Cultivating Sustainability – millennial wisdom

Current discussions around sustainability with references to human flourishing have deep philosophical antecedents in both the West and the East. In the East particularly, “the prime value of the cultivated person is seen as the keystone of human flourishing” (Wm.Theodore deBary).

Regulating human behavior has been a perennial problem in the intellectual history both East and West: should rules and laws be imposed so that individuals conform to a mutual code of standards; or is it possible for the self-cultivated to develop his or her own moral compass and guide action.

The problem is that laws are often black and white whereas in real life, most situations can give rise any number of variables.

As facilitator, I introduced briefly how the Chinese approached this problem. Although Legalism goes far back to the ancient world, the Confucian concept of self-cultivation was practiced and valued as a the hallmark of the “junzi” a profound person. One participant posed that such a concept for her aligns with the new direction in modern holistic medicine and the approach of seeing the whole person, not separate from its parts. For example, we live in a compartmentalized world setting aside time for vacations and/or weekends while the rest of time we can expect a frenzied to existence of meeting quotas and unrealistic performance measures. A recent graduate proffered his observation: that for some of his peers, the key motivation is not about riches, but making a difference in the world. Hearing this, an HR professional, wondered it it would serve industry better to rethink its approach to attracting millennials touched off a lively discussion. Perhaps so, the young man shared further how those of his college friends who went into industry after graduation are finding themselves very unhappy. To which another asked: Can workplaces be designed that are more conducive to its employees’ quality of life such as Zappos? Can a model built on Zappos align with organization complexity while building sustainability that supports personal creativity. One individual raised a question of HR’s role that may differ from institution–is it an added layer to the management hierarchy, that would create a built-in barrier. The conversation also touched on product consciousness in that workers want to feel they are contributing to a product that has meaning for them, the environment and the world.

The group agreed that while a solution may not have showed itself that day, they appreciated the intergenerational exchange and opportunity to listen and learn from each other.

Please feel free to share your comments or observations either from the workplace or what you are reading in current news.

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