I have watched corporate behaviour over the last week with renewed feelings of hope. Production lines switched to sanitiser at cost price or less to provide sufficient quantities to cope with the COVID-19 emergency. Extraordinary support measures put in place for employees out of work due to the closure of their employers. The desire to positively impact the decision-making process rather than economic return, and speed was of the essence. No need to excessively spend time debating the best course of action or hire consultants to do analysis to make the decision. The decent and kind people who run businesses freed from the nonsense that often paralyses corporate decision-making by a crisis of unquantifiable magnitude.
The key to purpose-led business is connection
It’s not the 20 years I spent working in global investment markets which informs the majority of my opinion on this topic although that helps. It is my research into spirituality and positive psychology which has confirmed my view of what it means to truly operate a conscious business in our world.
My research in spirituality found three broad concepts; connection or connectedness, meaning and purpose and the drive for authenticity. While meaning and purpose and authenticity are terms which have been adopted by the corporate world, connection is never spoken about. Its absence is highly relevant and confirms why we have a plethora of empty purpose statements. Connection or connectedness in spiritual terms is the idea of oneness, that everything and everybody is interconnected. It was this understanding of connectedness that drove the individuals I interviewed to display altruistic traits. They viewed purpose in their lives as something they did for the benefit of many not just themselves. They understood achieving their potential in life was predicated on being of service to others, of choosing actions which reflected the responsibility they felt to others and the planet around them. Meaning and purpose only manifested through their understanding of how everyone is connected.
Now is the time for the corporate world to self-actualise
The people I interviewed displayed self-actualising tendencies. Abraham Maslow who coined the idea of self-actualisation viewed it as similar to authenticity. You were becoming who you are supposed to be, not who society decides you should be. Maslow himself noted that the ‘paradox’ of self-actualisation was that becoming who we are destined to be involves a transcending of the self and a tendency towards altruism. It was their sense of connection which enabled these people to transcend the ‘esteem needs’ of status, recognition, feeling of accomplishment from his hierarchy of needs to make more courageous decisions based more simply on the right thing for everyone.
The corporate world’s ‘esteem needs’ are measures of success that pay little attention to any impact on our world. If a quoted business, the performance measurement may be versus a benchmark. In a private business, it is your competitors, your sales targets or what your neighbour thinks of you. Given what we have collectively faced over the last weeks, these needs appear quite hollow. The realisation that our ultimate benchmark or common goal is the preservation of our planet and equality and life for every person. Every business decision should recognise this.
The excuse we have been waiting for is here
This is the time for the business world to self-actualise. Each business has a web of connectivity to the world around them. For any business to truly be considered ‘conscious’, all decisions should be made through the framework of ‘connectedness’.
We are all going to wake up to an incredibly different economic reality in a few months’ time. We must recognise that while we can resuscitate economic output, we cannot bring human life back. In an environment in which economic return has been decimated on our behalf, the singularity of focus on economic return has been removed for us. For any business, this is your moment to transcend your esteem needs and reach your fullest potential. An opportunity is being presented to us by this crisis. To change the way the corporate world operates and put humanity first.