Idealistic as it may sound, altruism should be the driving force in business, not just competition and a desire for wealth.

Idealistic as it may sound, altruism should be the driving force in business, not just competition and a desire for wealth.Dalai Lama

What if business were more about people, and helping them? It's not impossible, just difficult.

What if businesses were altruistic, more about people and helping them? It’s not impossible. Is it difficult?

What does that mean?
Let’s start with a definition of altruism. From, we get “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others.” But how does this apply to business?

When you realize that altruism does not preclude profit, but instead, seeks to meet the needs of the customer in a useful and beneficial manner, things become clearer. At least it does to me.

What should one charge? What the market will bear is one common answer. Another might be the one which does the most good for the most people. The former is easier to determine, but what of the latter?

I don’t know how to calculate that. But what it comes down to is at some point, if the price goes up even a bit, it ceases to be win-win, and becomes win-lose, where the customer loses. For me, that is too high a price.

Why is altruism important?
Altruism, as defined in the prior section, is an important part of our lives as humans. Most of us could stand to do it a little better, but that could be an excellent starting point. Where in our business life are we less than altruistic? Even those of us working for the boss can be more altruistic, can’t we?

Consider the people you have known in your work life, and how many of them do just what is necessary to stay employed. Is there any altruism there? How happy are they, doing just the minimum? What of the people you know who go the extra few steps, or even the proverbial extra mile? Are they, in general, more or less happy than the slackers?

Being kind, being nice, not just to customers, but to your co-workers is part of how you can help drive your business forward. You’ve all been treated badly by a ‘customer service’ person before, right? How much better do you feel when the representative treats you with kindness and compassion? How does that impact their business? Does altruism seem a bit more important now?

Where can I apply this in my life?
If you are in business for yourself, it is as simple as trying to figure out how to better serve the needs of your customers. What else can you do? How can you get them more for their money? How can you differentiate yourself from anyone else out there? How can you be kind to your customers and help them be happy?

For those who work for others, who might your customer be? For those working a sales floor, as a cashier or any other ‘touch’ portion of retail, your customer is pretty clearly defined. How can you be altruistic? How can you better care for them? How can you show kindness and compassion for their situation?

What about those who work behind the scenes? Who is your customer? That would be the person or group to whom you are handing your work product to when you are done. If you make shovels, it might be your foreman. If you write software, it could be the people who hired your firm to complete a task.

Once you know who your customer is, the question is how to show your altruism. To me, it starts with kindness to your fellow workers, and harmony within the company. I imagine most of you have seen a cranky person who seems to enjoy making life difficult for some of the other workers. You wouldn’t want to be that person, would you?

Altruism is all about the other person, and how you treat them. It doesn’t mean you have to do nice things for them at your expense. It just means that you have to show them that you value them, not just their money. That is something we can all do. We can treat each-other with care and kindness.

Take a moment to think about how you work with others at your job. Who is your customer? Is there more than one? Who else do you interact with in your daily activities? How could you bring the principle of altruism with you to your job? Just thinking about it has changed your attitude. Acting on it will change you even more.

There is usually more than one way to solve a problem. Without breaking the bank, select the one which does the customer the most good. That is altruism in business. Yes, you won’t make as much money as some, but I bet you will sleep better at night. You probably already do.

From: Twitter, @DalaiLama
confirmed at : it’s his own feed…
photo by Paul Inkles from

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4 Responses to Idealistic as it may sound, altruism should be the driving force in business, not just competition and a desire for wealth.

  1. Xavier Van de Lanotte 21 August 2016 at 1:28 am #

    The principal reason for someone to be in business, is that this business has something of value to provide that can be valued by consumers. The intrinsic value to that consumer should be greater than what it would cost a consumer if he/she had to otherwise procure that product or service by other means (say by themselves or from another provider).
    If a business has nothing of value to provide, it should not be in business.
    Yet many are. And they are doing quite well!!!
    Now, this quote refers to the fact that businesses all too often misrepresent what it is that they sell. Products and services that convey image, fads, fashion, from that perspective, are sold for much more than what they would be intrinsically worth. Also, producing products that are designed specifically to have a shortened and determined lifespan of sort, can be sold for what they seem to be and not really for what they really are. Another instance would be to advertise and induce people to consume, such as creating demand by making people believe they need something when in fact they don’t. Face it, we live in a materialistic society and don’t care how much of what we consume is disposable stuff.
    The Dalai Lama, to whom this quote is attributed, would be the last person you’d think of as being materialistic, and surely he is not. He is the opposite.
    When he looks upon our consumerism and the craze of industrial and commercial trade that goes on for things that are quickly outlived, or become obsolete and that have for sole purpose to enhance our comfort (beyond our needs), our image and status in society, he holds those corporations that propagate this trend responsible for the lifestyles we lead, don’t really need and promotes inequities throughout the world.
    As a society, we have a responsibility to use earth’s resources in a productive and efficient way. These earth resources should also benefit all, and we all know that there is a quite inequitable distribution of resources and wealth in many of our societies.
    If the corporations’ mission is to fulfill consumers’ needs, then why wouldn’t they focus on the poor, the famished, the sick and the ones who live in impoverished parts of the world or in areas where there are no resources or means to cultivate food? They have needs, and more urgent needs than those for people in the developed countries (re:Maslow). It simply is because they have nothing to trade with. And until these corporations don’t do something about this situation, they don’t help to address the growth their own potential markets because these people simply remain poor and destitute of needed resources. They are not interested in serving the underserved and underserviced populations of the world, which are often larger than the wealthy societies. Yet if they did, their markets could grow substantially.
    Yet if you think about it, should these corporations think of doing something about poverty, how quickly could they grow their markets and the number of consumers that could consume their products and services?
    I guess that the answer to this question if perhaps not for this generation to find out. But perhaps (and hopefully) a new generation to come soon will find our that answer.
    Thanks for bringing this quote to my attention. I have been working on this topic for a very long time and I will recall this quote when it’s appropriate.
    PS: for those who are confused by my comment (it’s not edited-LOL), I’m with the Dalai Lama on this one. 100%

    • philosiblog 10 October 2016 at 5:07 am #

      Thanks for leaving such a passionate and detailed reply.

      Editing? What is that? 8)

  2. Victor 19 October 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Part of the challenge I see with this is, at least in my opinion, that altruism doesn’t exist. We may think that this is an attainable place but I challenge you to think of a time you didn’t receive something for something. To be clear I’m not stating that everything will be rewarded with riches but let’s look a little deeper. If you’ve ever volunteered for an organization to let’s say plant a tree when you’re done you feel, generally speaking, good. Which as you can see is the payout/reward/compensation what ever you wish to call it.

    So just like we have the word perfect, which no person can be or attain perfection so to does the word altruism describe a condition that can’t be met. With all that being said the pursuit of such things is admirable and a business that truly subscribed to that would be interesting to see move through the world.

    • philosiblog 23 October 2015 at 2:10 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving such an interesting question.

      That is an interesting definition of altruism, and one I have heard before. That is why I started with a dictionary definition to help clarify the remainder of the blog post. “The principle or practice of unselfish concern for the welfare of others.” is how it was defined. Unselfish concern does not say you get nothing in response to your action. It just means your first and primary (perhaps only) thought is for helping another. If something good comes of it, I don’t see how that breaks the definition of altruism.

      I think our disagreement is over whether altruism prohibits any recompense, even feeling good. Can you confirm that?

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