The Next Wave in Business – Purpose-driven?

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The Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) is an online, open access event that invites thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to explore the question “The economy is changing – what do I need to know, experience and do?” Read more

Fairphone – Changes The Way Products Are Made

Fairphone – Changes The Way Products Are Made

This project has more to do with triggering change, rather than trying to solve all the problems in the world at once.Bas van Abel

 

Fairphone

„35 year-old Bas van Abel collaborated with 10 others to put together the first “fair” smartphone. A smartphone that doesn’t use any resources from conflict-zones, or the workforce of Chinese laborers in horrible conditions, nor does it involve filling up the bank accounts of the greedy rich. Sound naive? Bas van Abel, who launched the project 2 years ago, certainly is not. He knows that he’s not going to save the world with his Fairphone: ‚This project has more to do with triggering change, rather than trying to solve all the problems in the world at once.’This Dutch guy wants to demonstrate what we can achieve when we give it a go.“[1]The goal was to create a “fair” smartphone for consumers that had the technology and a competitive price on par with established providers, but one that was not created with the use of conflicted resources and unfair labor conditions. The team managed to produce the first batch of 20,000 phones through crowd funding. Since December 2013, the phone is available for sale online, unseen and untested, at a cost of 325 Euro a pop, and sent out via mail, I bought one too.

 

Fairphone’s mission

Roos van de Weerd, Fairphone’s public engagement manager, explains: „Our project can only exert influence on other, larger companies such as Apple or Samsung if consumers show that they want transparency, fair deals and decent wages. We try to raise awareness. So far this has worked quite well.People are happy that there is finally a player in the industry making an effort to push these changes. Our goal is not to be a manufacturer who sells the highest quantity of objects, but to have an effect so that the “big” fish among us can learn and will be either inspired or compelled to follow us.“[2]

 

What is a Fairphone?

Conflict-free, quality material

A smartphone contains around 30 different types of metals. Two of these, tin and tantalum, come from regions that are considered conflict-free, and should therefore help hinder any money from ending up in the pockets of warlords. Fairphone also supports the “Conflict-Free Tin Initiative”, a developmental aid project for the Congo, in which other companies such as Blackberry, HP, Motorola and Nokia are involved. There is a similar project for Tantalum called “Solutions for Hope“, founded by Motorola and supported by Fairphone and a great number of other electronic manufacturers.

 

Bas_van_AbelFair production

Fairphone is interested in long-term relationships with manufacturers in China, because it requires perseverance and higher numbers to change the Chinese attitude. But even China knows that every development should be taken seriously, because the market for smartphones is so fast-paced. Who would have thought ten years ago that Samsung and Apple would dominate the market, and Nokia would be nearly dead and gone? Fairphone tries to spearhead a set of standards for a new collaborative direction with Chinese manufacturers. Fair production means fair working conditions, consideration of social and environmental aspects, and acquiring raw materials in a sustainable way.

 

 

Smarter design and an end to “disposable” phones

Roos van de Weerd also had this to say: „In order to ensure that people don’t just throw away their cell phones after two years, we will offer replacement parts online on our web shop, so that people can easily replace parts that no longer work.“ (Okur 2013) „In addition, not only will the glass screen be more robust, it will be much easier to replace as well. Instead of using the thinnest glass possible, in which the touch panel and screen are integrated as one, it was decided to make them separate pieces. Because of this, the phone will be 5 grams heavier, and 0.2 millimeters thicker as planned, but the risk of breakage is thus significantly reduced. In addition, according to the manufacturer, the Fairphone will still function even if the toughened and scratch-resistant Dragontrail glass breaks.“[3]

 

[1] Bernau, V. (2013): Fairphone statt iPhone: Wie gerechte Smartphones produziert werden sollen, in sueddeutsche.de from 2/27/2013, download on 8/25/2013 at http://www.sueddeutsche.de/digital/fairphone-statt-iphone-wie-gerechte-smartphones-produziert-werden-sollen-1.1610920
[2] Okur, M. (2013): Wie fair ist das Fairphone?, in Wirtschaftswoche Green from 6/18/2013, download on 8/25/2013 at http://green.wiwo.de/interview-wie-fair-ist-das-fairphone/
[3] Labs, L. (2013): Auch das Fairphone wird in China gebaut, in heiseonline from 5/13/2013, download on 8/10/2013 at http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Auch-das-Fairphone-wird-in-China-gebaut-1861908.html

Photo Fairphone
Photo Bas van Abel from Fairphone

 

weekly excerpt from the book THE NEXT WAVE IN BUSINESS
wishing you a circular week
cheers, Stefan Götz+

 

Circular Economy & Fairphone – Inspiration from Nature

Circular Economy & Fairphone – Inspiration from Nature

 

Focus on higher purpose seems to be precluded when a leader is deeply rooted in ego because the currency oft he ego is fear, how can a leader be available to lead others in a conscious way if they are busy defending a fractured ego?Sarah Morris

 

Ellen MacArthur, one of the world’s best sailors, has constantly pushed things to the limit, ever since her love of sailing began. After achieving the great feat of breaking several world records, she felt that it was time for a new beginning in her life. She had learned one of life’s main principles while at sea: Not only to conserve the resources at hand on the boat, but also to follow the cycle of nature, and understand that in nature there is no waste. In the cycle of nature, everything is used, all that comes to life and all that decays. It is the food chain of nature – that which is “waste” becomes fuel for new life. Unfortunately, our current economy works in exactly the opposite way –in exponential periods, we operate as a “linear economy”“ instead of a „Circular Economy“ and with that, we reach the limits of our growth.

>> YouTube #11 – Ellen MacArthur, Rethinking the Future

Just imagine yourself experiencing a day, in the forest, on a lake, or on the seaside in a time warp of a year’s cycle within one day. Fast-forward your observation through the individual changes of the seasons – open up your senses, see it, hear it, feel it. Suppose you were standing next to a tree, what would you see? If you, like me, would imagine a ripe apple or plum tree in August, you could experience the maturity of the tree, hanging full of fruit, which would soon be harvested. After harvest time, the days get shorter, and the sunlight is less intense as autumn draws in. You will witness beautiful leaves in colors of yellow, brown and red. It’s time to let go. Perhaps pictures of the Indian summer on the east coast of the US come to mind. Over time, the trees become bare, leaves fall to the ground and begin to rot, as they provide the humus needed for a new cycle of trees after winter, the time of contemplation and reflection, in which the tree is preparing for spring, when it then unfolds its buds and draws from the nutrients of the humus layer from the previous year.

This is the natural cycle of nature, a perfectly coordinated and mutually dependent system, in which waste, for example, in the form of leaves, is not only used, but is anticipated – it is an integral part of nature’s design. It was through this observation of nature, and intense experiences at sea – 2500 miles away from civilization – combined with endless optimism, and the wish to contribute to a better world that Ellen MacArthur began to ponder how the existing ”either or” mindset of the economy and ecology could evolve into a newly interconnected reality. After years of learning, meeting with scientists, entrepreneurs and policymakers, she created the basic principle of the “Circular Economy“.

 

Ellen_MacArthur_Bryan_LedgardShe wasn’t the only one with this idea in mind. German eco-visionary Michael Braungart, chemist, process engineer and former Greenpeace environmental activist, already wrote a book in 2002, together with American architect William McDonough on the subject by the name of „Cradle to Cradle“. „If only people were to design products properly, so that they are either biodegradable or completely separable into recyclable parts, then they could put an end to the theme of conserving resources“[1], says Braungart. There is a new book on the shelf from this duo called “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance“. Bill Clinton wrote the foreword for this book. The message is as simple as it is effective.Growth is not a question of energy, but a question of material and design. A product should never be “hybrid”. It must either consist entirely of biodegradable or non-decomposing substances.

Material savings of 700 billion Dollars in „Consumer Goods“

Let’s be clear about this, the primary issue isn’t about climate neutrality, it’s about the intelligent use of our cyclical system of nature and how it can be adapted into product design and beyond for the design of business models. We’re also not just talking about resource efficiency, which is the goal of every business today, but mainly for monetary reasons. A McKinsey & Company report [2] estimates a potential global savings of 700 billion USD for the consumer goods sector alone.

Global potential for a 25 trillion Dollar Circular Economy

We’re especially referring to new entrepreneurial potential using the principle of Circular Economy. In 2010, Ellen MacArthur founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose sole aim is to explore this principle and to find ways in which it can be introduced in a practical way into the global economy and society. She has attracted very prominent supporters to this project. Founding partners include Cisco, British Telecom, B&Q, National Grid and Renault. According to a report in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, the shift towards a Circular Economy could generate 25 trillion USD annually for the global economy by 2025. (McKinsey 2013)

 

[1] Borchhardt, A. (2013): Kein Müll: Der Öko-Visionär Michael Braungart arbeitet an einer Zukunft, in der alles wieder verwertbar ist. Er will eine Welt ohne Abfall, eine Welt zum Prassen. Damit macht er sich nicht nur Freunde, in SZ from 8/21/2013, Süddeutscher Verlag, München, P. 3
[2] McKinsey & Company (2013): Towards the Circular Economy, Opportunities for the consumer goods sector, Executive Summary, No. 2/2013 Ellen
Photo of Ellen MacArthur by Bryan Ledgard

 

weekly excerpt from the book THE NEXT WAVE IN BUSINESS
wishing you a sustainable week
truly yours, Stefan Götz+

 

Eye to Eye in Brazil – Manager-Free Semco

Eye to Eye in Brazil – Manager-Free Semco

Bureaucracies are built by and for people who busy themselves proving they are necessary, especially when they suspect they aren’t.Ricardo Semler

 

„Managers worldwide are gaping in astonishment at Brazilian company Semco, a very broad-based service company, which deals in various branches ranging from postal service to industrial equipment. Their 3000 employees elect their supervisors, and determine their own schedules and salaries. There are no business plans, no human resource department, and almost no hierarchy. All profits are divided up according to votes. All salaries and bookkeeping records are open to all, emails are strictly private, and how much money employees spend on business trips or computers is up to them.“[1]

Ricardo Semler is the CEO and majority owner of Semco S.A. Under his leadership, profits rose from four million Dollars in 1982, to 212 million in 2003, and the number of employees rose from 90 to 3000. According to strategy+business, profit was at 240 million Dollars in 2006 and at the double-digit annual growth rates; my guess is that sales will climb to at least 700 million in 2015. Semler’s management methods have aroused great interest worldwide and what goes on there contradicts everything that traditional managers believe to be true. The Wall Street Journal named Ricardo Semler the Latin American businessman of the year in 1990, and Brazilian businessman of the year in 1992. Ricardo Semler has this to say about his revolutionary business model:„We eliminated nothing other than the blind, irrational authoritarian demeanor that leads to counter productive consequences.“[2]

 

>> YouTube #10 – Ricardo Semler, Free Organizations

 

What is unique about this leadership model, the attitude towards humankind, the corporate philosophy, the strategy and the process? What kind of impact does this have on the organization and its culture?

Semco’s strategy

When Ricardo Semler is asked about his company’s strategy, he simply answers: „We don’t have one.“ And that’s not joke, it’s a living reality. This is puzzling at first, and I’m certain that there are some corporate managers out there to whom just the thought of it makes them break out in a sweat. But, what does he mean by this? Semco’s portfolio is as diverse as life is colorful, and the employees are diverse too, and that’s his point. „Once you’ve defined what kind of business you’re in, you create boundaries for your employees, you limit their thinking, and on top of that, you give them a reason to stop thinking. (…) Instead of imposing Semco’s identity on them, I allow them to customize themselves through their own interests, initiative, and aspirations.“ (Semler 2004)

 

If there is any such thing as a strategy, then it’s more of an attitude, namely the attitude towards raising questions. Why is that? Does that even make sense? And if Semler and his colleagues cannot find any meaning in something, then they change it or leave it. That sounds radical, and it is, because Semler believes in his employee’s potential for development and their needs to unfold that potential. He sees his and his management team’s role there to lead less rather than more. It’s best to let the leadership be, and not stand in the way of the unfolding of an employee’s potential, or at least not to hinder it.It would be best to provide a completely selfless support for the unfolding of potential of the individual, whether it benefits the boss or not. Anyway, it’s not all about what benefits the boss, but what will benefit all. Ricardo Semler himself even boasts a little when he says that he now makes little to no decisions in the company, even though he’s the boss and owner. He explains: „My role is to be a catalyst. I’m trying to create an environment in which others can make their own decisions.“ (Semler 1993)

 

Ricardo_SemlerThe following example should illustrate just how practical it works. Just like in any other business, people also have conflicts at Semco and that naturally (as elsewhere) can occur in the highest management positions as well. And just like in any other business, there are also power struggles that can escalate all the way up to the big boss and call for mediation. Semler recalls a situation where two adversaries thought that he should resolve it one way or another, in order to avoid problems within the company, because at the end there could be several million at stake with the decision, Ricardo Semler then gave the same, astonishing and highly intelligent answer. Because he does what he and Semco do best, which is nothing. This must sound like total anarchy to any of the more traditional leadership teams, but the intention is just the opposite. Semler explains that if he were to get himself mixed up into such issues even once, that one action, that one time of taking over authority would destroy the corporate culture of freedom, respect, trust, and self-determination, and thus the entire culture of unfolding potential in one fell swoop. And that is the worst economic loss that a company can have. So even if he possibly has an opinion or belief about what he is asked at one time or another, his answer is always the same: „Trust and don’t control. If you lose trust, you lose the core and the essence of the company.“ (Semler 2004)

 

We’ve already addressed the fact that this isn’t easy for most of us. Because what happens when we are faced with the choice to engage in a power struggle – for option A or B, or for the divisional manager A or B – and I’m not talking about luxury problems, I’m taking about decisions with significant risks. When we’re still not free of the fear of failure, the fear of no longer belonging to top management, fear of not being able to quench our desire for recognition in other ways, because we’re afraid that we could ruin everything. Existential fears arise because we don’t know how we can uphold our standard of living and finance the prestige associated with it, when we’re possibly already over or nearing 50 years old and we can’t see any other alternative, it leaves us feeling vulnerable, and no longer capable of being able to focus on the development of our potential. But when we’re free, we can support our employees to find a way on their own. And when we exercise that trust during critical moments, then our employees can learn which guidelines are most appropriate to follow for themselves, right? Wouldn’t that be the best possible corporate culture available for the unfolding of potential?

 

[1] Rotter, D. (2010): Die Befreiung der Arbeit: Das 7-Tage-Wochenende, Sein online, download on 8/21/2013 at http://www.sein.de/gesellschaft/neue-wirtschaft/2010/die-befreiung-der-arbeit-das-7-tage-wochenende.html
[2] Semler, R. (1993): Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace, Warner Books, New York

 

weekly excerpt from the book THE NEXT WAVE IN BUSINESS
wishing you an inspiring week,
truly yours, Stefan Götz+

 

1,500 years of leadership – Dr. Notker Wolf (Benedictine Abbot Primate)

1,500 years of leadership – Dr. Notker Wolf (Benedictine Abbot Primate)

My job as a leader is actually to be an eternal listener, to myself, and to othersNotker Wolf

 

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Abbot Primate Notker Wolf in Rome. He is the highest-ranking of 25,000 Benedictine monks and nuns worldwide. I was especially curious and inspired by the question of how it can be possible to run a global organization the size of Porsche, maintain it for over 1,500 years, and still have growth on a global scale?
Read more

Tesla – Elon Musk (Multi-visionary, doer, rule-breaker)

Tesla – Elon Musk (Multi-visionary, doer, rule-breaker)

 

If something is important enough you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure Elon Musk

 

„Since some time now, he amazes professionals, incites wonder in everyday people, and enthusiasm among investors when he tweets and speaks about his projects.“[1]

The German newspaper “Die Zeit” once referred to him as “Musk the genius”. It was meant as a sarcastic remark, but maybe he really is one.[2]

„And yet, Elon Musk seems to be somewhat shy at first glance, and insecure, apprehensive, if not downright modest when he speaks to his audience about his visions.
Read more

Competition and Cooperation – Huberbuam Brothers (Extreme climbers)

Competition and Cooperation – Huberbuam Brothers (Extreme climbers)

 

In life it’s not about being better than others, but to be your personal best, to find your own limits.Dean Potter

 

Stefan Götz: „Dean Potter said in the film – and I think it matches quite well: „”In life it’s not about being better than others, but to be your personal best, to find your own limits.” Is that the essence of what it means to be a team? You are in competitionwith one another anyhow, you’re brothers, and innately competitive, but that competition is beneficial because each of you seeks out his own personal best.“
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