Kindness: Why it’s essential for your business – marketing guru Faith Popcorn, SA business expert Jon Foster-Pedley

Listen in on the BizNews conversation with legendary trend futurist Faith Popcorn – described as the Nostradamus of marketing – and Henley Business School Africa director and Dean Jonathan Foster-Pedley, who discuss whether the pandemic has made the world more accepting of the need for kindness. The author of The Popcorn Report says it is critically important for brands to demonstrate that they care. Foster-Pedley cautions against toxic kindness and explores how to get kindness right in the business world. Popcorn and Foster-Pedley provide fresh thinking on corporate compassion. – Jackie Cameron

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Faith Popcorn on the concept of happiness: 

We’ve been having delicious chats with Professor Foster-Pedley about people’s search for just plain happiness. It’s kind of mood modulation. That’s the reason marijuana is getting big. We’re talking about, not happiness from the soul, but induced happiness. Mushrooms, alcohol have gone through the roof. What are we looking for? We’re looking to change our mood…To become happy. In the end, people start to understand that it’s how you receive what’s been thrown at you, more than trying to change what’s been thrown at you.

At Harvard, the most attended class was a class in happiness. We’re searching for it desperately. We’re lonely. We’re even lonely without Covid being in our pod. We’re living in a square box, we’re fighting with our spouses – divorce is through the roof. There seems to be certain human entitlement to happiness? How come only babies can giggle?

Jonathan Foster-Pedley on happiness in business:

Businesses exist to create value for people. Some of that is addictive value, some of it is consumerist. But deep down, what we’re looking for is prosperous societies that give us a decent living. Just having things – as we all know, may be nice to have – but that’s not proper living. The whole idea of what makes a worthwhile life becomes really important in business these days. Especially when you see what businesses and governments do to make life not worthwhile, in terms of the unintended consequences of pollution, species disruption, and pure addiction to work and acquisition.

So business schools have become very interested in prosperity rather than profit. What makes for a prosperous life, especially when you’ve got South Africa with so many poor people who are smart and can come out of that poor quality of life into something better? So business schools have woken up to the idea that they are connected to humanity at large. We are becoming more and more interested in what makes a quality life.

Faith Popcorn on corporate social responsibility:

I hate corporate social responsibility. I think they built a wall so defended, so fraught with lawyers, so deep and impenetrable – such a big, tall wall that they can hide behind. Does that arose an increased heartbeat or a passion in you when you hear corporate social responsibility?

Jonathan Foster-Pedley on repression in the workplace:

Repression is never happiness. How can you be happy if you are repressed? The question is, how much of me is welcome at work? Now, if what is welcome at work is some little construct who is ever so polite, how are you ever going to get those people being creative? Because creativity is a voluntary act. Look at Faith. She’s oozing creativity. But it’s not through repression and hiding herself.

Faith Popcorn on kindness as a money-making opportunity:

I think the money-making opportunity is, if you’re sincerely kind in the workplace, your people will perform better. Some of them will take advantage of that, but they should go if they do. But when we start manufacturing and selling kindness – ‘oh, we’re so kind, we’re so good and we gave away a pair of socks for everyone’ – okay, that’s nice. But you should be doing that anyway and you shouldn’t have to mention it. I don’t want to see anyone capitalising on kindness. It sort of takes it away.

Jonathan Foster-Pedley on the secret of happiness:

You get more out of building things for the community. That’s the real secret of happiness. You get more out of thriving and giving and building. You just do.

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