Jessica Ludescher Imanaka
Contemplative Resilience in an Age of Digital Disruption: Lessons from Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti
Purpose: This paper aims to develop a framework that strengthens business resilience in the context of the acute digital disruption spawned by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Theoretical Framework: Strategy literature has been grappling with the challenges for businesses presented by rapid digitalization. Several current studies in this domain have developed strategies for thriving under rapidly digitalizing conditions without compromising ethics or the human dimension. For example, Tobaccowala (2020) seeks to “restore the soul of business” by cultivating a sense of meaning at work. In The Transformation Myth, Deloitte consultants team up with business academics to develop a framework for building digital resilience with an emphasis on employee and customer relationships (Kane et al. 2021). However, for Catholic business practitioners and researchers, these frameworks need to be re-oriented ethically to incorporate principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). Recent encyclicals by Pope Francis include teachings on technologies, especially digital communications media. However, Pope Francis’ writings could benefit from the contributions of concrete strategy recommendations. Design/Methodology/Approach: This paper anchors its approach to the problem of how to build resilience in a digital age in the papal encyclicals, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti. We begin with the view of business purpose in Catholic Social Teaching (CST) as “a noble vocation” (Pope Francis, 2015, Laudato Si’ 129) and explicate the importance of economics and technology for wealth creation (Pope Francis, 2020, Fratelli Tutti 123). We show that Pope Francis regards business purpose as subordinate to the CST principle of “the common destination of created goods” and the “social role of property” (Pope Francis, 2020, 119-120). We emphasize Pope Francis’ interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable in his analyses of contemporary problems, especially those arising from digital communication technologies. The paper then bridges these teachings with the frameworks proposed by strategists like Tobaccowala and Kane et al. to construct a more elaborated version of their digital meaning and digital resilience models that incorporates the values of CST and the contemplative wisdom tradition of Catholicism. Findings: Digitalization in business need not compromise contemplative wisdom or ethical human relationships. Creative ways of marrying digital strategies with Catholic Social Teaching can be cultivated that serve the vulnerable and advance the common good. The incorporation of contemplative elements into digital resilience strategies facilitates such fruitful outcomes. Research, Practical & Social Implications: The social implications are centered on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the application of Pope Francis’ writings on fraternity and amity in Fratelli Tutti. The paper combines the deep values of CST and Pope Francis’ writings on technology with pragmatic business strategies to inspire meaningful and sustainable social impact. Originality/Value: This paper expands the ethics of digital strategy research by incorporating a perspective on inclusion of the vulnerable and an orientation towards the common good. The paper shows how authentic meaning can be found for employees and business leaders through the contemplative resilience processes proposed.