The goal of business Jan 28 2011
I've probably written about this somewhere and somewhen before, but here it is again because I want to make sure I have it in case the original source is lost. Back when Stewart Butterfield & co. started Ludicorp (which was sold to Yahoo! along with Flickr), their about page listed a corporate philosophy so fantastic that it's the only such philosophy I've pumped my fist at. It takes the form of a passage from Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action and the Cultivation of Solidarity by Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores & Hubert Dreyfus:
Business owners do not normally work for money either. They work for the enjoyment of their competitive skill, in the context of a life where competing skillfully makes sense. The money they earn supports this way of life. The same is true of their businesses. One might think that they view their businesses as nothing more than machines to produce profits, since they do closely monitor their accounts to keep tabs on those profits.
But this way of thinking replaces the point of the machine's activity with a diagnostic test of how well it is performing. Normally, one senses whether one is performing skillfully. A basketball player does not need to count baskets to know whether the team as a whole is in flow. Saying that the point of business is to produce profit is like saying that the whole point of playing basketball is to make as many baskets as possible. One could make many more baskets by having no opponent.
The game and styles of playing the game are what matter because they produce identities people care about. Likewise, a business develops an identity by providing a product or a service to people. To do that it needs capital, and it needs to make a profit, but no more than it needs to have competent employees or customers or any other thing that enables production to take place. None of this is the goal of the activity.
To which the Ludicorporate added: "The goal is to kick ass."