When it comes to the business of life and equally, the life of businesses, here're my 4 P's - Purpose, Profit, Principles and Pride. Over the last couple of decades I've come across a wide variety of organisations (and people), who would most likely rank these 4 P's differently from the next guy. For the more numerically inclined, there're 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24 ways in which one could rank them. Of course, there could be some organisations (or people) who'd want to drop one or more of those P's completely, resulting in a much larger set of possibilities. I am not, at this point, going to get into the academics of permutations and combinations, because that's not what this is about. (However, math enthusiasts and other geeks should feel free to do so and knock themselves out.)
Purpose, according to me, is fundamental to everything. An enlightened soul once said "Find Purpose - the means will follow". The discovery (or, in some cases, invention) of Purpose clarifies our raison d'être. It would be an interesting experiment to randomly poll people (or organisations) to find out if they are clear about their purpose. I expect that most responses would be in the affirmative, though I suspect that most of those claims would be shallow. Few have Purpose, and of the ones who purport to have Purpose, even fewer demonstrate purposefulness in what they do. While several might actually put Profit before Purpose, few would honestly admit to it - the vast majority spends considerable time effort and money to get a glossy cover that talks about all the right things: vision, mission, blah blah ... words on a web-site or corporate brochure or presentation, cleverly crafted by a PR / ad agency or perhaps internal creative talent. Then there are those who would assert that their Purpose, indeed, is Profit!
Profit is not a bad thing, though some idealists might tend to think so. It is what keeps us alive. If Purpose gives us a reason to exist, Profit enables us to stay alive. And healthy. Without Profit (OK, excess of income over expenditure - not-for-profit organisations should be happy with that), you cannot continue to serve your Purpose. Selflessness requires at least this much of selfishness - sustenance of the health and well-being of the selfless. But Profit without Principles? Not a good idea. Principles without Purpose? I don't see the sense in that. Principles guide where the Profit motive may lead astray. Sometimes, Principles guide where even Purpose may lead astray. I would venture to say that Principles form the foundation for a civilised society. This could however be taken to an extreme - the "I will break but not bend" type of adherence to Principles. I haven't come across as many ultra-highly principled organisations as I have people. Somehow most such individuals end up being very bitter, while putting up a brave front and even taking Pride in their uncomprising position. And, in my scheme of ranking, Pride is the last P. There's arrogance, there's ego, there's pride and there's hubris. Frankly, I think it's a good thing to take Pride in who you are, what you do, how you do it and why. But there's no place in business (or social) life for ego and arrogance. And certainly none for hubris.
Which brings me to the background to this blog entry. I have been encountering so much ego these days - at work and also at play, that it is frustrating. Ego is not good for business! Somehow, several people don't get it. Ego threatens Purpose, Profit as well as Principle. I'm OK with Pride - in a larger, more abstract and more mature sense. In fact I believe it's a good thing for business. But not ego. A supercilious or a patronising attitude drives away customers as well as suppliers, and erodes goodwill with all other publics an enterprise deals with. It is amazing how every little interaction provides a potential window for any of this to manifest itself. And how the more successful ones fall prey to ego, which they mistake to be Pride. Perhaps this sounds paradoxical, but I'm an advocate for Pride without ego - a Pride based on humility. And proud of it!