– OPINION Businesses with a higher purpose?
Corporations today want to win — no matter the cost. But instead of thinking about just the bottom line, what about social capital? Perhaps business schools could change their ways — and maybe the world.
By Alan M. Webber

Click to USA Today to read the full article–it’s worth the read if you have been following my posts about “playing bigger games” in your personal life and your work life. I am a firm believer that corporations are the most influential forces for good and evil in the world today. I also believe that corporations, small and medium sized businesses and institutions of all kinds are made up of people like you and me. And that fundamentally, once we get past the first few layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we want to make a lasting positive difference in the world. And frankly, too often, we wake up at 35, 40 or even later, realizing that perhaps we’re missing this most important point.

So, kudos to USA Today and Alan M. Webber for voicing this opinion. Alan, have you recently attended a Bigger Game workshop? Or that’s it – you’ve been reading my blog? You even used the lingo! I’m impressed. Here’s how Alan sums it all up (colors added by me):

What if, instead of seeking to create shareholder value as their definition of success, business men and women sought to establish well-articulated social values — and then applied them to their own careers and organizations? What if, instead of writing books called “Winning,” they called their books “Contributing”? And what if, instead of measuring success only by their ability to amass financial capital, they also sought to grow social capital?

Because the real problem with business today isn’t the few scoundrels who bring disgrace to so many honest managers. The real problem is that it needs to serve a higher purpose than making a lot of money. The challenge today is to answer a fundamental question: Is capitalism going to be the salvation of the world? Or the cause of its demise?

The big picture

This is hardly an academic question, what with issues of global warming, the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, and the seeds of war and terrorism sown by divergent economic systems. Business leaders need to espouse a bigger game than just winning that connects to a view of the world as an interconnected community, where the future of the wealthiest depends in equal measure on the future of the poorest.

MBA students need to think about this bigger game that asks fundamental questions about the purpose and sustainability of business. And it’s a game that will eliminate most cheating — unless, to paraphrase Woody Allen, students who want to serve a higher purpose cheat by looking at the soul of the student next to them.
Alan M. Webber is co-founding editor of Fast Company magazine and former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review.

Here’s an interesting link to another very different kind of publication – What is Enlightenment? magazine. They did an entire issue devoted to this issue “Will Big Business Destroy or Save the World?. If this USA Today article is intriquing, read on. You can order the back-issue for $7.50.

Play on…