Creating Heart Capital

This post was first published in January 2009 but has gained renewed relevance in today’s crisis ridden world. It reminds us that too much focus on quantitative metrics can go only one way viz. downwards. (Incidentally, Knowledgeboard has since shut down.)

–Sunil Malhotra

 When I coined the phrase “Heart Capital” a few years ago, I didn’t recognise it’s prophetic undertones. And for those who might want to read my article, here’s the pdf Heart Capital.

The ideas and views regain relevance with today’s ‘communities’ on the collaborative web. (2.0)

Here’s John Moore’s comment on the article I wrote in 2003.

“I love these lines in particular :

To humanise is to recognise that technology cannot replace the charm of personal contact. To humanise is to disrupt current business thinking and methods. To humanise is to add emotion. To humanise is to add fun to work and work systems.

I think the discussion about emotional environment is important; a lot of money goes into trying to create great physical spaces for work (and that’s no bad thing) but the manners and subleties of human contact deserve equal attention.

I would add that as well as being fun, the creation of real “heart capital” requires taking risks and being vulnerable. Acknowledging our true feelings feels risky in many enviroments; yet in my experience it is often a touchstone for deeper and more satisfying human engagement.”

Thanks John!

Here’s another excerpt from the article.  :-

It is time now, to create heart capital. An exchange of feelings, emotions and culture to foster knowledge creation and sharing.

– An asset for individual growth and organizational excellence.
– A tool for sharpening the competitive edge.
– A culture for human enrichment.
– A plan to protect and propagate our common heritage.

Let’s ask ourselves some questions.
Is it [not] necessary [for us] to create a new lexicon of corporate nomenclature if we want to change
traditional thinking?

For example, HR is traditionally responsible for all people issues in an organization. Does this mean that other departments do not need to care about people? Is there something about the nomenclature “HR” that needs repairing? When dealing with materials, the word “resource” is probably appropriate. But Human Resource?? I thought resources were for people to use, so how appropriate is it to think of human beings as resources?

The entire business terminology needs a revamp. Human Resources should become Corporate Citizenship, Research & Development should become Knowledge Innovation, and so on. The focus is clearly shifting from efficiency to effectiveness, from sentiment to passion, from profit to value and from performance to the emotional well being of the user.

Comments and critiques welcome.

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12 Replies to “Creating Heart Capital”

  1. Hello,

    Walk down the memory lane ! Excellent one 🙂 I think you’re really stepping up the gear with some powerful thoughts. Keep up the work for social-benefit.

    A small attempt to incite a conversation with a couple of thoughts:

    Is it [not] necessary [for us] to create a new lexicon of corporate nomenclature if we want to change traditional thinking?

    IMHO, it is a nice-idea to re-think about corporate nomenclature, but somebody needs to be a touch-point somewhere. It is not that people do not think about others if they’re not from HR but at the end-of-the day who is the interface/enabler/responsibility-bearer?

    I guess, the above thought can be applied in the context of other support functions.

    About ‘Human Resource’
    To be honest, there is 100% truth in what you said. But then, skilled workers are treated as resources who’re good at doing a variety of jobs?

    Just like a computer, who is good at multi-processing !

    The debate is similar to natural resources v/s natural capital.
    I visualize ‘Human Resource’ as a resource for all other human-beings.

    [What] Resource = Reference Point
    [Whom] = Human beings


  2. I’m trying to understand your thought Daksh. My only problem is using the word “resource” in a way that equates human beings with other resources. Human ability is in any case a key “resource” for knowledge based work.

    The debate really is on finding appropriate corporate nomenclature that communicates correctly to the rest of the world, and at the same time, gives due respect to people. Of course, for this to happen, we have to first understand that human beings are not simply alternatives to machines, materials, or both.


  3. Excellent points, Sunil ..

    Semantics in the workplace have a profound influence on how we think and act, though we give it little conscious thought. From a systems model perspective, I agree with Daksh, you need to supply the right mix of human resources to the enterprise to make things happen. Like the catalyst ingredient in process manufacturing, you need people around. Even factories can’t function without people ..

    But Sunil you are making a deep and sweeping points along other vectors, about the emotional and social health of individuals, and the importance of a fully engaged workforce. The motivator of commitment, for example, only humans can bring to the table. If present and nurtured, it serves to unlock passion and energy that every organization needs to improve ..

    In the KM context, Ikojiro Nonaka spoke often of “care” as an integral element of KM. I think it was offered in the same vein ..

    But in the west, as Margaret Wheatley reminds us, humans and their emotions are viewed as sources of error. HR as a function, unfortunately, has historically been intended to “deal with” those errors, before they infect the interworkings of the corporate machine .. the more enlightened HR leaders .. perhaps, I’m hopeful, more and more .. deal with the whole person, and how that whole person impacts and improves the company. That to me is what OD can achieve. But that’s in cultures where people are valued, and not simply measured by how many outputs they can produce per shift.

    Time for a change? Perhaps. Thanks for keeping these ideas in play.


    1. Thanks very much Chris, for sharing some very important differences in work ethic owing to cultural moorings. I think both subjectivity and objectivity at the extremes have equal, if not similar, problems. Striking the right balance will augur well for tomorrow’s business; in my view the main problem has been the carrying over of industrial age thinking. The resultant has been seeing human beings as merely alternatives to machines.


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