The last three years have been so relentlessly dismal — a global pandemic followed by the invasion of Ukraine — that it is tempting to idealize the old days. Just as the survivors of World War I looked back on the Edwardian era as one long country house weekend (“Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?”), so we observers of Ukraine’s agonies may think of the pre-Wuhan world as one of peace and prosperity. Yet in fact it was an era of sustained disappointment punctuated by the occasional crisis.
There is no shortage of candidates for the title of the most dangerous business idea of the moment. Management-by-algorithm may remove what humanity there is left in the corporate world. The office-less future may dissolve workers into angst-ridden atoms. I want to suggest a less obvious contender for the title: “social purpose.”