Can for-profit companies help save the world and stop global warming and improve social issues? The answer is yes – and some already took ownership and started to create prosperity in the communities they serve. Listen to Chris Laszlo, professor of Organizational Behavior and author of the books the Flourishing Enterprise and Quantum Leadership. He gave a lecture at The Great Leadership Reset conference about Positive Impact organizations that have a lot in common with a positive organizational culture.
Who are they – the companies whose success depends on doing good? Think of Unilever, Eileen Fisher, Headspace and Beyond Meat – and many more. Doing good for them is no longer a side hustle – it’s becoming the core business! It’s a win-win as the public demands it. It’s a great market, a moral obligation (to clean up the mess and avoid any damage) and also a necessity. There’s no business on a dead planet. Welcome to a new era of business and the birth of Positive Impact Value companies.
Laszlo: “Flourishing enterprises have five key factors in their strategy. First, they want to have a Positive Impact. That goes beyond reducing negative impact. It means improving social and health issues. It also means getting their CO2 emissions down to zero and going beyond that: they become more regenerative. It’s not just a reduction goal, but truly positive: how to improve and create regenerative processes, products and services.
Second, they embed this in the organization, it’s not a project. Third, they aim for radical innovation is needed. Fourth, they work socially inclusive and, fifth, they aim for system change. They want to be the change they want to see in their value chain of suppliers, transporters and other partners. They help their industry’s system create positive impact, too.”
The evolution of value creation has three phases. First, there was shareholder value that focused on profits for the few – the stakeholders.
The next phase focused on shared value. The definition of value is extended to include sustainable solutions. The company takes the interests of more stakeholders into account. The focus is often on “doing less harm”, sometimes on greening symbolic actions. Sustainability is not the core business.
But that won’t be enough any longer. So, the future phase focuses on positive impact value. Here we find the flourishing enterprise that has a multi-stakeholder, long-term perspective and is making profit by creating a positive impact in the world.
Positive impact for all
There’s a big divide between companies focusing on shared value or on positive impact value, as Laszlo explains. You need a different mindset that takes a long-term view, that sees the rights and needs of others than direct stakeholders as well. That includes future generations. It resembles a positive culture where you want to do the right thing, you want to leave a positive impact and where you care for people and nature. This mindset trusts in others, in virtue, in positivity, and in abundance while delivering “positive deviance” or high performance.
The performance of organizations with a positive culture is backed up by research that shows that their stocks outperform competitors.
Laszlo: “Climate change seemed medium in 2015, but the rate is accelerating. The earth is asking us to wake up. The gap between rich and poor got worse as well. The conclusion in 2021 is: leaders are failing to optimize value for employees, customers, investors, and stakeholders.” Okay, leaders, it’s time to wake up and see new, positive potential.
That’s why Laszlo developed his Quantum leadership model. Leadership needs: a shared vision, compassion, and relational energy. You can’t save the current challenges with excel spreadsheets. Leaders need a greater purpose, and consciousness of connectedness. We need to go beyond rational thinking and re-awaken our intuition and experiences – our personal connection to nature, the past and the future, to others, to our bodies and emotions. We need practices of connectedness such as gardening, meditation, journaling, exercise, or hiking in nature. Currently, people feel divided and disconnected, so that’s a challenge. We need inner change to re-connect to ourselves, each other and the whole.
This might sound spiritual, but Laszlo is a scientist. He says: “Science is divided, reductionist and fragmented. But the new Quantum sciences show us another world. There’s a coherent, connected, unified field according to quantum physics. The world is entangled and non-local.
This paradigm of the world is totally different than the mechanistic sciences. In this quantum science, the observer defines outcomes.
What if leaders embraced this paradigm instead of the current machine paradigm? We co-create the world through our observation of it. Let’s look for positive potential and start creating real positive impact.”
Key insights and actions you can take now, according to Laszlo:
1. Develop a mindset of positive-impact value
2. Adopt and promote practices of connectedness at the individual, team and organizational levels (daily high quality relationships
3. Create an organizational culture (values, beliefs, norms) that enables individual and collective flourishing
4. Design an organizational structure that enables decentralized and autonomous decision-making
5. Engage stakeholders in partnerships for systemic change
To start with number 1, check out Laszlo’s books and start reading!
PS: Do you enjoy my books and blog? Please vote for Marcella Bremer in the Top 30 Organizational Culture Global Gurus before December 15. Thank you!
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