Doing Good to Do Well—Is It Really Possible?

Aug 5, 2019 11:45 AM ET

Written by Stuart Hart and Matt Mayberry 

“I’d love to have a job making a difference, but somebody has to pay the bills.” How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said it?

It’s the dilemma so many professionals face. Smart, well-intentioned people who want to be successful, make a decent living, and feel valued also have the nagging feeling that the work they do does not address the most important problems in the world, and in fact may actually, if unwittingly, contribute to them. Is it possible to do well and do good? We believe the answer is, “Yes!” but not with ‘Business-As-Usual.’

Business-As-Usual Pressures
Business-As-Usual includes a set of largely tacit beliefs about the purpose of a business and how work should be conducted. These include the belief that maximizing shareholder value is the only objective for business decision-making. Business-As-Usual also incorporates norms for business conduct that often overlook bad behavior or adverse consequences for the sake of expedience in pursuit of shareholder value.

This mindset sets strong expectations for what professionals should accomplish through their daily work. It prioritizes near-term revenue growth and expense cutting rather than innovation and long-term value; neglecting negative externalities that may take decades to manifest, but may ultimately be devastating to the business, community, and industry. It rewards going along with practices that are “normal for our industry” rather than questioning them.  It creates expectations for how you “get ahead” and succeed in your career.

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