Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock our in-depth guide spotlighting trends, tools, and best practices from over 150 pioneering organizations.

Learn more

Map of Meaning: Change The Meaning of Work Instead Of Organizational Structure

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree May 11, 2023

'Why am I here'? Ever wondered that, at work? How much you value the answer to that question, can be outlined with the map of meaning. Read all about it.

Truly changing the organizational structure of a company can be difficult. It doesn't always pan out the way it should have, and there are only so many new directions you can take.

Instead of changing the organization, it may be worth looking at changing the meaning of the work and the company for everyone who works there. Sure, they go hand in hand. By setting up transparent, flat management structures, meaning often increases. But what if we did this on a more personal level? This is where map of meaning can give us a head start.

Now, this sounds very "sit-around-a-campfire-and-sing-Kumbaya." How can organizations implement this successfully?

What is a map of meaning?

The map of meaning is a framework to work towards meaningful work and a meaningful life, by not losing sight of the values that matter to you, on an individual level. It comes from humanities studies rather than management theory, but when those two meet is when the magic happens.

The four cornerstones of the map of meaning

The map of meaning centers around the individual. It was created by Marjolein Lips-Wiersma (Professor of Ethics and Sustainability Leadership at Auckland University of Technology). There are four cornerstones to this holistic model:

Integrity with Self - our values and the development of our personal qualities.

Unity with Others - the meaning we get from working and living together with other human beings, working closely in a team, and understanding each other.

Expressing Full Potential - we are happy when we can create new things. These can be relationships or structures as well. They give a sense of accomplishment.

Service to Others - making someone else's life easier gives a great deal of meaning to your own.

We look at the outcomes for:

  • Being
  • Doing
  • Self
  • Others

How does the map of meaning help individuals at work (employees)?

This way of adding meaning focuses on doing so on an individual level. Each person creates their own set of values, to create their own 'map of meaning'.

Maps of meaning may connect to individual ideas about the job, but that is hard to measure or implement on a wider scale or even company-wide. It can also be looked at from a zoomed-out perspective: the human need to go forward in life, to become better. On a professional level, this can be pursued by looking at:

  • Career development
  • Feedback
  • Mentoring

On that level, research needs to be done to focus on whether particular personality attributes such as self-worth contribute to meaningful work, and if so, how.

An important question anyone can ask themselves when looking for meaning in work is simply: "Why am I here?"

The answer should give you insight into the purpose and goal of your work. Your own individual standards define how they are valued, and therefore if you can call your work 'meaningful'.

How does it help organizations?

It is interesting to implement the map of meaning within the management structure because a sense of meaning grows an attachment to the company, as well as motivation.

As an organization, it is interesting to try to pin this meaning down, as it will grow commitment and motivation. However, it is impossible to define meaning on a company-wide scale. At an individual level, meaning at work may be defined by two very simple professional needs:

  • Growth
  • Development

So now individuals have a way of finding meaning in their work. But as this is very individual, how does that relate to an organization?

A company can also make its own map of meaning. But most of all, working with a map of meaning engages people and makes the work more valuable for them. With this roadmap to meaning, motivation skyrockets, and teamwork can enhance. Meaningful work can create outcomes like:

  • Stronger work engagement
  • More job satisfaction
  • Increase in motivation and happiness
  • Stress reduction

How can you implement the map of meaning in your organization?

Encouraging the development of meaning in the workplace can help with:

  • Becoming a better leader
  • Getting teams to work better together
  • Increasing empathy on a personal and company level
  • Being accountable

Every structural or organizational practice within a company can be measured against the map of meaning: the four cornerstones. It gives an excellent understanding of where opportunities lie to create more meaning in every process.

From appraisals to customer service, from acquiring leads to hiring new colleagues: the map of meaning can put every process to the test. Or, at least, it can be a good basis for discussion.

This can translate into decisions like:

Adding meaning benefits everyone

The map of meaning doesn't replace a change in management or organizational structure. But it can help to get teams working better together, to make people happier at work by creating more meaning.

So the potential is great; it can be a base for an organizational change or for a new leadership style. A framework, even.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
Read more
Feb 04, 2024
The Fascinating Story of America's Largest Employee-Owned Company
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
February 3, 1969, was a cold winter’s day in La Jolla, a village on the rugged California coast just north of San Diego. It was also a…
Read more about The Fascinating Story of America's Largest Employee-Owned Company
Jan 07, 2024
The Power of Simplicity: A Simple Management Formula To Wild Success
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
Earlier last year, I was invited to the Kelso Workshop at Rutgers University in New Jersey by Prof. Joseph Blasi, the world's most renowned…
Read more about The Power of Simplicity: A Simple Management Formula To Wild Success
Nov 26, 2023
How This Vietnamese Company Burned Down The Traditional Management Playbook
Pim de Morree Written by Pim de Morree
Nestled amidst Hanoi's vibrant lanes, Amber Online Education, a company providing online learning experiences for titans like Samsung and…
Read more about How This Vietnamese Company Burned Down The Traditional Management Playbook
Sep 03, 2023
The Purpose Dance: Shared and Individual Beats at the Heart of Organizational Impact
Marc-Peter Pijper Written by Marc-Peter Pijper
My wife and I, accompanied by our friends, often enjoy attending music festivals. What unites us is our mutual love for live music and the…
Read more about The Purpose Dance: Shared and Individual Beats at the Heart of Organizational Impact
Aug 20, 2023
Scaling the Right Way: Clarasys' Path Forward with Progressive Principles
Klara Nenadlova Written by Klara Nenadlova
At Clarasys, our core purpose is to make a lasting difference to the way how people work, live, and grow. As an independent consultancy…
Read more about Scaling the Right Way: Clarasys' Path Forward with Progressive Principles
Aug 06, 2023
TiER1: A Customer-Centric and Empowered Organization with Dynamically Distributed Authority (DDA)
Joost Minnaar Written by Joost Minnaar
In July, we had the opportunity to interview Greg Harmeyer for an Academy live event. Greg, the co-founder and CEO of TiER1, a US-based…
Read more about TiER1: A Customer-Centric and Empowered Organization with Dynamically Distributed Authority (DDA)
Read all articles

Download: Free Guide

Unlock our in-depth guide on trends, tools, and best practices from over 150 pioneering organizations.

Subscribe below and receive it directly in your inbox.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.