I don’t know if I read the right books.
This time of year, newspapers tend to carry recommendations and of course there are so, so many I have missed and that I would love to read. Perhaps I will have more scope in future years – I used to spend more time on trains, cycling to work has been good for me but it has cut my time to read.
But one book that I have enjoyed (and one that I didn’t find in the Financial Times review list or elsewhere as yet) is The Purpose Upgrade by Paul Skinner.
Paul is a mercurial brand entrepreneur and creative. I was pleased to work with him in the co-operative world and coming to Pilotlight, making links a second time through his own pro bono work via MarketingKind.
Purpose is in the air in business and we are not short of ways of articulating and promoting this as a cause, whether through co-ops, B-Corps or social enterprise more widely. But The Purpose Upgrade is a cut above and the writing is in general profound and illuminating. Here is Paul debunking neo-liberal thought in two sentences for example:
“In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith showed how self-interest can lead to a greater good as a by-product. A higher level of success, however, has now been shown to come from putting a greater good first and deriving self-directed benefits as the by-product.”
Bringing purpose to life is one of the great experiments in business at present. Polly Mackenzie has an article on the role of the Chief Purpose Officer, her job. It reminds me a little of my own writing on the idea of a Chief Values Officer – a practical post which was taken up by a leading independent co-operative, Midcounties Co-op, through the work of Pete Westall. Values and principles have always been important in co-operatives and this is a way of building capacity and accountability for this in practice.
Purpose can carry us through tough times. I have been reflecting on what I am reading in conversation with our Pilotlighters – business experts who support charity leaders through our impactful programmes.
In line with my most recent piece of writing, Give your culture a workout, for Pilotlight, I am quoted in a supplement for The Times today that:
“It has been easy for corporate employers to project feigned solidarity with their people, but inequalities of power and pay make for a shallow culture. During a recession, these inequalities come to the fore, which heightens tensions. Employee engagement will need to reinvent itself for this reality.”
Purpose is in the air.
And what else do you think should I be reading?