The Meaning of Money in a Purpose-Filled Business: 365ideas4change Number 4

OK, so I’m cheating. I posted this blog a year ago. I’m recycling it under 365ideas4change, because I think its a great way of thinking. And I had supper with a few friends so its late….

When you switch on a light, why do you do it? Is it to turn the light-bulb on? Or is it to make the electricity flow? It could be argued that you switch on the light switch in order to LET the electricity flow SO THAT the light-bulb glows, giving you light. The purpose of pressing the switch nonetheless remains to get the light to turn on. There are thousands of ways in which we can get electricity to flow: switching on that particular switch makes the electricity flow in a highly specific way to achieve a very intentional outcome – THAT light bulb glows.

Now think about your business – and money – this way. Why do you do what you do in the organisation? Is it to serve a need, or is it to make money flow (preferably into your coffers)? So many organisations flounder, with people ‘not doing what they’re supposed to do’, or ‘targets not being met’, or ‘strategy not being implemented properly’. If the primary reason of your business – the driving force if you like – is to make money move (in the analogy, to make electricity flow), no wonder expectations are unclear. Because, like electricity, there are thousands of ways to make money flow. But if the flow of money is not directed at another purpose, it’s like dropping a tankard of water; it flows all over the place. This picture epitomises busy-ness, rather than business.

Money is needed, and it must flow (like all other energy). But it’s the way we view it that makes it effective or otherwise. Our business and organisation must have a purpose beyond making money. For example, if I can see that a particular form of widget will solve a particular technical problem, then I’m meeting a need if I make and supply that widget. Money simply becomes the tool that I then use to serve the purpose of my business: making widgets. I hear a lot of voices going “Of course we make widgets. In order to make money….”. That is precisely the problem. We need to make widgets because they serve a need, THEN work out how the money serves that purpose. And once we do, the money will flow!

Having stacks of money without a purpose beyond simple accumulation and existence, is like having a garage full of hammers. If I don’t put that money to use, to serve a purpose other than financial, my garage full of hammers sits pristine, unmoving, and quite frankly useless. In this situation, we spend our time rearranging the hammers endlessly. Unless those hammers are thumping nails into wooden framing for houses, or driving stakes into the ground for fencing (and all other good uses to which hammers can be put), our garage (our business) is an idle space of well organised, shiny hammers. Not having a purpose beyond making money in our business would be like instructing a team of carpenters to “go use the hammers”, but not telling them what for. Does the ensuing scene of chaos, confusion and uncertainty feel familiar?

What purpose does our business pursue? What needs do our organisations meet? Do they serve to fulfil only consumptive wants? Do they exist only to generate imaginary needs? 

About Julie Courtnage

With training in environmental science, I facilitate 'naked conversations' about sustainable wellbeing. Using facilitation techniques, systems thinking, art, music, writing, movement and photography, we explore the active creation of our uniqueness - personal and collective, as individuals, organisations and society - and our relationships with others, with sustainable wellbeing, and with genuine happiness. This journey of creation is a journey of Love. And fun.
This entry was posted in Business and the economy, Governance, Social responsibility, Sustainable Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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