Transforming Business

Transforming Business:

The Power of Perception

Chapter by Wayne Visser

Extract from Beyond Reasonable Greed

There is a growing body of literature on what could be loosely described as explorations in ‘new paradigm’ thinking. Included in this is an implicit belief about the nature of transformation. It is that revolutionary change is more often the result of new ways of thinking about things (i.e. changes in perception) than new ways of doing things.

This chapter attempts to apply this thinking to business, i.e. to explore more deeply the emerging new paradigm in business. What are the new perspectives which are beginning to challenge the old way of thinking about and doing business? And is there a common thread or theme which runs through the heart of these new insights?

So what are these basic assumptions about business which have come on trial of late? There are many but this article will focus on only three of the most important, namely profit, competition and rationality. Discussion of each will be prefaced by a belief statement from the old paradigm and concluded with a suggested new paradigm belief statement.


The old paradigm belief statement is: The ultimate and sole function, goal and responsibility of business is to make a financial profit.

Although this belief has been tempered by a growing awareness of social responsibility since the 1960s, the mindset of the vast majority of business leaders still places exclusive profit making firmly at the apex of the business pyramid. Everything else is regarded as peripheral to this core process.

This emphasis on short-term individual gain all too often results in the long-term wellbeing of employees, the community, society and the environment being sacrificed as pawns in a ruthless game of corporate chess. This approach – with its tacit assumption that people are primarily motivated by conquest and material acquisition – has been a major limiting factor in managers’ ability to tap the human potential of their organisations in any significant way.

The call now being sounded therefore is for what US futurist Willis Harman would call a new “central project” in business. This transformed focus could include service to society as the key goal of business. Enhanced quality of life could be its guiding principle and a strong set of ethics and values its foundation. Further, the search for meaning and creativity in the work place as well as holistic personal and collective learning could become the key measures of performance within an organisation.

This image may not be as far-fetched as many would suppose. UK business commentator Francis Kinsman for example, cites evidence from an SRI International study which suggests that a growing proportion of British society (currently more than a third) is becoming ‘inner directed’ in nature. These are people whose behaviour is typically driven by non-materialistic factors and whose emphasis is more on the esoteric and qualitative than the material and quantitative …

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Cite this chapter

Visser, W. (2005) Transforming Business: The Power of Perception, In W. Visser, Business Frontiers: Social Responsibility, Sustainable Development and Economic Justice, Hyberabad: ICFAI University, 5-10.

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