I apologize for the two-week hiatus. I took an unplanned 5-day vacation at INOVA’s Fair Oaks Hospital near my home in Reston, Virginia last week.
I’m fine, now, so there’s no cause for concern. All in all, the experience was more enjoyable than not. The customer (patient) experience was terrific and I got a ton of reading done, including Paul Hawken’s new book, Blessed Unrest. Hawken’s take on a massive social transformation of government and business is eye-popping. This is hinted in the book’s subtitle, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming.
Hawken takes the reader on a journey through time, starting out many centuries ago, to show how we got to where we are today in terms of how we are dealing with major societal problems, such as the beleaguered state of our natural environments.
At times a reader might wonder why Hawken pauses in the journey he takes us on to talk about life centuries ago. However, in the end he pulls together threads harvested from multiple spools of thought into a beautifully fashioned literary tapestry depicting humankind’s present situation on this planet.
The explosion of interest by companies the world over in addressing many issues we’ve become accustomed to government taking a lead in seeking solutions to is staggering. These issues include environmental problems and a host of social causes ranging from severe poverty and education to health and medical challenges in Third World nations.
Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities, 63 are countries. The other 37 are companies. The combined annual turnover of the 10 largest companies in the world exceeds the GDP of most countries. At the present pace of corporate wealth building, it will not be long before capitalistic enterprises make up the majority of economic entities.
Like politicians and – yes, marketers – denizens of the corporate enterprise universe have not ranked very high in public polls that ask people about their levels of trust and respect for those in government and business who serve them. Marketers have been ranked just a notch above used car salesmen in some polls.
In a recent Gallop poll, 7 in 10 people said they did not trust CEOs of large companies, and nearly 8 in 10 believe that top executives will take improper actions to help themselves at the expense of their companies. In less than a year following 9/11, the number of Americans who see big corporations as an actual threat to America’s future doubled to 38%.
I see a different picture of the role of business enterprise in America’s – and indeed, the future of all humankind. We talk about this picture in Firms of Endearment, of which I am co-author. It seems obvious that people are hungry for a more optimistic image of business judging by the sales record of Firms of Endearment. Released just in February, it is already in its third printing and will soon be out in both Chinese and Italian versions.
Paul Hawken’s optimism about the path being taken toward a better world by a rapidly growing body of business enterprises is similar to our own. While Firms of Endearment gets down to the nitty-gritty of specific companies that take a broader view of their role in making the world a better place, Blessed Unrest works from a different perspective. It provides a 40,000 foot view of the greatest social transformation in the theory and practice of business since Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations in 1776. The view from 40,000 feet is truly breathtaking.
As he went to work on the book, Hawken estimated that there were some 100,000 organizations including NGOs (non-governmental eleemosynary organizations) as well as entities that operate more like profit-making enterprises but with a defined social purpose. Mohamed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank that issues micro business loans to the poor in developing nations won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his successful capitalistic approach to reducing severe poverty.
Hawken’s research revealed that the number of quasi-public and business entities dedicated to “saving the planet” and elevating life quality for people everywhere runs at least to a million, and perhaps to as much as 2 million organizations.
I do not agree with everything Hawken posits in Blessed Unrest, but that doesn’t detract from my opinion that this is one of the most important reads I’ve had in my hands for sometime. Without the benefit of many insights Hawken delivers to us in Blessed Unrest, you will be groping toward the future through a fog of misperceptions wafting up from old, outdated paradigms.
This is a critical fact: The future cannot be predicted by what has happened in the past. We have entered a discontinuous state in which is replacing a several centuries-old obsessive focus on the individual with a more holistic focus on human survival. As I see it, in this scenario, private organizations of every description in alliances with business enterprises – not government – represent the last best hope for our survival. You’ll understand better why that is when you read Blessed Unrest.
In my next post I will resume the thread about the legacy I would like to leave to my core profession, marketing.