How do we understand and develop inclusive organizations?
This was the central question of the 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (www.aom.org). This yearly event gathers the brightest scholars and practitioners in management to tackle the most important issues facing businesses and other types of organizations. This year, the AOM meeting was set in Boston, from Aug. 9 to 13.
True to its theme of inclusiveness, I was able to join the prestigious gathering with the help of the Management, Spirituality, and Religion (MSR) division and the generosity of The Fetzer Institute (www.fetzer.org). It was an honor to be one of the 20 Fetzer Scholars around the world chosen among many applicants. Through these mechanisms, I was able to represent the Philippines together with my mentors. Thus, as a way of sharing what I learned and paying forward the generosity I have gratefully experienced, I write my thoughts and reflections on how we can journey towards inclusion.
BUILDING HUMANISTIC FOUNDATIONS FOR PRESERVING DIGNITY
An idea that continues to gain traction is the importance of preserving human dignity at the core of management. More scholars and practitioners around the world recognize that the status quo of an individualistic and materialistic orientation is inadequate in advancing the welfare of various segments of society. Thus, at the core of pursuing inclusion is humanistic management — prioritizing well-being, ethical management, and being sensitized to the various needs of multiple stakeholders. Apart from these principles, I discovered (or maybe rediscovered) some emerging insights that I would term as potential “building blocks” of humanistic foundations for preserving human dignity.
Building Block 1: Recognizing the importance of spirituality. Spirituality is usually associated with faith and religion, but generally, it could pertain to a belief that there is greater meaning and purpose beyond one’s self. Regardless of faith and religious orientation, a strong sense of spirituality can cultivate respect and harmonious relationships. I personally experienced this with my fellow Fetzer scholars who come from different countries and practice different beliefs. Despite our differences (or maybe, because of our differences), we are able to have a richer understanding of our world and the power of management to build a more inclusive organization. Our different practices and perspectives on spirituality, in my experience, help us navigate through each other’s blind spots. There may be different ways of practicing and manifesting spirituality, but if we converge on a common belief of greater meaning and purpose beyond one’s selfish desires, spirituality is powerful in preserving dignity and setting up the foundations for human flourishing.
Building Block 2: The war(mth) between mind and heart. One compelling insight for me is the importance of mindfulness (or maybe, “heartfulness”). I express this as the ability to consciously recognize one’s thoughts and emotions. A purely rational mind makes us no different from robots, while a purely emotional heart is acting only on intuition and mood swings. At times, there could be war between our hearts and minds, which is natural. But I realize that the key is transforming their war into warmth, finding ways to harmonize them towards a better and more creative solution. When the logic of the mind is coupled with the intuition of the heart, we can better think of holistic solutions for ourselves and for the people around us.
DESIGNING SOLUTIONS-ORIENTED ECOSYSTEMS FOR ENABLING HUMAN FLOURISHING
I propose that for us to build on humanistic foundations, the way forward is identifying specific inclusion issues. Then, multiple ecosystems can be specifically designed for each of the specific issues we aim to address. The key is being mindful and “heartful” of our own specific niche while being sensitized to how others can contribute to specific goals. Without identifying specific inclusion issues, it is hard to mobilize players towards an active ecosystem.
As a personal example, my specific inclusion issue is social entrepreneurship and incubation within the university setting — how do we design viable and inclusive social enterprise incubators that allow students (aspiring social entrepreneurs), teachers, and partner communities to start their own social enterprise initiatives? With this specific question in mind, I am more able to sense potential collaborators I can work with.
The journey towards inclusion puts humanistic management at the core, and it is important to build foundations that preserve dignity, as well as designing ecosystems to mobilize action towards human flourishing. When we recognize a higher purpose, harmonize our logic and intuition, and compel each other towards designing solutions to specific issues, we can develop truly inclusive organizations.
Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an Assistant Professor from the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. He advocates for social entrepreneurship as the head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development and as co-chair for strategic directions of the Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development committee at De La Salle University.