The latest RBEFF call was held on the evening of 28 November 2017. As the name suggests the call is for anybody interested in the role that relationships play in any of those three overlapping worlds – business, economics and finance.

The format for the calls is simple. One of the participants is earmarked as the “presenter” and they talk for 15 to 20 minutes on a subject of their choice, as long as it is vaguely themed on relationships in the B, E or F world. We then have as long as everybody wants for Q&A and discussion based on the presentation.

So far using this format we have had a call on using the Relational Proximity Framework in a real corporate situation, we have had a call on the fit of relationship within the Blueprint for Better Business and we have had this call, led exceptionally well by John Kay, on Thriving People, Thriving Organisations.

If what follows makes no sense, or is inaccurate in anyway then it my reporting, not John’s excellent insights.

The opening premise is the well-known statistic that only 31% of people thrive at work. As John pointed out, over all his years at PA Consulting, and I can echo this from my experience at KPMG, he participated in, was subjected to and subjected clients to, thousands of initiatives from the HR profession designed to help people thrive at work. And yet only 31% of people thrive at work. What is going wrong?

Of course, the stated intention is rarely to help people thrive but more often to help them excel, or succeed more, or exceed expectations. Whilst the first is about the individual, the latter three are all about the organisation and everyone knows it.

What John and his colleagues have done is to formulate a vision of four areas that contribute to a thriving work place. The first is the Person. People need to be able to feel their own value and arouse their own self-worth in order to thrive. The second is Relationship. Our relationships can free us or bind us and how relationship manifests within the organisation determines our capacity to thrive. The third is Work Community. This is the network of other organisations and people in the outside world that the person comes into contact with through their work. Again, this network of interactions and relationships can either help or hinder the individual’s ability to thrive. Lastly there is the Environment. That is the national and sometimes international paradigm that surrounds the organisation and its sector.

The lines between these four areas are not rigidly defined. The Environment both incorporates and influences the sector and the sector is both in the environment but very much part of the culture that creates the Work Community. To the person who is thriving they might see themselves as sitting on top of this tree. To the person not thriving they might see themselves as beneath it.

For the person to thrive effort is required in all of these areas. If as a manager in an organisation I am determined to help my people thrive but the organisation nurtures rivalry between departments and the promotion of bullies and charlatans, then I will fail. Not only will I fail but I will also not thrive myself. Similarly, a sector might develop many approaches to collaboration and innovation and an atmosphere of exciting possibility, but if that is in the context of a depressed economic landscape, weak government and governance then the collaboration and innovation will most likely be wasted.

It is not for one person or one organisation to build all four areas but for governments, corporations, civil society and individuals to do this in harmony. However, every person and every organisation have a contributory role to play in building all four areas. What I do, as an individual, influences the Supportive Environment for better or worse.

John talked us through the four models or tools that he saw fitting each of these four areas best. Models that might be used to shape our thinking and ultimately our interventions. For the Person that model was The Map of Meaning ( Working with an individual with The Map of Meaning is about helping them understand their personal perspective (and potentially to challenge that perspective) across three dimensions – Being/Doing; Self/Others; and Inspiration/Reality.

The model John uses for relationship is Relational Proximity. This is the model that all members of the RTN will be familiar with from the work of Michael Schluter, David Lee and many others. In essence this is a social constructivist model of relationship that has been widely used to help strengthen individual and group relationships by lifting the dialogue out of the immediate challenge and into the parties’ ability to operate human to human. This sounds airy fairy, but it is not. In practice it is a powerful way of creating positive change.

The Blueprint for Better Business is proposed as the framework for the work community. This is a set of principles, promulgated by the NGO of the same name, and a framework for decision making that puts respect for the human person at the core of all corporate decision making.

Finally, the concept of Social Capital is put forward as the dominant tool for the Environment. Where Social Capital is high we can say that the society is rich in collaboration, diversity, contribution and community engagement. Politics is about creating goods that are common to the whole of society, not just about pitching segments against each other.

After John had clearly articulated the four areas and their related tools on the call there were a few questions and comments from the participants. Our conclusion overall was that we had been introduced to a way of putting together layers of thinking about some fairly existential questions in business, combined with some of the best thinking for each of those layers as to how to engender positive outcomes within and beyond them.

We aim to hold these RBEFF calls roughly every two to three months. New speakers are always welcome as are new participants. If you would like to be on the mailing list to find out when the next one is you can contact either Scott Gray ( or Vincent Neate (

By Vincent Neate