Good for profit
I have always thought the phrase Good for profit was a very smart pun. Is it a for-profit that is good? Is it an initiative that is good for profit? You get the gist. Today I get to weave it into a post that I suspect is very topical right now.
A lot of rage is spreading in tech companies about the Indiana Law on protection of religious freedom that is (ironically) deemed to be discriminatory towards LGBT and other groups. Quite a few companies seem to be announcing plans to decrease engagement with the state of Indiana based on their opposition to this law. Some are curtailing their investments, others are pulling out from their regular events. These actions are obviously based on their principles and sense of what is right and wrong. But if you take the definition of a corporation that we are taught in business schools, then its all about maximizing shareholder value.
Is opposing the Indiana law really helping Salesforce, Apple, Yelp etc’s bottomline? In general, regardless of your position on this specific law, should we incorporate our sense of right or wrong into product strategy and decision making?
I think these are very interesting questions. Back in Google, we would grapple with the moral implications of our product decisions at regular intervals. It is one of the few companies that codified this behavior into a motto — Don’t be evil (Well, one could argue that not being evil isn’t the same thing as proactive supporting the good. But I think the intent was to codify some sense of social wellness into product development). I remember countless arguments that were won on the basis of this motto. And for many of us, product development truly felt like a thoughtful, user centric endeavor because of this rule.
Being thoughtful about the implications of our actions, whether as individuals or as a society, is an important aspect of what makes us human. Corporations are a part of society and though maximizing shareholder value is their prime goal, I suspect doing so while ensuring they do no evil (or even better, taking a stance against bad laws) is equally key. And finally, it actually does make business sense. I suspect companies that do so, end up doing very well and having a significant impact on their bottomline. This topic is ripe for some real research that backs this theory (or disproves it) with real data.
In the meantime, let’s please do no evil.
(inspired from a piece written by Ben Thomson in his latest Stratechery post)https://medium.com/@punitsoni/good-for-profit-3136d1dfa9fe