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Betterness: Economics for Humans (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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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Haque is at his most persuasive when he asserts that the way we do business and measure corporate success today is obsolete.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.
The fundamental assumptions of business as we know it include shareholder value creation, mass production, hierarchical management, and disposable goods made for consumers. The jobs that most organizations offer most people seem unfulfilling. The "visions" that companies have are typically unexciting. We measure a country's prosperity in terms of industrial output, GDP, but we ignore more important things like the emotional, social, intellectual, physical and ethical growth of humans.
The book goes on to suggest a better path to future prosperity, consisting of:
* Eudaimonia: a good life, which is meaningfully rich - with relationships, ideas, emotion, health, fulfilment, great accomplishment and enduring achievement.
* Poeisis: generating new wealth, and multiplying the Common Wealth, as opposed to net-destructive forms of competition such as rent seeking.
* Arête: virtue - habits and patterns of behaviour that seed and nurture eudaimonia, replacing "vision-mission-strategy-objectives" with "ambition-intention-constraints-imperatives".
* Kairos: critical junctures, when opportunities emerge and unexpected, unimagined, transformative new paths can be chosen.
The author's enthusiasm for his vision of the new future probably exceeds that of his average reader, but his diagnosis of the malaise of the present certainly resonates. Something is definitely wrong when people need to be encouraged to consume more useless stuff quickly to help governments balance their books. The author's entertaining writing style makes this a pleasant starting point for the reader in imagining his or her own vision of a better future.
This essay is so well written... it's got an upbeat tempo but presents considerable evidence that superglue and duck tape on the Economy as we know it... will never achieve a place we desire to live ... in the future.
Reading this essay...about 60pp... will get you thinking outside the box and asking WHY NOT? and seeing more clearly.
Don't mistake Haque for a visionary with no feet on the ground. As he asks: Can we do it? He answers: It's been done before.
Critical Paradigm Shift ... for a better future... a betterness future.
This book is a small masterpiece and all the better for its brevity.
You need to be asking questions and thinking about the many areas Haque presents. He cites brilliant thinkers. His grasp of the Economics & History of Economics is impressive. At the end...most importantly, you know that a light at the end of the tunnel is a distinct possibility.
I read this book when it first came out. It gets even better upon RE-reading. Perhaps I've grown some in the past year.
Take it all in... because it's a game changer. And yes, I kept repeating BETTER...for good reason! Betterness rocks.
Most recent customer reviews
It was stimulating and eye opening and a must read for all economists and anyone interested in new-models of economics