Written by Kate Fowler, A Blueprint for Better Business
‘What are your expectations?’ ‘What are your concerns that you hope Blueprint can address?’ ‘What are you excited about?’ These three questions faced the 20 participants of Blueprint’s most recent immersion workshop as they arrived for dinner on the first night. The workshops are designed to do exactly what they say on the tin: ‘immerse’ participants to give them a deep understanding of Blueprint. So what were my expectations? After three months working with Blueprint I have learnt about the benefits to both business and society if businesses operate to a purpose that serves society. But having never before attended an immersion workshop, I was less familiar with the deep thinking behind Blueprint – what exactly are Blueprint’s ideas based on? What distinguishes Blueprint from other projects in the same area?
In the first session Blueprint Senior Advisor Christophe Stourton asked us to label different company logos, depending on whether we thought they were ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We then discussed how we make such judgements. Many people felt that this was subjective. But we are asked to make these decisions every day, when we choose where to shop, or which brands to recommend to a friend. So how do we decide? This session really helped me to understand one of the benefits of Blueprint: the Blueprint Principles and Framework act as a benchmark against which a company’s behaviour can be compared by both the companies and wider society. Thinking back to when I first graduated and was trying to decide who I want to work for, I can really see the advantages in having a benchmark against which I can consider whether a company is making a positive contribution to society.
The main session of the day came from another Blueprint Senior Advisor, Helen Alford. This session involved a lot of deep thought, tracing the origins of the Blueprint Framework and Principles. One of the key ideas behind Blueprint is that people are not motivated purely by self-interest. This belief is backed up by philosophical and religious thought, as well as by scientific results in fields such as neuroscience and behavioural economics. If we are treated as if we are selfish and untrustworthy, we will behave as if we are selfish and untrustworthy. But if we are treated with respect and trust, we can be motivated by a wish to form relationships with others, and to contribute to something meaningful. This session gave me confidence in the evidence behind Blueprint, and it was exciting to see that if companies change their mind-set and align their behaviours with the kind in the Principles and Framework, it won’t just change the relationship between society and business, but could also make work and working relationships much more fulfilling for individuals.
This impression was reinforced the following day in the sessions led by Loughlin Hickey, Blueprint Trustee and Senior Advisor. Loughlin explained how an organisation’s structures, tools and processes are often based on the idea that individuals are self-interested, and will exploit loopholes in the system. But, as Helen explained the day before, systems that assume people are self-interested will encourage people to behave in precisely this way. Not only will this affect how employees feel about their work, but it will also lead to the failure of the systems themselves, as employees become demotivated. I realised that organisations need to start by thinking about what kind of relationships they want with their employees, and only then should they design their structures and processes accordingly. This allows both individuals and organisations to reach their full potential, as an individual who feels that their work is worthwhile will contribute far more to their organisation.
The course helped me to think about the kind of companies I would buy products from or work for in the future, and gave me a language to talk about this: a company where what is best for society as a whole is considered in every decision; where people are valued as individuals; where employees’ time at work is not dominated by rules and regulations, but rather is based on relationships of trust; and where they feel their work is contributing to something meaningful. Blueprint has taught me that it is possible to have all this in any organisation, not just in the charity sector, as businesses can incorporate serving society into their core activities. The course gave me a real understanding of why Blueprint’s model could benefit both business and society, revolving around the challenge to the view of the human person as predominantly self-interested.
The dates of the next immersion workshops are 6-8 July (Cambridge) and 7-9 September (Oxford). Anyone interested in attending should contact: Jeanette.Lacy-Scott@blueprintforbusiness.org
Kate Fowler is Communications officer at A Blueprint for Better Business. She joined the team as an intern in January, after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Classics.