Making Meaning in your Entrepreneurial Venture
Why Creating a Meaningful Environment at Work Is More Important Than Ever
« That sense of caring connectedness to yourself, to others and the world, that is so important to meaning in life, is not some existential add on. It is the lifeblood of your cognitive agency. » – John Vervaeke, Professor of Cognitive Science at University of Toronto
Is the apocalypse upon us?
I am not sure, but perhaps there is an apocalypse well underway, one of losing meaning in life. In his 50 part podcast called Awakening from the Meaning Crisis, Professor Vervaeke takes us through a compelling account of how we got here, from the foundational ancient Greek philosophy to the technological trends of our modern times. Weaving together historical narrative and contemporary science to paint a compelling picture of the foundation of the meta-crisis of our times.
His message is clear. We live in a time where we are awash in information and knowledge, drowning in technology and stuff – but in a famine of wisdom. And even more telling perhaps is the related crisis we are in of what it means to be human. We seem to be living in a world that affords less and less meaning for many if not most! While I am not a big fan of the acronym VUCA, I can’t argue that its constituent forces of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity are seemingly all on the rise. And the continued breakdown of family systems, the pervasiveness of trauma and the epidemic of mental illness in American society all contribute to declines in society.
This is one of several significant forces driving the Great Resignation, the emerging trend of increasing rates of people leaving their jobs. We hear of people reconsidering the kinds of environments they want to work in, advocating for a healthy work-life balance and wanting jobs they care about. And because of pandemic-related fears, we are witnessing a significant reluctance to return to in-person jobs, often in larger organizations.
It is my view that the context of honest and purposeful work, and entrepreneurial workplaces in particular, can provide crucial meaningful and fulfilling environments for people in these trying times. And that in keeping a few basic principles in mind and close to our hearts, our workplaces can become positive pillars in our lives, bringing much needed human connection in increasingly tough times.
Meaning in life is a fundamental human need that strongly influences both psychological and physical well-being. In an absence of meaning, we can get depressed, anxious, and lose motivation, to name a few outcomes. Things become bleak. Sound familiar?
Well, how is meaning made, and what is involved in this endeavor? The following are generally considered the main factors in contributing to meaning making in one’s life, and questions for each:
Coherence – Does what I am up to make sense and not absurd or banal?
Significance – Am I participating in experiences that feel important to me?
Mattering – Am I connecting to something bigger than myself that has value?
Purpose – Am I doing something useful?
When looked upon from this light, is this not a powerful list of features to bring into an entrepreneurial workplace? As a founder and leader in a number of start-ups, I can personally attest to the power of creating a meaningful workplace. While it does not fix a broken business model or put funds directly in the bank, when staff are energized, motivated, feel seen and connected with their colleagues, many virtues flow forth.
This is especially true for all those of you building mission-driven and impact oriented organizations. Bringing cleantech, greentech and progressive foods to market or working in service of a health or equity related cause. That is to say working on issues that are dear to us and crucial in these apocalyptic times.
More Meaningful Workplaces
The benefits of more meaningful workplaces are numerous. Firstly, and to the point of this post, in creating workplaces that care about meaning for their employees, entrepreneurs provide a much needed meaning pillar for our society. For as things may well continue to deteriorate in terms of the multiple crises of these times, having good employment in an environment that is human and meaningful is generative, and gives people a good reason to get out of bed!
Secondly, I think we can unanimously agree that we are more engaged, efficient and dig deeper if we are working in such an environment. Less likely to play games and goof off. This can provide huge benefits to the company, as performance and connection will be positively influenced, and recruitment and retainment will naturally be easier and less costly. In my opinion, what is at play here is equally valid in in-person, hybrid and remote environments.
This is a cry of support and flash of positive energy for all of you out there building meaningful ventures. We need you to persevere and build innovative, life-positive businesses! Ones that act coherently, with significance and in ways that evoke mattering and bring purpose. Our lives literally depend on it. Collectively and individually.
Julian Giacomelli is a Montreal-based coach and leadership development facilitator for mission-driven ventures. He was co-founder at Rise Kombucha, Canada’s leading Kombucha brand.
Julian Giacomelli – Lead portefeuille croissance & leadership, Espace-inc