“Just ask yourself: if you were to walk into any corporation, would you find faces brimming over with deep fulfillment and authentic delight—or stonily asking themselves, “If it wasn’t for the accursed paycheck, would I really imprison myself in this dungeon of the human soul?””
Umair Haque, US economist and author
After spending decades in corporations large and small, I find myself a bit battered, yet surprisingly hopeful about the possibility of workplaces where the human spirit flourishes and possibility is alive and well. I know from experience that for every corporate hellhole, there is a business where people feel part of a community whose purpose aligns with their own talents and passions. But most organizations fall somewhere in the middle – good intentions yielding questionable results.
So, I think I have some stories to share. But more importantly, I hope to start a dialogue with other like-minded folk about the potential of capitalism as a force for good in the world. And I don’t just mean corporate philanthropy, although that’s certainly a great thing. I mean workplaces where people thrive personally and professionally, where they can point to tangible evidence that they are valued.
This isn’t all about holding hands and singing Kumbaya. This is about hard-headed decision-making, people practices that actually work, and how to not be evil. Because most organizations invest time and money in crafting statements about their mission and purpose. What they lack is a “structure for fulfillment” – a set of policies, practices, and resources that enable people to connect those statements with their everyday reality.
I’ll leave you with some words from a great man that are just as true now as they were then:
“The greatest tragedy in America is not the destruction of our natural resources, though that tragedy is great. The truly great tragedy is the destruction of our human resources by our failure to fully utilize our abilities, which means that most men and women go to their graves with their music still in them.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes (American Physician, Poet, Writer, and Harvard Professor, 1809-1894)