Viktor Frankl’s Meaning Triangle for Organizations

Viktor Frankl was an incredible human being, having survived the Holocaust and establishing logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, details his development of his theory around meaning and suffering.

And he was a student of suffering as he and his fellow prisoners walked through horrifying conditions. What he discovered, though, was how some of his colleagues were able to not only survive but grow in the process.

His conclusion – that the most basic human motivation is the will to meaning, and as Nietzsche put it,

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

Frankl outlines further what he calls the “Meaning Triangle” as a way of processing the growth that some would face in seemingly hopeless circumstance:

  1. Creativity – Giving something to the world through self-expression and using our talents in various ways.
  2. Experiencing – Receiving from the world through nature, culture, relationships, and interactions with others and with our environment.
  3. Change of Attitude – Even if we can’t change a situation or circumstance we can still choose our attitude toward a condition. This is often a self-transcending way of finding meaning through suffering.

viktor-frankl-meaning-triangleI have been personally inspired by Viktor Frankl’s story and his work as he has created some incredible points of connection for me as I have walked through difficult times.

His work in logotherapy has also provided many talking points for the variety of teams, organizations, and cultures that we engage with – as all teams and businesses are challenged with being responsible for their human capital (creativity) and managing it well, creating the right environment for their staff and teams to operate (experiencing), and finally providing the right tools and culture to assist in developing a positive attitude (or change of attitude) to do their best work.

How have you experienced the Meaning Triangle in your context and in your organization? What are the tools or the systems within your culture that help your team achieve greater results, individually and collectively?

Now, we wouldn’t always say (at least explicitly) that we’re “suffering” in our work daily, and obviously not to the extent of which Frankl has experienced, but we all know what it’s like to work in environments where it seems “meaning” and “purpose” are often dismissed for the tasks at hand or stepped over for the sake of surviving the “daily grind.”

What I love doing is to help organizations move back to their original purpose(s) and what made them such an exciting organization to work for and with – and help capture the reasons why they exist in the first place. This reminds the individuals and teams that there’s meaning behind the “suffering” and even greater opportunities to thrive.

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