Sunday, January 15, 2006

In my Strategic Management of Human Assets class, we read a case about AES, an electric power company, about AES' approach to managing human resources. According to the case (written in 1997), AES was so committed to its values (integrity, fairness, social responsibility, and fun), that it was required by the SEC to list its commitment to its values as a possible risk factor. You see, if there was a conflict between values and profits, AES would adhere to its values. The requirement of such of statement got me thinking. When did we as society decide that profits would be the ultimate goal at the exclusion of everything else?

Why have we decided that making more and more money is all that really matters? Why can't companies pursue other goals? Why would pursuing things like learning, creativity, innovation, or social justice not valued? I think it may be that these ideas are so esoteric that they can't be measured. Pursuing something that is esoteric is scary because succeeding in those pursuits is inherently subjective. It's hard to tell where "better" is. But you can easily tell when you have more money. So maybe we as a society have decided to value that which is easily measurable. Otherwise how would we know we were keeping up with the Jones?

But in my opinion, it is those esoteric ideas, those very things that we cannot measure - these are the things for which we strive to achieve greatness. It is those things, after all, that keep us from being simply cogs in the wheel. It is things like learning, and justice, and art, and creativity, it is these things that add beauty to our lives. I just wonder why it is that these things are no longer valued. How did that shift in values come about? And why are we happy to live in a world that only rewards profits?

Just things that make me go hmmm (see what happens when I'm not looking for a job - I clearly have too much time on my hands!!)

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