Spiritual capitalism might sound like yet another new age concept, but it is not. It does get increasingly attention of managers and management thinkers, since growing evidence shows that "meaning" in business clearly contributes to happiness, and happiness contributes to the famous bottom line. Ode (June 2008), published an article on "Buddha in the boardroom", and though meditation as a practice causes increasing managerial performance, it does not need to go that far from the very beginning.
I would like to paraphrase Rakesh Khurana, in his book From Higher Aims to Hired Hands. He describes how business schools first emphasized that managers should carry out their work in ways beneficial for society. Later, this was replaced by a preference for disciplinary knowledge. Finally it was replaced by a market logic that regards business education as a marketable commodity, rather than a professional education. And that is where we are: we pay the price for turning a genuine stakeholder focus into a jungle like shareholder approach. But we do not have a lot of theoretical evidence for doing that.
Often we refer to Adam Smith as the godfather of our present day capitalism. Lloyd Field writes in his book Business and the Buddha, that Smith presented a moral philosophy: the average man and woman, along with the society in which they lived, should be the primary beneficiaries of a wealthy nation. Where the theories are there, practice proves to be more difficult. As Khurana suggests: most of us are in the habit of thinking in a linear fashion. And spiritual capitalism (Carleen Hawn in Ode), based on collective consciousness, is consequently not a zero sum game, but a holistic approach to business that's quickly becoming more - much more - than the sum of its parts.
According to Paul Versteeg (director Allianz Netherlands Insurance Group) they attempt to resolve their client's emotional and psychological issues about money. A good salesperson should be able to "hear" their customers' hearts, and in order to be able to do that one should be able to listen to your own heart.
Isn't that an important lack in our business school education? The contribution to the bottom line increasingly comes from happiness in the company, motivation, healthy conditions in the work environment, etc. Until today, not to mention a few exceptions like my wife Erna Oldenboom, we do not pay attention to all this in business schools.
But for those that are interested to learn more about it, I can invite you for a challenging and academically sound conference: Integrating spirituality and organizational leadership. Hope to see you there.