Idealism is not enough


I consider myself to be an idealist; a person who considers thought
 and spirituality rather than materialistic values to be the most important aspects of life. An idea is worth fighting for even if everyone else is of the mindset that it’s not feasible.

Idealists in the world: we tend to come across as somewhat removed from the world and its ways in a practical sense. Just as with the moral philosophers that Adam Smith (above) refers to, we tend to complain about society’s apparent disregard for wisdom and virtue; our work, our ambitions and the ”great responsibility” we choose
 to assume.

There are quite a few examples of how companies with a fairly materialistic view of their relation to the value based demands of the market have succeeded beyond expectation. In many cases, they have been more successful than one would think they should have; other businesses whose values have been more in line with the prevailing moral demands of the marketplace have often been left in the dust.

As an idealist I cannot expect any advantages. When my competitors see idealism, they most of the time perceive it as a weakness and respond with even harder shots at my operations. 

We cannot act like entering a hockey rink without any protective gear and daring our opponent to shoot the puck as hard as possible. Instead we require protection of the same quality as all the others, more streamlined ice skates and a top of the line hockey club.


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  • commented 2013-12-26 20:23:20 +0100
    Thank you
  • commented 2013-06-07 20:29:55 +0200
    Thomas, sorry for the delay. Would it be totally uninteresting to know the reason..? Well, probably. But, just let me say Tajikistan, Bonn and political strategic discussions with NGO’s feeling we are moving ahead maybe too fast. :)

    Oh, there are so many good thoughts to meet in your comments, I am not sure I can do it. I will try to answer “in general” instead of trying to “measure up” with your quite lined-up and logical reasoning as I do believe I get the point in general. If not – just let me know.

    Fully agree on your point that companizations could be used as a way to defend “Business as Usual”, or even (much, much) worse. On the other hand, handled in the right way we can show an alternative way to go forward. I will let my heart decide whether the risk is too big or the possibility is big enough. I will go for it, as doing nothing is not an option to me.

    In a couple of decades we will know if it mattered or not. Surely, in a couple of decades, we will also know if Business as Usual or Idealism as Usual was good enough.

    If critics become quiet only because “Companizationeers” claim to be what they should be… well, that is just stupid – then I question if they would have seen the difference between “good” or “bad” anyway. We cannot help stupidity. In my way of understanding the Companization we risk every day that the members would loose trust and then “burn the brand” – that is (among other things) what (hopefully) creates the balance; between business and idealism. The reason is that we do state clearly what we are up to, so that any one can check out if it is true. If they don’t, well… that’s a whole other story.

    The cultural differences that you bring up are to me covered by the companization, at least in the form Plantagon is using it. We never created our own moral standard, instead we used an existing one (or actually two) developed from more than one cultural perspective; the Global Compact and the Earth Charter. I think they are good enough to guide us through our future, but the interpretation of the two will also be up for debate in the companization – which is one of the main points (the interpretation should be debated).

    Personally I would like to comment on not thinking outside the “Scandinavian box”: My ideas of the companization are based on cultural experiences from naturally where I was born, but truly also from many, many other parts of the world. That, the travelling, is what made it materialize.

    I think I stop here, as I feel I am maybe trying to explain things you already know and understand. I do not REALLY grasp your worries, as they seem to me as being formulated from the perspective: "But what if you are not entirely right, what if you will actually play right into the hands of the ‘enemy’..? Well, of course I do not believe that´s the case, but I surely happy that you and hopefully lots of others controls this by becoming members of Plantagon and continuing this discussion.

    Sales pitch for members there, at the end..? Yes, indeed! :)

  • commented 2013-05-17 21:04:27 +0200
    Thomas, I will answer as soon as I can. On my way to Tajikistan :)

    By the way: I am extremely proud of representing us there. “Us” meaning owners, staff, members and all other stakers of Plantagon.
  • commented 2013-05-16 09:55:39 +0200
    Just a rather profane (and less urgent) example which however might illustrate the difference of how different societies/cultures draw conclusions of their respective world view, to be adapted within organizational theory:

    In the Nordic countries, the concept and institution of nominating committees (“valberedningar”) is highly used and seen as an important part of the internal organizational democracy. The committee screens the organization for suitable persons to, at a later stage, be formally elected into office by eg the general assembly.

    Outside of the Nordic countries (and outside of the corporate sector) this procedure is generally seen as highly undemocratic — as the members of the nominating committee admittedly don’t have formal power — but loads of practical power to (at least theoretically) abuse their position. They are an additional source of power that can be abused, simple as that.

    Now, of course, I do not propose Plantagon to rid itself of the nominating committee, as Plantagon is mainly active within the Nordics. But from a more principal point of view, I strongly believe that we have to be very, very conscious about those different perspectives!
  • commented 2013-05-16 09:06:33 +0200
    “Yes Thomas, I do see that risk, but is is obviously much higher in corporations not using this kind of model.”

    That obviously would depend on which ‘abuse’ we’re talking about? Of course, doing ‘bad things’ is much more likely within normal corporations. But that’s actually what critics do expect off those “greedy capitalists and one-percenters” — while the Companization, theoretically, could be used to do the exact same ‘bad’ things, while additionally ‘quieting’ the critics of capitalism as we ‘Companizationeers’ are the good guys/gals.

    “As the Companization model is based on democracy there will always be a risk for “bad guys and gals” running it. To me, that is part of democracy, but I trust most people to be quite sound and good. As I understand democracy this is also one reason for it (democracy) to be slow, so reflective thinking should be possible. Therefore there has to be a slow process for interaction with society in the companization.”

    I believe we might be getting somewhere in our talks here when it comes to mutual understanding: the basic view on the human being and her “inherent” behaviour. You “trust most people to be quite good and sound” — while I, well, don’t.
    Please bear with me and don’t just dismiss this as a moral discussion about who’s right and who’s wrong (it isn’t).

    Your positive view upon the goodness of people is totally understandable from my POV. You have a moral and philosophical background in the Nordic countries, where philosophical realism is deeply ingrained in culture and society. The individual is part of a bigger system and is quite aware of that situation. He/she acts accordingly and more or less wisely with the best interest for both herself and her surroundings. Inherently, she is good.
    Now, I think, it is important to be aware of that this is but one way to look upon the human being. On a global scale, the Nordics are quite isolated with this philosophical view, whereas most other (western) societies rather embrace philosophical idealism. Ironically, here the individual basically is a power-hungry beast, when put in relation with others. “Power corrupts”. “Homo homini lupus” etc.

    Now, this difference is not only theoretical but can be measured in society (and the individuals’ view upon it). In survey after survey we can see the impact: citizens of the Nordics generally trust authorities — while eg continental Europeans and Americans have a deeply rooted distrust towards authority.

    This fundamental difference in how we see and understand ourselves and each other is not catered for in the Companization. And I believe it would be necessary to do so, if we want the model to become successful even outside the Nordic countries. (Just ponder a second about the background of people who have proposed changes to the Companization thus far!)

    To claim a model to have built in “enough control mechanisms … into the system that warrant … stays “good” over time” would be quite dangerous.

    I totally agree — and probably was not clear enough. I don’t believe that any system can be absolutely water-tight. But systems can be constructed to be water-resistant to variable degrees ;)
  • commented 2013-05-15 22:01:25 +0200
    Yes Thomas, I do see that risk, but is is obviously much higher in corporations not using this kind of model.

    As the Companization model is based on democracy there will always be a risk for “bad guys and gals” running it. To me, that is part of democracy, but I trust most people to be quite sound and good. As I understand democracy this is also one reason for it (democracy) to be slow, so reflective thinking should be possible. Therefore there has to be a slow process for interaction with society in the companization.

    To claim a model to have built in “enough control mechanisms … into the system that warrant … stays “good” over time” would be quite dangerous.
  • commented 2013-05-13 15:13:02 +0200
    Now, back to some serious stuff ;)

    Hans, you wrote the following: “Capitalism will never create a good enough society in my opinion. It will always be a materialistic solution on existential needs. I am totally certain that we will see systems developed from cooperation instead of competition, love instead of fear. My hope is that inititiatives like Plantagon shortens the time to when this happens.”

    While I undoubtedly share your vision of this future system/society/mindset, my initial question (down in this comment thread) was directed at the last sentence: WHAT IF Plantagon (or rather the Companization as a model) effectively (and be it unintentionally!) become tools/patches/cosmetics to actually maintain and cement the materialistic, rough-edge capitalism that I know you oppose to?

    Please, don’t get me wrong: I really admire the idea and all the thoughts you put into it. I do not question your motives — not at all.
    But the Companization as organizational model is currently absolutely dependant on benevolent individuals, on “good guys and gals” running it. — In my opinion, there are simply not enough control mechanisms built into the system that warrant that a Companization stays “good” over time.

    Don’t you see any risk for such (ab)use?
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:36:38 +0200
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:36:25 +0200
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:36:03 +0200
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:35:42 +0200
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:35:28 +0200
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:29:15 +0200
    …5 points I believe. :)))
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:28:59 +0200
    …reach a certain amount of points. Each posting gives…
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:28:34 +0200
    …and, all this posting give us points and I have heard something about tshirts coming as soon as you…
  • commented 2013-05-12 16:27:16 +0200
    No thank you please, this is good enough :))) I have to enjoy the sunshine too.

    Just joking. I will try to answer if you find time to answer.
  • commented 2013-05-12 10:35:04 +0200
    Hans, thank you for your extensive answers — and all the mindwork you put into them.

    Just to make it perfectly clear:
    1. My intention is not to debate for the sake of debating, quite the opposite. As you surely know, the Companization as a model delivers quite a promise in my eyes, but there simply are some aspects that I truly do not understand. That’s not about right or wrong — but about mutual understanding.
    2. My intention is not to depict you as one of the ’don’t-give-a-shit’-kind of capitalists we both are criticizing, once again: quite the opposite.

    Busy with enjoying sunshine with my kid at the moment, expect some longer answer (or follow-up questions) later :)
  • commented 2013-05-11 12:07:32 +0200
    Thomas, thanks for forcing me to reflect. I never took this much time to debate, not since 1986. :)
  • commented 2013-05-11 12:06:49 +0200
    Thomas, thanks for forcing me to reflect. I never took this much time to debate, not since 1986. :)
  • commented 2013-05-11 12:05:18 +0200
    Hi again Thomas, I think you are interpreting things I say and write into more than it means. This is to me debating, trying to be right or wrong which is something that I normally find more frustrating than anythin g else as no one is really listening to the other. I do not have a world view that separates the business sector, that wouldn’t even be possible and of course I never said so. Maybe what I said could be interpret that way, I have no idea and if so I will try to rephrase. I do not think that I wrote “…introducing ethical aspects…” , I believe I wrote “moral” which is different.

    Everything in a society is interconnected. Seeing international business as a too dominant institution in society, as I do, means you either have to regulate them back to where thay come from (that is the political sectors resonsibility) or try to work with voluntary methods. Many CSR-people and others believe in some sort of voluntary and sudden value change in global business. I don’t. So I choose, while waiting for political change, to create (as many others are doing as you say) an alternative that is more productive and therefore more profitable – as this is what drives capitalism and the only thing “it” listens to. I am not challenging capitalism in any oher way than trying to change tha values and perspectives driving it. If I wanted to challenge capitalism I would work politically. Which I might do some day. Or, the Plantagon non-profit side could very well do.

    You are totally right: if the Companization can create the balance between for-profit and not-for-profit this will be an argument for capitalism. Some new liberals already uses it this way, as an example that the market always createIs the alternatives we need. Finding the balance will also mean that we showed the not-for-profit side a new tool to create influence over whatever they are working with as they can earn their own money instead of asking only for membership fees, sponsor agreements and other things non-profits are doing.

    If we make it work we also created a model that makes the gap between ownership and management smaller. To me, this is what nurishes greed in companies today.

    It is small stuff like this I chose to work with, not claiming this is a new world view, new capitalism, more ethical or better than all the other initiatives going on around the world. In many ways this way of working from the economic side to try to achieve change for society is totally wrong, as it may not only maintain and cement the capitalism, it can even challenge the representative democratic system we have developed as it might move our perspective on the individual role in society from citizen to consumer, or merely a “corporate citizen”.

    For me just living my life here for a while, reasoning lke this would lead to debating for ever. As you know this is not what I do. But, as you also know, anyone can influence what we do at Plantagon but then you need to involve in a normal democratic process (which is not really started yet).

    The Companization is aiming at finding a useful balance between moral and money. That´s all. It gives us a voice to communicate different values and perspectives, and it gives us influence.

    Finally. Please do not put towards me to have said that the current system needs to stay as it is. Just to make my standpoint clear: Capitalism will never create a good enough society in my opinion. It will always be a materialistic solution on existential needs. I am totally certain that we will see systems developed from cooperation instead of competition, love instead of fear. My hope is that inititiatives like Plantagon shortens the time to when this happens. Until then I will focus on making Plantagon work within existing framework as I totally trust that real change will come from real people, not business people or politicians. But alternatives feed new thoughts.
  • commented 2013-05-11 12:04:11 +0200
    But then, of course, you wrote: “By the way, moving the goal would only lead to being sent off the arena. :)”
    And that, I really can relate to.
    Hell, even discussing the goal(s) gets you expelled off the arena, in this brave new world :P
  • commented 2013-05-10 22:27:22 +0200
    Hans, I strongly believe that I’d subscribe to everything you wrote, if I were to share a world view in which the business sector were to be seen as a separate and isolated entity. According to my view, this understanding is fundamentally flawed. Economy, political systems, societal construction, heck, even culture, sociology and philosophy are heavily intertwined and not seperatable from each other.

    Certainly, at least to some degree, you have to agree with this: “by introducing ethical aspects into an otherwise purely economic domain” (your words), you actively emphasize (at least part of) this interconnectedness.

    If I were critical, that’s, where you’d hear me screaming: you write “What Plantagon tries to achieve is to maintain balance between the two” — but this balance between for-profit and not-for-profit is simply unbalanced, in utter favor for the for-profit.

    Personally, I strongly believe that this is problematic for the Companization as an organizational model. There are millions and millions of people out there, tired of the current (fundamentalist?) capitalist society. The Occupy-movement, some of the largest global entities within information technology (Open Software Foundations, who, coincidentally thrive economically), Micro Equities etc.

    Even if I, personally, share many political beliefs with many of those criticizing capitalism, for me, this current question is not really about politics (well, depending on the scope of the word ‘politics’). The huge foundations within the Open Source-movement are not necessarily radical left-wingers and capitalist-bashers. They work within the current capitalist system, are quite regularly economically striving (a capitalist’s dream) — but do things in a completely different way. They prove, that alternatives indeed do exist.

    The Companization could work as an outstanding model for many of those who (for whatever reason) share the discontent with the harsh edges of the current form of capitalism — for the first time really bridging the gap between not-for-profit and for-profit.

    However, it doesn’t.
    And I simply have not heard of or could find any good reasons why it necessarily has to be that way. It wouldn’t even be “moving the goal”, as you term it, unless the goal is to explicitly maintain and cement capitalism, which would be a political goal indeed.
  • commented 2013-05-10 14:05:01 +0200
    Thomas, I would agree with most of what they claim. Plantagon is not a political party or organisation, it is merely a company arranged more socially open than others, trying to proove that a more sound value base is possible to combine with profit. Maybe it could be called a “socially public corporation”. But, it can never be a corporate responsibility to drive political change (other than connected to its business of course) – to me that would be a great challenge for democracy as corporations active in a capitalistic system simply are not equipped for this.

    Naturally idealism and not-for-profit should not be subordinated to for-profit, not in general in society. What Plantagon tries to achieve is to maintain balance between the two as we are a company (even though we are organized as a hybrid between for-profit and non-profit). To me, what you are talking about is a political responsibility. The lack of political responsibility and courage though, the lack of political leadership really trying to create a society for its citizens, not its market, is a huge risk if initiatives like Plantagon are perceived as being some sort of solution on this problem.

    Still, working within business to show concrete alternatives will create a platform for political discussions like this and that is the only thing I try to achieve. I personally gave up politics many years ago as I am far to driven by my own conviction to be patient enough to wait for the majority, and I therefore chose to spend my time not to debate (as it will be more respectfullly and wiser done by others) but to create alternatives that others can debate. In these alternatives I open up for political debate though, and influence.

    So, within my work at Plantagon I am not pushing for anything but capitalism, but for a better understanding of how it can be used. Meanwhile, I hope you and others will find far better political alternatives than hybrid-corporations.

    By the way, moving the goal would only lead to being sent off the arena. :)
  • commented 2013-05-05 21:55:35 +0200

    in which way would you respond to persons, claiming that your chosen method of trying to combine capitalist and idealistic ideas, in essence will have little impact on the rough sides of market capitalism and I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-ethics-philosophy. Maybe even worse: it might even empower a deeply flawed system to survive (and thrive) while effectively diminishing the power of non-capitalist ideas?

    Basically, it of course can be argued, that “idealism is not enough”, but by subordinating not-for-profit to for-profit — what you quote as wisdom, virtue or “great responsibilities” simply by definition become less important (or at the very least: less urgent) than economic/capitalist considerations.
    I really am afraid, that this in the long run cannot imply anything but capitalism (ab)using idealistic ideas (and resources) for all but idealistic ideas, as evidenced, when corporations lend themselves to corporate philantrophy or indulge in high-profile marketing of their CSR-efforts. In all but extremely rare cases, they in essence simply pursue general markering efforts without really caring at all about CSR.

    I strongly believe, that only by putting the non-profit/idealistic perspective into a superior position to the business-side of things, this injerent fallacy might be challenged.

    Returning to your comparison with ice-hockey: perhaps it doesn’t really require the very best equipment. Perhaps it requires someone to quickly move the goal, as soon as the opponent shoots for it. Otherwise, you will be playing according to the rules of the opponent. You know, those capitalist, I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-ethics kind of rules…

    What are your thoughts on this?
  • commented 2013-05-04 22:18:33 +0200
    Indeed you have to choose armour based on the battle. My own rule is to start with a soft one but let the person on the other side of the table decide the rules. If he/she accepts a soft and existential game it’s fine, but if she/he chooses more normal hard and materialistic rules I have to admit I sometimes enjoy to let my darker sides rule my actions. I think we are both light and dark, good and evil but we do have the power to choose how we act and what we want to create. But, as you say, it is an advantage to be able to choose. Main thing is what we get done, and not to believe you are in control of your own powers.
  • commented 2013-05-04 07:53:56 +0200
    Clearly a well-introspected thought, Hans As I allow my mind to collect the iniertia created by your blog on idealism, I run into a few basic thoughts. For a stronger materialistic outlook, art of corporate war-fare demands more rugged and harsh conditioning viz-a-viz an emotional connect that highlights greater good akin to broad spirituality. However, assuming that a long-run in the materialistic world seems certain – the key question that could pop-up every now & then – how much is enough.? Even legendary war veterans have had to stop in their tracks to ask – How much more.? Being devoid of a soft & soul-side does not make one a better performer – does it.? Having developed the appropriate spiritual skills to reflect on the softer side, however allows you to maybe use the materialistic side to greater effect as & when required eg. during battles alone. The distinction being that you choose the armour based on the battle rather than being at war endlessly. Something to think about, isnt it.

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