Thursday, October 6, 2011

There's More to International Non-Profits Than the Nobel Prizes

This time of year the Nobel Prizes get major media coverage, and rightly so. They represent recognition to the best we can achieve in the sciences and arts. They are an inspiration to those who want to contribute a higher-level of work to something meaningful.

Unfortunately, the coverage of the Nobel Prizes crowds out the good work done by many other international non-government organizations. Knowing the work of some of the others can broaden your leadership horizons. There are many international agencies and non-profits that take a broad perspective on the issue of improving the quality of life, especially the quality of work life. One such organization is the World Future Council based in Hamburg, Germany and with offices in Brussels, London, Washington and Johannesburg.

Of particular interest to leaders might be the council's views of effective organizational culture.  To quote their literature, effective organizational culture is "an essential part of helping the planet to survive, since so many world-change organisations suffer from inadequate process and communications skills, resulting in the waste of much time, energy and money."

World Future Council identifies a few key elements of effective organizational culture, including

  1. Values and principles
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility
  4. Transparency
  5. Conflict as opportunity
  6. Emotional maturity

We notice in our work that, while many organizations have good values, show respect for their employees and stakeholders and try for a culture of responsibility, it gets tricky when we get down to cultural behaviors such as transparency, constructive conflict and maturity. We are currently working with clients on major projects in which they have comfortably embedded the first few elements and are working to implement the others as well.

The take-away for businesses? Values, respect and responsibility are fairly obvious and easy to apply, but are not enough. You have to work on the deeper cultural values such as how you demonstrate openness, handle conflict and use your emotional IQ.

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