Oct 5, 2004

Charles Handy on the Search for Meaning

Handy says: "My next book, The Hungry Spirit, is an attempt to answer that. I think the search for meaning applies to individuals and to institutions. We're all looking for why we do the work we do. It was easy in the past -- we were doing it because we needed the money to live. Now it's clear that money -- for many people and institutions -- is more symbolic than real. We generate more wealth than we really need to live on. And money becomes a rather crude measure of success. We're looking for something more.
There is, in my view, no God-given explanation for each of us as to what success might be. I do believe that we are each of us unique. We each -- institutions as well as individuals -- have something to contribute to the world, and the search for meaning is finding out what that is before we die. Until then we have only tentative answers.
The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world.
The first half of life is certainly a struggle to prove that you can survive and then can achieve some special capacity. But the interesting thing for me is that given that you can survive, that you are successful, what is it you can contribute? The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world -- not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy. Some call those things a soul."

It reminds me a lot of Viktor Frankl's work on logotherapy and his book "Man's cry for meaning"

On a related note Curt Rosengren points to an interview of Micheal Kroth who says:
Kroth: Good leaders are really meaning makers. Their job is to find out what is meaningful to each person on their team and then try to match the work to that meaning. Of course, you also need to hire people who will find some aspect of real estate sales meaningful.
RMO: How do you know what's meaningful to an individual?

Kroth: First, just ask them. Make it part of each person's annual business planning or performance review. Ask them what part of the plan or the job is most meaningful to them. Often managers assume that's what's meaningful to them is meaningful to others...