December 2, 2014
Buddhism And Business: The Path To Enlightened Success

For most corporate executives, there is a constant, underlying concern that you’re never another organization’s top priority, whether that company is a vendor or a business partner. Do they really have my best intentions at heart? Will they really work hard and do the right things to make my company successful? How do I know that they will work in the moment to achieve promise for my company now as well as in the future?

All of these questions are easily answered if the person you are working with happens to follow the simple Buddhist teachings of the Eightfold Path. And on the flip side, following those teachings helps your business to succeed.

At the heart of Buddhist traditions and teachings lies the Eightfold Path. It has eight elements: Right View, Right Intention, Right Action, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. I consider it to be a nonlinear guide to areas of exploration and practice that can lead to a greater understanding of the world around you. By nonlinear, I mean that you don’t have to master one of the elements before taking on another. For instance, Right Mindfulness and Right Intention go into all parts of the path; they intertwine and intersect to create a clearer picture of reality and how to flourish within it.

As both a Buddhist and a CEO, I have been guided by these teachings not only in my spiritual life, but in my professional life as well. I have applied three of the eight tenets to my dealings with customers and employees and the management of my human-centered design firm: Right Intention, Right Action and Right Mindfulness. I believe they can help any executive face the challenges and choices encountered in the corporate world. Understood and used correctly, they provide valuable tools to help us navigate the path to business enlightenment.

Right Intention

When I first explain to people what my company does, they always ask, what exactly is “human-centered design”? I answer that we listen to people’s business problems and then try to come up with solutions that they can easily and intuitively implement, but also, we incorporate the Right Intention teaching in our core company values, and it is reflected in the solutions we develop.

For example, if I look inside myself and see that greed is a factor in a solution we are developing, I eliminate it immediately. Greed only leads to suffering, and suffering is something that Buddhists vehemently reject. I always focus on ensuring that my intentions in business are pure and centered on helping my clients achieve only the best for their business, because in the end that is the best for both of us.

Right Action

After intentions come actions. You must evaluate how your actions help or harm. The more wholesome your intentions are, the more sincere your actions will be. I always aim my work at being skillful, helpful, and best directed to improving the client’s return on investment. A client’s suffering is my suffering, so I make sure to prevent it as much as possible. To practice improving your actions, you need to develop an awareness of ethics and then use good judgment to ensure that your actions will not bring harm or suffering to your client (and your business).

Right Mindfulness

Mindfulness is easily summarized as paying attention. That sounds easy enough, but in today’s fast-paced, meetings-scheduled-months-in-advance world, staying present in the moment is very hard. In business, you need to focus on what’s happening now, not what will happen in the future. Granted, you need to invest thought in foreseeable problems, upcoming major presentations, and the like, but that should not prevent you from taking time to really go over what you can accomplish today. Now. Tomorrow will come, but you will never get yesterday back. Make sure you use every moment to its fullest and invest your time wisely.

Focusing on these three tenets of the Eightfold Path will lead one’s company to absolute enlightenment – where enlightenment equals incredible ROI, great client relations, and more. I’m not advocating converting to Buddhism, but I do suggest you convert to practicing Buddhism in business, as it will lead to greater rewards both spiritual and financial.

Chokdee Rutirasiri
As the founder of Story+Structure, CEO Chokdee Rutirasiri has been designing human-centered solutions for the private and public sectors since 1995. He's led projects resulting in new user experiences for the web and mobile, workflow automation, user interfaces, and information architecture. Prior to founding Story+Structure, Chokdee worked in Higher Education designing solutions for the University of Massachusetts Boston, Massachusetts College of Art + Design, and Worcester State University.