Ask most business leaders what keeps them awake at night, in rare cases will the answer be the issues of process, technology or numbers- certainly, it is complicated and challenging. What keeps business leaders awake rather usually comes down to the ‘people’ stuff- how to make customers loyal to their brand and how to grow their customer base. By this, they need to understand the complex and often contradictory nature of human beings and the world. Arguably, literature has a lot to say about the world in general. Often when reading to detail they provide insight and impact the reader. Much great literature captures everything to detail that can help the world achieve sustainable development in various aspects. Different literary texts challenge and lay bare the simplistic ways and behaviour of people that does not seem to make sense in a classic economic analysis.
Businesses have enormous challenges from a sustainability perspective. When it comes to the preparedness of most businesses to embrace sustainability it becomes complex. To most, it is a matter of demand by the customers. Most customers seek brands that integrate sustainability in their business strategy. No business leader has a magic wand or a silver bullet that knows all the answers to how to successfully integrate business and sustainability. It prompts businesses to think of new ways to make things possible.
Traditional business tools and approaches aren’t always helpful when trying to understand and talk about motivation and consumer behaviour. There is an increase in the realization that if you focus on the technical and mechanical dynamics on how to run a company the business will not be sustainable. All it does is lead a company without room for transformation. It creates no room for understanding the consumer’s mind. Better dialogues between disciplines should be created.
Human behaviour sits at the core of the major challenges facing businesses in today’s world. You won’t find solutions on how to become sustainable in novels and sonnets or even essays on literary criticisms but you will find fresh approaches to the questions. For instance, different perspectives on the complexity of decisiveness in businesses can be found in the Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The protagonist, “hamlet” spends too much time thinking and plotting on how to seek revenge that he does not act. How does this aid business you may ask? Well, most businesses have seen the need to embrace sustainability in their strategy but some are still battling on the decisions that centre around the same. In his words. Hamlet says, “and enterprises of great pitch and moment……turn awry And lose the name of action.” Businesses can draw lessons from the effects of indecisiveness from hamlet and how this affects the business in general.
We need businesses to flourish; we had better engage properly with it and help it engage with us if we are to achieve business sustainability. This entails turning our thinking upside down. Sophocles’ Antigone makes it clear for businesses on how the tension between individual action and fate can impact the business. Most consumers are for sustainability. Eventually, the fate of business success will be determined by the extent to which it embraces sustainability.
The complexity of the consumer’s behaviour needs is broken down for business success. Understanding the needs of consumers helps push the business towards its success. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart talks about the complexity of the Igbo society in Nigeria and offer a different eye. Business leaders can use this to draw lessons on how assumptions centred on customer base or other business aspects can affect any business.
Different kinds of personality types with different interests are needed to make an organization successful is the forefront of any business. The task to make businesses sustainable may seem impossible, quixotic even but if we start thinking about what businesses can learn from literature and humanities in general then we might be a step ahead to reducing the complexity centred around businesses.