By Luis A. Marrero, M.A. RODP, LLP
CEO Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose
May 11, 2016
We are happy to offer this abridged format for those who requested a shorter version of OD2.0. Thanks to our readers from around the world for the overwhelming positive response to the longer version of this article. ~ Luis A. Marrero ~
“We increasingly understand that we need a very different model of humanity….”
2013 United Nations World Happiness Report
The Status Quo
Many reliable indicators – both empirical and intuitive – continue to report perplexing findings. Consider some of Gallup’s article headings:[ii] • 70% of U.S. Workers Not Engaged at Work. • Across Most of the World, the Percentage of Adults With Great Jobs Rarely Tops 10%. • Germany’s Employee Engagement Problem Begins With Managers.
Trust in our leaders and institutions continues to be a problem, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. On the recent “State of the American Manager” by Gallup, Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO reported, • “The majority of managers working in the U.S. today are wrong for their role.” • “Most CEO’s I know honestly don’t care about employees or take an interest in human resources.” • “Gallup reported in a world-famous study that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. Worse, over the past 12 years, this low number has barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees are failing to grow and contribute at work.” Most other countries are not fairing any better. For the most part, the credibility and engagement problem in other nations is worse than in the United States of America.
This is happening at a historical time when, according to experts, knowledge is doubling every twelve hours. Thus, we face a paradox where institutions globally are facing significant challenges while inundated with information and solutions. It is reasonable to suspect that, possibly, we might be relying on faulty or unreliable information. As you will read, a potential culprit is the meaning we give to people and institutions.
The unexamined life is no worth living. (Socrates)
What if we were to confront the reality that some of the fundamentals of our economic system and its influence in organizational theory and design are flawed? (Marrero, 2016) [vii]
I credit Dr. Barry Schwartz’s work [viii] for his influence and for bringing to my attention learning from my early economy courses as a student at Trine University in Indiana, and particularly for reminding me the role Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) played in shaping our view of humans in their role as workers.
It is in the inherent interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether he does or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to neglect it all together, or, if he is subject to some authority which will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in a careless and slovenly a manner that authority will permit. (Adam Smith) [ix]
In plain English, Adam Smith shared the belief that workers inherently dislike to work,
will do anything to avoid it, and thus must be extrinsically motivated (through carrot and stick approaches). Does this remind you of Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y? Well, we believe that Theory X – whether we are aware or unaware of its influence — is still well and alive. Moreover, OD2.0 proposes that this callous view of human beings has permeated management and organizational theory to our detriment. Despite advancements in related fields, management and organizational theory is worryingly driven by extrinsic, mechanical and military thinking.
Paychecks can’t buy passion.
We are encouraged by research and in-roads made in the field of psychology, and its contribution to management science and the field of Organization Development. Key are organizations such as
Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP) and MPP OD
Meaningful Purpose Psychology (MPP), or its scientific name logoteleology, is the scientific study of the meanings that enable people and institutions to thrive and to succeed. The theory proposes that humans give a meaning to themselves, to others, to situations, and even to concepts. This meaning — inevitably — precedes every action a person takes.
Meanings can be meaningful, the result of actions that are life enhancing, add value, and in some way benefit society. The meaningful is the outcome of a competent and virtuous character. Meanings can also be meaningless or the outcome of actions that deplete, harm, and demean individuals and society. Meaningless outcomes are the result of incompetence and/or a flawed character and/or misguided meanings.
Ninety percent of adults spend their waking lives doing things they would rather not be doing at places they would rather not be.
(Barry Schwartz, Ph.D.)
I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the meaning that Adam Smith gave humans. If we accept the proposition that a meaning — inevitably — precedes every action a
Figure 1. Four Design Options
person takes, we would understand how Smith’s meaning shaped economic, business, management, leadership, and organizational theories. Adam Smith’s meaning of people is flawed, and has had, and continues to have, meaningless consequences.
MPPOD theory and method (OD2.0) challenges current organizational, management and leadership theories and approaches that – consciously or unconsciously – yield meaningless results, as we see from the persistent lack of trust on leaders and institutions, and subsequent engagement problems. Bottom line: these assumptions objectify humans.
What is OD2.0?
OD2.0 or MPPOD is both a call-to-action and a consulting method based on classical, positive and meaning-centered theories and approaches aimed at generating, reinforcing and sustaining meaningful institutions for the well-being of civilization.
OD2.0 develops meaning-centered, competent, responsible, and altruistic individuals who help shape organizations and work that:
- provide a meaningful service, product or experience
- enhance and exalt the human condition, thus contributing to society in a meaningful way
- protect the environment
A proposition of OD2.0 is that current economic theories, and their influence in organizational, managerial and leadership methods, hold flawed underlying assumptions about humans, many operating at an unaware level. The presence of these flawed underlying assumptions within institutions have a hollow and demotivating effect on organizational members. In addition, this squandered people resource costs companies billions of dollars in waste, missed opportunity, and fraud.
We offer that institutions and their leaders have the option of revisiting and realigning their organizations so that they can be both profitable and humane. They do not have to be contradictory goals. Another proposition of OD2.0 is that many existing approaches to solving stubborn group and institutional problems are prone to have minimal positive long-term effect because they support Adam Smith’s conventions that people dislike work and need to be motivated primarily through extrinsic means. Again, consider the persistent problem of trust in leadership and organizations, as in the disengagement problem, and vet it gains the billions of dollars paid in training, development and consulting. Too many of these unsustainable solutions — among other ineffective practices — tend to overuse extrinsic motivation — which is a hallmark of mechanistic and Theory X dogma and practices.
The Eon of OD2.0
OD2.0 claims that as long as many of our current solutions accept or work within the confines of erroneous assumption about humans, the stubborn problems we face within our institutions will persist – and despite the billions of dollars paid in consulting, training and coaching. MPPOD (OD2.0) challenges the fundamental assumptions or meanings ascribe to humans as shaped by predominant economic, organizational and management theories. It also counsels solution providers and change agents to consider if their approaches are unintentionally aligned with flawed assumptions, and hence, again – unintentionally – such remedies become part of and sustain the problem. OD2.0 counters traditional organizational, managerial and leadership theories and approaches with a more practical view of humans and organizations.
OD2.0 asserts that it is time to re-tune our assumptions about humans. Readers are encouraged to learn more about OD2.0, to join in the discussion, and to contribute to the field.
[i] Not to be confused with OD2.0’s HaltonHousingTrust or Driven for Life
[v] Marrero, Luis A. The Path to a Meaningful Purpose: Psychological Foundations of Logoteleology. Bloomington: IUniverse. 2013. P 3
[vii] Marrero, Luis A. (2016) Meaningful Purpose (Logoteleological) Organization Development. Manuscript submitted for publication
[viii] Schwartz, Barry. Why We Work. (New York: Simon & Schuster)
[ix] Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. (Shine Classics, 2014) 415
[x] Luis A. Marrero (2016, May) Meaningful Purpose Psychology. In Meghana Rao, Stewart I. Donaldson (Co-chairs). Additional panelists: Laura Morgan Roberts, Jacqueline Stavros. Positive Work Perspectives: Charting New Paths in Research and Practice. Symposium conducted at the SIOP Conference, Anaheim, California