A little while ago, I was asked to define what was meant by ‘quality growth’. Here are my thoughts:
In purely professional terms, in my view, ‘quality growth’ brings together a blended value proposition that
has at its heart not only the triple bottom line – economic, social, environmental – but achieves these goals within the context of democratic, values-based leadership. And, by democratic, I do not mean simply political democracy, but a fair and balanced participatory approach to leadership and governance, in the personal and the professional sphere, in corporations, the arts, the non-profit sector and in civil society more generally.
Having lived in China through a period of extraordinary economic ‘growth’, I have been challenged to think through the complexity of this idea. Starved for so long of the ability to make money through the capitalist system that the rest of the world enjoyed for so long, it is natural that the Chinese people should be striving forward in bettering their material standard of living. Whilst we have concerns about the sustainability of China’s growth considering it’s environmental impact, it is understandable, surely, for a nation to want to build better homes for their families, educate their children and travel the world. Yet, in my view, China has an opportunity to also be a leader in finding ways to do this in a more sustainable fashion and there is evidence that the Chinese people are indeed seeking to find ways to do this.
To me, however, growth should fundamentally be synonymous with true progress. Too often, growth is valued simply as a means in itself, the constant pursuit of more, greater, bigger, better. And it is usually valued in solely material terms. It seems to me, though, that when we nurture the growth of a child, a company, a relationship or a garden, we are expectant, joyful of every evidence of the forward movement of this idea. The first step taken, a contract won, the pink rose unfolding after a harsh winter. These are the things through which we measure the true growth, or progress, of an idea.
My own work with bottom-of-the-pyramid populations in China has demonstrated how the desire for progress in life in a broader context is the true motivator that lies at the heart of ‘quality growth’. When a migrant woman tells me that her job at Hua Dan has not only enabled her to buy a house for her family, lifting them out of poverty, but also created a context for her to make a contribution and lead a purposeful life, I see growth and progress in a larger light.
In my own life, it has often been hard to quieten the voices that clamour around me, dictating what ‘growth’ should be. I have found, so often, that it is purely growth defined in numbers. There is the amount of money you should be earning, the size of house you own, how big your company is, the right age to get married, when to retire, etc…..these are all indicators of ‘success’ as they are depicted in our world today.
It is easy to allow ourselves to be defined by these metrics. However, I have found that when I focus more on the expression of love, authenticity, fearlessness, contribution, equality for all, in my life and in my professional journey, all unfolds to allow for a healthy, balanced sense of progress that meets all needs. I am no longer prisoner to an artificial metric that states how much something is ‘worth’, including myself, reducing the conversation to a simple transaction. I am transformed by the understanding of my own unique contribution to the conversation. By thinking more in terms of what I have to GIVE, not what I have to GET, I am propelled forward – and receive in abundance resources to sustain that ‘quality growth’ and true progress.
This surely is a metric that we could all use, individuals, governments and corporations alike, to define true ‘progress’.
How do you define quality growth and true progress in YOUR life?