One prime reason I became an entrepreneur was simply to create a community that reflected my values and spiritual center; a place where I could live and give service with fellow-travelers in comfort and assumed commonality–my own private Idaho, if you will, where I truly belonged.
I have often talked about motivations for my being an entrepreneur and they have little to do with money. They mostly have to do with personal meaning. And I would submit that this is true of most entrepreneurs, even those who speak in the most venal terms of their motivation and incentive.
One of the greatest dearths I find in US culture is a lack of community reflected in an increasing national sense of balkanization and emotional isolation. (Counterintuitively, this is despite our growing capacity for instant connectivity.) What are our common visions, our common goals? These are no longer clearly coming from a consensus of values and universal common ground. The entrepreneur has the opportunity to create, at least in miniature, a true community that can help allay this sense of cultural anomie. In fact, I can think of few long-term successful entrepreneurial ventures that have not created this sense of community one way or another. Such a sense of community and shared mission is a hidden reward of entrepreneurship done well, and the list of the entrepreneurial companies that have done this are legion, from Apple and Starbucks to Zappos and Zynga.
Healthy business cultures and communities ideally create an amniotic sea of nourishment, identity, values, and peace. In the best companies every action of each member of a corporate community becomes to some degree gravid with meaning.
I was reminded of this possibility when visiting the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massechusetts recently. The Shakers were a wonderfully original sect of Christianity that existed from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. They eventually died out because they didn’t believe in sex with the natural result of no children. But what surprised me was that the Shakers were a remarkable, even genius, entrepreneurial community.
Here’s one very sweet custom practiced by the Shaker community. When one of the Shakers was ready to die he or she was assigned to an adult cradle. In this cradle the member was rocked softly day and night by a fellow shaker till he or she peacefully passed.
Fernando Flores, President of Chile’s National Council For Competitiveness, writes on the subject of entrepreneurship and community the following:
“We live in an extraordinary time. Our thinking styles are severing us from our families, our religions, our ideologies, and nature. We are caught up in a pace of social and technological change that makes our work, business, and education sources of anxiety and unfulfillment. At the same time, thinking about our thinking and observing our observations can bring us a new world in which work becomes a place for innovation, and in which peace, wisdom, friendship, companionship, and community can exist. Let us design this world together.”
Thank you, Fernando.