What is the Global Spiritual Economy in Work and Business?

"You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience." - Teilhard de Chardin

A “spiritual economy” is coming and individuals must prepare themselves for it. Our society and economy has been built on a contradictory foundation - too much success for investors at the cost of success for people in the workplace and their organizations. This challenge is widespread and impacts a tenuous global economy.

Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, raised the consciousness and the average income of the American worker substantially in the early 1900's - a good example of spirituality in business and the workplace. The theory was simple: the more workers earned, the more money they could spend on the products and services of other businesses. It worked very well and the economy boomed, but the principles of what was happening were misunderstood. People clung to the material results without maintaining the spiritual basis of this rising economic system.

The more recent 1990's and computer industry boom are yet another example of an opportunity lost. With the new ability to create networks of networks of individuals, society came closer to understanding the forces that could improve the lives of people all around the world. But society once again became distracted by materialism and did not understand the spiritual foundation of what was happening. We placed our trust in the stock market, and not in the workers and their companies that were creating this new technology.

Brazil recognized the potential openness of a broad social culture and its supporting computer technology - something famously advocated by Minister Gilberto Gil, Brazil's Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2008. He believed in what he called "open culture". Gil believed that true growth could only come from an open society where things are shared.

Gil’s efforts led to the opening of over 600 "cultural hotspots," where Brazilians were provided with free computers and free software with the goal of spreading digital culture throughout the country. Gil saw the open source practices of many software designers as groundbreaking, and wanted to incorporate the values of those practices into other parts of Brazilian life. During his tenure, Gil's efforts brought computer access to millions of Brazilians that would not have otherwise had access to such technology. The move has been lauded as one of the key elements of Brazil's push to become a global power. Gil stated, "This isn't just my idea, or Brazil's idea - it is the idea of our time. The complexity of our times demands it."

Author and Professor Gilbert Fairholm wrote that, "Popular culture celebrates the material and largely ignores the spirit. The biggest mistake of current leadership texts is that they confuse dedication, mission and vision with spirituality. People are looking for significance in their work and the opportunity to use their minds and feelings in concert with the energizing life-giving principles within them." It has become increasingly clear in this Great Recession that what we have been doing for the past many years is no longer working for our global economy and our global humanity.

The spotlight is increasingly turning to a foundation of spiritual principles and practices in the workplace as the durable fuel of the global spiritual economic evolution.

Tom Zender