It's a turbulent time in the business world. Prestigious firms
are under scrutiny for their practices, and corporate high-fliers
are going to court and sometimes to jail. Yet it's also a time when
people are seeking new ways to incorporate spiritual practices and
moral values into their workaday lives.
The focus on spirituality has become so pervasive, says Patricia
Aburdene, one of the foremost trend trackers in the United States,
that it stands as "today's greatest megatrend." Its impact on
personal lives is spreading into institutions. And spirituality in
business, she contends, is converging with other socioeconomic
trends to foster a moral transformation in capitalism.
More businesses, for instance, are taking seriously their
responsibility to communities as well as to shareholders. Some 70
million Americans are making choices in the marketplace as "values-
driven consumers." Many CEOs are repudiating the corporate myth of
"lean and mean" and the "profits at all costs" path to prosperity.
In a poll of 25,000 people in 23 countries by the Conference
Board, a marketplace research group, two-thirds said they want
business to "expand beyond the traditional emphasis on profits and
contribute to broader social objectives."
Ms. Aburdene has a track record in deciphering the signs of
significant long-term change. In the first "Megatrends" book more
than 20 years ago, she and John Naisbitt described the birth of the
"Information Economy," an idea scoffed at by many. In another
bestseller a decade later, they predicted a networked, technology-
driven era in business.
Now in her new book, "Megatrends 2010," Aburdene shares stories
of business in transition and marshals facts and figures to show how
transcendent values are beginning to reshape capitalism.
In a recent interview, she discussed the prospects for a sea
change in corporate life. Here are some excerpts:
You speak of social, economic, and spiritual trends converging to
foster a moral transformation of capitalism. Given the scandals of
recent years, why is such a rosy outlook justified?
Social transformation happens only when there is a combination of
economic necessity and new values. We are exactly at that point now
in society. The accounting scandals, the tech bubble, the market
crash are compelling capitalism to take a look at itself. But there
must also be a positive sense of new options, and those exist in the
form of rising interest in spirituality in business, the dynamic
growth of socially responsible investing, shareholder activism, and
the power of values-driven consumers in the marketplace.
Many people say they've felt a clash between their personal
values and those of the corporate world. How is that changing?
There are two manifestations. People no longer want that
spiritual part of themselves to be abandoned when they work and are
searching for meaning and morals in the workplace. And corporate
leaders now recognize that we live in a technologically based
society where, in order to be consistently innovative, a corporation
has to draw on the creativity of its employees.
Even the old-fashioned business types have to grudgingly agree
that we find creativity, inspiration, and innovation within, from
that deep spiritual part of ourselves.
What's the most significant evidence that spirituality is a force
in business today?
First, the trend is developing in businesses all across the
country, not just in certain geographic areas. Second, many
employees have long been interested in the moral aspects of
business, but when you see large numbers of CEOs getting interested
in spirituality, you can be sure its influence is accelerating. And
you have a diversity [in approach] - one CEO may start conference
calls with prayer, for instance, while another may engage in
What do you say to those who question the practicality of
spirituality in the business world? …