The Anthropology of Work

From the blog

The Community ‘Moment’

The ‘Community Moment’


Some thirty years ago corporate managers and management consultants acknowledged that the “soft stuff” matters in the performance of firms.  Values, beliefs, relationships, communication, trust, citizenship behaviors, leadership and engagement define company culture and can often make or break company success.  Just look at Enron, whose company culture was praised as ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ right up until the fall of 2001 when company collapsed.  From Enron and other examples of corporate hubris we’ve learned that if companies build cultures defined solely around the short-term objectives of quarterly earnings and share price management, things can often go quite badly.

Fast forward to today, to a business world gradually being re-made around the rising Millennial generation, and we are standing at a crossroads.  Millennials appear to be acting on a new set of core cultural values as they build their careers and lives.  Many young knowledge workers are becoming freelancers and are working independently of large firms, and those working inside large firms are often making new demands on their employers.

Central to this sea change in cultural values is the increasing importance of community belonging and community identity.  Armed with numerous social media platforms, Millennials are creating and amplifying community experiences in ways never seen before.  Some are shallow connections, others are deep, but taken all together this is a connected, social generation.  It seems to be in their generational DNA.

From share price to sustainability

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies three key things that the rising generation seeks in their work and their careers- autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  These three values sit at the center of a new community contract.

  1. Autonomy

Top knowledge workers today have access to the data and information they need to be independent self-starters.   Millennials love feedback, but they hate doing things in certain ways today just because that’s the way they’ve always been done.  They want to know what the company’s goals are, then want the freedom to get the job done.

  1. Mastery

In most surveys of employee motivation, right next to salary (either right above or right below) is the desire to grow professionally.  As employees grow professionally, firm capabilities grow.  Creating a learning organization is a virtuous spiral, which is most naturally accommodated in a community context grounded in trust.


  1. Purpose

For Millennials, business ‘purpose’ is not just an add-on consideration to fill the pages of annual reports.  They want to work on projects that have meaning, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and have an impact on the world.  Firms that offer this will attract tomorrow’s best talent and their greatest energy.

Closing thoughts

How, though, does ‘community’ impact a company’s bottom line?  The answer is simple.  All high-performance organizations are driven by people, who, at the end of the day, are a company’s ultimate competitive advantage.  As times change and a new generation ascends in the world of work, the challenge of unlocking human energy and performance is also changing.  Companies that get this and recognize the ‘community moment’ we are currently living in will be better able to adapt and thrive in the coming years.






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