Understanding Business as a Way of Attending to People’s Needs

One of the biggest challenges of modern organizations trying to make the transition from command and control hierarchies to agile bottom-up innovation organizations is to learn how to connect with people.

Where many organizations think they are connecting with people, they in fact produce the opposite effect of alienating and pushing people away. The operational mode of classical organizations is work in terms of rules and processes, where employees are resources and the purpose of customers is to be exploited to fulfill a profit motive.

Connecting with people, on the other hand, means attending to their needs, to create an experience of employee and customer intimacy which provides the genuine value that ultimately is the reason employees are engaged, and that customers are interested, loyal und want to finance our livelihood.

Bob Marshall @flowchainsensei has developed a framework he calls the Antimatter Principle, applying Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication to software development by showing how the objective categories of business management can be understood in terms of needs.

Identifying business areas of action as needs fulfillment issues is a first huge step in shifting business away from its classical exploitative mode of operations to a sustainable value creation mode. Once the intellectual framework has been articulated, however, people still need to learn how to connect with people on a professional level that organizations are by their very nature as functional hierarchies of power very bad at, because it involves letting go of most of the things that businesses have identified with in the past. Hierarchies give way to networks, top-down initiatives give way to bottom-up innovation, profit gives way to value creation (an oblique approach to making money which works much better!), reporting up the hierarchy for control purposes gives way to transparency based on metrics that teams use to regulate their activities themselves. Most importantly, employees and customers become partners in the search for ways to fulfill needs, which becomes the ultimate purpose of the organization.

Businesses can start making the transition to genuine value creation through human connection by practicing a combination of agile organizational culture, supported by methodologies like Kanban or Scrum, through servant leaders who enable the self-organizing dynamics of their people, and by helping people to develop the personal skills of connecting to others on a needs level.

Making need fulfillment the subject of business activity is what provides the context  for genuine innovation and growth, as nothing drives human activity as productively as the striving to have our needs met, or the joy we experience meeting others’ needs and having our needs met in return.

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