what my intuition tells me now: 21st century businessPosted by Jason Apollo Voss on Mar 22, 2009 in Best of the Blog, Blog | 2 comments
Some of you may have noticed that I am not happy with U.S. businesses. It’s not that I am opposed to making money – far from it. In fact, I think that capitalism easily does the most efficient job of allocating resources; and that is the purpose of an economy in the first place.
No, my problem is that many business leaders and business employees feel as if a blind, zombie-like pursuit of self-interest will always result in positive outcomes. That is the definition of free-market economies, after all.
The heart of my problem with folks who feel that pursuing profits as an end, in and of itself, is that it is lazy. That’s right: lazy. Most businesses, business leaders, business schools, business lobbyists, and business people are walking around with a philosophy first expertly described in the 1700s.
In the 1700s merchants and other Westerners were already behaving in a self-interested way. So Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” was simply the logical structuring of the way society was already operating. It was the refinement of a seemingly innate way of being. But, and this is a big “but,” we have evolved as human beings subsequent to the 1700s. Haven’t we?
Think about it. Think about the way we approach personal relationships such as family, marriages and friendships. Then think about how we approach work relationships and our relationship to work. Which feels archaic to you? That’s why the title of this post is “21st Century Business.”
It is time to update the way businesses, business leaders, business schools, business lobbyists, and business people conduct business.
So what does this mean? It means that we finally officially acknowledge that there are economic goods worth pursuing and incorporating into our decision making even if they cannot be measured by dollars.
What is the dollar value of respect? What is the dollar value of love? What is the dollar value of a beautiful sunset?
These are economic goods even if they are not priced by a market. If you leave these kinds of things out then you make poor business decisions. Decisions that result in financial crisis at the minimum and fraud (white collar stealing) at the maximum.
[Interlude: One of the big ironies of the capitalist system is that the vehicle for capitalist expression, that monument to competition, the corporation, is actually a cooperative endeavor of executives and employees. So all around us is a model of cooperation and what that could mean for all of us.]
If you agree with me then you may wonder how we begin. We begin by including more constituencies in our day to day decisions. We ask that those around us include more constituencies in their decisions. We ask that the firms we work for include more constituencies in our decisions. We begin to acknowledge that there is economic benefit to cooperating with others and having concern for others. We begin to acknowledge and factor in those economic goods that are difficult to price.
This is obviously a lot of work, but it is not lazy.
I don’t know about you, but I am ready for an evolution of business thinking.