Mind, body, spirit – 3 key elements in your transformation journey

Written by Stuart Maister, Chief Storyteller, Strategic Narrative

Here’s a pretty radical way to see your organisation: as a living entity with a mind, body and spirit. This is the thesis being put forward by Tomas Sedlacek, the author of a global bestseller, ‘the Economics of Good and Evil’ and a senior economics adviser to a Czech bank.

I chaired a fascinating discussion between him and John Perkins, another global bestseller with a book ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’, at a major ideas forum last week in Ostrava, in Czech.

Tomas’ idea is that while the stuff we do is the body – the things we sell, manufacture, the services we provide etc – it is important also to consider the mind and the spirit. The mind is of course the strategy, direction and decision making, as well as the collective mind of those who work for and with the organisation.

The spirit is really a powerful idea – the purpose, the vision, the values, the culture – the difficult to describe soul of an organisation that is actually the animating force, just as it is with humans. We’re all just a bag of skin and bones without this spirit – and it’s a fascinating idea to consider how this is also true for the place where you work.

For those leading transformation this is a critical idea, because of course it ultimately determines success. It is the seemingly invisible energy which provides the motivation, morale and discretionary effort that drives your organisation forward.

I call this the strategic narrative – the story which everyone understands and ensures they all point in the same direction. I spend my life defining and articulating this with clients. But I look forward to Tomas’ new book on the subject to feed into this field.

John had a lot to say too. He’s focused on the need for everyone, and every organisation, to combine to tackle the environmental disaster we’re facing. He quoted the Amazonian peoples, whom he knows well, who put aside ancient emnities to combine forces and go out to the world to share their knowledge and concerns. Great lesson here for those pushing collaboration among rival groups.

The two ideas are of course interlinked. If you take the time to analyse, define and articulate this narrative – which captures the mind and spirit of the organisation – then it would be amazing if this did not also identify the environmental issues as a critical part of your values and ambitions.

That makes it part of the big ‘why’ – the reason you’re there and what you aim to do as a group of people combining to achieve some defined outcomes.

Your transformation programmes must overtly connect to this purpose, and to the values you have as an organisation. Without it your change programme is a process – AGILE, LEAN, O365 etc – which engages nobody.

With it, you have an energy to which everyone contributes. We are human beings not human doings, which means we want to know why as well as how and what. That’s the narrative of change, and with it you connect the mind, body and spirit to achieve effective transformation.


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