“There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.”
I wonder how many people will have spotted, or been sent, this piece of Nostradamus prophecy over the past few weeks? From his 16th century viewpoint, he is credited with foreseeing many of the woes we have experienced over the past 100 years; but this short video put out by the Bible Society for Easter dismisses this kind of prediction out of hand.
Their four-minute film has a lot to offer apart from this, particularly in its perspective on the current time for reflection which so many across the world have had imposed upon them. It’s well worth a listen, as indeed are their other two coronavirus video releases.
So inspired by this lead, this week we draw on biblical teaching to offer a broad range of subjects for reflection during this enforced time out. Last week, we looked at how business models may have to change, and an investment review from The Share Centre continues that theme: this week, we consider how wider motives, purpose and relationships can be re-worked by underpinning them with values which have stood the test of time.
Sixteen years ago, I analysed the breadth of business- and finance- related teaching in the Christian gospels in a modern-day context. Looking at various stakeholder groups – investors, directors, management, employees, suppliers, customers and regulators – and using references from all four Gospels, each piece of teaching is linked into the myriad of themes which we all experience today. The whole analysis is embedded into a spreadsheet for ease of access, which will fit on one side of A4 if you want to try it out!
Those who are familiar with the Christian gospels will know that Jesus was closely involved in everyday life and, more often than not, the moral dilemmas which come with exposure to business and money. Of course, what lies behind this is the eternal search for a balance between self-interest and selflessness: a challenge to which the Government, acting on our behalf, is very directly exposed as it wrestles with the question of whether reviving the economy in short order is more important than saving lives.
During the ‘great sabbath’ which we are all experiencing, every one of these themes is worth some time for reflection on what life should look like going forwards from here. For those with leadership responsibilities, I would also recommend a book called ‘Transforming Leadership’ by Richard Higginson.
On Saturday 2nd May the Times published an interview with Simon Henderson, headmaster of Eton College, with a radical new vision of their role: this video shows how productive their time spent in reflection has been.
In my view, the human species is endowed with at least two great characteristics irrespective of faith commitment: the motive to care for others, to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’, and the great gift of conscience. The first shone out clearly in a Tesco employee survey on values some years ago, in which ‘treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’ stood out clearly above all other choices.
The second is the little understood and deeply personal ability to make value judgements through our intuitive awareness of what’s right and what’s wrong. There are several cases where Jesus directly challenged people to use their conscience first before leaping to judgement of others.
So how will we emerge from this enforced and unexpected ‘great sabbath’ period? More inclined to let our lives be underpinned by a set of values, or looking for a quick return to the ‘status quo ante’?
It’s clear from a survey undertaken by employment consultants Slater & Gordon that many have their eyes set on change: for example, more than half of British workers are hoping to be allowed to work from home when they need to, and a third plan to ask their employers for new flexible arrangements: which is just as well since, in the gradual return to work which will be proposed by the UK Government next week, it will ensure that only those who need to be at their workplace will be required to do so. It will also fit well with the changing business models which will become evident, and to which we referred last week.
It will also allow those reflections on values to work their way into business practices and relationships, and technology will provide a strong catalyst for change. In that respect it was interesting to see this chart on the accelerating pace of new technology adoption, in a seminar last week:
As a final aside, however, it’s interesting to see how the new wealth generated by the tech giants during this pandemic will be pouring into space ventures such as new moon landers. So much for their values of selflessness pouring out to help the huddled masses. Methinks Mr. Besos should go and talk to Mr. Gates, who appears to have a somewhat more public-spirited outlook on life ..
Gavin Oldham OBE