Pete Dignan has spent the last 20 years as the CEO of two Certified B Corps and Executive Director a nonprofit. He founded Ever Better as a Public Benefit Corporation in 2017. Pete is a keen observer who asks incisive questions and listens. He applies his experience to help social enterprises become more purposeful, participatory, and adaptive. Pete lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Kelly.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Hierarchy and predict & control behavior may have worked when the world changed slowly. But now change comes at us from every direction, faster and faster. Old ways of working fail to provide purpose and meaning, and fail to adapt to complexity and uncertainty.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I help purpose-driven organizations move from outdated ways of working to new human-centered ways, based on frequent iteration, experimentation, rapid learning, distributed authority, and open information sharing.
Why do you do what you do?
Our current economic and business systems pit capital against labor, managers against workers, and everyone against the environment. This doesn’t bring out the best in us, and the results are a hot mess. We can do better, and I’d like to help.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I find that abstract painting stimulates my creativity. Right now I’m enjoying the work of a Boulder artist named Jess Torbin.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
Since we’re a company of one, the culture is pretty simple. 🙂
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
I have been inspired by the work of Thich Nhat Hanh, especially by his concept of “interbeing.” Interbeing goes beyond interdependence, to express the idea that all of us (and everything) are deeply, fundamentally connected. When we are all related in this way, then work becomes an expression of our true nature and all sorts of new possibilities emerge.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Tough question – I’d like to offer a bunch of suggestions! But here’s a simple one: try conducting meetings by speaking in rounds. You’ll be amazed to see that meetings are no longer as dominated by extroverts and those with org chart power.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
When I was a teenager, my parents used to vacation at a place that hosted a real, working circus all summer. I learned to juggle, walk the highwire, and to do the flying trapeze, which may have been good preparation for the world of work.
What piece of technology (other than your laptop/smartphone/tablet) could you not live without and why?
While I love tools like Slack and Asana, I wouldn’t want to work without ActiveInbox. It’s a browser extension for Gmail that lets me turn any email into a task for a future date, then archive it until that date. It makes stemming the tide of email fairly practical.
What does your preferred work environment look like?
The use of space in the workplace is an important component of the work revolution. It’s important to keep in mind that various temperaments and various roles will have different needs in terms of physical space, noise/quiet, human interaction, etc. And each of us may have different needs at different times of day, or when performing different tasks. I like to mix it up – some sitting, some standing; some quiet, some music (mostly electronic); some meetings, some private time for thinking and writing.
Where in the world are you?