Rebooting business and capitalism

Last year with the launch of Social Innovation Sydney I was inspired by the idea of rebooting capitalism. I had become depressed about the nature of business in our world today and wanted to do something practical about changing things.

Then I went off to Paris for LeWeb 2010 Conference and ran into Tara Hunt and our conversation got me thinking (I love meeting people who make me think!).

Upon arrival at home I read Tara’s posts about The Hole in the Soul of our Culture [Part 1 here and Part 2 here – both are recommended reading] and these resonated with the feelings that had sparked my involvement with Social Innovation Sydney.

Tara’s posts also pointed me in the direction of Umair Haque’s I’m Bored – The Significance Manifesto, which I’d missed during my travels.

I believe that we have entered an age where ‘business as usual’ is no longer viable. We need to come up with new business models that are founded on truth, openness, justice, equity, and sustainable profit. No longer can we sustain a world where profit and profit alone is the only goal of business (after all we are not Ferengi). We need businesses that change the world, that make things better for people, that do not destroy the environment for future generations.

We have flirted around the edges of change with notions like the triple-bottom-line to no avail. The existing culture of business has shown itself to be highly resistant to change. Existing business culture does not value the things that go into creating value that are not easily measured as ROI. Thus having a conversation with a customer is often not valued highly over getting the customer off the phone quickly to meet KPIs in a call centre.

I suspect that Tara is right when she identifies a key part of the problem as us:

“But it all comes back to what we value and why I think we have a hole in the soul of our culture. It isn’t merely the businesses and boardrooms where there lies an issue. It’s all around us. In North America at least. We pay lip service to wanting to change the world, to being better human beings, to ‘balancing’ our lives, but when it comes down to it, we tend to be more impressed with big numbers: 1 MILLION hits, 100,000 followers, $1 BILLION market capitalization, etc.”
[Source: The Hole in the Soul of our Culture – Part 2]

The change needs to start with an individual deciding to be different and to think differently. Deciding to shift away from instant gratification and ROI measured in mere numbers seems to be the first step. I also suspect that once an individual changes their thinking in this way that individual behavioural change will not be far behind.

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