We often hear about success comes to those who follow the formula of ‘Survival of the fittest’ – be strong, take action, be the best, rise above others, wipe out the competition and do what it takes to win. For 1000’s of years, we have held this as a truth, consciously and unconsciously. Businesses have run and still run, with this formula for success at their centre.
But what if we got this all wrong? What if this isn’t what Darwin and others were telling us? The phrase, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was actually coined by Herbert Spencer and not Darwin. Darwin in fact argued against it and proposed that the quality of sympathy within tribes and communities was what would see them flourish and have the most offspring. What Darwin meant by sympathy, translates for us today as empathy, compassion and altruism.
Darwin goes so far in his compassion argument to tie the success of human evolution to the evolution of compassion. He writes that as the human race evolved from “small tribes” into large civilizations, concern about the well-being of others extended to include not just strangers but “all sentient beings.”
So, whilst we swim around in this gooey, sticky, foggy mess that is Coronavirus, we are all figuring out what qualities will help our healing journey ahead in order that we might rebuild our successes that have, perhaps, been dismantled in the last 10 weeks. I see some organisations that are digging deep and taking their Survival of the Fittest attitude to the next level: tough it out, fight the good fight, put your big boy pants and do what you must to win. Except they won’t win. They will lose. They are fighting the wrong battle. This is no longer about isolation and ‘lone wolf’ mentality. We are sick of that. It has got us here (and frankly, look at where we are!) and will not take us forward.
We have lived with a compassion deficit for far too long. Just glance around and look at the suffering, exclusion, isolation, blame, hate and bullying that is rampant on this planet. It’s taken hold and is eating away at the soul of humanity. If Coronavirus teaches us just one thing, it is that the new currency required is that of compassion.
We know that our Gen Z offspring will be choosing their future employers not because they are tough fighters and beat others to a pulp in order to win, they will choose them based on their compassion quota, how they show kindness, how they collaborate, how they look outside of themselves to create success with others, not alone.
As we build a bridge across to a new world of work, businesses must start authoring their new story founded on compassion, kindness, shared values and unity. We have this once in a lifetime opportunity for a hard reset. If we fuck this up again, we not only screw ourselves now, we seal the fate of generations to come. Let us all take the learning and, together, figure out a better way.