Spirit in Business: an Oxymoron?
Michael Banks, director of KRW International, related his own spiritual journey in business.
It was the dream of Banks and others in London in the 1980s to apply spiritual practices to the business world. In 1981, Banks helped to found the Programmes Group of companies in London, where the working day began at 8.00 A.M. with the sounding of a Tibetan gong. This signified the beginning of cleaning.
“We never had to hire cleaners,” Michael said. “For six minutes night and morning, everyone, even the heads of the company, would clean around their desks so we always had a beautiful space to work in.”
To begin with, publicity by the BBC and national papers had people believing they were either a cult, or an amazing pioneering firm.
“Our first company was a telephone marketing firm. We had customers like IBM, Hewlett Packard and Lufthansa. I remember attending a workshop on the Lord’s Prayer to look at how that might inform our business activities. Twenty years ago that was very strange, not so much today. Basically we were looking at how to apply certain spiritual principles in commerce/business, what kinds of results you could achieve by harnessing the collective energy. We became the European lead firm in telephone marketing, and we gained respectability after being pariahs and weirdos. We became part of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and we ended up having a lot of copycats.
“In 1986 I became very ill and was told I would have to be out of the workplace for up to a year. What about my career? I was very scared, but I was also very ill. I did recuperate after six months, but the fear had transmuted itself through the illness so I was able to receive and give love in a way I never had been able to before. Later when I got back to my career I was a much better educator even though I hadn’t been doing the work per se…”