Building A Humanist Organisation

5 Keys To Building A Business That Doesn’t Bury The Humans At Its Core

Tim Leberecht

Humanist company aspires to a greater purpose that enables the ideal human condition through its very pursuit.


This requires an emotional understanding of the sentiments, dreams, desires, and ambitions of their employees and customers.

Amidst a flood of explicit “big data” and confronted with the constant urge to quantify human relationships, empathetic enterprises preserve and refine their intuition--an appreciation for the implicit and the opaque.

Design Research, the methodology of the creative ethnographer, is helping companies “bond” with their employees, partners, and customers by understanding their daily lives.

Empathetic businesses can sense mood shifts early on and readily adapt to new behaviors, long before intuition becomes knowledge.


Humanist organizations are like “mutual aid communities.” These communities are based on trust and like-mindedness, that is, familiar mores, traditions, and customs as well as shared values.

Culture is key for collaboration.

Humanist organizations create distinct narratives and tribal identities that turn their brands into movements.

It demands a chief culture officer in every organization.


Questions of “how much” matter much less than the question of “how” (how we think, behave lead, govern, operate, consume, engender trust, and relate to others).

As a result, moral businesses match internal and external character, purpose and action, words and deeds, and they no longer tolerate a gap between idealism and pragmatism, between principles and practical reasons.


Successful creative businesses constantly reinvent themselves.

For Virgin’s Richard Branson, for example, everything is an experiment.

All of these creative enterprises embrace unpredictability as the new consistency.

Their leaders are not measured by how much uncertainty they can eliminate but how much of it they can tolerate.

They are hyper-social organizations but also ones that create space for solitude, moments for the individual to be alone with their thoughts.

“What is interesting about you is you.” As trite as it may sound, creative businesses give people time and space to be themselves.

People don’t want to innovate. They want to dream, empathize, bond, do the right thing, and create. In doing so, they may end up innovating (or as Tim O’Reilly says, “Innovation starts with people having fun”) but what truly drives them is something different.


This can be characterized as the quest to work toward a unique mission, whether it is individual advancement, spiritual enlightenment, or social progress.

The prerequisite of aspiration is imagination, and its immediate product is hope, the lifeblood of any human endeavor.

Employee interviews: What is it that you want to change?” This requires a different kind of alignment--not the traditional one between goals and execution, but one between organizational aspiration and employee passions.

At Frog, we have established loosely structured “centers of passion,” wary that a too formal setup might stifle the very informality in which passions thrive.

Humanist businesses shift their organizational rationale from productivity to impact, from excellence to significance.