We often speak about “culture” in regards to things like music, art, or social media. Without a doubt those items leverage great influence on “the stuff and feel” of our world. But, what if we also included business in that list? Although often overlooked in the our conversations about culture, business wields tremendous position and power of business to shape culture.
Think about an example with me:
A gardener cultivates nature and creates beautiful spaces to enjoy. Planting, watering, weeding, and tending grass, flowers and vegetables is valuable work. This is a simple, physical and very visible act of cultural work. But, what if that gardener turned her work into a business. What if she brought in clients and started charging for her services. Now she could be performing the same work of creating beautiful landscape but with a financial benefit. The beauty of free trade is that both the client and gardener benefit through this exchange. It was an unconstrained, non-compulsary exchange which both gardener and client must have deemed worthwhile otherwise they would not have conducted business.
Should this gardner turn a profit, now he is providing for her family’s needs. Over time this business might grow to have enough work to employ others and therefore support multiple families. The original act of culture cultivation has increased several fold in effect through the economics of business. From the gardener in her backyard, to multiple clients and now employees and their families.
Money plays a tremendous role in the culture of a people, which is why businesses can play such a key role in cultural development. If you are not convinced by the above example of gardener monetizing her work, then think about economics on a large scale. How was the culture of your city or region effected by the 2008-2009 recession? Job losses, paycheck cuts, and an overall depression of the way people spent their time and money. What happened to the Detroit area when the auto industry collapsed? How did people’s driving habits and vehicle choices change when gas was $4 a gallon? Did you plan big cross-country vacations or instead have a “stay-cation” to save money? Economic factors can dramatically influence our behavior and therefore culture.
In so many ways, business creates and cultivates parts of the world and infuses/influences them through economic means.
Now a landscaper isn’t just planting and cultivating earth, but he is also making money, creating an economic value for those involved and perhaps even paying employees.
Maybe you work a 9-5 corporate world job like me. Sometimes our work seems insignificant even on a small scale. But, remember the powerful leverage that business exerts on culture. Our work is shaping culture. Whether its for ill or for good is another question (and one we will talk more about in the future).
What are some ways you can refocus yourself today and remember that your business work is creating culture? You are participating in cultural change every day — seize that opportunity.