“And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn
from your own heart,
even as if your beloved
were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved
were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and
reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved
were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion
with a breath of your own spirit.”
– from Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
I attended my first EBBF conference this weekend, slightly daunted by its title Co-Creating The New Enterprise. I needn’t have worried. Re-discovering Kahlil Gibran was just one part of a rich programme of presentations and discussions that stretched from Building Altruistic Capital through Nudging Condom Adoption To Combat HIV to Building High Performing Teams Through Authentic Collaboration.
It was heartening that at least a third of the 150 attendees – from 16 countries – must have been under 30 years old. And yet quite a few of them seemed to have already founded, or been involved in creating, some form of social enterprise.
EBBF is, of course, just one small example of the extraordinary ferment of ideas around how, in the real world, we can envision enterprises and economic systems that can deliver for humankind prosperity in its fullest sense.
What distinguishes EBBF perhaps is that it is comfortable with spirituality, drawing freely upon religious insight. It is Bahá’í inspired but also a genuinely inter-faith space, where agnostics and atheists too can feel equally at home.
It also has experimentation at its core. Its purpose is to create meaningful conversations that will stimulate a continual cycle of learning through consultation, action and reflection.
I came away with some answers and many new questions. One is the mystery of why if, as the data suggests, many of our deepest motivations at work centre around the desire to serve others, and if, as again the data suggests, it’s when we feel we are serving others that we work at our peak performance, then why is service so rarely at the foreground of our work culture? Why would I sound almost crazy tomorrow if I were to suggest at the water-cooler that, to quote Gibran: ‘Work is love made visible’?
Why are our deepest motivations so often hidden, and how might we surface them? These are themes to which I would like to return. Meantime, congratulations to the EBBF team of volunteers for arranging a great conference. If you can be in Barcelona in October, you might want to consider attending the next one.