“S”hadow Business: Integrating the Human in Business


“We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in:

machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

Our knowledge has made us cynical,

our cleverness hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little:

More than machinery we need humanity;

More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness.”

– Charlie Caplin in “The Great Dictator

The word persona is derived from Latin and referred to the theatrical masks worn by actors. Psychologist Carl Jung coined the term persona to represent our “outward or social personality”. The persona can be considered a mask, an outward face we present to the world to hide our true selves.

The flip side of the persona is the shadow, our darker nature, the traits we not try to hide from society, and often from ourselves.

Jung proposed the process of integrating our shadow to achieve wholeness. As we evolve, we need to integrate that darker side to become whole. We need to integrate the shadow and the persona so they become one.

Jung’s concept of shadow work referred to human psychology, but what about the world of business. Does business need to integrate its shadow?

That is the focus of today’s Thursday Thought.

Shadow States

We are in the midst of a mass polarisation of society, a period of hyper-change, a period of unrest. Business sectors are grappling with their survival in a world where they are increasingly irrelevant. Once giant retailers are going out of business. Startups are succeeding with new models for a new world.

Like many illnesses, the symptoms are not the cause. Many point to this age of technology as the cause, yes that is a facilitator, but it is not the cause. We are experiencing a social and cultural eruption. This has been building for decades, business leaders like founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA Dee Hock called this out fifty years ago in his must-read “Birth of the Chaordic Age”.

“We are at that very point in time when a 400-year-old age is dying and another is struggling to be born–a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, the possibility of regeneration of individuality, liberty, community and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another and with the divine intelligence such as the world has always dreamed. Unfortunately, ahead lies equal possibility of massive institutional failure, enormous social and envIronmental carnage, and regression into another dark age of tyranny.” — Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, VISA

The modern human and old world mindsets are no longer compatible.

The modern human and old educational models are no longer compatible.

The modern human and old governmental models are no longer compatible.

The modern world and old organisational models are no longer compatible.

The modern human and the old workplace are no longer compatible.

The world has evolved, but old order still prevails, we are experiencing a cultural and societal whiplash of sorts.

Why The Need for Authenticity?

Time To Remove The Mask by Verwolf 171

We see many businesses leaning away from tick-the-box corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Instead they are directing their budget at meaningful projects, that resonate with humanity and build communities that make a difference. Marketing sees the opportunity to promote a good news business story. Clever businesses have directed their marketing budgets into truly meaningful projects. Advanced businesses see the CSR and marketing budgets as one budget.

While such a shift is extremely welcome, it is driven by evolutionary forces such as the democratisation of media. It is becoming increasingly difficult to advertise your business as one persona and act as the shadow behind closed doors. Transparency is forced upon the business, there are increasingly less ways to hide true nature, too much has changed.

Change has been proliferated by technology, the shift from an analog to a digital world and the democratisation of information. Employees can now leave employer reviews. Individuals can connect on Linkedin to enquire about a potential employers before applying for a role. We can check customer reviews before we buy a product. For this Thursday Thought, let us focus on the changing world of business.

Integrating the Human

If Jungian psychology calls for the human to integrate the shadow to become whole, what if business needs to do the same to become a holistic business? Except there is a twist, what if the shadow has already taken over the business world? What if the shadow has become business and is in the driving seat? What if business does not need to integrate the shadow with the persona, as Jung prescribes, but instead needs to integrate the persona with the domineering shadow?

Integrating the persona with the shadow would require the integration of the evolved human with an evolved workplace. Both human and workplace have evolved dramatically, yet the business world remains in a fossilised state. Past organisational structures still preside over our evolved present.

Essentially every organisation is a collection of humans who drive business goals. Organisations often forget that they are made up of human beings. Instead, leaders see humans as roles, as doers of jobs to be done, as executors of strategies, as cogs in a wheel.

If the human is put back at the centre of the workplace, then people will be happier in work. When we are happier in our work, we are more productive and we lead more satisfying lives. If our personal purpose overlaps with that of the company then we are even happier still.

Business survival is the first goal of the business, but then human-orientated practices must be the second. In the image below, picture the first drop as business survival and the second to be human-centred mindsets. The drop ripples out to the entire workforce, suppliers and humanity as a whole.

As our guest on this week’s innovation show, author of “The Human Workplace: People-Centred Organisational Development”, Andy Swann tells us there is a simple formula for today’s business.

Purpose = Survival + X

How an organisation behaves, its longevity, impact and ability to adapt depends on how it defines its X.

X must be human.

To evolve as a human we need to integrate our darker side, our shadow. To evolve as a business world we need to integrate our human side, the persona.


On this week’s innovation show, EP 131: “The Human Workplace: People-Centred Organisational Development” with author, Andy Swann.

“The digital transformation is over. We live in an age where digital is the default setting. Anyone who is yet to transform is either obsolete or on the way there.” — Andy Swann

The modern world and old organizations are not compatible. Right now, we’re communicating, thinking, collaborating, sharing, working and playing in ways that couldn’t have been imagined two decades ago, yet somehow many of our businesses and the structures employed to operate them remain the same, carrying on in the way they always have. There are many reasons why this is completely unsustainable and we’re going to explore these as we journey through what makes a human workplace.

The human workplace is one that adapts, innovates fast, involves everyone, communicates, understands and acts in perpetuity. It creates relationships rather than transactions. People are emotional, responsive, individual. That’s what our organizations need to be, creating a story and telling it in their own way.

Our guest is the author of The Human Workplace: People-Centred Organizational Development, Andy Swann

We talk:

  • The Startup Myth
  • Collective Energy
  • Purposeful Organisations
  • The definition of A human workplace
  • Connection with community
  • Agility
  • Complex, dispersed organizations
  • Purpose = Survival + X
  • When the community thrives, the organization thrives.
  • The problem with hierarchy (is not what you think)
  • The organisation as a platform
  • Just enough structure to thrive
  • Holes and wholes?
  • Scaling up startups and the Dunbar number.
  • Why and how does personal purpose come before company purpose?

Have a listen:

Web http://bit.ly/2FwsOJw

Soundcloud https://lnkd.in/gBbTTuF

Spotify http://spoti.fi/2rXnAF4

iTunes https://apple.co/2gFvFbO

Tunein http://bit.ly/2rRwDad

iHeart http://bit.ly/2E4fhfl

More about Andy Swann here:


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