For today’s Friday Reads, I decided to offer a close read of two significant lines that have been tumbling about in my head this week. One is from David Sloan Wilson and the other is from David Attenborough. I think these may have given me a new and simpler way to explain the benefits of Conscious Capitalism.
I was reminded of the Attenborough quote last week while watching a series featuring Greta Thunberg called “A Year to Change the World.” She had just finished the Davos climate summit and was feeling discouraged. Attenborough was sharing his long perspective that comes with many years. During the conversation he said; “Self interest is for the past. Common interest is for the future.” It was just so simple, and so profound.
The David Sloan Wilson quote is; “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. All else is commentary.” This needs a bit of unpacking.
When there is a selfish individual or several selfish individuals within a group, those selfish individuals will take advantage of the altruistic members of the group and take more than their fair share. Therefore; “Selfishness beats altruism within groups.” Only that’s not the whole story.
“Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.”David Sloan Wilson
In groups containing selfish members, not only are members of the group being unfairly treated, groups containing selfish individuals have to spend effort creating rules, policing individuals, and watching their backs. They are forced to waste potential creativity on guarding against a cheat. Altruistic individuals are forced to start thinking more about their own self interest for their own self preservation. Performance of the group is going to be miserable.
Altruistic groups who have no selfish individuals are focused on helping each other. This generates lots of win-win-win scenarios, and people are happy about it. Individuals think every day about how they can contribute more to their group. They love their group, and their group loves them. There is great positive energy and collaboration, more creative ideas and more energy. When someone needs help, the others gladly step in to lend a hand. There is no place within the group’s culture to be asking, “what’s in it for me?”
This is why Conscious Capitalism works. This whole concept of altruistic groups of individuals is fractal. It looks the same at whatever scale you are looking at it. A group of five people or a group of five companies. The same principles are at play. In either case, an altruistic group will beat a selfish group.
What could be more selfish than a company focusing solely on generating profits for its shareholders, especially if it is at the expense of everyone else in the company or any suppliers or customers? Pay the employees less, buy materials at a price almost sure to drive the suppliers out of business, and cheat oops… I mean charge your customer as much as possible.
On the other hand….
What could be more altruistic than a group of Conscious companies acting for the benefit of all their stakeholders; the employees, the suppliers, the customers, the community, and the planet? This altruistic group will beat similar groups containing selfish companies.
What company culture could be more Conscious than one composed of altruistic employees intrinsically motivated and fulfilled by doing what they do best every day to benefit everyone else for a shared higher purpose?
They will certainly outperform a company focused on shareholder profit in a culture that allows selfish individuals to contribute less and take more.
A Conscious Leader is engaged in the common interest of her people and all of the other stakeholders. She has an abundance of altruism.
Cheers for Friday!
Gavin Watson, Chair, Conscious Capitalism Connecticut Chapter
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As David Attenborough said: “Self interest is for the past. Common interest is for the future.”