Listening to a Forum this morning about "Green" MBAs, I was struck by the fact that they were not really talking about environmental questions so much as starting to look seriously at teaching business people that think holistically about the non-marketing effects of their business.
Individually, businesspeople are starting to realize that work/life is not a balance, but rather all "life." One panelist, an MBA student, professed a desire to stop compartmentalizing her life - seems to me that she's not alone.
A caller made a wonderful point about how capitalism is about extraction and processing of resources for profit. This force has accelerated through the Industrial Revolution, and now we must turn our attention to cultivation and management of resources with the understanding that these activities affect more than the bottom line. In turn, the bottom line must change to better measure these things.
"Sustainable business" includes being responsible about resources, but also indicates a growing awareness of as a change in attitude about how the corporation is involved in it's community. Things like GE's Ecomagination and BP's focus on environment and society are easy to view cynically, but maybe we should take a step back and see them as people within business trying to change their organizations from within. To be sure, there are external forces guiding the efforts, but the employees are also global community members.
The tenor was strikingly similar tenor to our discussions of "design thinking" and our attempts to use design practice to influence business decisions. Nod to Peter for pointing out that we do not hold a monopoly on this type of thought; the discussion this morning on Forum shows that we, gladly, have plenty of company.
Another panelist mentioned that business is a "conversation" with customers. Design practice can help business deeply understand the discussion with it's clients (Internet projects) and internal ones about processes (intranet projects). These conversations are growing in their influence on the business strategy and, maybe, just maybe, on how the "bottom line" is calculated.
We may not be back in the go-go days, but it seems that some of the prophecy mentioned throughout the Cluetrain Manifesto is finding some light of day - the web is breaking down the control of these conversations. Companies are starting to figure out how they can change to better understand these different aspects of the discussion. I, for one, am happy to contribute.