Monday, April 30, 2012

In Defense of Corporations

This post is inspired by a coaching conversation I had recently about the evil that corporations do and the potentially questionable ethics of carrying on a corporate career that could be seen as collusive with this evil. This is a worthy question, and one I have mulled over often in my more than 2 decades in global corporations. 

I am of the opinion that corporations, like hammers are neutral tools, capable of good and evil in the hands of good or ill-intentioned wielders. The fact is that most all corporations are simultaneously producing good and bad ends at least unintentionally, if not intentionally, and that can be said of most all things in the cosmos. This fact, conjured the thought that corporations need defending, on one hand against the assumptions that they are inherently evil, and on another hand against the evil they do when there are not enough powerful, influential well-intentioned players at the corporate decision-making table

Corporations have their merits & demerits. They have enabled more wealth creation, personal/professional development, etc., for a greater number of people (to wit, our middle class) to a greater degree than any force in history. They have also been behind some of the most devastating occurrences of human-inflicted harm to other humans and the environment seen in history. Because corporations have so much power to do good and evil, it is important that they have good people in and around them to defend them against the evil they might otherwise do.

For this reason I encourage those who have corporate expertise to stay in the game, both inside and adjacent the corporate as forms of light and salt to both keep clean and  preserve the cultures and intentions of corporations. I get that corporate life can be demoralizing, ethically ambiguous, unfair, unreasonable, confusing, etc., and that such triggers thoughts of escape for most of us. That said, if we can adopt an approach where we connect our corporate work to personal meaning and societal purpose, versus ego aggrandizement & lifestyle elevation, we can recommit to defending corporations and influence them to be a greater good, than evil, in the world

I have, for a number of years, deliberately worked to get more clear and deliberate about what industries, disciplines, situations, problems and purposes, I want to focus my energy on. I have targeted those corporations whose raison d'ĂȘtre, going beyond making profit, resonates with me. Working in those corporations are more satisfying as I know that my work in helping the corporation is helping achieve the purposes I want to see in myself and the world. 

This is not to say that corporations are perfect but to say that they are really good tools for positively touching the lives of lots of people when used in the proper way. I am blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to that as well as to be a change agent and influencer to keep it from as much evil as might result if I were not there. And, by the way, even when I leave the inside of the corporation, I intend to use my experience and influence to continue to develop ethical servant leaders who defend corporations from evil.

I encourage us all to choose our corporate defender role and play it well. Whether as inside manager, leader, contributor, influencer, innovator and change agent, or as outside consultant, influencer, stakeholder, accountability agent, or regulator-legislator. All these role are useful in defending corporations by balancing their power, maintaining their ethical agenda, and maximizing their ethically profitable performance. 

Effective defending to us all!


Joel Burger said...

Craig, I enjoyed your blog. I agree that corporations are neither inherently good or bad - and can be either a force of good or bad depending on the people making the decisions from within. I applaud you for this thoughtful article, and agree that if people can help in pointing corporations in the right direction then they should stay within the corporation and battle to impact positive changes.

Frank said...

You know what the problem is, Craig?

Corporations are people.

You know what the solution is?

Corporations are people.