Why You Should Be a Bright Company

Too many people are miserable at work and it’s time for a change.

You can look at any number of statistics that show that only about a third of employees are switched on at work. You can read books by researchers who are seeing connections between work environment and health issues. You can look down the hall at your workplace. Unless you work in a very unusual place, you’ll find quite a few ambivalent folks and some very unhappy people just punching out another day or week or month or year. They’re not particularly proud of what their organization is doing or of their contribution to it. Leave them in this situation long enough and they may even act in ways they’re not proud of themselves.

Deep down, they feel trapped by a perverse set of unwritten corporate rules.

Would any of these be posted on the walls of a company you know if they told the truth:

  • Don’t trust anyone. Turn your back for a second and they’ll vote you off the island.
  • Be calculating and cunning. Play the angles and play everyone.
  • Keep up your guard, conceal who you are behind a thick armor of bravado.
  • Take credit for your colleagues’ ideas–they’ll take credit for yours
  • Expect the worst of everyone, especially your leaders.


I know this isn’t everyone or every organization. There are exceptions. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of them.  It’s those exceptional people and bright organizations that fascinate me. I call them bright companies.

What’s does a bright company look like?

It’s a Chicago-based pizza chain who decided to put a shop in the middle of one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago and left it there even when it didn’t achieve the profits they had hoped for.

It’s one of the leading orchards in the US that has built housing, child care, and healthcare facilities for its workforce.

It’s a health insurance executive and her team who figured out how to use a business problem to save the lives of members and enrich the lives of call center staff.

It’s a flour company that radically changed how it was governed so that it can survive in a challenging marketplace and contribute generously to its community.


Maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s your company that’s swimming upstream, trying to make a better workplace and a better world.  I’m not finished studying these people and companies, but I see some common traits among companies.

Bright companies run by a different set of unwritten rules:

  • Be generous. You have enough so you can afford to share.
  • Be human. Technology is fantastic but in the end, but there’s no app that can beat humanity.
  • Be courageous. No one does anything great without sticking their neck out.
  • Be straight up. Spin is demoralizing and breaks trust. Plus, your people are way too smart to fall for slogans. Keep it real.


These organizations and leaders aren’t perfect. They have unanswered questions. They have flaws. They know they haven’t arrived yet. Sometimes they feel the tension all practical idealists do, having to choose between their principles and the world’s expectations of financial performance. But they are committed to being something distinctive, something bright. They’re engaged in the work and they’re engaging our world in ways that serve the common good.

Best of all, when bright companies collaborate in support of noble purpose, they start to see how work can help them become who they were created to be. And that brings to daily life that most precious commodity: joy.

These are the kinds of companies and people I want to spend my time serving. Maybe you do too. If so, let’s get busy.


Be bright.


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