By Parham Shafti
”Let’s make the world a better place”. You’ve undoubtedly heard this before, and you might even have been advocating it yourself. If not, this could be the place for an initiation. Because due to the seriousness of the global challenges that currently surround us, they need to be confronted with great urgency. And who else is better suited to do this than us, the business world, i.e. the people who create the global experiences? Which brings us to these questions: what can be done about the situation? And what part can we play in remedying it?
Many people ask these questions without knowing where to look for answers, so with the aim of addressing them my colleagues and I would like to invite you to this blog to share what we believe is the way forward.
But before we start, and to provide a little background, please allow me to share freely with you a few slightly more personal thoughts in this specific post, in a way that not many businesses would. Consider it a dialogue between fellow human beings, because that’s what it essentially is. And as it’s quite a long read, let’s make it feel more relaxed by imagining that it’s taking place over a cup of coffee somewhere. Hopefully this will help us to open up and share our ideas and insights as peers, as well as enabling the bond that can help both of us devise the change that’s needed.
There are no easy, convenient answers to the question and issues that I’ve mentioned above. I know this because, coming from a commercial business background myself, my commitment hasn’t always been evident. It took a great deal of work before I reached the conclusions that eventually culminated in the final version of this project.
Like many other people in this sector, I’d worked my way forward with the sole intention of building profitable businesses, without any great concern for our community and corporate social responsibility. It wasn’t that I didn’t have my heart in it, just that I hadn’t found my purpose and my commitment was lacking. That is until a few years ago, when parallel to my own personal development, I became increasingly aware of the state of the world and, as result, came to understand that we all need to start taking responsibility for the current trend before it’s too late. Because if we don’t do it, then who will?
Needless to say, this made me doubt my initial reasons for being in this business. I knew something was wrong and that I needed to act. And even though some of the projects that I was involved in at the time were in many ways exciting and led to pretty, eye-catching productions, I felt that neither they nor most of the other marketing campaigns that try to grab people’s attention seemed particularly meaningful. Putting on a make-up to create a buzz or sell a product or service if it’s not genuinely needed in the world seldom is. This is especially true in the context of “making good”. Taking my previous achievements out of the human equation would hardly make the slightest dent in history.
So why was I doing it? Was this really the kind of legacy I wanted to leave? Was this really where I should be focusing my creative energy? Was I really OK with just turning a blind eye to what was going on in the world without doing anything about it? I delved into these questions and looked into the future to contemplate what personal achievements would complete me at the end of my life – questions that everybody should be asking themselves, but which few people do.
We simply need to use our creativity to come up with a new story, as well as the courage to speak out and make it happen. This will only be possible if each of us starts to be true to ourselves.
I must admit that the journey that I envisioned in front of me was daunting, because it soon became clear that I would need to venture into new territory far outside my comfort zone and find a place that I didn’t know how to reach. Fear of change was definitely an issue and my ego was doing its best to cloud my better judgement. Would I succeed? Would I have the ability and the resources to get through it? Wouldn’t it just be easier to let someone else do it?
Putting on the clothing that fits the role is not easy. In order to achieve this, I climbed to the top of a symbolic mountain and engaged in expanding my capacity as a human being. Feelings, values, empathy. I needed to figure out how to step into a new world that was totally unknown to me, change-making and the future of the business world. I ventured in and came out on the other side as a more multidimensional individual with an eye for doing good deeds.
I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious because reaching the right level of confidence is the essential ingredient in this recipe. Belief in ourselves and a conviction that we can all make a difference. Insisting on a dialogue on the urgent need for change in every discussion we have. We simply need to use our creativity to come up with a new story, as well as the courage to speak out and make it happen. This will only be possible if each of us starts to be true to ourselves.
I should also mention that I’m still working on the courage part, as writing this is making me tremble. But eventually, I decided to cross the threshold and gradually take on the task at hand. I needed to propel the story forward, not only by following my own instincts but also by coming up with a viable plan. The core motivation and the drive were already in me, but what should the next steps be?
This led me to invest the following two years in preparing for this breakthrough, meeting people of various backgrounds so as to better understand jobs, needs and expected gains, and testing various hypotheses on how to get the work done. However, the ultimate test has been not to capitulate to external forces and not to lose sight of my goal. Luckily, I’ve crossed paths with good-hearted people who have helped me, work colleagues and partners that have all been there to support me in my final quantum leap.
Tiny nudges that can bring out a bolder, more authentic version of ourselves and that, over time, can lead to greater gain and, hopefully, make a global impact.
They’ve encouraged me to push on even further when I didn’t think I could do it, and to walk the talk when I’ve wanted to opt for the easy way out, constantly reminding me that anything is possible. Together we started this quest to do our utmost to really understand and help people realise their fullest potential and to help them forge a connection between their businesses and real human needs. Anything else would be pointless.
But in order to achieve this, there must be a sincere intention on the other side too, and this is where we’ve felt that our biggest challenge has been. As in my case at the beginning of this story, many people might not have reached the answers that instil them with the conviction that their work is also equally important. This may result in them not taking the plunge at all, or in them taking the initial steps but then becoming distracted by the same dilemmas that all profit-minded businesses face, namely checking the bottom line from a shareholder perspective, and then overlooking the important work in an attempt to wrestle with the market for bigger profits. We’d like to wish these companies the best of luck trying to become the next Uber for [fill in the blank].
For the rest of us, here is the reward on offer – a magic elixir that enables the successful creation of businesses that not only make money but also perform a social function. It can be done, and you don’t even need to compromise either one of these elements. Because, believe it or not, the key is not actually to attempt to solve those gigantic worldwide problems as a first step, but instead to dig deep inside ourselves in order to transform dreams and business concepts into something real and tangible in our own backyards. And by doing so, turn them into incremental steps that in comparison to the magnitude of the global challenges could be described as nano-sized investments, small enough to require minimal psychological commitment. Tiny nudges that can bring out a bolder, more authentic version of ourselves and that, over time, can lead to greater gain and, hopefully, make a global impact.
It’s even easier than it sounds. We simply need to change our perspectives as to what can be done here and now, and in doing so prime ourselves for the feeling of excitement and satisfaction that comes when we do good deeds. Basically what this means is that by adopting the right mindset, you can affect your viewpoints and choices, and as a result develop an internal narrative that can become the self-fulfilling prophecy of your fullest potential waiting to unfold.
Sound interesting? We know you’re out there, so come on and let’s get the ball rolling.