Using Appreciative Inquiry, businesses treat their human capital as problem-solving visionaries
This concept explores the desirability-overlap that exists between a business, its customers, its employees, and the planet we share. It also shows how inspired workers can be taught to bring world benefits to the marketplace.
Tim Brown has said that to solve problems creatively, “Design thinking is a social skill we all need.” And if it’s a skill needed by all how, then, do we ensure everyone within an organization gets exposed to it? Is it possible that career-elitism and micro-inequities (even when unintended) limit the gospel of design thinking to the choir?
Inspiration for innovation. I'll trade ya.
This concept proposes that the sponsor of this challenge “work directly with all institutions to embed sustainability into their core strategy, applying cutting-edge competencies in design, innovation, whole systems and appreciative inquiry” -- and that the learning be made available to every working member within the receptive business.
Every individual, in the flattest imaginable implementation. Night cleaning crew and lunchroom staff included. Appreciative Inquiry that's thoroughly inclusive might turn up some surprising wins from previously invisible players.
“I know that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed.” (Alice Walker) That poetically describes how I view life's interconnectivity. I didn’t come upon that deep function of empathy through engineering, design, business, technology, statistics, or any of the other more traditional fields of study. I’m a backdoor innovator. And there are a lot of people in the workforce like me who are oriented to empathic insight and cross-disciplined implementation, but the confines of their "job" do not pull on that capability. Abundant human resources are going untapped and unleveraged in most businesses, due to presumption and typecasting. Creative work is done by creatives. Copy is done by writers. Planning is done by strategists. Most businesses still get their work done in a silos.
But what if workplaces could experience hybridization through the implementation of a World Benefit Assessment Tool that finds the match between their company's targeted world challenge and the employee's unique ability to address that challenge?
If all workers were included in innovative initiatives, and if a demand was put upon their innovative potential, many would rise to the occasion, and energetically contribute to their company's identified world benefits.
How does your concept celebrate, identify or inspire for-profit businesses that act as agents of world benefit?
This 2.5 minute video -- http://vimeo.com/10266121 -- showcases a legendary Herman Miller story, about a poet and a millwright. It's quick, and well worth the click away.
Just like that millwright, all workers have some hidden extraordinariness. A business that helps its workers discover and extract that "moreness" can reasonably expect those same workers to not only be more engaged and vital at work, but also to make significant contributions to innovative world benefits. Two examples that show the success of this approach come from Google:
(1) their "Missions That Matter" (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/innovation/missions-that-matter.html) and;
(2) their "Eight Pillars of Innovation" (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/quarterly/innovation/8-pillars-of-innovation.html).
Both articles show the incredible productivity and ingenuity that can arise when workers are entrusted to develop their genius, and are given the time and space to do so.
How will your concept help us create or leverage stories of world benefit that are sticky and shareable?
The millwright video shared above is a great example of sticky and shareable. Its timeless popularity is because it is such a profoundly human story.
This concept invites businesses to mine the collective wisdom of the people already in their organization... to uncover the diverse aptitudes and passion it takes to fuel world benefits. An actualized, intrapreneurial workforce is the most enduring design any business can create, and lots of inspiring stories will naturally unfold as a result.
The most compelling stories should be shared on the Wiki for Business World Benefit, as proposed by Vincent Cheng http://www.openideo.com/open/business-impact-challenge/concepting/wiki-for-business-world-benefit-/. As well as featured in the annual Business Week publication, proposed by Alan McDonald http://www.openideo.com/open/business-impact-challenge/concepting/businessweek-best-in-business-issue/
This kind of visibility creates affection and loyalty for an organization, as they have just distinguished themselves as highly human in an increasingly dehumanized world.
What will it take to scale your concept so that its reach is global and widespread?
Scaling this concept will require the creation of a World Benefit Assessment Tool. The WBAT would be implemented like an Appreciative Inquiry Summit and can be:
1. modeled after the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview.html);
2. customized to align with the culture, focus and impact interests of each individual business; and
3. proctored through each business' Human Resource Department, OR a dedicated WBAT team can be created for the purpose of ensuring that *all* employees are introduced to their company's World Benefit Initiatives, and that they are given the chance to make meaningful contributions to those initiatives. Ideally, the WBAT training will help each worker match a world benefit to an aptitude or passion they possess but that may be unused in their current role.
To incentivize businesses to do this good work, I endorse Joanne Mercado's proposed IWB8000 certification (http://www.openideo.com/open/business-impact-challenge/concepting/iwb-8000-2012-innovations-for-world-benefit/) and Ian Wyosnick's three-tier tax incentive (http://www.openideo.com/open/business-impact-challenge/concepting/motivate-the-company-by-rewarding-the-investors/).