Technology does not run an enterprise, relationships do.

 Patricia Fripp

 The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human

 John Naisbitt

It seems as though the more we try to plug the holes with more apps and IT systems where we are leaking efficiency in our operations, the more unproductive we become. It is a well-known fact that employees around the world are becoming increasingly disengaged at work. For instance, a 2013 Gallup survey found that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive. In a 2014 South African survey (PDT South Africa), it was found that 85% of South African employees want more direct, open and frequent engagement from their companies and 67% want their managers to lead and communicate better. 58% of employees don’t feel they have the opportunity to contribute to decisions that affect them.

Old style thinking

With old style thinking, management still believes and follows the approach whereby they create new structures, processes, systems, KPIs, scorecards, committees, hubs, metrics, incentives and interfaces (and there are many more of these types of inventions and tools) every time they encounter a new requirement for the business. As Yves Morieux points out, these efforts only make work more complicated and they fail to deal effectively with today’s complexity in business. We don’t need more boxes, we need more focus on the connections between the parts. In simple terms, we need cooperation between people at all levels.

Non-dualism and relationships

Richard Rohr reminds us: Reality is radically relational, and the power is in the relationships themselves. Why then are we much more likely to rely on something we can do sitting isolated before our computers than relying on normal (including ‘challenging’) conversations? The question potentially have many different answers, but one that comes to mind is the false or misplaced belief we have that technology provides us with quick and easy solutions that can spare us the emotional energy and time to find common ground with others. In the process we are losing touch with what it essentially means to be human. Instead of wasting our energies in the creation of a false superficial world of promises about a better future, working as if against and invisible wall, we need to reflect and act more on our shared origin and state of being human. If we would, honest, authentic conversations and building better relationships will no longer be as intimidating and impossible as we currently feel they are.

In becoming more in touch with our humanity, we need to unlearn our typical dualistic way of thinking. With dualistic thinking we separate and put people, individuals and groups, into different categories. We focus on what seperates and not on what is common and binds us together. We automatically try to make sense of the world by creating universal theories. In doing so we tend to find a reason to see why the particular is never good enough, flawed and imperfect. We find justification for why we should not cooperate or look for common ground. Rohr, to quote him again, asserts that either-or thinking gives one a false sense of control. The small mind works by comparison and judgment; the great mind works by synthesising and suffering with alternative truths.

In summary

Our challenge is a road less travelled: break down the artificial walls that we’ve created; lead with and stimulate honest conversations as we exchange different and possibly conflicting ideas, but always start with the awareness of our shared humanity; at work, make the effort to understand what others do – go beyond the boxes and job descriptions; simplify and integrate by openly sharing work experiences at all levels; wherever possible, do away with layers and build effective teams based on a common purpose with a mandate to deliver; and keep in mind, the real battle is not against competitors but the lack of cooperation and the complicatedness created in its absence.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg