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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Running a Company is like Owning a Book

I may have mentioned before that I am a collector of antiquarian books. I don’t find it easy to explain why I have a passion for a dusty old book. Sometimes I can even take a step back and see how boring it must seem to others. But a passion I do have. And when I enter an antiquarian bookstore my heart beats faster and my breathing shallows at the anticipation of what I might just find.

I read somewhere that the current owners of an antiquarian book should not think of themselves as owners. They should enjoy the book certainly while they have it. But rather than possessing the book, they should think of themselves as the caretakers of that book for others in the future. This philosophy has brought more pleasure rather than less to my caretaking of the books I currently have in my small library (well, shelf actually!).

I am part way through a relatively contemporary book by Peter Block “Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest”. The author, Block, positions today’s executives as stewards of both their organizations and of the common good. Similar to owning an antiquarian book, these executives should not view themselves as possessors but rather as caretakers.

Although not identical concepts, I think the idea of caretakers and stewards rather than owners and bosses have much in common. Both concepts will help businesses in their striving towards ever more sustainable behavior.

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