Corporations Must Die
Corporate Rite of Passage
As different as they are, all ancient cultures have at least one thing in common. The Rite of Passage.
When a young boy starts turning into a young man, the village elders take him to a sacred locale where they commence a ritualized, symbolic killing of the boy.
During this process, the boy psychology dies in order to give birth to the man psychology.
Even to this day, we have a faint echo of such rituals in Jewish religion (Bar mitzvah), and in the sudo-Rite of Passage rituals done through Military service and gang affiliations.
For more information of this fascinating topic, read King, Warrior, Magician, Lover (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette.
Since Corporations are considered people under the rule of human law, I see this “human” as a young boy before he started a transition into a full-grown, responsible, compassionate and life-affirming man.
This is aided by the fact that Corporations are behaving irresponsibly much like young boys are, without a consideration for consequences and without regard for anything else but instant gratification.
BP oil spill is the most recent and most obvious example but hardly isolated.
The instant gratification comes in the form of immediate profits as the primary driving force of all business entities.
To make profits for its shareholders is in fact, the unstated mission of all Corporations. This is the only criterion by which Corporations are being judged at this time.
I argue that this is incredibly short sighted and harmful. Not only to the residents of the Gulf Coast, and not only to the environment, and not only to the droves of miserable people who work at these dehumanization factories, but ultimately its bad for Corporations as well.
If things continue the way of boy psychology, the Corporation will find itself desolate, alienated and spoiled. A 40 year old man-child abandoned by its wife, kids and friends. Ultimately, this man-child will have to abandon the planet itself because it will no longer sustain him.
This man-child will be not just rejected, but also ejected from this mortal coil, most likely taking the rest of us with him.
I want to act as a Village Elder and lead this Corporate boy psychology through the Rite of Passage. I want to help kill the Corporate boy psychology in order to give rise to a Corporate man psychology.
A more caring, more regenerative and life-affirming way for Corporations to exist.
Our boy is young, strong but basically a short-sighted brute. We need to help him become a man.
What’s In It For Me?
Why should Corporations change their ways? That’s a fair question.
Part of the answer is in technology.
More than any one person, technology has been able to democratize the world. Not in the traditional sense where now all of us have a voice, although that part is true and important. For example, you’re reading “my voice” right now. There were no gatekeepers between you and I and that’s a powerful concept.
But no. That’s not what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is the other side of that coin. The ability for anyone with an Internet connection to access any kind of information anywhere in the world instantly.
While many will choose to use their computer the same way many use their TV (to quiet down the voices and turn off the brain), many will also choose to educate themselves.
And education outside the educational system is dangerous to the status quo.
This will result in more people learning about what corporations are about (self-centered little brats) and will reject the corporate mission. Instead, they will embrace their own path usually outside the traditional, corporate channels.
This will leave corporations out in the cold.
But no matter. Enough people will still buy into the corporate mission statement and a safety of 9-5. And that’s probably true. Except.
If Corporations continue to act irresponsibly, within few decades, there will be nothing left.
The Corporate expansion mantra (if you’re not growing, you’re dying) clearly has its limits. There is only so much Earth.
The fact that these retarded behemoths are allowed to pollute our air, and poison our rivers, should be enough to start a riot.
More to the point, this land and rivers are not even ours; they belong to our children’s children. And by the time they are here, there will be nothing left.
This includes Corporations themselves.
Everything I’m suggesting here is for the benefit of Corporations, as well as the rest of us.
Let’s circle back to technology.
The technology holds an implied promise that humans are able to work less while maintaining the same level of production. Except, this is not how we use technology.
Thanks to Corporate takeover of thought-distribution channels (TV, radio, newspaper) as well as the takeover of our governments, we are constantly engaged in the pursuits of more. Usually more money, but also more things, more newer things, and more symbols of status (house, car, suits, etc)
In case you thought my claim of Corporate takeover of governments is baseless, just consider who influences legislation. And in case you’re not familiar with it, Corporations pay lobbyists to court senators. Nuf said.
I invite you to consider using technology in a way that produces sufficient output to sustain a degree of comfort which allows us to pursue things that actually matter. Like free time, creativity, connections, altruism, education outside the system, and the kind of understanding which breeds compassion.
Finally, technology holds a promise for Corporations who are able to use it in a humane way.
For Corps that are able to put other things above the profit, technology will open them up to a whole new, untapped markets.
A prime example of this is TOMS shoes. For every pair that we buy, Tom donates a pair to a child in need.
Now, let’s be honest. At a $65.00 a pop, TOMS is not losing any money. But, it’s a step in the right direction. Altruism is built into the business model, and this has allowed TOMS to not only break into the market but it gave the company a human feel. Imagine that.
But what do I know. Let’s see what an authority on breakthrough business models has to say about this.
One of the most impressive developments within business today is the belief that to truly become successful, thriving company you have to place corporate responsibility and sustainability at the heart of your business.
As recently as 10 years ago this was unheard of. Every large business had a charitable foundation, but this was seen very much as “nice to do” rather than a core strategy within your organization.
Customers expect the company they are purchasing from to act in an ethical sustainable way.
If mankind makes a mistake, it can be catastrophic. ~ Richard Branson in The New Secrets of CEOs (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Steve Tappin and Andrew Cave.
Btw, I am NOT recommending this book. The best part about The New Secrets of CEOs is the foreword written by Richard Branson which you basically got the gist of from the above quote. I just saved you 15 bucks. You’re welcome.
Would You Mind Changing Everything About You?
Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia psychology professor and a consultant to the FBI, compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.
Mr. Hare established parallels between corporate legal misbehavior (malfeasance) and the DSM-IV’s symptoms of psychopathy, i.e.
- Callous disregard for the feelings of other people
- The incapacity to maintain human relationships
- Reckless disregard for the safety of others
- Deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit)
- The incapacity to experience guilt
- And the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.
Conclusion? Corporation’s psychological profile is that of a psychopath.
All of this was brilliantly presented in a 2003 documentary entitled The Corporation (Amazon Affiliate Link). Highly recommended.
Mr. Here really gives Corporations a spanking. Except deeming Corporations a psychopath doesn’t leave us with much to work with.
Considering Corporations a boy which needs to be ushered into the manhood gives us a path for improvement.
Also, notice that all the points of a psychopath can in fact be applied to young boys as well.
In either case, I am sorry Corporations, but the cat is out of the bag.
The landscape has changed. Long gone are the days when TV had only few channels and buying your way into the hearts and minds of public was as easy as a great commercial and deep pockets to pay for prime time.
Thanks to the democratization brought on by technology, there are now billions of channels and the entry cost is practically non-existent.
Yes, the Internet has largely delivered on its promise of equality and democracy. Now both the cream and the crop can rise to the top based on their own merits; and not on the size of the cream’s bank account.
You can’t have the cream when the crop and the cream are the same. ~ Andrew Bird
But Dino, you say. Cant the Social Web and Marketing experts help corporations “game” the system?
Yes, experts can help game the system…poorly. We will talk about this in the next section but for now…wouldn’t it be easier to just change?
The ONLY way a corporation can maximize its effectiveness in Social Technology is to stop being a psychopath…ahhh, I mean stop being a Corporation.
CxO’s responsibility is to generate profits for the shareholders. This is the unwritten but implied mission statement of every single corporation. But this unwritten mission statement simply will not do in Social Web.
It might sound cynical to say that corporations are animated (a la Frankenstein) by profits but it would be naïve to claim anything else.
If a corporation is to succeed in the world that will exist in 10 years, it will have to be animated by universally beneficial purpose and betterment of all people, the planet and the universe. And NOT by profits.
Profits will flow from the purpose and will be a pleasant side-effect.
Ultimately, my dear boy, you don’t have a choice in this matter.
I know that going beyond a quarterly projection is a foreign concept to you. And I know that the period from 10 to 100 years from now is not something you are likely to comprehend, but the way things are going there will be nothing left to plunder; so changing everything about yourself is really a matter of your own survival.
Kill the boy so that the man can be born.
You Can’t Trust the Experts
If you were to listen to experts in Social Web you might think that SW is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Alas, it’s simply a new hammer hitting the same old nail. The problem is that Corporations are entirely clueless when it comes to being social and socially responsible.
If you need any proof that experts can’t be trusted, just think back:
- In 2006, Real Estate experts were telling us that we would be crazy not to buy a house now. Only to have the Real Estate market implode the next day.
- Back in 2000, we were told that the Internet bubble will never burst. It did.
- Didn’t BP experts tell us that the offshore oilrigs are safe?
Unfortunately, there are all too many examples of “experts” feeding us falsities. I only call them “falsities” and not “lies” because I think that most of them truly believe what they are saying.
In Psychological parlance, we call this Self-Deception. We’ll come back to this point later in the text.
Social Web, Marketing and Technology experts are no different.
The “experts” have their own interests to advance. Their careers and livelihoods hinge on their beliefs that Social Web-Marketing is the way to go. Of course, they don’t have to sell us (individuals) on this notion because we are natively social and not buying.
Individuals are already engaged in Social Media of their own volition because that’s what people do.
Corporations on the other hand, are clueless, scared AND buying.
Corporations don’t know how to be social. This is the obstacle they need to overcome.
Hiring someone to be social on your behalf (which is what corps do when they approach Social Media experts) is like sending someone else to your own birthday party. Might be a cost effective time saver, but it’s NOT social.
So the experts “train” corporations how to be social. But there is a problem. Now corps do show up to their own birthday party but they still act like snake-oil salesmen, nostrum pushers, and used-car dealers. Or to continue with our boy analogy, they act like an under socialized, self-serving little brats.
Handing out business cards, getting sloppy-drunk, feeling-up the waitress, and just being lame.
The problem in real life is that it’s hard to avoid that guy. He’s in your face. He’s in the same room as you. He follows you wherever you go.
Online however, that drunken sleaze ball is all too easy to ignore.
Why would anyone listen to a sales-pitch that is masquerading itself as a social effort by some giant conglomerate?
There are just too many talented, passionate, genuine humans engaged in Social Media that any hint of Corporate douchebaggery will cause me to vomit in my mouth, click “ignore” and keep it moving.
No amount of expertise can change this. But corporations can change their ways if they want to and reap the benefits of Social Media. How?
Allow profits to become side-effect of being responsible, and developing a long-term, sustainable business model.
When I (and Richard Branson) speak of sustainability we’re not talking about the sustainability of business. That will happen automatically.
We are talking about the sustainability of environment and it’s people.
How To Sustain People
Our great great great…grandfather (from say 60 thousand years ago) was a great spear maker. He made the most awesomest spear ever. It was sharp, well balanced and effective.
This afforded him the ability to capture pray and put food on the…fire. This of course made him popular with the ladies which in turn ensured that his genes are passed down to future generations.
We are all sons and daughters of master craftsmen.
Few hundred years ago the Industrial revolution began the slow process of taking the knowledge away from the individual master craftsmen and codifying it into procedures anyone with minimum amount of training can perform.
From the Corporation’s point of view, this makes perfect sense. Large companies don’t want to depend on the whims of few master craftsmen.
Corporations must predictably produce whatever product they make and since people “change”, they must have a way to quickly train new, unskilled labor to perform the necessary duties.
There was a point in time when the work that’s done by master craftsmen was observed and documented with the intention to procedureize, codify and otherwise break into small digestible pieces of tasks easily transferred to a novice. And thus the assembly lines were born.
A milestone in this regard was the venerable Ford assembly line
Ford has taken the work that’s done by master craftsmen and turned it into an assembly line work that can be done by anyone with minimal amount of training. Good for Ford (and other Corps), not good for master craftsmen or anybody else as it turns out.
It’s not good for master craftsmen; I think that much is obvious but it’s also not good for the assembly line workers. Why?
Don’t get me wrong. Back in the day it allowed many people to make a living so that part is certainly good (or at least debatable). But the psychological toll imposed on assembly line type work is extremely detrimental. Allow me to explain.
Current office/knowledge workers are nothing more than assembly line workers
This is especially obvious in large corporations where everything has a policy, channels, change-windows, and countless other restrictions. Psychologically, it breaks down like this.
We as humans are evolutionarily designed to act on our environment. We have mastered the weather patterns (clothes, shelters) and locales (we’ve managed to inhabit most parts of the earth.)
When it rains, we grab an umbrella. When it’s cold, we put on a coat. When we want to go to another locale we go by boat, plane or car. We have spread across virtually every part of this planet and beyond. We did all this thanks to master craftsmen.
We did it because we are able to act on our environment and influence it the way it suits us. Remember that we are sons and daughters of these master craftsmen?
How do you think we, as sons and daughters of master craftsmen feel when the environment starts acting upon us?
I’m talking about policies, restrictions, control channels etc, that’s part of knowledge worker’s daily reality.
When you, in your hearts of hearts, know that doing A is right, but the policy tells you to do B; you are expected to do what the policy tells you and that, psychologically, exerts a tremendous toll.
To take this example to it’s extreme. Let us remember concentration camps during 2nd World War in Nazi Germany.
Common “excuse” Nazis would give when asked how they could commit such atrocities was “I was just following orders”. In other words, they were just following policies.
What the hell does this have to do with technology, Corporations and Social Web?
If you are to engage in Social Media, you must be a master craftsmen.
Corporations will commonly cite the inability to manage the ROI in Social Media as the obstacle for entering the SM arena.
The truth is, it’s never been easier to quantify the ROI thanks to technological advances and technologically-dependent nature of Social Media. So this is clearly just an excuse. The real reason?
Corporations are afraid of their inability to manage master craftsmen.
Corporations don’t engage in Social Media, individuals do. The question corporations want answered is this.
How do we codify and procedurize Social Media so that anyone with minimum training earning a minimum wage can do it?
Unfortunately for Corporations, you cant.
The great promise of democratized technology is that it brought the power back into the hands of master craftsmen.
Due to constantly changing and evolving nature of technology, and the required human-touch that goes along with it, it’s impossible for corporations to replace people as widgets when one person leaves their Twitter post to go work at another company.
Any steps taken to remedy this are superficial attempts that don’t address the deeper issue.
A better way to go about it is to create a Corporation who’s employees are proud to state their affiliation with. If a Corp is able to do that, then its Social clout will be massive as a side effect of the Corps natural disposition.
What a concept, huh?
How To Sustain the Environment
Many Corps have built their fortune on exploiting our environment as if we live in a vacuum.
As if this boy missed the day the teacher talked about the eco-system and how everything is connected.
As if smoke bellows coming out of industrial sized chimneys aren’t spewing their toxicity into everyone’s air.
As if deforestation isn’t affecting everyone’s oxygen.
The Corporation is a mean, little boy with a magnifying glass and we are but tiny little ants on the receiving end of the sun’s focused beam.
So how do we ensure our environment survives us? Here are few ideas but feel free to create your own:
- Discontinuing business who’s product is pollution. Profits be damned.
- Achieving immunity against the traps of consumerism through education and understanding.
- Shifting the focus from profit-driven psychology to sustainability-driven mindset. Not for ourselves necessarily, but for the generations who’s environment we’re borrowing.
What I am suggesting here is radical. But it’s also the only strategy I can imagine that will survive us.
The way things are going, without a drastic shift in values, we are simply fucked.
Negative Externalities and The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
Economists and math geeks often talk about Negative Externalities. It’s the undesired effect our actions have on us and our social and physical environment.
The thing about Negative Externalities is that they can’t be predicted. Sure, there is a science built around predicting things but that’s just an impotent attempt by children of master craftsmen to bring order in the world that refuses to follow patterns.
You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.
So Negative Externalities are inherently impossible to predict and if you need more information about this I would recommend Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan. The Drunkard’s Walk is also excellent. I think these books are superior to the book that usually gets lumped into these discussions which is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Which is a great read with slightly tenuous thesis. (All 3 links are Amazon Affiliate Links)
So, since the outcome is impossible to predict, what are we left with? The answer is, we are left with the polar opposite. The Intention.
The Intention is the most powerful force in the universe. Arguing this would only prove that point.
If your Intention is to prove that the Intention is not the most powerful force in the universe then that would require Intention to prove me wrong, er go, your Intention to win the argument would in fact be the force that won the argument.
So the problem becomes evident when the Intention is revealed.
If your Intention is to generate profits at all cost, then people, environment and the means by which this is achieved become slaves to your Intention. And what a lousy Intention profits make.
There is a problem however.
We humans are really good at lying to ourselves. We are really good at generating self-deception and rationalizing our behavior. We can tie a pretty bow around our actions that sounds reasonable to others as well as ourselves. But is it the truth?
Usually, no, it isn’t. Our motivations and intentions is usually buried deeply somewhere in the emotional and reptilian brain, only great deal of digging and introspection is able to glimpse the true Intention.
Alas, the indoctrination into the culture of TV watching and consumerism doesn’t leave a lot of time for quiet introspection.
I would like to recommend two books on Self Deception that just might change your life. Leadership and Self Deception and Vital Lies, Simple Truths (Amazon Affiliate Links.) Both texts are authoritative guides on this most common of human follies.
The Next Step
It takes a generation to accept the new “normal”. What I’m proposing in this text is radical shift in the way people approach business and consumerism.
The current crop of old farts who are controlling Corporate boardrooms is probably too old to change.
My hope is that someone who is still young in their heart and mind will read this and share these ideas with the next generation of business owners who’s mind will be natively well-Intentioned and not motivated by profits.