We welcome guest blogger Chris Laszlo, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. Here he offers a preview of his new book, Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business to be released in August.
What if business could increase productivity, social responsibility, and happiness with just a few minor investments that yielded immediate high returns?
New research at Case shows why and how it can be done. It is the subject of a book, Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business, published in August 2014 by Stanford University Press.
Here are three big ideas from the work.
First, business needs to replace the tired notion of “environmental and social sustainability” with the much more inspiring concept of “flourishing”. Sustainability has come to mean meeting material needs and doing less harm. Flourishing is about doing well, thriving and prosperity: it engages & motivates people in an entirely different way.
Second, businesses need to pay more attention to personal flourishing: to whether people are able to feel whole at work and to feel treated as human beings rather than fungible resources. We need work environments in which people’s values line up with their organization’s values to enable them to live a purpose-driven life.
And third, we need more mindful management practices in the workplace. Practices such as meditation, journaling, poetry and music, and nature immersion can increase our sense of connectedness to self, to others and to the world. A growing body of research suggests that such reflective practices – and the sense of connectedness they produce – are a gateway to personal flourishing.
A sense of connectedness to self, to others, and to the world is important not only because we want people to feel happy and fulfilled. It’s important not only because happy and fulfilled people tend to be more creative, collaborative and productive. It’s important because those who experience a deep sense of connectedness are more likely to care for others and future generations.
Now some of you may wonder why practices like meditation should lead to a greater sense of connectedness. Science is now showing us that connectedness is not just a metaphor; it’s an essential property of the physical world. And a growing body of evidence suggests that we can experience that wholeness and connectedness through mindfulness or reflective practices.
We tend to think of the universe as being made up of independent particles and forces; and we think of ourselves as individual and separate. But quantum physics, biology and cosmology are beginning to tell a very different story: underlying physical reality is a holographic field that connects us in tangible ways. Even more interestingly, neurophysiology and brain research is suggesting that we can tune into this field if we are able to quiet our senses. For many this is their relationship to God or to a universal consciousness. For others it’s simply the unity of all things.
No matter what our beliefs, were we to start thinking and acting as if we were deeply connected rather than separate, we might behave differently toward each other and future generations.
It is time to recognize that narrow return-on-investment (ROI) calculations for socially responsible businesses are no longer enough. We must change who leaders are being, not only what they are doing.
Companies introducing mindful management practices are already proving that it can be hugely profitable. Google, General Mills, Whole Foods, and small and mid-size pioneers such as Fairmount Minerals and Clarke, are already showing the business value of flourishing, starting with the inner wellbeing of their people.
Note: The new book provides a conceptual foundation for the Third Global Forum, “Flourish & Prosper”, which will be hosted by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on October 15-17, 2014.
Chris Laszlo, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, where he is the Faculty Research Director at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value. He is also Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University. Chris is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Sustainable Value Partners, LLC, an advisory services firm specialized in sustainability for business advantage.