Physics, Psychology and Business

A Powerful New Social Contract

It’s true: you don’t know what you don’t know! So, logically, you cannot miss it. But that does not justify the old adage that “ignorance is bliss.” You can certainly miss the benefits that the knowledge could bring you, which means your ignorance creates an opportunity cost of which you are blithely unaware. But are you the only one incurring this? If your customers and clients are aware of it, you will be and your business will be uncompetitive and struggle. If they are not, then the cost is multiplied and you are doing them and yourself a disservice, and running the risk of losing goodwill when they realise the fact. That is why we should always be open to new ideas and learning new things – a lesson I learned afresh recently.

Social Contract 33960354_s_123rf_comI cannot now remember where but I came across the term “social contract.” I had never consciously encountered the term before, so it seemed totally new to me. Thus it stuck in my mind, prompting me to look it up a few days later. I wasn’t surprised by its implications, but I was surprised to learn that it is far older than I would have surmised, for Wikipedia defines it as “an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection. Theories of a social contract became popular in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries among theorists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and the obligations of subjects.”

Certainly this is more wide-reaching than I had envisaged. While I would never dispute the need for a social contract between citizens and their government, I see a social contract as more fundamental: basically as the integral thread of any organisation, with government simply being a higher form of organisation. After all, any organisation is, by definition, a collective of people and, as such, involves reciprocal rights and obligations in order to survive and thrive. Thus you need a social contract to cement this reciprocity. More a matter of principle than legality and thus largely universal rather than specific, in an ideal world this should eliminate the need for individual employment contracts. In any case you would hope that these principles underpin all employment law.  

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that every employee “invests” a significant portion of their short time on this planet in their work. In return they are entitled to respect, reward and recognition of their need to optimise their lives. Similarly, the organisation operates in an ever-changing, competitive world that demands an ability to recognise, respond and adapt to change. Those characteristic are people-dependent and thus there is no getting away from a need for people. Thus, in order to ensure that it survives and thrives, every organisation needs engaged employees who subscribe to and care about the organisation and its needs, and who are willing to take the action necessary to meet those needs.  

You would think this reciprocity would be recognised and every effort made to achieve it. Yet this is not the case. For centuries commerce has been disrupted by industrial conflict: distorted by adversarial attitudes, disputes and “class warfare” between managers and workers.  Who knows what the cost of all this has been? It certainly needs to end.

Shaking hands 878566_s 123RFThat is why I was excited to realise that the Zealise ‘”Every Individual Matters” Model provides the perfect basis for building in and integrating the social contract. It resolves that enduring challenge of how to value employees as assets, and thereby reverses the de facto accounting and treatment of them solely as costs. This ensures that it becomes mutually beneficial to optimise employees’ capabilities, while simultaneously offering the means to ensure a less adversarial and more collaborative and co-operative attitude within organisations, as well as a more equitable way of distributing the rewards of their endeavours. Together this ensures an effective social contract that creates a culture of collaboration that optimises performance and results.

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If you like what you have read contact me today to explore how my original thinking could help you break though logjams that are inhibiting your business or how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model could help you value your people and provide the catalyst to help you create an organic culture where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, embedding continuous improvement that engenders ‘love at work’ and transforms – and sustains – organic business performance.

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Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organizational culture model that helps transform organizational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.

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