Humans of the Enterprise

I’ve been in love with the Humans of New York (HONY) project ever since I discovered it a while ago. I’m always touched or amused or surprised by the great photos, but most of all by the personal stories and by how New Yorkers freely and openly share a bit about themselves and their experiences, often very personal tales of trials and tribulations.

Yesterday it occurred to me that it could be valuable to get inspired by this and mimic such a project inside our organizations, hence giving rise to Humans of the Enterprise, taking one further step into humanizing our companies by sharing our people in a, well, human way 🙂

But it also dawned on me how hard it is usually to get colleagues to “expose” themselves inside the boundaries, and on the platforms, of the company, be it sharing something about their past professional experience, their hobbies or even a real profile photo on the intranet or enterprise social network platform.

Part of the reason may be shyness. But I also think we are constrained by the experience and practices of past working generations where the norm would be to separate work and life and, as they say today, not bring their whole selves to work. In this sense, it may seem strange to openly share something of our “personal” side in the context of work.

I also believe that the specific norms inside an organization (aka, “this is how we do things here”), can help deter participation: the local HR department may not find the initiative worthy or may require that every participation must pass their approval, the bosses may not encourage their teams to participate and more.

Will that change some day? Are we increasingly feeling more comfortable with exposing our whole selves in a work context? I wonder…





2 thoughts on “Humans of the Enterprise

  1. I am having a moment of “ah ha” that somebody else sees the power of telling your story in a corporate setting. We are all just human beings trying to find our way. Try this – next time there is a leadership meeting or training event, have participants create a collage photo story of their life’s journey with an emphasis on highs and lows. Provide people with photo-stickers and a blueprint to stick them on. We call the exercise ‘Pivot Points’ and use it in our workshops. It is amazing how much people reveal and how interested colleagues become in each other. It is a great kick off and way to create new connections.

    • Thanks for the tip David, Pivot Points sounds like a good exercise.
      From your experience, do people from different cultural backgrounds (ex: nationalities) participate with the same enthusiasm and open-mindedness? I ask this because I often notice that, independently from the person’s own personality, some people are more willing to share their story in a corporate setting than others (and frequently that correlates to where they are from).
      Thank you!

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