“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you” —Friedrich Nietzsche
Business is a social construct. Like Church or Academia or the Military or Government. We have needs and we come together in groups to meet those needs. Needing security we construct the Military. Needing companionship we construct Church. Needing to determine a social contract above all other social contracts we construct Government. Needing shelter, food, transport, means of exchange and entertainment, we construct Business. This doesn’t mean that we do it well. It also does not mean that it is real.
Most of us will vaguely remember being 13 years old and the existential angst that goes with a blossoming mind becoming aware of the uncertainties of existence. By 23 we have mostly forgotten that this ever bothered us. By 73 or 80 or 93 we are just glad to still have existence. Imagine receiving an email from a friend seeking help answering a question posed by her 13-year-old daughter, Ruby: “Humanity is a failure because we think we know the difference between failure and success. That’s a fatal flaw. But the fact that I just thought of this, proves that what I just said is true. So what do I do?!”
Is there some lesson for business and finance in my reply?
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Vincent Neate is a Partner with KPMG LLP (UK) and the Head of Sustainability Services where he is responsible for the Sustainability Services Practice. His experience is in working with international businesses across a broad range of issues encompassing governance, finance and risk.