Unfettered capitalism is a double-edged sword. This economic system has lifted many people out of poverty but is also destroying much of the planet. Business leaders need to embrace a new way of working.
That’s the thesis creativity expert Michael Gelb lays out in his latest book, The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World, which he wrote with Raj Sisodia.
Gelb, who has authored more than a dozen books about creativity, innovation and leadership, including the best-seller How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, calls on leaders to rethink how they meet the needs of employees, customers, communities and stakeholders.
Traditionally, entrepreneurs argue the purpose of business is to earn money for owners and investors. Gelb and coauthor Raj Sisodia believe this answer is limiting and destructive.
“If I asked you ‘What’s the purpose of your life?’ You wouldn’t say, ‘It’s to make red blood cells’,” he says.
Life’s purposes is greater than one function, just as modern business is about more than the bottom line.
“We say the purpose of business is to alleviate suffering and elevate joy,” says Gelb
According to Gelb and Sisodia, business leaders should ground capitalism with concern for human welfare. This means improving the lives of customers, employees and the community.
“[Capitalism] is…the greatest idea people have ever come up with. It’s just that what got us here is not going to get us through the next 200 years,” Gelb says.
In The Healing Organization, Gelb and Sisodia call on business leaders to embrace conscious capitalism by taking a“healing oath”.
“I will operate my business in a way that causes no harm to others or to the earth. I will never enable or collude with abuse or exploitation. I will be an everyday hero who stands up for fairness, truth, beauty, integrity and basic goodness. Love conquers all. I will operate from love. I will measure success by the fulfilment, abundance and joy I generate for others.”
But what does adhering to this oath look like in practice?
The Story of Jaipur Rugs
The Healing Organization features stories of 25 leaders who embraced ethical, sustainable business models. One such leader is Asha Chaudhary, CEO of Jaipur Rugs.
Asha’s father, NK Chaudhary founded his company in 1978 using a loan from his father. He employed women from different castes and built a sustainable business whereby people are judged on the merits of their work and not their background.
More than 95% of the world’s handwoven fabric comes from India. The Indian rug and carpet industry has traditionally relied on exploiting people at the lower end of the caste system. Many female employees, particularly those from rural areas, were cheated on contracts and not paid by other companies.
Chaudhary’s company is different. Jaipur Rugs employs more than 40,000 artisans in 600-plus Indian villages, many of whom lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. The company has also won numerous design awards for its creative work and cites the U.S. as its biggest market.
“They have the wisdom, problem-solving skills, and they manage their homes with a small income, give education to their kids, while taking care of their health—they are the best managers in the world,” Chaudhary told The Hindu Times about his artisans.
The weavers of Jaipur Rugs feel proud about their creative work and are paid appropriately according to Gelb. “These [employees] have become artisans. People come from all over the world to visit Jaipur Rugs because they want to see this miracle,” he says.
Jaipur Rugs is just one example of a thriving business that gives back to its employees and the wider community. And its bottom line is all the healthier for it.
“This company is way, way, way more profitable than its competitors who still run the old model. If we can get businesses to be more creative, more compassionate, more awake…that’s the greatest point of leverage for helping the world,” says Gelb.