Benevolence in business?

In a report on the radio this morning, I heard mention of a John Steinbeck quote:

"It has always seemed strange to me," said Doc. "The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second."

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

It is compelling to me that the features synonymous with success in business are in fact the "negative" traits outlined above, and yet the values we admire in health care (and other professions, in fact) are the "positive" ones.  Indeed, our primary goal in health care is to enhance the quality of the lives of others.   Perhaps this is why "business" skills & personalities in health care sometimes feel & taste like oil in our water.   Yet we can't balance our checkbooks with compassion & generosity.  Finding the balance between good business and simple good-ness is the challenge.  

Those of us bred and motivated by the generosity and benevolence so prevalent in health care will likely revert to these instincts … while those bred and motivated by the power, control, and "success" measures so prevalent in business and government may fall back into the patterns of competition and self-interest.  We both need to understand each other to work productively toward our common goals.