The Spirited Business.
When a friend first recommended this book to me, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The sub-title ‘Success stories from soul-friendly companies’ should have provided the clue, but I still felt a little uncomfortable with the word ‘spirited’. Fortunately Georgeanne very quickly explains her definition of spirituality.
‘Spirituality is not religion; it is not about beliefs, creeds or dogmas. It is about being fully alive, relationships and that which gives meaning and purpose to life.’
Georgeanne Lamont and Sally Burns
Given this definition, this is an enthralling book which examines in detail a number of organisations and particularly how they give meaning to the lives of their people, clients, customers and other stakeholders. What is crucially important is that these organisations aren’t simply successful and good places to be, they are successful because they are good places to be.
‘I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being.’
David Packard, founder Hewlett - Packard
If you agree with Dave Packard, this is a book you will enjoy and value. It is packed with the ideas and approaches these companies apply, and tips and pointers to how they can be adopted. What I particularly like is the feeling of experiencing these organisations first-hand that Georgeanne describes in her accounts. I’ve always believed that you can feel a good organisation, and a bad one, right from the moment you approach the front door, and from Georgeanne’s description you can sense the quality of these organisations being projected, not simply to those they work with, but even to passers by.
The first part of the book identifies a number of principles found in spiritual organisations. I liked the fact that these were not described as things an organisation must do to be spiritual, rather things that allow the spirituality of an organisation to shine through. It’s clear that soul-friendly companies aren’t ones that have simply chosen to add soul-friendliness to their action plan. This is something much deeper and more powerful.
This is not to suggest that the book is short on how to create soul-friendliness, indeed the opposite is the case. The major part of the book is devoted to detailed case studies of seven organisations, Peach Personnel, Happy Computers, Microsoft, IMG, NatWest, Scott Bader and Bayer UK.
‘There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.’
Each case study follows the same format. A short introduction sets out ‘the company description of its approach. This provides a useful introduction for the description of the everyday experience which describes the reality of life in the organisation, which has some real nuggets. The case study concludes with advice on how to put the ideas into practice in your own organisation. Throughout there are ‘reflections’ which bring in experience and insights from other perspectives to highlight the points made.
The book also includes a description of the characteristics of soul-friendly companies and exercises and a survey to with which you can measure the soul-friendliness of your workplace.
This book takes a fresh and insightful look at business and provides inspiring evidence that creating a good place to work makes good business sense. It will provide inspiration and ideas to help transform your workplace.
Many thanks to Paddy Nugent and friends at The National Blood Service who recommended this book to me.
August 26 2004.
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