The Keynote speaker for the Cleveland Bioneers Conference was David Cooperrider. He focuses on helping businesses be “a force for sustainability and social entrepreneurship.” He is the director of the University Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) at Case Western Reserve University.
David Cooperrider was a co-creator of the term Appreciative Inquiry, which challenges businesses to consider the triple bottom line of economic, environmental, and community sustainability. The triple bottom line helps corporations reduce their negative impact on the planet, and encourages them to consider a multi-stakeholder initiative whereby many stakeholders are invited to discussions about the corporations actions. The ideas is that there are no limits to cooperation.
At the Summit on Innovation in pursuit of the Millennium Goals, Kofi Annan acknowledged the anger towards big business, and he suggested that we choose to unite the market with ideas, needs, and economic viability. We can heal poverty through innovation and cooperation.
Did you know that just 4% of the earth’s desert can power all of humanity with solar power? We can not only eradicate poverty by providing energy to those who need it, but we can do it with clean renewable energy. Nanosolar, based in California, has created solar power that is cost-efficient and can be mass produced on a global scale. That’s an American company with the potential to provide clean energy and help alleviate poverty (the rising oil costs this winter will certainly not help the cause of poverty).
The World Inquiry
There has recently been a positive psychology movement, which encourages us to consider positive emotions like hope, joy, compassion, and harness those human strengths and put them to good use.
Mindset change needed
No problem is solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
The sustainable value must be considered. Companies need to move from the obligation to the innovation mindset, not only for the planet’s survival, but for theirs as well. Consider GM and Toyota. Their obligation is to provide automobiles. However, Toyota moved past that to incorporate some element of environmental responsibility, while GM created bigger and less efficient cars. Which car company is in trouble? GM recently lost their place as the world’s biggest car company. Their obligation vs. innovation mindset certainly played a role. (I know, Toyota is being irresponsible with the mileage requirement legislation. Let’s hope they remember their place.) Sustainability is truly about economic as well as environment and community. No one wants American companies to fail. We want innovation and social responsibility.
This isn’t about philanthropy. It’s what employees, customers, and investors want. We don’t want people to suffer. Consider “Who Cares Wins,” a report on the sustainable value for society. Check out the report to learn what the top business leaders are thinking, that business schools aren’t keeping up with. Call this “enlightened self interest,” not charity.
Back to Appreciative Inquiry…
We must move beyond the self to multiple levels. An elevation of strengths. Consider external stakeholders – customers, suppliers, NGOs, neighbors, communities, young people – in business priorities. Six to 8 is the “most effective group,” right? Consider a conversation with 300 stakeholders, designing new products and services. They’re the ones who know about the business, who get their hands dirty every day. Cooperrider called it “living systems” thinking. You have a large group seeing the whole picture, the best of humanity comes out. A greater configuration of the whole can only lead to better ideas. Wal-Mart has initiated Appreciative Inquiry, and come up with 3 goals (more on that later!). If Wal-Mart can do it, can’t anyone?