A Big Thought

Improvisations on a Theme

Business Is an Offering

It’s crucial to do business with purpose. A goal. A mission. And a vision for getting there.

But purpose alone can’t provide the direction we need for values in corporate life.

The problem with purpose is that it’s always paired with something else: the means for achieving it. So we spend most of our time doing things that aren’t inherently worthwhile. All our business tactics simply help us toward goals (we hope) will eventually make all the hard work pay off.

But many goals in business are simply the means to other goals. We have quarterly sales targets. Annual earnings reports. Two-year blueprints for expanding our customer base. Three-year strategic plans for boosting productivity. Five-year brand building initiatives. But all of these are corporate tools for taking us elsewhere. They’re means, not final ends.

So the real payoff of business sometimes seems endlessly pushed into the future. And that can be a major frustration for people who want their values to matter now.

But business does allow us to achieve goals that are intrinsically worthwhile. It enables us to take care of those we love. It empowers us to create innovative products. Its drives astonishing cultural change. Business isn’t all means and no ends.

But purpose alone is still an incomplete source of orientation. Why?

Purpose alone can’t deliver peace.

It can’t center us. And, collectively, we want to find our center at work.

All of the anxiety, the strained relationships, the frustrations, and the dead-ends that are part of our execution are baked into our mission. Means are different from goals. But the two are inseparable.

The compromises we make to hit our targets are built into whatever value those targets may have.

Mission and vision alone aren’t enough to give us what we really want. Our purposes point toward something else: they point toward center. If we focus on purpose alone, we’ll miss the point. We won’t center the heartfelt values that make our business matter.

Peace is what centers us. It’s why we value what we do. But how does business lead to peace? It gives us opportunities to take care of one another.

Business exists to transform goods and services into expressions of love for those around us.

The stuff we make and the work we do are ways of looking out for each other. Taking care of each other. And as we care for one another, we are also taken care of.

Business is an offering.

And that offering centers mission, vision, strategy, and execution.

When leaders work with compassion, they energize their teams with centripetal force. They remind the people around them why they do what they do. And they find peace by finding center.

By taking our shared purposes to heart, we can put our values to work.

Think of yourself in orbit. You—and your team—are like satellites revolving with the centripetal energy of the values you have it at heart to own. That’s how we find center in business. And centering our work gives us the peace and the poise to do business as if we all shared the same skin.

Entrepreneurship Is a Feat of Hospitality–Not Heroism

As entrepreneurs, we’re not isolated superstars, creating something out of nothing. We’re always working with material we’ve been given. Recognizing that keeps us in touch with ourselves and with the people around us. It also allows us to work alone without suffering from self-imposed loneliness.

Is Business Really About Collaboration or Competition?

The answer is: both. Seen from the global level of organizational complexity, business is all about working together for our common good. And that happens through competition, not in spite of it. The key is learning how to compete with one another on lower levels while never losing sight of our shared purposes on higher ones.

Values Are Contagious

Values are essential to business. However, when we assume that they're private, our values can leave us feeling isolated and lonely. But values aren't really private. They're shared. So leaders should be in the business of offering values--not just adding value.

What Smart Money Does

What would happen if we stopped imagining that money exists primarily to make our private lives as comfortable as possible? What would change if we started seeing money as an opportunity for solidarity and recognition?

The Goal of Business Isn’t Making Money

Thinking of profit alone as the primary objective of business is a feature of the flawed way in which we think about value. Corporations don't exist to generate private value. They exist to point us to the common good of peace. That's a center that organizes us around truly corporate purpose.

What the Ancients Knew (and We Don’t) about Economy

Treating customers and business partners as family is one of the biggest opportunities for making work more meaningful in our global economy.