For the last 20+ years business research has compared business relationships to dating and marriage. Although that metaphor hasn’t endured the test of time1, perhaps the need for “love” in commercial interactions is more pragmatic than emotional.
It all depends on how you define love. If you define it as Merriam-Webster does, it is merely a strong, constant affection or a romantic feeling.
However, if you define love as it has been defined over history, it encompasses:
- Lack of envy, boasting, and pride
- Lack of dishonor
- Not self-seeking
- Not easily angered
- Keeping no record of wrongs
- Delighting in truth
- Always protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering
- Never failing
Now this definition of love carries an entirely different application for business practice. Remove the myopic-competitiveness and aggressive self-seeking and self-promotion from the business mind-set and replace it with a capitalism of love. Is that even a thing? Capitalism of love? In a free-trade competitive environment, many firms and managers within those firms focus on short term gains which increase myopia instead of the long term gains that improve the profitability of the focal firm, the supply chain, and the industry. The free market has been seen as an enemy to improving society (see Michael Moore’s documentary, Capitalism: a Love Story) and ideologically contradictory for many conservatives.
However, with competitive freedom comes the opportunity to do business differently and to compete to be the best to improve an industry in a way the profits the focal firm AND the firms and stakeholders it partners with. Evidence of the profitability of endearment, conscientiousness, business for the common good, and companies competing for goals beyond short-term profits is exploding in leading business research2, 3, 4.
Maybe we should drop the marriage metaphor but adopt instead a capitalism of love. A capitalism of love isn’t an emotional feeling that engenders euphoric, blissful heights and anger induced, boxing-match lows, it’s a purposeful and pragmatic application of long-term gains for the collective with honor.