By Robert E. Widing
We are on the eve of management's finest hour, a visionary view proposed by my coauthors of this message, Professor David Cooperrider and Professor Chris Laszlo. Exponential innovation is transforming everything from energy to education, and as it does, a different perspective of the future of management emerges. Everyone is beginning to imagine once-in-a-civilization-opportunities. It is no longer utopian to speak of our witnessing the end of extreme poverty through profitability, the emergence a world of abundant, clean renewable energy, the spread of education to 100 percent of the earth's children, of business as a pragmatic force for peace, of cradle-to-cradle factories and supply chains that turn so-called 'waste' to wealth, or of the birth of full spectrum flourishing where businesses can excel, people can thrive, and nature can flourish.
Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations, wrote about capitalism's overarching aim to advance the well-being of the consumer (all of us), while permitting profits to those who do. Indeed, Smith wrote that " ... the interests of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it."1
The notion of doing good and doing well, and the moral consciousness of connectedness between the two, is at the core of capitalism—that's why attention to the deeper spirit of enterprise is so important to our field. When students experience management education through the call of our times, and how innovation can solve the grand challenges of humanity while accentuating business success and industry leadership—that's when education comes alive. That's what our students are telling us: they want to be part of a field that unites success with significance, especially when doing good/doing well is achieved as one integral whole through the power of game-changing ideas and fresh perspectives.
Sustainable Value through Design-Inspired Innovation
At the Weatherhead School of Management, our teaching mission is this: We develop leaders who innovate to create sustainable value and are good global citizens. We draw on the world-renowned Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology—a comprehensive, strengths-based leadership philosophy focusing strategically on what works, what's best and what's possible—together with the tools of design thinking. Built upon the pioneering work of our faculty, for example Dick Boland and Fred Collopy's volume Managing as Designing, and David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva's Appreciative Inquiry into Organizational Life, we have elevated design-inspired innovation into the heart of management education. Imagine a management school looking like a Bauhaus School of Art or an Apple design studio, with students and collaborative teams learning in the field bringing new management knowledge and real-life prototyping into the innovation agenda of local and global businesses.
Consider the example of Fairmount Minerals. For years, our students and faculty worked in collaboration with the company using appreciative inquiry, design thinking, and the lens of sustainable value creation. The results were powerful—not only for our students, but the business as well. It was not long before this global company became an industry-leading star and was named by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the #1 corporate citizen in America. But the collaboration did not sit still or stop there.
Fairmount Minerals, whose mission is "Do Good, Do Well," soon gifted our school with a generous endowment, followed by CEO Chuck Fowler and his wife Char with an additional generous endowment. Today, the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value stands as a cornerstone for breathing life into our school's mission, and has resulted in worldwide partnerships with the UN Global Compact and their 8,000 corporations, our ongoing conference series called The Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, and a series of business books such as our forthcoming Stanford University Press volume by Chris Laszlo, Roger Saillant and our Fowler Center Fellows, charting the next stage of the field. It's called Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business, and is being informed by today's fertile verge between business innovation, exponential technologies, and the rise of new human development capacities, commitments, and consciousness.
Prosper and Flourish: The 3rd Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit
Let me close by saying this. It is my privilege to invite you and your colleagues to visit our school and contribute to our exploration of the future of management. The 3rd Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit* will be hosted by Case Western Reserve University in collaboration with the Academy of Management's ODC Division and the Brussels-based Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) on October 15-17, 2014. The GRLI is supported by AACSB International, EFMD, and the UN Global Compact and PRME.
The Global Forum, as many of you may have already experienced, is not a traditional conference, but rather a call for bridging theory and practice in the service of systemic action. It will be like a design studio, but with many people. Over 1,000 leaders from some 50 countries will be convening to explore sustainability not just as a quest for "less harm" but for profound innovation that creates social, environmental and economic value.
Imagine if every time we heard the word sustainability we saw in banner lights "sustainability as flourishing" versus "sustainability as surviving." Full spectrum flourishing, as we will together explore with the field, is a sustainability + concept, one that invites fresh explorations, opens exciting new vistas, and is, we believe, something that can bring all of us back to the core of Adam Smith's belief in responsible capitalism as the driver of societal well-being.
* For up to date information on the next Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit please go to: http://www.weatherhead.case.edu/centers/fowler/projects/global-forum
By Robert E. Widing