Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spiritual Capital - Wealth We Can Live By - by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

This book was recommended to me by Laurence VANHEE. The Head of Personnel & Organization at Belgian Ministry of Social Security, Laurence is one of the most influential HR professionals in Belgium.

An original perspective on Intelligence and Capital

Zohar and Marshall think that besides Rational Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ), lies our Spriritual Intelligence (SQ). Spiritual Intelligence is “the intelligence with which we access our deepest meanings, values, purposes, and highest motivations”.

Based on this sense of values and fundamental purpose, we can build Spiritual Capital, defined as our knowledge and expertise about who we are, what we stand for and what we live for. At the organizational level, Zohar and Marshall think that a company with a high level of spiritual capital will:
  • Possess a strong sense of values and identity;
  • Engage in an authentic form of corporate social responsibility, based on a genuine concern for “stakeholder value” in which stakeholders include all humans and the whole planet;
  • Generate more profits on the long term, as exemplified by corporations such as Merck, Coca-Cola, British Petroleum or Starbucks. (If you've read Onward, which was my “HR Book of the Month” in August, you might find indeed that it offers an illustration of Zohar an Marshall's theories).

In order to develop our spiritual capital, we need to move upwards on the scale of motivations. Based on Maslow's famous scale, the authors have developed a new, more sophisticated one, that is composed of 16 levels. The eight inferior levels of motivations correspond to deficiency needs; they range from depersonalization to self-assertion. They mirror the eight superior levels, that are related to higher needs and range from exploration to enlightenment. 
For example, the fifth level of superior motivations is called Generativity. People who reach this level are extraordinarily creative, and their creativity comes from their love and passion for what they do. Virgin's Richard Branson is a good example: he listed “having fun” as one of his company's core values and he shows great creativity.

A high level of spiritual intelligence can be measured by 12 criteria. Inspired by the characteristics of complex adaptive systems (Zohar is a physicist), these criteria are:
  • Self-awareness
  • Spontaneity
  • Being vision and value led
  • Holism
  • Compassion
  • Celebration of diversity
  • Field independence (to be able to stand against the crow)
  • Tendency to ask why? questions
  • Ability to reframe
  • Positive use of adversity
  • Humility
  • Sense of vocation

The book gives examples of how these criteria apply in real life and how an individual or an organization can shift from lower to higher motivations. 
Zohar and Marshall hope that a limited number of exceptional people,, called Knights, driven by very high motivations, will help the world progress toward greater levels of spiritual capital.

How is this book useful for HR professionals?
  • It provides an original view on individual and collective intelligence. (And we HR people are interested in what is intelligence.)

  • It also provides a new perspective about motivation.

  • It makes a link between "hard science" (quantum physics) and very “soft” subjects like values, CSR, etc. I must say that, personnally, I wasn't very much convinced by this aspect of the book, but I suspect that it would be an appropriate angle to leverage the interest of more scientific-minded professionals. I mean that if your CEO is an engineer, the book could help him believe that serious, scientific people find values, identity and responsibility important.
One chapter of the book, called « Shifting Corporate Culture », is especially relevant to HR. It shows how the infrastructures needed to shift culture in the business world include “the methods, style and content of human resources programs”. The eight key issues for corporate culture are very close to the concerns of HR professionals: they are Communication, Relationships, Power, Flexibility, Fairness, Trust, Truth and Empowerment.

  • Spiritual Capital – Wealth We Can Live By
  • Danah Zohar, Ian Marshall
  • Bloomsbury
  • 249 pages
  • Available on SPIRITUAL CAPITAL

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