E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Racing to the Top Where Corporations Are People

Gran Canaria - San Bartolome de Tirajana Seen from Pozo de las NievesI am certain that if I were to ask you to name your Top 10 most inspiring thought leaders and thinkers on whatever the discipline out there, I would say there would be one or two that may come up on every single list and I would venture to state that probably one of those folks would be Seth Godin and by far. With his blog being one of those essential daily reads. He would definitely be on my Top 10 list of influential thinkers and thought leaders in various different fields. But today I just want to highlight his, once again, brilliant insights around the area of Social Business and the Social Enterprise, because a couple of his recent blog posts have pretty much nailed it for yours truly on why social networking for business makes sense, business sense, that is. And it all has got to do with a key concept that we have been discussing over here for a while: corporations are people and people are corporations, after all, so we may start behaving as such. As (responsible) people.

Indeed, in the rather insightful blog post “The Race to the Bottom” Seth comes to confirm how easy it is for businesses and corporations today to be enticed by the good old forces of money, power and greed, at whatever the costs, even human ones!, as he brilliantly quotes as follows: “We can eliminate rules protecting clean water or consumer safety. We can extort workers to show up and work harder for less, in order to underbid a competitor. We can take advantage of less sophisticated consumers and trick them into consuming items for short-term satisfaction and long-term pain. These might be painful outcomes, but they’re an direct path to follow. We know how to do this“. He comes to state how easy it is to be tricked by the short term benefits of profitability and growth and I would venture to state that we are just far too close to seeing way too many instances in today’s corporate world of such businesses, to the point where it is getting a bit tiring, if not disappointing altogether. We know better, we should do better.

However, he doesn’t recognise that they would be successful in the long term and accurately states the following to go along: “You might make a few more bucks for now, but not for long and not with pride. Someone will always find a way to be cheaper or more brutal than you” [Emphasis mine], which is a rather inspiring introduction into what it would be like the race to the top, that is, to become a successful social business: 

“[…] The race to the top is focused on design and respect and dignity and guts and innovation and sustainability and yes, generosity when it might be easier to be selfish. It’s also risky, filled with difficult technical and emotional hurdles, and requires patience and effort and insight. The race to the top is the long-term path with the desirable outcome

How brilliant is that quote as an inspirational definition of what a Socially Integrated Enterprise should be like, don’t you think? Notice how the emphasis and the focus from such wording does not have anything to do with applying, embracing or living social technologies, but it is more about having the right set of core social values, the right corporate culture, and the right aspirations for sustainable growth, hinting that the clue to it all are not corporations, nor businesses alike, but right to their core, their people.

Which is where it gets really interesting, because on another fascinating article, under the suggestive heading “Corporations Are not People” he comes to explain what it would be like with an example of what not to do and with a marvelous quote of what to do. In that particular entry Seth picks up the recent debacle from Progressive insurance, which is certainly going to have a whole lot more consequences than originally thought out together, but he also comes to describe how such business practices are not going to be tolerated anymore in a networked, interconnected, intelligent, connected world: “[…] if someone in your neighborhood used this approach, treating others this way, if a human with a face and a house and a reputation did it, they’d have to move away in shame. If a local businessperson did this, no one in town would ever do business there again“.

And rightly so! Because as he quotes shortly after

“[…] They [Corporations] bet on short memories and the healing power of marketing dollars, commercials and discounts. Employees are pushed to focus on bureaucratic policies and quarterly numbers, not a realization that individuals, not corporations, are responsible for what they do“,

we may well be witnessing the tipping point where knowledge workers start, finally!, turning themselves into corporate rebels, i.e. rebels at work, outrageous optimists, heretics, free radicals, you name it; realising that certain business practices that may have been tolerated by the system for decades!,  are not just sickening practices altogether, but they also lack both ethics and morale. And therefore they feel, at long last, they need to protest, and rather vehemently, because their social responsibility, their co-ownership of the firm, their openness, their transparency, their trust with / by others, their connectedness with the entire ecosystem, i.e. that Connected Company, is helping them remind, and rather strongly, those very same corporations that they “don’t have to act like this“. Those knowledge workers are finally awakening, realising that “it’s people who can make them stop“, that they are finally comprehending that those people are just they themselves. They are, at last, realising that “Corporations aren’t people, people are people, and, as such, certain bad business practices will no longer be tolerated, nor encouraged. Rather the opposite. They are starting to get challenged by each and everyone of us, knowledge workers. And, once again, rightly so.

Like Seth himself stated … Sign me up.

About time, too!

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  1. Corporations have been machines. The people part was not welcome. It interfered with the conformity demanded by the machine. This is why workers were told to leave their emotions at home. “This is business.” And we wonder why the workforce is disengaged.

    Corporations are evolving into organisms. The people part is was created value. Innovation and growth are required to keep the corporate organisms growing. Treating people as people results in enthusiastic, emotionally engaged workers.

    We’re only now being to pay attention to workers’ feelings, values, and aspirations. It’s going to transform business top-to-bottom.

    The movie The Corporation argues that if the average corporation were a person, it would be labeled a psychopath. We need to rehabilitate the psycho. The ideal Corporation would resemble your generous uncle.

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