The Company as Workshop for Prosperous Life

This is the title of a cen­tral chap­ter in Bodo Janssen’s new book “Kraftquelle Tra­di­tion. Benedik­tinis­che Leben­skun­st für heute” (Ama­zon Affil­i­ate-Link). Com­pa­nies are more than just places of val­ue cre­ation and their pur­pose cer­tain­ly is not prof­it. The eco­nom­ic suc­cess is the result of the self-actu­al­iza­tion of the mem­bers in this work­shop for pros­per­ous life. A refresh­ing­ly dif­fer­ent way of look­ing at com­pa­nies and the pur­pose of com­pa­nies, in which the human being is not only a means, but is actu­al­ly at its core.

But the work­shop in which we per­form all these works with dili­gence is the enclo­sure of the monastery, and sta­bil­i­ty in the community.

Reg­u­la Bene­dic­ti (4,78)

This sen­tence con­cludes the fourth chap­ter of the Reg­u­la Bene­dic­ti, the Rule of Saint Bene­dict, writ­ten by Bene­dict of Nur­sia around 540 to help orga­nize life in the monastery of Monte Cassi­no, which he found­ed. Since then it has formed the basis of the Bene­dic­tine Order. And since his stays in var­i­ous Bene­dic­tine monas­ter­ies, this Reg­u­la Bene­dic­ti now inspires and leads Bodo Janssen in the rad­i­cal and suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tion of his hotel chain Upstals­boom into a work­shop for pros­per­ous life.

The term work­shop imme­di­ate­ly rais­es the ques­tion of which instru­ments should be used there. Bene­dict of Nur­sia gives the answer in exact­ly this fourth chap­ter in the form of 73 “Instru­ments of Good Works”, which are basi­cal­ly good habits for a suc­cess­ful life. For Bodo Janssen, these good habits con­tain the “answer to the ques­tion: What can I do every day to make my life a suc­cess, to make my time with my work and the peo­ple around me a joy?” A ques­tion we should ask our­selves much more often.

Let no one fol­low what he thin­keth use­ful to him­self, but rather to another.

Reg­u­la Bene­dic­ti (72,7)

Already 1500 years ago the prin­ci­ple of equal dig­ni­ty was of cen­tral impor­tance for Bene­dict of Nur­sia, which was at least as rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent in the social order of the ear­ly Mid­dle Ages as we feel it today in our hier­ar­chi­cal­ly struc­tured cul­ture. While our actions today are often guid­ed by the ego-cen­tered ques­tion “What do I gain from the exis­tence of oth­ers and the com­mu­ni­ty?”, Bene­dict of Nur­sia is con­cerned with the oppo­site ques­tion: “What does the com­mu­ni­ty gain from my exis­tence?” Thus the com­mu­ni­ty has much more the char­ac­ter of a net­work than of a hier­ar­chy and this net­work lives from the indi­vid­ual contributions.

Fourth the­sis of the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Leadership

For Bene­dict of Nur­sia, work and life are not sep­a­rat­ed. There is no need for a work-life bal­ance in the monastery. Work is life and work serves life. His goal was to orga­nize the life of the com­mu­ni­ty in such a way that it becomes a work­shop for a pros­per­ous life. 

How­ev­er, Bene­dict of Nur­sia does dis­tin­guish between dif­fer­ent areas of life and tasks, which is clear­ly expressed by the rule “ora et lab­o­ra”, i.e. “pray and work”. The times of prayer, silence and reflec­tion are sacred in the sense that there is noth­ing more impor­tant. These seem­ing­ly unpro­duc­tive paus­es, dur­ing which the cre­ative per­for­mance of the human mind demon­stra­bly takes place, struc­ture and calm the dai­ly rou­tine in the monastery. A small dif­fer­ence, which makes a big dif­fer­ence, as Bodo Janssen him­self expe­ri­enced dur­ing his vis­its to the monastery. So when we skip lunch again or when one meet­ing fol­lows anoth­er in our cal­en­dar, we should remem­ber that these times are sacred and that idle­ness is also essential. 

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