Karmic capitalism


There is a revolution underway in business. It goes by several different names but I believe that all of these movements are working towards an exciting and better future for the world. Here’s a quick summary:

Social business
This focuses on human interactions both internally and externally at an organisation. The idea is that if organisations become better at human, authentic, meaningful conversations and interactions then the company, employees, customers and investors all win. It emerged from the social media marketing/PR/systems movement when it became clear that there is a need to drive real change much deeper within organisations to become truly social and realise the benefits that this brings.

Conscious business
This movement is driving businesses that are profitable but deliver value to a broad set of stakeholders; and believe in human development, growth, involvement, awareness, communication and transparency.

Happiness at work
Ask a buddhist what the purpose of life is and they will simply tell you: ‘To be happy.’ After sleeping, we spend more time at work than doing anything else so we can only be truly happy if we are happy at work. And unsurprisingly, happy workplaces are high performing.

Social enterprise
These are businesses specifically set up to create social benefit. But they do this through providing products and services just like any other business rather than through charity. Some are run as not-for-profit and others for-profit. I believe that there is nothing wrong with profit. It’s a great way to attract investment, ensure long-term survival and allow you to grow in order to provide ever more value.

Organisational democracy
The least catchy title, but the term I use most often. It’s about running an organisation using a set of 10 democratic principles including transparency, reflection, individual freedom and choice. It’s very similar to conscious business, but for me, democracy is the wrapper for all of these movements. Democratic organisations are social, conscious and they lead to social benefit and happiness for everyone involved.

Karmic capitalism
OK this one isn’t really a movement. I just thought it sounded pithy when I read it in Chip Conley’s excellent book ‘Peak’. But it kind of simply sums up everything I have discussed. The idea that capitalism can be a force for good in the world, to generate positive outcomes for ourselves personally as well as businesses now and in the future.

Whatever you want to call it doesn’t matter, but it’s time we all joined the revolution to make capitalism karmic.

3 thoughts on “Karmic capitalism

  1. It’s great to think how these can go hand in hand – profit for stability, growth and social good, organisational democracy driven and supported by more open and meaningful conversations…

    Vive la revolution.

  2. I can join with Max StJohn in wishing ‘vive la Revolution’ (why is Revolution a feminine noun?) but, for reasons expressed elsewhere, am unsure of how we are going to get from where we are in capitalism / business to where we might better be.

    How would / could ‘organisational democracy’ be made to work effectively / efficiently in a Hedge Fund organisation within which the task is to face in two opposed directions at the same time profitably?

    I’m now out of the game but, sadly, other than in newly established organisations, I can’t see how ‘organisational democracy’ can be made to work in organisations which have been working in a non-democratic manner for decades, have been successful / profitable and tend to be manned by employees who are contented with how things are currently being done (usually because they can say to themselves ‘I’m OK and mine are OK’).

  3. It won’t happen overnight, but I think that competition from democratic organisations – either newer start-ups or others who have managed to make the change will force the dinosaurs to change as well eventually (or force them into insignificance/bankruptcy.) The main reason for this is talent. I can’t see how non-democratic companies will be able to compete for the best people in the future when they have competitors who offer far more autonomy, freedom and involvement in the business. They may be able to offer more money right now, but money can only motivate so far. Having the absolute best environment to work and being part of a higher purpose/cause I am certain will attract and retain the best people. This will lead to higher productivity and customer satisfaction which trickle down to market share and profit. This will force the issue with the incumbents. There are certainly very successful, profitable companies who are not democratic. They might be in their comfort zone today, but the competitive landscape around them is set to change.

    Check out Vineet Nayar’s ‘Employees First, Customers Second’ for a wonderful example of a profitable company ($700M turnover) that realised it could become so much more and made the change to a democracy, reaping huge rewards and growth to $2.5BN http://www.petelaburn.com/index.php/2011/05/16/employees-first-customers-second-a-brief-summary-of-vineet-nayars-book/

    As for hedge funds, perhaps in the future they will be less successful compared to other investment vehicles who take more of a long view and simply back companies that generate long-term enduring wealth, not a fast buck. Warren Buffet has certainly done OK in this way. I’m not sure many people would shed a tear if hedge funds disappeared altogether.

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