Jay Parkhill December 31st, 2008
There is a sweet spot for companies (and individuals) between the profit motive and the idea of making the world a better place. Milton Friedman notwithstanding, most corporate managers hope to do more than line shareholders’ pockets.
Glenn Kelman, CEO of online real estate company Redfin, has a post about the “mercenaries” vs. the “idealists” in business. He makes two insightful, tightly intertwined points:
1) Many top-performing companies get that way- in part- by pursuing an idealistic goal. His best example was of Alcoa chasing a specific, hard-nosed figure. It wasn’t cash-related, though. It was reducing the number of employee work-related injuries, which improved morale and reduced labor costs, one of Alcoa’s biggest expenses.
2) We frequently work the other way too- caring deeply about something and then figuring out how to make money from it.
Glenn’s point is that the green-eyeshade types will miss the boat by focusing only on the numbers. It takes ideals- focused ideals- to build a really successful business.
Jumping threads only slightly, one of my goals for 2009 is to focus on my family’s equivalent of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index:
GNH, like the Genuine Progress Indicator, refers to the concept of a quantitative measurement of well-being and happiness. The two measures are both motivated by the notion that subjective measures like well-being are more relevant and important than more objective measures like consumption.
Here’s to a year of economic and personal well-being in 2009.2009, Gross National Happiness
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