I spend so much time in public places, and being curious I often listen to the conversations that fall within ear-shot. Lately many conversations have been about politics and the control business has over the process of legislation and the corruption that often results. These conversations are often just complaints rather than serious debate or efforts to find solutions. But then there is limited time when you are waiting for a plane.
Being a business person, I often give thought to the failings and successes of industry and trade, as a human institution. Yes, there are many things we can say that expose the problems, and like the conversations in a restaurant, these failures are plentiful and easy to uncover. But in this instance I prefer to tax myself and my cognitive abilities to find the positive aspects of this cultural activity. When breaking it down to its many parts, we often discover the best aspects of business lie hidden from casual view. And when exposed to daylight, most observers are surprised at the simple elegance often missed.
Business is a bridge. It brings people from different cultures, countries and languages together. It helps to create a level of unity across the planet, because it is a commonality, expressed in terms of trade, or exchange. Like no other endeavor, it dissolves barriers between otherwise competitive political philosophies: the communists sell to the capitalists; the oligarchs make products for the socialists; and the conservatives and liberals engage in mutually beneficial trade as well. Business unites human beings to supply their needs and further their aspirations.
Business creates growth. Of course we all know the economics of money and the method by which monetary wealth is created, but how many people think in terms of personal growth? When trade occurs, there is a level of responsibility that must develop. At first it may feel as if it were an obligation, you provide something to me – food or electronics, then I am obligated to return something of equal value to you. Then over time, it becomes a level of pride and part of the individual’s intrinsic nature – we become altruistic. We are often judged by our level of responsibility toward others. This is also true in friendships, we may sometimes feel like we are indebted toward others, but this wearisome-ness dissipates when we recognize the true value of the relationship, and what it contributes to who we are.
Business sparks imagination. The real nature of creativity is fostered by exchange. An artist has less interest in oil painting if society has no value in the finished product. When will the painter have the leisure-time to be creative, if he toils away his life in a lackluster job? Engineers and inventors create new machines to make life easier, because they can find financial reward in the projects and ideas they pursue. Chefs, mechanics, musicians and so many others are nudged, pushed and pulled into better performance and grander ideas, by the offer of higher values for their services and creativity. If it were not for the profits to be made, how many great medical devices would have been lost to history because the millions of dollars required for development, just weren’t there?
I prefer to think of the good that business can provide mankind. It’s much like parenting, you can lead with constructive examples of how things ought to be, or you can punish bad behavior without providing a model for better actions in the future. The latter leaves the one being led, without a positive direction to go.