The Anatomy of Meaningful Work [Infographic]

This week, I stumbled upon a fascinating article in the MIT Sloan Management Review written by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden. They interviewed 135 people from 10 different walks of life in order to find out what makes their work especially meaningful – and also, what destroys their job-related sense of meaningfulness. While I´ve read other articles that provide valuable syntheses of meaning in work in the past (see here, here, and here), this one is especially rich in context, providing in-depth personal accounts of peoples´ experiences. This makes the findings especially palpable.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Meaningfulness is not dependent on the type of work. A garbage collector can experience the same amount of meaning in work as a nurse or a doctor.
  • Bosses (and specific leadership behaviors) are typically not perceived as a source of meaningfulness. Yet, they can easily destroy the perception of meaning in work.
  • More generalized, the creation of meaning in work is an individual endeavor, while its dismantling is caused by others, or the organizational system as a whole.

Moreover, the researchers describe several crucial components of meaningful work. They´ve inspired me to create this infographic based on their findings. Share and enjoy!

Anatomy_Meaning_Work.png

Additionally, Bailey and Madden describe the “seven deadly sins” leaders can commit to destroy meaningfulness. I´ll share those in the upcoming post.

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 23/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Sloan Management Review: What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless by Catherine Bailey & Adrian Madden


Bakadesuyo: FOMO: This Is The Best Way To Overcome Fear Of Missing Out by Eric Barker


Harvard Business Review: How leaders can let go without losing control by Mark Bonchek


New York Times: Graduating and Looking for Your Passion? Just Be Patient by Angela Duckworth


New York Times: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice by Adam Grant


Fast Company: Poverty can alter your DNA so you’re at greater risk for depression by Jessica Leber


New York Magazine: To Get Happier, Focus on What Makes You Miserable by David Marchese


Fast Company: Resilient teams can deal with challenges because they have built these skills by Gwen Moran


Harvard Business Review: Why Rich People Aren’t as Happy as They Could Be by Raj Raghunathan


New York Times: Using Meditation to Help Close the Achievement Gap by Norman Rosenthal


Psychology Today: In Defense of Authenticity and Being Yourself by Mark White


APA Excellence: Workplace Well-being Linked to Senior Leadership Support, New Survey Finds, no author


Psychological Science: Genetic Variations Linked with Social and Economic Success, no author

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Beautiful Overview of Positive Psychology [Infographic]

Today, I´d like to share with you this charming mind map of some of the central concepts in Positive Psychology. It was created by Dr. Ilona Boniwell who heads the International MSc in Applied Positive Psychology (I-MAPP) at Anglia Ruskin University and teaches Positive Management at l’Ecole Centrale Paris and HEC Business School.

Positive_Psychology_Boniwell

If you´d like to see more, here´s her recent TEDx talk:

Organizational Energy: A Whole-System Approach

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the concept of relational energy, the idea that energy is generated via positive interactions between an organization´s members – resulting in a fully charged system.

Org_Energy_BruchToday, I´d like to introduce two other approaches that aim at assessing organizational energy. In both, St. Gallen-based (Switzerland) Prof. Heike Bruch plays a major role.

In an article Bruch co-authored with Sumantra Ghoshal in the Sloan Management Review from 2003 based on several case-studies, she introduced the idea that an organization as a whole system can be described via a grid that describes the intensity and the quality of the present energy. In doing so, she also promoted the concept of “organizational burnout”, a state that may arise when an organization spends to much time in the upper left quadrant of the energy grid. I highly recommend reading the original article – as it also provides valuable ideas on how to shift an organization from one energetic state to an another (“Slaying the Dragon” and “Winning the Princess”)

In 2011, she followed up with this article: Energy at work: A measurement validation and linkage to unit effectiveness. This further explores the idea of “whole system energy” but tackles it from a more quantified point of view. The authors define

collective energy (henceforth productive energy) as affect, cognitive arousal, and agentic behavior among unit members in their joint pursuit of organizationally salient objectives.

One important notion is that the researchers view productive energy as having affective, cognitive, and behavioral components – so it´s not only about “feeling energized”:

Affective energy refers to members’ shared experience of positive feelings and emotional arousal due to their enthusiastic assessments of work‐related issues.

Cognitive energy refers to the shared intellectual processes that propel members to think constructively and persist in search of solutions to work‐related problems, including the mental faculties to focus attention, shut out distractions, and have a desire to make “good things” happen.

Behavioral energy reflects members’ joint efforts designed to benefit the organization; it encompasses the pace, intensity, and volume with which members purposefully invest physical resources.

 The other important distinction is the facet of emergence:

We take a multilevel position on energy, conceptualizing it as both an individual‐level and a collective‐level phenomenon. We, therefore, recognize the need to discuss the nature of its emergence or how the lower‐level parent construct (i.e., individual‐level energy) materializes to form a collective construct (i.e., productive energy).

Accordingly, the authored have used a questionnaire to assess individual energy, but used that data to additionally compute a collective energy level, e.g., that of the whole business unit, by aggregating the individual energy levels. Here are some of the items they used:

  • Affective dimension: People in my work group feel enthusiastic in their job.
  • Cognitive dimension: In my work group, there is a collective desire to make something happen.

  • Behavioral dimension: People in my work group often work extremely long hours without complaining.

After statistical analyses, the authors conclude that

productive energy appears to be an emergent phenomenon. That is, energy referenced at the unit level considers the context or social environment in which individuals work and is distinct from the attributes of those individuals.

In a separate study, they also find that

the productive energy of firms is positively associated with firm performance.

I´m really eager to see how this stream of literature will develop in the future – and how it might inform practical interventions, e.g., in the field of human resources development.

Angela Duckworth and Adam Grant in the New York Times

Nico Rose - Angela Duckworth - Adam GrantTwo of my academic heroes have published pieces in the New York Times recently.

Angela Duckworth writes about cultivating, rather than discovering our passion and the corresponding career paths. The key takeaways:

Move toward what interests you

Don’t panic if you can’t think of a career path that’s a perfect fit. A good-enough fit is a more reasonable aim than a perfect one.

Seek purpose

People are hard-wired not only to gratify their personal desires but also to care for others. So ask, “In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?” 

Finish strong

When considering a career change…

Work as hard on your last day as on your first. No matter where you go next, you have an opportunity to make the most of where you are now.

Adam Grant writes about how the concept of authenticity might be misleading in the world of business. He proposes to strive for sincerity instead. The key takeaway:

Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, start with your outer self. Pay attention to how you present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the person you claim to be.

Why they did it: How successful Entrepreneurs found their Breakthrough Idea

Here´s another fantastic infographic by Anna Vital. It displays when and why exceptionally successful founders had their eureka moments, when they discovered the product or service that would ultimately become the backbone of their business model. As you will see, most of them experienced a certain lack of something, they wanted a (better) product for their own lives but couldn’t find it – and so they created it…

the-aha-moments-of-entrepreneurs-infographic

Mappsterview No. 7: Jessica Amortegui, Positive Business Champion

I was in the ninth cohort (2013/14) of the Master of Applied Positive Program at Penn – and the program is going strong. Consequently, there are tons of brilliant MAPP Alumni out there who have fascinating stories to tell: About their experience with the program, about Positive Psychology in general – and about themselves of course. I really want to hear those stories. That´s why I started Mappsterviews.

Jessica_Amortegui.jpgPlease introduce yourself briefly:

I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert who still gets deathly shy meeting new people. Luckily this all dissipates when speaking to large groups (the bigger the better!). I have spent the past five years working in Silicon Valley and seeing my uber active boys, age 7 and 4, grow up way too fast.

What did you do before joining the MAPP program at Penn?

I started my career in consulting, first as an external consultant and then moving in-house. I dabbled in different kinds of consulting, from management to organizational development, to change management and human capital. After about seven years, I made the move to inside a company, and really enjoyed it. Besides the reduced travel load, I was able to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with employees. I also loved the awesome employee discount perks (Nike and Victoria Secret were my favorites!) After three years at a software company I am grateful to back at a product company building cool tech gizmos that I can procure with the coveted an employee discount. 🙂

What got you interested in Positive Psychology in the first place?

I was actually an unconscious, quasi-competent practitioner for a few years without even knowing it! I was delivering these two-day culture shaping workshops that applied many concepts of positive psychology in powerful experiential learning exercises – gratitude, positive emotions, strengths-based perspectives, etc. I became so passionate about the content and delivery that I began to read more about the work. I serendipitously stumbled on the MAPP website in 2007. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and thought I would never be able to squeeze the program into life. In 2013, six years later, I finally made it happen!

You now work for Logitech. What´s your role there?

I lead the Global Talent Development function. I joined a little over a year ago, and started development at the company – they didn’t have anything for employees. It has been awesome to create and build from scratch. The foundation has very much been inspired by the MAPP program. I have had the most amazing sand box to test, learn, and apply what I learned. The company is just over 2,500 employees globally, so you are able to see and feel the systemic change. That has been the most rewarding part of my job – to work at scale and see the impact.

Very recently, your company was awarded with the grand prize at Ross School´s Positive Business Project competition. What´s your project about?

I think of the project like my MAPP capstone – it was nine months worth of work that came together in a variety of mutually reinforcing initiatives. I knew if I was going to imbue positive practices into the organization I would need to pull many levers, and do them simultaneously. I created a two-day workshop that provides all employees an entrée into positive psychology. Participants experience vulnerability and connection, create a team purpose statement, and uncover their character strengths, to name a few. This is what we called our signature Logitech program. In one year, we had nearly 800 employees around the globe go through it – all by word of mouth.

I believe investments like that – in the whole person – will never backfire. It breeds a kind of loyalty that no cafeteria and ping pong table can ever deliver.

This intensive experience was complimented with 90-minute positive deviant workshops that we ran globally. We also rolled out job crafting to the entire organization. Together, employees got hit with tools and techniques that began to build different ways of thinking about themselves and their jobs. They began to reflect on themselves as people – not just employees. I believe investments like that – in the whole person – will never backfire. It breeds a kind of loyalty that no cafeteria and ping pong table can ever deliver.

What are the future plans for your initiative?

We want to build more relevant touch points with our employees. Our first phase was broad and now we are trying to go deep. We are working on producing more custom experiences for different employee segments that can meet them where they are and then take them to where they want to be. We have some cool new tools we are piloting to make that happen; tools that will give every employee one-one-one support and encouragement so they can truly flourish. This story is being written now, so stay tuned!

Given that you’ve successfully implemented Positive Psychology practices at your workplace: What´s the most important piece of advice for HR colleagues who´d like to do the same?

Oh wow – I feel so humbled by this question. I am the one who is always needing the advice! I think, in general, I have to reveal a dirty little secret. I have found some Positive Psychology words can really turn people off – to say you are taking a strengths-based approach, can make some, sadly, immediately shut down. I actually shy away from using a lot of the positive psychology language (this feels like a shame, as I do believe that words create our worlds, à la David Cooperrider!).

I try to describe what I want to do in language that I know matters to the organization. What do they want to see happen? Even if I don’t agree, I know it’s what they need to hear to support my cause. I then craft experiences that have an equal amount of pathos and logos. The employees and leaders the experience and embody it. They begin to talk about gratitude, strengths, connection, autonomy, and purpose – not me. I think there always needs to be a sense of co-creation despite knowing our larger agendas. Sometimes my ego wants to “prove” that my way is the more “enlightened” way. I step back and remember that what’s important is that I am not proving myself, but rather improving my craft.

If you´re Happy and you Know it, write a Blog

Dr. Nico RoseMost weeks, I put something between five and ten hours into bringing fresh Positive Psychology content to Mappalicious. Sometimes, people ask me about my motivation or my goals for the blog – which more or less translates to “Are your earning any money with this?”

The answer is: No, I don´t – and I don´t intend to do so. They pay me a heck of a lot of money in my management job which grants me the freedom to pursue Mappalicious as a delightful hobby.

Maintaining this blog is an autotelic activity: The journey is the destination.

Curiosity and love of learning are among my signature strengths according to the Peterson/Seligman typology. And my favorite way of learning new stuff is to read and then write about it. So, I´d probably keep on writing even if nobody ever read it – but it´s all the more fulfilling to hear that people actually enjoy and profit from my writing efforts. Funny thing: Wherever I go in the (Positive Psychology) world, a lot people feel they already know me – even though we´ve actually never met before.

Other than that, I just receive a lot positive feedback, mostly from students who share how, by way of example, my list of eminent Positive Psychology articles has helped them with finishing a paper or something like that.

Just over the last weeks…

  • I was informed by the academic director of the MAPP program that people actually read my blog to prepare for their applications to UPenn.
  • One of the top researchers in the field analogously said Mappalicious is one of the best free resources on Positive psychology on the net.
  • Mappalicious was included in a list of noteworthy happiness blogs along with top-notch sites such as the blog of the Greater Good Science Center and FulfillmentDaily.com.

Oh, and then I received this beautiful piece of feedback via Facebook – and I have permission to share it with you:

I feel grateful and lucky that your posts appear in my homepage every day, I think you might want to reorganize your signature strengths and put zest/energy above all of them! I´ve never seen that much discipline to post everyday a well thought and evidence based posts. Very good combination or as I like to call it “orchestra” you have there playing your character, the melody is inspiring.

Maybe you deserve to be paid, if not in hard currency, definitely in emotional currency, and hear that from someone: I usually save your posts to read them later while I´m cycling. Your posts have a great impact on people´s day.

Thank you!