Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The problem with Philanthropy...

Mohamad Yunus told a group of Socially Responsible Investors last month that "There is no room for selflessness in business because of philanthropy."  

What an interesting idea!  It fits with my feeling that we live in an increasingly bifurcated world - Democrates and Republicans don't talk; there's a widening gulf between the Haves and Have-nots; religions are becoming extreme and intolerant, (Remember when we all got along?).  In traditional business you're told (without anyone saying it) to leave your heart and your values at the door. When bad things happen you're told it's nothing personal - just business. And if you express the desire to go out on a limb to do the right thing you need a business justification for your do-goodism.  Philanthropy is lauded, but not as an integral part of business but as a nice way to spend the money you've made doing business.

And while we are increasingly compartmentalizing certain areas of our lives, we are at the same time increasingly seeing the breakdown of the wall between professional and personal: Who isn't checking work emails at home these days? Office dresscode and language has gotten more casual. Communication to our clients has gotten more personal.  Telecommuting is in.  Hierarchy is out.

Whether it's natural yin and yang or the pull toward something new it begs the question of which direction business will ultimately take with respect to our higher ideals.   Will we relegate it to the black and white world where business is only about money and philanthropy takes care of the doing good after the money's been made, or will will take a more holistic approach and allow our better selves into the business world.

When you mesh purpose and profit you get social enterprise.  You also get solutions to some of the worlds most pressing problems.  For instance, if you let humanity into the picture and allow your company to stray from it's focus on the bottom line then you are able to make the choice to keep local jobs even at the expense of profits.  You also get the opportunity to give people more than a paycheck but an opportunity to feel great about what they do.

It's time to reset the business paradigm, and unleash the philanthropist-business.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Whether you're a president, a parent, or aspiring professional you probably have days when it feels like a bag of bricks is resting on your back.  Getting out of bed in the morning becomes a monumental chore and  getting through the routine demands of the day seem overwhelming.  We know what sets us back - a poor performance, negative feedback, something or someone that lets us down.  But what get's us back on our feet, and feeling capbable, competent, and charged once more?  Resilience. 

It's magical stuff and yet there is now evidence that like a muscle we can flex it, feed it, and help it grow.  Here's how:

Go for a Walk:  This is my mother's recipe and it works.  Getting outside and moving is the simplest and healthiest way to feed yourself.  A trip around the block is all it takes. Spending time in the garden has the same effect.

Put something in order:  Check your watch and give yourself a 20 minute assignment to tidy up some area of your life that's in disarray... Pick a closet, or a room, or a corner of your yard and promise yourself to stick with it for 20 minutes.  It's amazing how quickly you feel resilience back swimming through your veins

Help someone else:   When we feel low the world closes in.  Pain tends to focus our attention, clearly, and specifically, which narrows our world down to that small circle of pain.  This forces us to pay attention, but when the pain is psychic we are better served by getting out of ourselves and refocusing on the world around us.  Find someone you can help.  Call a friend in need, sign up to volunteer, write a check.

Waste time:  Jane McGonigal, inventor of the game SuperBetter explains that to create emotional resilience we need to introduce the positive emotion of winning, and we can do this with video games.   Oddly enough our hearts aren't overly concerned whether we do that by curing cancer or hurling birds into pigs or killing zombies.  So if you're feeling too low to even get moving try a round of Angry Birds and see if it doesn't give you the juice to get up off the couch. Then try one of the above.

And here's the best part.   You will not only feel better, but you will have flexed your resilience muscle, making it stronger and quicker to respond the next time you need it.  Realizing that you can exercise this muscle and improve your resilience over time puts you in the driver's seat and means that over time you can tackle more of the worlds problems knowing there will be setbacks but that you're up to the challenge.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Inspired by Muhammad Yunus

Had the great good fortune to hear Muhammad Yunus speak at the SRI Conference this evening.  What a gift to our civilization!  Here is a man who turned the banking system upside down and showed us what one person can do by focusing on making a difference rather than a profit.

He spoke about his first business, Grameen Bank, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize for building a bank which lends money, not to make money, but to help people.  He started Grameen Bank with $27 dollars and today it has over 13 Billion in annual revenues, loaning primarily to women with no collateral.

Here are a few tidbits:

  • "Whenever I see a problem I create a business to solve it."
  • "The problem with philanthropy is that the money only goes one way.  Repetition and expansion become difficult."
  • "Making money makes you happy, but helping others makes you super happy."
  • "We are at the stage in human existence where the distance between possible and impossible is shrinking.   No one should be poor, illiterate, unemployed."
  • "These things exist because of the system and we need to change that system!"
  • "Come up with an idea that will solve the problem for 5 people.   Then repeat it."