A new story of business

17/09/2014 § 2 Comments

Charles Eisenstein says that the world we see around us is built on a story (you can see an inspiring video illustrating his talk here). Every culture answers the fundamental questions about who we are and what it means to be a human being in different ways – the story is what holds it all together.

The part of our shared story (in the rich West at least) that I have become especially interested in is the part that says that businesses are motivated primarily by profit. I choose not to “buy” that story (in a consumer society, buying something is the primary way in which we engage with it!). I think it is as misguided as the now debunked notion that we are all “homo economicus” – making choices designed to maximise our financial returns. We are far more complex than that. And so is a business. A better way to think about it is as a field of forces – the directing minds of the business need to balance the interests of customers, staff and investors if they are to succeed. What’s more, the more powerful the business, the more it needs to serve the needs of less visible interest groups – their community, the planet and future generations.

The idea that businesses are motivated primarily by profit is a part of our accepted story that is extremely harmful. It justifies all sorts of predatory behaviour that results in environmental degradation, social fragmentation and unhappiness. As someone who doesn’t choose to buy this story, I feel obliged to tell a different story whenever I can. So I intend to write a few blog post about this alternative story over the coming months. I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while – it was summer, and a lot of my energy was going into a book which, not surprisingly, is all about this alternative story. But the book is taking some time and I don’t feel like rushing it. Besides, writing blogs about it helps me think. I hope you will join me for story time 🙂

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§ 2 Responses to A new story of business

  • so, do the negative behaviors occur because we accept the story or is it the other way around?

  • ahhh now there’s a question. I suspect both are self-reinforcing. The thing is though – once the story is exposed as untrue, it can no longer be maintained. So our role is to expose it as often as we can and one day the light will shine through! At least that’s the theory…

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