On Purpose #1: Designing Human Focused Organisations with Harry De Bont [Podcast]

On Purpose #1: Designing Human Focused Organisations with Harry De Bont [Podcast]

On Purpose
On Purpose
On Purpose #1: Designing Human Focused Organisations with Harry De Bont [Podcast]


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Greg talks to Harry de Bont, co founder of Open Collective and they discuss their workplace philosophies (including their experiences with Holocracy), the values that drive them, their backgrounds and the issues that arise in working life.


Find out more about Harry’s company here: https://opencollective.it/


Resources we mentioned:

Holacracy: https://www.holacracy.org/

Frederic Laloux: https://www.reinventingorganizations.com/



We have the transcript of the podcast below. Please excuse any transcription errors, our team of robots are doing their best!


Greg: So I’m here with a Harry De Bont who is currently working on his new company, Open Collective. And we are going to have a discussion about different practices in the workplace, different philosophies around work, maybe a bit of a Holacracy and purpose, and yeah just see where the conversation takes us. So welcome.


Harry: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Greg.


Greg: Yeah, so maybe we could maybe we could start off with just hearing a little bit about your background and how you came to the point of starting Open Collective.


Harry: Sure. Yeah. So my background educationally started with electrical engineering back in the eighties of the last century. And because I was always tinkering with stuff, you know, like a real engineer. So that was a good start. And as soon as I finished my education, I met with somebody working at an IT company and he said, well, why don’t you come working for us? And, you know, I didn’t even send the letter or anything. I just rolled there and I had worked with computers. And that was enough for them to hire me and start working with computers for seven years in the industry, like breweries, refineries, you know, to the control of bridges, like the industrial stuff. Right. And after seven years, I noticed, like, I really enjoyed working together with people and most of the projects that I did were the bigger projects. So, you know, that was good enough. But the bridge one was just on my own and I hated it. I was like, oh, actually. So it dawned on me that I really like working with people. So I’m like, why don’t I do something with that? And I spoke to a good friend of mine and that’s my partner in crime now, Robert.


Harry: And he said, Yeah, I don’t understand that you’re doing technical stuff. I always saw you as a hobby psych psychologist for us. So why don’t you do something with that? And that was like a kick in the butt that I needed to go and study psychology. And I did so in the evening, in the three evenings that I had for three years. And I was like at some point, like, you know, really enthusiastic about it. And I wanted to, you know, do something with it, not just be a bookworm. And I started to apply for jobs. But of course, I didn’t finish my education yet and I didn’t have experience. So they were they didn’t go well. But then my own company was looking for a career coach, a place for that. And I got hired and I changed fields from it to a chart and. And in those days, that company was really growing fast, and so we had to hire more career coaches and I became a manager and former manager, had to set up H.R. departments and administration and secretaries and, you know, like 40 or 50 people working for me at some point. And then I realized, wow, like, I really like working with people about, you know, personal development.


Harry: And it was a lot of politics involved. And they didn’t go very well. There was a lot of. Power play, irritation, frustration like in big companies, and I collided with my boss then, and that ended up in me starting on my own for myself with some help from the pavement that I got out of it. And I started my own company and doing talent development and an organizational advice to other companies. And that was that’s about 11 years ago. And I did that with a lot of motivation and enthusiasm until I realized it was kind of frustrating that, you know, I equipped people with a lot of knowledge, but, you know, they couldn’t really develop all of that or execute all of that because the environment didn’t change much. Right. So, and I’m like, if I want to see that, how is the experiment? I have to do it for myself. And that’s when the idea came to fruition like that. I have to start my own company and create the culture that I want. And, you know, the way I’ve been thinking that a company could be very effective, you know. So, a long background.


Greg: No, no, it’s yeah, it’s perfect. And it makes it makes total sense. Why. Yeah. Why you would want to move into…


Harry: It’s sort of. Yeah. Feels like going full circle actually like you know applying my, so I have not done much with my technical skills in the last 10, 10 years, maybe 20 years. But it’s not and it’s not my main drive, but it is a drive and I’m really enthusiastic to get back into the field there. Yeah.


Greg: Ok, so you’re combining basically all of your expertise into one.


Harry: And interest here. That’s right.


Greg: Yeah. I think that’s somewhere where we meet. Is this on. Doing things in the workplace differently, using learnings from psychology to make to make the workplace a better place to, I guess, bring more harmony between people as well. What are some of the things you’d most like to see in the workplace that you didn’t necessarily see in. Yeah. In previous places that you worked.


Harry: So not necessarily didn’t see, but, you know, there are sort of half implemented always. Yeah, I think for one, like a professional or just any person actually should be really responsible for themselves, for their own development. And of course, there’s reasons to say no to something, you know, like if it doesn’t make sense or it’s really dangerous for the company, but it doesn’t happen, you know, normally. So, I think just giving people freedom to experiment or explore whatever they want, as long as it is related to the work that they’re doing, I think that’s something I would like to try. I would like to just give people responsibility there and to stimulate them actually to do so. Because if you haven’t done that for a long time, you know that that will people have to get used to that as well.


Greg: So, yeah, that’s true. I think that’s a yeah. That’s an interesting one on the on the freedom thing, I think. There’s something I see. Well, is that it takes. A while for people to really. Really understand that they have that freedom or that they can take that freedom because, yeah, I think everyone is so used to these implicit rules or implicit right rules and things you can do in specific rules.


Harry: Yeah, yeah. I think that just before we started, we were talking about habits, but has to do with habits as well, like the habit of just waiting for a cue from outside, you know, like what’s the next thing I have to do. And looking at your boss or your colleagues or maybe your partner. Yeah. Who is in charge of you? I mean, that’s people give that away a lot. And it makes sense from like how we’re wired. Like not everybody can be a leader and can be boss, you know, in a in a natural environment. But I think we’re living in in a modern society where everybody is actually responsible for their own development. And that and giving that freedom will create that tension like, OK, what now? I’m confused. Right. So what am I to do? I wish I wish somebody told me.


Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Harry: And the other thing is, and the other thing is that what really struck me in the beginning of my career counselling that I did at the company is that people are. Or so not use their very conscious about their work professionally, but not so much about their own professional development, like thinking about yourself is not like a normal habit. Yeah, I think it’s changing now nowadays for the better. But, you know, it could still be you could still be stimulated like, you know, getting feedback and thinking about it in a way. How can I use this for my own advantage and then.


Greg: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think the. The feedback thing is it is a tricky one as well, because I know you mentioned this. Like having a non-triggering workplace, but right back itself, it’s always it’s always the most triggering and triggering thing. Yeah, definitely. It’s a real skill to learn how to give it and how to receive it as well.


Harry: Yeah. Like, you know, I’m a fan of talking about courage. It takes courage to, you know, apply these new behaviours and it takes courage to take feedback as something that will improve you in a way that you’re feeling your stomach might be turning from. You know, this person doesn’t like me or he doesn’t think I’m good enough. And with that feeling. Just set it aside and think that, OK, this might be useful for me and this might come from a good place actually, that they want to help me, even though it doesn’t feel that way, right? Yeah, and that’s the struggle that that you’re probably referring to.


Greg: Yeah, absolutely. I think I think it’s I think it’s really easy to go into doing this. And when you get caught in defensive, it’s yeah. It’s so hard to come out of that into a different perspective. And I think on the individual level and I also notice that on the group level, like if we receive feedback, say, as a company, it can either go to you like this, OK, what did we learn or it can go to this like hang on a minute. Hang on.


Harry: It’s crazy here, right? Yeah, I think so. I think it is. And of course, you still have to, you know, check the validity of your feedback with people think they can they have to go from the fence, the defensive to surrender with feedback. And that’s not the case. It’s like, know, you have to really check it like the other day. I’m still struggling with it, too. Like the other day I was meeting with my partners and I did some evaluation of recruitment tools and my partner said, well, you’re going everywhere with this and we need to talk about this. And I spend like four hours making the evaluation. You know, I put some time and energy and then I felt it in my stomach like, oh, shit, why is he saying that? Yeah. And I think and then just saying, OK, it’s OK to talk about it, let’s do that. And then it still doesn’t feel good until he knows he mentioned that, you know, I put some tools on there that were obviously like just for communication and not for recruitment and it was like Quora or something.


Harry: And I’m like, yeah but you know. Recruitment is not just using recruitment tools, it’s also about your you know, how your company is known in the outside world. And if you’re present there and sometimes people rather, you know, trust that those real stories than the recruitment or selling points that you’re putting out there. And you’re probably not going to have a lot of people responding to that. But I think it’s still important, and especially when you have a story to tell, if you just want to do the numbers. And I have a lot of turnover and that’s it. Maybe that’s not so important. I think for a company like yours and the one I’m starting, it’s important to tell your story. And that was that was the background. And it was really. A good discussion in the end, and I understood he wanted to make progress and he was worried about like and that’s usually the case. I could be I can go on a tangent and my interests are very broad. So he’s right to keep me in on track there as well.


Greg: So he will see this coming from the perspective that he wants to kind of move things forward and perhaps that’s positive.


Harry: And after talking about this, we got both. I got him to understand my point and we got progress. So, yeah,


Greg: That’s yeah, that’s interesting. And then you got both. And I think I, I think in in doing this type of work. So this kind of like a polarity or it’s going to do different things. And I’ve noticed that it’s important to find ways to like to take both messages from each person rather than just the one is right. And what is wrong, I mean, sometimes is what is right and what’s wrong. But sure, sure. And this balance between what’s true in both cases, right?


Harry: Yeah. Yeah, I think. Let’s say it this way, like being kind and being and keeping everybody a friend won’t make you win business. And so you have to be out there and you have to be a hunter as well. And you have to show both sides. Right? It doesn’t it doesn’t work if you’re just. Yeah. It’s so nice here. Come join us and have a cup of tea.


Greg: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I think that’s I think that’s part of the I actually I don’t have that much experience this I will run this one organization. So I’m not sure this the case. And others that don’t use, for instance, autocracy. But I really like. But there is a lot of tension because you do like this being nice and being the hunter. Do you have to have both? And then that can be difficult to bring out the other side of you that you’d rather stay away from the.


Harry: Yeah, and I think, well, talking about that like and we talked about this before, but that’s not on record. So there is like you have this zone where your body is in in, you know, in inflow and you’re hunting for something because you’re engaged and you’re focused. Yeah. And then after a while, if there’s too much of that, you get you get in in a stressful situation. Yeah. And it’s really hard to feel that happening when you’re in that, you know, I’m like, wow, this feels so good and I’m going to do it all day and I’m going to do it all week. And then somewhere you crash, of course. And I think that’s yeah. That’s the balance everybody has to find there. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s on an individual level. But that goes for a company as well if you’re as a leader of a company. Like Strauss’, everybody out stuff is going to happen there.


Greg: Yeah, for sure. Am I? Because I’m very interested in feedback. Let’s go back to this point because. You know, like we as a company, we’re learning and we’re getting better at it, but I think that yeah, I think that somewhere where we can improve things like how to give honest, open feedback, how to receive it on an individual level with you with your colleagues, but also with the people that you work for as well. Right. Right. Feedback. Yeah. You do you have any thoughts about how you might start to implement that or how you might start to think about having more.


Harry: Yeah, I think like so you’re using hello as well, but like making again or we’re going to write the horse is named. Have it again. Like you have to, you have to start doing it first before you put it to the test. Right. So if you have a team giving each other feedback is the first thing to do, make a habit out of it. Yeah. Do it every meeting and. Yeah. And do it in a good way, like, you know. Checking in with each other, so you know what’s going on also. So is this person, you know, yesterday where we were meeting Westry and one of them at the end, like I was like, wow, I’m so enthusiastic. We’re going somewhere and or finally, you know, doing it. And one of one of us was sitting there and like, he must be either seeing something bad in this idea or he must be tired. And if I don’t ask about it, you and I could go to bed and like, maybe we should do it with two instead of three. You know, that is so important to know where somebody is at and checking in with people as well.


Harry: Like who? Who are they? What situation are they in? Because feedback that you receive is not just what you say, it’s also what you see and what you hear. So it’s really important to know each other and start to trust each other with good intention that people have and feel that as a habit like, OK, and then build up the courage to ask for feedback. And that’s really important. If it’s with you know, it’s unknown people, it’s sometimes really hard. You could either go somewhere them. Yeah, I know. I’m worth nothing to I don’t know this guy. He might be worthless, but that’s not a good attitude. Like either reject yourself or the other. You don’t work that way. You have to really be in a good relationship with people, a trustworthy relationship to do something with feedback because there’s translation needed. And you have to sometimes go into the nitty gritty of what you mean with this and what you say like that and whatever.


Greg: Yeah, yeah. That’s a good point, because I have that feeling as well that it feels like there has to be that’s a base level of safety before proper, like before people be saying what you really think. Yeah. Which you kind of need for, for like, like honest feedback. Right. Right. I have a feeling, you know, because we have like a core team and then within that team there is definitely a level of safety. But then we also work with a lot of freelancers. And there’s this difficulty between like how? How. Yeah, how do you make a space safe with people that are like relatively new or maybe not really invested in the project because they’re right? Yeah, yeah.


Harry: So that’s important. I believe so. And you have to really invest in that. Right. And that’s why I talk about Hebert’s. If you don’t do that, it’s harder. Yeah. And I also think. You know, like putting the blame away is important, like either I’m not good or you have the feedback wrong, you have to get that out of the way. Just, you know, it’s interesting to figure out what, you know, what’s not flowing in a company. It’s very interesting, you know, to get the company flowing and. If you if you have everybody on that curiosity, you know, that’s a way better state to be in than be on edge or like this going to be bad or yes, I’m not going to like this, you know. And yeah. And I think if you have a habit of that, like, OK, afterwards, you know, I felt really good because I found something out of myself and I’m improving it now and it works better for me. And if you have that experience in your pocket, then you can apply that for a next time, right?


Greg: Yeah, that’s true.


Harry: I when I started doing H.R. Work Career coaching, I was sitting down with somebody and then she said, what’s something you would like to develop? And I’m like, yeah, that’s a good question. Like, I don’t know how people sit next to each other and just don’t talk about anything but just the weather or the dog. And how do you do that? I’m like and we practiced that then. And since then, you know, of course, I’m not the best in it because it’s not me. I’d like to go deep and think about stuff and then talk about the weather just like


Greg: We’re going to, like, small talk.


Harry: I don’t yeah. I don’t like it. I think I’m not good at it. That’s why. And. You know, and always think about that as an example of like if you if you learn something and you ask for feedback, yeah, that really works in in your advantage.


Greg: So you see, you practice like sitting and not say, yeah, yeah, yeah.


Harry: I’m just saying like, OK, what’s the weather tomorrow? And you start to laugh because, you know, it’s about nothing. Of course you can. And then I realize because it’s nothing, you can say anything. And that’s and then it becomes interesting again, like, you know, making quirky remarks and making jokes and. Yeah. Then then it became interesting again. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And that’s. Yeah. That was fun. Yeah. So I think, I think if you’re curious and see the fun of it. Yeah. Then feedback. But I do agree it’s, it could be very scary. Right. Especially in talking about a company, especially if you hold off this feedback until the end of the year and you sit down and it’s going to happen now and your salary is going to depend on it. Yeah, that’s


Greg: That’s terrible, awful isn’t it.


Harry: The worst way there is.


Greg: And yeah, because the guys the I guess the longer the wave will be back, especially with something important or emotional, that it builds up to this massive scary thing doesn’t it.


Harry: Yeah, it does. And I’ve been on the other side of the table like I was like. It was my responsibility to, you know, to gather feedback for the end of the year discussion. Yeah. And I was so glad to have something and I kept it like, wow, I want to keep this until the end of the year. And that’s so silly. Right, because it could have done something with it. And I think I don’t know. But if a lot of companies still do that. But that’s the worst.


Greg: That’s true. It’s like you’re just holding on to like a lesson to be learned in, like 12 months earlier. But you just hold on to power.


Harry: Yeah, that’s silly. And, you know, it’s not the way you should do it.


Greg: Yeah. And you also kind of take it out of context because the lesson happened in that time. So I write to the learning would probably happen better within that context of that time.


Harry: But yeah. And the context is totally lost and the person might not even remember it, you know, that like and things like, I don’t know this and then so what’s the use? So you can say, well, that’s why you don’t get a salary raise,


Greg: But


Harry: There’s no not much gain in that.


Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah that’s


Harry: Cool.


Greg: So yeah. I’m sorry. Go ahead.


Harry: Yeah. And I think if we’re talking about like companies like yours and mine, like being open and, you know, actively asking for feedback is, you know, is this sort of the basis for innovation and getting better and better? And if you if you don’t do that like we’re innovating but you’re not really open, that doesn’t work. No. Yeah. And you have to really do that together as a as a group, as a collective and have that intention. And that’s why we named our company that way. Right. Because we really want to be you know, we realize we’re just a startup and we’re going to make mistakes, but we want to be better and learn and be a real good. Company at it and but not right away, that’s not possible.


Greg: No, of course, yeah, yeah.


Harry: And I like that statement, too, like you’re going to make mistakes and that’s OK. And if you just let a person make those mistakes again and again, that’s not OK.


Greg: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. To make mistakes as a is absolutely necessary.


Harry: Yeah. We’re going to do that. And you’ve probably done it. Yeah.


Greg: Oh I’ve done it. Maybe like me and my co-founder we, we have made all the mistakes. Right but. But we, but we. Yeah. We learn from them and then. Yeah. And. Yeah, and then we just yeah, got that in there after learning from each one, but you really get to start Perfect’s, right?


Harry: Yeah, and I think it’s really important to, you know, like also have a sort of a collective memory there, because as a startup, your you know, you usually start with fewer people than you end up. And it’s interesting to transfer the why of the how is like why do we do this? Because we learned this and that. And it doesn’t work that way. And if you tell those stories and you could also learn from that, again, if you got new people with a company who improve it even more. But if you don’t tell it, it’s like a rule, right? It’s like a debt rule and there’s no way to it. And I think that’s really it’s really important to keep that alive.


Greg: That’s yeah, that’s an interesting point. We like so we are also because we’re working with for purpose organizations, we’re trying to focus on why. But I think this is a different kind of why you’re talking about, which is the more like in giving a real or a way that you do something which is, as you say, why you’re doing that so that people actually. Right.


Harry: But it is it’s yeah. It’s not really directly related to the purpose of the company, but it’s not unrelated, not.


Greg: Only


Harry: Because you want to be effective in your purpose and effectiveness is a sort of a general rule for every company. If you’re not effective, you’re not successful. Yeah. And an execution of your purpose is depending on how well you’ve organized it, how will your execution be actually. And it’s not possible to, you know, buy a big rulebook and have the execution so perfectly right away. You have to sort of dial that in while doing so. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.


Greg: So this. Yeah, I think that’s maybe a good way to go into discussion around. Well I guess this because sense of why. I think because you’ve already kind of given us that sense of purpose. Right. It’s and yeah. To sort of bring in see this flourishing in an organization of these types of practices this cycle that you learned in psychology. Right. Would you say that’s the kind of purpose behind your company, or is it something different?


Harry: Yeah, I think like so I started motivation for a while as well. And, you know, there’s different levels of motivation and. To have the freedom to find out what you’re good at, right, that’s one level is like just play around is fun for a while. And then when you have played around enough, you want to be good at it so that I considered at one level, you have to have the freedom to do so and to find out what it is. And then when you find out really, you know, make it better or improve yourself. So there is a level of pride in that. Like, I’m really good at this. And then there’s the level of connectedness with the people around you, with your clients, with groups of people, maybe stakeholders or I don’t know that you’re that you feel like really engaged with those people on a meaningful basis. So that’s the second level of purpose, I would say. And then the third level is really rising from that. From those both is that you’re adding something to the world which wasn’t there before and really like that. And you have to have all three of them, actually. And that’s when we’re talking about purpose and yeah. Holacracy, they’re only talking about the highest level. But you have to have the first two as well.


Greg: That’s OK. So this really interesting. So the so to these, to these three levels, they stay on top of each other. And then the first level is this sense of play and being good at something or.


Harry: Yeah, yeah. Let’s play, let’s play first and then getting because you’re playing, you’re getting good at it. Right. OK, and that’s the first one.


Greg: Ok, and then. And then the second one is the connectedness. Yeah. OK. Sense of connectedness. Why it’s sense of connection I


Harry: Would say engagement but that is also connecting with people with the same, usually with the same values set. Right. Like you’re like having a meaningful conversation with somebody. Similar values. Yeah.


Greg: If you have similar, you have similar values, yeah, and. OK, and that. And that that’s also connected to being good at something or mastery. Is that like.


Harry: Yeah, yeah. It’s you know, it’s almost a flow. It’s almost a flow you’re playing and you’re getting good at stuff and you’re connecting with people that, you know, want the same thing in life. And you’re like, why don’t we do something with what we can do? We you know, it’s a flow. How can we apply this? And then and then you get to the to the last level of meaning when you really put energy in it and change the world a little bit to be recognized by other people. It’s not talk anymore. It’s really tangible. You can really see it. And that’s and then they’re like, wow, how did you guys do this? And then, you know, and they get involved and they get feedback and they stimulate more and more. And then you get in a flow as a company or as a group.


Greg: Yeah, that’s because. Yes, go ahead.


Harry: And that’s and that’s the model I’m applying in my head, like building this company, starting from the bottom, getting everybody to play first. Feel free. Yeah. Without fear, which is very important, not triggered by fear, like we said earlier. But and from and from that like building it up to being really good at your job and really liking the people around you and you know. Yeah. Strengthening that and from that really putting energy in and changing your environment for the better. So if I, I say what’s the purpose of our company that’s making the world a better place in that way.


Greg: That way. Yeah. And I yeah. I think this is really great because it’s sort of I know that you have also read this reinventing organizations from loving. Yeah. Yeah. The three years is like that that deal organizations have, which is self-management teams, holiness and then and then the evolutionary purpose. And so this sounds like your model sounds a little bit of a description of how evolutionary purpose comes to be something. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Yeah.


Harry: Right. So when I encountered this book I was like, wow, there’s a book about it, you know, somebody wrote a book about it and I, you know, I don’t have to reinvent everything. So we discuss that with the partners and we’re like, we’re going to adopt whole ocracy because of that.


Greg: Yeah, because it really


Harry: Fits in there. Yeah.


Greg: And that’s so that’s interesting that you mentioned that with Bill Ocracy. They only focus on the, um, the sort of highest layer in your model that they know. Yeah. And so do you think that’s a gap within galactosemia? That’s something that you have to sort of know.


Harry: It’s into habits. All right. So in the Hebert’s is that you sit down weekly or whatever your meeting frequency is and you check in with each other, you start to take care of each other there. Yeah, in a way. But it’s not very explicit. You know, it’s more like, let’s get that out of the way.


Greg: Yeah.


Harry: That’s so far that I’ve seen it. And it should be it should be on a deeper level. I think everybody should be conscious about these mechanisms, why they matter. Yeah. And you know, I’ve studied evolutionary psychology for a while and how we as a stripe people want to win the game. Right. And that’s because we’re good at making weapons. So I’m going to translate what I just said. Yeah, you yeah. We’re good at just playfully playing with sticks and stones and suddenly I got an X, you know, that’s how it happened. And not only that, but I also applied that with people I can trust and that are meaningful to me because some of them are family. Yeah. They, they feel like and right. And we’re here to procreate are our gene pool. And that’s the purpose. Yeah. And so it doesn’t come from somewhere. It’s really ingrained. I’m like. My stance is that were, you know, if we are not conscious about our evolutionary background, we’re going haywire sometimes and we’re doing really weird stuff. Just, you know, just look at 20, 20. But it’s still ongoing. Yeah. Really weird stuff is going to happen if we’re not stepping up and be conscious about, OK, we changed our environment so much that we’re not no longer aligned with our own wiring from the inside. So we have to use our brain to consciously adjust. Yeah. There to be still effective. And I think that’s not it’s not very complicated, but you have to work hard to do so. OK, it’s not it’s not simple though.


Greg: Yeah. Yeah that’s. Yeah. And that’s an interesting question of how does. How does this project of building the. A workplace based on this, these principles fit in with the larger crisis, so the fact that we are becoming more and more divorced from these natural habits or natural ways and. Right, right.


Harry: Yeah, it does fit in there. And I’m still shaking my head about it. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t have the answers there, but, you know. I think we’re not as intellectual as we think, and as soon as it becomes more complex, we just lose control. I think that’s a simple statement and we have to really learn to do better there. Yeah, by really talking to each other about it. And, you know, like we talked about feedback earlier and on our grand, bigger scale in society, that is just listening to minorities. Right. It’s like, yeah. Why are you feeling frustrated or, you know, tell us about it. I want to understand if you separate yourself from those points of feedback there, you know, tension is going to grow and it’s going to get ugly in the end. Yeah. Like, you know, like the yearly salary evaluation. You have to do it on a daily basis, just, you know, just be people or amongst each other and take each other seriously. And we’re not doing that very well. You know, like people with money see people without money as a threat, like they’re going to steal something or, you know, that’s not that’s not a good way to look at the world or people of colour are different. So they must be scary or whatever. Yeah. But I don’t have all the answers, but I see I see parallels there for sure.


Greg: We know for sure. Yeah. So I remember it because I think I had a class with you one time we were going through to this model, right? Yes. And I remember I was there not five, five years.


Harry: There’s five levels set in the model.


Greg: Yeah, but then here you are. You mentioned three.


Harry: Yeah. So if I want to keep it simple, I’m talking about three. OK. Yeah. And some of them consist of two layers and someone like the purpose layer is just one layer. Yeah. One is two layers. So the first one is play and developing your capabilities. That’s two layers. And the third one is like engaging and making choices based on your values. That’s one level. And the second one is applying those values and executing them with, you know, you put energy in it and perseverance. And that’s the second level of that one. And they have to they are relational, OK? It’s like material, material, relational meaning.


Greg: Ok, yeah. Interesting. And so if you. Yeah. If you went into like a like a random company that wanted to seem to get more of a sense of purpose, well what would you start when you would start with practices on play. Right. Or how would, how would that work.


Harry: Oh, so how I would go about it in a company that wants to apply purpose? Yeah, I did. So what I do is interview the founders and then go back to childhood. What were they interest like? Go back to play their what were you doing? What were you thinking? When were you excited? And sometimes that takes a while. Yeah. When you get there and you see that, you know that that’s shining in their eyes, come back instead of stress. And then and then they start to realize that they’ve translated those interests and curiosities that they had into their businesses, but also their frustrations and there you know, and that’s and that’s when you get the purpose in there because, you know, as a child, you only have intentions to play and to be kind. It’s not, you know, yeah, there’s people that that are not kind, but most of us are. Yeah. And that’s and that’s how I do it. Just interview how everybody has, like also some pain in their youth. And it’s like, you know, I want to do something with it and align the personal history and the personal tragedy with your purpose is very powerful.


Greg: Yeah, yeah,


Harry: You know, if I take my own childhood as an example, I was really. Cut off from being connected to people, because I didn’t understand people as they seem to understand each other and really, you know, I was really. Worried about that or not worried I was really, like, baffled by it, I would say, what’s the good word? Like for a long time I thought I was just crazy. But then I found out that I much later, like when I was an adult, was viewing the world from the meaning. I was always asking the why question instead of just doing stuff and then relating to people and then, you know, discovering the why. So it’s just reversed with me. And I think, OK, this really cool to apply that right now, because I know there’s more people like me, a little bit autistic, especially in the IT branch that that need that. Right. And when you combine that like the personal story that really feels that it’s really physically felt and then you go a whole way with your organizational purpose because it’s not just fuel, because it sounds good, but because it’s really a felt purpose. Right. It’s really embodied. Yeah.


Greg: Yeah, yeah. I like that. Yeah. One yeah. One teacher that I like said that you know that you go from, you start out like as a walking question and then at some point you become a walking answer and that’s all right. Yeah.


Harry: That’s, that’s really cool. But I think so. And I think that gives purpose to every phase in your life is like, you know, just being an adventurer when you’re young and being a sage when you’re old. I think that’s really nice to have that. And I think. And that’s also why we were talking about, you know, the society sometimes there’s like this emphasis on youth and youth only because that’s the only valuable thing there is. And that’s not OK either. No, I think we should, you know, have everybody engaged. Otherwise it’s not going to work.


Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have the same thing as I feel like it’s a little bit too much of that dismissiveness to the older generation in our culture. And it’s just there’s so much wisdom in age that you. Yeah, you don’t. And it’s attention because we’re evolving so fast, like. There’s much needed values in the U.S. because, yeah, because they’ve been educated in a certain way and the latest understanding and stuff, but then at the same time, you have this wisdom from older people that you.


Harry: Yeah, yeah, I have the privilege of having kids growing up and they’re all teenagers. Well, not all teenagers want one teenager actually, and two guys above 20. And yeah, I see them. I’m really proud of them and see them do stuff. But at some point they’re they get hit by life, too. Right. And they sit down with their dad and with their mom, of course, also. And they talk about, you know, the experience that you have. They come and ask for it. And I said, yeah, everybody should have that once in a while, not all the time, because that’s, you know, that’s like silly. But once in a while, you need that guidance from somebody that has seen more. Yeah. Yeah. Not everything as well. That’s the problem. Right. If you claim to know everything, that’s not OK.


Greg: Yeah, yeah.


Harry: Yeah. So I think it’s really and that’s in the model too is like to just keep that playfulness. No matter your age,


Greg: Yeah, that


Harry: Is really that’s really cool.


Greg: I think I love that. I think that’s great, because I think that. Yeah, it can. Because this something that I kind of grapple with a little bit, you know, being the space like thinking on what is the deeper why behind what we’re doing. And I can get I think I can get quite conceptual and it can get quite serious. It can get very serious very quickly. You know, like, yeah, I think you should start thinking about world problems and. Yeah, but it’s nice that your model, you come back to play like lays the foundation and yeah, it comes if you.


Harry: Lose play you lose everything as my stance. Right.


Greg: That’s, that’s great. I think that’s great. It’s almost I can see that in, in my company as well as like you know, thinking about the purpose in and on one side of this quite high-minded conceptual purpose of like bringing things the world needs more of which I think is fine. And I like it as a flag. But then on the other side of like, what happens in our day to day? Company and the real meaning of the company is like it’s I don’t know, it’s all about playing. It’s something much more. It’s just the play and the vibe and the connection between people. And there’s this sort of spontaneous. Like Father Nation, which is also the noise, is very seductive to people around the company as well, and people notice it and then they want to join in. And I think that’s a guy who.


Harry: Doesn’t want to play, right?


Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. I think that’s really in the driving seat rather than this like high minded I grew up. Yeah.


Harry: It’s really the other way round. You discover, you know, in Dutch we, we don’t say meaning or purpose we say is in having meaning. You give a meaning to stuff. It’s like, you know, you have to do it yourself. And I think it’s a playful business of discovery. And it’s not like let’s sit down and spend a lot of hours writing stuff down. It doesn’t work that way. Yeah. And it really has to be. And body, like I said, like from that playful area, if you’re just very conceptual about it and abstract is never going to live, right?


Greg: Yeah, exactly. Because then you’re I guess you’re just engaging in the level of that of the mind, but you’re not. Right. Right.


Harry: Yeah. And it doesn’t convey very well on paper or on the web if it’s not, you know, but that’s more your job if you if you don’t see that playfulness. Right. Yeah. Yeah.


Greg: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool. What would you like stop though?


Harry: Well I always like to talk about the other side because this very positive. Right. Yeah. And the pitfalls are all around us is getting triggered right. Where we talked about that earlier. But it’s you know, I think we can emphasize that a little bit more.


Greg: Yeah.


Harry: And there’s so many triggers out there that, you know, despite our good intentions that just get us in a in a stressful place. And we’re starting to behave like, you know, we regret that afterwards. But, you know, everybody has that. And I think that’s very interesting. And if I talk about like. Being conscious about it, about your own development, you have to know these things right, to recognize them when they happen to you, and then you can pause and take a break or, you know, say your story and then start over again, because that’s really, I think. I think that’s the big discovery I heard it’s not like. Well, we’ll changing my dog is going to make sounds because you want.


Greg: Something, right? He’s got something to say.


Harry: Ok.


Greg: Definitely for that. He’s got some he’s got something to say about triggering.


Harry: Yeah. Triggering. Yeah.


Greg: Ok. Trouble in paradise over there. Yeah.


Harry: Right. And um so. So yeah. So and that’s really interesting to know. These triggers are like what does happen with all of us. And I think that’s, that’s really interesting too is we’re all wired in the same way and we’re all responding in the same way to these triggers. And I think the most important thing is I found out was that you can’t help being triggered because it’s wired that way. So you get triggered and you have to deal with that. And being effective doesn’t mean getting these triggers out of the way, out of the way. But how do you go about them and how do you handle them? Yeah, and of course, when you get experienced, you can you switch your shifts quicker. Yeah. And. But I think that’s happening to everybody all the time, and that’s good to know that there are no people are all triggered in a way. Yeah. And yeah, and I think that’s really important to know if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other in that and we just pile up the triggers, nothing good comes from it.


Greg: Yeah. Yeah. And how. Because I guess we touched on this before I called it how this Holacracy helped with this triggering issue.


Harry: Yeah, it’s like. It’s like the Holacracy, you know, like the self-management part is really important there because, you know, we see our bosses and our managers, we start to see them as predators who want something else. They want to kill us and we want to live. Right. Yeah. And that they’re not always aligned with our goals and that our brain recognizes that as you know, as a predator. And it’s more of a heuristic than a real radar for a predator. We’re not looking for a wolf or a bear. It’s more a network that just is triggered like, oh, shit. And then as an effect of this particular trigger, there’s a predator. We start to have a laser focus on the predator. Yeah. And there’s nothing else, but. There’s danger there, and the only thing we can talk about is that terrible balls that we have and everything that happens to us is because of him or her. And I’ve done it and I’ve heard it and I’ve seen it happen so many times, like, wow, we’re spending so much time gossiping about the balls or the venting our frustration that is really ineffective before I knew what it was. And I think it’s really good to be aware that’s an example of a trigger. Right. And it’s really good to be aware of those triggers. And not having a boss around makes a big difference.


Greg: Yeah, yeah. That’s really interesting because I am so I listen to Frederick Laloux. He’s got like a video series now as well. Like, I think it’s something for something about Insight’s feet away or something. So some more insights on how to transition with the organization. And he mentions that there’s almost like quite often in the transition. There’s this from traditional organization to the self-management. There’s this period where sort of all hell breaks loose. Right. And that seems to maybe link up with what you’re saying. But a triggering essentially, because I guess if you have those triggers, which are or there’s tensions which are traditionally just focused on one or a few areas. So the boss or bosses. Yeah, I guess they can play out in the structures and it’s almost like having scapegoats. You have scapegoats when you can put your frustration right over there. But I guess when you remove you remove those scapegoats, then then the tension has to go somewhere. Right. And then. Right.


Harry: Yeah. So, so, so that’s really interesting because what I describe in the white paper that is connected to this startup is that there is an effective way that you can operate within the fear part. Right. Right. And it’s sort of effective if you do what you know, you fall in line with the purpose of the company because it’s the company you work for you to do your part. You don’t second guess it. It’s not your purpose, but you do it in a way. And you connect a spirit of life and death importance to that life. I can’t stop working because I you know, the tasks aren’t done yet. So you get stressed. So that’s the first trigger. And the second trigger is. But that is good in a way that a lot of stuff gets done right. If it’s not too bad, a lot of stuff gets done. And then there’s this boss that tells everybody what to do because he’s boss and everybody listens to that in a way that’s alignment. And that’s good. I mean, who doesn’t want that, right? Yeah. And then there’s the third level where you get rid of your own values in order to just be in the group and you don’t get feedback to each other. And that’s really, you know, to move forward.


Harry: That’s really quick because you don’t have to spend time there. Right. So it’s and it’s yes, in a way. But interesting enough. And there’s two more. But interesting enough is that that has an effect. But the optimal effect is not that it’s just it works and it kind of works. And a lot of companies start to depend on it because, you know, they’re not sure if anything else will work. And they have like stakeholders. And if they have shareholders, like they want to have a return on their investment, they want to make sure somebody is bossing somebody around to make it happen. Right. If you have that in place, you can’t transition from one thing to another. And that’s why hell breaks loose if some people start to trust to be playful and open and some are still here. Yeah, that’s not okay because then you feel like your trust is really violated and that that’s really a vulnerable place. That transition is really vulnerable, then. Yeah, I can only imagine that would work that way. And that’s what we realize. Make starting this company that like starting whole ocracy from scratch is so much easier than from an existing company. Yeah. Yeah it is, you know. Based on that,


Greg: We wanted everyone on the same page, right?


Harry: Yeah, yeah, or not come aboard.


Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. I think I mean, we started, you know, at the start, but only a couple of years in our company and we’re not very big anything. So was on in that sense. It was not too difficult. It’s more in the sense that we work with freelancers and then proper like kind of core team members. So then. It’s that you have a mismatch between. How invested people are in their


Harry: That’s engagement level, right? That’s the difference there. Yeah, that makes sense.


Greg: Yeah, cool. Yeah, cool.

Greg is co-founder of Kenekt Digital and is interested in where business and social change intersect. He uses his background in Philosophy and International Development to develop new ways of marrying these two areas, and aims to build an organisation which is maximally responsible, maximally useful as a service, while at the same time fulfilling its function to bring wealth to its employees. He runs the company with his 2 best friends, who share his passions.