Too much passion in business?

We are often exhorted to be passionate about things, especially at work. But I’m not sure that is really what we need in the modern workplace.

Passion has become a synonym for other words that are potentially more accurate. Passion is a very excitable emotion. It narrows the focus, and it causes people to zoom in on the objects of that emotion.  However, it does not seem to be an emotion that leads us to be open to new ideas, it does not prepare an individual to work effectively with other people who do not share that emotion, nor does it  open up horizons to different futures.

The definition of passion on Dictionary.com includes the following if we leave out the religious meanings:

“(1) any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. (2) strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor. (3) strong sexual desire; lust. (4) an instance or experience of strong love or sexual desire. (5) a person toward whom one feels strong love or sexual desire. (6) a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music. (7) the object of such a fondness or desire: Accuracy became a passion with him. (8) an outburst of strong emotion or feeling: He suddenly broke into a passion of bitter words. (9) violent anger. (10) the state of being acted upon or affected by something external, esp. something alien to one’s nature or one’s customary behavior (contrasted with action ). “

While emotions have a part to play in the workplace, passion (as defined above) does not seem to be helpful in a business context. As defined it seems to describe ways of being that encompass taking positions, holding onto ideas, not listening to other perspectives, or closing down options on a personal level.

What we need in a business context is a combination of enthusiasm, commitment, persistence, dedication, competency, purposeful action. We also need better ways of working together. In many ways passion makes working together difficult unless all parties are passionate to the same degree and about the same things.

We need to find new ways of doing business that enable effective collaboration across organisational boundaries. We need to find ways of harnessing the energy and commitment of our people to achieve goals. We need to embrace new ways of working made possible by new technologies such as social computing. Recently Nick Hodge has been talking about hypersharing – perhaps that’s part of the answer?

Author: Kate Carruthers

Kate Carruthers is Chief Data & Insights Officer for UNSW Sydney, and is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. She is certified in information security and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies terrorism and security. Kate has extensive experience in senior roles in ICT, marketing, data and digital; and is a member of the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre Advisory Board. Kate is currently working at the intersection of data analytics, AI, ML, privacy, cyber security, and data protection.