Why You Must Aim to Transform Your Business Environment

Your purpose is to transform your business environment and you need to be clear transformation always takes place in wider society when we work with clients and collaborate with other businesses.

The Inevitability of Transformation

Business causes transformation whatever the business owner’s intention.  Some don’t think about transformation or care what happens.  Businesses have unintended consequences, even though the business owner plans for transformation.  And sometimes businesses get it right!

Some people see profit as the purpose of business.  They may not appreciate the consequences of their actions on the world around them.  Not only will their business have direct consequences for their immediate environment but it contributes to the general attitude transformation is not the purpose of business.

We cannot afford that attitude today.  This is not only about asking businesses to take their responsibilities seriously but to go further and expect business owners to take a lead transforming things for the better.

An Invisible Hand?

It is interesting how Adam Smith’s concept of an invisible hand justifies neoliberalism today.  Smith uses the term “invisible hand” very few times and in his Wealth of Nations, he uses it to critique the approach we call neo-liberalism.  He argues self-interested business people will not trade abroad because their loyalty to the country draws them to business practices that benefit all, as if by an invisible hand.

The term is memorable and so over the years, everyone uses it to justify their economic beliefs.  The original idea was the rich, acting selfishly, benefit all because to produce their wealth and spend it, eg on servants, they redistribute their money to the benefit of all; a dubious idea, sometimes called “trickle down”.  At least, Smith intended money to stay in circulation.

Neo-liberalism uses the idea of a free market to justify practices that constrain the market.  Arguably, a market is free where money flows freely.  If the wealthy hoard money, then they are not contributing to a free market.  This is why regulation of free markets is crucial.

This problem stems from an old debate about whether businesses should aim for transformation.  Perhaps the most convincing argument against transformation through business is from externalities.

Externalities are the unintended consequences attendant upon any business activity, eg pollution.  The argument goes these will undermine any positive aim the business has and so an invisible hand is more effective than intention.

It Takes Time to Change Things

Transformation is an indirect result of actions taken by people.  In other words we cannot predict the outcomes of our actions because we don’t know how others will respond.  You can promise to deliver 100 widgets on time for a price and mostly you will deliver.  You cannot accurately predict the environmental impact of manufacturing the widgets or the impact their use will have.

Furthermore, the transformation we witness today may be completely different in 3 months, 6 months or 6 years.

Regulation mitigates the negative consequences of business activity but we must grow more confident understanding and owning the consequences of the actions we take.

For coaches, a business purpose helps their marketing because it is communicates values and shared values are important to the coaching relationship; working with people, trying things together, to find the most effective way forward.  Transformation is iterative, moves forward slowly, using trial and error.  This way businesses learn together.

The dilemma we face comes from those who deprive businesses of the means to effect change through withholding money from the economy.  Somehow the truth is twisted round to favour those who seek power through hoarding finance.

Businesses committed to a place, to enhancing lives in that place, are the heirs to the vision: a  vibrant marketplace at the heart of every community.

In my email to subscribers this week, I shall write about practical approaches to transformation.  To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

In these posts and emails, experience a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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