Humanist values are universal and trump all others as an overriding principal of conduct in business relations.
As a strategic alliance expert who makes his living designing and optimizing international ecosystems, I often come across the issue of “cultural differences.” How do we achieve maximum efficiency and optimal team work across vast areas of beliefs, education, behaviors and organizational structures?
One of the best and most effective tools for framework development is strategic alignment and road-mapping. The exercise is well-known by consultants:
- Values – what we believe and what we stand for
- Mission Statement - the company purpose
- Business Drivers – strategy design and execution
- Operating Principles - organizational design and major processes
- Activities – work assignments and day-to-day tasks
At the top of the pyramid, we find “Values.”
Values can be defined as broad preference concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. Values tend to derive from and influence attitudes, behaviors and ultimately determine company culture.
In business, we often talk about “value-added services,” “value creation,” “value-based fees,” etc.
We all have our own personal and cultural values. We transmit these values from generation to generation, parent to child, executive level to department employee, older worker to younger worker.
Personal values are usually derived from early childhood. Cultural values are directly linked to the specific society and time period in which we are born and educated (inculcated?).
The transmission of values is becoming more random as modern technology and the means to access information are now ubiquitous. This implies more independent thinking about one’s values in future generations as values are becoming more a matter of choice and less a matter of one’s social milieu.
So, how do we recognize and respect our individual values – beliefs and attitudes – in international team-building across multiple cultures and geographies? What about work/life balance? Eating and resting habits? Personal time for coffee breaks, prayer or shopping? Decision-making, running meetings and social interactions?
At the source, humanist values trump all others.
Humanist values put people, individuals and the collective body, as the end goal of all human activity, including business. This simple principal is full of implications and structures subsequent decision-making along the values-to-action business activity chain.
The humanist value system is not self-evident. A surprising number of business and political leaders are not humanists. This does not mean they are not competent or nice people. But it does mean that they may have a deep-rooted values system where people are a means to an end, fungible resources.
The reason that humanist values trump all others is that they provide the foundation for all other ethical and moral considerations, in general and specifically to the business world. One can have any religious or political beliefs, live in any country, exercise any trade craft and still act (or not) according to humanist values.
Modern humanist values are often associated with the Renaissance, a rebirth of the spirit of man, rational thought and scientific curiosity. Humanist values do not contradict faith – there is room to conflate an individual’s religion/spirituality and science/rationality.
Modern humanist values incorporate democratic political systems with tolerance for minorities and other lifestyles outside the mainstream. People who share humanist values do not need to impose their system of beliefs but they do tend to reject dogmatic and rigid certitudes. Decision-making tends to be decentralized and involve highly collaborative processes.
Humanist values trump all others for enlightened business leaders and strategic alliance professionals. Our job often requires creative collaborative solutions to design and implement partnerships, sometimes among peoples with very different traditional values. These humanist values tend to be deeply shared.
Humanist values can provide a common framework for advanced collaborative networks as an overriding principal of organizational design. Ecosystem development, which is the new normal and the way we will all be organized in the future, are more efficient with an underlying humanist value system on which to build the business case.
Humanist values trump all others and keeping them as the common language of international strategic alliances can help bridge our cultural, religious and ethnic differences to achieve optimal business efficiencies.