Four Wisdoms: Reawakening Spirit in Work, the Workplace, and Workers — Part 3

To create an environment in the workplace that is nourishing to spirit and does not block its manifestation, the elements of regenerative processes must be linked and held in a yoked relationship. This is not complicated, but in fact emanates from common sense which is no longer common.

Wisdom One — Design Guideline: Accept spirit as a natural force, not in need of external stimulation

There is nothing to be done regarding the first wisdom but to accept that it exists. The work is on oneself and one’s own belief systems. The best way to understand it in others, and to see it working, is to start with seeing spirit working in ourselves. Only then can we understand how it is working in an organization. Try all these ideas on yourself first.

Wisdom Two — Design Guideline: Ensure that each person is increasingly able to bring their unique creativity to the distinctiveness of the business’s product offerings

The in-built power of spirit has the fuel it needs to restore and open up spirit when the above two elements of this structure are brought into a tension relationship. This invites a sense of being “stretched” but for something meaningful. When work is the place where one’s unique capabilities and qualities can be used to creatively bring distinctiveness to the world, we cannot be restrained. This is one of the reasons parenting can be such an inspiriting process. Who we are as a parent can be joined with the possibilities of a young life, and both the child and ourselves can each become a greater person. We do not want the child to be like anyone else in the world, but to be truly what they can be that is distinctive. In this and any situation, when we can see this complementary relationship coming together, we will take on increasingly difficult challenges, and persist even in the face of what seems impossible.

Wisdom Three Design Guideline: Work should connect every person on a daily basis to the effects produced by their efforts in a way that creates aspiration to be more virtuous in their contribution.

The natural understanding that we are in a reciprocal relationship with the world around us and all living systems leaves us with a natural need to be working in a way that ensures not only the sustainability of all the living systems, but evolution and development of them as well. As we increase our understanding of the effects of our endeavors, we feel a confronting demand to improve our synergistic rapport. However, this can lead to hopelessness and a loss of spirit when one lacks the capability to work from paradigms that offer something to aspire to, and from virtues that bring respect and indeed love for all living things. Working toward achieving highly ideal virtues lets us stay in touch with the preciousness of our human and material world and what could be possible with proper feeding and tending. It is when we lose the ability or opportunity to see “unrealized possibilities” that we lose spirit.

The core reason that this set of processes is inspiriting is that it requires the development and use of what might be called a reflective intelligence in the service of improving our judgment. The use of judgment, when accompanied by reflection, becomes a process of opening the door for the free flow of spirit. This is the reason that teenagers tend to rebel and become dispirited when their parent’s judgment is continuously substituted for their own. They will find other arenas where judgment is demanded when those at home are cut off. This is also part of the natural working of spirit. This striving for improving judgment beckons us to continuously test for alignment with our context and the many worlds of our lives.

Judgment demands to be developed because without it the spirit loses a major instrument. If this development is carried out in a context where reflecting on our processes is a way of life, especially from early childhood, then judgment evolves rapidly and is a major source of spirit. If the development of judgment is aborted in one world, it will find a more receptive world. This is not different in the factory or office. The number of leaders in the community, who came to their community service role seeking a path not offered in their boring and prescribed jobs, is innumerable. Spirit and the attendant judgment it fosters, will find a path in which to flow.

Wisdom Four Design Guideline: Everyone in the organization must be linked actively to each of these in their work, not divided up by functions or hierarchical levels of the organization

In order for thought and action to be increasingly aligned and inspiriting, it is necessary to keep a connection in our awareness with all the elements, much as a symphonic chord is played. Our essence is increasingly discovered and displayed through striving to work in a virtuous way, and in taking increasing accountability for the effects of our acts on the world around us. Understanding the distinctiveness and diversity that can and does exist around us and the importance of this varied and viable set of differences to evolution, has an enhancing effect on character development as we let go of our narrow-minded views. Only as we develop strength of character and steadfastness regarding integrity of our effects does the spirit have a lasting and sustainable quality through which essence can shine. Otherwise it is continuously masked by the socialized and politicized personality. The reflective intelligence built in pursuit of harmonizing our various worlds lets us see when we are asking ourselves, or others are asking us to trade off a higher value for the expediency of the moment. It is this nature of work that makes us conscious citizens of our nations and businesses.

Caveat: Why Popular Business Endeavors Tend To Deplete Spirit

The CEO I met on the flight home was caught in a trap that is so deceiving it is difficult to see its destructive jaws. But a little reflection may highlight the reason he felt he was sliding further away from his objective with every program. A structure that shows what might be called the shadow-side of our regenerative process, may make this clearer.

Organizations today have created environments in which it is difficult for spirit to do its thing. Work is categorized into set tasks, proceduralized and made routine, limits are carefully defined for all work — both high and low — and human beings are categorized into levels and types. The easiest way to schedule is to increase the commonalty across skills rather than understand and enhance the uniqueness. Efficiency is pursued above all else rather than within the context of what would make the customer, the consumer, the shareholder, the community, and the earth more effective. A few things are measured but none of them in relationship to one another. As a result, it is not possible to determine true cost and efficiency, much less overall effectiveness for the world. Most of all there is rising pressure to increase the uniformity of product offerings, customer service approaches, work design across facilities, purchasing procedures; all in the name of more productivity of resources. The human spirit is being closed out at work and has increasingly been seeking other venues.

What is not so obvious to the corporate leadership of today is that their own spirit is being blocked by current practices and the same wisdom works for them. The CEO on the flight spends one weekend a month in the inner city of a rust belt city, working with disadvantaged youth. He knows he is working against overwhelming odds of saving even one youth. He has so few resources it demands enormous creativity. But when he speaks of each youth by name, his face lights up and his language becomes caring and hopeful. He says he feels he is doing something than can make a difference for the future beyond his lifetime. He is learning about himself and about relationships, in some ways, for the first time. He has even come to see the basic good in people he says. And he can see what happens as a result of his attempts and it gives him an understanding of how to do better next time.

If he could only hear himself, he would have all the understanding he needs about what his company needs, what the people need, and indeed why he needs to start with himself and his own spirit as he works on the company.

About Carol Sanford

Carol Sanford is a regenerative business educator, the award winning author of The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, and executive in residence and senior fellow in social innovation at Babson College. She has worked with fortune 500 executives and rock star entrepreneurs for 40 years, helping them to innovate and grow their businesses by growing their people. Learn more about Carol and her work at her website.



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Carol Sanford

Carol Sanford


Sr Fellow Social Innovation, Babson |# 1 AmazonBest Selling/Multi-Award Winning Author | Regenerative Paradigm Educator