Seizing the Opportunity
The New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, in her speech to the United Nations (September ’21) spoke of New Zealander's shared values of kindness and connectedness, manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, and also a shared aspiration and unity toward a common goal, kotahitanga (Unity).
The Prime Minister said in her meeting with the President of the United States (30.05.22) that ‘We are in an incredibly difficult International environment and domestically it is challenging as well’.
We are facing the difficult issue of overcoming the coronavirus and facing the prospect of coronavirus being an ongoing impact on our health, we are living with geopolitical maneuverings with a war in Ukraine causing horrific suffering on innocent lives, the war is creating massive food shortages in populations least capable of coping with the hardship and we have the major issue of containing global warming.
Capitalism through its evolution has undoubtedly been beneficial to living standards for the vast majority. Capitalism’s evolution, however, has also been subject to lobbying by vested interests to the point that we have vested financial interests in corporates that are now larger than national economies and it could be that that financial power is now influencing geopolitical maneuverings.
I can see that Karl Marx was correct in predicting that capitalism would create an increase in alienation. His comments were more in relation to increased industrialisation and the breakup of trades into divisions of labour, but there has also been an effect socially. Why is it that in an age of higher standards of living that we have such high levels of anti-depressant drug use, high levels of suicide and increase in anti-social activity amongst youths?
An important psychological need of people is the sense of belonging to, or being part of, a wider grouping. Despite being beneficial to living standards capitalism seems to have undermined that sense of belonging and perhaps the high levels of antidepressant use and high levels of suicide are results of an increased feeling of alienation within society.
Having worked in highly productive teams, and coincidentally very happy work teams, whilst travelling in the South Island in the sixties, and, having seen the corrosive adversarial battle between unions and government in Britain, I conceived the concept of a common bond for employees in Queenstown in the late sixties. I have never given up on believing that this common bond framework in workplaces will be a win win for all stakeholders, for owners, for employees, for investors, for the community, for social well-being and for the economy.
Since the sixties my belief in the concept has been vindicated in several ways as follows:-
Daniel Pinks book ‘Drive’,  published in 2009 by Riverhead,
drew attention to the research findings on human motivation.
The research findings addressed human motivation and particularly the dynamics of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
Pink asserts that the robust research findings show that there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators - doesn’t work and often does harm often giving high levels of employee disengagement detrimentally impacting on productivity. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way.
Summarising research findings the new approach has three essential elements:
Autonomy – The desire to direct our own lives
Mastery – Our urge to get better and better at something that matters.
Purpose – Our yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
The importance of ‘purpose’ as a motivator has proven itself repeatedly, and its power has changed the course of history. The significance and power of this latter research finding has not been fully grasped and utilised by economic and social policy makers in our modern times.
From Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’, the research shows that the secret to high performance isn't our biological (survival) drive or our seeking-reward-and-avoiding-punishment (carrot and stick) drive (which has been essential to economic progress around the world for the past two centuries), but our third drive - our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities and to live a life of purpose, to have a purpose greater than ourselves.’
‘This is one of the most robust findings in social science – and also one of the most ignored.’
We know from a reading of Yuval Harari's book 'Sapiens' (published by Penguin 2011) that established institutions are not necessarily functioning in the most advantageous way. As Harari showed us, they are not based on an objective reality but rather they are myths that have been agreed upon as they evolved.
If we retain the potential for entrepreneurial activity and wealth creation, can we not also have a more inclusive model for business activity. A more people centric form of capitalism, a capitalism workplace framework that is inclusive, a framework of a common bond that all employees qualify for equally that will give higher productivity, improved social cohesion, engaged collaboration with managers, more employee loyalty, more hope and happiness and a potential step to a breakdown of inequality.
During this coronavirus crisis and the increasingly more urgent concerns of climate change I have detected a growing worldwide consensus of ‘Let us not go back to normal’ e.g.
and calls for a more caring form of capitalism,
Nick Hanuaer is a supremely wealthy man, one of the wealthiest in the world, made possible through neo-liberal capitalism. He now speaks out with a strong indictment of neo-liberal capitalism and he calls for a new way
TED talk 'The Dirty Secrets of Capitalism - Search (bing.com)
(642) Nick Hanauer answers audience questions - BBC HARDtalk - YouTube
Examples of strong statements from Nick Hanauer ‘s TED talk are as follows:-
‘It isn’t capital that creates economic growth, it is people.’
‘It isn’t competition that produces our prosperity, it is co-operation.’
‘Raising wages doesn’t kill jobs, it creates them’.
‘It is the gospel of selfishness which forms the ideological cornerstone of neo-liberal economics.
‘This behavioural model that is at the cool heart of neo-liberal economics is just wrong’.
‘If we accept the latest empirical research, real science, which correctly describes human beings as highly co-operative, reciprocal and intuitively moral creatures, then it follows logically that it must be co-operation and not selfishness that is the cause of our prosperity, and it isn’t self-interest, but rather our inherent reciprocity, that is humanities economic super power’.
‘Inclusion creates economic growth; the economy is people. Including more people in more ways is what causes economic growth in market economics.’
‘The new economics must and can insist that the purpose of the corporation is to improve the welfare of all stakeholders, customers, workers, community and shareholders alike’.
‘Greed is not good. Being rapacious doesn’t make you a capitalist, it makes you a sociopath’.
Neo-liberal economic theory has sold itself to you as unchangeable natural law, when in fact its social norms and constructed narratives are based on pseudo-science’.
If we want a more equitable, more prosperous, more sustainable economy, higher functioning democracies and civil society, we must have a new economics. If we want a new economics all we have to do is choose to have it.’
Whilst Nick Hanauer is very clear on the need for a new way, he is not that forthcoming on how it can be achieved.
The above accumulation of viewpoints and research findings that are calling for change leads me to a conclusion that the time is right for a more inclusive form of capitalism.
A common need in human society across all cultures is the need to belong and be accepted by others. A sense of belonging is crucial to our life satisfaction, happiness, mental and physical health and even longevity. It gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. Research has shown that loss of belonging has been associated with stress, illness and decreased wellbeing and depression. Abraham Maslow ranked the need for belonging as the next level up after physiological needs (like food and sleep) and safety needs in his 'Hierarchy of Needs'.
We can take a lead from the Maori proverb ‘What is the most important thing in the world? ‘He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.’ It is the people. It is the people. It is the people.
A relatively simple framework of a common bond for all employees within a workplace can create an inclusive culture even though the remuneration from this common bond framework is but a small proportion of an employee’s total remuneration.
The motivation by management that now sees employees in an employee partnership as distinct from investor partnership, and the transparency of equal qualification for the common bond portion of remuneration will generate the synergetic engaged cooperative workplace culture that will ensure business success.
This framework creates a climate where employees are more involved in the workings of capitalism and the common bond of co-operation payments ensures that they act as a teamwork community and not as property brought together and used to earn a return on other people’s capital. What entrepreneur would not want all employees motivated for the success of their employing enterprise.
Non-profit making endeavours can utilise this framework by having criteria other than increased profit for measuring success e.g. meeting or surpassing budget goals, meeting or surpassing service goals, expanding the customer base, growing the business.
The concept has received encouraging comments in the past such as Sir Tipene O’Regan, when Chairman of Ngai Tahu, said 'Your concept has a clear fit with a Maori model' and Sir Paul Reeves, Governor General 'It is inappropriate that I comment on your concept but I urge you to persevere with what you are trying to achieve'.
Sometimes it can be that minor refinements can have wide reaching outcomes and especially when the innovation has universal application.
We have an opportunity in our recovery from the coronavirus and in the now more urgent issue of halting climate change to initiate a refinement to capitalism for progressive management businesses that will build on the valuable Maori proverb and those New Zealand values referred to by the Prime Minister.
In these critical times I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’.
The initiative being proposed is a minor refinement to capitalism initially termed ‘Co-operative Capitalism’ (www.co-operativecapitalism.com) but potentially could be the ‘Kotahi Initiative’ or ‘Mahi Tahi Initiative’ or ‘Whakatu Initiative’ that gives us a more people centric capitalism, which will dovetail with the Maori he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
There is a summarised description of the common bond concept in the previous Blog Post entitled ‘Reasserting our humanity through co-operation – an updated summary ‘ – August ’21 on the website www.co-operativecapitalism.com ,
Progressive management teams embarking on a co-operative capitalism framework will acknowledge employee co-partnership in success in addition to investor co-partners in success and is a giant leap forward in industrial relations.
The following details some of the potential benefits a business enterprise will realise: -
This innovative initiative will naturally become a focal point for new attitudes. When people are included with trust and respect, they will live up to expectations and very often respond beyond expectations.
We are indeed privileged to be citizens of this paradise whenua, and New Zealand is superbly positioned to provide a lead that I believe humankind needs now.
It has always been my hope that it would be New Zealand that would lead the world with this evolutionary refinement in capitalism.
The companies that make the best use of their human capital will be the winners.
To overcome mankind’s resistance to change we need enlightened, visionary leaders and bold, progressive politicians.
History shows us that any attempt to change the status quo becomes an interminably long struggle, regardless of how obvious the logic or the need for change. For example, many people were outspoken against slavery in the 1760’s, yet it was not until 1833 that the Abolishment of Slavery Act was passed in the British Parliament and in the end, it is Wilberforce and his parliamentary colleagues that history has credited with the achievement.
Any attempt to refine capitalism will, on that basis, not occur until long after I have passed but I have to express my conviction and I am sure that today’s teenagers will be grateful growing into a more inclusive co-operative culture.
This relatively simple concept has universal application, a minor refinement to capitalism, initiated by Maori cultural values, that may have far greater outcomes than anticipated and may become known as ‘the NZ way’.