Is there room in business for ideas like beauty, love and truth? (Or, more specifically, is there room for them in your business?)
If he’s not on your RSS feed already, you should make space for Gary Hamel over at wsj.com. He’s always worth reading, but I find myself coming back repeatedly to a post from January: “The Hole in the Soul of Business.”
Hamel says we all know that meaning and purpose inspire “heart and soul” engagement — so where’s all the heart and soul in business?
“A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. In so doing, it transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment. That’s a fact—and it leaves me wondering: Why are words like “love,” “devotion” and “honor” so seldom heard within the halls of corporate-dom? Why are the ideals that matter most to human beings the ones that are most notably absent in managerial discourse?”
I agree with Hamel on his two main points: 1) “Humanizing the language and practice of management” is a business imperative, and, 2) all this talk of love, devotion and purpose makes business leaders deeply uncomfortable.
If we’re trying to align employee performance around a shared story and goals, we’re going to have to speak with more humanity than may come naturally in a business setting. But no one gets out of bed in the morning to maximize shareholder value, create cross-functional synergies, or optimize resourcing.
A small handful of businesses get this:
Read the Netflix employee manifesto.
Savor Apple’s response to a request from AT&T that Steve Jobs show up for negotiations in a suit: “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”
Listen to Proctor & Gamble CEO Bob MacDonald on how the company’s strategy statement should guide every employee’s behavior:
“The purpose of our company since the beginning has been to touch and improve lives. We’ve now turned that purpose into a strategy that provides guidance to our employees and also our external partners for what’s important. And if anybody is working on anything that doesn’t tie directly back to the purpose, then they should stop doing it.”
How would your employees’ react if you started to talk about touching and improving lives, loving customers, serving one another, pursuing justice, or creating beauty?
All the greatest human stories, the ones that move us, are about truth, love, wisdom and beauty.
Are you writing a story that will move or engage anyone?