But we HAVE to make a profit!

Business CartoonWhere does this deep –rooted, parasitic paradigm come from that the driving force for a business must be to make a profit?

“But we HAVE to make a profit” is a basic business belief; the dominant driver; an unquestioned given. Mess with this thinking at your peril; as I have found out. “But we HAVE to make a profit”  is also a conversation-killer, a vision-vexer, a myopic mantra that is fed by fear; the fear of change. Yet change is apparently what we want and need.  Just look at the new business buzzwords: INNOVATION, CREATIVITY, SUSTAINABILITY.  Where are we going to find these new ways of being? Einstein gave us the answer: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need new ways of thinking; new ways to view our world. We need a new business paradigm!

As a Sustainable Business Development Facilitator to senior business managers, when I am feeling courageous,  I open the discussion with the question: “What is the purpose of business?”  I am greeted with stunned, incredulous looks wondering if this is a trick question, wondering if I am sane,  and receive the well- ingrained rapid reply: “To make a profit, of course”.  As I attempt to empathetically lead the discussion to explore other possibilities, the mantra “But we HAVE to make a profit” is regularly fired out in increasingly aggressive and defensive tones. This is a normal response when a person feels like their values or beliefs are being questioned. Yet the paradox is that when we find the courage to examine our core values and beliefs we start to unlock the limitless innovation, creativity and sustainability which are the holy grails of business right now. Why? Because we look at our world differently.

I asked a question last night (01/08/13) at the bi-monthy meeting of the Adelaide Sustainable Building network: “Are any Project Builders seeing this as a time for great opportunity to offer affordable and sustainable houses? Affordable and sustainable housing was the topic for the event, so not an unreasonable question in my mind. The audience laughed at my question and the reply was: “They are profit driven, there is currently no money in it, so it will not happen.” What? Really?

Another comment was that it was more expensive per square meter to build a sustainable home. I questioned that as well. Why is that so? The answer from the audience was that if the demand was there, more R&D would be spent on reducing the cost of sustainable building materials. The demand is there and growing …  just look at the audience that filled the sold out event last night! Look at the current global and local business buzzwords: innovation, creativity, sustainability. Where is the vision?

The missing piece to this puzzle seems to be LEADERSHIP; a specific type of Leadership that can rise above the current ubiquitous paradigm that the reason for being for a business is to make a profit. When the primary focus of a business is to make a profit, good people miss opportunities. I am proposing BIOPHILIC LEADERSHIP as the framework for this very type of leadership. I will explore my ideas about Biophilic Leadership in this blog. I am making it the focus of my PhD.

I have been thinking about the concept of BIOPHILIC LEADESHIP for some time. Serendipitously, I was very grateful to host Tweedy-Ordway Professor Emeritus Stephen Kellert during his visit to Adelaide in April this year (2013). Professor Kellert is an international passionate pioneer of Biophilic Design which Architects  everywhere are embracing. He has devoted his life’s work to developing the concept of Biophilia.

As a Chartered Accountant, Company Director and Sustainable Business Development Facilitator; I am from the world of strategic business leadership. I asked Professor Kellert  if anyone had explored business through a biophilic lens. He paused, looked at me and said “No, not that he was aware of.” An idea emerged and started driving me nuts! I registered the domain name biophilicleadership.com.au but, frustratingly, no words flowed, until now.

This endoceptal idea of BIOPHILIC LEADERSHIP is starting to find language to express itself, starting with this inaugural blog post.

What is the purpose of this blog?

To provide a space to engage with people who want to collaborate to develop a new paradigm for business. A paradigm that is similar to my Dad’s mantra to me as I was growing up that has never let me down. “Do what you love  … the money will follow.”

Imagine for one moment if business adopted a paradigm of “we do what we love … the money follows.” What would that be like?


Heinberg, R. (2011). The end of growth: adapting to our new economic reality. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers.

White, J. (2012). Double entry: how the merchants of Venice created modern finance. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Leave a Reply