Freedom & Prosperity: Can You Have One Without the Other?

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”
– John F. Kennedy

Is there a relationship between freedom and prosperity? Whether the topic is that of nations, companies, or individuals, we believe the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Measuring Prosperity

The Legatum Prosperity Index,  which ranks the overall prosperity of 110 countries, recognizes that simply comparing GDP’s and economic wealth alone cannot accurate measure “Prosperity.” The think-tank takes into account factors such as education, health, personal freedoms and social capital as well as economic factors.

For instance, Personal Freedom includes freedom of speech and religion, national tolerance for immigrants, and ethnic and racial minorities. The Social Capital sub-index considers what percentage of citizens volunteer, give to charity, help strangers, and feel they can rely on family and friends.

How does the United States rank? The latest Prosperity Index shows the U.S. in the #10 spot, trailing behind Norway, Denmark and Australia in the top spots. Having slipped from #6 in 2008 (the first year of the index), our rank indicates that we have much to celebrate as well as many areas that could be improved. And as battles over health care, marriage equality and TSA airport security routines indicate, personal freedoms are a priority and a concern for many Americans.

Does Freedom Equal Prosperity in the Workplace?

Just as The Legatum Institute  ranks countries according to their Prosperity Index, so an organization called WorldBlu ranks companies according to how democratically they are run. An advocate for “Freedom-Based Leadership” and “Democratic Design,” WorlBlu’s mission is to transform workplaces from dictatorships to mini-democracies.

The 2012 WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ is comprised of 48 organizations from a diversity of industries including technology, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, services and energy. The list includes public, private, non-profit, and educational institutions, and organizations are evaluated according to 10 Principles such as transparency, accountability, decentralization, fairness and dignity, choice, and the organization’s ability to listen and dialogue.

One company on the WorldBlu List, DaVita, adopted the principles of democratic leadership to transition from a nearly bankrupt corporation in 1999 to the leader of their industry. Today, DaVita provides dialysis services at more than 1,600 clinics across the United States. A Fortune 400 company with over 35,000 employees and $6 billion in revenue, it is a model of how organizational democracy can be applied in large, public companies.

DaVita holds regular town hall meetings where the CEO and the COO share mistakes they made in the previous year and how they plan to improve. Employees throughout the organization are invited to have regular input and vote on ideas and strategic direction. And instead of decision-making power being centralized at the top of a corporate pyramid, it is decentralized out to their 1,600 clinics.

For more details about how DaVita transformed their organizational philosophy and top a model of freedom and prosperity, listen as WorldBlu founder and CEO Tracy Fenton details the compelling case study on the relationship between Freedom and Prosperity in the business world:

Far from an isolated case, DaVita is only one of many organizations on the WorldBlu list that has achieved prosperity as a by-product of their freedom-based leadership and democratic design. Other fast-rising companies such as Zappos.com, the #1 seller of shoes online, with over $1 billion in annual sales, demonstrate that DaVita’s experiment in democratic principles is more than just a fluke.

Clearly, there is a link between Freedom and Prosperity that should be noteworthy to any business owner who desires to increase the profitability of his company by maximizing the contribution of every employee.

What Really Motivates Us to Succeed?

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, money is revealed to be a less powerful motivator than is generally assumed.

One tremendous example of that fact is the rise of the open source movement, which has given us WordPress, Wikipedia, Linux, Apache, and more. Contemplate that for a moment – some of the brightest and best spend endless after-work hours collaborating on large and difficult projects… for no money whatsoever.

Obviously, money is a motivator, but other factors can be equally compelling, such as:

  • The ability to turn “play” into “work” (or work into play…)
  • Autonomy and the ability to be self-directed.
  • The joy of mastery and the taking on challenges that require full engagement.
  • Purpose – the ideas and ideals that inspire us and the projects that are bigger than any one person’s contributions.

What can be gathered from these examples?  What do we lose when we sacrifice personal freedoms and quality of life in an attempt to gain economic prosperity?

Perhaps Prosperity without Freedom isn’t “prosperity” after all. A company, corporation or a country that chases after dollars without valuing the individual and a quality of life that extends beyond economic profitability falls far short of the kind of true Prosperity worth having.

Pondering Prosperity and GNP

In a 1968 speech, Robert F. Kennedy shared these remarks in a speech at the University of Kansas:

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product… counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Something to ponder when you light your sparklers this year….

Your friends at Partners for Prosperity, Inc. wish you a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous Fourth of July.

This entry was posted in ECONOMIC TRENDS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, PROSPERITY MINDSET. Bookmark the permalink.

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