November : Melissa
The Business of Connection.
I was in a meeting this week with six highly intelligent, open minded humans and I said the following phrase… “the new paradigm of business”.
I was given the 12-eye roll salute.
I left the meeting engulfed in consideration about this reaction. My “New Paradigm” was disregarded as some kind of esoteric, new aged rhetoric.
It got me to thinking how undefined business is right now; how being in business and creating new business in the current moment of time is new territory for all kinds of reasons. It also got me to thinking how more mainstream thought and conversation should be going into the big picture to really take advantage of the change in the individual mindset that’s starting to take place. So I am here today to start a conversation.
From where I sit I see a kind of access to technology, information and the global marketplace like never before. The traditional limits have been demolished. It's never been easier to become a business owner. So you can go out and choose; who you want to do business with, how you want to do it & what you want to get paid to do that. You get to write the rules. All good news!
Yet. Many people do not want to own and run their own businesses. Rightfully so. I know first hand, as someone who started my first business at age 19 (cough...17 year ago!), that the risks and investments go far beyond time and money. Many people make incredible careers of far reaching success in contributing their own kind of genius to companies created by others.
Yet it is clear that there is a problem. Gender inequality, pay gaps, minimum wage workers below the poverty line, profit over environmental sustainability, no moral or legal accountability in the chemicals used in products, decisions made simply to improve cost margins, no moral accountability in dealings full stop, are just a few that come to mind when I consider the current state of play.
So where is the solution found?
I am not here to throw in the towel on capitalism. In fact I proudly call myself a capitalist. I am simply a socially minded one.
Capitalism stands as a way for people to have the freedom to create gain from their unique creative outputs. It is a wonderful circle of giving and receiving when applied in a socially minded way.
Real active social capitalism (that’s not socialism – please don’t misunderstand, I mean ‘social’ as in morally, environmentally & economically considerate) is when human kindness, environmental impact and economic accountability are held as equally important as profit.
One would be hard pressed to look around and not see that the profit first, human, environmental & economic impact last mentality has rained supreme for far too long at far too high a cost.
When you break down all the different issues listed above, like gender inequality, pay gaps, minimum wage workers below the poverty line, profit over environmental sustainability and so on, they all share one very big similarity: the business double standard.
'The business double standard' can be basically summed up with one commonly used sentence.
“Its business; its not personal”
I can't even tell you how many times this line has been used on me over the years when I was sitting on the very wrong end of a deal. It’s a “kill or be killed” approach to business and it’s the socially accepted way to operate in the “business world”.
I just want to point out a couple of things, which instantly come up for me regarding this approach to business.
- From what I understand & what I believe is supported by a fair majority of the science community, as it stands there is only one world as we know it. Not a supposed “business” one & then another one, you know the other world where people act with sound moral accountability and respect.
- If one person is dealing with another person, about decisions that will impact both people – it is, unquestionably a person issue. It’s personal.
- Most people spend more time working than any other activity – it is a life majority & for almost everyone, it is a means of being able to provide basic living standards for them & their family. That’s pretty personal too.
So now we have established there is no “business world” and separate nice “other world” and we have established that it is undeniably personal.
We also know, this is a big, complex issue. So I’m left asking, what is the better way forward? Where do we start?
I don’t have the total solution for this. A total solution will involve many smart, innovative and creative humans to work together to make major change happen, but I do have some suggested starting points to prepare ourselves and our direct communities & workplaces for this collective future change.
Number one; the most important first step (in my mind anyway), to really begin creating a “solution revolution” is connection.
Arthur Aron of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University in New York, created an experiment he called "The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness".
It was constructed of two complete strangers, tasked with asking 36 questions as they sat face to face.
His paper has been taken and used in several high profile studies showing a considerable, and incredible outcome. On completion of the task the majority of participants felt a great (rated high) level of connection to the person they partnered with, (some even fell in love and got married – no joke!) and more so, when participants were asked, they said they would be less likely to commit a hurtful act towards that person, and more so, would go out of their way to help them in the future.
This method, the simplicity, of just asking each other 36 questions, which takes about 45 minutes of time to complete, is a game changer for connection.
So how could this be applied on a large scale?
Imagine a company of 2,000 people, most of whom only really know their immediate peers, and even then, sometimes only on a surface level. Then make this a once a month activity – the last Friday of each month, you are paired with someone you don’t know, and you run through a set of questions. Or 10,000 people from around the globe on Skype calls.
All of a sudden, you start removing the separation and replacing it with communication to create connection and with connection there is collaboration and when people collaborate, great things are created (think Apple - computer hardware people collaborating with computer software people).
This doesn’t even touch on the deep and far reaching social and psychological impact for what is fast being recognized as an over crowded society that feels a sense of deep individual isolation.
On a more personal level, imagine going into business with someone, but first, sitting down for 45 minutes to ask these questions. I have a deep understanding of the importance of the questions you are asked, and that which you ask another, at the meeting point of business relationships & I can tell you with assurance, this simple task is everything.
Connection, human connection, is step number one.
You can view the questions here.
Don’t feel alone in your fight for change. There are great things already happening. Look at Dan Price at Gravity Payments, for example.
He announced on NBC earlier this year that within a two years of a stepped pay rise plan he will make the minimum wage in his company $70,000 p/a (cutting his own wage from $1.1 million to $70,000 to afford it) because you “simply can not survive on anything less”.
People are calling him a socialist – yet in the first 6 months his company’s growth tripled, profit margins are up & client retention is a staggering 95%.
The numbers don’t lie. Nor does the public interest – the video aired by NBC of the announcement has become the most watched & shared video in the networks history & Harvard is doing a study tracking the company’s success.
There is a lot of talk about self love & self care, meditation & movement, which is all valid & necessary, but let's not forget collaboration & connection as key ingredients to a better future for all. It is not ok to be dishonest, disrespectful to both nature and people nor discriminative in the name of “better business profit” and now is the time to change.
Maybe this shouldn’t be called “The New Paradigm”, maybe this morally accountable, kind hearted, interconnected, collaborative approach to business – should simply be called “Business”.