What is the Future of Business?
I, like you, can only guess. However, there are some clear writings on the multitude of walls around the world. Here are some of the writings I am seeing clearly written.
1. BIG changes are in place. We are not rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, not this time. No amount of tinkering will allow a return to the status quo. We are in process of seismic shifts.
2. Seismic shifts require a NEW mindset. However, is is not about ejecting the old in entirety, but taking from the old and transcending to the new. In order to do this we need to reconnect with the very purpose of business. I call this the Source Idea. What is it there for? Is it just a venue to create big money for a small group of people? Is it to take advantage of times, events and circumstances – to rape and pillage? Why was business created? For what reason? Does the model we have now work? Is it good for us for tomorrow? How committed is our company to leadership development and why?
Where are the leaders with this open and willing-to-learn mindset? Certainly they are not the ex CEO of Lehman Brothers or pretty much any financial institution on the world today. Maybe we could look at some of the guys behind Google, Facebook, Amazon? In 2018, Elon Musk? But no. They might be creating Unicorns, but their model is just a dressed up version of same old age old. Bright shiny new business overlaid on the Titanic. How is their mindset different? Do they thirst for leadership development that builds not just growth, but perspective and width? And if so, why? To find these kinds of leaders we have to look very hard and wide. Patagonia anyone. Cordant Group UK…..listen to my podcast with the Chair as he discusses the massive changes to a 60 year old company.
3. The business model we have now is flawed and the flaws are finally showing cracks. How do I know this. Well, here are a few of the cracks.
*The gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider every day. Less people are in the wealthy group. What is good about this model? Not much, unless you are one of those 3-5% of the wealthy. (Oxfam says 6-8 people hold the majority of the wealth.)
*We are going through accelerated acceleration, where our technology is changing each second. However, the business of business has not really changed in 418 years. Show me one other institution that could say the same? Marriage, Monarchy, the Democratic process? Our leadership model has also largely stayed the same. The system is designed around a dominator hierarchy, not a creative/partnership hierarchy. It is rare to find a holarchical system – similar to complex biological systems. (The human body does do a pretty good job in managing complex functions and super speedy and advanced communication flows.)
*Making money from money without any contribution of any kind in the form of work – be it physical, mental, or spiritual, is a sham. Multiply zero by zero and we get zero. Nothing comes from nothing. However, this little game has been in play for many years, and now we are beginning to see the truth of it.
The future of business is about creating real value, value that adds to the whole. I would like to think that the future of business is integrity.
*Paying people to do nothing else but to show an increase in shareholder value is an extremely narrow perspective of worth. It discounts multiple other value domains, like caring, true sharing, community building etc.
*If we looked at the balance sheet through an all-in-accounting lens including the costs today, tomorrow, in 20 years and in 200 years, as well as the cost of extraction from the past, then almost every balance sheet of every company would be in the negative.
Surely at the least the CEO’s of large companies should be measured through an integrated lens that assesses profitability AND happy, fulfilled, engaged people, AND the long term effects on the environment AND the level of input to the local and greater community AND the value of overall contribution to society that their companies product adds? If the CEO’s score well on all aspects, then pay them well. But don’t pay them obscene salaries for only making money.
*Endless growth, year in an year out, is unsustainable. No where in nature, with the exception of cancer, does endless growth exist. And even cancer has its use-by date, when the host is consumed by the cancer.
To every spring comes an autumn and winter, enabling a new spring. Keep farming the same land over and over and it will fail. This is not rocket science. We need to take time to consolidate, breath, rest. And we need to build this into our businesses consciously.
Show me the business that has an integrated model that assumes growth, followed by consolidation and recovery, followed by the next level of growth? And would we, the shareholder, be happy with this? Would you be accepting of your superannuation portfolio going through growth, then a platform stage, then growth? What would you require as the shareholder to be satisfied with this model?
We need more integral methods to measure success. We need to take the long view with more commitment than we do the 3-6 month reporting cycle.
And by the way, who said that the work of a teacher of our children is worth so much less (extremely less) than the work of some guy who knows how to make money for the shareholder?
One of the biggest questions on the table now is what are our values as humanity and do they serve us? For until we reassess our values around our measure of success we will all be caught in the same old merry-go-round of growth and greed, and the desire for more stuff. Money is NOT the measure of success. It is only a fraction of the measure.
4. The environment demands change. Yep, its true, whether you believe in the extremes of environmental catastrophe or not, the elephant in the room is that we must have more awareness of our every action and its effects on everything else.(Cradle to Cradle) And yes, increasing our global population is not going to help. Increasing the population may be good for the short term, to keep the eternal growth engine going, but is surely is stuffing our future. We need to get creative and figure another way to take care of our elderly, keep the new jobs going, stop having so many children and live with increasing automation. Universal Basic Income anyone?
Change is a messy process. Humans usually find it mildly scary to frankly terrifying. At best we don’t like it.
We can either walk towards it, or be dragged. Change is the constant.
People will lead the way towards the future of business. It will either be a future we want, or not.
Investing in people acting in Integrity, understanding the whole systems view, the all-in-accounting costs, and the true value of it all, might support the creation of a future I want to see.
First written in 2008. Slightly edited in 2018