Consumer Sovereignty


Mainstream economics uses some simple starting points; it believes that they are the best possible. First is that agents have more wants than they can attain, so that they feel scarcity; in fact, for practical purposes, wants are assumed to be endless. Second, third and fourth are that agents are self-interested, rational, and the best judges of their own well-being. These four assumptions are indeed usually good starting points, rather than starting by assuming that agents are completely fulfilled, altruistic, irrational, and not well-placed to evaluate their own situation. They are not equally good as finishing points. Sometimes good arguments exist for not accepting them.

An assumption that agents are the best judges of their own well being is less questionable for businesspeople and corporations, given the resources they have for analysis. Debate focuses more on consumers. The phrase consumer sovereignty is sometimes read descriptively, to mean that consumers are sovereign, in that procedures are induced via profit-seeking and competition  to provide what consumers want. Sometimes it is read normatively, to mean that consumers should be sovereign, their wishes should prevail concerning what is good for them. The normative claim can rest on three different bases: that consumers do make good choices; that the alternative stance is worse – to use someone else’s judgments and estimates of what is good for a person and how good it is; or quite differently, that people have the right to make their own choices and mistakes.

Consumers will not make good choices automatically and unconditionally. Our wants are not simple; for example, some are wants to not to have other wants (such as the desire to smoke or a compulsion to gamble). Establishing a mature balance between wants involves skills. Choice is also unlikely to bring satisfaction if taken on the basis of weak information. Markets often do not provide consumers with full and reliable information, for it is hard to exclude people from information and therefore to ensure payment for it, so its market supply is weakened. Instead, in a commerce-dominated society, one of the main types of information that adults get will be images that say the good life is obtained through high consumption of commodities; there is too little counteracting public information.

The issue of consumer sovereignty goes beyond whether choices are good for the chooser. Other people are affected. Some wants may thus be unacceptable, notably wants that bring harm to others, including even wants to harm others. Mainstream economists have unfortunately often taken a don’t-want-to-know approach to ethics in which they confuse acceptance of all wants with a value-neutral stance.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Corporate Giving


One of the most visible ways in which businesses help communities is through gifts of money, property, and employee service. The corporate philanthropy or corporate giving demonstrates the commitment of businesses to assist the communities by supporting nonprofit organizations.

Some argue that corporate managers have no right to give away company money that does not belong to them. According to the line of reasoning, any income earned by the company should be either reinvested in the firm or distributed to the stockholders who are legal owners. The charitable contributions are one additional way in which companies link themselves to the broader interests of the community, thereby advancing and strengthening the company rather than weakening it.

Companies also help local communities through the substantial number of business donations that are not recorded as philanthropy because they are not pure giving. Routine gifts of products and services for local use often are recorded as advertising expenses; gifts of employee time for charity drives and similar purposes usually are not recorded; and the costs of soliciting and processing employee gifts, deductions usually are not recorded as corporate giving. Still, they add value to the local community of which the company is part.

Many large US companies have established nonprofit corporate foundations to handle their charitable programs. This permits them to administer contribution programs more uniformly and provides a central group of professionals that handles all grant requests. Foreign-owned corporations use foundations less frequently, although firms use highly sophisticated corporate foundations to conduct their charitable activities. As corporations expand to more foreign locations, pressures will grow to expand international corporate giving. Foundations, with their defined mission to benefit the community, can be a useful mechanism to help companies implement philanthropic programs that meet corporate social responsibility.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Building Shared Vision


The skills involved in building shared vision include the following:

  1. Encouraging Personal Vision. Shared visions emerge from personal visions. It is not that people only care about their own self-interest. People’s values usually include dimensions that concern family, organization, community, and even the world. Rather, it is that people’s capacity for caring is personal.
  2. Communicating and Asking for Support. Leaders must be willing to continually share their vision, rather than being the official representative of the corporate vision. They also must be prepared to ask, “Is this vision worthy of your commitment?” This can be difficult for a person used to setting goals and presuming compliance.
  3. Visioning as an ongoing process. Building shared vision is a never ending process. At any one point there will be a particular image of the future that is predominant, but that image will evolve. Today, too many managers want to dispense with the “vision business” by going off and writing the Official Vision Statement. Such statements almost always lack the vitality, freshness, and excitement of a genuine vision that comes from people asking, “What do really want to achieve?”
  4. Blending extrinsic and intrinsic visions. Many energizing visions are extrinsic, that is, they focus on achieving something relative to outsider, such as a competitor. But a goal that is limited to defeating an opponent can, once the vision is achieved, easily become a defensive posture. In contrast, intrinsic goals like creating a new type of product, taking an established product to a new level, or setting a new standard for customer satisfaction can call forth a new level of creativity and innovation. Intrinsic and extrinsic visions need to coexist; a vision solely predicated on defeating an adversary will eventually weak an organization.
  5. Distinguishing Positive from negative visions. Many organizations only truly pull together when their survival is threatened. Similarly, most social movements aim at eliminating what people don’t want: for example, anti-drug, anti-smoking movements. Negative visions carry a subtle message of powerlessness: people will only pull together when there is sufficient threat. Negative visions also tend to be sort term. Two fundamental sources of energy can motivate organizations: fear and aspiration. Fear, the energy source behind negative visions, can produce extraordinary changes in short periods, but aspiration endures as a continuing source of learning and growth.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Psychic Profile of a Healthy Company


Just like a fine athlete is more than someone who isn’t sick, a healthy company embodies people and practices that combine and coordinate to produce an exceptional performance.

Healthy companies all possess and emanate a certain vitality and spirit  This spirit is not a religious fervor or a mindless cheerleader enthusiaism but a deep feeling of shared humanistic values at the core of the company. These values are the glue that binds healthy, successful employees with healthy, productive workplaces.  They influence the way people act and think at all levels of the company and form the foundation for corporate policies and practices. They define roles and responsibilities and dictate how business decisions are made. These principles are expressed and applied at every turn of the business, from receptionists and loading dock workers, through managers and executives, and into the board of directors.

These values are perpetually interacting, expanding, and contracting like a living entity. Each value depends on and determines the health of the others; sickness or disease that undermines one weakens all; robustness in one value strengthens all. The values at at the heart of the healthy company enable it to continuously grow, evolve, and renew itself, reinforcing what is productive and positive and sloughing off the unhealthy and unworkable. In short, the causes and effects between values, people, and companies are not linear but circular. Values are the center of the enterprise; they circulate through every cell and artery of a company, and a company and itsemployees either reinforce healthy values or bring about their decline.

Healthy company values bind people to their organizations. By creating a common language and appealing to principles of dignity, commitment, and growth, these values help to create an identity that connects thousands of people around a shared mission. Suddenly, the traditional hard values of business success and the nontraditional soft values of human development merge into one dream.

This convergence generates a synergy, producing something greater than the sum of their parts–a vital business that lives and breathes a humanistic philosophy, that treats people as more than profiot producers, views relationships as more than simply financial contracts, and regards the workplace as more than a setting for business. It is a holistic environment, one that nurtures, stretches, and empowers people. The result is an organizatipn that optimizes people, principles, and profits.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com