SPORTSMANSHIP AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
8 May 2020, 12:30:00
Those organisations that can sense and respond to the shift that is going on in current culture, will be those that see long-term growth, those that will be adaptable to change and those who will survive.
“Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing”, attributed to Henry Russell Sanders or perhaps Vince Lombardi, leaves us with a problem in our society and with organisational governance.
Many organisations see this as their primary goal, to win, at all costs.
This was compounded by the role of a corporation, which since the first company laws has founded itself on shareholder primacy.
Milton Friedman did society a disservice in a 1970 Times magazine article, when he argued that a business' sole purpose is to generate profit for shareholders, but those organisations that realise this insufficiency, this conflict with where the culture is moving, are going to be the ones who are here in the longer term.
Sportsmanship is the fair and generous behaviour or treatment of others in a sporting contest and teaches us something about generosity, contribution and humanity.
We have a high regard for sportsmanship in our society. We encourage our children to be ‘good sports’, but then at the same time appear to conflict this with winning at all cost.
Organisations that go out to win at all costs, without consideration, without reflection on the impact of this on society, our planet and humanity is actually a reflection of their own insufficiency, their own insecurity.
Some organisations have decided to move away from this, even before this crisis. On 19 August 2019, the Business Roundtable redefined the purpose of a corporation to 'Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All’. Over 200 global organisations have signed up.
Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson and Chair of the Business Roundtable Corporate Governance Committee said,
“This new statement better reflects the way corporations can and should operate today,” adding “It affirms the essential role corporations can play in improving our society when CEOs are truly committed to meeting the needs of all stakeholders.”
It’s not the ethos of sportsmanship to win at all cost and increasingly it’s no longer what’s expected of our organisations. Our culture is shifting.
Social Capital is defined as the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function more effectively. This is where our culture is heading. We need to be better 'sports'.
As said so wonderfully by Seth Godin, “The purpose of organisations, and this has perhaps always been the case, is to enable society, it is not the purpose of society to enable organisations.”
Those organisations that grasp this, those that feel the shift that occurring and see the future for what it could be, are those that will be here in the longer term.