Corporations are just people

So last weeks post suggesting that Google and Apple are authentic was controversial – there was even some quite intense debate through the comments on the blog and on Facebook, thank you all for your contributions.

It is easy to see corporations as great monolithic beasts who act with a single impulse, and I am sure that there are CEO’s who would like for this to be the case.  The reality is that corporations are just collections of people doing what people in our society do and are rarely (if ever) that well coordinated.

Some decisions are good and some decisions less so.  Some are willfully negligent or greedy and some are profoundly positive and inspiring.  Some end up doing more of the former and some do more of the latter.

My experience is that most people, including those in corporations (even really big ones) are trying to do the best they can for their families, for their employers and for society, generally in that order, which is not that different to anyone else.  I know this because I have coached a lot of people from eco-activists to senior corporate leaders.  I have worked with them to articulate their Life Purpose, their Vision, Mission and Values.

At a deep level generally we all care about similar things – community, environment and art (spirit) the level of emphasis varies, but out of well over 3000 people I have coached not one was authentically driven by money.  Clearly my sample is not entirely random, but it is large and diverse.

We have many different views on how to tackle the challenges of our society.  We have, different views on what some of those challenges are and which are the priorities. We also have different levels of commitment in terms of what we are prepared to do about them, but most people genuinely care.

We will only transcend our challenges if we can embrace these differences, support one another and all do what we can.

Robert came up with an interesting definition of an Authentic Business in one of his comments on last weeks post he said:  “My definition of an authentic business would be one which trades in goods, services or information which enrich humanity and help it evolve to a higher vibration.”

In a sense, this is what we all need to be doing.  Inevitably we are all contributing to evolution one way or another.  Even war and environmental destruction contribute to evolution – because if we are unable to transcend our challenges we prove ourselves unfit for survival.  We don’t survive and, in time, another species will take over.

The “higher vibration” is the key.  It is only by transcending our challenges that we prove ourselves fit to survive.  By this definition I would still argue that Google and Apple are authentic.  Education is clearly a vital component of our evolution and Google have done more to share and democratise the worlds knowledge and information than any organisation in human history (with the possible exception of the Moorish teachers of Toledo in the 13th Century).  Apple empowers people by making highly sophisticated technology easy to use – just compare the experience of watching a three year old with an iPhone to the experience of watching a three year old with a pre-iPhone smart phone.  With the iPhone they play games and navigate from one to the other with ease, the old phone makes a useful teething ring or hammer.  When people are empowered it is easier for them to have the confidence to fulfill their purpose. Categorically, I could not do the work I do today without the innovations that Apple have contributed ( you can decide if that is a good thing or not).

Equally you can argue the evolutionary case for oil companies, car companies, airlines, food companies, pharmaceuticals and more.  It may be in some cases that their time is passing or that they have gone past the point where their value to wider society is exceeded by the costs they externalise to it, but the benefits of cheap travel and energy, health care and freedom from subsistence farming are profound (and frequently taken for granted).

Corporations and the profit motive contribute substantially to our lifestyle and there are some very significant advantages to the lifestyle many of us enjoy.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with either, what we need is the wisdom and the courage make use of the energy and innovation facilitated by them to contribute to our evolutionary survival.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts



About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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4 Responses to Corporations are just people

  1. Steve Prior says:

    Hello Neil

    Yes, corporations are and their people are trying incredibly hard to do what’s best. They do their best in a system which drives their behaviour to do things which they don’t want to do but are forced to.

    The profit motive is though, hugely flawed, as it has a tendency to corrupt an individuals integrity. In fact the profit motive can and does corrupt everything that is good about humans and humanity.

    The rationale to this statement goes several layers deep and challenges the very foundation of what we have been brought up to believe about the capitalist system.

    It has been suggested that we extract a quarter more of the earth’s resources each year than is sustainable. I have no easy way to check and verify this calculation but I do though think it raises an important question about the availability of resources.

    I have spent the past two years challenging what I accepted as the truth, looking at the way business work, how structures drives behaviour. How money works, why we have interest charges, why big companies get bigger often killing smaller companies and so on.

    Ultimately, I believe the economy as measured by profit and GDP will be forced to change to a resource or steady state economy. Money and profit will cease to be the measure because the only thing that really matters is if all of humanity shares in all the worlds resources. Something which does not happen at the moment.

    Then and only then will we create the underlying structures and conditions necessary for each and everyone of us to be authentic.

    I recognise that this post is inadequate in terms of education, content and rationale to fully flesh out something so profound but I hope it gets people thinking.


  2. pete says:

    neil … the key point that’s missing for me is that the planet has limits … it is finite … capitalism’s goal is infinite … it is unsustainable … an authentic business needs to address this point at their very core … an authentic business must fulfill a genuine societal need through its service/product … it gives back at least as much as it takes … this makes it, and enables us, to be sustainable … the hunter gatherer model is obsolete … we must become harvesters … we harvest … we reseed … we do not waste … to my knowledge, ray anderson (rip) of interface was the only business leader who’d committed to a 100% sustainable business model/target … 100% by 2020 … and this target returns us to the theme of the planet having limits … we have just over five years until we reach the 2 degrees climatic tipping point … so brave 2020 goals like ray’s are what’s needed … not continued and more plunderers/hunter gatherers

    ps … on your specific point of corporations being ‘just people’, i found it useful to watch ‘the corporation’ again recently, to remind me of the fundamental difference and why corporations actually exist …

    • Neil Crofts says:

      I regularly introduce senior corporate people to both The Corporation and Ray Anderson’s work. I find they respond as people and are motivated to change things, much like anyone else.

  3. pete says:

    more on corporations being ‘just people’ …

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