What’s does a bright company look like?

A Chicago-based pizza chain that 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.

A leading US orchard that built housing, child care, and healthcare facilities for its workforce.

A health insurance company and one executive’s team that figured out how to use a business problem to save the lives of members and enrich the lives of call center staff.

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.

Too many people are miserable at work and that misery is negatively impacting your bottom line.

To get the best out of everyone, you need people coming into the office excited and engaged. Statistics 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?


  • 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, because they’re not thinking of anyone but themselves.

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

Bright companies operate by a different set of unwritten rules:


  • Be generous. You have enough; you can afford to share.
  • Be human. Technology is fantastic but in the end, there’s no app that can beat personal contact.
  • 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.


No organization or leader is perfect; bright companies and bright leaders recognize this. 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 we want to spend our time serving. Maybe you do too. If so, let’s get busy.


Be bright.