Storytelling: B Corps and Safety Pins Can Teach Us Something

“We are a B Corp Organisation Anjali.” This is what I heard from a client last week. Confused, I started to research on B Corp Organisations. After several hours of searching online, I found this 1min 57sec video which does a great job in explaining what a B Corp Organisation is.

After watching this video, I was immediately reminded of a comment that PepsiCo Chairman and CEO, Indra Nooyi, made during her View From The Top talk at Stanford GSB on May 10, 2016.

Indra commented, “No one wants to work for companies like us! All good people want to work for startups.”

Why do millennials want to join startups?

There is a lot written about millennials’ preference for purpose over pay cheques. And working in startups does fulfil that desire to do purposeful work.

Large organisations mostly fail to connect millennials to the purpose, and they are run in a way that was designed for success in the Industrial Revolution. Let’s take Adam Smith’s example of the manufacture of safety pins. He said that the process involved 12 different steps, and if one person does all 12 steps, production will be very low. But, if you get one person to do step one, and another person to do step two and so on, production can increase tremendously. And indeed, this is a great example of efficiency and the reason for the Industrial Revolution. However, this example lacks a sense of purpose for an employee.

On the other hand, let’s consider Karl Marx who said that the alienation of labour is incredibly important in how people think about the connection to what they are doing. If you do all 12 steps, you care about the pin. But if you do only one step in the whole process, maybe you don’t care as much.

Well, both theories contradict.

Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, summarise this conflict in this way.

I think that in the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith was more correct than Karl Marx, but the reality is that we’ve switched, and now we’re in the knowledge economy and we are still functioning like we are in the Industrial Revolution.

You can ask yourself, what happens in a knowledge economy?

Is efficiency still more important than purpose/meaning?

I think the answer is no. I think that as we move to situations in which people have to decide on their own about how much effort, attention and care they put into their work, then Marx makes more sense.

So when we think about labour, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc.

B Corp organisations are a perfect antidote to this problem that faces large organisations that operate like we still live in the Industrial Revolution.

In B Corp, your focus moves from being the Best in the World to being the Best for the World, and that is the purpose that today’s generation seeks.

If your organisation is becoming a B Corp, such storytelling will help you create that purpose and desire to perform towards a better future.

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