When I first came across the book „New Work Needs Inner Work“ by Joana Breidenbach and Bettina Rollow, the title immediately resonated with me. The notion that when outside structures and processes change, an inner process needs to follow in order to make an impact made sense to me. There is all this hype about business transformation, change management, agility – even more so after Covid hit – but all these processes focus on structural change. What if people are not ready? What if there is an inner change process required to happen in order to make transformation more sustainable?
I believe we are constantly in a dance between the outside world and our inner world, or between the needs of belonging (outside) and becoming (inside development). However, humans are prone to resisting outside change and prefer to stay in their comfort zone. Think about it: When are you more likely to change an unhealthy habit? When someone tells you to do it or when you feel an intrinsic motivation to change your behavior? True change leading to self-development comes from the inside. It requires the capacity to self-reflect, the ability to make a conscious decision to adopt a new behavior and discipline for the behavior to stick.
New Work Needs Inner Work
Breidenbach and Rollow argue that when the outside world becomes more and more volatile and uncertain (think VUCA and the Covid pandemic) we need to find security within. Likewise, new forms of working together, like selforganized or agile teams and teal organizations, whose hirarchies are more fluid and competence based, require us to show up as a „whole person“. This means to know your strengths and weaknesses, be grounded, understand your emotions and be able to express yourself in an effective way. Only then are you able to connect and empathize with others and take on a multiperpectivity which allows you to see the world from different angles.
In order to increase innovation and handle the challenges of an ever rapidly changing world, we need to mix the old and the new, build on what works and add what’s needed to successfully continue. It involves inner strength, trust and courage to walk the path of uncertainty as well as openness and flexibility to adjust along the way. As Breidenbach and Rollow rightly argue, working from within allows for living from within and empowers people to grow.
New Work needs Inner Work. An handbook for organisations on the way to self-organisation. By Joana Breidenbach and Bettina Rollow, 2019. The book is available in German and English
The Authors: Joana Breidenbach is founder of Germany’s largest donation platform betterplace.org and the Think-and-Do-Tank betterplace lab. Bettina Rollow develops organizational and leadership forms, e. g. with betterplace lab and Ashoka Germany.