A while back I stumbled across a video on YouTube that struck me as very provocative and very, very important. The video was entitled The Future of Business, and in it the man on the screen mentioned the importance in business of – of all things – love.
When most of us think about business, love is just about the last thing that comes to mind. However, this man was talking about love as something very primary in the shift to a sustainable future, which includes the way we do business.
“This man” was Giles Hutchins, a business change agent who has worked in business for nearly 20 years, formally as management consultant for KPMG and then as global director of sustainability for Atos International. Giles specializes in taking inspiration from nature and applying it to sustainable business transformation. By that he means not just trading conventional technologies for ones that are less destructive, but a true transformation to a new paradigm, one that is inspired by and in harmony with nature.
Giles is also the author of The Nature of Business: Redesign for Resilience, an excellent book which explores how the increasingly unpredictable, interconnected and uncertain nature of business in modern society calls for a more emergent, dynamic approach to organizations and leadership.
Giles was kind enough to agree to speak with me via Skype earlier this month to further explain the importance of love in business.
(You can listen to the full interview here: Interview with Giles Hutchins on love in business)
Giles maintains that the biggest problems we face as a society today cannot be solved through technology alone, because they are not a product of technology. Rather, he attributes the root cause of our environmental crisis to an “inherent anti-life approach,” which, he says, stems from an illusion of separation.
“We tend to see ourselves as separate from each other and from the world around us. And the way in which we manage our businesses today… is very much rooted in this sense of separation of self from nature.
“(But) if we look at how reality really works, how nature operates, how organisms live, how each of us thrive and survive in the world, we actually realize that nothing, absolutely nothing is completely separate from anything else.
“And so it’s important, I think, to come with that (more natural kind of) thinking if we’re then going to start dealing with some of these profound challenges that we face today, otherwise we add to the illusion of separation which causes further downstream ramifications… We need to get to the root cause of the challenges that are now facing us…
“Love as deep attunement of our ego self, with our true self; of our conscious mind, with our unconscious imaginable presence; of our soul with the World Soul; of our rational mind with intuitive heart. Love is awakening to the divine presence flowing through every action, every moment, every relationship, every interaction that we undertake.
“So it’s a foundation, an all-pervasive presence flowing through everything, which is fundamental for us to tune into. We’ve lost that deeper sense of Love; re-embodying and re-member that Love helps us see beyond the illusion of separation.”
While love is an abstract concept, its effect is real and very tangible. However, it’s not something that can be mandated into a company’s DNA. Rather, it flows out from individuals within an organization.
“There are many organizations that perhaps people wouldn’t think of (being based on love), which have people in them that are inspired by love, and perhaps those people may only be inspired by love for just 10 or 15 minutes of their day…
“…there are examples of organizations that have a purpose-driven, value-based organization…but I think it’s important to realize that we all are individuals working in organizations and perhaps through our lives we sometimes have moments when we are “in love,” when we’re flowing, we’re deeply attuned, focused on the activity, loving the activity that we’re doing, and therefore what we’re doing is laced with love. (That is what I mean by being) in love, that we are deeply resonating with what we’re doing.
“For instance I could talk to people in a call center and you know, many of them may be disenchanted with what they’re doing, just doing it purely to meet the bills and to pay off debts, yet you can come across someone who clearly is motivated and enjoying what they’re doing, and have a conversation which is quite different – a love-based sharing – and in that moment inspired by love.
“Everything has interrelationships, and our environment clearly has a massive impact of how we are and how we feel.
“And so if you have a culture that’s very much ‘anti-life’ (highly competitive and carcinogenic) that rubs off on us, it’s very difficult for us to then be inspired by love.
“Yet we create an environment through our own interactions which then contributes to a wider environment which might then inspire team members, which may then go on to inspire other teams in the organization, which then either helps that business unit or the wider culture. That’s a bottom-up approach.
“Vice versa you can have a top-down approach where you have purpose-driven leaders creating space for an environment based on love, recognizing that people are more motivated and more creative if they’re actually coming from love; recognizing the importance of that for organizations in these challenging times.
“And of course it’s a mixture of both. It’s neither top-down nor bottom. Both of those are kind of old ways of looking at things. We affect the change through the actions and interactions that we do. There are catalysts like leadership and creating a culture that help foster a loving environment.
“Having worked at different levels in organizations and consulted for a variety of different people from people on the shop floor right through to global CEOs, (I’d say that) it often seems everybody has the same challenges and barriers to love.
“Take someone on the shop floor who’s saying, ‘Well yes, but what can I do to change the organization? Well it’s not first-and-foremost about ‘changing the organization’ or ‘the world’, but rather changing what you are doing and how you are being. That person has similar challenges, barriers and fears as a global CEO would have in that regard. And of course both of them have just the same amount of opportunity if they choose. So part of it is an attitude. It’s a way of attending our attention, and our quality of awareness is all part of that.”
As it turns out, some of the world’s largest corporations – including Apple, Yahoo, General Mills, and IBM – are catching on to the benefits of Incorporating mindfulness and other love-centered practices into the workplace.
For example, Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” employee training was described by one participant as “organizational WD-40, a necessary lubricant between driven, ambitious employees and Google’s demanding corporate culture,” who added that “helping employees handle stress and defuse emotion helps everyone work more effectively.”
This and similar voluntary programs have been widely reported to improve focus and productivity, increase employee satisfaction, improve communication, and reduce stress in the workplace.
I asked Giles what he would recommend to enable the switch to a more love-centered business or even to enable one’s employees or coworkers. He replied:
(A lot of organizations are trying) to bring in a greater clarity of awareness and sense of purpose into their organization, which helps people slow down and…sense with how they’re acting and interacting.
And so it’s a sense of presence, whether that is having 10 minutes of silence at the beginning and end of every day, or encouraging people in work-breaks to engage in contemplative practices such as meditation or having meetings walking in the park, or doing some stretches or yoga. Things like that, which help align the mind, body and soul in the workplace which is essentially healthy for the business.
Some of that is at a personal level, encouraging people to be aware of certain things. And by the way this isn’t in any way a kind of propaganda or mainstream sort of education put on people. It’s very much there as an invitation and general awareness for people to take or leave as they wish. Everybody is on their own journey and a part of this is recognizing that.
And at perhaps a more systemic level in the organization is recognizing what kind of leaders that you want in your business. How do you emulate success in the organization? What type of people do you want leading other people? And I think this is about walking your talk. And so leaders who are actually leading from the heart, who are leading with love, are the ones that are going to help emulate a culture like that in the organization.
To explore Giles Hutchins’ work further, visit www.thenatureofbusiness.org.
How have you experienced the effect of love in business? How has it made a difference in your organization or in your life?