Take a look around you.
Yes, really. Right now.
What do you see?
You might see lamps that are on, providing light for your workspace. You might see heating/cooling vents, pumping air that keeps your office at a comfortable temperature. You might look out the window and see cars or trucks driving past. You might see audio speakers (hopefully playing some beautiful music). You might see LED indicators lit up on printers or other electronics, signifying they're getting power from the wall, even if they're not currently in use. And if you were able to look inside the walls, you'd see wires and pipes moving electricity and water throughout the building.
What makes everything get to where it's going?
In a word, energy. Everything around you runs on energy.
But not exactly the energy you're thinking about.
Most of the time, when we think "energy," we think about the kind that comes from the earth -- coal, natural gas, wind, solar, etc. These are the things that 'power' all of the mechanical things around us: our houses, cars, speakers, and office buildings. But think for a moment about everything it takes to get that energy to work.
A person has to dig the coal out of the ground. A person has to figure out a way to harness the wind. A person has to develop the technology to collect and store the sun's rays. A person has to put the wires and pipes inside the walls of your office. A person has to design and build all your beloved devices with flickering LEDs. A person has to create and record the music you love.
If we look a little deeper, we notice that the precursor to everything is HUMAN energy.
So you see, everything around you does run on energy -- but it's energy that comes from the people around you first.
Given this reality, it's quite shocking to see how little we pay attention to the energy of people, especially at work.
In many organizations, we wear "tiredness" like a badge of honor -- "I pulled an all-nighter getting that project done!" or "I was on that global project call at 2am!" -- and then we not-so-subtly spread the gospel of our draining exploits to colleagues through a visage of weariness. We feel bizarrely accomplished for having completed whatever the crazy project was, but at the same time we silently hate ourselves a little for actually going through with the insanity of letting something at work literally rule our lives.
Then, too often in our companies we don't do much of anything that actively re-energizes people, either. In many places I visit, we don't even talk about how to do more activities that refresh and rejuvenate human beings -- things like getting adequate sleep, scheduling times for rest and recovery after busy projects, stocking the break room with healthy food, or building meaningful relationships.
And we certainly don't try to actively align people's work roles with what intrinsically makes them feel strong and energized.
In many of our organizations, it's safe to say the human energy that makes everything happen is at best an afterthought, and at worst is off the radar and completely ignored.
Here's the truth for us all -- in the very near future (read: it's already happening), the organizations who tap into the rhythms of human energy that truly power everything around us are the ones who will win.
Is your company one of them?
Josh Allan Dykstra is a recognized thought leader on the future of work and company culture design. He is the Co-CEO of Forte, a consulting group that helps organizations and leaders leverage the power of a strong culture, and Co-CEO of Strengthscope U.S., the exclusive distributor of the Strengthscope® product suite in the United States. He co-founded The Work Revolution, a movement/advocacy group that promotes life-giving work environments for everyone, and has an eclectic work background that includes projects with organizations like Apple, Sony, Genentech, Microsoft, HTC, and the University of Southern California as well as startups and nonprofits. He holds an MBA in Executive Leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his latest book, Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn't Suck, is available on amazon.com.