Good Work

Have you ever wondered whether the work you, your colleagues or your subordinates do can be considered as “good work”? I think I am not the only one who actually doesn’t know what the term “good work” means.

Back in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s Prof. Csikszentmihalyi alongside with Howard Gardner and William Damon has investigated how individuals are able to carry out “good work” in their chosen professions when conditions are changing at unprecedented rates and when market forces are enormously powerful.

Good work by their definition is a work that is at once of high quality, socially responsible and beneficial to the worker. Gardner proposed that good workers should regularly review the three Ms:

  • What is the Mission that undergirds your work?
  • Who are the role Models you admire and emulate and why?
  • When you look at yourself in the Mirror as a worker, are you proud of whom you see? And if all the workers in your profession were like you, would you want to live in a society like that?

Good work can be characterized by three features and each captured by a single word that all starts with an ‘E’:

  1. Excellence
  2. Ethics
  3. Enjoyment

1. Excellence by the standards of the profession. It means that an organization’s products, services, and processes meet the  contemporary highest accepted and expected standard of excellence in their category.

2. Ethics is the social contribution that the work makes to the well-being of society. Ethics as Prof. Emeritus Paul Marer understands from Prof. Csikszentmihalyi’s concept means two things. “First, that the organization observes its society’s highest ethical standards in its production processes. Second, that the organization contributes in significant ways to the well-being of the communities in which it operates, be it the local, the regional, the national, or the global community.”

3. Enjoyment: a work that is enjoyable and satisfying to the worker. Whether a work is enjoyable, depends on an organization’s leaders as well, and this is that attribute where the concept of Flow becomes important. On one hand, leaders and managers have to make sure that their subordinates and colleagues experience Flow repeatedly and it is also desirable for the leaders themselves to experience Flow in connection with their work.

By clicking on the video below you can hear what Csikszentmihalyi says about good work with his own words. The person who is sitting across him at the table is Prof. Emeritus Paul Marer who is the co-author of the book: Missing Link Discovered.

You can read more about the above-mentioned concept in these two books: