The rules of business are changing dramatically. The Aspen Institute's Judy Samuelson describes the profound shifts in attitudes and mindsets that are redefining our notions of what constitutes business success.
Dynamic forces are conspiring to clarify the new rules of real value creation—and to put the old rules to rest. Internet-powered transparency, more powerful worker voice, the decline in importance of capital, and the complexity of global supply chains in the face of planetary limits all define the new landscape. As executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, Judy Samuelson has a unique vantage point from which to engage business decision makers and identify the forces that are moving the needle in both boardrooms and business classrooms.
Samuelson lays out how hard-to-measure intangibles like reputation, trust, and loyalty are imposing new ways to assess risk and opportunity in investment and asset management. She argues that “maximizing shareholder value” has never been the sole objective of effective businesses while observing that shareholder theory and the practices that keep it in place continue to lose power in both business and the public square. In our globalized era, she demonstrates how expectations of corporations are set far beyond the company gates—and why employees are both the best allies of the business and the new accountability mechanism, more so than consumers or investors.
Samuelson's new rules offer a powerful guide to how businesses are changing today—and what is needed to succeed in tomorrow's economic and social landscape.
If businesses want to thrive, they need to "value the real contributors including workers and nature," according to this earnest guide. Samuelson, founder of the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program, argues that the business world is changing at a "dizzying" pace, and aims, with her six rules for ethical business, to point organizations toward "a sustainable future." Each rule gets its own chapter and is presented alongside the outdated thinking it's designed to replace. For instance, the first rule, "Reputation, trust, and other intangibles drive business value," supplants the belief that "hard assets determine firm value," while another rule, "employees give voice to risk and competitive advantage," takes over for the outdated idea that "labor is a cost to be minimized." Samuelson's appeals for corporate responsibility (global business "is the most influential institution of our age, akin to the Church in the Middle Ages") are backed by examples of companies that have heeded the call for social and ecological responsibility and either thrived (Southwest Airlines) or floundered (Boeing). Though Samuelson's call to action feels familiar, her voice is encouraging and optimistic. Business leaders struggling to keep up would do well to give this a look.