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Quakers and Business Group
Promoting Quaker values in Business and the Workplace

Q&B Gathering 2017 - Report

Quaker Business Method (QBM): A gift from Quakers to Contemporary Business?

Saturday 6th May, Jesus Lane FMH - Cambridge

At Jesus Lane, Cambridge on 6th May, 2017, Rachael Muers, Nick Burton, Graham Ralph, George Gawlinski and Roland Carn gave presentations, sandwiched by workshop discussions and explored Quakers and Business Gathering 2017’s topic of The Quaker Business Method: A Gift from Quakers to Contemporary Business.

Disturbing Surprise
Fifty Quakers and non-Quakers spent a day working on "a gift from Quakers to contemporary business". Over the centuries we Quakers have given the world our values and principles. They are out there working today. There is much still to do, but the success is clear.

We have been less successful with sharing our core business practice, which enables and activates the rest. Through the day we reluctantly and disturbingly toyed with the idea that we are not ready to share, because we don’t have a clear vision and understanding of what our core business practice is. One contributor crystallised the idea as understanding and using ‘wisdom' - a practical and a philosophical issue.

Our core business practice is simple, we all understand it, it’s practiced faithfully. Discussion, then a speaker, more speakers and more discussion, showed this is a big assumption. It is disturbing to have a belief challenged and an unwelcome surprise to find reality is not as one thought it was.

The workshop discussions and the plenary sessions showed dozens of different aspects of our practice: theological topics, interesting intellectual ideas crying out for discussion and exploration, practical features and experience to explore and test.

I heard contributors consumed with questions of principle and questions about values. I heard contributions of experience and embodiment. I heard differences in culture and language. I heard clear differences between those of us from business and non-Quaker traditions with Quakers and academics.

We heard how the academic business literature is beginning to be interested in what we do and how we do it. There are three empirical studies with the prospect of more, encouraged by the Quakers and Business Group.

We heard from business people that the business world is interested in mindfulness, the 'triple bottom line' idea and that some organisations are offering expensive training courses on working with people and many other ‘alternative' practices. These movements both parallel and reflect our core business practice, but they use different words and they address the business culture instead of the Quaker spiritual culture.

It is comforting to know that others are welcoming our core business practice, but I wonder whether the business world has sucked us dry and passed on.

Is it time to revisit our practice of the Quaker Business Method to discuss and research how we can continue to refine it, to teach it, and help others to do their business more wisely?

A toolkit is a starting point, consisting of practices and actions that can be used and taught in a value-free, culture-independent form. The kit includes: the use of silence, agreeing minutes in the meeting, coming with heart and mind prepared, treating all participants with equal respect and humanity.

Roland Carn