I.0 Converting “Human Resources” to Creative Swarms
We are not capital -
We are not talent -
We are not labor -
We are not manpower -
We are bees -
We are all members of the same swarm.
In preindustrial times, people were like bees, creating what they needed, growing their grain, baking their bread, sewing and stitching their clothes, and building their furniture and houses. With the onset of industrialization, division of labor arose, and managers started to manage their resources - one of which happened to be their human resources. But humans don’t particularly like to be resources – being a resource implies being a passive asset, which is being moved around like a pawn in a game of chess, without agency and own will. Synonyms like “human capital”, “talent”, “labor”, or “manpower” are not much better. “Human capital” is even worse, as it conveys the connotation of foreign ownership: according to definition, capital is an asset owned by an individual or organization available for a purpose such as running a company or investing. I don’t think people want to be owned by their manager or company. “Talent” is somewhat better, as a synonym for natural aptitude or skill, however the word’s origin is similar to “capital”, it also has monetary roots as the “talent” was a currency unit of the Greeks and Romans. Again, I don’t want to be a piece of money owned by my manager or company for my skill. “Labor” implies hard work and great effort with little interest in creativity and imagination. “Manpower” is not much better, it stands for the (amorphous and anonymous) number of people available for work and service, without valuing individual ingenuity and originality.
Happiness research has clearly shown that we humans highly value what psychologists call “agency” and “experience”: Agency means the capacity to make independent decisions and being in control of one’s own destiny. For instance, happiness researcher Bruno S. Frey has found that in already quite happy Switzerland, those Swiss cantons whose citizens have the most to say, that is they get to vote the most, are the happiest. He also found that being stuck in traffic, when we totally lose control over where to go, is assured to reduce happiness and make us miserable. The second psychological property is experience, the capability to enjoy and to suffer, to experience compassion and empathy for others.
As “human resources” we are denied both agency and experience.
Applied to the corporate environment, agency and experience are well described by the four management principles of W.L. Gore & Associates, a highly successful inventor and manufacturer of the water-resistant fabric Gore-Tex. Established by its founder Bill Gore, W.L. Gore & Associates operates by the four principles freedom, fairness, commitment, and waterline. Since its inception, Gore has consistently been ranked as one of the best companies to work for. Gore’s associates, as their employees are called, have the freedom to make their own decisions, are expected to treat each other fairly, are empowered to make their own commitments and to stick to them, and for wide-ranging decisions affecting the “waterline” of the company, they are counted on consulting with other associates. In other words, they become members of a self-organizing swarm, operating in agency and experience. They are happy bees, and highly successful in that!
The time has come to take back agency and experience from human resources, and create an environment for self-organizing swarms of happy bees. In this book I propose a social compass using Happimetrics, combining AI and social network analysis to map the social landscape of each individual for more agency and experience.