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The Relationship between Meaningfulness and Happiness

June 20th, 2014

As a follow up to yesterday’s blog on meaningfulness at work, recent research suggests that a meaningful life does not lead to happiness. Indeed people who consider themselves to lead meaningful lives are likely to be less happy than those who don’t. Click here to listen to an audio summary of the research. The audio clip also discusses research that challenges the view that men’s and women’s brains are genuinely different.

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Are You Left Brained or Right Brained?

August 10th, 2012

During our training courses in areas such as emotional intelligence and communication, the issue of our brains often comes up. A common starting point is when a participant says something like;

“I’m very ‘left’ brained, which makes it difficult for me to communicate with my boss who is very ‘right’ brained.”

The left part of your brain is often considered responsible for emotion and language, while the right is concerned with reason. The reality though appears to be far less straight forward. To find out more, have a look at the following animation from the RSA.

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The Business Practices Debate

October 13th, 2011

Recently mch held a poll which asked the following question:

‘Should Third Sector organisations adopt the language and practices of successful, sustainable businesses?’

The results from the 32 respondents were as follows:

  • 62% agreed
  • 19% disagreed
  • 19% were not sure.

In addition to their vote, one voter provided some personal insights into the differences between the two sectors. Key extracts are as follows:

“The 3rd sector should have compassion at the heart of what its does rather than the pursuit of profit. This is probably and overly stereotypical view of both sectors….but what I would say is that the 3rd sector could really learn many valuable lessons from successful businesses when it comes to professionalism.

In my experience [service users’] personal files are routinely left out on desks. Curiously, low level stationery is locked up, suggesting there is a higher value placed on this than on personal information.”

During the course of the polling, I became aware of a similar debate that was administered by a former employer of mine, McKinsey & Company. The question they posed was:

‘Should social entrepreneurs adopt the language and practices of business?’

Many of the resulting comments were illuminating and you can read them all by clicking on the link at the bottom of this blog post.

One comment that particularly struck me was;

“The false dichotomy of business-model versus a social-impact model is a vestige of a dying world.”

Around the same time, I read Jim Collins’ monograph entitled:

‘Why business thinking is not the answer – Good to Great and the Social Sectors’

A key line from the book is;

“The critical distinction is not between business and social, but between great and good. We need to reject the naïve imposition of the ‘language of business’ on the social sectors, and instead jointly embrace a language of greatness.”

When I think about all the excellent organisations that I know, whether in the Third Sector or Private Sector (and dare I say it in the odd government department) I am indeed struck by how similar they are in the way they operate.

Consequently, perhaps the original poll question was the wrong one to ask! A better one may be:

‘What does it take for any organisation to become great?’

Here, I think the previously outlined resource by Jim Collins is a really useful starting point. As an outline, five of the key ingredients identified by Collins’ research include:

  1. Excellent Leadership - Leaders with “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”
  2. First ‘Who’, then ‘What’ - Devote time to getting people with the right motivations into your organisation (and the wrong people out of it). Do this before spending too much time on what your organisation is going to do.
  3. Confront the Brutal Facts (yet never lose faith)
  4. Apply the Hedgehog Principle - Work out what lies in the overlap between: (i) What you’re passionate about (ii) What you can be the best at (iii) What drives your resources (time, money and brand)
  5. Build and maintain a culture of discipline

To review all the comments from the McKinsey debate, click here.

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10 Words to Describe the Ideal Organisation

July 12th, 2011

At a recent conference, a speaker from a social welfare charity shared some research that their organisation had conducted. They had asked over 2,000 adults to choose up to 10 words that they thought best described the ideal charity working in social welfare. The top 10 words were:

  1. Caring
  2. = Trustworthy, Friendly and Supportive
  3. Helpful
  4. Professional
  5. Honest
  6. Approachable
  7. Practical
  8. Informative

A key omission that struck me was ‘Effectiveness/Impact’: is the social welfare organisation effectively addressing/solving their priority issues.

Does such analysis suggest that despite growing calls for proof of impact amongst funders, proving impact is not such an issue to the typical person in the street?

Also, what 10 words would you use to describe your organisation at the moment? Are there any words on your current list that shouldn’t be there? Are there any glaring omissions?

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Are you ready to increase your positive impact?