Digest: Building Eudaimonic Organizations

An Interview with Andrew Soren, MAPP

What is eudaimonia?

Eudaimonia is an ancient Greek word with no direct translation. Aristotle spoke about it as the thing that makes life worth living and it’s often interpreted using words like well-being, thriving, or flourishing. As opposed to fleeting experiences of happiness, eudaimonia is a deep perspective on well-being that requires virtuous action connected to an authentic sense of purpose. You could say that much of positive psychology is about understanding and exploring the why, what, and how of eudaimonia in practice.  

What is a eudaimonic organization?

In an organization, eudaimonia is the secret sauce of high performance at work. It’s the state of our best selves and the foundation of meaningful work. 

According to the Good Work Project (led by Howard Gardner at Harvard University), good work is the intersection of engagement, excellence, and ethics. It’s doing the right thing while pursuing mastery where we lose ourselves in flow because we have matched the best of who we are to an important task at hand. We believe that an organization that has figured out how to find the intersection between these three things is a eudaimonic organization. 

Why is building eudaimonic organizations important?

Right now, there is a zeitgeist around organizations seeing a eudaimonic core to what they do. For example, in August 2019, the Business Roundtable, a giant lobby group with 181 of the biggest corporations in the world issued a declaration that the foundation of business should be a purpose that serves all stakeholders, not just shareholders. You see giant investment companies, like BlackRock, stating that purpose must drive any organization that hopes to thrive in the future. A new generation of talent is wanting to work for organizations that have aligned values. The public is choosing to consume products and services from companies that aim to do good. All of this is leading corporations to see a business case for making sure that their employees, suppliers, customers, communities, and shareholders are all flourishing. They are beginning to grapple with the moral and ethical role they have to play in contributing to more than just economic returns. If they don’t take the human responsibility of increasing the well-being of all they serve seriously, they may not survive. 

 

How do you build a eudaimonic organization?

360° systems approach:

  • Align teams by promoting shared eudaimonic mindsets, vision, and commitment — especially amongst leadership. You not only need buy-in from people who have formal authority and power, but you must ensure leadership teams are really aligned around a eudaimonic vision.
  • Identify positive deviants because the seeds of eudaimonia probably already exist in any organization and we can learn so much from them. Where is the right behavior leading to the right results? How do you identify those seeds and help them grow?
  • Engage everyone in the process of assessing and redesigning the policies, practices & programs that enable eudaimonia at work. Create opportunities for all stakeholders to be part of designing the future. If you want to create eudaimonia in an organization, you have to tap the people that are going to live it. 
  • Build capacity by offering development opportunities to acquire new knowledge, skills, & capabilities around what it means to function at your best in pursuit of virtuous aspirations.
  • Track progress by establishing new measures and feedback mechanisms along a eudaimonic journey. How do you make tracking our eudaimonic impact as important as the bottom line? When we can assess and report on progress, we can create aligned momentum.

Highlights:

* Eudaimonia is a deep perspective on well-being that requires virtuous action connected to an authentic sense of purpose.

* In organizations, eudaimonia is the state of our best selves, the source of high performance, and the foundation of meaningful work.

* Building eudaimonic organizations requires a systems approach: align teams, identify positive deviants, engage everyone, build capacity, and track progress

Tools & Resources: 

For more information, insights, and stories from Andrew about this topic watch the full 25-minute interview

Have questions or comments you would like to share with Andrew or fellow WOD members about this topic? Join the discussion on Engage!

About the Featured Practitioner:

For the past 20 years, Andrew has worked with some of the most recognized brands, nonprofits and public sector teams to co-create values-based cultures, develop positive leadership, and design systems that empower people to be their best. He is the founder of Eudaimonic by Design (www.eubd.ca), a consultancy created to harness the collective strengths of those working at the intersection of organizational effectiveness, design thinking and positive practice. Since 2013, Andrew has been faculty with the University of Pennsylvania’s internationally renowned Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program. Andrew is an ICF certified coach. He currently splits his time between Toronto, Canada, Philadelphia, USA, and Montevideo, Uruguay.

References:

Business Roundtable (n.d.). Our Commitment. Retrieved from https://opportunity.businessroundtable.org/ourcommitment/

 

Eudaimonic by design (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eudaimonicbydesign.com/

 

Fink, Larry. (January 12, 2018). Larry Fink’s 2018 letter to CEOs: A sense of purpose. Retrieved from: https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/investor-relations/2018-larry-fink-ceo-letter

 

Gardner, H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Damon, W. (2001). Good work: When excellence and ethics meet. New York, NY: Basic Books.

 

Lavine, M. (2012). Positive deviance: A method for learning from the uncommon.  In K.S. Cameron & G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

Waterman, A. S. (2013). The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia. (A. S. Waterman, Ed.), Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.