The relationship-powered enterprise


In a workplace increasingly filled with intelligent machines, strong interpersonal relationships between actual humans will be critical to an enterprise’s success.

That’s according to an organization called the Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI), which recently unveiled a theory it calls “Relationshipism.”

I think the folks at BRMI maybe could have brainstormed a bit longer before settling on that somewhat awkward term, but the reasoning behind it makes sense.

“Rooted in the fields of cognitive science and social intelligence, Relationshipism is the theory of being relationship-centered in all aspects of life and especially in organizations,” BRMI said in a press release. “Through the practice of Relationshipism, which emphasizes building trust among teams through authentic relationships, people feel empowered to satisfy their own purpose and to work towards a common goal.”

The headline on BRMI’s press release is “Forget Artificial Intelligence: The Future of the Workplace is Relationshipism.” I would argue that, rather than forgetting about AI, it and other smart technologies will enable enterprise workers and teams to better build authentic relationships based on individual and mutual purpose. That’s because by freeing up workers from the more menial and repetitive parts of their jobs, they can focus more on thinking strategically and working on joint projects that advance the organization’s strategic objectives. So instead of employees keeping their heads down and getting burned out trying to keep up with the demands of their jobs, they instead have more time to collaborate with others and work on strengthening ties across the organization.

I’ve written before in this blog about how the abilities to communicate and collaborate will be essential for success in the workplace of the future. That’s really what BRMI is saying with Relationshipism. The challenge is to make it happen. And what’s the key to all successful relationships? Trust. As I argued recently, trust begins at the top:

Without strong trust among employees in an organization’s leaders, the elements that drive digital transformation can become corroded and ineffective. It’s hard to generate enthusiasm and commitment across an enterprise if decision-makers aren’t trusted or respected.

This means enterprise leaders must prove they’re worthy of trust through their actions, their competency, and their commitment to being transparent. Perhaps more importantly (especially at larger organizations), enterprise leaders must ensure division and unit leaders also model these trustworthy behaviors to employees.

Trust in relationships also requires respect. Enterprise leaders can show respect for employees by emphasizing two-way communication and encouraging innovation. Inclusiveness bonds people and inspires loyalty.

Finally, building relationships through effective communication and collaboration is much easier when leaders clearly identify business goals for the entire organization, as well as for specific departments.

As more enterprises rely on intelligent machines and automation, the biggest business differentiators in the digital economy may be the human and working relationships that are built across organizations.

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