Malcolm Gladwell called it the 'tipping point' referring to "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire." I wonder if the launch of the B-Team on June 13th will be the tipping point for business leaders to move from amoral leadership to a universal culture of corporate and personal accountability. In the meantime, I share my own humble thoughts on what I hope the B-Team initiative will mean for everyone.
As people, we all have our own 'tipping points' - we tend to call them moments of truth. I first listened (audio-book) to Richard Branson's autobiography in 2010, right after my first major business failure. That was one of my tipping points in deciding what I wanted from my professional life. In fact, apart from Seth Godin and Napoleon Hill, I'd be hard pressed to find a bigger influence on my approach to Business than Richard Branson, so when I heard he would be in London for the launch of the B-Team, it's fair to say I got just a tad excited!
The invite-only launch was no deterrent for a disruptive change-agent not yet worthy of an official invitation. It had already been an unusually busy week of gate-crashing and professional smooching with the D&AD White Pencil event on Tuesday and a Ben & Jerry's Social Entrepreneurship awards evening on Wednesday, but this was the big one - the one where Social Business was going to go mainstream - I was excited! Nothing could dampen my enthusiasm, not even a household plumbing disaster which had greeted me upon waking. Instead, and in the true spirit of the non-conformer, I put on jeans, shirt, leather jacket and thought 'screw business attire, I'm going casual'.
As I left the B-Team launch at lunch-time, I could help but feel rather underwhelmed. I imagined more energy, more fervour and more promise about the possibility of what's to come. I wanted more 'Boom'! Don't get me wrong, I think the B-Team initiative is a vital and much needed movement from global leaders to think beyond profit. I just couldn't help but feel we should be demanding more. The 16 protagonists' behind the B-Team launch had already demonstrated excellence in leading their own ecosystems to think beyond the bottom line. But nothing was said about the multinationals who engage in tax avoidance and trade mispricing or how the bottom three billion of people who have the same combined wealth as the world's top 300 will benefit from Plan B.
These are the big questions and like most people, I don't claim to have all the answers. When Nick Hanauer suggested taxing the rich more, he was catechised by peers and his talk banned from a TED event. When President Obama mentioned 'progressive taxing' he was called a Marxist. In reality, the answer may not be so simple or so singular.
The team at Volans, headed by B-Team Advisor, John Elkington through 'breakthrough capitalism' are doing their part. Pradeep Jethi and colleagues at the Social Stock Exchange are helping. Professors at Säid Business School are fostering socially inspired MBA graduates. Danone and Grameen are giving birth to a new model of 'dividend free' business. Venture philanthropy is replacing traditional giving to provide an entrepreneurial and business-like approach to societal problems. The above examples have two things in common; firstly, they are some of the world's most enlightened innovations for beyond profit business. Second, they are all under the stewardship of generation 'X'.
On a morning where all discourse was on what generation 'X' business leaders should do, it was Kathy Calvin, president of the UN Foundation, who perhaps made the most pertinent point when she said
"We (the B-Team) must let the next generation lead us". I completely concur. There are thousands of micro NGOs led by incredible generation 'Y' social entrepreneurs that are creating bottom-up change. Motivated by passion and obligation, their intentions are authentic and their work ground-breaking. They adopt 21st century ideas in a world run by 20th century government and business leaders, which often means they cannot reach their own tipping point. I hope the B-Team can connect these micro movements to big business. That is one way we can reach the bottom three billion.
Indeed, I sincerely hope the B-Team lets the Millennial Generation lead them and that it doesn't turn into procession of corporate compunction by born again incumbent leaders. The world doesn't need apologies; it needs a new perspective that defines success. It needs a 'Boom'.
As I reflect on last week's business mingling and some wonderful and serendipitous connections I made, it is the memories and experiences I had from an event I didn't have to gate-crash that will stay with me most. Saturday 8th June saw UK SenseCamp organised by global volunteer community, 'MakeSense' - a movement of astonishingly motivated and intellectually acute young professionals and students who catalyse and inspire change by supporting social entrepreneurs around the world.
MakeSense introduced me to the 'Boom' 12 months ago when they helped with my own business challenges. No one really knows what Boom means, but it translates to over 200 amazing change-makers from around Europe arriving on Saturday at 8am finding solutions for entrepreneur's tackling some of the world's most pressing issues until 6pm, followed by more Booming until 8am on Sunday.
The Boom is simple - passion without ego. I hope the B-Team is just that, passion without ego. Because as Malcolm Gladwell says, 'emotion is contagious' and if change is to reach everyone, it needs to include everyone - that just seems to make sense. Boom!