Friday, July 21, 2006

Mission and Meaning in Knowledge Work

At Learning Lab Denmark, we are starting prepatory work for a research effort to explore the personal and existential dimensions of knowledge work.

To be creative and innovative, knowledge workers expect a work context that is far more personally meaningful and empowering than industrial-type management can provide.

We’ve grown used to thinking that an organization may have a mission, a purpose it struggles to achieve, a raison d’etre. The hypothesis behind this project is that, to fulfill their potentials, individuals, likewise, need to identify their raison d’etre, the overarching meaning of their lives, their life project or calling.

We may speculate that to the extent people are allowed to find a place for themselves and their life projects in an organization, they will become productive and responsible members. Correspondingly, an organization is likely to benefit from its knowledge workers to the extent that it can recruit their individual life meanings to the organizational mission.

The project test these hypotheses through studies of the dialectic of individual meaning and organizational mission. We will identify excellent exemplars to be learned from, as well as tools that may be used by managers to bring about greater consonance between individual life projects and organizational missions.

This effort is a collaboration between Jannick B. Pedersen, outgoing Group Executive Director of Human Resources at Carl Bro Engineering, and consortium director Ib Ravn, Ph.D., of Learning Lab Denmark. Research assistant is Laila Plannthin.

(Added 2004: We aborted the project. Lots of interest all over, but no funding. "Come again, what would I benefit from having my employees examine the meaning of their lives?" We couldn't deliver a convincing answer.)


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