The ‘Good’ and the ‘Bad’ organization: an ethics perspective- with Antoinette Weibel and Otti Vogt



The ‘Good’ and the ‘Bad’ organization: an ethics perspective- with Antoinette Weibel and Otti Vogt

Otti Vogt and Antoinette Weibel join us to delve into how to bridge philosophy, psychology, and management science to understand how businesses can be “good” and enable a “good society”. We also talk about the power of sociality and how to create more human-centric organizations.

Podcast Notes

Professor Dr. Antoinette Weibel is full professor for human resource management at the University of St. Gallen. She is President of the Executive Committee of the Institute for Systemic Management and Public Governance at the University of St.Gallen, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Institute for Media and Communications Management and the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St.Gallen. Her current core project, ‘Good Organisations’, asks how organisations can become better members of society.

Otti is a disruptive thought leader with over 20 years experience in implementing strategic business change in multi-cultural, complex businesses and in crafting human-centric learning organisations. As COO and Chief Transformation officer in ING, he was until recently accountable for ING’s global digital transformation programme and continuous optimisation of operational service performance for more than 20m customers worldwide. He is also a certified leadership coach, associate of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) and was recently named Top 20 Global Thought Leader on Agile.

Tune in to this episode as we explore the power of framing the right questions, how we can enable each others’ flourishing, the role of high quality relationships and active reflection — and why no singular idea will solve everything.


Key highlights 

We discussed:

  • What do we mean by doing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in business?
  • The impact of plurality and multiculturalism
  • The power of sociality and facilitating higher quality relationships
  • Defining a ‘flourishing’ individual and society
  • Balancing globalism vs community and landscape


To find out more about Otti and Antoinette’s work:


Other references and mentions:


Find out more about the show and the research at Boundaryless at

Thanks for the ad-hoc music to Liosound / Walter Mobilio. Find his portfolio here:

Recorded on 22 March 2022.

🌐 Boundaryless Conversations Podcast is about exploring the future of organizing at scale by leveraging on technology, network effects, and shaping narratives. We explore how platforms can help us play with a world in turmoil, change, and transformation: a world that is at the same time more interconnected and interdependent than ever but also more conflictual and rivalrous.


Simone Cicero:
Okay. We’re back at the Boundaryless Conversations Podcast. Today I’m here with my usual co-host, Stina Heikkila.

Stina Heikkila:
Hello, everybody.

Hello, Stina. And with us, there are two special guests with whom we’re going to discuss very deep questions from business and organizing. We have Antoinette Weibel.

Antoinette Weibel:
Yes. Hello, everybody.

Simone Cicero:
And Otti Vogt.

Otti Vogt:
Hello from London.

Simone Cicero:
Hello, thank you both for being here. So, first of all, I mean, you have been working together in the last few months teaming up to answer probably the most challenging question around business, right? The idea of trying to understand what does it mean to create good organizations? Right, what does it mean to “do good in business”? And what other questions that we should really address if we are aiming to reinvent, let’s say, business for the 21st century, right? And to make it a force for good, let’s say? So, I will probably start, if you don’t mind, really, from here, right? Probably many of the videos that you have been releasing and by the way, I really encourage our listeners to check those videos, because we have been doing lots of very great videos with great leaders recently as well. We have been discussing about this, but it’s a good idea to maybe start to just give a little bit of framing of this question, which on its own is a very complex question. So, what does it mean, good or bad in business, or more in general, where do we start if we want to address the question: are we doing good?

Otti Vogt:
I would say the first thing, so whoever has been there getting ready with their coffees or glasses of wine for this conversation for the final answers of how to solve all these big questions, I will have to disappoint you. Because I think, as hopefully some of you, we are still searching. I also and here, I think Simone and myself and many others are on similar wavelength. We also don’t believe they’re necessarily single answers. The question is, holding these big questions is as important as trying to frame some answers. But what I think for Antoinette and myself was very important on this journey that we started about a year ago, I think, was to first learn how to even frame those questions properly. Because the moment that we ask what is good or bad, we are basically confronted with two and a half thousand years of philosophical, moral philosophical, in particular conversation. And in order to disentangle that for a question of what is a good business, business in the 21st century, there’s a need to acquire some of the toolkit that philosophy has prepared for us.

And especially here, I think, the idea that there are different theories of what makes an action good. And in particular, there are three general theories of ethics. One is called deontology, which is about following certain rational imperatives and rights. Kant is one of the most famous proponents. Then we have utilitarian thinking, which is basically thinking in terms of business cases, what gives maximum utility. And this is, of course, the theory most endorsed by business today. And finally, virtue ethics, which is based on Aristotle, and the notion of character and virtue. So, what matters is that we cultivate our characters to lead a good life, what he calls Eudaimonia. So, starting from very basic building blocks in terms of how to understand goodness, from different perspectives, philosophical, religious, intellectual, I think that was the very first step and maybe the second one, then I’ll hand over to Antoinette, the second one was that we realized through our inquiry, that economics, especially in terms of neoliberal capitalism, so the type of prevalent thought system that we all live with today, has endorsed a very peculiar, and also strikingly new way of interpreting some of these questions.

Frank Mattila, one of the persons we interviewed recently said, if you would run around today and ask people whether they believe in electricity, everybody would look at you and say, well, of course, electricity, they’ll look at the plug. And what we have forgotten is that until 200 years ago, people would have the same reaction to the question, do you believe in God? And the same notion of what is the good life 200 years ago would never have been interpreted based on what is good for the individual, but always what is grit from an ideological or religious perspective. So, we have come to this world of capitalism with a very specific notion that over time has given answers about what it means to be in good, especially in terms of what is providing utility, and in terms of what is the meaning of life. And that is very much the notion of individual freedom based on rational choice.

But these answers are historically speaking strikingly dissimilar from what was there before, and therefore, that I think, is for us very much the starting point to say, okay, we need to look at this again, because some of the results of this capitalistic neoliberal thinking we don’t like. And if we want to define good organizations, we need to start with the what is good question, then see what it means in terms of how we organize. And finally, what it means for leaders or employees and organizations in regards to their ability to take us towards a better model. So, that’s how I was long words, but maybe a little bit of framing and grounding. Over to you Antoinette.

Antoinette Weibel:
Yeah, I would just maybe try to explain it in my own words, because I think one thing you said very clearly, and then I think that’s also the bedrock is that you cannot be not normative. That’s just not possible. The moment you say we want to maximize profits. That’s what I learned in business schools. That’s how I do my research, by the way, because I always have to show it’s good for performance, every single study has good to show and has in the end to show it’s good for performance, you already have a normative stance. And that’s, I think it’s important to understand. So, whatever we decide, morals are attached to it and it makes a lot of sense to think about how could it be different.

And why would I say how could it be different? I mean, this is why we, in the end, came together, because I started to look, or rather, I probably have been looking at software machines for the last 15 years. Because by putting the premise on performance, by putting the premise on productivity, on measurables, and all other things I’m sure we’re going to discuss later, you often also have negative consequences, externalities. And some of the externalities is, for instance, you destroy intrinsic motivation, or you create a culture of distrust. And hence, I think it’s very important to go a step back, to look at the normative assumptions. And ask yourself, are you really taking all kinds of things into account? What do you really want to aim for? And I think this is maybe just another way of explaining what Otti already explained.

Otti Vogt:
And maybe just to bring it back to Simone, where Simone where we started was about organizational evolution. And I think what Antoinette is describing is just like, almost our assumption that you need to make a step before you go into organizational evolution, you need to examine your own thinking and understand what your own premises are, kind of what type of worldview are you trying to bring to life through organizing. And that’s almost like a step that most people just, they either jump over it, or like the discussions we have about teal or sociocracy they take very specific worldviews and seek to operationalize them. But the worldviews are not always evident. And it’s not always clear what the worldviews that they’re endorsing are better, so to speak, than others. And I think that requires some active reflection and critical thinking that we together, all of us, need to engage with. Otherwise, we could end up making organizations become better at doing worse.

Simone: Right. And I mean, when I was listening to you, I was thinking basically, how do you integrate in this conversation the different cultural specificities, right. Because a lot of what we discuss about being good or bad, and you will be, of course, familiar with all this discussion around wokeness and globalism and in general rationalism, we can call it in many ways, right? But the idea of this leading consensus around what the culture should be, what good should be, how you’re supposed to behave. And these very days, for example, we are seeing the war in Ukraine, to some extent, is an expression of this cultural clash between the Russian identity and the Western identity. And in general, we are seeing clashes between, for example, Chinese identity, and in general, we’re moving into a world where many regional identities are becoming more important. We’re moving into a world that is much more multipolar where I’m afraid is going to be most complicated to say, this is good or this is bad, because there is a lot of cultural context that needs to be factored in. How do we factor in the plurality of cultures that the world is living in and this resurgence, let’s say of plurality and multiple perspectives in understanding what is good or what is bad?

Antoinette Weibel:
Yes, we have a multicultural world, but we shouldn’t take that as an excuse, in my opinion, for relativism. I think even in a multicultural world, you have to think about how can we lead a good life? I think that remains the same. Now, the easy answer, that’s what I was kind of pitching, there’s one thing, which I think we cannot already say, I think there are some aspects which we would call moral facts. I can’t imagine that in any culture, suffering is better than flourishing. I cannot imagine that in any culture, we find it okay that a foreign state attacks another state. I mean, I think there are many questions in Ukraine, which are not easy to answer. But on the other hand, it’s hard to find somebody who say, well, it’s okay to go into a foreign country and invade that country for whatever reasons. So, I mean, I know that’s the easier bit. Now, of course, the more complicated bit is if we go beyond these moral facts, but I think there are also probably answers to that. And here I give it to Otti. See I give the difficult questions to Otti, to kind of ponder further.

Otti Vogt:
Well, I agree. So, I think we are making a mistake when we say cultural contingency, so to speak, which is a descriptive fact, is necessarily negating normative positions, because I think many people make the mistake to say science, so to speak. So, what I can say about reality, what is real, then tell me what should be real. And we need to understand these are fundamentally different questions. Science can never answer a normative question. It can never tell us what we should do. Science tells us what is until it’s proven otherwise, that’s the scientific mechanism, right? It’s the hypothesis proven by experiment until the next experiment proves that my deductive conclusions are incomplete or wrong. Right? So, science cannot answer these questions. It is a normative questions as to who do we want to be? What vision of the future do we endorse as human beings? So, do we want to become and what does it mean to be truly human?

And as Antoinette says, I think in that context, there are some moral facts that probably we would all agree on: going now into your living room and kill your mother is under probably almost no circumstance is a good idea. But I think there’s more to that, because again, going back to the death of God, right, and as Sartre suggested famously with, once God is dead, everything is allowed. So, this worldview with God was like electricity, the ideology was so clear and the reason for my life was completely clear. That was, to a degree, a much simpler world. Today, we have a world where we have to ask the question, I think even more intensively. Again, to my point, I’m not so sure there are some simple answers. But I want to suggest that the answer that neoclassical traditional management and economics have found is not the best one. Why? Because they started out by saying utility is pleasure, right?

So, it was all about maximizing pleasure, pleasure minimizing pain, which is a philosophy that goes back to the epicurean stance, it’s just about my hedonic well-being. From there we moved into rational choice. So, we suddenly said, well, kind of maybe it’s not just pleasure, maybe it’s just a rational evaluation of different preferences, right? That’s what kind of neoclassical economics is about. And somehow in the last 30-40 years, from there we went to, it’s all about profit. And I think, this notion of profit, many people have forgotten what it is, it’s revenues minus costs. Every single employee, every customer, every life that is contained in the notion of organizing is reduced to what is the repayment of capital. And frankly, even by a rational argument, if you look at knowledge businesses, the fruits of the organizations are not only due to the financial capital that was brought into the organization, that assumption that everything the organization needs to work for and to whom the organization belongs, it’s just a capitalist, I mean, it just makes no sense.

But as Antoinette says there’s also the reductivist version of the firm is creating a lot of undue suffering. And here we go back and say, we need to answer these questions in a fashion that we’re creating flourishing and then we go into a conversation, okay, what does flourishing mean? Interestingly, whilst there are cultural contexts realities, as Antoinette is saying, actually, it’s more striking that there is a lot of synergy between what different philosophies and cultures think about flourishing, what does it mean to be truly human? I actually think the consensus is far greater than people make it not trying to reduce it to a rule set of 10 commandments or something, but saying, can we start from the idea that we need to all agree to live a good life together, because life is short, and we need to make something out of it? I think that is a — we should make it also for our children and for nature. So, I think there are lots of, in the modern, more postmodern times, there is, I think, some agreement that we can broker and then juxtapose that to the way that we’re organizing our organizations by today and seek to be better.

Stina Heikkila:
Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting to hear this analysis of the neoliberal, let’s say framework that we have financialization of our organizations, and so on. And so this brings me back to the question that I’ve seen in your work about the separation is a fallacy. Like, you cannot look at things in separation. So, if we can go into that direction based on what you just said, is that the problem that we see ourselves as too much as individual agents in a system? And how would the alternative sort of be to that? And how do you look at those relationships, quality relationships? And how is that conducive to finding a closer answer to your question? If you see what I mean.

Antoinette Weibel:
Well, I think basically, yes, neoliberalism has one idea, very much in the forefront. And this is, among other things, homo economicus. So, this is a single individual rationalizing his or her self-interest, optimizing in a rational fashion, his or her self-interest. And then everything is built on that idea that we are homo economicus, which then leads us to think about how can we make sure that this rather self-interested individual will, for instance, cooperate, come up with contracts, what you’re doing as well, we’re thinking about institutional ethics on the side of the government saying we need some punishment if people do not cooperate. So, we build everything on this idea of this single individual who is also very self-interested.

Now, I believe that’s not true to our nature, so I’m not giving you the ontological answer. I think this is what might be Otti later doing. But I’m just giving you the answer, that I believe we are really social animals. We are very much able to show sociality, to cooperate. In fact, we often do cooperate, even in games economists have come up where people usually would act in self-interest, but we act with fairness, with reciprocity. And the fact that we often don’t see that and don’t use that for our series is having the effect that we start to be more individualistic than we necessarily are. So, what we try to do when we look at that topic is to bring this other aspect back. I mean, we’re not saying that we can’t be egoistic, sometimes we are. We’re not saying that we also see ourselves as individuals. But we’re saying at the same time, relationships are also highly important and we cherish relationships. And we can even be vulnerable in relationships, if there is friendship, or more.

So, what we’re saying is kind of what if, and let’s strengthen these other aspects. And one way to strengthen this other aspect is, for instance, by thinking about how can we bring more about these moments of high quality relationships. High quality relationships, again, something very natural, all of us have already had that; when you are in sync with another person, when you feel that everything between you is flowing well, when you feel you can open up. So, I guess from a very practical side, we’re saying do not underestimate the power of our sociality. Let’s design also later organizations, which enable this part of sociality, so that in the end, we are getting towards more human organizations. But now I probably was carried away in a way a little bit. I hope it wasn’t too complicated.

Otti Vogt:
That’s exactly right. And let me try to blog on it and connect it to Simone’s point from the beginning. So, your point was one of ontology almost, right. So, the system’s perspective. I would say it’s not only ontological as in how do we comprehend reality is one of identity. And that’s what I again pointed to earlier in the Middle Ages, there was no such thing as an individual as a starting point of identity. It was always the community, it was always the kind of role that you inhabited. But here I think this is where today we have the beauty of being able to make choices. And the first choice was profit, right? So, the idea was income, or wealth determines happiness. And I think we have got so much research that shows us that is only true within certain boundaries.

One boundary is you need a minimum, right, and the numbers vary based on cultural context. The second boundary is yes, the people who are wealthier are normally happier, so to speak, than others who are not. But it also shows that there’s a lot of limitation to take income as the central pillar of well-being. There’s more to wellbeing than income. And then I think we go immediately to the question of okay, what is this? What is the rest about and one aspect is to look at hedonic versus eudaimonic. So, the ethical aspects of well-being, how can we all contribute to good society? And here, again, I want to point to the fact that people misunderstand what morality or ethics is, right? Morality, in its essence, it’s about where are the boundaries of my freedom visa vie your freedom, right? How can we all work together for something that is greater than ourselves? That is what ethics at its very heart is about because you have to decline? The goodness of the action somewhere.

To the question of is it about me versus others? The first answer is probably yes it has to be. And Aristotle was very simple. In his answer, he said, you cannot be happy without having a friend. Right? So, there’s this notion of friendship and being social, as Antoinette says, which is fundamental to our well-being. There’s a second and this is where ethics come in, which is actually we cannot construct a good society. There is good for all citizens, if we don’t find certain ways of behaving with each other that make it good for everybody. There’s some thought required and that might be contingent to Simone’s point. So, it might be, we need to agree that based on a specific situation, or country or company or whatever, but we need to have that conversation. We cannot just say, everybody making instrumental gains, that’s a good enough answer.

And then in terms of systems, I think we need to be careful what we mean by systems. I’m almost thinking of Ken Wilber, there are different ways to define the system. A human being is a system, so you can take an internal individual perspective. You can say, the team or an organization is a human system. And you can take again, an internal psychological perspective on that. Or you can go into the external realm and say, I define a system as different technical components or real visible components of a system. So, you have, when you say the word system, I think we need to be very careful what we mean. And I think in that regards, the epistemological question of our organizations are systemic, ie they’re limited in what they can know about the world and therefore need to constantly adapt is a completely different question to kind of an ontological question of how do I define myself as part of others or as part of the world. Those are both systemic questions, but very different slants.

And I’m with Antoinette, I think at some stage, we need to find a way of inter subjectivity of feeling others as much as we feel ourselves and feeling the relationships, because it’s an important ingredient to not only happiness, but also finding wisdom, finding the right answers in the way that we behave. And in that context, I find this notion of vulnerability that comes out of trust research, very interesting. Where if we want to rely on each other, if we want to get to that position of interbeing, or relationships being so important, we need to accept that there’s risk, we need to be vulnerable to be exposed to that risk of relationship.

And Luigino Bruno with whom we’re going to speak this week is suggesting that capitalism, a patriarchal kind of capitalism has done everything it could to avoid vulnerability, we want to be in control, but this is deeper than just the being in control of the environment, there is actually psychodynamic, controlling that fear the anxiety of being exposed to each other. Therefore, we are creating roles, therefore, we’re creating taxonomies, therefore, we are creating languages are very masculine, which is also very funny because traditionally economics – economia – was the realm of the woman, was the realm of the household whilst politics was the realm of the men and the peers. But the moment we industrialized economics, it became the realm of men. They’re only about 20% of professors in economics that are women. Right? No surprise, maybe that we’re all so much in favor of this male interpretation of controlling features in organizations.

Simone Cicero:
Well, it make sense because from what I’ve learned about feminism, lately, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of overlap between feminism and complexity, right, the capacity to perceive complexity, and that’s definitely not part of the leading thinking in economics and organizing today, right? We tend to think of ourselves as separated. And I mean, there’s a lot to, that you spoke about that makes me think about many of the questions that we have been approaching lately in this podcast. So, one important thing that I think I wanted to bounce back to see what you think about this. So, if we agree that we have not very much transitioned into but I would say acknowledge that we are living in a complex world where there is no positive sum game, really. The world is really a zero sum game, right, in terms of ecology, for example.

If we think about there is no way to create this abundance that everybody’s talking about, really. We’re using resources that are increasingly going to be conflicts over resources. You know, we’re seeing this happening unfolding in real-time in the world, right? Because we are living to this peak age, right, peak oil, peak resources, peak materials, whatever. And we are seeing impacts on supply chains at this moment, right. We are seeing how the supply chains that we constructed, these industrial supply chains that have created this technosphere that you also referred to when you spoke about seeing organizing as a way to detach from reality, right, to create this technological capability to separate from danger, let’s say. So, if we agree that epistemology, right, industrial epistemology, the epistemology, of rationalism of progress and technology, and I would say also prometheanism is a failed epistemology, right?

Because we recognize, we’re reckoning now that the world is complex, that we have to find the different ways to perceive and act in the world that, for example, go through beauty for example, no, and different ways to perceive what is good for the world. I think we found some answers to these questions in some pieces of work. And the most specifically, I must say, in the ideas that are related to even Illich’s conviviality, right. This idea that there is something that has to give when we are looking for different ways to relate with the word. And Illich makes often these references to the idea of austerity, right? So, this idea that you have to renounce a little bit of technology, right, you have to be critical versus, you know, towards technology, you have to look at the technology and organizations are pretty much the same thing. Right? It’s the suppression of techniques, let’s say.

And we have found some interesting points in the conviviality hypothesis in, for example, how do you develop a convivial organization? We spoke about this with Michael Sacasas recently. And we spoke about things such as human scale. And we spoke about things like being productive, instead of being a consumer. No, instead of essentially pushing consumer perspective, consumer approaches in the users, kind of enabling a more mature producer attitude in the people. So, essentially, the point that I want to make here is also a good way to connect to the topic of how do we organize, right? And in this transition, we feel that we don’t just have to develop different ways to organize. But we have to actually take care of different things. We have to, for example, take care of economies of essentials, such as food, energy, welfare, education, these things that we have pretty much delegated to the industrial complex for at least one center, right? So, this idea to change our posture, as organizers, as participants, and to take care of our stuff, being much more aware of the problematic nature of the world, the conflicting nature somehow of the world we live in.

So, the possibility that at some point, we will have to take care of our own staff, because simply resources are not there. If we don’t take care of them, let’s make an example. If I don’t take care of my energy production, I may not be able to have energy because the industrial complex, it’s not that solid, as I was thinking about that’s the idea. So, the idea that we have to take care of organizing much more in firsthand, much more as protagonist of organizing instead of consuming organizing. Does this spark some reflection of, or some ideas on your site?

Otti Vogt:
Yes. But I think it goes even deeper, because again, I think the fundamental starting point is why are we here? What does good imply? So, why are we here as kind of who are we and what’s our identity? And then the second question is, how do we act and that’s again, ethics, right? And if we say we’re here to flourish, and organizations are organisms within society, and we as society allow them to be created, and therefore they inherit necessity to become good actors in the sense of enabling our society to achieve its goals, i.e, flourishing, we have a normative perspective on what organizing is all about. It’s about bringing out the best and most human in us. And by the way, that’s not the cult of perfection isn’t me becoming the best? No, it’s about me contributing whilst I’m flourishing to the flourishing of all because as Antoinette pointed out in this notion of relationships, my happiness, my flourishing is intrinsically intertwined with your flourishing and happiness, if we are not all creating an environment within which we have justice, we have peace, we have the freedom to do certain things.

If we don’t do that, together, we cannot flourish as a society. So, if that is the starting point, from organizing as a normative position, of course, I still need to be viable. So, viability or profitability condition is a secondary request, so to speak, but the primary necessity is to contribute to the good of all, then I think you immediately go on to the question of, okay, how do we do that? And our idea was to say, well, there are three levels as actors within society organization need to contribute to the environment to the ecosystem they’re in. So, they have to behave responsibly. Within the organization and the community that it creates across suppliers, across customers, and so on, it again, needs to enable that connected, flourishing. And finally, we can never ignore the individual because the cherishing of the individual is ultimately what the society and the community together need to do. It’s not a collectivist, we tell you what to do. No, it’s we’re all here to co elevate and bring you out in the beauty and the uniqueness of the individual.

So, being the breeding ground for individualism is an intrinsic part of this way of organizing. And then you start to see the market differently. So, the market is not there as a cold-hearted kind of immune, you’re not knowing that the participants way up optimizing allocation of resources. No, it’s an intrinsic mechanism that allows me to make my unique contribution to the good of all because I’m good at something but not good at another thing. So, the market allows me to bring in my bid. Someone else does their bit and altogether we do something collectively that is great. Right? And that vision of the market, which was prevalent in the thinking of someone like Antonio Genovesi, the famous Italian economist 1769, in the University of Naples, who, by the way, was the first ever chair, kind of inhabitant of a chair for economics, right, that kind of thinking we’ve lost, we have instrumentalized ourselves. We’ve enslaved ourselves in this purely instrumental paradigm where it’s all about optimizing consumption. And so I think what we’re opting for is, let’s go back to the roots and re-envisage, reimagine, recreate a new language for this different way of acting.

And again, the second point, and then over to answer that is, in the Aristotelian logic, which is very much what we have embraced. So, virtue ethics in Aristotelian, combined with stakeholder theory, which comes from pragmatism, and a few other bits and pieces. In that logic, it’s not so much about the question who’s right or who’s wrong? It’s a question of who are we and who can we become, it’s a question of character. So, again, the logic would not so be let’s limit this and limit that netzero. Net something else, which is all the language of utilitarianism. It’s through our organizing, who can we individually and collectively become what is their beautiful vision of who we could be? And how do we enact that?

And then rather than kind of technical systems thinking and so on, it goes back to compassion, right? It goes back to love, it goes back to what are these attitudes and virtues that we bring into every single conversation, into every single role that we have is re-enchanting, so to speak, the way that we interact and not re-enchanting with ideological or religious thinking but with the as you said earlier beauty the aesthetics of bringing out the human good in everything that we do. And that requires a degree of temperance. And if you look at any religion or philosophical tradition, this I have to limit myself a little bit so that we can all flourish and I will ultimately do that not because I have to, but because I know that I will flourish through not giving into my excesses so to speak, that I think is a little bit this character education that we need to regain. So, we cannot just look at organizations, we need to look at educating citizenship inside organizations and as organizations to contribute to society. That’s, I think, Antoinette our long and wide kind of frame. What’s your view?

Antoinette Weibel:
I had to smile a little bit because I was just waiting for the wisest maybe. Yeah, I mean, if I just again, take up what Otti was saying, and again, maybe not from a systems perspective, although I can see that you probably can frame it also in that perspective as you stated. Then I would say what we are saying, if it’s about who can we become, it’s about our everyday actions whilst we’re working. And there are at least three things, which I believe are very important. And if I say them they, in my opinion, don’t sound so complicated. So, it’s about being better citizens, you just call the producers and in taking more care of the industrial complex, that’s another way to put it, I’m just saying becoming better citizen. So, ask the question, who am I in service for, and it could be an internal customer, it could be an external customer, there could be stakeholders, but kind of made that very, very clear.

Bring it back, again, more reflection, yes, we have to react more quickly. Yes, we are often just kind of adapting but we are still humans, we have this capacity to reflect, to be reasonable. So, bring that into the work more clearly. And that could be then done together. So, we learn about deliberation, that can be done for yourself, so you learn about yourself, you learn moral affection, you learn how to do things better, also on a very practical plane. And then the last thing is, work on the relationships. Because in the relationships, you are going to have the best chances to get better. So, this is then just a practical kind of translation, I think, what Otti was saying, and how we believe you can bring that into organizations almost a little bit like a Trojan horse. That doesn’t sound so complicated to me. Otti now you want to say something.

Otti Vogt:
If I make the loop, what Antoinette is saying, and again, I want to make the point, what we’re describing here is almost like another extreme position, not to say that is the only position but to put the dot on the horizon to say, let’s reflect from where we are, what the right on that range, where is our right position is. Antoinette says this reflection of who should we become is important, because otherwise, we might be losing our lives in just running faster and faster after the wrong, idle, so to speak. Right. And therefore, one judgment that we make in terms of the goodness of organizations is simply what type of people do they produce? Loving, social flourishing beings? Or angry, violent, disconnected, unhappy, depressed, burned out people?

Right, what kind of our choice because it’s our world and our organizations? And this is I think, so we can talk about the technicalities of how we organize inside organizations, we can talk about autonomy, and we talk about freedom, microenterprises, whatever you want. But we shouldn’t forget about A, why are we here? And B, what are the basic mechanisms of making people flourish? And then three, how do we translate that into an organizational context? And what are the circumstances or conditions in the wider economy and the wider society that are interactive with that? So, there are system logic and all three levels. But we need to bring it together because otherwise, again, I fear it’s so easy to just do what we’re doing but better, which is not the right thing.

Stina Heikkila:
Yeah, I think you quite clearly describe that actually, ethics reside in the relationship like between people, you cannot really do that in isolation, let’s say. It’s about your relationship with the other and the boundaries of your own freedom, like you mentioned. And so it’s quite interesting also to think about because we’re very bad at this, right, I think most people are very bad at negotiating, agreeing, trying to be together. We have sort of, we haven’t really learned that. And you mentioned education, which is an interesting space too where we definitely don’t really learn those kinds of skills, but we’re still go into compartmentalized things, students get sorted out of sort of abilities, and very early in life get trained into being productive being, let’s say, tackling one subject at a time and so on.

This is helpful, because I know that Simone also wanted to go into more on the contracts and so on. So, maybe one question is also like how technology can help us in this as a complement to the human to human relationships. Because otherwise well, I mean, we do live in a very technological world, as well and that’s how a lot of things are organized, like we mentioned previously. So, do you see that as a caution point, or as an enabler, essentially to this?

Antoinette Weibel:
Maybe I go first at that because that’s probably a slightly different answer than you will get from Otti. Because I was just at the trust conference where we were also looking at the interplay of artificial intelligence and relationships and trust. Technology is as everything is first an instrument, and it always depends how we deploy that instrument. And what we have found out is, first of all, it changes a little bit, the situation of the employees, because often the way we use technology raises their vulnerability, rather reduces it. And one answer we find then very important is that we do not react towards this, in a way, like making sure that there is no vulnerability because invariably will bring up more vulnerability. But that, on the other side, there’s also hate and vulnerability that’s a little bit counterintuitive.

And I think opposite to some of the suggestions. But I do believe you shouldn’t lose or you should even be more active the vulnerability on the side of the organization, for instance, on the side of the leader, because thereby you then create the possibilities for bigger trust for better relationships, rather than to shut it down completely by doing everything only by the design of technology. I mean, this is what is often done. I think, rather, you have to have more options open and make yourself more vulnerable on the more powerful side, because there is still a more powerful side too. That is hopefully not too complicated answer. I could give you more precise answers. We have looked at various ways how to do that. But maybe that’s also the time to do that here. And I think also Otti has probably a slightly different answer. This is now just coming straight out of our research when we looked at that.

Otti Vogt:
Well, I think it’s all and again, to Simone’s point, right, it’s kind of this world is so complex, and it’s so hard to find the way to take a stance in life that feels good for us and for the people we’re with. Right? And in that context, technology impacts us every day. And the question of, kind of, is it good, is it bad? It’s a question I think, as Stina was just saying, we have to continue asking. And there’s some fundamental things which I think are so important. There’s this notion, we landed kind of why are we hear, there is no meaning in life, but we have an opportunity to create meaning within that through the relationships that we have through what we create together. And that to a degree is, what might be called the absurdity of life. There is a life, there is no sense in our existence as such, but we actually have a means to create meaning by ourselves.

And I think that is something we always need to keep very, very prevalent. And that requires our vulnerability to each other and through these questions. Right? We can be wounded, we can be hurt by being open to these questions. But that is our only hope. We will fail, so to speak, if we close these questions, if we close ourselves to others, and these questions, we can only lose. And technology sometimes becomes — closes these questions. Either it’s instrumentalized, to control people and take away the freedom that is the very prerequisite for responsibility. We can only become responsible if we are free to do so. We can only become friends if we’re free to become friends. So, freedom is always the basis but it’s not in itself, for me, and this is where I don’t agree with Amartya Sen. I don’t think it’s the end. The end is flourishing is the good life freedom is a necessary prerequisite.

So, if technology is either causing freedom of people, or it’s causing some of these answers, and just continuing on the path we are on, I think it can become an obsession, it can become an addiction, it can become something that closes us and makes us smaller as humans than what we can be. And I think at the end of the day, this is about an anthropological question, almost. Like, what is it, what does it mean to be truly human? And I think there’s beauty as you said, Simone. There’s some beauty we can bring out and maybe sometimes we don’t even need to ask the question: what is right or wrong or good or bad? Let’s ask the question, what is beautiful? Is our technology, is our acting, is our behaving, is our speaking, is that beautiful? Is our organization beautiful?

And I guess if we go beyond the vanity of the superficiality and ask that question with an open mind, so to speak, and an open heart then yeah, we probably will know the answer. But as Antoinette pointed out earlier and Stina said we need to continue to ask that question and not only by ourselves but together. And here technology can certainly help. It can make organization more participative, it can offer people to engage, opportunities to engage, create communities and endorse critical thinking and all those good things. That’s why I think technology can be immensely powerful if it’s used in the right way. But let’s make sure it’s not closing out things that haven’t been investigated and examined sufficiently, right? Otherwise we fall into traps.

Antoinette Weibel:
You can only learn trusting by trusting. So, I mean, this is, for me, one example. We shouldn’t use technology in the sense that it kind of deprives us what we need to learn as human beings in order to be really flourishing individuals. It should enable us, it should support us and you can do this very often, but it should also let us having our failures, for instance, that’s very important, because you cannot have vulnerability without sometimes also falling down, this is just very normal. And that, I think, is very important.

Simone Cicero:
I mean, I feel we are having very hard times during these conversations in general in the practice to focus on this kind of via negativa, this question of accepting that the evolution of organizing, it may also be about subtracting something, right? It may be about letting go of something, it may be about something that has to give, right? In terms of our expectations, for example, even towards modernity, right, because at the end of the day, these discussion around wokeism, versus basicness and this kind of culture wars that we are living, to some extent, I feel that we have signals from both sides, right? we have signal both on the globalists, technological power head, Prometheanism agenda. Technology is important. And for example, when we speak about contract based organizing, if you don’t have a blockchain or contract, platform, whatever, you cannot really do much.

But on the other side, in our thinking, these platforms, these technological platforms are needed for people to take responsibility to organize in a much more embedded context. So, in producing their own energy, their own food, their own water security, their own bio regional economics and so on. So, in a much more based, if you want, more traditional way of thinking that, for example, reconnects with this idea of beauty, lots of the discussion around traditionalism, for example, at the moment, and taking care of production, taking care of agriculture. And you know, all these homesteading movement, for example, that is emerging online, it’s all about reconnecting with beauty, reconnecting with traditions, and so on. So, I think we are having a hard times reconciling these two things. It seems that we have two churches, but we cannot really make it work as a — make a synthesis of it.

That may be the only way forward for organizing, embracing this kind of need to re-embed organizing in our real context; in our communities in our landscapes. And at the same time, bringing technology with us as we do so. I think this is probably the space where I’m interested in exploring. And that’s why when I wrote recently this post about the context and the nature of the firm. My hypothesis is: corporates are there, for example, right? As they evolve into contracting platforms, they will enable their teams to re-embed into their own priorities, their own context, both locally and community wise.

So, I’m wondering if you have maybe a few closing words on this kind of yin yang dynamic, right, the globalist progress technology part and the tradition embeddedness community landscape parts? How do we find a synthesis around these maybe starting from the context of organizing that we have now, which is full of incumbents and large corporations that need to be re-embedded with society, basically.

Otti Vogt:
It’s not easy because I think, again, and this notion of system, right, so if we acknowledge the fact that different ways to interpret what system thinking means, I think this psychodynamic interpretation of systems is extremely relevant. It’s not so much looking at the system as to what is visible what it means. What is the relevance of power? What’s the relevance of authority? What are the taboos and so on, how does the organization speak to us? As Antoinette says, does the organization tell us I trust you, I cherish you as a unique human being and I want to make you flourish. And that is the only justification for asking you to be responsible and contribute to our all flourishing. Is that the language that is going on unconsciously in the dialogue between me and the organization I’m in?

So, I think, and to your point about this, I interpret this search for nature and harmony and people are going also in some of the Eastern religions, very similar to what happened in romanticism. People forget that romanticism is on the superficially connected to this notion of romantic. It was actually a very, very strong counter movement to enlightenment. Because enlightenment was all about rationality, it was all about science. And romanticism was about the return to nature, return to the classics and also a heroic view of the raw individual, like you say, so we got this enlightenment idea, which also to a degree is expressing the technological progress. There’s a degree of search for endless living in there, right? There’s a hubris contained in that. And you have this counter movement of people who are going back into nature, but also into themselves. And I think both are not the right way to — We need to find a third way which is about coming together as people as Antoinette said, find the deliberative mechanisms to talk vulnerably, embrace each other and say kind of the world is not easy.

How can we together kind of look each other in the eye and become, as Henry Mintzberg says, interdependent for the good of all, because we have been born dependent on each other; the idea-illusion of separation, the illusion of independence is flawed. And cherishing that the moment that God was out of the picture has, to a degree, brought us to extract value from each other and from the world. And that is something that most deeply inside ourselves will require that maturity and wisdom to say, no, there must be a different way and we cannot find it by ourselves. It can only be in the relationship. So, I think it transcends technology and signs, it transcends romanticism and escapism, to a degree, back to the beauty of nature. No, we have to finally grow up and get out of this midlife complex. And by the way, above all, all the male kind of type leaders like myself, they need to start to re-embrace some of that interdependence. Antoinette, what do you think?

Antoinette Weibel:
I was thinking that, again, the core should always be this question, how can we enable flourishing; that should be the core. Of course with this condition that the system or the organization needs to be viable. And then everything just needs to go from there, because for me everything then is just a means to this end. I mean, I also read your article, and I found it interesting. But for me, contracts are just one means to accomplish that even in a complex world, even in the HR world. It might even be bureaucracy, it surely should be also trust. But of course, the question is always how we enact it, how we implement it, what is the intention behind? How are we driving together the system towards that flourishing? That is, for me, the main point. I don’t think there is a panacea which will solve everything.

And I would just say, heterogeneity, in my opinion, is probably the answer to complexity. I mean, at least this is the reading I always had. Jay Lorsch was saying very clearly, you need to be internally complex as well, if you have external complexity. And that, to me, means more have many flowers, but make sure in the end that we’re really flourishing. That’s what I would say. And it sounds a little bit lofty here because we of course cannot go into the details of your article, but maybe we do that at another time.

Simone Cicero:
No, but I mean, I don’t think that’s the point. I mean, I think my feeling is that when Otti, for example, when you refer to this third way, right to these sentences, right, I feel that we are not really open to the idea that this third way, the synthesis is nothing that we cannot reach because it’s inherent in the nature of humans, right. So, for example, when we speak about flourishing, are we speaking about human flourishing, or are we speaking about health, system health. So, for example, the others, not just humans, but the trees and the water, and the regions, right, the landscapes, I think it’s very hard to get to the synthesis. And I don’t think we have cracked, yet this kind of challenge that recognizing complexity is pushing us into, right. So, as we go outside of this industrial age, we recognize that the world is complex, we don’t have answers, and I don’t think we are so comfortable in not having those answers yet. Right?

But for sure, your work on these topics and our work on the enabling organizing models, I think it represent ingredients that we can use in at least having the chance to measure ourselves with these problems, with these challenges, with these thinking, these questions, instead of just retreating and say let’s go back to the categories we’re familiar with. Let’s instead embrace this complexity, these problems that we have on the table. Even if we don’t have the answer. I think we should really push ourselves into these, to quote, Donna Haraway, this trouble, right. You have to stay in this trouble a little bit. So, thank you so much.

I mean, the conversation was very reaching. I mean, it opened up so many points that we have to come back to, I think, and our listeners will have tons of suggestions to start explore the work of others as well. So, maybe it’s good to, since the questions are also very meaty, let’s say, and I’m sure that we are just at the start, it’s good to give pointers to where they can find your work, and follow your steps in this research through your videos, your blogs, so maybe you can just give us a couple of pointers, for the listeners to reconnect with your work in the coming weeks and months.

Otti Vogt:, LinkedIn, Antoinette also on Twitter, me on all the social platforms, but not very active. But I think again, most importantly, as you said, Simone, engage. So, look at the stuff but most importantly, find the fora with us or with others to enter into this dialogue. These questions are very hard, but they’re necessary like you said.

Simone Cicero:
Yeah, I feel that people sometimes have this — they hesitate in engaging publicly with these challenges, right? Because their business persona may be impacted. Right? Their image may be impacted from having too many questions on how do you run a business? How do you run an organization, what motivates you, what we’re supposed to do with our organization skills and so on. So, really engage, that’s the key word for today. So, thank you so much, both of you. Thank you Otti. Thank you, Antoinette. So, thank you so much, both of you. And Stina, thank you so much as well, for your contribution.

Stina Heikkila:
Thank you very much.

Simone Cicero:
Thank you. And to our listeners, catch up soon.