Alive at Work

perfection job.png

I may have mentioned the HR Bookclub I attend, hosted and organised by this wise and brilliant woman. This month the book up for discussion was Alive at Work. by Dan Cable. Once I got into this book [and this was my first audio book as I couldn't get hold of a hard copy before book club - that experience is a whole other story] I knew that I'd want to share some key things with you and encourage you to take a look yourselves. I also figured I'd use the wisdom of the crowd at bookclub to add to my thoughts and got the permission of the group to share their ideas [and photos]. 

The book is described on Goodreads as 'bold', maybe, for me though it re-enforced a lot of the ideas and tactics I try plus gave me a few more examples to experiment with. As with the last book I shared, I jotted ideas on post it notes to keep track of the things that stood out for me. 

The book explains and builds on the neuroscience of motivation. Using the terms seeking system and fear system. Reminding the reader of the need for a fear system for us to survive, but that equally the seeking system has allowed our survival. By adaptation and learning to overcome the challenges we see based on our curiosity and intrinsic nature, to want to solve problems, the seeking system also has resulted in our survival. The fear state will always drown out the seeking system so we need to ensure that this creative and problem solving system is allowed a voice, or an ear.

Take these ideas into the work setting and the history of how work and industry has developed.  A standardised, rule based, measure and target approach ensures great efficiency, gives reassurance that everything is being done in the same way (safe and reliable) and allows managers to check performance with metrics and indicators. 

All well and good in some circumstances and as industry moved (often using car manufacturing as an example) this style meant great returns. In a world and time when expectations, communication, demands are frequently and often changing, this approach can slug up systems and leave staff feeling disconnected and purposeless. This impacts productivity and the wellbeing of staff. 

In healthcare we are dealing with people at nearly every aspect of our world. People are unpredictable, individual, unique and react in ways that at times can't be foreseen. Staff then need to be able to adapt, respond and create within these environments to achieve the best outcomes - terms described in Alive at Work as freedom within a frame. Boundaries, values, expectations need to be clear and then peoples natural desire and intent to do the best for that situation can be set free and boom.....great things happen.....or not..... and being safe to fail, make mistakes and build from those moments is as much a part of the framework as giving the opportunity to create.

I think this is one of the reasons this is so difficult to action in healthcare. Peoples lives are often in our hands, we can never stop or even pause to consider new ways of doing things. We are held to account by our performance and it takes real courage for anyone to suggest let alone try to do, anything differently. 

The book had a great number of examples that could be tested. The wisdom of bookclub discussion felt this was a very practical book, easy to read and a good gift to give to the CEO, your manager........to lightly influence those who could help make a shift. 

My post-it note comments: - 

  • People less likely to get sick

  • Peoples emotion beat logic when it comes to the narrative of their work

  • The story we tell ourselves has a huge impact on our behaviours

  • We are attracted to authenticity - and can smell a fake a mile off

  • The why is more powerful than the how

  • Learned helplessness - will spread

  • Play is how we learn - and fear shuts off play and learning

  • Valuable employees will think like owners and design the best way for something to be done

  • Trust

  • People move more with noble purpose, emotional connection and experimenting and leading by example.

  • Humble servants (leaders)

While reading (well listening) there were connections made for me with many other books and topics, re-enforcing the ideas, but also why I didn't consider the book bold. This was a good collection of ideas and examples, well laid out and easy to access. I have a few ideas to experiment with....particularly liked the idea of creating personalised job titles.

The two big and important links for me are with Start with Why, a topic that likely started me off on this writing malarkey. The second was with the IHI Joy in Work course. Having recently completed this course, the ideas of connection and sense of purpose were key foundations for creating joy in work. Even the phrasing, Alive and Work -Joy in Work have an similarity that shouldn't surprise. The course is about to start again......sign up right here and let me know if you do, be great to help you along.

Book Club works on a series of questions that small groups answer and then move on to the next question. I get to hear from people in other fields of work, hearing from them what works and what is challenging. We get ideas, advice, suggestions and a great feeling of not being alone.

Building on each groups comments and ideas generated from the question by the end of the evening we have the wisdom of the crowd captured.

Yes, it sounds like work....no I don't always read the book. Sometimes I only go for the chips and company.