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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Meaning At Work

The following article is by David Mashburn, a consulting psychologist for Tidemark, Inc., and editor of WorkPuzzle. His post is reprinted here by permission. It is a good lead-in to the topic I'll be focusing on in coming weeks: how to bring extraordinary meaning to "ordinary" work.    

Dr. Robert Emmons, a prolific researcher and professor at the University of California, recently wrote:
“As far as we know, humans are the only meaning-seeking species on the planet. ‘Meaning- making’ is an activity that is distinctively human, a function of how the human brain is organized.

The many ways in which humans conceptualize, create, and search for meaning has become a recent focus of behavioral science on the quality of life and subjective well-being.”

A tremendous amount of research and writing on the connection between human performance and the meaning people find in their work has started to emerge because of this focus. And, some of the heavy-hitters in the business world were quick to take notice of these discoveries.
 
Here are some examples of how much attention is being paid to “meaning-making” at work:


  •  Gary Hamel, ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the world’s most influential business thinker, and who Fortune magazine called “the world’s leading expert on business strategy" is encouraging managers to see themselves as “entrepreneurs of meaning.”


I want to emphasize that the research being done in this area is far from the touchy-feely anecdotes or inspirational speaker clichés that sometimes sound similar. I have little tolerance for methods and insights that are not based on research. Once you push through the surface language, there is substance behind this topic that leads to real and measurable performance improvements.

There is far too much to share with you about this subject matter in one blog edition, but here are a few examples that will get you thinking about the importance of meaning at work. These examples were compiled by Susie Cranston and Scott Keeler at McKinsey and Company:
[To view the examples, access David's full article here: WorkPuzzle.]
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2 comments:

  1. This is in line with an article I read yesterday written by two Stanford guys. It deals with the question of meaning and is titled “Why Are We So Frustrated at Work and at Home?” Their answer is basically that people’s lives aren’t integrated, though they state it in decidedly secular terms:

    "Though our society-wide struggle to find greater meaning is certainly attributable to a variety of nuanced factors, we have found that one of the biggest reasons is that, simply, people aren't aligned. By that we mean that people don't build an external reality that is in line with their internal selves and values. When your inside world and your outside world are misaligned, it's easy to feel frustrated, unhappy, and adrift. However, when they move into alignment, our lives are pervaded with a sense of satisfaction and happiness -- feelings that researchers have shown contribute significantly to how well we perform and our sense of meaning."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/behnam-tabrizi/why-are-we-so-frustrated-_b_3085127.html

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  2. Alex, thank you very much for adding this to the conversation. I may reference this in a future post!

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