I Design, Therefore I Am

(With Apologies to René Descartes)   As a university freshman, I studied philosophy. One of the first thinkers we studied was Aristotle, and for one of the first assignments we had was to answer the question, “Was Aristotle right in saying that the only thing that separates humans from animals is our ability to reason?”…

Bizglish: Designed to Disappear

The language of business today is constantly invaded by made-up terms or catchphrases that live and die in newsfeeds, blogs, keynotes, and serious business press like so many semantic mayflies. One minute they’re not there, the next we’re swarmed by them, and – just as suddenly – they disappear. One form of linguistic expression stands…

The Business Case for Purpose

In business, “purpose” is the new black. 
It has become very fashionable for consultants and business professors to encourage companies to ask “why” they are in business. What is their raison d’être, beyond just making money? Or is that all there is? After almost 40 years of neoliberal economics, the prevailing and very entrenched answer…

Owning Purpose

As the deleterious effects of neoliberal economics continue to pile up (income inequality, environmental degradation, job losses, increasing household debt, a shrinking middle class, 
a growing underclass, etc.), 
it’s becoming clear to many that the rules of the game need
 to change. The stock market, which was meant to be a source of capital 
to…

The Future of Truth in Business

“Truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions.”  — Friedrich Nietzsche, from “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense” “Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through.”  — Eric Ambler, from “The Dirty Story”   Ever since the US Presidential election, it has become fashionable to lament that we…

Womenomics 101

The evidence is in: having women in the C-suite is good for business. In 2015, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that a scenario in which women achieved complete gender parity with men could increase global output by more than 25% relative to a business-as-usual scenario. Other research on US firms found that mixed-gender boards outperform all-male…

Mistaking Process For Purpose and Tinkering for Thinking Pt. 1

Process and method are both necessary aids and major obstacles to innovation. Process is clearly necessary for organizing thought and action, planning rigorous research, and aligning groups of people towards a common goal. However, people have a tendency to elevate process so that it becomes the end in itself and not a means to the…

The Business of Becoming

It's far easier to think of an enterprise as a kit of parts than as a dynamic confluence of processes. While most ordinary people wouldn’t know Descartes from a shopping cart, if you asked them to describe the world in a sentence, they would most likely play back his version instead of Whitehead’s. Let’s face…

Skillful Desire and the Buddhist Path to Better Business

Ever since Milton Friedman proclaimed that the market is “amoral” and the sole purpose of business is to make a profit, commerce has used the license of free market ideology, not only to excuse itself from any moral obligation towards the society in which it operates, but to threaten the bonds that have held that society together. At this juncture, neoconservatives would…

Resetting Wall Street

One of this year’s hottest business books was Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys, in which the author plumbs the complexity of the highly fragmented US stock market to expose the questionable trading practices of High Frequency Traders, brokers, and exchanges. The unlikely hero of the book is Canadian Brad Katsuyama, formerly a trader at RBC’s New…

Can Banks Be Cool?

Few words in the English language are more over-used and overwrought than the word ‘cool’. Its original meaning has been bent and twisted to so many purposes as to render it suspect at best, and meaningless at worst. It’s almost to the point where to call something ‘cool’ means that it isn’t. Cultural history suggests…