Doug Rushkoff recently wrote an article for his Arthur Magazine column entitled "Business is Good" in which he articulates a very positive view of commerce, arguing that the problems with our current corporate culture are inherited rather than inherent, and inviting bizfolk to [re]orient themselves toward intentionality, integrity and passion. His title reminded me of my Life is Good ultimate frisbee disc (pictured above, with a slight modification), and more generally, the positive attitude evoked by the phrase "it's all good". Yesterday, I was feeling rather non-positive about my own business, but I continued listening to the audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink", and was reminded of the power of priming (the words we write or say influence both our self-image and our performance). So, if you were to ask me today "How's business?", I'd be able to reply -- with much more authenticity -- "Business is good" ... and I wouldn't be surprised if this rather colloquial usage was one of multiple possible interpretations Doug intended in choosing a title for his provocative article.
Doug starts out with a critique of the increasing "groupthink" of major media, and then shows how this problem applies more generally to any business that worries more about following trends than focusing on its core competencies and using common sense. A fascinating, brief history of the corporation is presented, highlighting "the zero-sum game of resource capture" and "the philosophy of competition between individuals as the dominant and positive force of nature" and the narrow view of running a company as "an exercise in resource management - maximizing efficiencies".
This brings us to the current business paradigm, where corporations are often disproportionately focused on one group of customers, it's shareholders, to the exclusion of all others:
... spreadsheet management favors short-term visible revenues at the expense of the development of expertise, continuing innovation, values-driven decision-making, and, perhaps worst of all, fun...
... the minute you sell your company—and this includes going "public"—you're no longer a shoemaker, muffin baker, or airplane designer. You and the company you built are the asset of a group of shareholders. And believe me, most of those shareholders don't even know or care what you do or believe. They just want your shares to pop so they can sell for a fast buck.
Fortunately, after describing the problem, Doug offers a solution, which is very much in alignment with the notions of "do what you love, the money will follow" (a thread I've been thinking -- and blogging -- about recently), and concludes with a positive prognosis:
Making money should really just be a happy result of contributing to the world what you do best. ...
Rather than confirm businesspeople's sense of inadequacy by maintaining some angry, counterculturalist posture, I'm instead inviting them to reorient to their businesses from a place of passion and concern rather than timidity and terror. ...
I believe that commerce, enacted mindfully, can liberate itself from the neocon mythology that it currently serves, and instead turn both our labors and economy toward serving needs instead of a central authority that—quite frankly—does not exist.
I was so inspired by this article (written last month) that I ordered his new book, "Get Back in the Box : Innovation from the Inside Out ". It arrived yesterday and I started reading it last night; I'm in the middle of several books (plus the aforementioned audiobook), but I'm hoping to finish this one before Doug's presentation at the next Idea Day meeting on February 15. From the little I've read so far, Doug's prescriptions for businesses -- discover, nurture and do what you do best -- are every bit as applicable to individuals ... and I imagine that if everyone really did what they loved, then business, and life, truly would be good.