There’s a commonly accepted narrative in the world of business that sounds something like this: “Leaders often have to make hard decisions.” “Our first obligation is to make money.” And, the words immortalized by Michael Corleone, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
What we’ve done (collectively as a society) is to accept that when we’re in business, or working in a business, that there is a value system that overrides our basic human instincts. We’ve agreed that businesses exist to make money, because if they don’t they cease to exist.
The problem with this mindset is that it’s a myth. Businesses do not exist to make money. Businesses exist to serve us—humanity. They are simply an invented legal system to organize people and resources for the purpose of providing meaningful work and livelihood.
I know this may sound pat, but think about it for a moment. Why would we (as humanity) create a legal construct that we are to serve, but that does not serve us? Wouldn’t that mean we’re being incredibly ignorant to serve an imaginary master that does not serve us? Because that’s exactly what we’re doing the moment we say that the overarching responsibility is for the “business” to make money. As soon as we place that objective over and above basic human values, we’ve given ourselves over to an imaginary master.
It’s imaginary because it’s not real. The only reason a business exists is because we’ve formed an agreement that says that when we file certain papers with a government agency, and those papers are accepted, we have a business. And our legal system has provided legal rights to those businesses as though they are living beings, when in fact they are phantoms—figments of our collective imagination.
What is real is that we are living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings. What is real is that unless and until we are taught to hate or disconnect ourselves from others, our natural state is to care, to seek connection, and to create things that inspire and uplift. Our basic human instinct is to be kind. It is the point.
Place two infants from different parts of the world and of different races in the same crib together and they will bond and love each other. The moment a natural disaster hits, people come together to help strangers, and we find ourselves inspired by random acts of kindness.
Some people read violence into their religious scriptures. Others read love. The social entrepreneurs are endeavoring to read love into their beliefs around how and why business is to be done. Others believe that harmful acts to people and planet are justified due to the need to generate profit.
Harmful acts flow from a belief system that says businesses exist to generate profit. The distance between business doing harm, and business inspiring and nurturing is the choice we make about why businesses exist.
Can we all chose humanity?