This morning, people all over the planet got out of bed and got ready for work. Some headed out before dawn in high-end cars to claim high-rise offices with high-tech computers and high-brow clients. Some headed out before dawn to walk barefoot, wares on their head, to claim a choice spot in the dirt near the entrance to the village market. Some people wrestled with the muses to create artistic masterpieces or solve perplexing scientific problems. Some wrestled with boredom to complete their shifts at cash registers, call centers, or assembly lines. Some pitched their resumes in business suits, looking for good benefits and a sure path to comfortable retirement. Some made their pitch in ragged jeans on street corners, looking for someone to rent their muscles for at least the day.
Some people in every one of these and many other categories by which we could define work found a sense of meaning, purpose, even abundance in their labor today. Other people in every category found world-weary tedium, frustration, and a sense of despair.
Which were you? Which were the people you lead?
The search for meaning adds value in two senses of the word. First, humans are meaning-making machines who find inherent value in making sense out of life. The meaning we make of an experience determines its impact on us, and can turn disaster into opportunity, loss into hope, failure into learning, boredom into reflection. The meaning we create can make life feel rich and full regardless of our external circumstances, or give us the courage to change our external circumstances. When we find meaning in our work, we find meaning in life.
In this book we refer to companies that are meaningful in both these senses of the word as “abundant organizations.” An abundant organization is a work setting in which individuals coordinate their aspirations and actions to create meaning for themselves, value for stakeholders, and hope for humanity at large. An abundant organization is one that has enough and to spare of the things that matter most: creativity, hope, resilience, determination, resourcefulness, leadership.