Business is a major focus of ProSocial World, along with the closely allied topic area of economics. While businesses are accustomed to executive training and brief consultations, they are often not accustomed to establishing an ongoing relationship for continuous improvement, which is the essence of ProSocial Business.
ProSocial World and its field approach has come to the attention of a number of prosocial movements in the business world. Rich opportunities are emerging to work with corporations and spread ideas along existing social networks.
In past decades it seemed like common sense for corporations to act conscientiously toward their employees, customers, supply chain, and communities. That began to change with the proliferation of business schools after World War II and their embrace of neoclassical economics. What became known as ‘the shareholder value model’ became the prominent operating model. A singular focus on shareholder value through maximizing profits led to a steady and gradual erosion of the ‘social contract’ that had once assured jobs, wages, and the societal good as a mainstay of the corporate business model. This trend reached its zenith in the 1980s, known as a decade of excessive greed and avarice.
Despite its influence, especially in business school education, the neoclassical paradigm has not entirely crowded out a prosocial business perspective. Examples include Triple Bottom Line, B-Corporation and B-Lab, Regenerative Economics, Conscious Capitalism, International Humanistic Management, Jesuit Business Associations, and UN Global Contracts. These outliers emanate from diverse sources including religious traditions, secular humanism, and global organizations such as the United Nations. They are also based on experience, because it is an empirical fact that prosociality can be a winning strategy in the business world. At least under some conditions, it is indeed possible to do well by doing good.
The proliferation of prosocial business movements has been a welcome development. Despite these noble efforts, one thing that prosocial business movements lack is a unifying theoretical framework. Also, while the movements are aware and supportive of each other, they also remain separate and show little progress toward coalescing into a movement-of-movements. And there is not yet a concerted effort to rethink the business school curriculum, which continues to educate students in the outdated neoclassical paradigm.
This is where ProSocial Business and its “field site” approach aims to make a major contribution. Leaders of prosocial business movements are beginning to appreciate the contribution that ProSocial World can make, providing an open door for working with both business corporations and business schools.
ProSocial Business initiatives are designed to engage participating businesses, business groups, and other change agents working within their respective systems in a range of deliberative and participatory action learning/research processes designed to help them more successfully implement prosocial methods. These consist of flexible experiences built around questions of deep interest for those involved. The aim for the organizations involved, and communities they interface with more broadly, is to become more successful in their endeavours and to work more effectively with each other as they implement prosociality at larger scales.
Organizational management is about shaping the norms and institutions of quasi-tribal groups so that they work better. Pete Richerson argues that much of what organizational management amounts to is trying to shape the norms and institutions of quasi-tribal groups so that they work better.
New evolutionary thinking about cooperation, groups, firms and societies.To explore the new implications of this vastly improved evolutionary theory for business, we recently organized a one-day symposium at Stern titled “Darwin’s Business: New Evolutionary Thinking About Cooperation, Groups, Firms and Societies.”
Companies are great at evaluating skills but inconsistent at evaluating temperament due to unconscious bias. These biases are, in part, a natural outcome of the human species evolving in small, homogenous groups. But new tools can help us overcome our innate biases to achieve cultural change.