GUEST AUTHOR BLOG by Dov Seidman, author of "HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything."
In today’s world the production of good and harm has been democratized.
One London banker can lose over $2 billion in unauthorized trading and it will lead to the global economy experiencing more volatility and likely wipe out this year’s bonuses at his bank. One vegetable vendor in Tunisia can spark a revolution for freedom across the Arab world.
We are deep into what I call the Era of Behavior. Our behavior now matters more than we thought and in ways we never imagined.
The world has gone from being connected to interconnected to interdependent. So many more people can now connect and collaborate in much deeper ways. When the world is tied together this intimately, everyone’s values and behavior matter more than ever, because they impact more people than ever.
In the twenty-first century, it is no longer what you do or what you know that counts most. It is how you do what you do that has become today’s greatest source of advantage. Of course how we do what we do has always mattered. But today, how we behave, consume, build trust in our relationships, and relate to others matters more than ever before.
Why do I think HOW is so relevant in this hyperconnected world?
All behavior is guided by values.
There are only two types of values: Situational Values and Sustainable Values. Relationships propelled by situational values are all about exploiting short-term opportunities- what we can and cannot do in any given situation. Sustainable values, by contrast, are all about what we should and should not do in all situations. Sustainable values connect us deeply as humans: integrity, honesty, truth, shared responsibility and hope.
Too often in the last decade we have been focused on short-term, situational gain as opposed to long-term, sustainable value. This caused the global economic meltdown as too many financial companies became disconnected from fundamental values. Instead of nurturing sustainable collaborations, banks, lenders, borrowers and shareholders pursued short-term relationships founded on inadequate situational levels of trust and durability.
In a connected world where everything is personal because everyone’s behavior affects everyone else, we need to re-connect with our sustainable values and not be grounded in here-and-now situational values.
The Wave is a great metaphor of the kind of human energy and behavior that will thrive in the twenty-first century. Everything about the spontaneous wave of human energy that stadium crowds perform at major sporting events you could break down into all the hows you need to get right.
The Middle East and India have experienced a series of dramatic waves in 2011. In the Arab Spring, popular revolutions forced dictatorial regimes from power. Protesters created situational freedom, or freedom from tyranny. Nobody knows whether this situational freedom will lead to sustainable freedom, the freedom to live according to their values. But at the very least, we now know that waves inspired by sustainable values can triumph against the forces of violence and repression.
"For too long we have been leading our companies and operating our businesses based on 19th and 20th century approaches that don't resonate in this new world."
Now consider what is happening in the workplace.
People want freedom from command-and-control bosses, task-based jobs and being placed in boxes. They want freedom to build self-governing mindsets, innovate and achieve a shared mission. So the wave sweeping through the Middle East is also sweeping through US office life.
For too long we have been leading our companies and operating our businesses based on 19th and 20th century approaches that don't resonate in this new world. As a result, questions of how much (how much debt can we have on our balance sheet; how much revenue can we squeeze into this quarter) matter much less today than the how questions (how can we create sustainable relationships with trading partners; how can we outbehave the competition?) Instead of reflexively asking how much, we should examine how we can create organizations, societies, institutions and businesses that mirror our deepest values.
We are so used to HOW being a question. But HOW is no longer just a question; HOW is the answer.
Dov Seidman, author of HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything(Wiley), is the founder and CEO of LRN, a company that helps businesses develop ethical corporate cultures. For more information, see www.howistheanswer.com