April 14, 2003
“Our jobs,” observes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at the opening of good business, “determine to a large extent what our lives are like.”
But what shape have our lives taken in today’s working world? Consider the fact that while 80 percent of adults claim that they would work even if they had enough money never to have to worry, the majority of them can hardly wait to leave their jobs and get home. Consider that the dramatic fall of major corporations such as Enron and WorldCom has left employees, investors, and the public at large distrustful of business in general. Consider that most people feel that their jobs have no clear goals, that they seldom receive adequate feedback, that their skills are rarely matched to available opportunities, and that they have lost any sense of control over the work they do.
Yet our workplaces do not have to be the source of drudgery and dissatisfaction. Under the guidance of visionary leaders, many companies have succeeded in running businesses that are both successful and humane – the contribute to the happiness and well-being of their employees. In Good Business, the author of the groundbreaking Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience reveals the values that have served these leaders as a blueprint for doing business that is “good” in both senses: the material and the spiritual.
Visionary leaders have a common dedication to three fundamental principles. The first is a Vision Beyond the Self: a goal that benefit society as a whole and that motivates and inspires a workforce to do its best. Second is a Commitment to the Organization, which means gaining the trust and respect of employees by fostering on-the-job growth in self-knowledge, wisdom, and relationships. Finally they are engaged in creating a product that benefits humankind and not just one that generates revenue.
While Good Business draws primarily on the experiences of leaders of major corporations, the lessons it teaches are relevant for improving one’s work life at any level – from entry position to manager. As such it will become a classic text for anyone who values the contribution of individuals in the changing world of business.
Hungarian-born Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the C. S. and D. J. Davidson Professor of Psychology at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University and the director of The Quality of Life Research Center, a non-profit institute that studies positive psychology in Claremont, California, where he lives.