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[E4C38] Humanity in 2050 – How Business Can Ensure Our Survival In a Volatile World – Kaleidoscope Futures – Wayne Visser

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I just got back from Awesomeness Fest, a conference hosted by Mindvalley, a media company that spreads ideas of enlightenment through online courses, apps, and other exciting ventures.

What I find incredibly inspiring is the growing movement of entrepreneurs who not only want to create wealth, but who want to address global problems specifically through for profit business & technology innovation.

Dr Wayne Visser is one such social entrepreneur. He’s the Director of Kaleidoscope Futures, and Founder of CSR International. In addition, Wayne is Chair of Sustainable Business at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa, Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Development at Deakin Business School in Australia, and Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership in the UK.

He has authored 20 books on the subject of sustainable futures and corporate social responsibility, and is a guest columnist for UK newspaper, The Guardian. Wayne is listed as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior, and is a recipient of the Global CSR Excellence & Leadership Award, the Emerald Literati Outstanding Author Contribution Award, and the Outstanding Teacher Award of the Warwick MBA.

Wayne’s here today to talk about the evolution of corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and the future outlook for human civilization.

My biggest question for him was really, “Are we all going to hell in a handbasket?”

Wayne reveals where he thinks we’ll be in 2050. Are we actually heading in the right direction toward, if not actually eradicating poverty and starvation? And if we are, what do we need to do right now to ensure that the progress we make today ensures a brighter future for everyone, not just for those who can afford it. In this episode, you will discover:

  • The future of corporate social responsibility.
  • The three qualities of successful social entrepreneurs.
  • What companies need to do to tap into the power of going glo-cal – that is, serving local markets while having global impact.
  • Some of the most exciting clean technologies on his radar.
  • What we must do to avoid world chaos and more environmental disasters.
  • The five strategies for resilience and survival in a volatile world.
  • The four different types of change-agents we need to ensure a sustainable future – and which one are you?

 

Mentioned in this interview

Where to Find Wayne

Wayne’s Books: The Quest for Sustainable Business | The Age of Responsibility

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Lorna: So Wayne, it’s such a pleasure to have you here on the show. You are a very prolific writer in all things related to sustainable business and CSR so I can’t wait to hear your opinions and your insight into what the landscape is right now and how it looks in the future.

But first, I’d love for you to introduce yourself to our audience. Let our folks know who you are and how you got started with your business, please.

Wayne: Hi Lorna, thanks for having me on the show. It’s a great pleasure to be connecting with you. I have a number of initiatives I’m involved in. I am Director and Founder of Kaleidoscope Futures, which is my think tank consultancy. And I’m also founder of CSR International which is a knowledge and research platform in this space. And then I have several academic appointments as a Senior Associate for the University of Cambridge, Program for Sustainability Leadership, and also a chair in Sustainable Business at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa and adjunct professorship in Australia, Melbourne University Deakin.

I’m a bit of a hybrid. But in terms of the business I run, this really came out of my career over the last 20 years where I’ve focused more and more around issues of responsibility and sustainability of business. And after I did my PhD here in the UK which is also in this field, I started to just freelance and to try and to do some academic work and some consulting work. And out of that came CSR International and subsequently as I wanted to started broadening the agenda beyond the box of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to really talk about how we shape a better future, I setup Kaleidoscope Futures as a result.

Lorna: I’m curious to know what inspired you to get into this line of work. A lot of the entrepreneurs that I speak to, found themselves starting their businesses or getting really involved in socially responsible business because of a personal experience that they might have had that really caused them to really think deeply about who they are, what they wanted to do, specifically around being part of the solution and making a positive impact on the planet.

Did you have any experience like that at all in your journey?

Wayne: Mine goes back quite a long way, in fact, to just when I was starting out with my studies and my career. And at that time, my two prevailing interests were business and spiritual studies. And I couldn’t decide which of them to do at the university.

I had already started a business while I was at school, selling homemade chocolates. So I had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit in me back then. And I eventually reconciled into the idea that perhaps I could do business studies (which I did) but try then through my work to bring the spiritual elements back in.

Today I wouldn’t talk about it in quite the same way. I will talk more about values, probably. And that really has been my mission from then on. It was also the timing – that was just before the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. And I found myself while I was doing this business studies getting involved in an external organization called ISEC which was preparing students around the world in economics and business to give input to this global summit.

And I don’t know if you recall but it ended up being the largest convening of political leaders, presidents and prime ministers, around the world that has ever taken place. It’s never been topped since. And it was a real shift in my thinking to say, well, these are the big issues that my generation faces and that we need to try and solve.

And that really inspired me to focus my career on those issues.

Lorna: So in your long career of working in CSR and social entrepreneurship, I’d love to ask you, what do you find to be some of the most defining characteristics of social entrepreneurs and in particular what do you think are the qualities of the social entrepreneurs that have been the most successful in making a massive impact?

Wayne: I think there are a couple of things that I believe are critical. The first I would say is self-transcendence. And what I mean by that is these are all people who want to make a difference beyond themselves. So, they committed to a vision or to a making change that will impact not only their lives but their family’s lives. But to try and improve things for a wider group.

Another thing I find absolutely critical is the grounding in some values; a sense of whether it’s ethics, or morals or just a belief that we can make things better. But the one that really distinguishes social entrepreneurs that succeed and fail, I think, and this is probably true for all entrepreneurs is the tenacity or a real drive to succeed to never give up. Because what I’ve noticed is, especially with the issues we’re tackling. They’re extremely complex. These are social and environmental problems that are not easy to solve. There’s a huge vested interest that are often working against you trying to solve these problems and they’re completely interrelated. They cross sectors, they cross countries, they cross disciplines. So unless a social entrepreneur have this way that they can never give up that they can keep on looking as to how they can overcome the obstacles, I think many of them fall by the wayside.

I’ll give just one example to you to bring it a life. There’s somebody I know in India, a social entrepreneur called Anurag Gupta and he started a company called, A Little World. Now this is a micro banking company and what it does is it uses mobile phone technology and biometric scanners which connect together to setup micro branches in the villages in India.

The micro branch is one woman sitting at a kitchen table with this mobile phone and biometric scanner. Someone from the village comes there. They don’t need to be able to read or write, no proof of address and all they do is speak the name into the phone, that’s their identity, and they take the fingerprints. Two days later, they’ve got a bank account.

Now, why do I bring that up as an example? Anurag Gupta is not even a banking man. Much like Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus… these are people who’ve come from a different place. In fact, he was trained as an architect. But he had a passion for solving some real problems in the country and he just never gave up. He went around the world trying to get all the necessary technology partners together to get the banks involved and it’s been an amazing success.

So I think this is something of the spirit and the nature of social entrepreneurs.

Lorna: I think there’s another aspect too which I noticed that some of the most successful social entrepreneurs are able to do; and it’s one thing to have tenacity, but also, what they’re able to do is really not only tell their story but rally a tribe of people to support them.

And so, it’s one thing to be tenacious but then to be all by yourself behind your computer that’s only going to get you so far. But I think some of these impactful social entrepreneurs have been able to make a lot of connections across different sectors and so they succeed through the power of their tribe.

Wayne: Yes, absolutely right. I mean, it’s an ability not only to communicate but to collaborate and to generate a kind of movement behind some of their ideas.

Some of the research I’ve done has been around the idea of champions, champions of change. And when we study we can actually go back to the time when human resources wasn’t even a department commonly in organizations. And at that time a few decades ago, there were HR Champions and organizations. They have a lot of the same characteristics that we now look for in social entrepreneurs. The same with what we would now call us sustainability champions. And that’s mainly three things, one, they can articulate a vision for something they want to change, something that’s compelling and inspiring. But secondly, they can repackage that vision into the language of the people that they need support from in order to build that kind of movement behind the idea. And lastly, they can actually persuade those that have the power to get involved or to take action.

So those three things are also critical for social entrepreneurs.

Lorna: Absolutely. I’m curious to know what the landscape of corporate social responsibility is looking like these days. Can you explain to some of the folks in our audience who may not understand what exactly CSR is? If you can help define it, but also explain what CSR 2.0 might be. How that’s different from CSR of the past?

Wayne: The first thing to notice is that people use different labels, different words for very similar things. So some people talk about corporate social responsibility, for some it’s sustainable business or corporate citizenship, or business ethics and many of these things overlap.

And what I look for in common between these things is four basic elements. The one is around value creation, which is supporting economic development which goes much wider than just gaining profits or shareholder returns.

The second is good governance. And this is clearly where value and ethics come in. And also the effectiveness of the way that you run your organization.

The third is societal contribution. This has a lot to do with stakeholder inclusiveness and engagement. Again, beyond just the shareholders.

And finally, environmental integrity. And this has to do with the sustainability of our natural resources.

So any concept that has those four elements, no matter what we call it is what I would describe as CSR, and by the way, I use that abbreviation to mean collaborative sustainability and responsibility because I think that’s part of where the agenda is going.

Now, where companies are at, can be best described as a stage of maturity. And what I find in my travels now to 69 countries, looking at this agenda is that companies are either stuck at the stage of what I would call “defensive CSR”, where it’s all about risk management, still completely focused on shareholder returns and economic growth, so only doing the minimum amount of CSR.

And when it goes wrong, companies like these end up the way that Lehman-Brothers and Enron did, going bankrupt because of the greed that’s inherent in their organizations.

Others have moved on to charitable approach to this. So this is all about philanthropy, giving back to the community. There’s one cartoon that I like, said, “giving back to the community is a fine idea, just make sure you take a lot more out first.” And that’s a little bit the philosophy, right? It’s make as much money as you can. Become one of the richest people in the world and then be a bit generous.

We forget that the great-grandfathers of philanthropy that we liked to revere like Rockefeller, who was the richest man in the world at that time in 1870s, and gave away 95% of his wealth. He was actually quite an ethically dubious character. He was in and out of court the whole of his life. He got involved in price-fixing collusion, cartels. He was very aggressive in the market. At one point within four months, he drove 23 of his 26 competitors out of business. But we somehow forget all of that because of the charitable element.

Now, we really need to question that. So some companies have moved beyond just pure charity and community projects, and have recognized the reputational benefits of being responsible and sustainable. And we call this a promotional approach to CSR. If they get stuck in this place of course, you can often accuse them of what we sometimes called, “greenwash”. In other words it’s just making a public relation show rather than really changing the business. The classic case here is BP, changing their logo to Beyond Petroleum, which is a complete joke, really. They never went beyond petroleum. The most that they ever invested in renewable resource is 4% and that went down year-on-year. In fact, they spent more on changing their logo for that year than they did on renewables.

So, we need to question the promotional approach as well. Although what we find when we take a survey of CEOs around the world at the World Economic Forum, for example, is that most CEOs do see CSR for reputation and brand reasons. So CEO’s tend to be stuck in this stage.

The fourth stage of maturity beyond that where a lot of leading companies, big brands have gone is strategic approach and here I can demonstrate by using Coca Cola. They got into trouble in the district of Kerala in India because they were accused of draining the water supply, or stealing the water. It doesn’t matter if it was true. That was the perception and so what they realized was that their CSR issue that was strategic to their business was of course water. And they invested huge amounts in lowering their own water footprint as well as helping their communities in which they operate to have adequate water resources. They even committed to water neutrality. But notice they didn’t change their strategy. So all they did was align the CSR issue with their strategy.

Now all of these four approaches, defensive, charitable, promotional, and strategic are what I would call an old approach, a CSR 1.0 approach because those are all the things that have failed to turnaround the big negative trends that we face. And I think we’re going to talk a bit more about in our discussion. And what we really need is something that’s transformative, which I call, CSR 2.0. And by transformative, I really mean that it must be based on a number of principles. There needs to be creativity and innovation built into it. They need scalability. In other words, there can’t just be these niche markets or niche products for fair trade or organic and other wonderful things. This has to go across the whole market and across whole sectors.

Also, it has to be genuinely responsive, such as Unilever with their sustainable living plan saying that they’re going to double in size, halve their environmental footprint and help a billion people out of poverty through their products. That’s genuinely responding to society’s needs.

They also need to be glo-cal. In the sense of think global, act local. They can no longer ignore the global issues like climate change but they have to find local culturally appropriate ways to improve things in the community and the society.

And finally, they have to adopt circularity, by which we mean a circular economy which is a zero waste economy and we can talk a bit more about that. There’s many exciting things going on there.

So that’s how it’s different and if that was a real mouthful, but really simple way to remember the difference is if it’s 1.0 it means that the company’s probably not being very ambitious in their targets and their goals. And is probably just doing enough to keep the stakeholders off their back. That’s the difference we see.

Lorna: Are there any companies that come to mind that you think really are embracing the CSR 2.0 model?

Wayne: Yes, I mean, there are many. So that’s the good news that we do see a lot of innovation. But let’s just pick one and illustrate. So Patagonia, a company I’m sure you’re familiar with makes outdoor clothing equipment started to do some things differently at one point. Firstly, they investigated what was the real impact of their business in their sector. And the CEO after commissioning some studies, found out that actually cotton is really dirty. He thought it must be clean because it’s white and it’s fluffy, but no. It uses a lot of chemicals. It uses a lot of water and a lot of energy. And so instead of offering his customers the choice of, do you want organic cotton or our other range, he committed to go 100% organic and it took him two years to get there because at that time it wasn’t even enough organic cotton in the United States just to supply this company.

So we helped to transform an industry and that’s one example of how harvest is different. It’s transformative at a systemic level.

The second thing it did differently was, he commissioned a report on their sustainability performance and this complied with the global standard which is called the global reporting initiative. And when he took a look at the draft, in his words, at his boardroom table he said, “This is bullshit. This is not the true picture of our impact. This is a public relations document.” And so he threw it in the bin and never published it. But what he did do is he did something called the “Footprint Chronicles”, where he measured the lifecycle impact at a product level. So that when the customer buys a pair of organic jeans, they know how much water, how much waste, how much carbon has gone into producing that product. Even how far the product travelled to get to them through the manufacturing process. So that’s the second thing that he did differently.

The last thing is, that he stepped off of the growth treadmill. They were pretty ordinary company. They were being put under pressure to grow to double digit figures and at some point he just said, “This is crazy. We don’t have the global resources to keep growing infinitely.”

And he changed his strategy from striving to be the biggest outdoor clothing company to being the best. And you may have seen some of their rather bizarre adverts where they show you a picture of a jacket and they say, “Do not buy this product”, which is a very counter-intuitive way to advertise. But the point being, that if you have a piece of their clothing which is very durable and you’ve got tired of it, you can come in and exchange it or you can recycle it. And so, they’ve completely changed the philosophy of the business to get beyond this idea of growth at all costs.

Lorna: But sounds like for a company to take that kind of initiative to really assess the environmental impact of their operations and the product, it seems like a rather expensive endeavor. Do you find that going through what Patagonia went through for example, can have a beneficial impact to the company’s bottom line, like for example in terms of the reduction of cost down the road or the increase in profits because of the consumer loyalty that might be generated from such efforts?

Wayne: Well the answer is yes and no. So let’s start with the yes.

If we take another example, Interface® Flor, they’re a big carpet manufacturer in the United States. And were one of the first companies to commit, under their CEO, Ray Anderson, to be completely sustainable, to take nothing away from the earth to have zero impact. Which was a crazy kind of vision at that time in 1994.

Now, when he spoke 15 years later, he said there is no doubt that that vision that they had and that commitment that they made to zero impact has completely paid for itself, that there’s no amount of slick marketing they could have done which would have generated a goodwill in the market that they received. And that their costs were down on various fronts. Of course if you’re saving energy and water and materials, and you’re going to have more money in our pocket. So there’s definitely a business case to be made. There are many benefits associated with being more responsible and sustainable.

So that’s the yes. The no is that unfortunately, it’s still an uphill struggle for companies that want to do the right thing. And that’s because the market still consistently rewards companies that are irresponsible and unsustainable.

The pricing mechanism in the markets still doesn’t include the costs that companies impose on society and not on the environment. And so we get oil and gas companies for example, not being charged for the impact that they have on planet change, or motor companies not being charged for the pollution and the deaths that are associated with that.

So, we need to be realistic and say that individual companies can build a business case that definitely benefits but unless we change the incentives in the market, the structure of the market, it’s always going to be just that handful of niche companies that really want to make a difference, rather than all companies.

Lorna: That’s a bit disappointing. And a little bit scary I think because if we look at the rate of environmental destruction, resource depletion, climate change, and really, it’s business that has the biggest effect. It’s really the biggest player in that it’s not really so much the consumers… every individual recycling more but when business changes, then we can really see a shift in the direction that we’re going in planetarily.

So, I’m curious to know, given the ongoing trend of the markets rewarding businesses that are not engaging in responsible practices, do you think we are going to hell in hand basket or do you think there’s technology innovation that could possibly save us and reverse the direction that we’re going in on this planet?

Wayne: Well, I think technology can definitely help. We need the innovation and that’s going to make the transition to a sustainable society or sustainable future, easier and quicker and less painful. And there are some examples of how this kind of innovation is moving very quickly and this is a really good business for those involved. And if we just look at clean technology as an example, the Chinese today are investing double what the United States invest every year in clean technologies. And they’ve become world players, world leaders, in fact, in hybrid fuel cells, in solar panels, in wind turbines. They’re involvement in the solar market has meant that the price of solar panels has dropped by a factor of 10 in the last five years.

So things are moving really quickly. And countries like South Korea are betting their future and investing in clean technology, in the same way that they did in microelectronics before. So there are clearly opportunities for technological breakthroughs. But when we look at the problems that we face, in fact we have all the technology we would need to solve those right now.

We know that food security is still an issue. There are many people who die of starvation in the world today. We have all the technologies we need to be able to feed everyone in this planet. So that makes you realize that this is a distribution issue, it’s a political issue, it’s an institutional organizational issue that we have to get right, not just the technological breakthrough issue.

I think we really have to think about innovation beyond just hard technology innovation. We got to be thinking about how to innovate institutions, how do we innovate markets, how do we change the way that we’re actually organizing capitalism so it doesn’t benefit only the few but starts to lead to a more equitable society.

Lorna: What are the most serious problems that you see on the horizon? And, are there specific opportunities that you see for really innovative social entrepreneurs to get in there, resolve these issues but also be able to generate profitable companies?

Wayne: Yeah, I mean, there are many serious issues that we face. The ones that are still even not getting better or getting worse rapidly are still climate change which is link to carbon emissions from fossil fuel energies, biodiversity loss.

Just in the last 40 years, if you look at the Living Planet Index, we’ve lost a third of the life on the planet of the species. That’s in one generation and the trend is still heading in the same direction. Corruption and the lack of transparency remains a problem in virtually every country in the world if you look at the Corruption Perceptions Index. And inequality, I think is a real dilemma that we face because although we’re seeing the spread of capitalism around the world, with that has come increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots. And that’s one of the reasons why we saw things like the Occupy Movement, the Occupy Wall Street and protests around the 1% versus the 99%.

There are many other big challenges that we face but that just gives you an idea. And of course for every challenge there are opportunities for creating solutions. So, climate change, there’s a whole renewable technology space, there’s a whole industry being developed around carbon capture and storage. There are people like of Virgin’s Richard Branson putting up an X Prize for solving some of these problems, such as coming up with the device which would capture and absorb carbon. It’s the same way with biodiversity loss and equality. How can we invent, not just products, but invent new ways of organizing ourselves? So the co-operative movement is one that really needs to be revived.

If you look at Mondragon in Spain, this is one of the biggest companies in Spain and it’s entirely based around co-operatives where the owners are the workers. So I think we’ve got to broaden our minds and really see that for every big problem, there are big solutions.

Look at General Electric and under Jeff Immelt, the leadership is completely different to under Jack Welch and one of the things Immelt’s done is to bet the future of the company on solving two big problems, and that’s health and environment.

And so they have the healthymagination initiative and they have the ecomagination initiative to say how they can use of all of their technological expertise to solve those problems. And already, they are multi-billion dollar industries for General Electric.

Lorna: So what do you see as some of the most exciting new developments in the world of sustainability innovation? Or are there technologies that stand out?

Wayne: There are so much innovation going on that it really is hard to keep up. But a number of areas – if you just look at the world economic forum and the ten emerging technologies for the last year and you would go through it, it’s amazing. But the majority of them are about solving social and environmental problems. So major innovations going on around electric vehicles, online electric vehicles where they may even be recharging as they’re driving based on installations in the road.

There are things around enhanced nutrition where you drive health at the molecular level or precise drug delivery through nanoscale engineering. There are big breakthroughs happening in photo-voltaics. And also, organic electronics which of course are less toxic than the electronics we have at the moment. A whole lot of things around energy efficiency and water purification, desalination; taking sea water – we’ve become far more efficient at being able to do that.

So, even something like 3D printing which could go the other way and become a completely unsustainable technology because everybody’s going to print things that they don’t really need. Already we’ve seen innovations to make it sustainable. So one company has already designed a building, a skyscraper that they want to build entirely from 3D printed materials which will all be based on recycled plastics and other materials as the input to that process.

So, I’m quite hopeful about breakthroughs in technology and innovation.

Lorna: Yeah, wow that sounds really exciting. Gosh, I’d love to see that building be constructed. There’s another device that I saw that was recently invented by a 16 year old girl. That was a flashlight that was powered by the heat of your hand. I thought that was really cool too.

Wayne: Yeah, there are many of those kinds of solutions; one that came out of Africa was from Freeplay using wind-up technology, and that also started the torch, so it doesn’t need to be connected to the grid. But now they’ve applied that not only to radios but also to fetal heart rate monitors so within rural areas, you don’t need consistent electricity in order to save lives.

Lorna: Wow, that’s fascinating. So what do you think our planet will look like in 2050? Do you think humans will still be around?

Wayne: Oh for sure. I mean, I’m not another total doom and gloom forecaster. In fact, there is some good news for 2050. There are many facts and figures I could give you but I’m just going to illustrate it with the one sort of fact and a caveat.

The projections at the moment are that if we continue on current progress that poverty in the world would drop from 1.2 billion people, living in extreme poverty to about 430 million. So we’re cutting that to a third and that’s only in the base stakes. If there’s accelerated progress where companies already take things like the millennium development goal seriously, it could go under 100 million for the first time in history. And that’s a factor of 10 that will be coming down.

So, we’re making massive progress on that. But the caveat which sort of illustrates our dilemma that we face today is that, in an environmental disaster scenario, which could be linked to climate change or loss of biodiversity, and collapse of ecosystems, all of that could seem to be doing and that we’ve done even in the last 50 years could be completely undone and reversed.

So in South Asia, instead of poverty dropping from round about 550 million people to around about 100 million, it could go up to 1.2 billion under an environment disaster scenario. And this is all UN statistics and projections. The same sort of picture in Africa and other regions.

So I think we have to say that the world could be a much better world for many millions of people who still live on the edge of existence but unless we reinvent the industrial model, it could be a very chaotic world with lots of catastrophes. We certainly know from a climate change perspective that things will get worse before they get any better, unless we act quickly; in fact, they’ll get a lot worse for a lot longer.

I think we still will definitely be around. I think population will be lower than people think, probably around about 8 billion. We are at seven now, so, some project higher, but because of resource constraints and slower economic growth, I think that that may be more realistic. So many changes we’ll see but because the uncertainties and the chaos that we will face in society some of it related to tension as a result of inequality, we need to be thinking about how do you survive and strive in a much more volatile world.

Lorna: So what are some recommended strategies for resilience?

Wayne: Well here, I’d like to say that we like to think that we shape the world and that we can create our future and of course to some extent that’s true and that’s why we have visions for a better world, and I do some work around that. But actually the future also happens to us and it is likely to be very turbulent. And so strategies for resilience are how you can and prepare and do things now to make sure that you’re more able to survive when the going gets tough.

And there are five that I usually highlight. The first is to decentralize. This could be decentralizing your investments. It could be your operations. But of course, it’s the basic principle that the reason the Internet survives and it is so resilient is because it’s not all sitting in one place. So if one server goes down somewhere in the world, it’s not a tragedy at all. There are millions of servers scattered all around the world. So applying that principle to businesses and to investments is one way to make sure you’re more resilient.

The second is to diversify. And here, I mean people and products. What we know is that a more diverse workforce will be much better at handling creative problem-solving when faced with challenging circumstances. Because if you’ve all got the same people, think the same way and are probably quite rigid, then you’re not going to solve problems when you need creativity. So diversity in the workforce is really important, and that could be in terms of gender, in terms of culture and all kinds of ways.

But then also, the products. If you look at IBM and how they started out, they were just producing these mainframes and we look at them now where they have what they call the smarter planet initiative, they’re taking their products and applying them to all kinds of different areas where they can provide solutions. So smart crime-fighting in New York, smart traffic in Singapore, smart healthcare in Zurich, smart imaging in Copenhagen. So, I think this is the way that companies need to think diversifying their product portfolio as well.

The third then is to defend. This is a slightly more traditional approach but one of the most obvious ways is just insurance. So to make sure that you have put something aside for when things get tough. But it can also be to defend your values because we know that if you really believe in something, you can survive through turbulence much better.

The fourth strategy is to de-couple. Because we know we are heading into a world where resources would become more and more scarce, more and more expensive, there’ll be more and more collapsing ecosystems, anything that you can do as a business to de-couple your own growth and success from your resource inputs is going to stand you in good stead because you’re not going to be so dependent on something that is so scarce and where prices will be extremely volatile. And there are companies that are getting very good at this. Fuji Xerox is an example. Now it has reached, in Asia, 98.5% recyclable material in their products. Big companies like Nike’s considered design program, where they’re designing their products to be completely fed back into the manufacturing process so that shirts become shirts and shoes become shoes, or become tennis courts. So they throw nothing away. This idea of mission zero, I think is really starting to be something that we can achieve.

The last resilience strategy is one that maybe isn’t quite so obvious but it’s to define. And by that, I mean, define your purpose. Because what we know is that people need something to believe in. And if you know what you, why you exist as an organization or as a country, and you can hang on to that during tough times -if you have something to strive for – you’re going to be far more likely to survive. And this is well tested, goes back to psychology, psychiatry. If we look at somebody like Victor Frankl; he was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived four Nazi concentration camps and he observed that those that were most able to survive were those that had something to believe in, something beyond themselves. A purpose in their life or sense of meaning.

So, I think defining really what your purpose is about which can’t be about increasing sales – nobody gets excited about that – It’s got to be about making a difference in the world. That can stand you in good stead as a resilience strategy.

Lorna: Thank you for sharing those points, really lot of great food for thought here, especially around businesses, also around one’s individual lifestyle choices too.

So I’d love to ask you, what do you think is the most effective way to change the world?

Wayne: Well, some of the research I’ve done, suggests that, of course many of us working in this and related fields are change-agents of one kind or another but we’re not all the same. And so, there is no single most effective way to change the world. What we need are people playing to their own strengths as change-agents and being effective relative to their strengths.

From my research, I’ve identified four different types of change-agents. And this is based on where they get their deep satisfaction from. And so we need first the experts. These are people who change the world through ideas, through really knowing a subject and being the best at seeing how that all fits together. They’re very good at putting in systems, running projects.

We also need facilitators. These are people who are far better working with other people; facilitating groups, facilitating processes of negotiation or reconciliation and moving things forward using people.

And then we get the catalysts. The catalysts are people who very good at strategic operations and their skill is actually being able to influence, so it’s to be with the power brokers and to be able to move whole organizations or institutions. And then they’re quite different from the fourth which is the activists.

The activists are those who are very connected to the grassroots and very inspired and passionate to change things on the ground. They ask very difficult questions of those in power. And that’s what they are good at. They shake the boat.

So, I think we need all of these different kinds of people to change the world. And then we also need patience. I’ve been fortunate enough to look through the transition in South Africa to democracy. And although when it happened, it happened very quickly; it took 40 years of millions of people taking action in all kinds of different ways before that change actually happened. And so we have to look at change, I think, as something that if it’s really big change, it takes at least a generation.

Lorna: Yeah, I just recently had a fantastic interview with Jane Chen, one of the co-founders of a company called Embrace Innovations, and she said to me that one of the things she regretted was not having more work-life balance. And she said, if you want to change the world, you have to understand that it is going to take time. So it’s important also to get the rest you need and to not drive yourself so hard if you happen to be one of those change-agents to have that patience, yes. Because burning out is not going to help you become a bigger and better change.

Wayne: No, and it’s admitting also the scope of how much we can change. So it’s actually by changing your world, which is the world around you, in the most effective way using the strengths that you have and the passions that you have and then recognizing that you are part of a web that’s very interconnected, and that you actually never know.. there’s a kind of butterfly effect that could happen where some little change that you make could ripple through the web and create a big change elsewhere.

So it’s not trying to do too much, I think, or being too starry-eyed and believing that these things are easy and that you can change the whole world. But you can change things around you and those that you have some influence over, and in the best way you know how. You never know where the effects of that could be.

Lorna: Wow, so we’re coming to the end of our interview. I’d love to leave you with my last favorite question. Wayne, can you tell us, how do you be the change you want to see in the world? Is there an important mindset shift or core value that you uphold that has enabled you to create a positive lasting legacy through your business?

Wayne: For me it just comes down to tapping into meaning in my life, and realizing that everybody is searching for meaning in their lives, they are searching for deep satisfaction, and that is something that binds us together. And actually, it’s such a powerful force of motivation, something that inspired and fueled my ethics – my whole life, especially in the last 20 years in this career.

So for me, the mindset shift was shifting to the idea that I need to achieve for the sake of achieving because there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious but to something that says what I need to achieve in a way that is meaningful for me and for those around me. And actually, what we find when we understand where people get their meaning from is that a huge source of meaning is doing something beyond yourself; a kind of altruism or self-transcendence. So you can actually find that you’re energized by tapping into your own deep source of satisfaction while also making some contribution to a better world around you.

Lorna: Thank you so much for sharing with us your insight and your depth of knowledge. I really, really appreciate it, Wayne.

Let me ask you, how can we best stay in touch with you?

Wayne: Through the usual social media. I’m on Twitter @waynevisser I’ve got a Facebook page. I’m on LinkedIn and of course, I have my own website as well. If people want to try and get in touch with me directly through email on the website, waynevisser.com

Lorna: Thank you so much. You have a beautiful rest of your day.

Wayne: Thank you so much.
[END OF RECORDING]

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Lorna Li

Chief Evolutionary Officer at Entrepreneurs for a Change
Lorna Li is a business coach, entrepreneur and Amazon rainforest crusader, with a passion for green business, social enterprise, and indigenous wisdom. She helps changemaking entrepreneurs harness the power of the Internet to reach more people and make a bigger impact, while designing the lifestyle of their dreams. She is an Internet marketing consultant to changemakers, and works with innovative tech startups, sustainable brands, social enterprises & B-Corporations on SEO, SEM & Social Media marketing.
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