We’ve developed a funny relationship with business. Maybe it was a century of industrial-era emphasis on efficiency, or the consumerist culture that came with that, or something else, but one way or another, we ended up in this place where we generally think of a successful business being something that makes money regardless of whether it contributes positive value to society.
If anything, we tend to think of the two as in opposition. This organization’s doing good? It must be a non-profit, right? That company makes tons of money? It must be screwing people over somehow, right?
That’s not how it was supposed to happen. The architects of the system we use today intended to build something that rewarded businesses when they rendered a service that was worth being rewarded for– money for goods and services rendered.
But no system is perfect. Money, it turns out, is a pretty poor way of measuring true value. While you can certainly make money by rendering a good service that people will pay for, you can also certainly make money by doing things that are, to any casual observer, obviously quite bad for the world.
So what do we do about it? How do we go about improving a system that seems so deeply entrenched in every facet of society?
I believe we have a chance to make some progress. It turns out, for example, that value chains– the things that industrial empires are build upon– don’t work so well in a world of finite resources. Eventually, at some scale, that resource becomes scarce, and the price goes up, and before you know it, it makes more sense to recycle something than it does to make a new one from scratch.
So something like sustainable production, which might have been viewed as a costly endeavor before, suddenly becomes good business. The motives of the business come into closer alignment with the interests of society at large.
That’s just one way of looking at it. There are other factors at play as well. What it sums up to is the fact that business is moving towards being something that we can think of less as a thing that exists to generate financial profit at all costs, and more as something that generates true value to the world– money and positive impact.
And that working for those businesses, or building those businesses, is about making money by doing something good.
I want to fix our relationship with our work. I want us to think of business as something that we do to contribute value to the world, not to extract value from it. That’s how it was always supposed to be.
In building New Work City, I learned a lot about what it means to build something that people care about enough to help make it happen and to help make it sustainable.
I learned that when I made it my mission to do something that other people believed in, I had no trouble finding help. I had no trouble finding customers. I had no trouble spreading the word.
Because everyone I talked to knew that I wasn’t doing it to extract value from the world, I was doing it to contribute value to it. And that happened to align with things that other people cared about as well.
For a lot of people, that’s a pretty unusual way to approach a business. For a lot of people, normal business is about successfully advertising to customers who fully expect they’re being lied to at all times. They must constantly find new ways to convince people that they really do want to serve their needs, and not just make money providing a shoddy service.
But it shouldn’t have to be such a battle. If we can inject a little more humanity, a little more authenticity to the equation, everything gets easier and better for everyone involved.
I learned a lot about how to build and run an organization that can do that well. Now, I want to do my part to share that with others who want to do something similar.
To that end, in the fall, I started working with my good friends and fellow coworking space managers Alex Hillman and Adam Teterus of Indy Hall on an online Masterclass that teaches people the core principles behind how we manage our organizations, with a particular emphasis on the contrast we draw against traditional thinking.
We’re only a few months in, but so far the results have been incredible. Our students have been overwhelmingly excited and involved, and have made remarkable progress in becoming better leaders.
Now, we’re taking our show on the road– distilling some of the core elements of our online class into an in-person workshop. To kick things off, we’re partnering with three upcoming conferences, in Gold Coast, Melbourne, and Austin, spanning the end of February and early March.
The new undertaking is called the Business of Community Tour, and it launches today.
I’m excited, because it gives me an opportunity to help not just people, but people who potentially lead a lot of other people. Every student we take on is someone who has the potential to influence the lives of countless others.
And I get a chance to work with some of my best friends.
I’m not sure where it’s all headed, but I do know that the work we’re doing is work that needs doing. If you or someone you know are in one of the cities I mentioned, I’d love to talk to you more. If you’re not but are intrigued, I’d love to talk to you about what we can do together.
Either way, I’m doubling down on my mission to fix the world’s relationship with the work that it does. If you feel similar I’d love it if you joined me!