March 2010: Spirit in Biz. What’s the Motive?

Me again? Yes. I’m going for shorter, more frequent newsletters. It’s Twitteresque.

Back in Boulder (I bypassed Boston and the storm) after an exciting Miami speech for Florida Atlantic University’s Program in the Study of Spirituality — and a great audience: equally passionate about business and Spirit.

Early on, however, a sincere, if traditional gentleman, blew the whistle on our little love fest with a concern I’ve gotten before but heard with fresh ears. I’d just told the story of HP inkjet honcho Greg Merten, who added hundreds of millions to HP’s bottom line through the spiritual value of Trust (See Megatrends 2010, pp 1-2).

“I’m all for spirituality, the man said, “but not in business. What’s the motive? If it’s to make more money,” he added, “that’s not spirituality; it’s materialism!”

I honor your viewpoint, I said, but I don’t see it that way. I’d hate to shut down corporate meditation because it makes people innovative and companies profitable!

When the man continued to raise well-meant objections, the audience engaged frankly with him, some suggesting he had a “Money is Bad” bias. All in all, we had a  very lively discussion. Two hours flew by. I met new friends and went off to dinner with my old friend Astrologer Barbara Hamilton and her daughter Sarah.

But on the plane home, I recalled that Tami Simon, founder of Sounds True, the premier producer of spiritual audio programs (which starts meetings with a moment of silence and has a meditation room), chided me for connecting Spirit and profit. “I have no idea if what we do [spiritually] makes us money or loses us money,” she said with passion. “We do it because it has intrinsic value.”

Come to think of it, Greg Merten did not devote a full day every 4-6 weeks to team dynamics to enrich the bottom line. He did it to get better at relationships.

Can a questionable (read greedy?) motive impugn the value of Spirit in business? I still don’t think so. But today, thanks to a gentleman in Miami, I’d venture to say I now think the question is a healthy and thoughtful one.

Thanks to Lexie Potamkin and Nathan Katz for a memorable Miami adventure.

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