The New “it” Word
I ask my clients to be courageous in the face of prevailing thinking; to have the courage of their convictions and do what they believe is best. Nothing I am saying here hasn’t already been said. What’s new is that I am saying it publicly and putting my voice out there despite my own fears.
Transparency has become the new “it” word.
When I used the word transparency with my client a few years ago they asked me to explain what it meant in a business context. No longer. Whether we like it or not, in the world of web 2.0, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, smartphones with cameras, iPads, satellites, drones–the world is watching. Our personal privacy is at risk, but there are some important societal benefits.
The good news is that all of the gunk that has been lurking below the surface is now being revealed. Denial is no longer an option. Fukushima is revealing the catastrophic consequences of nuclear power–some of which is yet to be experienced. People ignored problems with the deep water well at BP, but it literally came to the surface. Murdoch and media phone hacking. How about those derivatives? Maddoff and his hedge fund? Let’s not forget an early red flag called Enron. Climate change? Has anyone noticed the massive, natural disasters of Biblical proportions that are pounding country after country? Yet unfolding–the financial situation in Greece, Spain … ? The CEO of HP was ousted for “violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.” The list goes on. More gunk will be revealed. What is the red thread that sews all of this together?
From my vantage point, the red thread is our obsession with quarterly profits, short-term thinking and acting, we treat human beings as interchangeable objects, faster/cheaper/new (notice I left out better) and our perceived need to acquire and amass material wealth has got us to where we are today. Now what? How can we intervene in a global system and mindset that is intent on measuring economic health by Gross National and Domestic Product, by the speed of economic growth, productivity, by numbers of people who are employed full-time, by the size of profit margins and share prices … ?
This is not sustainable. Not only that, but it is not necessarily desirable. Are people happier and more content in their lives? Personally, all I hear is how stressed people are.
There are millions of people suffering all over the world who don’t even have basic needs met for food, shelter and fresh water, while many of us own the latest technology for relatively low prices built on the backs of cheap labor mostly from offshoring. There are people living round the clock on corporate campuses, abandoning their families in the hopes of earning money to support them. The social costs are tremendous. The thing is, we are all to blame and we have to move forward differently or the consequences will continue to be devastating.
I am not an economist, but I do know that the word economy literally means “household management.” If we see the Earth as our home, and our global population as our family, how are we managing our home and family?
Are our economic measures focused on managing our house or just our budget and material and wealth accumulation? Can we change what we measure to include all aspects of household management?
Behavior shifts in the direction of what is measured
What if we took a long-term view? What if it was desirable to measure a decreasing gap between the lowest paid worker and the highest paid worker? What if we measured happiness — in Bhutan they measure Gross National Happiness–environmental health, peace, sense of community, human and animal health and well-being, people’s have basic needs for fresh and non-toxic foods and water, shelter, clothes, access to financial resources for the many and not the few, education, and love? What kind of world would we live in if these were our measures? Imagine.
Our ability to hide what we say and do has become more difficult. Transparency isn’t just the new “it” word,” it is our ” new world.”
What say you? What do you think we should measure to have a more sustainable and healthy world society? And do you think its possible?