The Economies of Karma

Good’ is the world’s fastest growing currency

 No good deed ever goes unpublished. People chronicle acts of kindness. They note, register and record gestures of generosity. They remember virtue.

Too often in business, niceties are eschewed in the name of efficiency, speed, focus, or tooth-and-claw competition. Goodness is equated with weakness; niceness is evidence of naïveté. In such a context and culture, altruism rarely stands out as a brightly-feathered arrow in anyone’s quiver.

That paradigm is flawed. And that premise is faltering. I believe we’re on the precipice of a paradigmatic shift.

Powerful ideas take time to take hold. Consider the trajectory of Design Thinking. Twenty years ago, IDEO trumpeted the belief that empathy was critical both as a design principle and a critical business pillar. At first, it failed to persuade executives in C-suites across the globe. Fast-forward two decades, and it’s become accepted wisdom, notably a central part of academic and everyday business lexicon. But its ascension wasn’t due entirely to evangelism—it required time to prove measurable results and repeatable dividends.

Such is the case today with what we might call ‘the economy of goodness’. The world at large has yet to realise the true value of karma (in the colloquial sense): the currency of good deeds. Simple favors. Personal introductions. Proactive generosity. Preemptive connections. Not merely the realm of give-and-take or quid pro quo. Not social indebtedness, but a culture of goodwill. Professional momentum by way of ‘consequential kindness’.

If success is increasingly determined by who and not just what you know, then the manner in which we treat people may (and likely will) soon prove the key arbiter of prosperity. For evidence, no single person paints a more vivid, vibrant, compelling portrait than Pharrell Williams.

Pharrell didn’t ‘Get Lucky’ in the summer of 2013 with the stratospheric success of Blurred Lines and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. On the contrary. The fruits of his programmatic approach to work and life started ages ago. He quietly adopted and started humbly demonstrating a commitment to a simple premise—be good. Do good. Support goodness.

In his polysyllabic career, Pharrell’s consistent (and rising) appeal hasn’t been rooted in celebrity—or in his ineffable ‘otherness’. It’s been in his unequivocal commitment to good. To behaving generously. Conscientiously. With kindness. With purpose. With a keen awareness that we can never keep what we covet—only what we give away. I say these things not merely as his fan, but also as a friend.

There’s a strong business case to be made for growth through giving, or momentum through menschlichkeit. The simple lesson: celebrate other people. Connect with people you respect. Connect them to one another. Spread affection. Opportunistically seek out chances to aid others. If, like Atul Gawande’s brilliant Checklist, there’s a simple playbook to follow, it might look something like this:

  • Actively connect great people with great people. Send flattering, personal, detailed email introductions 
  • When asked for help, say yes
  • Go out of your way to help others realise their dreams 
  • When people provide even minor assistance, send personal thank-you notes—handwritten cards when possible
  • Remember birthdays, with notes, phone calls or tiny gifts. Facebook messages don’t suffice

Pete Robinson

Rebel without a cause. Robinson has spent the past five years working in luxury print and publishing. This we feel may of jaded him slightly.

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