If Aristotle Ran General Motors
(Note: This now rare first edition is available in an extremely limited supply, and at a cost of $200 a copy, signed by the author. It can be requested only through a personal email to Tom, sent to TMorris@MorrisInstitute.com. Please include in your request the reason a copy of this first edition is desired, and how it will be used. Requests will be considered, and notification of approved sales granted, in a timely manner, usually within 48 hours. We apologize in advance for any unavailability, and want to thank everyone who has expressed an interest in it.)
What does classical philosophy have to offer modern business? Nothing less than the secrets to building great morale and productivity in any size organization. The great thinkers of the past knew what it would take to motivate people to feel their best and do their best. Excellence is connected with happiness. Aristotle understood it, and we can, too. It's precisely this conception of human attainment that can fuel greatness in the twenty first century.
This is a message that philosopher Tom Morris has delivered to many thousands of executives at major gatherings of leading companies such as Merrill Lynch, Coca Cola, Bayer, and Northwestern Mutual Life.
In the now classic leadership book, If Aristotle Ran General Motors, Tom, who taught philosophy at Notre Dame for fifteen years, shares the knowledge that he has garnered from a lifetime of studying the writings and teachings of history's wisest thinkers and shows how to apply their ideas in today's business environment. Although he frequently draws on the wisdom of Aristotle, Morris also finds inspiration in the teachings of a wide array of thinkers from many different traditions and eras. Throughout these pages we're invited to pause and consider the words of Confucius, Seneca, Saint Augustine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Abraham Lincoln, and many others.
By looking at the inside workings of various kinds of businesses - from GE to Tom's of Maine - we can see why any company that is serious about attaining true excellence must adhere to four timeless virtues first identified by Aristotle more than two thousand years ago: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Unity. Tom makes it clear that the most successful companies encourage a corporate culture that ensures that all interactions among colleagues, employees, bosses, clients, customers, and suppliers are infused with dignity and humanity. Moreover, the book provides clearly stated strategies for how everyone who works can. make these qualities the foundation for their everyday business (and personal) lives.
If Aristotle Ran General Motors presents the most compelling case of any book yet written for a new ethics in business and for a workplace where openness and integrity are the rule rather than the exception. It offers an optimistic vision for the future and a plan for reinvigorating the corporate spirit and bringing the soul back into our professional lives.
A Sample of Reader Comments on This Book:
Dear Tom: Some books that you read are good books and other books change your life. I just completed reading If Aristotle Ran General Motors and it is a life-changing book. Thank you.
I have been through my own personal crisis recently regarding the conflict between my values and those of corporations and found in your book the confirmation of my approach and values. I also found hope for continuing to survive in corporate America as a CPA who had lost any hope of finding a fulfilling career. By having the concepts from your book to apply in the workplace, I believe that I can add a new perspective to what I am "creating" and encouraging others to "create" in order to better the partnership of living well.
Thank you again for a wonderful book.
Dear Dr. Morris: Two years ago I read your book If Aristotle Ran General Motors. I found this to be one of the most inspiring books I have read. Although my profession is in academics, the messages and principles detailed in that book translate directly over to any type of interaction among individuals. I know my leadership has improved through the reading of this book.
Dear Tom: Thank you so much for your insight and clear presentation If Aristotle Ran General Motors. I have used this to present your ideas to my employees and my CEO group. My excitement about the concepts must be overcoming my amateur presentations.
Dear Tom: I saw you speak at last year's Georgia Hospital Association meeting in Amelia Island. It was fantastic. Since then, I have read if Aristotle Ran General Motors, and I want to share the principles with my management team. Thanks for the wisdom. You've stretched my mind in a new direction.
I want to let you know that our office is about to finish discussing the book and the change is amazing. Our staff seems a lot happier now and more content and considerate of each other. Thank you for all your help. Your books have had the most influence on me as a self-trained manager. I just thought you should know you helped us and we all appreciate it.
Tom: You are an innovator of ideas from the realm of philosophy, and communicate those through your writing and speaking in very compelling ways. You tell me stuff that I get to tell to other people, and that is where the interesting interactions are coming from. In that sense we are a team.
What I have to say to people comes from figuring out how to integrate, act on, practice those ideas. In that sense I am a classic Aristotelian. And I couldn?t be prouder of that. And without your work, I don?t believe I could do that. Because you are doing what no one else is really doing. You have transcended the traditional philosopher?s approach and gone to a new level. Read all the contemporary pop philosophers and most of what they have to say is clever, ironic intellectual stuff. What you have to say is about life that blends both the head and the heart. And I?m convinced that your presentations get the kind of response that you books don?t because you are the living embodiment of what you write, and that is what they get on stage.
All this is to say is that your impact gets spread through other people as they share what has impacted them with friends, family and colleagues.
Dear Tom: My fiancée met you at the recent SHRM Conference in Orlando, FL. You autographed your latest book The Art of Achievement for her to give me as a birthday gift. She shared a story with you of how I used your idea of fruit baskets in the workplace and told me you wanted me to share it with you.
While working as a Group Human Resources Manager with an automotive manufacturer, I was asked to create a successful HR organization in a recently acquired company. The organization was a family run business that had neither an effective HR organization nor a culture to support it. The task of creating a progressive organization and managing the change issues inherent with an acquisition seemed daunting at best. At the time I had just finished your book If Aristotle Ran General Motors and read about your idea of fruit baskets. I explained the idea to my newly hired HR Generalist and she thought I had lost my mind. After explaining that this type of ?out of the box? thinking was just what this organization needed, I coaxed her to get in the car with me, run to the local grocery store, and bring back a couple hundred dollars worth of fruit.
When we returned with the fruit, we placed it in bowls on the manufacturing floor. Within minutes, the baskets were empty, and I had a line of people outside my office complaining that everyone had taken all the fruit before they had a chance to get to it. I didn?t want to see this idea fail, so it was back in the car for another load of fruit. After about two or three fruit runs, the realization set in that the fruit wasn?t going away and it didn?t need to be horded in pockets, lockers, and desk drawers. We eventually hired a produce vendor who brought daily fruits runs to the facility and I asked that the rest of my thirteen facilities begin to implement ideas that could help bring the organization to life and smooth the transition.
The idea of the fruit baskets went a long way. Not only was it valuable to that organization during a difficult transition, but it also created a legacy with another HR professional who was able to learn and take a similar passion for making the workplace enjoyable to her next employer.
Thank you for your continuing insight and ideas and know that they are making a difference in organizations.
If Aristotle Ran General Motors
Very rarely does a book of extraordinary insight, expressed in understandable terms, appear. This is one of those books. In it, Thomas Morris applies to everyday business conditions not only the wisdom of Aristotle but also the thoughts of other great philosophers. In doing so, he demonstrates that the ethical way in business helps the firm, the individual, and the economy in general achieve their goals.
Following Aristotle, Morris first observes that each business organization is essentially comprised of people, and, so, the propriety of their relationships determines the success or failure of their organization. This is unusual for a modern book on business ethics, for bookstore shelves are loaded down with so-called business ethics texts that emphasize only the social context of modern enterprise. Firms are constantly derided for not caring about the environment, the poor, and the like. In contrast, Morris recognizes that each person possesses both an individual life and a life of relationships with others. Ethics, therefore, has something to say about the improvement of the individual person in addition to issues of social concern.
The book?s outline follows the four philosophical transcendentals?truth, beauty, goodness, and unity?and Morris demonstrates how the conscious recognition of each helps an organization operate with excellence and its people live happier lives. These transcendentals are helpful guides because each corresponds to a different dimension of human experience. As he explains, the intellectual dimension aims at truth, the aesthetic dimension at beauty, the moral dimension at goodness, and the spiritual dimension at unity. In Morris?s words, "I have become convinced that these four dimensions of experience, and these four foundations of excellence, provide us with the key to both rediscovering personal satisfaction at work and reinventing corporate spirit in our time. They are the key to sustainable corporate excellence because they are the foundations of corporate fulfillment, and they have that status because they are the deepest touchstones for ultimate individual fulfillment and happiness."
The first section deals with truth?not unusual for a follower of Saint Thomas and Aristotle, since both teach that the beginning of any endeavor starts with the recognition of being, or truth. Truth, Morris points out, is the foundation of all human partnerships, and business is essentially human partnerships.
But truth, though foundational, is not enough. Human beings must also have something attractive to motivate them; hence, the need for beauty. Morris argues that workplaces that reflect beauty are more productive and have happier employees. Further, beauty raises the consciousness of employees and gives them a sense of being cared about. Providing a beautiful workplace, however, is an essentially passive activity, though it will transfer itself into the beauty of performance. As Morris points out, "In the act of the performance itself ? there is a kind of beauty that can be experienced only by the performer, from the kinesthetic sense of her own movement to the inner awareness of artistic ?making? as the ancient Greeks might have said. The relevance of this to the business world is extremely important." It is this application of both active and passive beauty to the commercial world that transforms business into a beautiful act. In Morris?s words, "The structures of business are, then, some of our most basic tools for the performance art of life. This is the beauty of business."
Doing beautiful things in a beautiful environment, though, is still not sufficient. Human beings must be convinced of the essential goodness of what they are doing. According to Morris, "When people work in conditions of perceived unfairness and unkindness, they fall into a self-protective mode. Like turtles, they crawl into their shells and hide. They are not motivated to take positive risks, to dig deep inside to discover all their talents and bring those talents to bear in creative ways on the challenges of corporate business." Businesses that pursue goodness build that most essential component of all human relationships?trust. Without trust, business relationships collapse into suspicion, which prevents the collaborative partnerships that are the foundation of business activity, and unethical practices prevent business activities from working toward any lasting good.
Yet, the true, the beautiful, and the good are still not enough. Human beings must perceive a sense of wholeness and that they are part of some greater thing?in other words, unity, the spiritual dimension of work. As Morris points out, the heart of spirituality is connectedness, and the aim of connectedness is unity. Interestingly, Morris shows that this concept of unity leads to the idea of the worth and value of the human individual. Uniqueness and union are really the two sides of the same coin: "By respecting and nurturing the twin needs for a sense of uniqueness and a feeling of union among those around us, we help ourselves as well as our associates to attain that form of corporate spirit that is the wellspring of happiness, fulfillment, and quality of the highest order in everything that we do."
After reading it for review, I assigned If Aristotle Ran General Motors as required reading to my business ethics class, taught every summer for the graduate students at Walsh College. It has proven to be one of the best parallel texts to the Nicomachean Ethics that I have found. The strength of thinkers like Aristotle and Aquinas is that they stress principles that students can, in turn, apply to everyday situations. Sadly, it is often difficult for the contemporary student to understand these authors.
Morris?s book is a real solution to this problem. He displays a wonderful knack for presenting difficult philosophical concepts in modern language, which energizes the student?s understanding of them. For example, in discussing the interrelationship of human action and happiness, Morris helpfully explains that happiness should be seen as an activity rather than a static concept. His demonstration of the importance for business practice of what Edmund Burke called the "moral imagination" is, likewise, quite useful. Finally, he masterfully shows the student the importance of the formation of habits and their role in the art of living well?one of the primary lessons of the Nicomachean Ethics. For students of any age, there are few better companions to Aristotle, Aquinas, and the other great thinkers of the past than If Aristotle Ran General Motors.
Harry C. Veryser is chairman of the Department of Economics and Finance at Walsh College, chairman of the Board of Directors of Stampings, Inc., and secretary of Perch Research, International.
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