How Leadership Philosophy Impacts Business Thinking
In Chapter 10 of 15 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, leadership philosopher Bijoy Goswami shares how philosophy can be used to lead businesses. He notes how a dark matter physics analogy is good for connecting philosophy with something tangible such as a business. Goswami continues highlighting why and how leaders and businesses such as Steve Jobs and Appe and John Mackey and Whole Foods lead via a business philosophy.
Erik: Where do you find philosophy most impactful in business thinking? Bijoy: You know, the best analogy of this, it might be the analogy of – kind of dark matter – dark matter, dark energy. So physicists have discovered over the last 10 or 20 years that, you know, the known universe, the physical universe only comprises 4% of the known universe. I just recently encountered a dark-matter physicist the other day, and I said ‘this is like 20%’, and he was like ‘no, it’s four.’ I was like, ‘oh, okay, good, good to know.’ And the rest of it they don’t know how to measure. They don’t know – they’re building the giant particle accelerator at CERN and maybe there will be an indication of a dark matter and dark energy. They just know the evidence. So regular matter is somehow a by-product of this dark matter, dark energy, mystical dark – they call it ‘dark’ because they don’t understand it, you know. And I think that that’s the way it is with organizations. So philosophy is the dark matter that generates a business in a sense if you think. I mean, broadly speaking, if the philosophy is a way of understanding, organizing, and a point of view in the world, that point of view is actually what informs what the business does, what regular matter it generates in the world. I think that if you look at the heart of great businesses, you find philosophers. Steve Jobs is a philosopher, and he’s actually always teaching his philosophy every time he announces a new product. He is teaching the Apple philosophy, you know. And recently, he’s shown this one slide quite a bit even in the recent Apple iPad 2. He showed this street sign, intersection of liberal arts and technology, and he said ‘you know, we live at the intersection of this essentially duality.’ So he’s articulated his philosophy. If you remember back when he first came back to Apple, the ad campaign was ‘think different’. He was actually trying to tell Apple what it’s philosophy was, as much as he was trying to tell the world what Apple’s philosophy was. And there’s a lovely video of him explaining this, he says we have to remind the company that that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve always gone left when everyone’s gone right. So to me, you know, I think that’s what you really nurture. You nurture the philosophy. John Mackey does this with, you know, with Whole Foods. He’s incredible at articulating and describing Whole Foods’ philosophy. And, in fact, when you walk up this escalator of the Whole Foods store in downtown Austin, you see the philosophy written on the walls before you ever buy a single orange.