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“The Paradox of Being Human” and Its Implications in Organisations

“The Paradox of Being Human” is how Simon Sinek describes life’s constant conflict between selfishness and selflessness: between “me” and “we.” We spend our lives vacillating between the two perspectives; zigging towards our own wants and zagging towards pleasing others. Yet our survival depends on our ability to juggle these opposite, apparently mutually-exclusive, demands. And always has.

So much so that, as I wrote last week, humans are biologically programmed for it. The table below illustrates the paradox and provides a succinct summary of this biological balancing.

Yet, the fact it is biological is significant from a management and an HR perspective. It demands a fresh approach to organisational design and development because it indicates:

  • Physical and psychological factors are inextricably linked. This necessitates a more holistic approach to addressing employee well-being.
  • Getting a balance is a continuous ongoing exercise and therefore ‘equilibrium’ is at best transient.
  • As a result, and because the over-production of any of the chemicals is unhealthy – for both the individual and the organisation – you need to be alert to, and prevent or monitor, situations that could cause it.

Being a paradox can imply that there is unlikely to be any universal panacea. This is not good news, for most of us work in or for organisations. Thus, by definition, work invokes a situation where we need to balance our own interests with those of the organisation. Consequently it places us in a position where such conflict is practically permanent. The term "work-life balance" epitomizes this. The fault-line is, ultimately, the dichotomy between individual and organisation. As long as there is a difference in their respective aspirations, goals or objectives, the paradox applies and appears to have no viable solution.

But what if you were to eliminate the difference between individual and organisational goals?

Clearly this would seal the fault-line and lay the foundation for a more effective organisation through greater synergy, greater collaboration and greater satisfaction. Naturally, because the biological factors are situation responsive, you will still always be susceptible to the cracks reappearing, but efficient processes, procedures and systems ought to provide the ‘seismological’ warnings to prevent that happening.

So how do you achieve this?

The answer is surprisingly simple: employee ownership.

There is no better way to align individual and organisation than to give employees a “stake in the game.”  And the ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model offers you the capability to create universal employee ownership, with every employee having a stake in the business and in its performance, at no cost to either employer or employee.


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  • Great article, Bay.  

    Having a background in biology, I believe more people should have a better understanding of the basic principles of biology and its context in business.  It is often considered to be an irrelevance and is very poorly understood. 

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