Natural Enterprise

Despite the mass of evidence to the contrary (continuous war making, violence done by individuals and gangs to others, on our streets and in our homes, even families: bullying and more extreme exploitation in the workplace), we humans are intensely loving, cooperative, mutualistic, and even altruistic, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others.  The latter is what it means to be social, and being social leads to wanting to do good for others. We get a buzz out of benefitting others and when we do, we want to do it again, and again, and again. We experience positive emotioning from doing good, in exactly the same way as we do when inventing a solution to a problem. As I shall attempt to show later, although implicit, this principle is at the heart of the Lean Startup approach to new enterprise formation (Ries, 2012). It is, however, explicit in the corporate philosophy of the Honda Motor Company as explained by strategic management gurus Ikujiro Nonaka and Ryoko Toyama (2007). Here they talk about the three joys, the principles of doing business expressed by Honda’s former Chair.

Another principle that expresses Honda’s fundamental beliefs is The Three Joys. These are: the joy of buying, the joy of selling, and the joy of creating. The joy of creating things from one’s own, original idea is important at Honda. Employees are told to create what gives them joy to create, based on their own values. Still, they are told that the product should not be something that only Honda engineers can enjoy. Those who sell the product, and above all, those who buy the product must enjoy it as well. This viewpoint sets the value standard for Honda employees to act for the common good. (Nonaka and Toyama, 2007 p 380)

They go on to say: Money is not goodness in itself, but a means to achieve a goal, that is, goodness. (p381)

Readers of this blog may also recall what was said in the post about everyday creativity, it is an important part of wellbeing (Edwards, 2007). What has been stressed throughout this blog is the idea that forming an enterprise means finding a problem to solve. However, here I want to broaden the concept of enterprise to consider what might be called enterprising behaviour, and in doing so widen the scope of enterprise creation and what they can be founded on.

Consider the word ‘enterprising’ to be an accolade applied to someone who has achieved ‘good’ through their own initiative. It’s given by the person(s) experiencing the benefits of the enterprising act, and/or an observer of the act’s positive impact. The description becomes part of a social identity if the behaviour is repeated leading, sometimes, to becoming and entrepreneur, or even an OBE or MBE, but only following success—not failure. What really constitutes enterprising behaviour is initiative taking, and a positive result in the form of a common good. If  ‘good’ is achieved by novel means, beneficiaries and observers might express surprise, delight or even astonishment. So being enterprising elicits emotional responses from giver and receiver. Being enterprising is essentially a social act. It emerges from an innate desire to achieve common good.  Although, like me, you are highly sceptical about company advertising, if you listen carefully, they all offer to do you good. From making your house smell better than it does naturally, to giving you a car that does less miles to the gallon, and giving you a floor cleaner so effective your children could eat their meals from it with no harmful effects. No company means to do harm, but they do. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but should this put us off trying to do good? Of course not.

If we want to create a more enterprising culture then we must encourage everyone to seek opportunities to do good. However, we should be careful about how we do this. It’s not good to do good for someone when you know it will be bad for someone else. This could be avoided if a more holistic or systemic approach is adopted. If  the notion of beneficiary is extended to Nature itself, then at least we would do it less harm—wouldn’t we? bBut this is another matter for another time and place. In summary, being enterprising is not about profit, but doing good. Within a formal organisation or business entity everyone wants to do good, everyone has the potential to be enterprising. How do nascent entrepreneurs and employers tap into this? Most important of all, as Honda shows, this philosophical approach is practical, ethical, moral, and socially responsible. Moreover, Honda says (in  its famous advertisement) hate something, change something, make something better. An idea that fits perfectly with the process of invcnting outlined in this blog.

What form does goodness take?

i) Creating satisfaction, delight, happiness, and generally improving the life experiences of others, while doing yourself some good.

ii) Removing dissatisfaction, unhappiness, sources of frustration, and generally improving the life experiences of others, while doing yourself some good.

iii) Removing obstacles to others achieving good.

iv) Making improvements to any system.

v) Solving problems by designing and implementing solutions (basically about making improvements but I suppose worth distinguishing since so much effort is put into this kind of activity).


Edwards, R (ed) (2007). Everyday Creativity. American Psychological Association. Washington DC.

Nonaka, I., and Toyama, R. 2007. ‘Strategic management as distributed practical

wisdom (phronesis)’. Industrial Corporate Change, 16(3): 371-394

West, S. A., Griffin, A. S, and Gardner, A., 2007, ‘Social Semantics: Altruism, Cooperation, Mutualism, Strong Reciprocity and Group Selection’, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 20: 415-432

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