“YOUR WORK SEEMS TO FIT AT A NEXUS BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGY, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND MOTIVATION. YOU’RE AN EXTREMELY PROLIFIC WRITER AND SPEAKER AND THERE SEEMS TO BE AN ENDLESS CASCADE OF INSIGHTS THAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER ABOUT OUR IRRATIONAL CULTURE. WOULD YOU AGREE?
It’s been endless so far but I think it will quite likely end one day. I view my business as being about change in a couple of ways. First of all I think that each of us has the ability to cause more change than any of our ancestors could ever have dreamed of and that brings with it a lot of responsibility. What change will you seek to make in the world? And the second part is, why do we get stuck not changing when it’s so clear that a certain sort of change is in our interest? And so I work both sides of that. It turns out that a fairly universal angle into the world of change is through business because it is often both the victim and cause of change. I could talk about relationships because that is also something that affects many people, however it’s different for everyone, whereas in the world of culture and business there are a lot of universal precepts.”
YOU PREACH A LOT ABOUT WHAT I WOULD CALL EMPATHETIC CAPITALISM. CREATING A CONNECTION BETWEEN PEOPLE BUT HAVING COMPASSION FOR THE PERSON OR THE IDEA. THE STYLE OF CAPITALISM THAT HAS BEEN PROMOTED IN THE PAST CENTURY HAS REALLY BECOME QUITE INSIDIOUS BUT YOU SEEM TO HAVE ENCOURAGED MORE EMPATHY IN BUSINESS.
I’d like to go further than that. I think that the industrial revolution ushered in this industrialised cruelty. Look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where so many women burned to death because one man was unwilling to unlock the doors. We somehow let one tenth of one percent of the population tell us that the relationship between the owner of capitalism and the worker should be based on this hard-nosed short-term profit maximisation and if you don’t like it then tough. I think in a factory setting where the resource of the building is so expensive compared to everything else you could argue that it was the economics that drove that decision. If you had a hundred people competing in the pin making business and one of them is cut-throat he’s going to lower his price. If he lowers his price and all the pins are the same then his market share will go up and everyone else will go out of business. So the logic became this, if you’re kind then you’re a sucker and you’re going to lose.
I don’t believe that was morally correct but it was certainly economically correct in 1930 or 1950. What has shifted in our lifetime is that the rest of the factory is not nearly as important as the workforce. It turns out that the workforce is pretty much all you need now if people have a laptop. In that environment your best assets are humans. So I can now continue the moral argument of ‘lets treat people like people’ and expand it to saying, it’s also good business. It’s also good business to have motivated, connected, honest, passionate people on your team because that’s what it’s going to take to earn more trust and connection going forward.”