Photo by Sarah Ardin on Unsplash

On Being Divisive in Business

In late stage colonial capitalism, we are seeing a definite shift in the culture of business. I see it move faster among small business owners because that’s where I focus a lot of my time and most of my friends also own their own business but because of my 20+ years in corporate culture, I can’t help but keep an eye on trends there too.

The culture shift I am focusing on is the call to address our biases. Now here’s the fun thing – this has really come into focus in the last ten years as the term mindset has meandered into our mainstream vernacular. We are looking at the beliefs we hold and how they shape our outcomes. It’s a very real phenomenon.

I remember reading once that Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, believed he was a rockstar and lived as a rockstar long before a song hit the charts. Even sleeping on a friend’s couch, waiting for his big break, he was already convinced he was a rockstar.

That stayed with me and I definitely see when I am focused on my success, it does come. You have to keep that belief playing on repeat in your mind and as a result it shapes your actions to ensure the outcome actually happens.

Over the last few days, as I am emerging from a two year deep depression fuelled by pandemics and social media black holes, I have been more vocal about challenging the status quo around colonial capitalism. Long time friends and colleagues of mine have been protesting some of the questions I have around exploitation, capitalization, squandering of environmental resources and of course the hoarding of wealth.

This can be scary for some people if they can’t see that the alternatives are ok too. Especially if they have a certain belief playing on repeat in their mind about how to build wealth.

If you are building your business around what works in capitalism – the pain point marketing, the mediocre sales persuasion tactics, the exploitation of people and resources – suddenly veering from the mainstream version of creating income, building status and maintaining wealth is not a decision most people can just leap into. It’s going to feel like people are challenging what you know – your biases, your mindset, your beliefs. This feels like an attack personally and our need to feel safe kicks in and we can lash out to things that feel contradictory or challenging. It feels divisive to hear someone oppose what you know to be true.

For the most part, we want to be a part of a community so telling someone they are divisive can feel like the best way to insult or jar them to be back on your side. We don’t want to feel excluded, so reminding someone how they can be exclusive or that THEY might be excluded for their ideas is a basic threat we are pulled to enact because it makes US feel safe.

But challenging ideas, asking the What If questions – it’s not an attack and it’s certainly not always used to be divisive. Sometimes it takes breaking the system down to build it up even better.

We have to create systems of economic safety – which include access to basic human needs like housing, food, water, education and health care. If we can provide examples of a supportive community, we can nourish the risk takers to dream big and implement in faster sprints where we can get input from diverse minds and include levels of accessibility – this builds better outcomes and results for more people. This builds community.