Following an inspirational speech about the meaning of work at the 2014 conference, philosopher Alain de Botton returned to discuss developing a mindset for change.
On a personal level, he argued that change is catastrophic because it means disintegration. “In other areas of our life, we do everything to stay still, so it’s bizarre that in business we are supposed to embrace change,” he suggested.
The best way to be ready for change, he said, is to focus on what is unchanging. He argued that human nature in essence does not change, but with the advent of technology – which, in contrast, changes all the time – we have allowed ourselves to be intimidated.
For de Botton, the key to workforce change is an emotionally intelligent employer.
“Technology is a tool but philosophy sets the course”
“Technology is a tool but philosophy sets the course,” he said. De Botton added that “there are not enough philosophers in the boardroom”.
He urged delegates to take the time to focus on big questions, such as what your organisation stands for, rather than being distracted by “defensiveness”, which, he argued, characterises many leaders today.
“Good change depends on good psychology,” he said. “If we got rid of defensiveness, my goodness would productivity rise.”