Even the biggest competitor on the block can benefit from a bit of courtesy
Combining chivalry and business is one of the greatest challenges involved in Chivalry Today. Although we admire the gentle and noble qualities of the knightly virtues, we’ve been conditioned to think that doing business requires a sense of drive, determination and achievement that is not compatible with the Code of Chivalry.
Arguably one of the best examples of modern business philosophy is Microsoft — a corporation which was built on state-of-the-art technology, by outside-the-mainstream innovators, and which rose in less than two decades from obscurity to global recognition. Today, every entrepreneur wants his or her business to grow up to be Microsoft.
By the admission of its own executives, Microsoft’s business practices have been fairly ruthless. According to a report in the New York Times, Microsoft pressured its suppliers to cut their bottom lines so drastically that many of them were within a hair’s breadth of operating in the red. And that’s how Microsoft treated its friends.
Microsoft’s competition suffered much worse treatment. Banking on the company’s market clout, Microsoft edged out other software products by threatening to boycott manufacturers who did not include the company’s programs on their computers. It was just this kind of business practice that attracted the scrutiny of the federal government, which, after close examination, decided that Microsoft had become a monopoly, and threatened to dismantle Microsoft on the basis of unfair trade practices.
In short, one of the most successful and recognized businesses in the world had been acting like a bully; pressuring its allies and suffocating its competitors.
Facing a forced restructuring, Microsoft struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid government intervention. Since then, the company’s executives have begun to reevaluate their priorities. According to news reports, there is a new factor which has been added to the performance evaluations of Microsoft employees: respect. Everyone from the president of the company to the people who answer questions on the technical support hotlines is now being graded, not just on their programming expertise or marketing savvy, but on the level of respect they demonstrate for suppliers, customers and fellow employees.
The federal anti-trust lawsuit was the wake-up call to Microsoft, reminding them that profit and chivalry are not mutually exclusive.
Of course this doesn’t mean Microsoft is going to surrender its position as an industry leader anytime soon. As analyst Steve Bodow observed on NPR’s Marketplace, “Microsoft hasn’t become a kitten. They’re just becoming a well-behaved lion.”
When discussing chivalry in business, it is worth remembering that the Code of Chivalry was created as a conduct manual for professional warriors. Chivalry mandated that these warriors guard their allies’ flanks, work within the chain of command, protect their injured friends, and even allow their adversaries to rise with dignity after they had been defeated. Chivalry’s only restriction on the spirit of competition was that a knight refrain from taking unfair advantage of an opponent.
Win by using your own strengths, not by exploiting others’ weaknesses, and in victory or defeat, always treat others with respect. Chivalry Today turns out to be a sound business philosophy, even for one of the most recognized corporate giants of the 21st century.
- Conversation With: Dr. Tobias Capwell (Arms and Armor Curator, Wallace Collection) - September 29, 2014
- Three Chivalry Lectures – October 14-16 - September 2, 2014
- Conversation With: Dr. Elizabeth Morrison (J. Paul Getty Museum “Chivalry in the Middle Ages”) - July 7, 2014