Interview with Dan Cable
Do you bounce into work Monday morning? Are you full of energy, enthusiasm, and ideas for the week ahead? Are you looking forward to all of the opportunities you’ll have to truly show up and perform at your best? Chances are this is not your average week or your average day. But given that you’re likely to spend over 90,000 hours at work across your lifetime, wouldn’t it be good to feel really alive while you do it?
“Unfortunately, rather than see work as part of our real lives many of us just see it as a commute to the weekend,” said Professor Dan Cable from the London Business School and author of Alive at Work when I interviewed him recently. “Where you strap on the seatbelt of boredom on Monday morning, and then you take it back off on Friday night.”
Unfortunately, many organizations remain stuck in management principles founded during the Industrial Revolution to control people’s behavior by focusing them on specific tasks that could be measured and monitored in order to increase production and reliability. While this may have worked well when predictability was the goal of most workplaces, in an increasingly dynamic, complex and connected world the cost of these antiquated approaches is that they suppress people’s natural impulses to experiment, learn, and find ways to meaningful express themselves.
“Many organizations deactivate the part of employees’ brains called the seeking system,” explained Dan. “The seeking system creates the natural impulse to explore our world, learn about our environment, and extract meaning from our circumstances. When our seeking system is activated, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in our brains, and we feel more motivated, purposeful and zestful. We feel more alive.”
This seeking system is triggered when you’re able to play to your strengths, experiment and learn, and you care about your purpose. It can unleash positive emotions such as curiosity, excitement, hope, gratitude, and enthusiasm that can lead not only to innovation, creativity, and openness. So rather than the emotions of fear, anxiety, and conformity of cultures based on assumptions from the industrial revolution, these positive emotions are a competitive advantage, by helping help you and your organization to thrive.
“Exploring, experimenting, and learning is the way we are designed to live and work. It’s basically free energy,” said Dan. “Just like turning on a tap and having great ideas, creativity and enthusiasm pouring out, and you’re lit up, you don’t want to leave, and you become an ambassador because you start to love where you work.”