Making Performance Meaningful


Depths of Thought and Action

 

“An old fisherman offers a diver some advice. You can go underwater in two ways, he says, taking a bit of coral and tossing it into the sea. Then he cracks a coconut and pours its milk into the water. The coral is still coral but the milk is now sea, he says. Be not like the coral, but like the coconut.”*

How are we going to adapt

to the depths of thought and action we need

to create a new narrative?

With a conversation about the microscopic relationship between things. Because while it's far easier to work on prescriptions, understanding that relationship is far more valuable.

But before we dive into the microscopic, let's anchor into the fundamentals.

 

Dealing with human behavior in the workplace

Most organizations use too many concepts inconsistently to understand and deal with human behavior.

There's too  much unnecessary fluff, and not enough of the fundamentals. Renato Tagiuri said fewer things were necessary for people to achieve their best: a clear and shared mission, explicit values and guidelines, and a healthy dose of care.

Born in Milano (1919), and raised in Verona after the death of his parents, Tagiuri was studying engineering in England when Italy entered the war. His life changed instantly. Being an alien of military age, he was arrested and deported to Canada. He spent more than three years in a prisoner camp near Montreal.

Having no surviving relatives after the war, he enrolled in mathematics and physics at McGill University. It was a part time job at the university psychology lab that introduced him to behavioral sciences. After a master in psychology, a fellowship allowed him to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard in 1951.

The world's leading psychologists and sociologists were teaching at Harvard at the time. They were each tossing a bit of coral into the sea of knowledge. As a graduating student, Tagiuri was already the milk of the coconut. His work on person perception and social relationships flowed into new paths.

Managers need to show a caring attitude, he said, listen more than talk, and establish relationships of mutual trust. Communication and managing key relationships are among the fundamentals skills to improve. His classes were based on dialogue: teaching and learning by discussion.

A dialog is missing from most companies. Prescriptive education, teaching to the test, obsession over efficiencies, and the loss of context with social media all mean that people don't know how to have collaborative conversations. Conversation is being the coconut milk in the water. Conversation is the work.

 

Biological rhythm

Tagiuri's life work included a deep dive into the structure of family business. He also created a bridge from America back to Italy. He advised the Scuola di Direzione Aziendale of Bocconi University in Milan and was on the planning committee of the Scuola di Gestione Aziendale in Genoa.

Interactions create our identity,

but they also make our lives. 

This blog has been an interactive dialog with a few concepts since its inception in 2006. Here are the foundations of my work and the daily experiments I've run for twelve years before settling on publishing on a weekly cadence. In 2015, I started to weave a bridge back to Italy with a program I taught at the Bologna Business School.

Our conversation on “how identity in tech is driving transformation in organizational work, impacting brand value and customer acquisition and retention” was part of the Advanced Digital Marketing Strategy coursework. ItalianStyle.me came a couple of years later. You can read why I'm building this bridge here.

Shortly after, I began to lay the groundwork for a Big Idea about the power of culture to combine different elements of various form of capital that in turn transfer their value to perform work. Culture is like water, it's all around us to provide the context, especially in the absence of a lived mission and explicit values.

 

[image: Parco Nazionale Area Marina Protetta delle Cinque Terre]

* Adapted from Manual of Freediving, by Umberto Pelizzari and Stefano Tovaglieri.

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