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Practical Philosophy and Integration in Business

Why is practical philosophy important? A business can be and is very complex. You need to think of product development, marketing, sales, HR, hiring people, develop a strategy, focus on the tasks at hand, and make important decisions…. These are rational components that a business needs to operate.

However, if the rational component is not aligned with the heart component, you can have a sustainable business, but you’ll have a business where your people are not engaged, not motivated, and don’t go the extra mile, they make decisions with a lack of integrity, they cut corners, practice office politics to achieve business results.

No one wants to work in such a company.

Since we live and work in a very competitive environment, each day something can happen that takes your business off course. The question when that happens is, are you able to keep integrity during times of crisis? Easier said than done.

I personally believe that we are in an era of transition whereas businesses used to be seen as a source of employment, safety and security, and profitability. Businesses of the future will be businesses based on a vision, a purpose, a future that goes beyond the company that does well for people and society and is profitable.

You can see this also more and more in the younger generation, young people who would like to work for a company that is driven by a purpose instead of solely a job to make money.

In order to create such a business, a business needs to align its strategy with its values, its vision with profitability, its hiring process with people who are on purpose. It’s about aligning the inner and outer world for a business. That’s where practical philosophy comes into play.

A real sustainable business is a business that is able to bridge the gap between realism and idealism.

In order to bridge that gap, a business needs to go beyond just the rational process of hiring people, making sales, and just focus on profitability. The component that needs to be added is the internal world, the world of values, integrity, intuition, vision.

To bridge that gap ‘’self-awareness’’ is needed, because self-awareness allows for a better quality of decision making. In order to increase self-awareness better thought patterns are needed and it’s exactly a practical philosopher that helps leaders improve their thought patterns.

An article was published by the guardian which highlighted that executives in Silicon Valley in terms of crisis should refer to a lawyer a coach and, or a philosopher.

A business constantly needs to adapt between the daily challenges and keeping the right vision and purpose. This is not an easy task. It’s easy to lose focus on the greater picture, therefore a practical philosopher who asks better questions can help keep leaders on track with their individual and company’s goals whilst achieving business results.

Practical Philosophy and innovation

Innovation is crucial if a business wants to stay at the top of its game.

However, there is a big difference between innovation and adaptation. Innovation is so important for companies because it gives a competitive advantage, brings something new to the market, it helps the company grow. But in reality what we see a lot of adaptation instead of real innovation. We take an existing product and we adapt it.

There are two worlds that need to align for REAL innovation to happen. Your inner world and your outer world.

Adaptation comes from the mind. You look at a product or service and think about how you can improve, adapt or make it better. This is the thought process.

Innovation comes from the heart. This is your inner world. Your inner world has no thought, it is all feeling.

When you are connected with your heart ‘’innovation emerges from within’’, it emerges from ‘’nothing into something’’. The empty space that is created by going beyond the mind, allows room for the heart to fill with real IDEAS, real INNOVATION. Good examples are Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

The question is where does that come from? Where does this innovation come from?

Your heart contains your purpose, contains your happiness, contains your connection with life.

Because we are fixated so much on the mind, the heart has no chance to speak. Real innovation is not happening. It’s like a continuous catch-up with the market in terms of staying on top of the game. You adapt but there is no uniqueness.

When you work with a practical philosopher to allow yourself for better thinking, to explore new options that you could not see before, real INNOVATION is happening. Because you create something out of nothing.

That’s why it’s of utter importance to really INNOVATE, to leave space between creation and thinking and allowing ideas and answers to emerge from within you, that is real practical philosophy.

If you need more innovative ideas, give yourself space and time to go beyond the mind and see what emerges from within… it is the only way to find a real balance between success, purpose, and sustained profitability.

Practical Philosophy and business values

Values in business are key to its success. Values are a part of the compass of a company. They basically define ‘’this is how we do things’’. And how you do things creates your corporate culture. And your corporate culture has an impact on the happiness of your employees and also the end business results.

In a company you have so-called ‘’rational values’’ and ‘’emotional values’’. The values themselves are the same but the way you adopt them will make a huge difference in your decision-making and results.

For example, a one really important value for a company is ‘’integrity’’. Imagine you have this value on the wall. But if your employees don’t know or don’t care what the values are or the values are never integrated into the business, it becomes a rational value. You understand the value in the mind but it is not integrated into the heart. An example could be ‘’yes we have a value of integrity but we cut corners to get things done’’.

The other side of values is when the value of ‘’integrity’’ is really adopted in the business process. When people take to heart what the company stands for. In this case, the value becomes an emotional value. And when difficult business decisions have to be made, employees refer back to the values to make the right decision.

Going to the heart and emotion of values is going inside. To communicate the heart and purpose of your business and communicate it to the employees.

People prefer to work for a company with passion, purpose and the right emotional values integrated into the business. It is the responsibility of leadership to communicate those regularly and promote and support people who live by those values.

Practical Philosophy to increase the quality of your decision making

Philosophy for better decision-making is one of the keys to successful leadership. I remember when I was living in China (I lived there for 12 years), I ran a workshop for top leaders for one of the largest companies producing adhesives technologies.

When I walked into the room, there were leaders, directors, fast-thinking, a lot of experience, studied at the best business schools in the world. They didn’t need more knowledge or data. What they wanted was to help them stimulate and facilitate a better way of thinking based on their business challenges using the data at hand.

For example, you have a business challenge that you don’t know how to solve. The first action you need to take is to take a step back from the challenge. Go beyond the mind. Allow reflection and insight to happen through working with someone to help you to reflect on better options to solve the case. And that is what practical philosophers are good at. To bring more awareness to people, to leaders, to businesses, to allow you to be an observer of yourself, to operate from your heart, to go beyond the mind, and then increase the quality of your decision-making.

Often in senior leadership positions, not more knowledge is required, better decision-making is required. In order to make better decisions space between the mind and the heart are necessary. They need a reflection board to bounce ideas and open new avenues of thinking. This is getting more and more adopted now, for example in Harvard Business Review an article was written about the fact that management is more than a science. Science is created from the mind, what management needs is more space to think to connect with the heart.

It’s basically going beyond the mind, putting data aside for a moment, to allow room for reflection, and open the channel for better decision making.

So far for business…

Practical Philosophy as a study and philosophy as a practice in life

When I met one of my coaching clients David (not his real name) a Director of a manufacturing company, he mentioned he had been studying Carl Jung, Aristotle, Socrates, and other philosophies for years so he thought that he was ‘’advanced’’ in understanding life, dealing with challenges and changes. But I felt something is missing. After he shared his story of how his mother was very controlling, his dad was absent when he was a child, and emotions were not shared in his family, I noticed that one thing was missing. EMOTIONAL INTEGRATION.

Integration between mental understanding of philosophies and real emotional application.

The impact on his leadership was that he was not approachable by his team, he was cold and kept his distance from them. He was more living on an island in the company.

What I see a lot is that people use philosophy as a study to understand life and leadership, to get more knowledge about how to lead with integrity, how to lead with the right values, how to make moral decisions. Socrates, Lao Tzu,  Aristotle are some of the greatest philosophers mentioned and quoted in this process.

Philosophies provide great insights, however only studying these philosophies links to mental understanding. To debate what is right and wrong, how we should behave. This is just the rationale.

What I see missing is the application of these philosophies from the inner world on an emotional level.

Most leaders focus on developing leadership skills such as delegation, personal effectiveness, strategic thinking, change management, but rarely does it go deeper.

Real philosophy as a practice is going through life’s challenges healing from a divorce, getting over missing a promotion, healing from a sickness, living in another country, and adapting to local changes. Launching a product, failing, relaunching it, and becoming successful.

In order to achieve all of this, we need to change the quality of our decision-making and our thinking.

Real practical philosophy in decision making is the ability to see the mind as an observer to allow space between the mind and the heart for new insights to emerge. These new insights come from empty space, out of nothing. That is real philosophy. So for business leaders to increase the quality of decision making it is of utmost importance to leave space for reflection, to look at a broader perspective of options to then make the right decision. This was done before by coaches and is now also being supported by practical philosophers and facilitators.

The famous quote from Rene Descartes ‘I think therefore I am’’ is not correct and has to be rewritten, the quote should be ‘’I think therefore I am, NOT’’. Because when you think you are the mind and the mind is an illusion, the mind does not exist. You are not your mind, you are your heart.

What really exists is the heart the spirit, that is who you are. So If you think who you are, you are just attached to an illusion. Go beyond thinking to connect with your heart, to then operate from your heart and use the mind as a tool to implement your values, your purpose.

A practical philosophy in life and a philosophy in business are still integrated.

However, your life experiences from childhood up until where you are today have a huge impact on your leadership.

If your father was very controlling, it is possible that you as a leader are very controlling. If your mother was not emotionally available, it is possible you are not emotionally available to your employees.

What we fail to do and see as leaders is integrate both worlds, to still see our life and leadership as separate even though they are connected and have a huge impact on who we are being.

The journey of life is the journey towards self-realization. In order to realize oneself you go through often difficult life experiences that will teach us lessons, that will help us to become more authentic, to be more human, to become who we really are.

I can only say from my own story of living in China for 12 years, building my own business there, publishing books, then moving to Spain, started teaching in Spanish as a Belgian that all the challenges made me more humble which then reflected in how I was leading myself and my team. It’s only then that I realized how important it is to align your inner and outer worlds so I created the Suited Monk for leaders to apply practical tools to help them on their life journey and become more effective in business by growing their inner self on an emotional, mental and spiritual level.

Practical Philosophy as a way of living

A real successful leader is able to integrate his philosophy of life with his life experiences together with his application of philosophy in business to allow for better decision making.

For an individual, your life comes first and your business second.

For a business, business comes first and your life comes second.

If you are able to integrate both for yourself and your teams, you will be happy internally and successful externally, have highly engaged teams, a collaborative workforce, and achieve higher profitability and you will be happy on the journey of your life.

Bridging the gap between philosophy and life and philosophy and business brings mental, emotional, and spiritual balance. In the end, it’s what we are all looking for. The journey towards self-realization and to live a happy and sustainable life, whilst achieving our business success.

The question is where are you on the journey in your life and your business?

If today you feel a lack of mental, emotional, or spiritual balance, you can take this 2-minute questionnaire designed by Prof. Dr. Mike Thomson from CEIBS (China Europe International Business School) that will help you identify the Gap between your internal and external worlds. Take your free check-up here now.

Raf Adams

#philosophy #leadership #practicalphilosophy # philosophyinbusiness

I am a practical philosopher and write thought pieces and provide perspective on life ad leadership to help leaders to increase the quality of their decision making. By doing so, achieve mental, emotional and spiritual balance be more effective and make a positive difference for themselves, their teams, company and society. If you want to fastrack your results right now, click here to get the Suited Monk book or provide it as a gift for a friend or colleague. Yes I want it!


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