I just tweeted this idea:
It seems to me we have built Chinese walls – firewalls if you like, to prevent incendiary response – between two significant parts of our lives.
The first part is everything related to our businesses. I remember recently chatting with a wonderful businessperson at the local Chamber of Commerce Christmas party. We talked about her successes – considerable in every respect – and then she asked me what I did. I began to explain my new project, based around a four-stage customer journey.
It was then her eyes glazed over.
She was interested, really, only in things related to money, and further business opportunities she might – quite rightly – glean out of relatively random conversation.
Prior to this conversation, I had already spoken to a corporate fundraiser. Her take on what business was about was similar: the bottom line was the bottom line. Her approach though was different, in nuanced but important ways. Involvement, a sense of doing good for good’s sake, acquiring those volunteering habits and customs … she did, after all, speak a different language – a language she wasn’t paying lip service to, either.
But even here, she accepted that business was business, and good-deed moments were good-deed moments.
So back to my query at the top of today’s post: imagine we could construct a business environment where everything we did felt like real volunteering, and where there wasn’t a divide at all between good business and good deeds.
I say real, by the way, because I once had to briefly participate in an annual objective-setting process for a corporation which shall remain nameless, where it was suggested that volunteering become part of the aforementioned goals. Where volunteering is incentivised by the touchpoints and nudge of corporate HR is when volunteering – in no way! – can be real.
But those who understand volunteering properly will obviously have another take.
I assume in many cases, then, that those who go into volunteering environments often do not have their hands sullied by the harder ends of business. It may even be a temperamental choice. Yet it seems a proper pity: a terrible loss. A lost opportunity to fuse, in one, tremendous drivers on all sides for good.
So imagine, again, but this time more forcefully, that experts in volunteering and its dynamics could create large company cultures from scratch.
Imagine everything you did for such a corporation – everything everyone did, from CEO upwards! – produced in each of us the hormones and reactions of really good volunteering, even when all that we were doing was business and the bottom line.
If this kind of project – a pet project of mine, I have to say, for longer than you will ever believe – were ever to get off the ground, as a laboratory of outcomes – if nothing else – it would surely deliver fascinating data on how we might begin to build a post-capitalist world which managed to go way beyond the monopolistic behaviours of current times.
I may, of course, also be mad.
But then I’ve already been there and seriously done that.
Footnote to this post: certain legal structures come to mind which might facilitate such projects. Sociedades laborales in Spain; benefit corporations in the US; cooperatives in the UK. All with gently different approaches and solutions around how to make doing good the point of business.
We’re definitely living in a post-capitalist age, though. The challenge ahead is surely: what do we now do with the opportunity these circumstances present?