Archive for February, 2011

Winds of change

Monday, February 14th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

As the wind of change is sweeping from Tahrir Square in Cairo across the Arab and non-Arab world, and thus inspiring all the rest of us, I have just returned from a road trip that was likewise full of experiences inspired by hope for change. Yes, the 18-day revolution that just happened in Egypt puts it right into the category of other nonviolent revolutions the world has seen—in South Africa (against apartheid); in Central Europe (to end the cold war); in North America (against racial discrimination); and in South Asia (to end colonial discrimination). Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Vaclav Havel are close relatives on the family tree of nonviolent resistance and grassroots leadership. Their type of leadership takes its power not from formal sources of authority, but from being connected to an emerging future possibility that young people especially feel very connected to.

Seeing the awakening of that leadership spirit in today’s young entrepreneurs and change makers is one of the most important sources of hope in our current age. Let me give you a few examples from my travels over the past few weeks:

–I spent a week in the Philippines with a group of young leaders from NGOs, education, and the business sector (ELIAS Philippines: Emerging Leaders Innovate Across Sectors). One of them is Bam Aquino the co-founder of Hapinoy. Hapinoy is a social business enterprise that is composed of dedicated young professionals who work in partnership with thousands of micro-entrepreneurs in the country. The guiding vision of this enterprise is to use microfinance to empower socially and economically challenged families. This social business enterprise uses business models to further social and ecological objectives. Today, Hapinoy has developed a full-service program that supports thousands of micro-entrepreneurs. The next evolutionary stage of this network would be to localize the distribution and the production of some of their products, thus offering even more entrepreneurial opportunities to those living at the base of the pyramid.

–Then I spent four days with a global group of over 600 biodynamic farmers from around the world, including other key players in the sustainable food value chain, as well as from schools, health, medicine, and inclusive education. Nicanor Perlas and Vandana Shiva (both of them recipients of the “alternative Nobel” Right Livelihood Award) also participated in this conference, which took place at the Goetheanum near Basel, Switzerland. For four days we took this group through the entire U process—a really powerful collective experience that sparked many new initiatives and generated an enormous amount of inspiration and energy. The younger farmers and participants in particular stepped up their leadership role in the movement. This experience reminded me that the whole economic process and all economic theory must start – where? – with NATURE—that is, with the EARTH, that is, with AGRICULTURE. This is why the biodynamic farmers, who are reinventing farming based on sustainability and social and spiritual awareness, are really interesting “acupuncture point” partners in transforming and evolving the economic system. Now everyone is back on their farm, and we will see how this story continues to unfold…

–After that I spent two days with principals and teachers of schools in the Netherlands. In the masterclass with 200 participants I started by asking how many of them already apply Theory U methods and tools in their everyday leadership and education practice. Half the hands went up: about a 100(!) of them. I was surprised to see that—and I don’t think they are representative of other countries. But it’s interesting how an almost unreadable book (Theory U) has slowly begun to reach the mainstream. Very slowly, though. What I found interesting about Holland is that it has (like Denmark) a rather progressive professional education community that now is dealing with a right-leaning government that emphasizes test scores and other short-term noise. Yet that noise from the political system has not kept the overall professional community from progressing (at least in many cases) toward better educational environments. I think that’s really cool.

–Even in Davos at the World Economic Forum, where I had the opportunity to present in three sessions (on cross-sector innovation, on transforming capitalism, and on mindfulness-based leadership), I found that more and more people are aware of the larger wind of change that is now starting to reshape and shatter even some of the most entrenched institutions on earth. What’s next? Who is the Mubarak in global finance that will crumble next? Who is it in the global food system? There is a lot that we can learn from Egypt—and we are just at the very beginning of that unfolding story.
–My final stop was in Zurich, where I was privileged to meet with two leaders of a group of Deans and Rectors who share a passion of mine: how to reinvent the 21st century business school? The name of the initiative is World Business School Council for Sustainable Business. Its members, Deans and Presidents of 20 globally leading b-schools, want to reinvent their institutions, working toward sustainability, social innovation, and entrepreneurship. They have asked me to work with them at their first strategic meeting in New York this spring, where they want to collectively create a new vision of the 21st-century business school. I find this initiative extremely inspiring since it squarely addresses a deep aspiration I have always had: to contribute to co-creating a global, green, generative leadership school (what I have called a—a topic I will return to in future blog entries.

For now I am happy to be back home and beginning to focus on a new book about transforming the economy and economics toward business and society 4.0.

That’s my little report. How does that resonate with your experience? Where do you see the winds of change happening? Thanks for sharing some of your experiences from wherever you happen to be on this planet!


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