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Back to Normal?

Redefining Sucess

Back to Normal?

Redefining Sucess

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Last Thursday's news reported that the UK economy had grown at its fastest rate since 2007 prompting one of the largest collective sighs of relief across the business and political spheres since the height of the banking crisis.

Here in Jersey, exciting opportunities for our finance sector in the emerging economies as well as new possibilities for a 'digital Jersey', and for the Channel Islands as a 'test bed for clean technologies' mean that mood here goes beyond relief into the beginnings of a genuine buzz of optimism.

Can we finally begin to rouse ourselves from the bad dream of the last four years and get back to normal? Can we re-establish business as usual?

My summer reading included a book called 'Rediscovering Values' by the American public theologian and political activist Jim Wallis. While it is very much written for Wallis' American audience many of the points that Wallis makes have stayed with me and had a lasting impact, prompting me to give out copies of the book to members of our business community and many of our politicians.

In the introduction to the book Wallis says:

'If our goal is to go back to business as usual, we will soon be right back to what got us into so much trouble, because what was usual is exactly what got us here in the first place.'

This resonated with something else I had read by the novelist and thinker Dorothy Sayers in her 1942 essay "Why Work?" (interestingly, while Sayers was writing during WWII, a reading of this essay which replaces the word 'war' with the words 'economic crisis' brings it bang up to date). She said:

'Unless we do change our whole way of thought about work, I do not think we shall ever escape from the appalling squirrel cage of economic confusion in which we have been madly turning for the last three centuries or so, the cage in which we landed ourselves by acquiescing in a social system based upon Envy and Avarice.'

In the light of these quotes what is the best way to answer my question above about going back to normal?

Wallis calls this 'wrong question' 'and when you start with the wrong question' he says 'no matter how good an answer you get it won't matter very much.'
Wallis posits what he thinks is the right question:

'How will this crisis change us?...We need a new normal, and this economic crisis is an invitation to discover what that means.'

I believe that what defines 'business as usual' is our cultural concept of success. If we resign ourselves to an overly materialistic vision of success we will fail to make the most of an opportunity to move forward in a way which truly promotes human flourishing, social cohesion and the common good.

A single bottom line of economic growth at the national level, increased profit at the corporate level and increased personal wealth fails to acknowledge that success should be measured in multiple bottom lines; success is relational, spiritual, social and generational.

We need a new normal in which space is created for success to be redefined, re-explored and reweaved. We very much hope Business Connect can be a part of making that happen.

This week at CHOW I will be taking a few minutes to explain some of the plans of Business Connect for the coming year, share some of our successes over the summer and pose some question that will help to stimulate discussion around the theme of success – join us on Wednesday and start the conversation below.

Paul Milbank

Paul Milbank

Paul is the Missioner for the town of St Helier and Co-Director of Business Connect.

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