Why Compassion Gives You a Competitive Advantage In Business

Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 9.04.47 PMJuly 29, 2014

Accumulating research and observational evidence show that the capacity for compassion and empathy are innate, and can be strengthened through conscious effort and focus. That these capacities enhance positive, effective relationships as well as greater internal wellbeing. It’s also becoming evident that these emotional attitudes and corresponding behavior are linked with greater business success, especially in the form of increased competitive advantage.

It’s good to see examples cited by successful business leaders, such as billionaire founder/CEO of Virgin Group, Richard Branson: “In business, as in nature, companies that want to survive aren’t mindlessly pursuing profits at the expense of people and the planet; they are smart enough to know that caring and cooperation are key.”

Branson was writing in Entrepreneur, in response to a question by a business owner about the reluctance of business leaders to consider anything but profit. According to Branson, “Business used to be a cutthroat world where the only thing that mattered was profit — but that’s changing quickly. It has become easier for people to learn which companies pursue profits at all costs and which behave ethically, and to make purchases based on those decisions.”

He emphasizes, “Don’t spend time worrying about organizations that don’t welcome or accept change — they’re not going to be around for long. Just keep looking for people who are willing to listen to your message and who genuinely care about something greater than themselves — those are the investors and partners you’ll be working with in the years ahead.”

And, “…recent research demonstrates the strategy’s benefits. Last year I read about the results of a game theory study that showed that selfish behavior does not improve the odds of long-term survival. The researchers, Christoph Adami and Arend Hintze of Michigan State University, found that communication and cooperation are far better strategies. Adami told the BBC, ‘Being mean can give you an advantage on a short timescale but certainly not in the long run — you would go extinct.’ While he was talking about surviving in an evolutionary environment, his advice can be useful to entrepreneurs and managers too.”

Branson adds, “The Carbon War Room, a nonprofit group we support that’s devoted to seeking market-based solutions to climate change, can’t simply argue that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. To persuade large organizations in, say, the shipping sector to adopt game-changing policies, they must be presented with comprehensive plans that show how reducing carbon emissions can be enormously profitable for those who are prepared to work together on changing an industry for the better.”

“Almost everybody will choose the products or services of an ethically sound company over its less scrupulous competitors, as long as the quality matches or exceeds industry standards.”