Charles Handy’s famous question “what’s a company for?” has triggered deep reflection in the last few decades. Mark Goyder’s ‘Living Tomorrow’s Company: Rediscovering The Human Purposes of Business (Knowledge Partners, 2013) is perhaps the best of the lot. Goyder is the founding director of Tomorrow’s Company, a UK-born, global think-tank. This is the Indian edition of Goyder’s earlier work, and is a result of the urging, as he says, by Anant Nadkarni, former VP,TCCI (expand), Tata Group, for taking it to Indian and Asian audience.
This is not one more book in the genre of futuristic business books. It’s rather an outcome of thought at a very fundamental level – of mental modes of thinking about tomorrow’s business, and being it and living it, today. Goyder presents several choices in our outlook on key constructs in business: money, market, people, value, responsibility, regulation. The point that we have very clear categorical choices to make is effectively made here by busting some myths. The book redefines the current lexicon of business, broadening and deepening key constructs at the same time – something that Tomorrow’s Company, as an institution, has grown quite adept at.
Since the philosophy conceptualizes a Company as a ‘living organism’ rather than as an ‘organization’ and redefines ‘success’ in terms of relationships, the practice of a Tomorrow’s Company is set in the mould of inclusivity (interconnectedness being an innate nature of an organism). Mark Goyder expounds on The Inclusive Approach in much depth and detail, dwelling deep on purpose, values, stakeholders, and components of success and co-creation of value. He puts these ingredients together to present what a ‘clear success model’ is, just as he says a success model is much like a recipe.
The toolkits given here are not of the borrow-and-apply kind of quick-fixes but are meant for deep and possibly painful self-inquiry for self-transformation of organizations. The way Communication and Inclusive Reporting are dealt with here is quite a refreshing change from the way these ideas are usually presented. For instance, dialogue with stakeholders, we learn here, is to be used as an opportunity to listen, learn and grow, and reporting is to tell our stories of unfinished journeys.
The next part, Ownership, is about Trusteeship and Stewardship – words we Indians once heard from Gandhi and Jamshedji Tata, thanks to our contemporary quarter-to-quarter sprinting for profits. But future often owes a lot to history, and we get to learn here how these age-old philosophies can train us for a future marathon. Goyder blends the Gandhian Trusteeship and the British and the American Stewardship by placing them in their common origin of an inclusive philosophy of business, distills them into clear principles and demonstrates how they are the underpinnings of success models of Toyota, Tata and others. The reader cannot but appreciate how meaningful and doable these higher plateaus in ownership can be.
What India can teach
While the current policy environment tends to offer punitive regulation as an answer to the failings of the efficient markets hypothesis, Goyder draws our attention to the potential of Sanskar, instead. This Indian concept of value-based cultural upbringing finds unexpected room in Goyder’s vision of transformation of businesses: here, policy and regulation evolve themselves to groom and promote sustainable businesses where the purpose of business extends beyond profits in an inclusive space.
“Inclusive approach is more Niyat than Niti”, says Goyder, drawing from the constructs ‘Niyat’, ‘Niti’ and ‘Nyaya’ of Prof. Amartya Sen . The goal of Niyat and Niti is Nyaya. While Nyaya is the grand goal of justice, Niti is about external norms, codes, standards and compliance, and Niyat is an outcome of internal realization that manifests as proactive, voluntary choices of a higher order. Goyder’s work succeeds in bringing our attention to the much overlooked construct ‘Niyat’ and on how it can humanize capitalism.
Brandishing no formulae that claim to work magic to clear us of the current mess nor getting preachy about what it has to say, Goyder simply focuses on how long term business success works at a very fundamental level, and shares this realization in an unpresumptuous way.
Wisdom often sounds contradictory to what we hold dearly as knowledge. This one is a book of business wisdom, for it shows the higher level choices we can make as organizations, and attempts to raise business consciousness to a level which businesses are yet to realize they are capable of.