What is the common thread between the conduct of successful business, the safety of nations from dedicated terrorists, the sixth-century BCE and the twenty-first century societies? I propose there is a common thread of commitment to principle. Let’s take a look.
The modern world in Western society owes much of its form and format to the Abrahamic religious traditions and the discord between them. This week, Brussels takes center stage in the story. Several Islamist were so committed to their cause they willingly sacrificed themselves for it. The perspective of this argument is to look at the opposite side; a lack of commitment.
Though the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testaments are not history they do provide an historical perspective important to any leader. The point of the Prophets in these books is to exclaim in many ways what happens when a People divorce themselves from the very principles that tied them together. Solomon, for all the laud and honor he receives, broke from the Law given his People and allowed opposing cultures to reign in his kingdom. The religions of his many wives were in direct contrast to the Law of Moses, including the ‘sacrifice’ of children on the altars of their gods and ritual prostitution. His kingdom split after his death, and two-hundred years later Israel was wiped off the face of the earth. Judah followed a century later. Israel, as a sovereign state, would not exist again for sixteen hundred years.
Cultural discontent in the West arose from duplicity in leadership in the 1960’s, preaching honor and life while prosecuting a war widely opposed from France to the United States to Vietnam. Questioning everything followed, in our kitchens and in our universities, and now citizens stand and defecate on flags, riot in the streets against perceived and real injustices, and ‘sacrifice’ children on the ‘altar’ of women’s health and population control. The education systems teach more the faults and immoralities of the West rather than those principles upon which the society rose.
It is not so much a stretch to swing from the macro world view of religion and politics to the macro and micro view of business conduct. Modern Western business ethics grew out of Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic. Hard work and dedication will germinate growth and innovation. This is successful only when those in the business are so committed. Manage products for the sake of creating wealth rather than for the value the product brings to society brings in methods contrary to the successful principles that build the product in the first place. The ‘boss’ at any level, concentrating only on cost reductions, eventually cuts into product quality. Customers lose faith. The company fails. To return to the Hebrew Scriptures, “One cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Improvement in business and business success requires a commitment to a sound product. Engineering, in any form, is the core of the product. Quality programs are only monitors, and accounting principles are only accounting. All have to be in proper balance. Society likewise has to be in balance. We cannot concentrate on the faults of our past to the detriment of those principles we built our lives on. The principles and successes must have the majority of the discussion in the classrooms, in the boardrooms, and in the public discourse if younger generations are to find faith in, believe in, and act upon them.
Napoleon Hill wrote in his seminal work ‘Think and Grow Rich’ in 1937, “What a man can conceive and believe he can achieve.” Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus the Christ is recorded as saying “Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened.” What ideas should we give our people to begin to believe in again, in the kitchen, in the classroom, in the boardroom, and in our law? How will we color it?