This is so cool: writing in Escape From Cubicle Nation yesterday, Pamela Slim suggests that social good is a natural extension of entrepreneurship. This reminds me, happily, of the dreams of the late 1960s, when a lot of us — mostly young people, a lot of college students, a lot of so-called hippies — thought we could end a war and change business and government in a single generation.
We were wrong, of course. We couldn’t.
The 60s ended, we grew up, sold out, and (some of us, at least) got into business. The war ended on its own power, Nixon resigned, we had children. And MBA degrees. And cool cars.
“Hippy” became a Halloween costume, like cowboy and astronaut. And then, as if it had happened in a flash, we had grandchildren.
But no, wait. Maybe we just had to wait about 40 years. Maybe there was something to all that, after all. One of the catch phrases back then was “drop out, tune in, turn on.” That, unfortunately, was mostly about LSD and Timothy Leary and all that, but wouldn’t it be fun to think that it applies now to what Pam’s talking about.
Specifically, she cites three reasons for her thesis:
- Suppressed emotions, dangerous to expose in corporate life, rise to the surface and you begin to feel more deeply
- Having launched a successful venture, you realize that it is possible to take something from concept to reality
- You look at world challenges through an entrepreneurial lens: as a problem to be solved, not as something overwhelming and unchangeable
Wouldn’t it be nice if somehow, there was a long-term thread that really matters in all this, something to link green business to underlying human values and maybe a future in which doing good is in fact long-term good business as well. It’s a good thought, anyhow.
Here’s more on this from Pam:
Although I don’t talk about this much, I admit that all my “freeing corporate prisoners” work is actually a secret plot to unleash smart people on world problems. In college, I majored in International Service and Development, with an emphasis on Non formal Adult Education in Latin America (say that three times fast!). The basic theory underpinning my work, which I studied in-country in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, is that when people have access to education and supportive networks, they take care of their own problems.
While some people may think working with highly educated corporate employees with existential angst is the height of elitism, I actually see it as the first step to creating deep, widespread social change.
I recognize that some times I go off too far on the old hippy theme, but really, stereotypes aside, isn’t it clear that wrapping values into business works? At least for most of us? That there is something embedded in humanity that makes us happier and healthier and better off when we’re doing something that we believe has value?
I think we need to talk about this more, in business oriented blogs, to counteract the “but it’s business” idea that business is somehow different from life. We say “all’s fair in love and war,” perhaps — although I’d say actually not in either one — meaning that they are somehow outside of the normal sense of fairness and value; but we don’t say all’s fair in business.
Escape from Cubicle Nation: Social good: a natural extension of entrepreneurship?
I was just thinking of this the other day, when I stated out. I was the always the young one in the office with the bright ideas, now jump ahead 20 years. I see now that I have changed and become more cautious and looked at things at how other people may take it considering the ramifications the actions I take and my co-workers. In the corporate world I think their is still a divide among the workers and management. The people who have a clue and the do the real work. All too many time I see someone get credit for the work someone else or team did.
Thanks for your wonderful additions to my article Tim!
I do see progress. When I was a college student in the 80's, urging people to "go green" felt like a 3-year old whispering over the Grand Canyon.
Now I sit back amazed at how every element of society is viewing environmental concepts as viable, rational, logical solutions to some big problems, not a plot launched by radicals to take out The Man.
I am very encouraged by the next generation of entrepreneurs.
And even more so by our own children.
My 3-year old son Josh, witnessing water overflowing from buckets in the backyard of his preschool, solemnly went up to the teacher and said "We need to turn off that water. We are wasting Mother Earth's resources."