I am very happy to have received this article to publish from Ezra, who like me has a deep interest in the philosophy and dynamical way of seeing of Henri Bortoft.
In this case study, first published in Human Givens journal Vol.19 No.2, Human Givens Practitioner Ezra Hewing describes his work with an insurance company to change its perceptions about employee stress and wellbeing. The conclusion, influenced by the work of philosopher Henri Bortoft, reflects on the differences between holistic perceptions, arising when seeing through the lens of clear organising ideas, and ‘systems’ or mechanical approaches to wellbeing. Also included are references to key Human Givens insights, such as the power of metaphors to shape individual and organisational perception and behaviour.
Download the paper (pdf): Work and the mental health continuum
As a member of the BCI network (Biomimicry for Creative Innovation) I was interested in Erza’s discussion around moving from mechanistic to organic models of the organisation:
By providing a clear understanding of essential emotional and psychological needs and how they can optimally be met, the human givens approach has an enormous amount to offer businesses that choose to adopt a ‘living organism’ philosophy. Essentially, workplaces involve people, and so the degree to which we work in tune with the givens of human nature determines how well they are able to function.
The paper I think will be of interest to many of you who are involved in any form of organisational change, and how we can shifts people’s mental models of their organisation.
Sometimes when people talk about a holistic systems approach, all that they mean is that they are taking more variables into account. This can still be mechanistic thinking. Erza takes the dynamic and organic approach, where we do not see the system as a static whole of which we can stand apart from and describe as an object, but where we view it as continually “coming-into-being”:
The holistic perception of needs is authentic in the sense that the individual or organisation is perceived as they really are; coming into being from moment to moment. While completing an Emotional Needs Audit captures a valuable snapshot at a specific time, our emotional needs are constantly in flux, and so they should be; our shared need to be stretched drives us to refine our emotional templates, seeking completion, and when we stop doing so we stagnate. The same is true for a business or an organisation; if it is to be “dynamic” and in tune with the evolving needs of its workers and customers, it must be “unfinished” and never “fixed, ie dead”. A living organisation, as opposed to a machine, must conform to the law of living things, which the human givens approach articulates; a life form must take nutrition from the environment and absorb it correctly into its organs in order to sustain and repair itself.
I hope you enjoy the paper as much as I did.
About Ezra Hewing
Ezra Hewing is the community development manager at Suffolk Mind. His previous roles include coordinating community mental health services, teaching young offenders and adult prisoners, and working in substance misuse. He gained the Human Givens Diploma in 2006.