Oct 29

First do no harm

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them. — Dalai Lama

Over the past couple of years I’ve been trying to put into words my thoughts regarding the type of company where I’d like to work. There are companies I would not consider working for — their ethics and/or business model are radically different from what I consider good or right.

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.” — Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38)

  • I don’t want to work for a company which takes advantage of others.
  • I don’t want to work for predatory companies or ones which don’t treat their employees well.
  • I don’t want to go home at the end of the day feeling slimy or otherwise compromised.
  • I don’t want to work for a company which treats people as things.

I think technology really increased human ability. But technology cannot produce compassion. — Dalai Lama

I’ve had the fortune to work at a not-for-profit for the last nine years. Not being profit-driven means we’re not out to gouge people. Not that there’s anything wrong with seeking a profit, but seeking profit for the sake of profit leads to evil.

At the same time, without the relentless drive for profits it’s easier to focus on customers and service.

  • I don’t want to be associated with a company that views profits more valuable than people.

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within the company. — Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Google IPO

A lot of people have scoffed at Google’s ideals in recent years. Nevertheless, it’s an admirable goal. I wish that more people or companies chose not to be evil in their day to day interactions with others.

The Agile Manifesto has brought a lot of change to Software Development. Other fields have recognized its inherent value and rewritten it to fit their circumstances.

I’d like to present a first draft of a manifesto for business.

A Business Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of running a business and helping others do it.

Through this work we have come to value:

  • People and interactions over profits and prestige
  • Quality service over quantity of service
  • Customer relationships over contract negotiation
  • Flexibility over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

In a nutshell I want to work for a company which values people — both inside and out of the company. I want to work where people strive to do things right.

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. — Golda Meire

At the end of the day, I want to work for a company which isn’t evil. When I go home, I want to be able to look in the face of my daughter and not have to make excuses for the work that I do and the effect it has on others. And I want to be able to look myself in the mirror, too.

Be excellent to each other and Party On Dudes — Abraham Lincoln in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

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