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The bumpy road to Betterness
on December 22, 2011
At the start of the workweek when you walk in the door how do you feel about your job - jazzed, satisfied, thinking that there's some sort of purpose to what you do.
You do? You're in the woeful minority.
More likely, says Umair Haque, you're like two-thirds of your co-workers who are feeling uninspired, frustrated, and maybe even a little suffocated. You're the flip side of engaged. Haque would like that to change.
He wants to initiate a paradigm shift from negative to positive - in the way you feel about work but more importantly in the way business works. That's a big, heady challenge but Haque thinks there's much to gain if we say goodbye to the industrial age and focus instead on a new day that emphasizes the value of human capital.
It's a new paradigm that challenges companies to focus on achieving their own potential instead of engaging in competition to defeat rivals. The engine of business needs to recalibrate and begin striving for and measuring growth in human potential rather than financial profit, Haque argues.
"What if the future of commerce and enterprise is as different as its present is from its past? . . . I believe it can do so - and more vitally, that we must make it do so."
The new paradigm involves a shift to what Haque labels "Betterness." That's a place where instead of pursuing return for shareholders, business looks more at investing in human potential and concentrates on providing the essentials that enrich life - relationships, fulfillment, accomplishment and enduring achievement. These are emotional rather than financial rewards. And they're intrinsically more important, Haque asserts.
He has a list of companies he's watching that may be in the vanguard of change. He likes Wal-Mart's Strategy for Sustainability for its simplicity and concern for the common good. Wal-Mart has a stated goal "To reach a day where there are no dumpsters behind our stores and clubs, and no landfill containing our throwaways. We want to create zero waste."
The Whole Foods value statement is also simple and altruistic: "We feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats."
Whole Foods and Wal-Mart are taking steps to focus on long-term outcomes that enrich all of us rather than provide a short-term return for investors. They're part of what the new paradigm should look like.
Haque is at his most persuasive when he asserts that the way we do business and measure corporate success today is obsolete. Companies are spending billions on "engagement," "change management," "training." They're wasting money, according to the author. By almost any financial measure, the last several decades have been stagnant at best.
When he presents his argument for the new paradigm of Betterness, he's less persuasive. He left me wanting more specifics on how that might be done and how his concepts might be added to the corporate agenda. I work at a Fortune 500 and like most other companies, we're fiercely resistant to change and certainly don't like being labeled obsolete. If he expects corporations to travel down the road to Betterness, Hague needs to give the business world a better roadmap.