by Dr. Ichak Adizes
Visit to Albania
I arrived in the capital city of Tirana around midnight. I was hungry. There was no room service in the hotel. So I asked the driver where I could eat that late at night. He pointed down the road and said that there is a pizzeria there open all night long.
I looked in the direction he pointed. It was a dark alley. It was midnight. I was sure I would be killed or at least robbed, so I asked him if it was dangerous. He looked at me bewildered. “Why?” he asked. “Don’t you have crime in this city?” I asked.
To my surprise I found out that the crime rate in Albania is quite low. No serious crimes. It is safe to walk the streets. The streets are dark all night long, but even women can walk there without worry.
What is going on? Well, this experience confirmed my claim that crime is a manifestation of disintegration. There is crime in Mexico City. You cannot walk at night in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This is because the difference between the rich and the poor is staggering. This disintegration has not yet reached Albania. As yet, everyone is somewhat poor there. You will not find much crime in poor villages anywhere in the world, but you will certainly find it in rich cities. So we develop on one hand – we disintegrate on the other hand. The rich people of Mexico and Brazil cannot go to a restaurant without bodyguards. And their children are taken to their schools in armored cars. And they spend their vacations out of their country where no one knows them. They are living in a crystal cone… Real development is a balanced one, without disintegration whether it is in our own personal life, in our companies, our countries, or globally.
In my lectures I claim that everything has a lifecycle – people, trees, even stones and stars. Don’t scientists claim that certain stars are young and certain old?
And so it goes with stones as well.
On a certain rafting trip down the Grand Canyon I had doubts about what I say in my lectures. Let me share them with you.
True, stones, stars and trees have age, but it is chronological age, and it is not the same as human age. We can speed up our age or retard aging with how we live our life.
It all depends on how conscious we are. Yogis look ageless. People in love look radiant and young, while those who hate age rapidly.
What differentiates us from animals or anything else is how conscious we are. The more conscious, the more human we are.
And being conscious means a certain level of responsibility which accompanies knowledge. Do we live our life consciously or like animals, unconsciously?
And what does conscious living mean? Is it enough to know and be aware of what is going on and its repercussions? My insight is that awareness and knowledge are necessary for being conscious – but that is not enough. Do we act once we are aware and understand? Do we walk our talk? That is what it means to live consciously. I wonder how consciously we live. And it is not enough to be individually conscious. And here is why.
The business institutions or subsystem of society is a very well oiled machine developed over thousand of years. It has it capital markets (and global at that), stock market, a banking system, private equity funds, etc. So if one has a good tested idea, one can get the capital to start a business and later on finance its expansion.
The business world has programs to train its leadership: business schools, executive programs, etc. It has measurements of success; it has the clarity of measurable goals. It has no shame or reluctance to get into strategic alliances to grow further.
It is a perfectly oiled machine. It is so well oiled that it has developed a life of its own and is starting to endanger other subsystems of society like air, water, and natural resources. It is so well oiled that it dominates other segments of society like the political environment that is influenced by the deep pockets of the business world. And it impacts the social environment by causing deep disintegration – more differentiation between rich and poor within a country and globally. It is impacting everything: environment, politics, society and even the legal structure.
On the other hand, the “greens,” those socially conscious that are trying to make a change in how the world is advancing to its demise, are very weak in comparison. They have no capital markets; they compete for limited donations. They are splintered and rarely cooperate because they compete for the same resources and volunteers. Many are managed by big egos. (The business word has big egos as well, but it is better controlled by the results the business organization generates.) That is not true for the NGO’s where an ego can dominate without restraint because there are no obvious restraints to cause a change. They have no training of their leadership. I sit at some meetings of those well-meaning organizations and I witness how badly their strategic thinking is. What they have plenty of is good intentions and sincere willingness to make a better world, but when you compare it to the logic and sharpness of thinking of the business world, they pale in comparison. These much needed organizations have goals that are managerially inferior to the business world. Their goals are all “anti”: Anti- pollution, anti-global warming, anti this or that. It is more difficult to manage and reach “anti” goals than “pro” goals, such as more market share or more profits. So they end up chaining themselves to nuclear facilities gates or burning McDonald’s in their frustration and eagerness to make a change.
This, shall I say, “imbalance” between the business institutions and the socially conscious institutions means to me that the stronger will win and we are marching to our demise.
Let me make one thing clear. I am not saying that businessmen are irresponsible and unconscious. Many of them see how our world is “going south” and they join not-for-profits to try to change things.
The problem is not of people. It is of a system that is stronger than the people that comprise it. We are still driving the car, but the computer systems of that car are driving it now and we are increasingly becoming passengers.
Unless the NGO’s get together and start cooperating on a global scale. Unless they develop their own competitive edge. Unless they unite. If one counts how many people are involved with NGOs globally, it will be more than a billion and still their political influence does not reflect it.