In two recent conversations with social entrepreneurs (of which I include myself) we lamented the challenge of doing business in an economic environment where surviving is yet to be balanced with thriving. The survival game amounts to business entrepreneurs manipulating the physical environment (geographic, political, social and economic) to optimize profit and return. In other words, business emphasizes making money often to the exclusion of the health and wellbeing of humanity and the planet.
Thriving, on the other hand, constitutes a holistic and integrated approach to jointly optimizing potentials (geographic, political, social and economic) with profit being only one of many measures of success. With the added complexity of merging the needs of these multiple requirements, business strategies based on competition and manipulation are giving way to collaboration and adaptation. So, you might ask, why the lamenting on our part? . . . because my entrepreneurial friends and I are products of our era and as such learned how to make money under the old economic regime. In order to thrive in today’s business environment, we are unlearning the old survival skills as well as internalizing the new social enterprise skills of collaboration and adaptation.
As a social entrepreneur, I value, understand and practice collaboration. I get the purpose of collaborating. As human beings, we are social creatures who at our healthiest seek to live harmoniously and productively in community. Collaboration is our natural state. We need to collaborate in order to thrive.
Having said this, I am only beginning to understand and practice adaptation. Part of that practice is to first recognize and resist my desire to act on and alter the environment around me in order to press my agenda forward. Manipulation for most business people is a deeply conditioned response or habit for achieving what they want. This habit has all kinds of limiting thoughts associated with it such as — “My job is to convince others that my vision is the way to go.” “I need to be like a bull in a China shop to ensure I am successful.” “If I don’t get there first, my product/service won’t be valued.”
Circumventing an old habit (behaviour change) is demanding and can take considerable energy, particularly if we are resistant to the change. However, it takes even more energy to keep active this old habit of “moving a mountain” or “rolling a boulder uphill.” In the end, the results may certainly be financial success but they also have included human oppression and burnout (slave wages, dangerous working conditions, child labour, stress, anxiety, depression and suicide) as well as environmental degradation (climate change, pollution, species extinction).
Adaptation as a business strategy clearly differs from manipulation. It requires the ability to sense emerging opportunities even before they concretely present themselves through our five physical senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). Thus, our intuition must move to the foreground of our acumen with our analytical empirical skills as servants to this awareness.
For a society that traditionally pooh-poohed anything as seemingly esoteric as intuition, we have a significant learning journey ahead of us. Although I strengthened my intuition through daily meditation (a 13- year practice), I recognize my own infancy in this methodology for change. I tapped into the tip of the iceberg, but can see its remaining 90% is yet to be fully understood and utilized. By internalizing even 10%, I reached my personal tipping point or critical mass for shifting my values.
The next milestone on the learning curve is to bring all of humanity into the dance. None of us can or are meant to journey alone. Currently our work is to create that social tipping point whereby a critical mass of humanity sharing similar values (i.e., a desire to build happy, healthy, humane organizations and communities) shifts mass consciousness in that direction. Just as a virus or behaviour can go epidemic, humanity is witnessing and waiting for the tipping point where social consciousness goes viral. As Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers; Tipping Point) proffers, with one action practiced over 10,000 hours, anyone of us can create an epidemic.
What one action are you willing to commit to so you can impact global social consciousness?
To read more about radical transformation and shifting values, check out my book From Now to WOW — An Invitation to Transformation.