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Human Centric or Outcome Centric? Is it time to let the OR fall away in favour for an AND?

There seems to be a conflict within many organisations of today, between human centricity and increased outcomes. CSR and employee branding too often end up as pretty visions and words, without the impact they could - or should have. As if human centricity and outcomes are in opposition, and we can’t have both. 

The reasons for this are multiple, and in the complex domain, so I will not try to give an answer to why. I would like to share a few things we have seen in our work though. 

There are a few challenges we see. Our Expert/Achiever dominated paradigm, polarisation and fear of the unknown. Lets take them one by one.

  1. We operate in an Expert/Achiever dominated paradigm. The systems we have created - our societies, organisations, educational systems etc, are created from an Expert/Achiever worldview. Simply put: growth is what matters, we are what we perform, what we know and what we are able to accomplish. And to thrive in such a system, we need to improve. The system needs to improve. And to improve, we need to learn more things, understand wider perspectives, become more efficient etc etc. In this realm, outcomes may be in opposition with human centricity. When we want to increase our outcomes, we use firmer control, more detailed planning and follow up, more reporting.

  2. We are drawn to create polarisation where there is polarity. Polarity is everywhere. I’ll try to explain it simply, using this example. In any organisational team there may be a polarity between Outcomes and human connection. We can focus on the outcomes of our team, and if we do that and only that, our relations and our human connections will suffer. OR, we can focus on the relations and connections of our team. And if we do that, and only that, our outcomes will suffer. When we polarise between the two, we tend to think of them as either or. That we need to choose between outcomes or connection. This may lead to a fight for one against the other. If we instead see them as polarities, not opposites, we can start to embrace both. We can search for ways to show us how to expand both relations and outcomes. They are no longer in opposition, but co-exist in mutuality. Maybe even in a mutually reinforcing relation. As relations deepen, outcomes grow, which give space for relations to deepen, which makes outcomes grow…. Well, you get it.

  3. We generally feel more safe in the realm of the known. For most people it seems to carry some truth that we feel more safe in a known space than in an unknown. If we can choose between a decent option familiar to us, and a potentially brilliant option that is unknown to us, many tend to choose the decent option. At least we know what we get. This can make us prone to cling to how things are or have been done before. Cling to the past, known. In many cases the past, the known is again… when we want to increase our outcomes, we use firmer control, more detailed planning and follow up, more reporting.

We also see a way through these challenges. And this way goes inward, through vulnerability and trust out into human connection and clarity.

Increased outcomes through ulnerability.

Being vulnerable creates trust. Trust creates human to human connection. When we are connected to each other, we will see more things, more deeply, more widely, and our collective creativity and intelligence will increase. When that happens, outcomes will increase. Not because we are driven harder, but because we trust each other.

As one of the leaders we interviewed put it:

“One of the biggest feedbacks that I've received is for the team members to be able to trust me. And when I deep dive into that, what creates that trust is a high sense of vulnerability. How I am able to show myself as a vulnerable leader to my team members creates the space of trust. Because if I can admit that there are certain things that I don't know, certain things that I need their help with, certain emotions that might make me vulnerable, certain situations that might make me weak, that creates a sense of vulnerability, and more trust from those members in my team. Because everybody is human in the end. And with the trust, comes the human connection, which as a leader, you can really thrive on. “

Creating a sense of clarity.

From a space of deeper sense of self, and human connection, we do get access to more of the data flowing around us at all times. Data that can help us create clarity. From a place of connection and deep listening.

And clarity is needed, guiding us on the question: “How do I know that I do a good job?”

The same leaders shared:

“And the second thing I would say is creating a sense of clarity.

Literally everyone inherently wants to do good. So what we need to understand as leaders is our people: Where do they find their best version of themselves? Where can they connect with the best version of themselves?

Where do they find the area which is the most exciting for them, where they can contribute and what they can be responsible and accountable for?

I think once you have that dialogue, that creates a sense of clarity- Again it creates better leadership.

My team members place trust in me, and from that trust they can reach out to me when they need a sense of clarity.”

Our last partner client increased the output, product quality and delivery precision for 80% of the teams being led. And raised engagement levels and collaboration metrics. An estimated project ROI was a factor 100 (10 000 %).

This was not achieved by implementing processes and practices to increase these desired metrics. It was achieved by creating human to human connection. And by creating a deep self awareness. Self awareness and connection with the self , others and the system which enables trust. Trust which enables that human connection to spread. Trust that enables safety and clarity. Resulting in these astonishing outcomes.

So… Maybe time is ripe to step beyond the Expert/Achiever paradigm, and take the founding aspects of how human psychology works more seriously. Maybe time is ripe to depolarise human connection and outcomes, and embrace that the former leads to the latter. Maybe time is ripe to dare to let go of the old, known, and step into the unknown.

If so, we will see another world taking shape. A world where human connection will lead us into discoveries and endeavours that we cannot dream of, from where we view the world today.

Come, join us!

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