Peter Senge at ICF

I am writing today from the International coach Federation meeting in Montreal, Canada.  Our keynote this morning came from Peter Senge, who as usual for him turned the world inside out by asking us to look at an entire system.

He took the courageous step of challenging a quote from Peter Drucker, who said that, ”Profits are to business as oxygen is to the body.”  Senge pointed out that the body does not exist to breathe oxygen and that our default model is that businesses exist to create profit.  He is not on a tirade about profits but instead asking us to look at what that singular focus does systemically.  In short, a profit only (and at all costs) model is not sustainable since the resources needed feed on themselves.

At the extreme, Senge points out the country of Bhutan, which governs not to sustain healthy GDP, but to sustain a high level of happiness in the population. In fact they have a set of KPI’s that are specifically in place to measure happiness in the general population.  It all seems a little airy-fairy until you realize that for their size, Bhutan also does quite well economically.

Senge who brought systems thinking to the world of business with The Fifth Discipline, is now on a tear about the environment.  He is still impressive as a thinker and clearly committed to making the discipline of planning for the long term a critical part of business life.  He shared a number of stories of surprising companies making serious inroads to the way that they use resource and create waste.

Interesting that this morning I found this list of the most Accountable Large Companies in the World on the Fortune site.