Grace – Applying it to business models
I don’t really have an April’s Fools Day joke. The whole WEEK OF LOVE~~~~~~ is for real. Hippies not included.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
– Luke 15:7-10 (KJV)
The above parable is the one about the woman and her 10 coins. It’s about a women who had 10 coins, lost one and rejoiced when she found her lost coin. When this was written, the 10 coins were actually a day’s wages. Losing a coin could potentially mean you would go hungry for a meal, at most.
It also precedes one of the most famous and recognized parables: The parable of the prodigal son.
How it went was something like this: A father had 2 sons. One wanted his share of the estate to go have fun. His father gave him his share. The son went out into the world, and lost it all. A famine then came into the land, and he was forced to eventually take care of pigs. He was so hungry he wanted to eat the food that was meant for the pigs. He then realized that he was a fool to have left his father’s home, where even the servants had enough to eat. He decides to go home, not as his son, but to ask for employment. When he got home, he humbly apologized to his father for being irresponsible and that he was not fit to be his son. His father, on the other hand, was so overjoyed that his wayward son, whom he took for as dead, was back alive, albeit thinner and stank of pigs. A party was held, and he was restored to his rightful place. The other son, not exactly happy at seeing his brother being treated in this manner, refused to attend the party. The father had to explain why the party was necessary.
Keep in mind that the story was told to the Jews, specifically to the Pharisees. I’m not going into the intricacies of first-century AD/CE politics (because I don’t know it) or why was the story needed, but I will tell you these 2 points.
1. Pigs are considered to be not kosher (Jews don’t really eat pork, because it is, uh, not relevant to their interests.), so in saying that the prodigal son took care of pigs, the author of the parable was pretty much say much saying he was filthy spiritually, as well as physically.
2. The original story had a much different ending. The father sneered at the prodigal, locked him out, and in effect, disowned his son. The community then praised the father for upholding family values. Keep in mind that this is 1st-century AD/CE we’re talking about here.
But what’s that got to do with the animé industry, you may ask. Or even the music and movie and software industry? Well, it’s got everything to do with those industries, and then some.
I’ve been paying attention to the whole COPYRIGHTS COPYRIGHTS LOL fracas since the RIAA took Napster to court. That was either in 1999 or 2000, my mind’s rather fuzzy on the actual date. Since that success, companies feeling threatened by the ‘power’ of the Internet has either threatened it. If it’s not the RIAA and the MPAA dealing with wayward customers, it’s people like Zac Berstchy and the Japanese Government/ISPs condemning people who download fansubs, calling them hurtful names, or even shady businessmen like Peter Go and Stephen Sing threatening people to ‘fess up to doing wrong or suffer the consequences. And this just in: Creative Labs’ deliciously stupid PR move that could doom them for good. In effect, they’re acting like the father in the original version of the prodigal son: doing their best to disown the wayward customer in order to reap either praise or short-term profit.
How do the masses react? Ironically but predictably, they react in the same manner as the companies do, only with more hate and vitriol. Flaming in forums, heated arguments on slashdot, angry blog posts, and boycotts. And nothing is done about their habits and downloads.
And the cycle continues until someone important either realizes their folly or kills off the masses. Such is the way of the world.
However, all is not lost.
The parable of the prodigal son is one of forgiveness and restoration. Why not apply it to the business world?
The company-customer relationship is extremely strained right now, partly because of the Internet, and partly because of the boneheadedness of the corporations. Both sides do not realize that they are not just prone to making mistakes, but also are prone to do so and justify their wrongful actions.
Are the customers right to download the company’s stuff off the Internet, modding their drivers, making fansubs, etc? In their eyes, perhaps they are, but according to the law, they are not. However, the companies are also doing the wrong thing by going after the people who put food on their tables by becoming legalistic and throwing the book at them. That is also the wrong thing to do. Legally, it is right for them to do so, but I ask a question: Would it be right for you to go after your customers even though the law says you can?
The apostle Paul put it the best:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
-Romans 7:7-13 (NIV)
What’s Paul here really saying? Simple really. The law is all good, but we humans pervert the law in a way befitting our sinful natures. Which is pretty much the case we see in today’s society.
The customers, even though they know they are breaking the law (by downloading [insert item causing conflict here]), use the law to justify their actions. The companies, again, knowing their customers have broken the law, use the law to punish them (which is good), but in reality are using the law to justify their own greed (which is BAD.)
Instead of being the father in the original prodigal son story, why not be the father in the new prodigal son story? We all know that changing human nature is impossible short of massive genocide, so why not forgive the masses for doing wrong?
I’m not advocating a massive propaganda campaign meant to guilt-trip people here, it does not work and might backfire on you. What I’m advocating here is the total dropping of the issue here and now. You can’t fight human nature with lawsuits and threats unless you plan to act on them, so why not drop appealing to the people who will never in a million years buy your stuff and work on the people who WILL buy your stuff? Listening to your customers, implementing their suggestions when it seems sensible, hiring them if they are better and are not employed to your competitors…
If you make your customers feel loved and honored, they’ll treat you the same way. Sometimes, a good deed does go a long way.
Grace is indeed one of the hardest things to implement in the business world. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to do as I say, but hey, getting the word out is also just as good.