people signals


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The frustrated and the world-changers

I’ve often wondered about the attitudes in a company. The atmosphere that people work in can make a huge impact on the productivity and focus an organization has. Through a friend I came across some thoughts on “organizational energy”. It is a research program by Heike Bruch at St.Gallen, Switzerland which tries to answer the questions under what circumstances organizations are hot and under which not. For her, organizational energy “involves the vitality and perseverance of a company and it is expressed in the degree of temperament, intensity, speed, and stamina of its employees in performing their work.”

She proposes 4 energy zones for organizations along the matrix of quality and intensity. She says: “The quality of organizational energy distinguishes between positive energy (e.g., enthusiasm, joy, satisfaction) and negative energy (e.g., fear, frustration, sorrow). Intensity refers to the strength of organizational energy as seen in the level of activity, the amount of interaction, and the extent of alertness and emotional excitement. The intersection of intensity and quality determines an organization’s energy state, which usually falls into one of four categories: the comfort zone, the resignation zone, the corrosion zone, and the productive zone.”


Along with the zones, organizations react in a way and get into “energy traps”. You get stuck in some quadrant, try to correct but drive the thing deeper into trouble.

OK, the interesting part is how to move to the different zones. Here, Bruch describes 2 strategies, which are seen in business quiet a bit: slaying the dragon and winning the princess.
Slaying the dragon is about cranking up the fear factor. Whether unspecific (we face bankruptcy) or specific (kill your direct competitor), it turns up the intensity and gets people going.
Winning the princess is basically about vision crafting. Creating a powerful picture of the future and what that will feel like. It aims at getting people excited and engaged.
The point is that both of these strategies have to be specific, vivid and close enough for the people to get moving.

From their webpage it seems that the publication have been a bit quiet recently, but I hope they develop some more. The two strategies see a bit unspecific and general, but it seems like a good direction for me. Harvard has some more on it as well as others.


Filed under: energy, organization, psychology