It’s a great post and with intelligent, considered comments from Tom Nixon, Duncan Walker and Justin Hunt, Pete and the others discuss some of the fundamental issues about personal and systemic motivations that fuel what I think is a misunderstanding about ‘human nature’ and ‘growth’.
Business growth, of the profit’s first type being ‘natural’ is about (economic) cycles of behaviour with negative outcomes recently: with consequences felt and experienced personally, socially, economically and politically. Therefore the idea of good growth is as Pete says open to challenge, particularly when we consider the short-term existence of so many businesses more generally.
Tom’s perspective in the comments is sound although I challenge one point. “..being greedy animals and growth feeds us” I paused.. Whilst I respect his opinion, I differ fundamentally on this. Being greedy is just an extreme behaviour.
This raises the question of what we understand growth to really mean. Googling ‘define:growth’ brings up growing organically, emergence, from simple to complex, people seeking stimulation, an increase whether planned or not amongst many others including one that is specifically financial from the Motley Fool: “Funds or stocks that carry relatively high valuations, because rapid growth is expected.” All of these are defintions are interesting – an increase planned (expected) or not, the latter or not sums it up for me.
That’s very freerange, and thus ‘natural’. On personal, social and political-economic levels we’re beginning to understand the implications of extreme behaviour and are individually and socially challenging and realigning our values towards more natural and holistic ideas and behaviours. There’s evidence all around us – from the more progressive approaches emerging in business, from social design to social enterprises, fairtrade cooperatives to microbusinesses and groups and (ungroups) forming networks in barcamp style all over the world, including castbrighton.com (which I recently enjoyed participating in the opening meeting) potentially driving all sorts of new movements.
Natural growth is worthy of further exploration because it is about emergence: allowing what comes naturally, to grow. That’s certainly freerange – embracing the planned or unplanned personally, socially, economically, politically whilst being self-aware of learning how to work with extreme behaviours.
UPDATE: thanks to Pete (via Simon Conroy) for sending me this excellent perspective from James Gustave Speth in HBR.. Doing business in a postgrowth society.