge silos amongst people sitting next to one another, a lack of accountability, and mindless process adherence. In another, we see individuals innovating through collaboration and courage (to speak up and have a view), and a willingness to unlearn and reimagine processes, systems, products and ways of interacting. These differences have prompted me to critically reflect on the barriers and enablers to high performance. First, why is Company A so different to Company B? And just as important, while one company may already be high performing, are its people and their work anywhere near to their ‘collective potential’?
Some of this performance variance is captured in well-known research and practices. Dr Daniel Denison in his prolific research has accumulated compelling evidence to show the links between key work practices that underpin high performance on metrics such as innovation, quality, employee engagement, sales and profitability. We too believe in that evidence base and method. At a more aspirational level though, re-imagining the relationship between work and life seems pivotal, and pervasive in terms of the beneficiaries; individuals, organisations and communities.
In Greg Satell’s musings about technology in Forbes magazine in 2015 he shares a concept under the title of ‘The One Thing That Can Transform An Idea Into A Phenomenon’. He explains that the value and popularity of technology is rarely determined by its level of innovation. The key factor that informs both value and popularity of a new digital product is its interface. For example, the computer only became popular with the advent of the display monitor. Mobile phone apps are a more potent example still. Reflecting on this prompted me to consider ‘Work Life Osmosis’ as the same challenge in a different context. That is, how do we create an interface between work and people (i.e. organisations and employees), to fully unlock human potential?
As systems thinkers we don’t put much faith in hinting for silver bullets to bring the ‘Work Life Osmosis’ concept into reality. It’s multifaceted. A starting point however, appears to be the development of a meaningful, inclusive and potent organisational purpose. But what strikes me as most critical to a future where work and people (companies and communities) thrive simultaneously, is the need for leaders to firstly appreciate Satell’s insight. That being, that the role of organisational leader (and the opportunity for organisations) is to imagine and create the interface that easily enables work to be framed as….life. Now that would be a phenomenon.