New-Year Hope N° 1: Enlightened Businesses Can Bring About The Paradigm Changes Our World Needs

G. challenged me.
She wrote me: “….I was affected by the despair and the darkness of your New-Year’s blog. … It has been more than 5 years now that we rub shoulders and in all those years I have never experienced the this nostalgic Charles… “.
Yes I was nostalgic at year-end, but in my blog I also indicated how Memory and Hope combined achieved to spirit away my initial despair… I achieved this thanks to Elie Wiesel and Vaclav Havel, but also by remembering all the “the hopeful and positive things” that had crossed my path. And I undertook to share these things with you in “more than a summary way”.
I answered to G. that she had inspired my next blog:
I have seen and experienced an increasing number of companies who are changing their purpose to becoming “socially legitimate”, environmentally benign” whilst reinforcing their “economic clout”
Reviewing last years blogs my memory lights up again.. Let me just first mention two examples that I reported and that I’ve been directly involved in:
The first company I’m involved in since more than 6 years. I evoked it in this blog . This inspired me to try to start a dialogue about what the deepest purpose of a “business” might be: Does it come as a surprise that today, it is increasingly admitted that “maximizing shareholder value” is but a  consequence of higher order purposes?
The second company is another rare example. It decided, in 2011, to send 280 of its executives, in multi-disciplinary teams of 20, to travel wherever they wanted in the World, to “Invent the Future”. I went in California with their “Team 17”. Reports of some notable experiences are to be found in my May 2011 blogs.
Both these companies have understood sustainability and success comes through also serving and adding real value to society at large… My friend Bruce Beck, from Cities as Forces for Good in the Environment, has recently published a masterful “Sustainability Concept Paper” that should inspire every organization, institution or any other Human undertaking … Enlightened companies are increasingly acting as Forces for Good for the Whole of Society.
G. recently attended me to this through the angle of this excellent essay called,  “Is Social Innovation the Future of the Economy?” Do read it, and surprise yourself discovering that this article comes from an institution that brings together 12 of the most elitist top French graduate “Hautes Ecoles”. For those who speak French, I highly recommend the impeccably researched “communication” from 4 French Researchers called “Innovations Sociales et Entrepreneuriat :A Nouveaux Marchés, Nouveaux Entrepreneurs?“.  I hereby extent my thanks to G. for attending me to developments I didn’t expect to find so powerfully expressed in France.

Lastly, let me refer to this apparently “ordinary book” with its apparently ordinary title “Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation”. Ordinary at first sight only, were it not that it is written by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, the generally acknowledged World Wide leader in Innovation. An Extra-ordinary book because in it Tim Brown explains how he sees why the design profession should cease to stay preoccupied with creating nifty, fashionable objects when their talent can be better used for solving pressing questions like clean water access. In his book he calls for a shift to local, collaborative, participatory “design thinking” to serve and  bring value to society at large. His Ted talk provides a quick introduction, but I do recommend to read the book. See also the 2010 article “Design Thinking for Social Innovation”

Whilst my memory was recalling these and so many other “signals” from the corporate world, it had the effect of overthrowing my mind: Hope came back instantaneously, defeating despair. I saw clearly again how progressive and courageous, pioneering, societal responsible companies can turn the tide away from social economic despair.


Equipped with paradigm changing organizational concepts, moving towards very different leadership modes, fostering autonomous and responsible “employee citizenship”, inventing new well balanced business and stakeholder cooperation models, embedding themselves in mutually reinforcing broader ecosystems, these companies will virally diffuse their paradigm changing ways of thinking, learning, adapting, cooperating, organizing, deciding, addressing successfully the ever changing complexity of the World.

I’ve witnessed indeed how in such companies people are transformed, how they do grow and flourish, by being allowed to self-determine their future so as to reach their highest potential. This happens not only to employees, but to every single person that interacts with such companies, not the least their customers…. From there it does spread virally to the families, friends, and communities

I do belief in the huge impact that these individual transformations will have on society at large. My despair has totally disappeared. Rest me to discover these companies and help them in their transformation.


About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 17 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe. I am now fully engaged alongside Gunter Pauli in the and the @myblueeconomy Networks as CEO of ZERI.EU vzw (Non for Profit association)
This entry was posted in Books and Articles, My thoughts and recent discoveries, People. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New-Year Hope N° 1: Enlightened Businesses Can Bring About The Paradigm Changes Our World Needs

  1. Pingback: New Year Hope N° 2: Chido’s Life and “The Future Of Hope” Project Demonstrating “The Future Of Leadership” | Charles van der Haegen's Blog

  2. Ralf says:

    Thank you very much Charles for your thoughts on what is entrepreneurship going to spark 🙂 All the best for 2012 and beyond for you, your family, and all your dreams that reside in your mind!

    Cheers from a dear “serendipity friend” – Ralf

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