From ego to eco – a universal approach to workplace transformation

Going from ‘ego to eco’ extends beyond the narrow confines of the workplace and our personal and professional lives, additionally it is not just confined to ecology and the environmentYou might quite rightly be thinking about the relevance of such a ‘hippy, dippy’ soundbite on the hard-hitting world of work and the workplace, especially in this climate of uncertainty with a myriad of challenges facing business, the workforce and commercial real estate globally. I first heard the phrase ‘going from ego to eco’ at a series of presentations cum incubator events EverythingOmni ran with participants of all ages/backgrounds/career levels representing 18 countries on the Uncertainty of Work.

One speaker Justin Timmer, a young systems innovation thinker brought the phrase to our attention and provided us with much food for thought, since it can be used in so many areas.  Researching further into the topic I discovered that it was inspired by the work of professors Dr Otto Scharmer and Dr. Katrin Kaufer, founders of the u-school for Transformation at MIT’s Presencing Institute.

Going from ‘ego to eco’ extends beyond the narrow confines of the workplace and our personal and professional lives, additionally it is not just confined to ecology and the environment. The concept encompasses the ecosystem of an organisation and its social value, as well as the ways we view hierarchy, leadership as well as the viewpoints of different employees, regardless of age and seniority.

However, we have to understand that going from ‘ego to eco’ means bringing in a bit of humility over our egos. This will be painful for most of us, since we all try to shape our world in advance to fulfil our own self-serving ends – be that for greater financial gain, higher status or just being Number One, the King or Queen of whatever jungle we roam in. However a greater awareness of how our behaviour and dare I say our selfish needs, impacts both the world and people around us should give us pause for thought. This is not just to tick compliance boxes for ESG and DE&I requirements just to make your organisation/industry or the board look good. Going from ‘ego to eco’ has to be systemic and be an authentic part of what we are striving to do in dealing with the challenges facing us as a society on many levels.


Planet and the Environment

This is an obvious one, but however many international COP meetings are arranged and UN goals are set if we are not prepared to go from ‘ego to eco’, then nothing will and can ever be achieved. It is incumbent on all of us, as well as our organisations and governments to act in a serious and constructive manner regarding this urgent global problem.

However, it is quite alarming that the building construction industry alone is responsible for half of all non-renewable resources we consume and at least 40 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – compared to aviation’s 2-3 percent and shipping’s 3 -4 per cent, which prompt more protests. Additionally, out of 90 per cent of potentially recyclable demolition debris, only 30 per cent is recycled with annual construction waste expected to reach 2.2 billion tons globally by 2025. These statistics are startling, but in the spirit of going from ‘ego to eco’ CoreNet Global and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) joined forces with the entire industry ecosystem to develop a strategic programme and a shared agenda to fast track the decarbonisation of the built environment.


Business and the Organisation

Generally, businesses operate as natural ecosystems because of the number of interconnected parts driving the enterprise across sections and departments and in many cases that ecosystem extends globally. However, deploying an ‘ecosystem model’ for a business requires change in the way an enterprise is organised altogether, by working out how to rebuild it systemically and more effectively. This can be accomplished through involving an organisation’s people and ensuring everyone is aware of their role in the ‘ecosystem of the business’. This requires leaders, managers and the powers-that-be to put aside egotism and self-serving individualism and put their people at the centre of the enterprise. Showing people trust goes a long way to develop a more thoughtful systems approach and by giving employees responsibility in co-creating their working environment means that a workable, multi-dimensional, humancentric ecosystem can be achieved.


Leadership and the Generation Gap

Another application of switching from ‘ego to eco’ is the doing away of outdated hierarchies and of archaic management philosophies. The time has come to take a less self-serving ‘ego’ approach and accept that leadership is now more fluid and that ‘leaders’ should be people who are actually leading, no matter their age, experience and seniority level. There will be people in an organisation who are leading their own peers at the most junior level or at the beginning of their careers.  Younger or more junior employees can come up with fresh ideas or new concepts that older, more senior colleagues might sometimes miss because they have been doing things in a certain way for a long time. Equally finding balance and equilibrium by bridging the inter-generational gap and creating a conducive environment where a diverse group of people feel included, empowered, trusted and where their abilities can be nurtured and developed is paramount.

Surely there is nothing more ‘ego to eco’ than bringing together a diverse group of people and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to spark off each other and co-create together. It makes for improved outcomes, more innovative thinking; and leads to increased productivity and ultimately to a better bottom line.

To find out more about going from ‘Ego to Eco’ and the work of the u school of Transformation at the MIT’s Presencing Institute.