Advice for Change in Business and Society

By Ichak Adizes PhD.

Today, a new government will be sworn into office under our new President, Barack Obama. We all face many social and economic challenges in the upcoming year, but many Americans are eagerly awaiting some promised changes. But there is always resistance; As Machiavelli said, “If you want to be hated try changing people.”

People by and large want change as long as it does not inconvenience their value system or interests. But that is exactly what we need to do: change our values and peoples’ interests.

One benefit of old age is that you feel less fear for what people think of you and feel more courageous, because with the “final solution” around the corner at any time, what is there more to fear. So? Let us do it.

To understand the new paradigm that America needs, one should know the methodology Dr. Don Beck presents in his book Spiral Dynamics.

What is the new paradigm that America needs?

We need to move, on the spiral dynamic curve, to the yellow-turquoise color value system. In essence, we need to migrate from a value system where more is better to one in which better is more. (I am talking only about the United States here.)

Today the most powerful cultural institutions are the business companies, and “Business” prioritizes profits. The more earnings per share, the better; The bigger the company the better, etc.

Granted, for a single company, more is better. But in aggregate, when the total business subsystem behaves that way without regard for its effects, it destroys the world we live in. The value system ‘more is better’ is creating enormous waste. Just look at the choices consumers are given in everything: Our standard of living is going up, while our quality of life is going down. We have too many cars, or it takes too much time and gas to drive anywhere; or we consume too many calories, hence the increasing rates of obesity and diabetes. More is not making us happier. I hear more laughter in developing countries in a single day than in a whole year in developed countries.

The financial crisis is caused by this culture of more is better. More credit. More profits. Endless greed. How would I change this culture? You change behavior by changing the reward system.

Increase taxes significantly and give significant tax credits to those willing to live modestly: smaller homes, smaller cars, those that use alternative energy, etc.
Essentially, we should give tax credits to those who want to change and tax heavily those that want to live lavishly.

Please note this is a paradigm shift because today we take from those that have and give to those that do not have. I am recommending, in addition to it, to take from those who do not want to change and give to those who do want to change.

We need to change the education system and teach that less is more. I would increase the salaries of teachers who teach the new paradigm and not pay more those who don’t. I would subsidize charter schools that teach the new paradigm and give vouchers to parents at the same time. In other words, I would create competition in the educational marketplace to encourage better and different education.

I would amend the constitutional definition of free speech. My goal is to prohibit violent rap music and any TV shows that glorify or present, in a non-critical manner, use of drugs, rape, murder, and defying authority. Yes, it is censorship. You may argue that we have free will and can choose what to listen to. Have you tried to teach a teenager what to watch or listen to or read when that “stuff” is everywhere? You have to lock him in the house or make him live under a rock…I believe free choice is a cover leaf for those who corrupt our culture for financial gain.

The concept of free speech was conceived at a time when realities required it. It needs to be amended because our realities changed significantly.

I would put in prison any, I repeat, any celebrity convicted for taking drugs, and double or triple their sentence if they did it publicly or glorified it. Why? Because our children are heavily influenced by pop culture and they look up to these celebrities, some of whom legitimize and spread sick, poisonous values.

I would tax commercial for profit art, like what Hollywood produces, and subsidize not-for-profit fine art. I would build free sports centers to train our youth and provide them with opportunities to use their energies constructively. Yes, like the communist countries used to do.

Today the business entrepreneurs are rewarded the most, by obscene amounts. Social entrepreneurs in the arts, in community organizing, etc, are surviving at best. I would tax Wall Street and subsidize socially beneficial organizations and their leaders.

I would stop all subsidies and loans to MBA programs and instead subsidize programs teaching not-for-profit leadership.

I would subsidize filmmaking that portrays the new culture of less is more, and tax films where more is shown to be better.

I would stop sending financial support (short of directly delivered humanitarian aid for food and medicine) to any country whose government is corrupt.

And here is the most courageous change of them all: I would have mandatory three days long weekend. One, say Sunday, will be a real Sabbath. I would close by law all commercial outlets. No more shopping for one day. Create a window of opportunity for families to get together and get to know their neighbors. If you want to know how it looks like, go to Israel for a Yom Kipur. It is a spiritual experience we need more than once a year…

But, someone might claim, these suggestions will cause our economic growth to suffer.

Right on.

As we change our goals, we need to change how we measure success.

It is prime time to start measuring our success by social indicators: the crime rate, teen pregnancies, rate of students graduating high school, literacy rate, divorce rate and any other measurements that point to our quality of life and not just to our standard of living.

What is the common denominator to my changes?

We need values that cherish and glorify life, that nurture the environment in which we live, that support quality of life and integrate a diverse society subject to disintegration, driven mostly by technological change.

Will the paradigm shift solve the financial crisis? It seems totally unrelated to the financial crash, right?

In my opinion the financial crash is a manifestation of our value system, (endless greed), one that is now dysfunctional. Those values were functional to build this country; we built it. The system that was needed then, is destroying us now.

We need to change, and as the values change, the financial system will change, too.

I can imagine that some readers will be appalled by my suggestions because government intervention in social values is sacrilegious for a democratic society.

But government intervention in free market was sacrilegious before 1929. We crossed the Rubicon before and Maynard Keynes gave the theoretical legitimization to it. We need a “social Maynard Keynes” now; Someone who will legitimize government intervention in social values. Economic growth was important then. Functioning society is what we need now. As the needs change, so should the tools.

What to do in the meantime?

We need some stopgap measure. That I leave to the MBA and Economist geniuses of Harvard, Wharton, and Chicago.

What do you think? Please post to our blog at any comments, criticism or support…let me have it all. Thank you for reading.



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