Friday, January 12, 2007

profit, growth and learning

What is business? That's how I open classes on business communication. Even young students are able to answer that business is an exchange of goods or service for the purpose of generating profit. Their minds begin to open when I start asking questions about the implications of profit. Profit means expecting everything to be worth more than you pay for it.

If the purpose of business is profit, then it is fair for your boss or client to expect you to generate more value than the fees s/he pays in exchange. At the same time, the profit drive also means that you expect more value in exchange for your labour than that labour is worth. Both parties cannot profit from the same exchange if the pie remains the same size.

The pie never remains the same. Sometimes it shrinks and sometimes it grows: it is always changing. That is the nature of the world. Growth is sometimes a good thing and sometimes means that you need to buy new jeans after Christmas. This is also the nature of the world.

Learning is one area where more is better. Our brains function naturally to accumulate learning; my learning adds to the knowledge of the world without requiring any one else to sacrifice learning. When I add my learning to someone else's, we can produce insights that would have been impossible to either of us alone. The pie gets bigger. We both profit.

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