“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Los Angeles School District serves almost 700,000 students and employs 84,000 people with a budget $7.3 billion. After working with the district, some people might wonder why I didn’t take a break, and work for a nice, mellow, high-paying multinational corporation. I made the conscious decision to focus on education. Why? As a teacher, I’m just a glutton for incredibly unbalanced work/pay ratios! But beyond that, I wanted to focus on values and work with companies or organizations I believed cared about more than turning a profit.
In The Living Company: Habits for Survival in a Turbulent Business Environment, Arie de Geus discusses why some companies “die” earlier than others. In a world where the average multinational company lasts just 40 years, why have some – like de Geus’s former employer, Royal Dutch Shell – remained strong for over a century?
Companies die because their managers focus on the economic activity of producing goods and services, and they forget that their organizations’ true nature is that of a community of humans. The legal establishment, business educators, and the financial community all join them in this mistake.
These companies are in business to create money for a select few; then there are the businesses that strive to create an environment in which employees, and communities, can grow and thrive. The latter are “living companies.” I don’t care to work with the “economic” companies, but instead those that are working towards something more. This is why I’m going to be traveling to Saudi Arabia where I’ll be teaching two consulting skills courses for King Saud University, an institution which is committed to helping students – men and women – receive a quality education and contribute to the Kingdom’s “knowledge society.”
It all comes back to values; we should value our principles over our privileges, at the risk of losing both. We ought to help the world evolve; that sounds very nebulous, but it happens one person at a time.
My part is to offer expertise, experience, and strategic support to living companies and those that are also putting principles above privileges, especially privileges for a select few.