By Bill Danskin
Dear Corporate Survivor,
I believe that all of us ask ourselves many metaphysical questions throughout our lives. Why are we here? How did we get to this circumstantial point? What is the purpose of all this frenetic activity that we experience every day? I know that I ask myself these questions and I’m guessing that you do too. These are big things.
And for those of you who have ended up working in the American Corporation , we ask a more pointed question. Namely, how did you end up spending so much of our time and mental energy in this inscrutable labyrinth? And as time goes on it seems that the most pressing questions have to do with how to deal with it. Should you engage ? Should we escape or should we just escape from within?
Each of you got here by your own means of transportation. You all had a path that looked good at the time. Some of you started right out of school, some started when you had kids. Younger people ( especially Millennials) seem to start and leave while on your lighted path to self -actualization. Some of you have the purpose of advancement (whatever that means) in mind. Some are there for the salary (and the benefits – a quickly unraveling proposition), and some of you are just here……not caring that much any more, just marching along like ants working the proverbial ant farm.
Now don’t get me wrong – we know the corporate life has its outward benefits. It allows you to live in nice towns, buy houses (even McMansions sometimes), send your kids to college, and create a life of, at least, external comfort. But does question remains: does your work provide for the type of positive engagement that can add some enrichment to your lives? Is there an internal reward that goes with a corporate career?
Of course the answer lies within. For many of you, in order to ultimately be successful in this environment I believe a purpose needs to be found that transcends a PowerPoint deck. Part of the mystery lies in the inclination and opportunity to innovate. The ability to show the world a little bit of yourselves in a results-driven universe.
We know that innovation requires inspiration. Do you derive the innovative spirit from your co-workers or your leadership? For those of you who don’t work for places like Google or Apple or that might be a challenge. So, therefore, in most cases you must search for your own sources of inspiration – and that requires work in and of itself. While you self-express in how you live your lives outside of work, don’t you also need to have the opportunity to do so within the realm of staff meetings, results analyses, project plans and monthly reviews? Since your daily lives are driven by these externally imposed activities, I believe we do.
So the question becomes larger, doesn’t it? How do you maintain the soul of your human machine in a world that is inherently incapable of supporting it.
I think at least part of the answer lies in the willingness to let a sense of beauty inform your ideas. Elegant logical extensions – and what is innovation but an extension of logic – can be realized from re-configurations of existing structures or can organically present themselves fully formed. I think that which is beautiful in business can ultimately be scaled and implemented for economic good.
The other part lies in the ability to settle for small victories. Most likely, you are not going to change the general direction of the mother ship. You work within smaller units and organizations that have a more specific raison d’etre with more esoteric goals and objectives. So expression comes in tweaks and improvements to plans and the ongoing action items that come from daily churn. The ability to put your signature on a small but significant aspect of a marketing plan, a data mining exercise or financial view can go a long way toward making ourselves just a smidgeon happier as pour through email or sift through chart junk.
So friends, while I am no longer a part of the environment you live in, I know that you should be commended for your daily grind, your ability to survive and find a semblance of color in an otherwise colorless working world. Never stop believing in yourselves and take heart in the fact that you are not alone out there. The American Corporation will continue to plod along and there is no shame in being the 21st Century version of the Organization Person. Your employer needs you.
With respect and hope,