Collective spirituality at work: 650 mangers work towards changing their company’s culture

As I explained in our September(1) article, I define as spiritual anything related to the development of our spirit. This can mainly be achieved in two ways:

1. through a better knowledge of ourselves, which will enable us to see the world under a wider and multifaceted light;

2. through a widening of our vision, and consequently our field of action, by sharing collective experiences.

The company can implement the last method by letting employees express themselves in order to find new solutions to complex problems.
Recently I had the opportunity to boost the output of 650 managers of a 200 000 people’s Company, including Comex(2). Their goal was to find viable paths towards a new common culture, a key subject for many of my clients.

The idea behind the action program

Before launching the session, managers were made aware of the fact that they themselves were both the creators and the actors of this new culture.

To foster creativity, 4 essential factors are needed:
1. make do with what you have, instead of complaining : “we don’t have the means”
2. set the acceptable risk level to encourage and reward risk taking
3. create a spirit of partnership and cooperation within and outside the company
4. bounce back if you make a mistake

A double awareness should be added to these factors:
1. Making mistakes is part of the learning process (children learn fast by making lots of mistakes: when they are learning to walk, they often fall before succeeding). An organization that doesn’t accept mistakes will never learn, will not be able to bounce back, will no longer create something new.

2. The employees of a company that knows how to renew itself should keep three questions in mind:
– why not?
– why not me?
– why not now?

In this frame of mind the 650 managers attended the workshop that would shape their new future.

The session’s environment

The managers were seated in a bright and spacious room. Each table seated seven persons. A theme pertaining to the culture change was assigned to each table.
Different work phases followed. They lasted the entire day, alternating creative moments with exchanges among tables. The goal of these exchanges was to question newly engendered ideas with the aim of improving them.
The groups moved about following the directions of a central coordinator.
Comex went through the same exercise, their theme being: as Comex, how do we organize ourselves in order to deal with the changes that will be generated by the manager groups while at the same time becoming ourselves a source of change?

The participants were at first hesitant and, at times, slightly skeptical. They were not used to a project that, though well defined, gave them complete freedom to express any idea that came to their minds.

After this initial phase, the energy level within the groups changed: as if led by a conductor, they began to “play their music” and share interesting ideas; debates became livelier, exchanges were warmer and more relaxed. At the end of the day everybody was weary proportionally to the energy provided.

The outcome

The ideas engendered had to be concretely and immediately applicable. The Comex executives were the first to acknowledge this by communicating to the 650-strong group the ideas that they intended to implement immediately in their own organization and by explaining how they would go about it. They also described the plan of action that would be undertaken in order to implement the ideas put forward by the group.

The procedure necessary to develop a cooperative spirit is really quite simple:

1. concretely apply co-responsibility by techniques which will make employees feel that they are listened to and that their ideas are appreciated;

2. create a working atmosphere that favors cooperation;

3. implement the ideas generated by the group by highlighting the work accomplished.

The era in which executives had the control of wisdom is over. The world is too complex to let a minority have the sole access to knowledge. Strength lies in the team. We simply have to believe in the team’s capacity to elevate the spirit.


2. The main organizer of the event was IMD Business School of Lausanne

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