Esther Perel, the author and psychotherapist, has written State of Affairs, a book about love and infidelity. She says that one of the problems of our time is that the institution of marriage has changed. Before, we used to expect marriage to be a good practical match and accepted that love could happen outside the marriage. Marriage and love were not expected to be one and the same thing.
With the age of romanticism and individualism, marriage has become a state in which one person is expected to fulfil many roles: my one-and-only, my soulmate, my friend, my lover. Never before has the marriage partner been expected to fulfil so many roles.
In a way businesses are going through a similar process. They are expected not just to make money but also to bring meaning, fulfil our lives and expectations, and create a sense of belonging.
Not every business needs to do this. There is place for doing business in all sorts of ethical ways. ‘Meaning’ is a word that embraces the way things can be done. Asking businesses to fulfil our lives is like asking our marriage to make sense of who we are. What makes businesses and marriages vibrant is that they are all so different. There are no recipes.
But there is something that we can ask of businesses: that they offer authenticity and ethical behaviour. Meaning and belonging are pluses.