Help organizations become healthier

This is a practical, do-it-yourself guide for leaders and facilitators wanting to help organisations to function and to develop in more healthy, human and effective ways as they strive to make their contributions to a more humane society. It has been developed by the Barefoot Collective.

via Barefoot Guide

Do you practice open collaboration?

If you are then you might be doing some of the following:

  1. Taking the time to reply to people
  2. See things from another’s perspective
  3. Invite others to join in
  4. Reach out and connect. Build the human connection.
  5. Having conversations awakens the collective intelligence of the system to grow itself.
  6. Be vulnerable and allow yourself to be transformed.

via 6 Tips for Open Collaboration « emergent by design.

Are we seeing a new type of doing business?

Interview with Rosabeth Moss Kanter from 2009

But here’s what makes me think the parade is growing: Companies that do not operate this way will not only lose the advantages of innovation, motivation, and public support, they will also have trouble being coherent and finding business opportunities.

via The Vanguard Corporation — HBS Working Knowledge.

Has shopping become more transparent?

A radical transparency about the ecological impacts may yet emerge from these efforts — and many in the business world are paying attention. A recent article in Harvard Business Review proclaims that sustainability has become an essential business strategy and the key driver of innovation. To be sure, there are large numbers of companies who resist — but they may yet join in, if markets shift toward brands that are more transparent about ecological footprints, creating a compelling business case.

via Radical transparency could lay bare the eco impact of our shopping | Environment |

Are we aware of how we spend our online time?

It is important that we become aware how our micro-decisions affect what we do online. What are we paying really attention to? what are we really focusing on? Are we following a specific direction, contributing to something of value, achieving something or just losing ourselves and out time among all the things one can do, find, share?

Howard Rheingold on how the five web literacies are becoming essential survival skills » Nieman Journalism Lab bookmarked on diigo

New work life: performance trumps presence

This report and podcast talks about how performance is becoming more important than presence in our more and more globalized world. It is however mainly looking at the risks and possible problems of virtual work and not at the potentials.

Wenn Leistung mehr zählt als Präsenz – Schöne neue Arbeitswelt Von Heimarbeit bis zur | Hintergrund | Deutschlandfunk (in German)

Is self-organization or structure better for collaboration?

More structure can be better than more freedom to foster collaboration. Yet, it is not the goals or the processes a team leader needs to define. Rather, the roles of each team member need to be clarified so they are well understood by all.

The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make with Teams – Tammy Erickson – Harvard Business Review

Corporate Social Responsibility: needed or bad?

Aneel Karnani writes in The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility (MIT Sloan Management Review):

[I]n cases where private profits and public interests are aligned, the idea of corporate social responsibility is irrelevant: Companies that simply do everything they can to boost profits will end up increasing social welfare. In circumstances in which profits and social welfare are in direct opposition, an appeal to corporate social responsibility will almost always be ineffective, because executives are unlikely to act voluntarily in the public interest and against shareholder interests.

Irrelevant or ineffective, take your pick.

As many of the commenters of the post point out this argumentation provides an excuse for corporations to do nothing rather than a constructive proposal forward to aligning social problems with entrepreneurial interests wherever possible.

The role of companies in addressing society’s problems is presented as a black and white issue: profit interests are either aligned with or contrary to social welfare. But why are profit and public interests aligned in some cases and in others not? Is it just a matter of waiting for sufficient consumer demand to create viable markets, or do we not rather have to ask how demand is created? It is as if markets appear out of nothing and sometimes are aligned with and sometimes contrary to public welfare; as if no marketing campaign has ever been successful to influence people’s shopping behavior. Executives and shareholders seem to live in a world that is separate from that of consumers and just wait for the latter to express new desires to fulfill.

And why should consumers not prefer products and services produced in ways that do not risk the lives of employees?  Why should consumers not want products that do not harm ecosystems, biodiversity, or the livelihoods of people (e.g. fishermen after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico)? Does it really all just boil down to financial cost and return as Karnani suggests?

He writes: “Executives are hired to maximize profits; that is their responsibility to their company’s shareholders.” Why do we assume that shareholders now and always will want to maximize short-term financial return? Is it (short term financial gain) inscribed into our genes, so that we cannot possibly place other goals above it? What about the growing investments in green and socially responsible companies where return is still lower than in many companies without such goals? What about people paying premiums for products and services they could get cheaper but at the expense of workers, the environment, or their own health?

Besides, who decided that executives are only hired to maximize profits? I found (interestingly, on the same page under related articles) a post from 2002 called Beyond Selfishness by Mintzberg, Simons and Basu. The post describes how corporate executives themselves moved in the mid 1990s from a view that corporations had economic and social responsibilities to one that made maximum return and “the shareholders the bottomline”.

The point is not that large corporations can or should be the ones solving all our problems, but that they, too, shape societal consensus and norms just like any other actor – and probably more than most given their financial strength and ubiquity. Companies, especially popular brands, do have the power to influence consumer behavior and thus demand. In this sense, CSR initiatives can play an important role in pushing the boundaries of consumers and shareholders towards more long-term thinking and sustainability. This in turn can create new markets and drive new types of investments. And even greenwashing can have positive effects: a company that publicly states goals to reduce emissions or to treat workers better (even with no intention to comply), can more easily be held accountable for (and shamed into) reaching them by others.

Mintzberg et al. write “that concern for others is [not] suddenly going to replace self-interest, but that there has to be a balance between the two.”

I believe that to achieve this balance is neither the responsibility of “the government”, nor of civil society organizations, nor of “the corporation” alone, it is the responsibility of all citizens… consumers, employees, activists, shareholders and executives alike.