Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

I know what some of you are thinking – “Well, did America have a soul to begin with?” I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is “We, the people…”

Furthermore, I’m quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)

But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I’d like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan’s Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?

inclusivity bookbuy now

BUY now >>

So what’s all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:

  • How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
  • Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
  • Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
  • What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
  • How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
  • How can public education prepare all students for the future?
  • How can better health care be made available without doctors?
  • How can communities do something about global warming?
  • How can you make a difference?
  • Why should you care?

Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.

The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.

What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.

The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.

This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.

The book includes the following sections:

  • What Is INCLUSIVITY?
  • Inclusive World
  • Inclusive Entrepreneur
  • Inclusive Economy
  • Inclusive Cities
  • Inclusive Education
  • Inclusive Health
  • Inclusive Leadership
  • Inclusive Future

Let us know what you think!

P.S. – We don’t want this, do we?

Design Your Life, Change the World

Michael Gordon‘s book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers – the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world. 

book

The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:

1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?

2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?

The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…

Are you a changemaker?  Go find out >> 

P.S. – you can download the PDF version here >>

The Middle Class: An Endangered Species?

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The story is captured in this snippet borrowed from a larger infographic from the New York Times. The middle class is under historic assault in the US, explains Robert Reich, and this bodes badly for democracy, not just here, but all over the world. 

Here’s the money quote:

Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During
periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total
income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation
as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous
cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume
more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby
stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.


During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as
between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the
present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered
giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the
top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007
— the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.

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We’re losing our competitiveness, as well as our ability to lead.

There’s a growing sense in the business community that we must find a way to work together again. To do this, we have to reject political terrorism – the political brinksmanship which prevents us from finding common ground or even beginning to look for honest solutions. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, recently created a stir when he suggested that it was time to halt all political donations. Warren Buffett did the same with his no-nonsense plea to raise his taxes.

Welcome to the third world, America! Looks like we’re headed on the fast-track back to serfdom.  Brought to you in large part by the GOP and corporate Democrats.

Rethink: Where to Look for Growth in an Uncertain World

This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:

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Then it hit me.  This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities.  If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.

The $300 House: Seth Godin on the Marketing Challenge

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The $300 House: Bob Freling on the Energy Challenge

The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

The $300 House: David Smith on the Financial Challenge

David Smith‘s HBR post on the financial challenge of the $300 House raises some very important issues:

Cracking the challenge of slums is the world’s biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.

Join us >>

The $300 House-for-the-Poor

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

Zero Currency: Fighting Corruption at the Point of Sale

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A nice story from the World Bank blog about a grass-roots organization‘s efforts to stop petty corruption in India and around the world:

the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the
University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how
widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up
with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out
to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his
resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse,
widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He
thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their
disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes
did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such
demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee
notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the
organization has collected many stories from people using them to
successfully resist engaging in bribery.

I like it. Now let’s send some “zero dollars” to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.

Is America Melting?

Orville Schell’s portrait of a Nation that says “No, We Can’t”.
Somehow, I think that the US still offers the world the best way forward.
Yes, despite the lobbyists and the money-grubbing pirates in high office, there is still hope.
Don’t give in, America.

Liu Xiaobo: China’s Nelson Mandela?

FREE_XIAOBO.gifWhat a wonderful world. While you were wrapping Christmas presents, China decided to lock up Liu Xiaobo and throw away the key.

Xiaobo’s crime?  He drafted Charter 08, which demands the open election of public
officials, freedom of religion
and expression, and the abolition of
subversion laws.

His wife’s cell phone mysteriously stopped working so she could not be reached by the press. Nice touch.

See Wikipedia >>

More info from PEN >>

free2work.org: The End of Business As Usual?

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If you haven’t heard about free2work.org, you will. This is part of a growing explosion of consumer-education organizations dedicated to exposing “worst practices” among multinationals.

The hope is that if consumers know what is going on, they will vote with their purchasing power and seek out the companies that are doing good. I’m all for it. Who wouldn’t be? Oh, I forgot about the US Chamber of Commerce

On the academic side of things, we see the same story emerging:

Rosabeth Moss Kanter‘s latest book, SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good argues that “the model of American capitalism that worked so well to raise the fortunes of millions of people last century appears to have hit a wall. What’s good for General Motors may no longer be good for the country. In its place must arise a new model of the company, one that serves society as well as rewarding shareholders and employees.”

Maybe Doug Smith was just a little ahead of the times when he wrote On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me – which to me is still the best book in this space.

Wild Phil Townsend: Where is GE’s Open Reverse Innovation?

Phil Townsend wonders why GE hasn’t opened up it’s Reverse Innovation model in his post: Opening up Reverse Innovation >>

Townsend makes a good point:

So why can’t a company like GE follow down this path with “open reverse innovation
– inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products,
services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution.  Of
course, the open model would require an environment of trust
but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen
as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved
Africa?  A.G. Lafley sits on GE’s board; surely he could help them get started.

Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE. 

Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent
McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their
innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20%
rise in the number of innovations
, on average.

Misplaced Priorities: Six Strategies for CEO Failure?

American style management has been under some considerable stress these last few years. Now the nerds at Bain have some advice for the CEO. Apparently there are six dilemmas CEOs must face and – surprise! Bain has uncovered six strategies to help the CEO manage these dilemmas. Check out the cool diagram below:

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I personally think the CEOs would be better off following VG’s 3 box strategy and executing on it.  This other stuff is fine, but it doesn’t seem to be the stuff of great leadership. Nowhere do we see anything about creating great products or obsessing over your customers or sustainability.  I bet Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos do not manage their companies this way.

“How GE is Disrupting Itself” by Immelt, VG, and Chris Trimble

VG has touched a chord with this article in Harvard Business Review

HBR

How GE is Disrupting Itself describes the concept of reverse innovation – how products developed in and for low-cost countries (like India and China) by multinationals (like GE) lead to growth – not only in the low-cost market, but at home as well.

VG says the article has touched an “emotional” chord with readers who are saying that this approach is just what “western” multinationals should be doing – designing products for the local market at a price-point which is within reach.

Check out the advertisement for one such product:

To me, this is just the first step to being truly global (as they say at Thunderbird). With business commitments at a local level, social commitments will surely follow. 

Now let’s see some “ecomagination” in action and build portable solar/wind electrical generators for off-grid villages at an affordable price-point. Right, Bob?

Michael Moore Meets Peter Drucker

I wonder what the late Peter Drucker would have said about Michael Moore‘s Capitalism: A Love Story?

I think he’d be very sympathetic. Drucker’s disillusionment with the level of executive greed he saw and we see today makes it very likely that he’d be a supportive fan.

And here’s an interesting quote from the man himself:

The leader cannot act in his own interests.It must be the in the interests of the customer and the worker. This is the great weakness of American management today.

[from A Class with Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher, William A. Cohen, AMACOM 2008]

When results are poor, executives don’t deserve bonuses, right Peter?