If an earthquake struck today, could you imagine the devastation? The ground torn asunder and everything we treasure ripped apart. Technology and architecture have evolved to minimise damage and loss of life. And yet we still see city after city, community after community, having buildings destroyed by the immense forces of an earthquake.
The same can be said of our society. We live in strange times. We have seen banks bailed out by people, people who then saw their homes repossessed. We see the vastly wealthy grace the covers of magazines, while a child dies every 15 seconds from lack of access to clean water. We watch corrupt politicians line their own pockets, disregarding the rule of law or even what is humanly right.
Yes, the world is strange. It is a world where the pursuit of profit and personal gain outweighs the implications and consequences of our actions.
We may think these things don’t affect us, but we would be wrong. We live in an interconnected world, whether we are aware of it or not. Just like the effects of an earthquake reverberate around the world, so the ripple effect of events abroad impact our daily lives.
The question is – are we going to keep our head buried in the sand or are we going to do something about it?
The purpose of education is not the acquisition of certificates, but the ability to think and apply knowledge. For this to happen we need an education system equipped with teachers, as well as a methodology that instils a sense of curiosity among our children.
A system in which our children are encouraged to seek experiences that broaden their mindset and outlook. A model that encourages a desire to learn about the world around us, to think through better ways of doing things and eventually the role we can play in shaping it.
The seeking of profits at all costs has justified some terrible business practices – the most recent of which is Volkswagen. Where is trust and integrity? While profit is important, businesses need to be smarter in seeking and adding value. By smarter, I don’t mean more conniving.
The winners of the future will be those who seek financial and social benefit. This isn’t some marketing campaign that says how good a company is because of its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Rather, it’s where the raison d’etre of business is the intrinsic desire and commitment to add value, seeking win-win solutions and whose business positively impact people, society and the environment.
Government and regulatory bodies
One of the objectives of governing bodies is to provide the framework of what can and cannot be done. From a business perspective, this framework should be like a well-oiled machine that facilitates good practice and supports efficiencies. The current paradigm, however, is one that creates stumbling blocks (unless you are someone who is part of the fray or has a team of lawyers to navigate the system). With a lack of understanding of the challenges businesses face, regulatory bodies seem to create more hoops for businesses to jump through, eating up time and resources that would be better spent elsewhere.
If, of course, these systems stopped corrupt and unethical practices, they could be condoned. But they don’t. Why? Because systems are only as good as the people behind them.
The ultimate challenge we need to overcome is our mentality as a nation. As part of the developed world, we have become a society of consumers programmed to get a job, buy a house, buy a car. We live out life in a simple cycle: earn this, buy that. This has created a nation of automatons. We wake up in the morning, go to work, do tasks, go home and then sit in front of a box or glued to some ‘social’ device clicking like.
We are outraged when we see atrocities such as the refugee situation. Some react to the senseless deaths, others react to a perceived invasion of foreigners into our land.
But very few think through how, why, and what can we do about it. We are driven by our emotions without engaging our intellect. Why? We have been programmed to believe our actions are of no consequence, numbed into a sense of helplessness. Sounds pretty bleak. And yet, this tiny little island has the greatest potential in being a force for good.
We are a democratic country with a thriving economy and a strong rule of law. We have education and health available to all our people. We have a mere 400,000 souls, smaller than the individual workforces of Wal-Mart, McDonalds and IBM. Surely, we can come together and formulate a better way forward.
The question is, will we step up and surf the wave of change or will we be engulfed by it?
Deborah Webster, founder of AMANI, is an adviser in leadership and talent and an advocate for business being a force for good.
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