The point is not to play the game but to change it, Dr Margaret Heffernan told the 2013 Co-operative Congress, in a session dedicated to co-opration in the new business landscape.
A culture dedicated to selfishness, competition and winners must have losers, Ms Heffernan explained. “The only good thing about relying on it exclusively is that we can now see it doesn’t work. As the dust settles we can see why it was wrong. We’re not just selfish. Altruism and collaboration are fundamental to us as a species.”
It is our ability to work together that makes us successful, she told delegates. “Banking is not the problem, but who does it, for what and for whom,” she said, adding that credit unions and mutuals had weathered the global financial crisis better than their rivals.
“These organisations challenge the competitive narrative. Companies don’t have ideas, only people do. People aren’t loyal to companies but only really to one another.
“Every business is really a living organism. When people come to work what they see most of all is social value; a sense of fairness and growth.”
Ms Heffernan, a blogger for the Huffington Post, CBSMoneywatch and Inc.com, described how in her younger years she had strived to be a tough businesswoman, but that having children had led her to consider what kind of role model she wished to be.
“I’m glad I changed and I think just about everybody who knows me is glad too,” she said.
Capitalism, she added, was contagious, but to pursue success, low prices or growth for their own sake was to miss the point. “The point, the challenge, the purpose,” she said, “is to change the game.”