There is a divid­ing line sep­a­rat­ing for­ward-think­ing busi­ness­es from the rest. Umair Haque (@umairh), direc­tor of the Havas Media Lab and founder of Bub­ble­gen­er­a­tion, has iden­ti­fied that line.

In a recent HBR post on “The Mean­ing Organ­i­sa­tion” [link], Haque argues:

A bet­ter and very dif­fer­ent glob­al econ­o­my made up of nov­el, more ben­e­fi­cial indus­tries, more pur­po­sive types of organ­i­sa­tions, and more pas­sion­ate work will bring rad­i­cal­ly more fruit­ful approach­es to com­merce, trade, and exchange. We’re in the midst of a bumpy, lengthy tran­si­tion from a lack­lus­ter present, to an uncer­tain future. The grind­ing gears and titan­ic motors of the indus­tri­al age are com­ing, final­ly, to a clat­ter­ing, jud­der­ing halt. What you might call the age of wis­dom is being painful­ly and nois­i­ly born.

To Haque­’s mind, organ­i­sa­tions have gone through three stages. First, there was the firm that exe­cutes; such Indus­tri­al Age com­pa­nies sim­ply processed and deliv­ered prod­ucts. Sec­ond, came the firm that learns; these mod­ern com­pa­nies gained com­pet­i­tive advan­tage by accru­ing and lever­ag­ing knowl­edge faster than their peers. Now, says Haque:

Mean­ing Organ­i­sa­tions cre­ate micro- and macro-struc­tures that fuel rad­i­cal­ly mean­ing­ful work, life, and play. They’re con­cerned first and fore­most not just with mak­ing goods, or learn­ing to make goods, but with ensur­ing that pro­duc­tion, con­sump­tion, and exchange scale ever more mean­ing­ful peaks of prosperity.

New Tree GrowingHaque pro­vides a rather com­plete pro­file of what he means by the “Mean­ing Organ­i­sa­tion” in his post. He dis­cuss­es sig­nif­i­cance, out­comes, har­mo­ny, pur­pose, peace, love, and ambi­tion. And, yes, he con­cedes that his pro­file “sounds a bit soft”.

Yet, I’m extract­ing from Haque­’s great arti­cle that the divid­ing line between com­pa­nies root­ed in the past and those in the future is the way in which they engage soci­ety. It’s no longer about sell­ing to the pub­lic; it’s about inter­act­ing with them. As I have not­ed before [link], this move­ment to a new kind of organ­i­sa­tion is more trans­for­ma­tion than crisis. 

Lead­ers must guide their firms from a lack­lus­ter present to an uncer­tain future, which is the tran­si­tion Nextsens­ing wants to help lead­ers and organ­i­sa­tions make. My sense is that the mean­ing organ­i­sa­tion will not hap­pen by reject­ing every suc­cess­ful busi­ness prac­tice of the past. What’s need­ed is a healthy respect for the past, a deep under­stand­ing of the present, and an active mind focused toward future-tense oppor­tu­ni­ties to reshape not just com­pa­nies — but in today’s trans­form­ing par­a­digms — also grow­ing peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties and entire societies.

Isn’t the essence of all this tied to how one thinks? We need to think dif­fer­ent­ly not only about “what we do and what we know” but also about what mat­ters, or mean­ing. Our project team, and those who fol­low this site, are hope­ful­ly ded­i­cat­ed to cre­at­ing the most effec­tive process for imag­in­ing pos­si­ble new and desir­able future states, to con­vert exe­cut­ing and learn­ing (as Haque advo­cates) into some­thing a great deal more meaningful.

The met­rics for mea­sur­ing suc­cess in cap­i­tal­ism are chang­ing — and need to. Fore­sens­ing desired future states must include how you want to mea­sure suc­cess — a new account­ing sys­tem for eval­u­at­ing what comes next. To a com­pa­ny that mere­ly exe­cutes, it’s all about scale and scope. To the learn­ing enter­prise, it’s all about know­ing. To tomor­row’s busi­ness, it will be about find­ing pros­per­i­ty by pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences. We need to move beyond build­ing and ship­ping, sell­ing and learn­ing. We need to start engaging.

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