Gratitude: the centuries-old business strategy that still rules today

We have gotten out of whack over the past twenty years. With the rise of the digital channels, we saw an unprecedented opportunity for anyone with a half-baked idea and an internet connection to throw up a website and call themselves an entrepreneur.

All sorts of people started talking about how business had fundamentally changed. We saw the rise of all kinds of instant experts telling us how we all needed to change.

It wasn't that these ideas didn't have merit. It's just that we had a lot of inexperienced people who misunderstood the real value of these ideas. For example, we were told we needed to 'fail fast'. I personally had a guy lecture me on failing fast. Never mind that my business had been successful for years. Never mind that this guy had to shutter his unsuccessful business. And would later have to the same with his second attempt. He felt he had to educate the rest of us on business strategy. The thing is, he misunderstood the important part of 'fail fast'. It wasn't the failing part. It was the fast part. The idea was to learn quickly and adjust. That didn't mean you had to fail to learn. It meant that you had to speed up how you learned. Worse yet, this guy believed that the emphasis on speed gave him the excuse to abandon things like courtesy, decency, and niceness. These were ideas that didn't have a place in this new way of doing business.

In addition, the idea of radical honesty was thrown into the mix. It became the excuse to say whatever you wanted – no matter how rude or insensitive it was. Radical honesty works when it is delivered with empathy and love, not when you use it to demean and demoralize. Then it's just an excuse to be a jerk.

These are just a couple of examples of ideas that got introduced. Again, it's not that these ideas were bad, it's just that they got interpreted in ways that disregarded centuries'-old fundamentals that tapped into the power of being a good human being.


Gratitude and returning to the best of ourselves

The things that define us as good human beings are things that don't change. No matter how we try to reinvent human interaction, nothing can match the power of embracing something that has captured the best of our humanness for centuries – gratitude. This is why it is still valuable to business today.

Expressing gratitude amplifies the best of who we are. As individuals and as organizations. I've written about this in the book Big Audacious Meaning - Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story.  In short, gratitude engenders some pretty wonderful things.

  • Humility - it's simply hard not to be humble when you express gratitude. Being thankful makes us think of our connection to others and how our success is intertwined with those who we hope to serve.

  • Empathy - thankfulness boosts our empathy. If it's honest and true, it opens us to considering the impact we have on those around us. It leads us to understanding and a servant-minded attitude.

  • Wonder - gratitude helps us set aside our cynicism. It allows us to see the best in our world. To see the best in others. And to work with them to pursue an aspirational ideal.

These are the characteristics that make our organization irresistible to those we hope to serve. Think of the businesses that exude these. Or think of how you felt when an organization took the time to thank you for your time or for stopping by. It feels magical to be appreciated. It is a phenomenon that the latest trend, or business meme, or buzzword can't even come close to approximating.

Perhaps the most compelling thing about gratitude is that its boons are available to us all. The brilliance is recognizing its timeless rewards. And then encouraging all within the organization to embrace it. To practice it. And discover everything it can do for those we serve. And, in return, for us.