The backbone of my work and 2:23AM is to challenge sacred cows in business and life. Not to be contrary or revolutionary as a purpose, but because unless we do we end up living as part of the flat earth society.

Yesterday I read my good friend Richard Hames’s piece, All Work and All Play. In this article Richard placed some of those sacred cows under the microscope. In the first round of challenging sacred cows the point is not to agree or disagree, but to examine. To check if you are open enough even to examine. A closed mind will not even consider. An arrested mind will consider but actually not really challenge.

Often the failure of leadership is the failure to write off  the depreciation of a leaders emotional and intellectual capital. Leaders often start from a place of openness and flexibility but become increasingly closed in mind set as they progress. They fail to question the underpinning status quo.

Here is a sacred cow. Where does our belief around our work ethic come from? And what if it was perfectly acceptable for people to actually not work at all? From Richards article.

 Labour Sanctified

Why should labour still be sanctified as a human right to be protected? If all the world’s wealth were to be shared more equitably some people could choose not to work. They might paint or write poetry, play computer games, grow their own food, undertake voluntary community service, exercise, fly kites – or simply sit and do nothing. Would that be such a bad thing? How might changing values in society be contributing to a shift away from the ingrained Protestant work ethic? How will this change what we value and what it means to be alive and human?

Notice if your shackles go up about redistribution of wealth, or about millions of lazy people sucking on a system, especially at the expense of your hard work.

If you cannot get past these big BUT’s then you are caught in the trap of a closed system. (Which lives and is fed in your mind.)

My life long mentor, Buckminster Fuller, wrote at length about a wage for every human being allowing them to live and get health care at the level of well being but not luxury. Indeed Switzerland at this time is voting on doing exactly this. Please note this is not the same as socialism as there are nuances to this that transcend socialism. There would be the opportunity for people to rise above the living wage and earn as much as they like. When we look at the whole, the cost of welfare, the cost of governments investment in jobs, the care of the elderly, superannuation and retirement schemes and the tremendous waste that goes towards all of this, it may actually make better economic sense to do this. But before we do this we have to relinquish our core belief that everyone should have a job before they get paid.

I have observed in humans the desire to live a life where they are valued and offer value. People want to work and contribute. There are the exceptions. Always will be. But these exceptions are the minority. We are reaching an age where people not only are wanting to, but choosing to work in areas that make then feel more fulfilled. The system is changing. Certainly if people do not have to worry about survival, I would guess that many people would fully embrace the creative and entrepreneurial desires to build exciting businesses and services. This move may even unleash the next renaissance. Plus, our Puritanical work ethic is not the way humanity has always lived. In the span of human existence it is actually very young.

Further to this challenging of sacred cows, do we need management to have title and authority over, and the ability to sanction or punish? Companies are demonstrating that this is not necessary to create a very viable business. Indeed a great leader needs neither title or authority over. They need the ability to inspire people to do great things willingly.

Challenging sacred cows is a healthy practice for any leader or organisation. It keeps us young, at the edge, and able to stay in an open, flowing system.


Photo credit. Creative Commons License Hans Splinter via Compfight


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