Updated: Mar 21
Photo by Limor Zellermayer
I'm currently working on the Enlightened Enterprise Manifesto, to be published in August this year. Please pre-order a copy by making a donation. This will help finance the project and the establishment of the movement it is intended to spark. For a minimum donation of £10 you will get a number of benefits (details below).
First, let me tell you a more about the book. In business there is a lot of talk about “purpose” and of the “role of business in society”. It is an important conversation because business, it has been argued, is the most important institution in any society. Whilst that is debatable it is certainly determines the success or failure of economies and the level of prosperity enjoyed.
The relationship between business and society is said to be determined by an unwritten social contract. Under this contract society grants businesses a license to operate and earn profits. In return business is expected to contribute to the economy and to society.
There is now widespread recognition that the system is not working as society expects. There is widespread recognition that trust and confidence in business has been in steep decline for several years and is now at very low levels. In other words, the social contract is broken.
When considering how to fix this problem policy makers and business leaders would be wise to recall a very different time and a very different approach to business. A number of influential business owners during the first industrial revolution were very clear about the purpose of their enterprise. Driven by the strong values of the non-conformist religious groups they belonged to, such as the Quakers, their objective was to create “heaven on earth.”
It is worth pausing to reflect on that a little. They were not running businesses driven by the goal of maximising shareholder value. Nor were they driven by the goal of maximising stakeholder value. They were building enterprises designed to realise a vision of heaven on earth. These same industrialists were leading figures in the 18th and 19th Century Enlightenment movement which was also shaped by strong values. Their goal was to but science and new technology to good use, to improve the human condition.
We can say, with absolute certainty, that values drove behaviours that led to value creation on a scale that no civilisation had ever experienced.
The Enlightened Enterprise Manifesto will make the case that we need a new age of enlightenment based on values that will ignite an era of enterprise driven improvements in the human condition - a revolution that will deliver sustainable widely shared prosperity measured in terms of human flourishing and wellbeing.
The first Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment) was “the era in Western philosophy, intellectual, scientific and cultural life, centred upon the 18th century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority”. And “the Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of values. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and a strong belief in rationality and science”. This was how Princeton University introduced the concept of the first Enlightenment movement, which created the necessary conditions for the birth of the First Industrial Revolution.
Sadly, the relationship between the 18th century enlightenment and the first Industrial Revolution is rarely studied and the connection between them is not well understood. This is unfortunate. If we understand the relationship better our modern economic development and industrial strategy policies would be far more effective. And, at the enterprise level, businesses and organisations would be governed and managed far more effectively.
This book aims to make these arguments crystal clear and provide the context for the manifesto, which we hope will inspire the New Enlightenment Movement and the next leap forward in human development.
The most importantly observation made by Princeton University is in the statement “the Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of values.” The values informed how enterprise operated, and this led to the unprecedented high levels of value creation.
A principal argument of this book is that losing site of the values, associated with the most rapid and large-scale improvements humanity has ever seen, explains why progress has stalled in the developed nations.
Centuries have passed since the first Enlightenment and the Industrial revolution that evolved from it. We now live in a word that is far different in fundamental ways. But there is still much we can learn from history, to inform the design and development of a new enlightenment movement. In particular the values of the first enlightenment are still very relevant and are reflected in the manifesto.
The manifesto should be regarded as a provocation, designed to stimulate a debates that is likely to lead to future revisions and improvements. Part One, explores the story of the first Enlightenment. Part Two, will explore the link between the first Enlightenment and the First (British) and Second (American) Industrial Revolutions. Part Three, will make a detailed case for a new enlightenment movement. Part Four, will detail the manifesto and explains it. Part Five, will provide thoughts on the opportunities and challenges of using the manifesto to realise an enlightened approach to enterprise, an approach that will be support by the Enlightened Enterprise Academy.
It is important to clarify that the word enterprise is used to refers to the activity of an individual or organisation designed to achieve some objective. That means any form of enterprise in any sector, not only business. Enterprise by governments, the public sector, and the not-for-profit sectors is also of great importance in the development of economies and the human condition. And it is all enterprising activity that enables communities and countries to develop and improve the human condition that is of interest.
Readers will be presented with evidence and a rationale for an enlightened approach to enterprise that is in stark contrast to the current form of capitalism and the values that it is based on. But this manifesto is arguing we need capitalism to evolve, rather than be replaced. Readers will realise that many of the pioneers of the first enlightenment movement, also the leading industrialists of during the first industrial revolution, were most certainly capitalists. But their form of capitalism was not universally practiced then. As Charles Dickens and other portrayed there were also capitalists driven by greed and other bad values.
My arguments for an evolution of the current form of capitalism are made from a pragmatic standpoint. First, no other economic system has delivered anything close to the results achieved by better forms of capitalism. Second, history shows us that capitalism is capable of evolving. We also know it is capable of taking many forms. At any point history, countries have practiced many different forms of capitalism just as they do today. Some are clearly far better than other, even if none offers a perfect model.
YOUR SUPPORT + BENEFITS
Please consider pre-ordering a copy of the eBook for a minimum donation of £10. This will help finance the book and the movement it is intended to help establish.
You will be among the first to get the eBook. Before that you will also get access to a dedicated private LinkedIn group where supporters will be able to read the thoughts I share in advance of publication, and engage in discussion with me and other supporters. I also plan online events only for supporters in addition to the public activities. You will be invited to join those supporter events too. You will be part of the movement we hope to create right from its very beginning!