Almost exactly one year ago, a group of 180 CEOs from some of America’s largest companies, called the Business Roundtable, got together and announced that they were moving away from “shareholder primacy” as the purpose of business.
I talked about that idea in the last episode — it essentially means that a business exists to make the company’s owners more money.
Instead of doing that, these CEOs were committing the purpose of business moving forward to delivering value to ALL stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, AND owners, too.
Of course, last fall nobody had “global pandemic” on their 2020 roadmap, nor did we know the massive impact — negative or positive — a pandemic like this would have on some of our largest organizations.
But it’s fairly safe to say that, at least so far, the promises made by those CEOs last fall haven’t amounted to much.
In the last 365+ days, owners have gotten much, much wealthier and millions of others… got unemployment.
This isn’t exactly the kind of change we’re looking for.
As I’ve discussed fairly relentlessly across this season of Work Revolution, the way we work is being re-engineered in real time, right now.
A “next normal” is being birthed by all of us, collectively.
But it’s becoming quite clear that there isn’t a roundtable group that’s going to swoop in and save us.
The revolution needs to come from us.
A huge number of us don’t want to go back to what we were doing before.
Commutes feel crazier than they used to.
Strict work hours and dress codes feel sillier than they used to.
All the time spent in airports feels a bit more wasteful than it used to.
For those of us with kids, I suspect many of us will be quite happy when we can take “teacher” off our resume — but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine not having our kids around this much.
Have you looked back at your calendar before the pandemic? For me, at least, it’s STRIKING how many events I went to and how much travel time I spent getting to them.
Life feels SIMPLER now, in many ways.
And I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
But could it be??
Could those of us who see systems, who have privilege, who have the time and freedom to listen to a message like this, do something NEW that would benefit EVERYONE over the long-term?
Awhile back, I listened to some inspiring interviews with a thinker and author named Rutger Bregman who wrote a book you may have heard of called Utopia For Realists.
Now, he offers many ideas I think are worth pondering — I’ll put a couple links in the show notes — but one point he made has really stuck with me.
He says we humans, we have plenty of dark, dystopian visions of the future.
These pictures where an evil artificial intelligence tries to extinguish the human race and so on — we have plenty of visions of possible futures we definitely DON’T want.
What we’re lacking is visions for the future that we DO want.
If there’s one idea I’d love for you to take away from this first season of Work Revolution it’s probably this — that the future is whatever we make it.
Our words create worlds — or as I recently heard said by the 14th-Century Persian poet Hafiz: “The words we speak become the houses we live in.”
Language is a powerful form of art, and it’s perhaps THE dominant way we humans construct reality.
So how are you speaking about the future of work?
We’ve also talked a lot about systems this season.
Every system we see in the workplace today was built by a human being just like you or me.
And systems exist for one purpose: to serve people.
Sadly, a lot of our systems weren’t designed to serve ALL people, but a small subset of people who looked and talked like the people who built them.
Beyond that, most of our systems now are decomposing — they are outdated in their understanding of the world, they’re behind in their usage of technology, and most are flat-out breaking down.
When systems no longer serve humans — or don’t serve as many humans as possible — they MUST be changed or dismantled entirely.
And this is where we are.
Almost every system around us needs to be reinvented.
But this is the great joy of a time like this!
We have an opportunity to create something FAR better than what we’ve had.
None of us could lift this alone, but together it’s actually not so heavy.
If enough of us want a work revolution, it can’t NOT happen.
Keep crafting a better, more just, more inclusive, more loving world with the words you use.
Keep looking for ways to impact our systems wherever you can.
We’re in this together, my friends. This is a long game, not a short one.
Keep the faith and thank you for everything you’re doing. I’m so honored to be in this work with you.
See you next time.