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Positivity and Gratitude; Behavioral "Prebiotics"​ to Decrease Organizational Inflammation

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

(Initially published on LinkedIn on 28-May-2019)

The writing was on the wall as soon as I joined the Global Nutritional Health team. Even though my background is in business and not one of the numerous aspects of Life Science, I spend a lot of time with nutritionists, chemists, biologists, and other super smart people. It was inevitable, given the company that I keep, that I'd begin to explain organizational excellence/culture projects in terms that my colleagues would relate to, and given what we're learning about the impact of gut health, the metaphor practically wrote itself! (My kids are convinced I'm permanently warped, too. They're not wrong!)

Recently I had the opportunity to share my ideas on "Positivity and Gratitude as Behavioral Prebiotics to Decrease Organizational Inflammation". This was more than just a catchy title. The paradigm of "Organization as Organism" is actually really valuable when considering how to approach business challenges. Sometimes you have to conduct life-saving surgery (like firing that brilliant but toxic person). You may have to get a blood transfusion (emergency financing). Sometimes you just want to support the health and well-being of your company, and positivity and gratitude play an incredibly valuable role in creating psychological safety in the workplace (and life in general!).

So... Let's consider an organization as if it were a living organism, with interconnected and specialized systems. Where an animal might have a respiratory, gastrointestinal, skeletal, or circulatory system, a company might have Supply Chain, Manufacturing/Production, R&D, Facilities, Finance, and so on, where each plays a unique but interdependent part in the overall well-being and functioning of the company. Unbalanced, over-engineered, inefficient or misaligned processes can cause "Organizational inflammation".

In an organization experiencing inflammation, symptoms might include:

  • Excessive energy diverted from Mission to resolving problems

  • Decreased Efficiency

  • Diminished Engagement

  • Long-term Systemic Damage Possible!