by John Dalla Costa
Here is one of the first reviews featured in The CEO Refresher - a compelling work providing timeless wisdom and insight - suggesting that 'enterprise must enrich society, workers, customers, and the environment. (ed.)
John Dalla Costa, former Catholic priest and religious philosopher turned advertising executive provides a contemporary insight into the potential of ‘business’ to develop a more socially responsible set of ethics and lead society to a new, compelling, and more positive reality. He sees business now supplanting religion and politics to become the dominant and global institution on our planet. He sees ‘business’ as the opportunity for positive and productive change and offers his meditations to add balance and spirituality to the effort.
Why business as usual can’t be, anymore.
Paraphrasing from his book: Accountability to shareholders and the stock market is inadequate for the ecological damage done by business. ROI is too simplistic a measure for the human and social costs business incurs in meeting its goals. Traditional business lacks humanity, is rooted in the material, and focused on the temporal. By contrast, religion and politics have resonance with the noble side of the human spirit. Cost of goods should include ecological as well as commercial values. We should measure how well a firm performs across a spectrum of meta-economic indicators. Contemporary work generates crises and conflicts as people adapt to values and conditions that may be good for advancement but impoverishing to spirit and sense of identity. We need to go beyond the financial to the less tangible, to reflect the real worth of a company and the management sophistication and contribution that the leaders are making.
Dalla Costa writes that business has borrowed structural ides from the military and most of its methods from science. It needs to inspire the knowledge worker by stimulating and nurturing innovation. Rational structures of control inhibit creativity. Managing as if people had souls requires that we de-mechanize management and instill it with the diversity and depth of our own humanity. The point is to respect people and allow them to make the fullest contribution they can. We need more reflection in business not more strategizing. Meditation takes thinking even further because it allows for the wisdom of the heart to interweave with the knowledge of the head.
How do we humanize business?
According to Dalla Costa we need to re-humanize the language of business and infuse it with respect and the dignity that human beings deserve. Being human centered doesn’t mean lower profits. On the contrary, it means that the spiritual aspects of people - their capacity for joy, commitment, surprise and duty, their expectations for involvement, reward, and inspiration - are accessible as resources, for companies that nurture and respect them.
The good judgment we have as human beings provides the best judgment for what we need in business.
And business leadership?
He foresees that the new business heroes will carry the human spirit forward by providing business models that integrate and enrich, on all levels, but no longer exclusively profit. They will show, through the performance of their companies, how the benefits of an enlightened, mature business establishment can be reciprocal, enriching society, its workers, customers, and the environment, to the same degree that the enterprise itself is being enriched. Management is no substitute for leadership, and we need new heroes.
Meditations on Business - by John Dalla Costa, Prentice Hall, Toronto, 1991.
A must read for the thoughtful executive.