Between 2005 and mid-2008 I worked on a book about a business revolution that would impact marketing, leadership, management and strategy. I call it the “responsibility revolution”, a change in how we buy products, apply our talents and invest our money. My team and I conducted interviews and dug through tens of thousands of pages of research.
What we found: Starting in the late 90’s and erupting during the last recession (2001-2002), consumers began to purchase a story that stood behind a company’s product or service. This was true in the consumer space (eg. organic or green) and even in the business-to-business realm with CSR or environmental scorecards for supplier/vendors. At the same time, the employment space started to change, as companies began to attract bright young talent with purpose + paycheck. What did it all mean? Making a difference + making a dollar is a breakthrough business strategy. In this new world, generating social value is the new playground for business and product innovation.
The book was released on September 16, 2008. However, just one day before the launch, the world changed (for a moment). Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and AIG admitted it was on life support. The market cratered and the media pundits declared that we were heading into The Great Depression 2. At the time, I was on tour, trying to conduct local media. To the media, being responsible was a luxury and sounded silly. The media wanted to feature doomsdayers, economists and other such Chicken Littles — to go along with election coverage.
Companies began to pull back on CSR, going green, helping local communities and even employee development! It’s as if the world got pulled into psychologist Abraham Maslow’s safety-survival mindset. Meetings, projects, initiatives and outreach programs were cancelled. Teams were disbanded. By the end of the year, my book launch was finished, mostly under the radar of the economic thunderstorm of late 2008.
Here we are almost a year later, and those clouds are parting. Contrary to the media’s claims, the world didn’t end and capitalism is not dead. There are reasons to believe that we could all get back to long-term business planning from technical to social without risking insolvency. This planet continues to get hotter. Local communities continue to buckle under economic pressure, when thoughtful companies could be synergistically helping. Employees still struggle to maintain quality of life. All of that is still there, a golden opportunity to build brands and social value at the same time.
And we should. We should re-start our fall efforts that had an eye on the future and mega-trends not driven by the stock market’s rise or fall. So, on Sept 16 2009, I am relaunching Saving The World At Work with a coordinated blog, media and viral video assault to drive awareness, sell copies and energize efforts towards employees, communities and environmental innovation.
Will you join me? If you are a blogger, newsletter writer, social media maven or work at a company that “gets it”, I need your help. Please contact me and I’ll give you details on how we can work together.
This is not just about my book either. It’s about leadership. Napoleon once said that “the leader’s role is to define reality then give hope.” I am trying to use the platform of a book relaunch to inspire thousands of people to resume their late 2008 efforts, projects and programs too. If I learned anything from the tech-dotcom recession it is this: What you do at the bottom will make a BIG difference on your credibility and momentum during the next up-market.