I’ve been working on our new book, Firms of Endearment over the Labor Day weekend, writing about concinnity. After learning what it meant many years ago, I dreamed of bringing it back into common usage, I so loved what it stands for. A little bit of the results of my authorship this weekend:
Concinnity is an ancient English noun, little used today. Perhaps that’s a sign of the times we live in. Impatience for getting to the “bottom line” or to “the point” lessens sensitivity to concinnity. Refined attention necessary to achieve concinnity is less than routine in a society that parses reality on the air in 30-second (or less) sound bites.
Concinnity means, “a skillful blending of the parts achieving an elegant harmony.” While the term usually refers to well crafted artifacts, there are also organizational concinnities – entities reflecting skillful blending of their parts achieving an elegant harmony. Companies that transcend the self-service perspective of Milton Friedman’s model of corporate purpose (to make profits – period!) are likely to be concinnities. Firms of endearment (FoEs) are such companies.
FoEs do not prioritize attention to various stakeholders. They reach out to all stakeholder groups, well beyond traditional limits. Above all, they transcend preoccupation with the interests of executive management and shareholders. This becomes crystal clear in the scale of FoE executive compensation packages. In general, they are more modest than compensation packages of non-FoE executives.
Maslow would view FoEs as having reached the organizational equivalent of self-actualization. To reach that level in human life requires “letting go” of the ego. With ego in recession, a person’s worldview changes from self-centeredness to others-centeredness. This doesn’t mean the sacrifice of one’s self-interest. Self-interest is all the better served at the highest levels of maturity. This is true of companies as well as human beings.
Companies are extensions of people, especially their executive leadership; thus they project human behavioral traits in their operations. Some companies are wantonly aggressive. Others are uncaring about any adverse effects their operations and products may have on individuals, society and the environment. Still others have borderline personality disorders even though they manage to muddle through their soulless existence to maintain some semblance of success. Call all the foregoing types of companies developmentally retarded.
Then there are companies that seem to have it all together. They carry themselves with an engaging élan. A will for continuous innovation secures their adaptability to new challenges. They conduct their operations with a surefootedness that is the envy of their competitors. Stakeholders look up to these companies and hold them in their gaze with great esteem. Call these companies developmentally mature. They have achieved organizational concinnity. They exist and operate in elegant harmony internally and with all their stakeholders.
Would any reader like to nominate a company he or she believes represents “a skillful blending of the parts achieving an elegant harmony”?