Business is boring.
No, really, it is.
It’s like looking at brochures to enjoy a holiday.
It’s a representation of the full experience but it’s rather less. It’s a constrained view, a limited perspective, a partial exploration of reality.
So is business.
In a conversation on Drinking Dialogues the other day about Purpose, we talked about the purpose of businesses and organisations and discussed some of the statements made by business writers, such as Peter Drucker’s statement that “The purpose of a business is to create customers”.
Now, you may think that is true, or useful, or motivating. I just think it’s so small. Such a constrained view. It’s such a little part of what a business does, what it’s role in in society, in the economy, in it’s community. It’s such a limited view of what life is about.
And that’s why business is boring. Or at least, the way we talk and think about it, especially large businesses. It’s such a small part of life. We leave so much out, we reduce to a minimum in order to try to understand, to define something we can control and manipulate. We reduce people to mere ciphers, units of production, cogs in the machine. We define their interactions thought soulless processes that barely hint at the richness of the interchange or the human experience. We expel feelings and hunches and joy and laughter as ‘unbusinesslike’ and ‘unprofessional’. We squeeze out the the unexpected, the serendipitous, the accidental, the inspired; the moments that bring surprise and energy to life.
Now, I know you’ll start to list a whole bunch of people that are working on all those things I say we’ve pushed out and you would be right. But they are attempting to re-introduce them. They are attempting to revive the corpse, to replace some of the missing matter. They are doomed to failure, however worthy their intentions and endeavours.
Business is boring because we have taken the life out of it.
It’s time to rethink how we think about business and embrace the messy, chaotic, unpredictable parts of it. The bits that truly make it interesting.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, we concluded that Drucker wasn’t wrong, just irrelevant.
The purpose of business should be the stewardship of the people in it and its ecosystem. But that’s a whole other topic.