Business and Future Change

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In our modern age, Business as a social organ has displayed a remarkable ability to change and adapt itself to the changing environment. But the change which is coming is unprecedented in the history of mankind. To cope with this change business needs a new vision of man, life and the world, which has probably never been even conceived in the history of business.

What is the nature of this future change and what are its implications for Business and Management? This is the question we will explore briefly in this article, in other words, the future of business in the context of the future of humanity.

How exactly can one gaze into the future? If our view of man and his evolution is confined to the present condition and potentialities of the human being, then looking into the future is a futile exercise. Faith in evolution, progress and the future implies the assumption that man and his evolution is at present an unfinished and incomplete project. If we accept this assumption, the next question is what are the criteria for determining the right direction towards the future? First, it should be a movement towards unravelling new potentialities and sources of well-being and fulfilment hitherto unmanifest in the human being; second, it should be in harmony with the emerging evolutionary trends and the ultimate human destiny. Viewed in this perspective, modern futurology like that of Alvin Toffler is of limited help. They have tried to plot the trends in the external environment but have nothing much to say on the future growth of the human potential or human destiny. Even in the area of external change modern futurism does not seem to have a deeper insight into the essential drift of the change.

Here comes the importance of the spiritual intuitions of seers, ancient and modern. The spiritual traditions all over the world have persistently held that the highest potential, well-being and fulfilment of man lie in the spiritual, sacred and divine dimensions beyond the secular and the rational. And the intuitions of modern seers like Sri Aurobindo and Teil-hard-de-Chardin indicate that the next step in human evolution is towards unravelling this divine dimension in man. This future spiritual awakening will not be confined, as in the past, to a few sages, saints or seekers or to the activities of the higher mind of man like religion, philosophy, literature or art; it will gradually diffuse itself into the entire human mass and into every activity of human life. As Sri Aurobindo points out, “in the next stage of human progress it is not a material but a spiritual, moral and psychical progress that has to be made”(1), which will culminate in a new world in which, “even the multitude shall hear the voice and turn to commune with the Spirit within”(2) and “— common natures feel the wide uplift”.(3) This is the new or future evolution. And Sri Aurobindo says significantly, “—Whatever race, whatever country siezes on the lines of that new evolution and fulfils it will be the leader of humanity”.(4) In other words whichever group makes this new evolution the central thrust of its development strategy, will be the leader of the future.

 The Task Ahead

What are the implications of this future change for Business and Management? The eminent historian Arnold Toynbee postulated that civilisations prosper or decline depending on how creatively they face the challenges thrown up by Nature. This applies more or less equally to any big group or community like business. What are the challenges or tasks which business will be called upon to tackle in the future? We will briefly indicate some of the major challenges without elaborating on them.

Business will have to tackle two important evolutionary possibilities. First, more and more people will seek for an inner, moral, psychological and spiritual fulfilment through work. Second new powers, faculties and potentialities hitherto unmanifest in man will begin to wake and seek for self-expression in work. Business thinkers and professionals have to think out the theoretical and practical implications of these possibilities. The challenge here is to create a work-environment which facilitates the psychological and spiritual awakening of the work-force and channels the results of this inner development in the outer life, for the realisation of business goals.

The second challenge for business will be to know and fulfil its role in the evolutionary destiny of humanity. There is now a growing recognition in the new and emerging schools of management thinking that money-making or profit is not the goal or purpose of business. New and higher values are emerging in business, like quality, customer service, innovation and social responsibility. These new values are more in tune with the higher law or dharma of business and therefore helpful in the higher evolution of business. But a globalised business of the future has to rise beyond social responsibility to its evolutionary responsibility to Nature.

To provide an enabling work-environment for the inner awakening of the work-force will be the first major responsibility of business in the future. This spiritual awakening of humanity is also the task of the next cycle of evolution. There are still some unfinished tasks of Nature in our present cycle of evolution which is coming to an end. There is the work of sustainable environment of which much has been said and written and some progressive companies have started taking some positive action in this area. There is the problem of global poverty. There are sections of human society, for example women and the worker class, who were suppressed and exploited in the previous cycles of evolution, but are not yet entirely redeemed and empowered. These tasks are normally considered as the responsibility of the Government and within the realm of politics. But business as the organ of wealth and as a major employer of human resources has as much responsibility in solving these major economic and social problem. For an institution which creates wealth cannot shirk from the responsibility of an equitable distribution of wealth. But this task involves something much more than throwing money to the weak and poor in the form of charity; it involves sharing not only wealth but also the means of creating wealth – which includes the managerial, technological and entrepreneurial capability to create wealth – with the weaker sections of the society.

These are some of the unfinished tasks of the present cycle of evolution. These tasks have to be fully accomplished for a wide-spread spiritual awakening of humanity. For spirituality cannot flourish in a quicksand of massive poverty and inequality. The rare individual with exceptional spiritual capacity can grow spiritually in any condition. But the inner awakening of people on a large scale requires a favourable outer environment in which they can grow freely towards their highest spiritual potential. To create such a conducive outer environment which will prepare humanity for the realisation of its ultimate spiritual destiny is probably the gist of all the past and present cycle of human evolution. And the global business has an evolutionary responsibility to help Nature in this task.

The Higher Mission of Business

So the mission or dharma of business in human evolution is not merely to create more and more wealth for the society. That is only one aspect of the dharma of business. The other and higher dharma of business is to use the wealth for the inner and outer progress of humankind, and to provide the material base for the inner progress of human consciousness. As the Mother sums up succinctly:

“Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness — Money should serve to augment that — to augment the material base for the earth’s progress.”(5)

References

1.       Sri Aurobindo, SABCL., Vol. 1, p. 465
2.       Sri Aurobindo, SABCL., Vol. 29, Savitri, p. 709
3.       Ibid. 710
4.       Sri Aurobindo, SABCL., Vol27, p. 475
5.       The Mother, Mother’s Agenda, p. 204

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