For businesses that have been used to doing whatever they want, the invention of social media has introduced a novel (and rather unwelcome) complexity to the work of commerce. There was a time when the people had to march in the street carrying placards to shut down the factory. Now they just pick up their smartphone, join a few thousand or million others, and commercial freedom can be halted by an on-line petition or unfavourable trend on social media. And with instability and populist movements exploding across traditionally stable democracies, even the political classes are finding a remarkable agility to create and enact protective legislation in the face of voter pressure. There are now a million ‘Davids’ who, armed with little more than the slings of social media, can mount a campaign of military precision from any place, anywhere. Like the giants of Brobdingnag in Gulliver’s Travels, product and pricing strategy, often long analyzed and painstakingly crafted, can be turned on its ear by a momentary firestorm of trending displeasure.
On the face of it, business as we have known it seems more and more handcuffed and constrained, whether by formal legislation or simply by the risk of unwanted attention. But there is a silver lining in this cloud of what may seem at times like entrapment. A new and more creative populism is re-shaping business for the better.
In For Goodness’ Sake: satisfy the hunger for meaningful business we will explore the kinds of businesses that are starting to emerge in response to this new fourth voice and how each of us might contribute not to the demise but to the enrichment of business as a vital force for change, change for the better, even for good.