02 September 2007

Three posts about fifteen things [ i ]

The intersection of fifteen virtuous business princliples, requiring you to read at odd angles and upside downThree weeks, three days, or nothing? Three weeks would be fifteen daily postscripts. Three days would be three dedicated articles, three sets of five principles each. Nothing would be, well, nothin’ at all. Out: three weeks and nothing. Three weeks means I don’t get to talk about anything else until the end of September. I’m not writing a book on corporate standards of conduct, so that’s too much anyhow. Nothing just was never going to happen. So here goes: three posts about fifteen things, part one.

People conducting business on the up-and-up should adhere to a common and discernible code of right and wrong.¹ It’s not a coincidence that I placed integrity on the top. Integrity is at the crown as the controlling virtue. For a framework that supports a group of people, I have a hard time conceiving that there is a more necessary underpinning. Go right ahead and argue with me: it may just be that I, personally, have no interest in you if you lack integrity and I’m allowing that very strong bias to bleed into my business theory.

By invoking integrity, I do not mean to imply subscription to any crypto-religious moral code. Admittedly, it’s a sticky wicket splitting hairs between morals and ethics. You can’t test for integrity. Literally, actually: in several states it’s against the law. It’s tantamount to a religious test which is outright banned… kinda.

Not the mountain ridge landform. I don’t think I can put it better than Wikipedia: “In its earliest appearance in Greek this notion of excellence was bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function; the act of living up to one's full potential.” Arete is part and partner with strength of character and personal drive. It’s one of the arm positions because it’s inseparably tied in with action.

Sustainability » Eudaimonia
Sustainability was in the base position for obvious symbolic reasons. But I’m still infatuated with eudaimonia. And since I can swap out optimism with sustainability, I might just be able to have my cake and eat it too.

At the base of the flower image, I want two strong and nurturing pillars to support the active wings and to make the crown an easier weight. Eudaimonia, the quality of knowing what is needed to achieve and maintain a state of positive resolution, speaks strongly to purpose. We trade our skills and passions and time for reward and meaningful work and personal growth. Much of work can become a necessary evil, taking us away from the good things we value in our lives. We are all too often jilted of valuable reward, thwarted by make-work tasks, diverted from progressive development. Work should not only respect what is good in our lives but should be indivisibly part of that good itself.

The office demands that you be a part of the team, investing a chunk of your identity the idea of the company, interacting directly and indirectly with a gang of sometimes seriously weird and inscrutable strangers, and spending a third of your waking life immersed in the corporate culture [jargon]. “Team” my ass - that’s an extended family. A company should have the guts to cop to the implicit demand to belong to its fam. [You could even argue that there's an implicit social contract there. And by you, I mean I. And by implicit I mean definite.]

Not only am I copping to it, I’m asserting that it can be a positive and supportive thing. So the company - and everyone in it - is going to be a part of your extended family. In your patchwork family of corporate orphans, you get to be exposed to many traditions and backgrounds. These people want to succeed and want you to succeed as well, if for no other reason than we will all probably do better if each of us does better. Even an extended family group can be close-knit, united in a common goal and in so doing, endeavor to protect and promote one another. Families learn to navigate one others’ foibles and failings and like any other well-functioning group, the sum can exceed the value of the parts. Companies even have a sometime advantage: How many family families have the luxury of rigorous architectures to help them relate and interact to encourage harmony and unity?

Wisdom » Phronesis
As honesty is consumed whole by integrity, so wisdom is swallowed up by phronesis. Phronesis is the mindful elder sibling of action, extemporaneous ability tempered by experience and forethought. It is a consciously pragmatic approach to problem solving. Phronesis advocates leaving the problem space changed for the better. Oh, am I ever a sucker for personal responsibility.

¹ a common and discernible code of right and wrong – How explicit does this code have to be? I can’t hire or fire based on integrity, can’t discipline or reward on it either. I suspect a lawyer would tell me that codifying integrity in company documentation is tantamount to a contract or a test. Additionally, I want to avoid paternalism wherever possible. Google got away with the elegantly vague “don’t be evil.” So then how specific, detailed, and code of conduct-y do I need to get?

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