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Notes on The Hungry Spirit
Charles Handy wrote The Hungry Spirit in 1996/7. It offers clear critical thinking on the issues facing business leaders today. It remains ahead of its time today in that the thinking and suggestions for business management are yet to be implemented by most businesses, despite increasing demand from shareholders, customers and regulations.
While some aspects of modern business are challenged, the logic of “not throwing the baby out with the bath water” applies. The recognition of the benefits of the tools of business and commerce are well recognised, while improvements must be made. The aphorism might be adapted: “Don't throw out the hammer to use a stone instead”.
The note indicates some of the more striking passages. The last part highlights ideas and examples for consideration or implementation.
P 13 on hunger. The lesser hunger for things that sustain life, the greater hunger for the meaning in life.
P 30 on Adam Smith. The division of labour, said Smith, drove economic prosperity but it rendered many an individual 'not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgement concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interest of his country he is altogether incapable of judging.'
P 59-60 Keynes. 'We are being afflicted ... by technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour. ... This means that the economic problem is not, if we look into the future, the permanent problem of the human race.' Once the economic problem is solved, mankind will be deprived of its traditional purposeand will be faced with the real problem, which economics will have won: howto live wisely, agreeably and well. 'When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals .. we shall be able to assess the money motive at its true value.'
P 72 on what we want. Without commitment to anyone or anything else, however, there is no sense of responsibility for others, and without responsibility there is no need for morality – anything goes, or at least anything that is legal, if it's what you want. ... Max Frisch 'We can now do what we want and the only question is, what do we want? .. we are all faced with the moral question.'
P 77 on what a company is for. Quoting David Packard: 'Why are we here? i think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists solely to make money. Money is an important part of a company'/s existence, if the company is any good. But a result is not a cause. We have ot go deeper and find the real reason for our being. As we investigate this, we inevitably come to the conclusion that a group of people come together and exist as an institution that we call a company, so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental.
(This underlies the rationale for identifying cooperation as the key driver of “capitalism” rather than competition.)
P 80-81 on choice vs determinism. Neither can be proven, but determinism is a license for amorality if not immorality. Some business like deterministic thinking: we have to do what we do in order to survive in the Darwinian world of economics – a philosophy which allows them to exploit their customers, suppliers and even their employees. With that approach why not shareholders too since “the market made me do it!”
P 84-5 on religion. Religion can offer certainty that there is a purpose in life, but not assurance of what that purpose should be. Our freedom to choose is our responsibility. Because religions can stop one thinking for oneself, they can mislead. They may be read to suggest that our life is not our responsibility. “I find it necessary to reject the false certainties of both religion and science in order to discharge what I belive to be the responsibility for my own destiny.”
P 103 who are you listening
to. Handy describes three types of motivation: Sustenance Driven,
Outer Directed and Inner Directed, which reflect and are compatible
with psychological models from Mazlow's hierarchy of needs to Spiral
Dynamics and Consciousness Models. Simply, we first need to survive,
then we are motivated by external factors (like family, peers, work
place) and then we are motivated by ourselves. We need some amount
of Sustenance, or we die, some amount of External compatibility, or
we become excluded from society, but happiness comes from within.
Handy suggests that the private (Inner Directed) manifestation is
drowned by the public (Outer Directed) debate.
P 104 “Morality starts with oneself but has to work for everyone else too.” Or do to others what you would have them do to you. Or put youself in others' shoes.
P110 A favourite saying from the Aborigines of Australia: “You must become the change you wish to see in the world.”
P 113 The Doctrine of Enough
is healthy philosophy. Only in one's personal growth (Inner
Directed) is there no limit. In all else, recognising the state of
satiation or satisfaction allows one to move on, improve variety and
quality. The pressing illustration is company growth: we expect
companies to continue to grow at X% a year indefinitely but that is
foolish. Any company that pursues that strategy eventually becomes
dismembered. It fails to recognise natural law – if you continued
to grow, by the age of 40 you would be 4 meters tall! The pursuit of
excellence for its own sake, rather than size, is worthy and
valuable, whether personal, corporate or social.
P 144 “Untrammelled individualism corrupts a nation. It leads to an emphasis on rights, with no regard to duties and responsibilities. It breeds distrust and jealousy – and lots of lawyers.”
The third section of the book focusses on social systems and bringing social mores to capitalism. It has many valuable ideas for redesigning capitalism to give it spirit and humanity.
P 153 “Laissez faire is value free. No one is responsible for anyone else. Capitalism is an idea that includes social capital as well as economic capitalism.”
P 154 - 157 Profit is essential for survival. But survival for what?! The privilege of immortality, which companies may choose, demands a human face – it must add value. There are perhaps three dozen companies that are over 100 years old. “To get that old you have to deserve it. To live that long you have to know not only what you stand for, to be sure of your central values and your reason for existing, but also to change constalntly what you do and how you do it, and to grow better though not necessarily bigger, and to have a continuing passion for your work”.
P 157 “Unless organisations have both a soul and conscience they will not deserve their place in modern society and will not long survive.”
P 160 – 161 Much of new companies' new value is intangible and resides in people – how can people be owned? ... they are not. This realisation requires new thinking.
P 162 Ownership of companies seems to be concept ready for rejuvenation or replacement. An organisation is a community. The idea that that community can be bought or sold is based in Anglo-Saxon experience of emergent capitalism when venturers bought ships together to seek wealth, but is not compatible with a moral world where people are not owned.
P 163 If we think of a company as a town, rather than a piece of machinery, our approach to ownership and management will lean toward responsibility rather than control, to nurturing rather than consuming.
P 164 The Corporation as Citizen. Contingent upon companies having personal legal characteristics, they also must adopt citizens' responsibilities.
P 171 Camellia plc, majority owned by foundation which seeks to continue life for 100 years, reinvests surplus in community. Tree agriculture including tea plantations.
P 173 Bertelsmann AG, majority owned by family foundations “to exclusively and directly pursue purposes relating to the general welfare”. Issues profit participation certificates which are redeemable and pay dividends. Extensive bylaws outlining social objectives.
P 176 companies as economies – of the world's 100 largest economies, 50 are corporations, or of the 100 largest totalitarian or centrally planned economies over 70 are companies. The issue is “to which community are these organisations accountable?”. When a corporation pursues efficiency at the cost of democracy, how long will it last?
P 179 companies must give employees “citizens' rights”.
P 180 different degrees of involvement – A, B, C shares for core, long term, hygienic ...
P 183 Federal structure will become a model for companies. Subsidiarity will grow as power becomes vested with all the resources, not just one – capital.
P 184 challenge to offer freedom and encourage loyalty (like a state). Must be founded on trust (which is efficient). Eg partnerships – becoming core takes time. Or education tenure. Trust requires work – contact, track record, ... Freedom within boundaries.
P 194 St Lukes Advvertising – owned by a trust, whose beneficiaries are all employees.
P 200 Jack Stack, Springfield Remanufacturing – openbook management.
P 206 education to be an individual but all success relies on others and teamwork. Cooperation, not competition, is the key to success.
P 210 more than IQ
P 226 University of the First Age, University of Community
P 229 “capitalism thrives on inequality”
P 231 as we become richer we want more responsibility (individual choice in food, clothing, housing, leisure, work, government) but we need a concept of enough or there is no responsibility taken for the whole. Governemnt can provide the superstructure to provide equlaity of opportunity. Citizens must have Information, Involvement and Individuality.
P 238 privatisation of welfare – the big challenge.
P 242 Employee Mutuals – an administration vehicle for self employed.
it something feasible, obtainable,
from Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice.