A couple of people have asked me lately if it’s possible to find work in an organization that values people. Like, really values people – a place that encourages them to show up whole, makes space for bottom-up change, and does work based on connectedness, not fear.
Someone asked specifically if I thought organizations like that were unicorns – legendary, fleeting creatures that may or may not have ever existed.
My immediate answer was “no,” because there are organizations like that in today’s workforce – organizations like Sounds True, Buurtzorg, and Morning Star. These are real-life places where employees are managing themselves, their work, and they’re kicking ass in their industries.
But I want to take this analogy a little further and flesh out my response. Warning: you might think I’m crazy once I start talking about unicorn people at work, but try to just roll with the metaphor.
Many people believe that unicorn legends are based in reality – that in China and the Middle East, horned animals like rhinoceros and certain types of oxen were woven into various stories that eventually grew more and more magical.
Unicorns appear in art and stories across cultures, and some of their basic traits are that their horns could be used to heal sickness, aid in protection, and that they were wild, fleeting creatures that could only be caught by a virgin girl who sat quietly waiting in the woods.
Interestingly, one scholar pointed out that unicorns are the only mythological creature that doesn’t seem to have originated from human fears. They’ve been stripped of some of their darker traits as the years have gone on, but generally, it was believed that unicorns could only help and heal, and they could only be drawn in by someone “pure of heart” (let’s assume that has nothing to do with whether someone is a virgin).
So if we’re looking for unicorn-like organizations, then we’re looking for places that are healing, helpful, a little hard to pin down, and drawn to people with a good heart.
Honestly, I think there are still only a few unicorn organizations in our modern world of work. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, they’re just harder to find.
There may only be a few unicorn organizations, but I know that there are a lot of unicorn people within organizations. Sweet, sensitive people with integrity who are trying to keep their unicorn-ness even though it’s hard.
We can all be unicorns.
We are all wild, capable of healing, and drawn to others whose hearts are pure. We are those things already, we just get stuck in old belief systems and environments that can suffocate us.
There’s a whole community of unicorns out there, and as long as you choose to believe they exist, you can surround yourself with their hopefulness and innovation. You can find the unicorns of the working world in places like Enlivening Edge, the Reinventing Organizations Wiki page, and in our Facebook group.
To amp up your unicorn powers, all you have to do are the things that feel healing and that make you want to help others. To go even further, you can surround yourself with people who believe that unicorns exist, individually and as organizations.
For those of you who feel cynical and like these organizations just aren’t real, or that change isn’t possible, I’d leave you with this question:
Isn’t life just a little brighter and more fun when you believe unicorns are real?