There’s a sea-change underway in business, though it’s just starting to be visible “around the edges” of the mainstream business culture. What’s really beginning to occur is a move towards greater balance, suggesting that what has passed for “normal” has actually been discernably out of balance.
But what is this shift, and towards what? The shift is towards a more graceful way of being and doing business, and away from a rather graceless and very costly approach.
Throughout the industrial and technology ages — over the course of the last 125 years or so — there has been a move towards increasing mechanization and away from humanization, towards categorization and away from organic. This trend was actually seeded much earlier, when so-called “rational”, linear thinking came to dominate over (and often overtly delegitimize) more fluid, intuitive, natural and seemingly chaotic ways.
The relevance and practicality of Grace
So what does this have to do with business in the here-and-now? Everything. Does this have any link to the sea-change underway? Yes.
While the hyper-rational, industrial and high-tech era produced a good deal of technological progress — medicines, communications, sanitation — the predominance of it also helped to disconnect us from the intangible, unseen and truly “civilizing” world often associated with the Feminine and Spirit.
This disconnection created an imbalance that fueled a greater propensity towards incivility, violence, cruelty, dehumanizing or degrading behavior, the despoiling or selfish exploitation of beings and shared resources, etc. All you have to do is read the newspapers — or watch the documentary, The Corporation — to see that the truth of this is easily and readily proven.
In the world of business, this disconnection or imbalance was evidenced by a Machiavellian “ends justify the means” philosophy, where the intentions and actions of the individual or the enterprise were disconnected from their broader and longer-term impact or consequences. While the Enrons of the world are the more recent example of this, the so-called “robber barons” of the earlier industrial era were also poster-boys of imbalance. The seeds of the “psychopath Corporation” and the dissociative leader were planted before Enron was founded.
Wisdom traditions tell us that “by our works we are known” — another way of saying, “Actions speak more loudly than our words.” The “works” stemming from a disconnect between work and heart, action and impact, ability and ethics told a good many of us that the imbalance needs to be addressed because it’s not sustainable and it’s downright harmful not just to human beings but to the entire Creation that sustains and includes us.
We know this. So the seeds of change have been planted, towards a more graceful — grace-full — norm.
What is the grace-full business?
Some would ask whether “grace” has any place in business. For the old-school and unsustainable model that has predominated in the business world for the last era, the answer would be “no.” Such an attitude is what allowed for and created the “psychopath corporation.”
A focus on grace, decency, and humaneness is hardly a “new age” issue, though. For example, B.C. Forbes founded Forbes Magazine in 1917 to help inspire greater humaneness in business, Cadbury and Clarke’s are two companies founded and run according to Quaker principles, and many other wisdom traditions have “right livelihood” and other references to ethical, positive-impact enterprise.
For those who are planting the seeds and ushering in a more sustainable, balanced, healthy way of doing business, the answer is most definitely “yes” – grace can be and is the very center of sustainable business that has both individual and community benefit at heart.
A grace-full business operates from such a heart-center, reclaiming the Feminine way of seeing and operating in seeming chaos, of synthesizing and seeing patterns, of allowing the unordered space from which creativity emerges, of associating actions with impact, of nurturing the wellbeing of the whole, as well as maintaining a balanced focus on the traditionally Masculine disciplines of specialization, ordering, engineering, mechanizing, and pursuing traditional “bottom line” return.
Both of these are necessary for the grace-full — or even most effective — enterprise; the problem is that the Feminine was marginalized and rejected altogether, resulting in outcomes that ultimately created neither sustainable nor positive net-impact enterprises.
From this graceful balance between linear and organic, ordered and chaotic, comes an enterprise that is heart-literate, ethical, vision-propelled, authentic, conscious, connected, and perhaps more effective in the contemporary world.
This article was originally featured at Ivy Sea Online and is reprinted with permission.