History is filled with two types of people: the ones that want to maintain a comfortable status quo and the ones that want to move humanity forward.
In a recent article Jan Lehnardt calls for rethinking and in fact revolutionizing business culture.
He makes a few good points. You really should read the whole article. However, in a nutshell its message is this:
Throughout history there are those who try to maintain the current status quo for their own good. On the other hand, there are those challenging that status quo, established concepts and “We always did it that way.” kind of thinking. By and large, history favours the latter group. Those who are trying to improve the lives of a large group of people in the long run will prevail against those who hedge against change out of fear they might lose their privileged position.
Today’s business culture has an obscene focus on money. We seem to have lost track of what money actually is: Money is a tool for measuring the value of a product or service. It enables business. It’s a utility. Money is a means and not an end in itself. Companies shouldn’t be in the business of making money. They should be in the business of creating value for the customer. Only companies which understand this are sustainable companies. Companies, however, which are only in for short-term revenues, wherever those come from, lose their meaning and direction.
Being privileged entails responsibilty
People in the high-tech business, especially those into creating software and software products, live a privileged life by today’s standards. We make lots of money. We mostly get to choose what to work on and when to do it. As Jan puts it, people in our industry are treated like unicorns:
With “job” in the getting-paid-for-it sense, I get to do what alchemists have failed at for millennia: making Gold. Making Gold out of thin air (and coffee).
On top of performing alchemy on a daily basis, the people in my profession get treated like unicorns. We get to choose what we work on, when to work on it, for how long to work on it, where to work on it. And if we bloody please so, we take a week off and hang out in Dublin and speak at a conference along with and in front of like-minded unicorns.
(Though I have to admit I’ve never really felt particularly unicorny so far myself …)
With such privileges comes a responsibility to not maintain the status quo but to change life and the human condition for the better. It’s on us to challenge the status quo and see to being on the right side of history.
So, what exactly is it we can do? Here goes:
- Try to optimize for happiness. Start with your own environment and expand your circle of influence from there.
- Support ideas such as a basic income that would enable more people to follow their heart.
- Remove the money people from executive positions. They’re valuable advisors but they shouldn’t have the last say. A company needs to make money to be sustainable but it should be guided by the drive to create value and happiness.
- Find out how to balance sustainability and ethics in business.
- Spread the word. Inspire. Learn from others.
So, here’s to unicorns and revolutions!