Thursday, March 28, 2013

rat trap

This week Bob Geldof appeared in Sydney to help promote One Young World, a nfp organisation founded by David Jones (Havas/Euro RSCG CEO).

OYW basically seeks to connect and support tomorrow's business leaders with a view to helping them hone their chops through various pro-social business initiatives which they can lead.

In theory the outcome will be a generation of more socially responsible CEOs that operate on the basis of 'doing well by doing good'.

(If Jones is seeking to offset for the fact that he led the campaign that helped deliver Cameron and Clegg into Downing Street is another matter, a significant pro-social effort might allow for regression to the mean in karma terms.)

And Geldof is always good for a soundbite or two.

'Disruptive technologies...shut down my business, the record industry, the book industry and increasingly the newspaper industries which are increasingly redundant.

If it destroyed outdated businesses it also destroyed outmoded logics.

We have to find a different way for this century.'

To be fair they are making all the right noises so yep, it's all good.

The point of this piece is to draw the distinction between social (or 'open') business and pro-social business, and perhaps point to the places at the intersection.

The OYW initiative has gone into the market under the banner of social business but i fear this label muddies the water.

While these initiatives can be described as pro-social, they are not social business by its understood definition.

Pro-social business activities, ie sustainable business practices that benefit other people or society as a whole as well as delivering profit for the business and providing meaning at work are to be applauded and are absolutely necessary.

In effect ideas of this nature are another example of a back to the future effect, and testament to the blip nature of industrial age. The key component being 'meaning'.

If OYW is looking for a manifesto it could look to Schumacher's 'Buddhist Economics' from 1973 which is still the blueprint of pro-social purpose-driven business.

'To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve‐racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul‐destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.
Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure'

Social business
Social/Open business is a notion that has been around for some time and is still perhaps looking for the definitive description however the forthcoming book by David Cushman and Jamie Burke - 'The 10 Principles of Open Business' - may be bringing that day closer.

They describe an Open business as “… one which uses its available resources to discover people who care about the same Purpose it does, brings those people together and joins with them to achieve that Purpose.”

The ten principles are self explanatory
The ‘Why’ of the organisation.

Open Capital
The degree to which the business is crowd-funded vs 'big capital' funded.

Networked Organisation
The degree to which the company ecosystem is employees and also outside partners.

The degree to which IP/knowledge and thought leadership is openly shared

The degree to which employess/partners are using social media technologies to create opportunities etc.

Open Innovation
Developing product and service innovations in public

Open Data
Data generated the organisation is made publicly available where there is a possibility that this data can create additional public good

Decision making is done openly, the organisation can be held to account.

Key decisions are made by and with those charged with implementing them.

Walking the talk, skin in the game.

David and Jamie argue that for a business to be inherently Open/Social it must address all ten principles to at least some degree. For a summary of the ten points I'll refer you to David's blog where he is serialising a preview.

How many of those principle are being adopted by the OYW program is not clear. There appears to be an emphasis on purpose and transparency, which is a fair start.

We should also be mindful that neither of these concepts are anything to do with CSR.

And particularly mindful in the case of evaluating 'pro-social' initiatives.

CSR in many organisations is viewed as a 'cost' to placate 'tree-huggers' or suchlike.

Pro-social is driven by the organisational purpose. The 'Why' of the business. see 'never trust an organisation that puts customers first'.

So my point is; pro-social business is not social business.
They are different concepts which have certain intersection points.
If it seems nit-picky it's because it is.

Plus it was an opportunity to mention David and Jamies's book, which I should have done before this point.

And also the chance to remember Bob Geldof's finest moment, as the assembled Rats tear up pictures of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on Top Of The Pops on the week they displaced the hideous duo's insipid 'Grease' offering at number one in the UK charts with 'Rat Trap'.

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