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COLLECTIONBook excerpts
TITLETo Build Anew: Creating Bahá'í-inspired Enterprises
AUTHOR 1Don Brown
PUB_THISParagon-Quest Publications
CITY_THISSooke, BC, Canada
ABSTRACTA study in social and economic development, applying Bahá'í principles in a business how-to manual. Sample chapter: "The Enterprise and the Spiritual Principle Paradigm."
NOTES Only Chapter 3 has been provided by the author.
TAGSBusiness; Social and economic development

                    Table of Contents


Introduction ...........................................1

Section 1 The Premises .................................6

       Chapter 1 Capitalism and the Nature of Reality ..8

       Chapter 2 The Spiritual Principle Paradigm .....30

       Chapter 3 The Enterprise and the
       Spiritual Principle Paradigm ...................40

Section 2 The Core Enterprise Principles ..............51

       Chapter 4 The Purpose Principle:
       Work for the Betterment of the World ...........53

       Chapter 5 The Relationship Principle:
       Set the Common Good Above Private Interest .....60

       Chapter 6 The Conduct Principle:
       Consciously Adhere to Human Virtues ............66

       Chapter 7 The Sustainability Principle:
       Do What Will Profit You and Others .............75

       Chapter 8 The Decision Support Principle:
       Consult as the Means of Decision Making ........91

Summary of the Core Enterprise Principles ............107

Section 3 Creating the Enterprise ....................111

       Chapter 9 The Enterprise Model ................113

       Chapter 10 The Creating Process ...............164

       Chapter 11 The Stakeholders ...................178

       Chapter 12 The Macro-environment ..............188

Conclusion ...........................................199

Bibliography .........................................203

Chapter 3

Enterprises and the Spiritual Principle Paradigm

Since the orderly running of your association dependeth upon the devotion, integrity, fair-mindedness and sanctity of purpose manifested by the friends of God, they should show forth in their management of its affairs such purity, nobility and far-sighted wisdom that they will become a model for other societies, and all people may be edified and enlightened by their example. In this way the Bahá'ís will become known to all as people who are dependable and honest, virtuous and enlightened, pure and refined; who are industrious and high-principled, liberal-minded and promoters of freedom; whose concern is to serve the common good, not to advance their own interests, and whose aim is to further the welfare and prosperity of the people, not to foster their own well-being.

Your criterion should be to pursue your commercial activities with such fairness and equity as to be a cause of guidance to others. The friends of God should, through the instrumentality of their business, lead the people to God's path, and make them so astonished as to exclaim: "How great is their truthfulness, how high their trustworthiness, and how true is their good will!"

Every business company should be established on divine principles. Its foundations should be trustworthiness, piety and truthfulness in order to protect the rights of the people.

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Trustworthiness, p.14).

Now, after all the years of constant teaching activity, the Community of the Greatest Name has grown to the stage at which the processes of this development must be incorporated into its regular pursuits; particularly its action compelled by the expansion of the Faith in Third World countries where the vast majority of its adherents reside. The steps to be taken must necessarily begin in the Bahá'í Community itself, with the friends endeavouring, through their application of spiritual principles, their rectitude of conduct and the practice of the art of consultation, to uplift themselves and thus become self-sufficient and self-reliant.

Moreover, these exertions will conduce to the preservation of human honour, so desired by Bahá'u'lláh. In the process and as a consequence, the friends will undoubtedly extend the benefits of their efforts to society as a whole, until all mankind achieves the progress intended by the Lord of the Age.

(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 545).

Just as there are many laws in the physical dimension, there are also numerous principles in the human dimension. Bahá'u'lláh has revealed a "new World Order" a "wondrous System ? the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed." (Kitáb-i-Aqdas, paragraph 181). The principles revealed by Bahá'u'lláh are an interrelated system of laws which define the relationships between God, His Prophets and humanity, between people with each other at all levels of society and the relationship of the individual within one's self.

In the manual Systems Thinking and Learning, Stephen Haines defines a system as: "a set of components that work together for the overall objective of the whole." (p. 2). Principles define how the components of a system interrelate to achieve the overall objective of the system. An enterprise can be viewed as a system itself, working within a micro-environment system made up of immediate stakeholders (e.g., customers, shareholders, suppliers, competition etc.), which is part of a larger macro-environment societal system which includes the political, judicial, social/cultural and economic systems of the society in which the enterprise functions. Diagrammatically, this whole systems model can be illustrated as follows:










As illustrated, the enterprise operates within a larger society and within the physical environment. In order to identify the core principles of an enterprise which define how the enterprise works with the other parts of the system towards the objective of the whole system (society), it is necessary to know the overall objective of the whole system, and the primary principles governing the interrelationship among its components.

In God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi describes "the oneness of the entire human race" as "the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith" and "justice as the ruling principle in human society." We are all interconnected, interdependent members of one human family and justice, rather than religious, economic or military dominance or survival of the fittest, is the governing principle that defines and co-ordinates human relationships. The purpose of this global system is "the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind." (pp. 281-282). Supporting this pivotal unity principle and supreme goal are other fundamental principles, such as the equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudice, etc. These are social principles forming the foundation of the new World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. These principles are universal in nature; act at all levels within the whole system and are influencing and shaping the world's global civilization, including the diverse enterprises operating within it. These fundamental social principles will be explored further in subsequent chapters in examining the macro-environment system.

Inculcating the principles of unity and justice into our understanding of reality requires a fundamental change of consciousness, moving away from accepting the capitalist market economy and the survival of the fittest as the paradigm of how the world is or should work. Unity involves the recognition of our interconnectedness and interdependence with all people in this global village and our shared homeland ? this planet earth. We understand in our minds and our hearts that the enduring prosperity of each of us is dependent upon the progress and advancement of our whole world society; that we are one global family and every human being on earth is responsible for the welfare of the entire human family. Each person is a trust of the whole, to be treated with justice rather than being accorded privileges or deprivations based on material wealth, religious beliefs or social status. Bahá'u'lláh states: "The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 67). In Century of Light it is stated: "the fate of humanity in the century now opening will be determined by the relationship established between these two fundamental forces of the historical process, the inseparable principles of unity and justice." (pp. 134-135). Justice, rather than compassion, mercy or forgiveness, is the foundation of genuine, enduring unity.

With the unity of the whole human race as the central principle governing human relations, the relationship between the various levels of systems within the world is defined by the following:

in a world of inter-dependent peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole, and that no abiding benefit can be conferred upon the component parts if the general interests of the entity itself are ignored or neglected.

(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 198).

The pivotal principle of the unity of humanity pervades all relationships within the whole system, as "Nothing can be effected in the world, not even conceivably, without unity and agreement." ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 73). Unity governed by justice, as opposed to conflict, dominance, competition or adversarial relationships, is, therefore, the fundamental relationship among all the components of all systems.

In its 20 October 1983, message to the Bahá'ís of the world regarding social and economic development, the Universal House of Justice stated that "the key to success is unity in spirit and in action." Unity, therefore, to be truly effective, requires agreement of thought and conscience, commitment of one's mind, heart and spirit ? one's inner spiritual nature or essence ? and translation of that unity of spirit into unified action.

In Century of Light, the principle of unity is further explained:

For unity to exist among human beings ? at even the simplest level ? two fundamental conditions must pertain. Those involved must first of all be in some agreement about the nature of reality as it affects their relationships with one another and with the phenomenal world. They must, secondly, give assent to some recognized and authoritative means by which decisions will be taken that affect their association with one another and that determine their collective goals.

Unity is not, that is, merely a condition resulting from a sense of mutual goodwill and common purpose, however profound and sincerely held such sentiments may be, any more than an organism is a product of some fortuitous and amorphous association of various elements. Unity is a phenomenon of creative power, whose existence becomes apparent through the effects that collective action produces and whose absence is betrayed by the impotence of such efforts. However handicapped it often has been by ignorance and perversity, this force has been the primary influence driving the advancement of civilization, generating legal codes, social and political institutions, artistic works, technological achievements without end, moral breakthroughs, material prosperity, and long periods of public peace whose afterglow lived in the memories of subsequent generations as imagined "golden ages." (Century of Light, p. 41).

The first condition for unity stated above, "some agreement about the nature of reality as it affects their relationships with one another and with the phenomenal world" relates directly to the spiritual nature of reality and the relationship of the parts of the system to the whole. Within an enterprise, this also involves agreement on how all the people of the enterprise work together and how the enterprise relates to its stakeholders and to society. The second condition, "some recognized and authoritative means by which decisions will be taken that affect their association with one another and that determine their collective goals" refers to the administrative, decision-making structures and processes within society and within an enterprise. The unity of a group cannot be measured directly, ? its "existence becomes apparent through the effects that collective action produces and whose absence is betrayed by the impotence of such efforts." (Century of Light, p. 41).

Unity, means much more than "a sense of goodwill and common purpose," it is the key, the motive force driving the advancement of society and the diverse enterprises within it. This principle, therefore, provides a focus and object for creating Bahá'í-inspired enterprises. As a system, an enterprise will be successful to the degree that all its people are working together according to sound, worthy and unifying principles. The unity of humanity presents a far more encompassing principle than the "social capital" concept proposed by Fukuyama. It is unity in spirit and in action based on the spiritual nature of reality that is the sine qua non of our social and economic development and the progress of our whole world.

The Core Enterprise Principles

For enterprises to operate effectively within the context of the unified whole system as described above, five "core enterprise principles" are proposed as central to the development, management and operation of enterprises. These principles are derived from the following quotations and other related passages from the Bahá'í Writings:

This Wronged One testifieth that the purpose for which mortal men have, from utter nothingness, stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony. (Bahá'u'lláh, Trustworthiness, p. 5).

The permanence and stability achieved by any association, group or nation is a result of ? and dependent upon ? the soundness and worth of the principles upon which it bases the running of its affairs and the direction of its activities. The guiding principles of the Bahá'ís are: honesty, love, charity and trustworthiness; the setting of the common good above private interest; and the practice of godliness, virtue and moderation. Ultimately, then, their preservation and happiness are assured. (Shoghi Effendi, Crisis and Victory, pp. 45-46).

It is religion, to sum up, which produces all human virtues, and it is these virtues which are the bright candles of civilization. ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 98).

Waste not your hours in idleness and sloth, but occupy yourselves with what will profit you and others.

(Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, paragraph 33).

Lay fast hold on whatever will profit you, and profit the peoples of the world.

(Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 24).

Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. The light of truth shineth from the faces of those who engage in consultationThe principle of consultation is one of the most fundamental elements of the divine edifice. Even in their ordinary affairs the individual members of society should consult.

('Abdu'l-Bahá, Consultation, p. 8).

The five core enterprise principles are:

1.    Purpose:                     Work for the betterment of the world

2.    Relationship:            Set the common good above private interest

3.    Conduct:                    Consciously adhere to human virtues

4.    Sustainability:   Do what will profit you and others

5.    Decision Support:    Consult as the means of decision making

These five principles are fundamental to the development of every enterprise because:

  • They set a worthwhile purpose for the enterprise (to work for the betterment of the world) ? a clear worthy direction, that directly contributes to the pivotal principle of unity and to the overall objective of the whole societal system;

  • They specify the fundamental relationship between the enterprise and society and between those working within the enterprise and the enterprise (to set the common good above private interest). This principle defines who and what comes first, directly reflecting the unity principle of the relationship of the parts to the whole;

  • They provide the standard of conduct for all the affairs of the enterprise and its members (to consciously adhere to human virtues ? truthfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, justice, moderation, etc.) ? how to pursue the objectives of the enterprise in a way that contributes directly to the goal of the societal system. In this system, the ends do not justify the means;

  • They define the essential standard of sustainability and reciprocity between the enterprise and all its stakeholders (do what will profit you and others) including the environment. In this context profit, or benefit, is measured by the value that is being added to the benefit of all. Profit is one key visible, measurable effect of the unity principle;

  • They provide the process and structure for the most significant, prevalent and pervasive activity of every enterprise ? decision support (consult as the means of decision making). Consultation itself is a participative process that fosters unity and consensus as well as giving effect to the second fundamental condition of unity ? an authoritative means by which decisions will be taken;

  • They provide the common unifying standards and guidelines for making consistent decisions for the direction and operation of the enterprise at all levels, contributing directly to the unity, peace and well-being of humanity.

    Taken together, these principles form an integrated framework for the unified, worthwhile, holistic development of enterprises. This framework is diametrically opposite to the "for-profit motive" that is the underlying purpose and raison d'?tre for corporations and businesses in today's world. These principles also present a challenge to some not-for-profit organizations and Bahá'í social and economic development projects to become self-sustaining rather than relying on contributions and grants to provide their services. Applying these principles to enterprises provides the direction, the freedom and the means to explore the spiritual implications of the work of the enterprise as well as the instruments to develop spiritually and materially both individually and collectively. As the meanings, implications and applications of these principles are further explored, it will become evident that the old paradigms of "for-profit" businesses and "not-for-profit" organizations are obsolete and need to be replaced by "self-sustaining" enterprises working together for the betterment of the world.

    Applying these principles, first and foremost, induces a transformation in consciousness and behaviour both individually and collectively. A fundamental rethinking of the strategies, structures, leadership, products, pricing, promotion, compensation, decision processes, operations, etc. ? virtually every aspect of enterprise activity ? is essential to truly effect the changes necessary to enable enterprises to achieve their worthy purposes in adherence to these principles.

    The core enterprise principles apply directly to ongoing social and economic development projects that have been initiated by Bahá'í communities. A letter to an individual written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice states:

    ...It cannot be over-emphasized that venturing into social and economic development rests upon the fundamental principles enshrined in the Teachings concerning the inter-relationship between the spiritual and material aspects of life, and if social and economic activity is not placed on a spiritual basis it may well prove counter-productive or even harmful, as without a spiritual base the people are likely to become corrupt or materialistic.

    As the friends deepen their understanding of the message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983, they will rise to the challenge and re-orient their thoughts and actions to meet the situations which they encounter in their daily life, drawing on the wisdom of consultation and sustained by the high and noble spiritual principles of our Faith. (Lights of Guidance, pp. 552-553).

    The "universal principles" or "human values" presented in the management literature are also aligned with the concept of "spiritual" principles proclaimed in religious literature. The primary significance of principles or "ideology" to the stability and long-term viability of an enterprise is one of the major findings of an extensive 6-year research study done by James Collins and Jerry Porras of Stanford University. The study involved comparing the business operations of 36 major corporations over a 70-year period to determine the unique characteristics that separated the highly successful "visionary" companies from less successful corporations in the same industry. The book based on the study, Built to Last, first published in 1994, presents an insightful justification of the primary role that consistent and extensive application of a core ideology, including a visionary purpose and core values throughout an enterprise's operations, plays in determining the success of the enterprise. Referring to enterprise principles as "core values," Collins and Porras define them as: "The organization's essential and enduring tenets ? a small set of general guiding corporate principles; not to be confused with cultural or operating practices; not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency." (p. 73). The authors also claim that there was no common set of "correct" values among the visionary companies; however, analysis of the core ideologies presented in the book reveals that the values espoused by a majority of the visionary companies are closely aligned to the core enterprise principles presented herein. Companies, such as tobacco companies and breweries that had common values that were not aligned to spiritual principles, demonstrate that unity can result in long-term material profitability. This was the sole criterion of success used by the authors. However, without contributing to the betterment of the world (the purpose principle), these organizations will eventually collapse.

    Peter Senge in his "Fifth Discipline Fieldbook" addresses the principle paradigm as "Guiding Ideas." The first guiding idea presented is, "The primacy of the whole" in which the interrelatedness of society is recognized and the critical point that "wholes are primordial to parts" (p. 25) is explained along with the significance of this reorientation for Western organizations. Other management scientists also reference this principle as the concept of win, win, win ? I win, you win, and the greater whole wins. The application of this principle involves determining the needs and striving to contribute towards fulfilling the requirements of the "whole."

    The above statements by these secular scholars and management experts are aligned to the core enterprise principles and demonstrate the practical efficacy of applying these principles to the operation and management of enterprises within the current capitalist system. Therefore, enterprises applying the core enterprise principles can survive and prosper within the current system while building a new global social and economic order based on the spiritual principle paradigm. We do not have to wait for the disintegration of the old order "to build anew." The twin processes of disintegration and integration are occurring simultaneously. Our choice is which process we want to support ? whether to prop up the old or "to build anew."

    The core enterprise principles are interdependent and operate within the overall spiritual principle paradigm and the spiritual nature of reality. This may be conceptually illustrated as follows:


    As represented in the above construct, the spiritual nature of reality is the reality of creation as defined by true religion. The spiritual principle paradigm consists of the social and spiritual principles that define relationships throughout society. The purpose of this paradigm is world peace, its pivotal principle is the oneness of humanity. The core enterprise principles are integral to the spiritual principle paradigm and are particularly applicable to the operation and management of enterprises and their relationships to their stakeholders and to society.

    The validity, soundness and worth of the core enterprise principles are not primarily determined by rational argument or practical application, (although they are both rational and practical), but are based on the Divine Source of true religion as expressed in the Bahá'í Writings. If the principles are viewed separately, outside of this context, they can be misinterpreted and misapplied. For example, working for the betterment of the world means the whole world in relation to all of humanity and not the world that is defined in a more limited way by family, ethnicity or nationality, etc. Similarly, setting the common good above private interest and consciously adhering to human virtues relate to all of humanity rather than to a narrower context that would limit the benefits of these principles to a particular group, possibly at the expense of others. More fundamentally, the spiritual nature of reality provides the purpose, the reason, the underlying motive for applying these principles ? our relationship to the Creator and His purpose for creation. Divorced from this Source, these principles can be twisted and used for personal gain. Purity of motive is essential to make this entire process "to build anew" successful.

    The core enterprise principles are not the only principles that apply to enterprises. The many spiritual and social principles of the spiritual principle paradigm also shape and mold Bahá'í-inspired enterprises in their contribution towards a new world order of peace and prosperity for all of humanity. It is proposed that the core enterprise principles are central to the enduring prosperity and ongoing success of enterprises in this emerging global order.

    To more fully understand the rationale and implications of these principles, let us delve into each of them in greater depth.

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