A recent Guardian article highlighted philosophers working with businesses, professional thinkers and, in my own case as The Corporate Philosopher, my role with companies including HSBC, BP, Nationwide and BT Openreach. Reflecting is certainly one of the things we can do together, but you’ll find it’s much harder work than that.
We all think, let’s face it, it’s a requirement for survival, yet, for many in a highly compliant and pressurised role, thinking, or perhaps more accurately personal reflection and responsibility (the trademarks of a moral grown-up), can be eroded, even suspended in a command-and-control style feudal corporate culture. My role as a philosopher is to help people find answers, clarity and become better decision makers. I’m a ’critical friend’ who can also help create the psychological safety to tackle some tough issues. Issues that often arise from what’s just and what’s just enough. When it’s all going pear shaped, or worse, tragedy strikes, just enough is always found to be far short of what was really needed – ethical, value-based leadership.
“There’s an assumption there that profits and philosophy are incompatible,” says Steare. “The tension is not between philosophy and profit, but between deep wisdom and short-term profit maximisation, instead of long-term sustainable value creation.”
“We should never forget that the fallout from poor, short-term decision making is real, it’s human and, more often than not, it’s miserable…”
Philosophy in business isn’t just asking difficult questions in order to disrupt and ultimately empower, it’s also about making room to recognise and take practical action. Knowing what’s truly valuable and acting up on it. We should never forget that the fall out from poor, short-term decision making is real, it’s human and, more often than not, it’s miserable.
It is this action-based thinking that underpins my livebook project How to Be Good at Work which explores, not simply ways to recalibrate our thinking, but also how to make a practical difference: to become better at the jobs we do for the benefit of everyone.