“Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live
without profit. But most people don’t live to eat and neither must a
business live to just make profits.” – John Mackey
In business today we often find ourselves thinking in terms of
trade-offs, an “either-or” mindset if you will. Trade-offs implies
giving up one thing to get something else and for some, a path of least
resistance for change. Least resistance in that we will disparage,
disregard, and eventually walk away from what is, to influence movement
towards what’s new or what needs to be. And while there are clearly
situations that call for complete change where trade-offs do apply,
there are also times where the wisdom of “both-and” is much more
applicable. “Both-and” in a sense that current qualities or aspects of
an organization are not lost in order to gain something new. Instead,
current and new conditions are both brought forward and the positive
effect more often then not can be exponential.
While there are clearly situations that call for complete
change where trade-offs do apply, there are also times where the wisdom
of “both-and” is much more applicable.
The wisdom of “both-and” may be best captured in John Mackey and Raj Sisodia’s book, Conscious Capitalism, where
the authors take a strong and compelling stance on the value of
capitalism reimagined. In the book Mackey and Sisodia write, “now
business is awakening to itself and becoming conscious. It is
recognizing that it is a force with enormous power and responsibility.
By becoming conscious it can do what it does even better. It can create
more community, more mutuality, and paradoxically, more profit.” What
the authors are describing is the reciprocal relationship between making
meaning and making money, also referred to as doing good and doing
well. With the key message being the importance of managing the
polarities in lieu of trading one for the other. The idea is that as
organizations amplify purpose they in turn ignite associates, customers,
and communities to an end that results in a greater financial return.
The extra cash flow is then invested back in the purpose and the cycle
continues in bigger and better ways.
As organizations amplify purpose they in turn ignite
associates, customers, and communities to an end that results in a
greater financial return.
Within the construct of doing good and doing well, profit is not a
dirty word. Instead, it becomes the fuel that drives those businesses
existing for a higher purpose. Businesses where work becomes a source of
joy and fulfillment for the employees, while delivering on the
expectations for all stakeholders involved. Businesses that master a
“both-and” mindset by constantly exploring the impact of the choices
they make on others and the world around them, coupled with the
understanding that the machine still needs to run and run well to ensure
the long term financial health of the enterprise.
Mackey and Sisodia really drive home their point on “either-or”
thinking when they say, “too many businesses have operated with a low
level of consciousness about their true purpose and overall impact on
the world. Their tendency to think in terms of trade-offs has led to
many unintended, harmful consequences for people, society, and the
planet, resulting in an understandable backlash.” Along with making
meaning and making money, you don’t have to look too far to begin to see
other opportunities for “both-and” thinking in business today.
Within the construct of doing good and doing well, profit is not a dirty word.
One such example in the ever-changing world of work is how many
organizations are in a constant state of innovating for the future
knowing there is a core or soul of the company that needs to be
preserved. Another would be as cultures begin to loosen their hold from
the command and control past, there is still a need for selected
constraints. A philosophy commonly referred to as freedom with fences.
And one more is the current polarity that exists among our next gen
workforce with their profound desire to make a difference, however we
should not let this cloud our understanding that they also want to make a
Wisdom, a virtue, is defined as displaying sound judgment in complex
environments, and is paramount in work and life. In today’s world the
wise application of “both-and” thinking can be the difference in
ordinary versus extraordinary outcomes. Choose wisely.