“Wait a minute,” you say “today’s A-Z Blogging Challenge letter is ‘I’ – there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.”

Bingo!  A corny aphorism gets me to the letter of the day.

And having spent a lot of time professionally leading project teams, I know it’s one that gets trotted out fairly regularly.  But what got me thinking about it is my perception of the shift in society I’ve seen in my lifetime to where it seems the dominant attitude has become “It’s all about me!”

I’m hoping this post isn’t going to end up sounding like a “Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!” kind of rant, although it could degenerate into that if I’m not careful.

What worries me about it is that it leads to individuals externalizing costs – financial and social – on a personal level, much in the way that corporate law leads to for-profit corporations behaving that way on a much larger scale; see Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff for a much more lucid explanation than I can provide.

But basically, what it boils down to is that a for-profit corporation owes a duty to its owners or shareholders to maximize profit.  Period.  As a result, it will avoid incurring expenses that it is not obliged to by law – even a so-called “good corporate citizen” that may spend money to support a cause will have a business case that it ultimately increases profits, for example through a tax-deduction, or from increased revenues due to consumer goodwill purchased by publicly supporting popular cause.

A concrete example of externalized costs would be when a municipality uses residential property taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements (roads, traffic signals and water/sewage lines come to mind) done to entice a large retail business to locate there – it you’ve had a Walmart open up in your town, you’ll know what I mean.  Another example would be the outsourcing of work to a location with lower costs, where the standard of living is substantially lower and the company can avoid paying for things like health-care benefits or complying with strict environmental regulations.

Individuals have learned by example, and more than ever people have a sense of entitlement I find worrisome.  As well, it’s not limited to the developed western societies any more – it’s been successfully exported to the rising middle classes of the developing nations.

Solving the many problems facing mankind – environmental, economic, agricultural and more – will take a joint effort and perhaps a shift to what I’ve seen called “for-benefit” corporate laws, which allow social benefits equal footing with making a profit.

And to be clear, I’m not against making a profit – just not at any cost.  Social responsibility and ethical behaviour, both at a personal and a corporate level, are values which also return a profit – just not one that shows up on the balance sheet.


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