At the intersection of Science, Business and Ancient Wisdom

Business

According to Wikipedia, Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing, buying, selling, or distributing products (such as goods and services). Simply put, it is any commercial, industrial, or professional activity for the sake of profit. In contrast, charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can work as a commercial enterprise but may aim at a social cause rather than profit.

Economic and commercial activities are an integral part of the community and an excellent source of income for individuals and the state. Public and private enterprises form the economic backbone of most countries in the world. The economy is important for a well-functioning society. However, we ask here - what are the real values that drive business activities? Are we merely operating for profit only? Do business cares about a genuine contribution to the well-being of society and the planet? The situations we are facing nowadays, the climate crisis (1), the mass extinction of animal species (2), the rising inequalities between rich and poor in our societies (3), the contamination with pesticides of groundwater and crops, all show that for most business, the goal is to make a profit only, without paying enough attention to the consequences for society and environment. On the other side, according to the consulting company Deloitte, more and more so-called "social entrepreneurs" are rising around the globe that have as purpose to develop, fund, and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. (4) This gives those businessmen or so called "social entrepreneurs" a sense of fulfillment and pride. 

The performance on the stock markets defines the value of many companies. This has led to abuse of the workforce, natural resources, and the environment, as well as a disregard for human values and ethics (5). Modern history is full of such examples. The desperate call of our times is for sustainable and ethical companies. But how can business leaders realign their thinking to develop sustainable, ethical, and social companies? How are we to move forward in this global economy? 

Science

Science has enabled the enormous technological and material progress of mankind. The systematic analysis and study of the physical and natural elements of the world have enormously enriched our knowledge. Its breadth required the division into physics, chemistry, biochemistry, astronomy, and many other fields. Enormous research and innovations were initiated in the various scientific faculties, which over the centuries have led to the development of countless technologies, products, and services.

What science unravels or invents is nowadays commercially exploited by industry. Scientists discovered molecules and their properties, X-Rays, invented the internal combustion engine and companies used them to build pharmaceuticals, X-ray machines, or cars. Scientific research promotes the growth and development of companies by providing new technologies and insights into materials. The companies in turn invest in research and development to expand the reach of scientific research. Humanity has benefited from this symbiotic relationship (6).

In addition to good and useful inventions, scientists have also invented the atomic bomb and biochemical weapons. Can we redirect the strength and capabilities of science purely towards sustainable and ethical goals? 

Ancient Wisdom

Today's knowledge from science is very profound and powerful, and its use in the economy to produce profit if not well directed, can go astray and wreak havoc. This has been the reality in the last decades. Only when power is ruled with wisdom does it lead to sustainable, happy, and noble goals. Wisdom directs power in the right direction. Is there a forgotten place (beyond the places we usually search for knowledge), where thousands of years of pure experience have been gathered and transformed into advice for human life and behavior?

We know of at least two such places. One of those places is nature itself, the organization of life on earth, and the complex webs it has formed for a perfect fit for all organisms that are involved - a perfect co-creation and co-evolution from which we have much to learn. Some institutions have already acknowledged this amazing pool of knowledge we can learn from (7) and are using it to drive innovation in Design and Engineering.

The other forgotten places where we have access to thousands of years of pure experience, knowledge, and wisdom are small indigenous tribes. All around the globe, such tribes exist that transmit knowledge over generations and generations and generations and have kept traditions alive that are enrooted in thousands of years of pure experience of (not only human) life.

Shamanism is one widespread manifestation of ancient indigenous wisdom. It is believed to be as old as mankind and scientific evidence for its practice has been available for at least the last 12,000 years (8). In Shamanism, which is practiced on all continents of the earth, wisdom means " to know the origin of everything". Shamanism is derived from the word shaman. According to Wikipedia, "Sa" in the Manchu-Tungusian Western language of Siberia means "to know" or "to be exalted", and therefore "shaman" literally means "one who knows" or "one who is exalted". A shaman is able to navigate through an altered state of consciousness to gain access to information for the benefit of the community, and its environment. Shamans firmly believe that the whole universe is connected and sacred. Therefore every action of the shaman is aimed at universal improvement.

The Intersection

The connection between science and business is in our world highly rational, objective, analytical, objective, linear, and ego-centric. Therefore, any scientific development or invention that has the potential to make a profit is an enticement for a company to tackle it. Similarly, the scientific field would be more likely to take up research (by being granted money) to develop that which has the potential to be commercially explored. The overall impact on individuals, community, environment, and the universe as a whole is rarely taken into account. Businesses are operated with the primary intention of financial gain.

The integration of ancient indigenous wisdom into our current mix of science and business brings values, meaning, and purpose to our companies. It brings a long-term perspective to decision making and project execution, which leads to a greater probability of environmentally and universally sound decisions. The ideology and practice of shamanism, which is deeply rooted in naturalism, is inherently averse to anything that disturbs the delicate ecological, social, and emotional balance of the universe. 

Knowledge and practices from indigenous wisdom traditions will lead to the stability and sustainability of our companies and our economy. We sincerely look up to leaders in society to bring this humanitarian and sustainable concern to business and science and help them to implement it in their context.

Athena Wisdom Institute AG is engaged in the development and implementation of Sustainable Leadership Programs that combine modern knowledge with ancient wisdom for a better future. Simone Junod, the founder of the Athena Wisdom Institute AG, has contributed to the financial operations of various companies as a leader, is a certified business coach and consultant, and also carries ancient indigenous knowledge as a wisdom teacher. In order to lead a more humane, caring, responsible, and sustainable existence, we must bring ancient wisdom to each individual, society, and organisations. We invite everyone, especially community and business leaders, to engage with us through our online and face-to-face seminars to learn how we can dream, shape, and work towards a better world for ourselves and future generations.