I have been thinking a lot about stories lately. If there is one thing that I know for sure, it’s that we are masterful story writers. From very early on in our childhoods, we have been writing stories in our heads about literally every one of our lived experiences. We write really interesting and complex stories, and then we tell ourselves these stories over and over again creating deep neural pathways in our brain. 

Who am I? I have a story for that. 

What will make me happy? I have a story for that too.

What is possible? The list goes on and on; our stories shape our lives.  

Gone unchecked, we convince ourselves that our stories convey truth. When in fact, there is no truth. My truth is different from your truth. My story is different from your story.

There is an old story that folks have been telling themselves about the purpose of business for over 50 years. It’s a story that was first published on September 13, 1970 by the American economist Milton Friedman. In his now infamous New York Times essay, Milton proposed, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” In short, Friedman prescribed the sole purpose of business is to maximize shareholder value. 

We disagree. That is not our truth.

At 10X Leadership Lab, we are writing a very different story about business— one of hope and possibility. Our story, in progress, is grounded in the belief that every business is a platform that has the power to elevate humanity. Of course, providing shareholder return plays a vital role in the success of any business. But, to what end? What other social responsibilities do businesses have to society? 

As I write this, I am shocked to report that in recent days I have found inspiration from Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, as I have been thinking deeply about these questions. You see, I have written a pretty dark story about Big Pharma’s role in our society. And yet, I was enthralled by Bourla’s HBR piece, outlining how Pfizer developed its COVD-19 vaccine in record time. 

Bourla highlighted the following as his lessons learned after having rewritten his story about what is possible?

  • Success is a team effort
  • Putting purpose first pays
  • Moon-shot challenges born from a worthy purpose are galvanizing 
  • Think way beyond what’s worked in the past 
  • Eliminate excessive bureaucracy
  • Embrace cooperation with all stakeholders

I like where his story is going, as it reflects so much of our truth. We believe deeply that business has the potential to elevate humanity, in pursuit of both a worthy purpose and profit.  

I leave you to ponder, how might you rewrite your own story about what is possible for your business?

 

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