I think putting your hand into a machine with sharp, grinding gears, is bad for you. But I think putting your wellbeing into the grinding gears of a mechanistic organizational structure is much worse. Sadly, far more employees are injured or killed by the organizational machinery of a workplace than the actual machinery.
I submit that it comes down to the difference between an ecosystem and an egosystem. A workplace ecosystem is about networks, adaptability, constant questioning, and open-honest communication. It’s a place of fluidity, divergence, and emergence. An egosystem is about self-interest, mechanistic structures, systems, and processes, and lifeless targets and outputs. In an egosystem, success is measured by the speed of a career path and employees are interchangeable cogs on that wheel of grandiosity. Both an organizational ecosystem and egosystem have a few easy-to-spot characteristics. How many of the following do you recognize?
In an egosystem, people need to believe that:
- Detailed planning guarantees predictability.
- History always repeats itself.
- The status quo is protected at all cost.
- Emotions show weakness.
- A questioning nature is a sign of subversion.
- Information is not only power, but a weapon. Keep it close and hidden.
- Leadership is positional. Command structures must be obeyed regardless of the facts.
In an workplace ecosystem, people accept that:
- Crises are normal and constant. Rather than being extinguished, their heat and energy is channelled into healthy growth.
- Assumptions are constantly and respectfully challenged.
- It’s a given that small actions can create huge changes.
- The most successful goals are general and flexible, with solutions formed from the bottom up.
- What happened before can never happen exactly the same again.
- Perception is in fact reality–and reality is different for all of us. The challenge is to find our shared realities.
- The more things change, the more they change–not stay the same.
- Emotions are both the pilot light and furnace of all action–and fear burns both the hottest and brightest in our emotional brains, extinguished through empowerment and knowledge.
In your own life and workplace do you see examples of ecosystems and egosystems? Do you think that the two can co-exist or are they so diametrically opposite that it’s impossible to experience both?