Kate Griffiths explains how business can take its rightful place in society as a force for good by sharing information about a couple of recent initiatives which are leading the way to bringing about vital change. She outlines the case for change and then explores the challenges business face that prevent many from taking up this role.
My husband loves the 1980s TV series, The A Team. It was guaranteed to be action-packed drama every week. Implicit in the title is the idea that A stands for Alpha and that the A team is the best team. Imagine how surprised I was to hear about the recent launch of the B Team. It almost implies that it is second best whereas in fact it is so named because we desperately need a plan B. Over the last 100 years, profit, the driving force of business, has led to short-termism and today it is an unchallenged facet of the way we do business. This is reinforced by having a financial model that was devised at a time when there was a belief that the earth’s resources were infinite. We now know that this is not true and that if we want a world full of opportunity for our children and grandchildren then we need to rethink how we conduct business.
What is exciting is that Sir Richard Branson and a handful of business leaders have also acknowledged that there is an urgent need to change the way that we do business and have put together the B Team. Working with a whole range of leaders in business and advisers they are developing plan B. This has evolved out of a collaboration that was formed over the last year and is testimony to my view that collaborative problem solving is the way to address the complex issues we face as a society. There is a skill to building collaborations that work and this is a fundamental plank of the work that we do within the 7 Graces Project.
Sir Richard and his team explain the barriers that exist which prevent business from balancing commercial gain with environmental issues and society’s well being. They see three challenges:
- The financial model used by business today is over a century old and ensures that profit is valued at the expense of people and planet. The B Team argues that we need to measure and report on business activity that takes people, planet and profit into account. There is a need for greater TRANSPARENCY in the system. A new financial model needs to support businesses that take the long view over the current prevailing short-termism and give credit to those that place value on the long term perspective.
- Policy and regulatory environments are another barrier to change. There are very few positive market incentives out there. We need incentives that focus on better ways to do business that highlight social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones. The B Team are taking a multi-stakeholder approach working with governments and members of civic society to bring about this change. If supported correctly, David Cameron’s recent announcement of a £1 million prize to solve the biggest problems we face today can be seen in this vein as well as sparking innovation.
- Leadership needs to change if a new paradigm for doing business is going to gain momentum. Leaders need to have the courage to step out of the old, traditional ways of doing things and start questioning the status quo. They need to shake off the mindset of competition and embrace a collective approach. It is also about cultivating and fostering a new generation of responsible leadership.
Collaboration is key to coming up with ways to address these three challenges. Every day it is easier and easier to connect with others; yet what we need now is to find better ways to collaborate as this will be the way to turn ideas into action.
Communication is the glue that binds all this together because it can facilitate widespread, systematic change. Studies have shown that all we need is 10% of any population to hold an unshakeable belief and then the tipping point is reached and the majority follow.
Business is important because it can foster creativity and innovation as well as jobs and prosperity. When it starts to take on its role of feeding society rather than feeding upon society, it will truly become a force to be reckoned with. I would love to hear your thoughts on all this below and if it really resonates with you then consider joining us here for a half day to experience deep connection through conversation and to discuss the dharma of business on 19 July.
Kate Griffiths is a qualified coach, speaker, community leader and writer, who is fascinated by the power of conversation. She teaches business owners, leaders and teams how to communicate effectively to build stronger relationships and thereby improve the possibilities for innovation and collaboration.
Kate is also the Community Relations Director of the 7 Graces Project, a thriving community and emerging social enterprise. The aim of the 7 Graces Project will be to provide an educational alternative and business incubator for a new generation of ethical, community-focused businesses.