Lets make Melly Shum Happy!

By Anton Rossouw.

I met Melly Shum some years back, around 1991 as far I can remember, on a cold, damp and windy morning in the industrial city of Rotterdam.

I came around the corner of Witte de Withstraat into Boomgaardstraat, and almost walked into her. When I glanced at her she responded with a faint smile a bit like a modern day Mona Lisa, and a friendly one at that. She was sitting seemingly comfortable and confident at where she works, one hand familiarly rested on an accountants calculator.

A neat and organised workplace, lack of clutter, with professionalism and poise.

  • Who was she?
  • And what kind of job does she do?
  • What inspires her?
  • What does she aspire to?
  • What is her future?
  • What does she want to achieve? 

Then a feeling of dread flowed over me-because I glanced to the right of her and noticed that She Hates Her Job ! What a shame, what a waste! She probably spends at least 8 hours of her work day, week by week and year in year out hating every hour. My only hope for her is that the hours she spends away from work at least she loves.

I met Melly Schum in an artwork by Ken Lum. It looks like your typical advertising poster – just more striking because there is no glitz or glamour.


Sculpture International Rotterdam - photography: Toni Burgering

Sculpture International Rotterdam - photography: Toni Burgering

Maybe Ken Lum as artist, which I believe has astute observation powers and compassion for humankind, was commenting on the industrialisation and de-humanisation of our institutions and organisations, and used this striking advertising imagery to tell us the story of the modern workplace.

That is the story of dominant power creating cultural deserts of machine-like workplaces with soft organic living beings substituting oil, steel, heat and steam. Machines can be built, tuned, manipulated, and broken and discarded when they have served their purpose. What resonates is that the many metaphors of business today reminds of optimised machine like efficiency from the Industrial age and the world wars where machines were used to affect massive destructive power.

Well humans aren’t machine parts, they are complex organisms with emotions, consciousness, self awareness and longing for better futures. I went away with a sense of frustration, thinking about how the "system" can be changed, and if we realistically can have energised, enthusiastic, inspired and happy people in workplaces. People that love their jobs. People that work in places where Profits are not put before People.

Jurgen Appelo, a leading thinker in complexity and business dynamics also met Melly Schum, and decided to do something about it. He created a movement for change, a network of energetic, like-minded but diverse business people across the world that together work towards changing the world of work for the better.

Jurgen called this the Happy Melly Network.

We are proud to be part of the Happy Melly network. We believe that it is good business to have happy people work in our companies. We believe that the workplace of the future will not be described as machines, but as living organisms where value is constantly created by people that like what they do.

We will work hard to create healthy sustainable business ecosystems that will bring about the necessary change. We will help, and in turn be helped by inspired executives and managers in forward thinking organisations to ensure that all those Malcomes and Mellys everywhere love their jobs. We love this job, and its good business!