This post was inspired by a conversation from the Thivability Montréal series. Enjoy !

Friday the 16th of November 2012, we had a conversation on how to measure thrivability. It was held at the CLC Montréal language school, an organization whose founder considers thrivability an essential part of his approach to business. The conversation was full of insight and has nourished me in many ways. One of them, is I feel more connected to “thriving”, both the word and the meaning it’s taking, conversation after conversation.

Meaning and context

One of the things we explored, is how each of us senses when « there is thrivability », both in organizations and in life in general. We identified a series of “vital signs” that, when present, tell us something is thriving : fun, authenticity, a sense of flow, people acting as catalysts to each other, a sense of flourishing, among others. By the end of the night, we started to get a clear idea of what we may want to look for when identifying and measuring thrivability, according to the vital signs we came up with. Here’s a wonderful graphic recollection of what we thought important to have “under the radar”.

Measuring Thrivability by Lynne Lamarche

At some point during the conversation, someone in the group mentioned we had not talked about “the baseline », the minimum requirements we should meet before we can even start thinking about thrivability. It was then suggested, these basics could be related to sustainability. Which raised a question : is sustainability located “half-way” on the path to thrivability ? I felt there was something here, and by end of the night I was still not able to see clearly what it was.

Back to the basics

Let’s take a look at the word thrivability – « thrive » and « ability » :

Thrive :
To make steady progress; prosper.
To grow vigorously; flourish.

-ability :
word-forming element expressing ability, fitness, or capacity.

 And just because I love playing with words and their meaning, here’s a treat :

Flourish :
as a verb
To be in a period of highest productivity, excellence, or influence
as a noun

A dramatic or stylish movement
An embellishment or ornamentation

Fitness :
The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness.
Good health or physical condition, especially as the result of exercise and proper nutrition.
The extent to which an organism is adapted to or able to produce offspring in a particular environment.

The ability to thrive, or in other words the ability, capacity or fitness to make steady progress, prosper, grow vigorously and flourish, is also related – at least as a word – to exercise, adaptability, capacity to influence, movement, and embellishment. This made my weekend.

The beautiful enigmatic flower –

The ability and the action

It came to me it was important to distinguish the ability to thrive (thrivability) from the actual process of thriving, the action. This allowed me to better understand the implications of both and to be able to talk about it in a more clear way. Also, defining thrivabiliy as the ability to thrive puts an emphasis on the fact that an ability is something we can get better at, through practice.

The four elements

As I was writing this post, it came to my attention there are four elements being at the heart of our ability to thrive. This list is non-exhaustive, if you see others, you are welcome to contribute.

  • ready-to-thrive individuals : people that know themselves enough to have a pretty clear picture of what they are about, what they value and what they love doing – we’ll consider this to be the creative impulse

  • a place to thrive : a physical space designed with the intention to foster life and adapted to the specific needs of the activities that will take place in it – the fertile ground

  • time to thrive : the appropriate amount of time that is required for whatever it is we are doing or creating to take shape. In this sense, « time » seems to be related to patience, care and attention – the commitment

  • resources to thrive : everything else that is required for what we are doing or creating. This can be developed into much more detail when applied to a specific context – the nutrients

It seems to me it’s crucial to consider all four elements as equally important and as a whole. If one or more of the elements is not getting enough consideration – or too much of it – compared to the others, it will affect the process. We’ll be able to thrive in only certain aspects of our experience, whether we apply this to organizations or individuals. Off course, we may want to pay particular attention to a specific element at some point or another, depending on the situation we are going through. But if we do it for too long or too much, we will weaken their balance. Does this mean that if we do not have them all, we are not able to thrive ? Not exactly.

Don’t panic, life is a beautiful journey

The ideal scenario is that we pay attention to all four of them simultaneously, and that all individuals thrive all the time, everywhere and get all the resources they need. This doesn’t appear to be the case in most organizations and people’s lives, at least for now. Yet, we’re getting there. And that’s why it seems to be useful to put an emphasis on the ability to thrive rather than thriving itself. What do we do when we want to develop an ability ? We practice. No need to get frustrated or worry about not thriving all the time. The invitation is to simply acknowledge how we are doing – in terms of the four elements, or any other frame that suits us best. What matters is that once we know what we are missing, we can move towards it.

A note on movement: In this case, movement refers to the process of identifying what’s missing (the tension) and getting it (the release). Between these two phases there is interaction, both between the people inside the organization (that come together in other to identify their next move) and outside of it (the other organizations and individuals that will provide the resources to achieve that move). Sometimes, these interactions seem to be effortless. They happen as if our actions are aligned with the actions of others – close to J. Jaworski’s synchronicity – and there is a sense of being in the flow.

When thrivability meets sustainability

Having let these four elements « simmer » in my mind, I began to see more clearly what I called at the beginning of this post the « something being there » in the relationship between thrivability and sustainability.

What came to me, is that all four elements are implicit in the sustainable approach. If we take care of the environment (elements: place and resources) and we preserve the resources (resources and time), we will have enough of what we need to “make a living” (thrive as individuals) and we’ll also make sure our children and their children will be able to do the same (time and thriving individuals).

What’s going on then ? Why do some many seem to consider that sustainability is not enough ? Why do some of us feel we need something else, like thrivability for example ?

My “two cents” is that it’s time to start making life explicit. Sustainability still feels predominantly a mechanistic word-view, based on expected results. If we do this and that we should get…

Dandelion –

I don’t know about you. In my case, life doesn’t seem to work that way most of the time. My life is full of unexpected experiences, and that makes it beautiful. I would even say that welcoming the unexpected and seeing how it works, and how it « makes things work », is a significant part of what makes me thrive.

I’m going to leave it here for now, by saying that I’m starting to see thrivability as a being in tune with the human journey, making it explicit, and bringing forth more of its potential.

Hopefully, there will be a next post focusing on thriving (the action), giving more detail to the four elements, and exploring a way to navigate the tension and release process we talked about.

Stay tuned, and thank you for caring !


Feel welcome to share your views on the matter, let’s keep the conversation going !
Also, I’m wondering what habits do we develop by practicing the ability to thrive ? Any insights ?

Share →