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Corporations are often considered the new nations. They exist to coordinate resources and maintain their workforce. But unlike representational, democratic governments, corporations do not have a responsibility to their workers; instead, they have a responsibility to their shareholders, quite often in a very legally binding sense of fiduciary responsibility.
One might argue that multi-national corporations truly live outside the law by having facilities operating under different laws, allowing them to do something that would be illegal in the US but perfectly okay in, say, China. And, through economic pressure, much as nations apply to each other, large, multi-national corporations can even get laws changed to increase their profits and make life a little worse for their employees.
But let's not confuse the concept of a corporation for the what these multi-nationals have become. Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet in 1776 that changed the course of history. (If you haven't read it, you can download a copy for free from Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/3755.) The document outlines the basic idea that we need government to survive -- a man alone in the woods will die if a tree falls on him, so he lives near other people, but people don't always agree on how to deal with problems, so we create rules, then laws, and a consistent way of enforcing those laws.
Just laws come from the people who agree to live under those laws. Granted, not everyone will agree with everything, but the idea is that the majority agrees that this is the best way to do things.
We are finding two modes of business in our new, global economy. One is the multi-national corporation, which acts as an oligarchy -- the workers are only there to serve the investors. The other is the mix of independent contractors who pick and choose their work, and the rules under which they will execute that work.
Neither model is working particularly well. The large corporations are wasting billions of dollars in stupid mistakes and causing grief for millions of people. The individual contractors are living like the man in the wilderness -- if he kills a deer, he eats like a king, if not, he starves to death.
Conquent has been evolving over the years, and we are now realizing the dream of balancing the idea of independence and just rule -- it's tricky to create a structure that allows people to be safe and secure, yet still live their lives in a way that works best for them. As we have created the structure to support the ideals, the reality of paying bills, managing workflow and living life continue to intrude on Utopia.
But, whether Conquent cracks this nut or not, the evolution of business is going to happen, either in the direction of totalitarian corporate management, or in a free world of people who shape their own destiny while helping others do the same.
Stacy Brown: Re: Common Sense of the New Economy
It's exciting to see a company working to provide balance. But surely corporate culture is driven by the economy. The worse the economy the tighter the controls in the social entity we call corporations and the less likely they will be to experiment with new models. I think you may be unique but I hope not.
Bruce Dickson: Re: Common Sense of the New Economy
The often overlooked business relationship (obligations to shareholders aside for the moment) is the relationship between values/ethics and outcomes - whether talking customer satisfaction, levels of demand, ultimately rebounding environmental impacts, profits, corrupt behavior, lobbying focus & practices, whatever ...
It is in this context that too often the underlying and unstated notion would appear to be that only hard headed, bullying and bad or un-'ethical' and socially questionable behavior reaps the reward of major profits.
Yet there is ample evidence nowadays that those corporations choosing the alternative path of a truly more ethical focus and business model reap just as valuable rewards (in multiple ways) by adopting this course - no matter what the context.
'Changing morality' - all the way from usury (in our not too distant past) being seen as a 'cardinal sin' to the notion that unlimited profit making is good and acceptable - has always underscored any trends in business/corporation/multi-national behaviors.
Amongst other things, democratic 'governments' were meant to exist to help counterbalance the natural tendency of businesses to move toward or seek monopoly (with its built in tempations to engage in totally self interested arrogant and unethical practices). To help maintain a civil society by spreading a little of the wealth around by a wide range of normally acceptable means (including taxation).
If self interest (so often posing as profitmaking for shareholders) alone were the true and only force at work in human and business behavior, society in all nations would have completely broken down by now. The hidden history is the one of people sharing and coexisting to satisfy not only their own interests, but also those of others.
Those countervailing forces at work here normally just go unacknowledged and unseen, but exist nonetheless in still powerful ways. Your own business model based on your own value set is just one small example of such a force in action.