Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is not a new book, but its message is timeless: businesses can be more than just about making money. This resonated with me and I thought it might for you.
Csikszentmihalyi, the bestselling author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, applies his principles of flow to the workplace. Flow is the optimal experience in which one loses oneself in a task or activity. The concept has been heralded by thought leaders such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and covered in The Wall Street Journal. Organizational flow can be achieved with clear goals, strong values and culture, planning that is flexible, feedback that is immediate and challenges that push people to learn more.
Some leaders choose a path of greed – cutting corners in quality, ignoring the needs of workers and customers, and generally transforming the organization into something soulless and valueless. Others choose goals that benefit themselves and others. Their visions have “soul”; strong values and culture that attract loyal employees willing to go above and beyond the call of corporate duty.
Csikszentmihalyi applies three fundamental principles to the operation of a good business: a goal that benefits a workforce to do its best; the commitment to fostering the personal growth of employees; and the dedication to creating a product that benefits mankind.
Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia has made these principles his hallmark. First he created top quality rock climbing equipment that could be placed into existing cracks and easily removed so as to prevent damage to mountains. Later, when he moved into manufacturing and selling clothing, he discovered that processed cotton was responsible for 25 percent of the world’s pesticide use, he began using organic cotton in his clothing line. More expensive, but his customers (and employees) thought it worth the extra price.
Csikszentmihalyi – and I – believe that work can provide both meaning and money. Tell me the ways you bring meaning into your work and how it has enriched you—financially, spiritually, or otherwise.