The Purpose of People

20151104_145251It is a bit challenging to not get all philosophical when you talk about the purpose of people. At some level this is truly a subjective topic so the best you can do is try to put some of your thinking out there regarding why you have come to your subjective conclusion and go from there.

As noted in earlier posts I think the purpose of a person is to express identity.

This perspective is different from the idea that survival is the purpose of a person; survival being the dominant popular perspective since Darwin did his thing quite some time ago. I put survival secondary to the expression of identity.

Why? Well there are two primary reasons, one slanted toward social construction and the second slanted toward simplicity.

First, if we live in a socially constructed world, that world and our existence in it is relative to other things, most significantly other people. Simple survival adds very little meaning or substance to that relative existence. How we express our identity, including how we express our identity to simply survive, adds significant meaning and substance.

In a socially constructed world, expression of identity precedes survival.

Also, just ask yourself what you have done in your life where you were totally focused on just surviving.  My guess is your list is very tiny and for most of us, non existent. If you do have a list my guess is that it was an expression of your identity in terms of how you went about that focus on survival. Someone else probably would have done things differently; their own expression of identity.

Second, if survival was the primary purpose of people, it is very hard to explain why we have such diversity and the creation of so many things that just don’t directly relate to survival. What is the need for art, literature, music, poetry, blog posts on organization development! What is the need for differing races, species, beliefs, religions etc. etc. etc.

If survival was the primary purpose of things, it would have been far more effective to stop at the single celled organisms floating around in the oceans. They do it better than anything!

To account for most of what is around us in this world, expression of identity precedes survival.

At least for me, and subsequently these posts!

From this point then, the purpose, the fundamental driver of meaning and behavior for a person rests on a foundation of expressing identity.

As noted in earlier posts, for an organization, the fundamental driver of meaning and behavior rests on an economic foundation.

Expression of identity and economics. Consider just how different these purposes are, how different the entire interaction model is if it rests on a purpose of expressing identity or rests on a purpose of economics.

Interaction Model

What are interactions like; what are intentions like; what is the left loop like and what are the gestures and responses like for each purpose? With even a cursory consideration of these questions we find extensive differences, in many cases differences that would be opposites.

And yet, in the OD world we tend to either ignore these differences or worse treat organizations and people as having the same purpose. The act of anthropomorphising is no longer metaphorical, it becomes reality and this is where things come off the rails and get ugly.

The next post will look at some of the examples where this dynamic plays out and the damage it can do. As well we will look at what can happen when we acknowledge the big gap between the purpose of an organization and a person.

 

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