Archive for A Culture of learning

Partners for Prosperity

Since moving to Vancouver Island, I’ve had many great privileges and opportunities. The first, without question, is the opportunity of being closer to my family. My parents are recognized by many as celebrated community members who have provided many years of constant service, music and friendship. The second is that I have moved to a community where interculturalism is experienced and celebrated. The third is getting to know community and regional leaders who are involved in creating a more sustainable community. The fourth is enjoying the music, the arts and the beauty of the island. And last, but certainly not least, is the opportunity of getting to know many First Nations friends, attending their events, learning of their suffering and challenges, benefiting from the wisdom and the experiences of their elders, feeling embraced by their warmth and friendship, and witnessing the love and compassion that many friends are sharing with them in the healthy development of capacity and culture in their youngest generation. These children are, without any doubt, learning to be both the spiritual and intellectual the leaders of future generations.

Since arriving here, I have also had the great privilege of participating with and offering my assistance to a wonderful organization called Partners for Prosperity which I’ll speak more about later and provide a link to for those who are interested in learning more. » Continue reading “Partners for Prosperity”

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The 99 Dollar Laptop and the Impact of Technology on Poverty Reduction and Global Markets

Several years back, Nick Negroponte (of One Laptop per Child), began his quest to develop a laptop that was affordable for distribution to children in developing nations and which could use local wireless networking. While the program had it’s ups and downs, it did produce a positive result and assisted in helping many school children to have access to computers that were interconnected. What’s more important is that, in targeting a $100 laptop, he and other like him, set a benchmark for all laptop makers, who at very least, had to sit up and take notice. Bill Gates and others in the hardware and software industry at the time understandably were critical of the idea. They may not have believed he would reach this target, but they could be certain that he would try and this meant that the approach to driving revenues from software and hardware would need to evolve from a high cost per user to high number of users at a very low cost. And by setting this goal, a new paradigm was established for all hardware and software companies, especially those who wanted the program to succeed.

While we could have predicted the reduction in price of laptops anyway, as a result of continued exponential advances in technology, targeting $100 was, at the time, aggressive to say the least. Having said that, the only real question was “how long will it take”? At long last, several computer makers are building $100 laptops (netbooks) including Cherrypal and others albeit generally on an Android platform rather than Windows. 

After, more or less achieving the initial goals of OLPC, Negroponte is targeting a new $75 price point for OLPC based on a tough, ultra low energy, solar powered tablet computer with an 8GHz processor by 2012. Immediately critics of his goal cry foul stating the obvious, that he isn’t a technology expert and that an ultra low power 8GHz processer will likely not be available at such a low price by 2012. But they are forgetting the fact that this is a paradigm setting goal and, for Negroponte, I suspect it is more about setting the target than it is about his personal success at reaching the goal.  If anyone reaches the goal, the children and youth of the world are still the beneficiaries and Negroponte wins.

And, not to worry, at the same time Negroponte is announcing his goal, the  Indian Institute of Technology has already announced its’ intention of developing a $35 (about 1500 rupees) solar powered tablet which will be available for Indian students along with wideband networking at it’s 22000 universities. This goal is from a country with a 63% literacy rate and success in developing a $2000 car for the masses. What is beginning to emerge is radical life changing technologies that will not only revolutionize the fortunes of India, but of the rest of the world. Computing power and access to information will soon be in the hands of every child and every person who wants it and, I for one, couldn’t be happier.

What are the impacts on the world? » Continue reading “The 99 Dollar Laptop and the Impact of Technology on Poverty Reduction and Global Markets”

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A Reflection on Trends towards Happiness and what it means to Business

As I’m reading and studying trends related to various world issues, I noticed a few trends that gave me cause to ponder. Beyond speculation, these trends may also give us clues as to how we might organize our businesses to contribute to the betterment of the world.

For example, on reading the World Values Survey, there appeared to be a trend toward individualism and secularism until 1980, after which the values seemed to take a little bit of a reversal at least in most cases. While there was no discussion on this point in the chart, I have to wonder if there was a pause to re-think the issue of continued movement towards secularism and individualism.  

What’s even more interesting is that the Happiness Index taken by the World Values Survey suggested decreasing happiness in the US until 1980 (this same period of trending toward secularism and individualism) after which there was a reversal. The US happiness index also increased from 1980 onward peaking at 2006 during the Bush administration, although perhaps by that point with the anticipation of change on the horizon.
happiness-in-us
 Still, I have to wonder whether the reversal in trend toward secularism and individualism suggests. » Continue reading “A Reflection on Trends towards Happiness and what it means to Business”

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Individual (Legal?) Responsibility and Liability for Global Economic Justice

Over the weekend, I had the great privilege of attending a conference on “Rethinking Human Nature”, an incredible array of scholars and activists who, rather than protesting in the streets, demonstrated, by their examples of dedicated service, through their studies and their occupations, their deep and abiding concern for humanity. The conference theme was about evolving and developing the capacities of the higher human nature.

Among the many brilliant presenters was a young lady who is working on her PhD thesis whose presentation was entitled “What Can Justify Duties of Global Economic Justice? Individual Responsibility, Human Consciousness, and the Oneness of Humankind”. Her name is Shahrzad Sabet. In asking the question, she began by sharing with us the globally accepted UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. She the began to dissect the responsibilities for the implementation of these rights. To be fair to Shahrzad, I will state that the remaining text is my perhaps feeble understanding of the arguments she so simply and brilliantly presented and perhaps, at some point, I will have a chance to speak with her further to clarify or to refer on-line to her thesis work, but I can only say that after hearing what she had to say, I was completely overwhelmed by her convincing arguments recognizing that there really isn’t a minute to lose in beginning to bring this argument forward on a wide basis, and I am also quite convinced that someday this young lady will be amongst the Nobel Peace Prize winners because these same arguments will force all nations and all people of conscience to take action. Such action will come in the form of adopting laws and practices which will require all citizens of the world (or at least those who have the freedom to vote or make buying decisions), all business leaders and all government leaders to act forcefully in upholding these Human Rights by taking practical, direct and personal responsibility for implementing Global Economic Justice through their votes for responsible government representatives, those who will make the necessary revisions in government institutions, and in turn, through laws which will require all people to make these Human Rights a reality.

In nations such as Pakistan, Haiti, India, Indonesia and many others, billions suffer under the oppression of poverty, the lack of a suitable infrastructure, and through catastophic environmental impacts, while much of the world continues to enjoy their freedoms without paying much attention and governments pay immense amounts of money towards military spending and the expansion of environmentally destructive practices which only serve to further human suffering.

Her arguement goes something like this: » Continue reading “Individual (Legal?) Responsibility and Liability for Global Economic Justice”

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The impacts of Technology and Ethics on Sustainability and Business

What impact do businesses and other organizations have on the Environment?

Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren developed a formula for examining environmental impact stating that I = f(PAT) where I is impact, P is Population, A is Affluence, T is Technology. In other words, if we increase global population, which is inevitable, in order to maintain environmental impact, we must reduce either the Affluence, or create Technologies that reduce individual and collective impact. Brown and Garver changed the formula to I = f(PATE) and added the influence of Ethics. They also conclude that each of these variables have an influence on the others. Without going into a deeper description of the variables, we can generally agree that from a world population view, this view of human impact of the planet seems fatalistic because we know that the planet is already stressed beyond limits and on average, Population and Affluence are both increasing.

This would seemingly leave the entire hope of humanity resting upon the ability of Technology or a sudden swell of Ethics to decrease our net impact on the planet. Recent flooding in Pakistan disrupting the lives of 12 million people and leaving 4 million with food shortages, the worst in 80 years, mudslides in China, and a massive block of ice (260 square km and half the height of the empire state building) which recently fell off the ice shelf in Iceland into the water suggest that our climate is still shifting in uncontrolable and potentially dire directions. Ice falling off a land based shelf, by the way, does contribute to elevated ocean levels, cooling of oceans in the immediate vacinity of the ice, and vast amounts of fresh water (i.e. desalination) being dumped into the ocean and affecting ocean flows.

So here’s the question: Can we solve the issues facing us with only Technology and Ethics before our planet is irrepairably damaged and forces our hand on the factors of Affluence and Population?

The short answer is “probably not”! But there are ways in which Technology and Ethics can have an a positive impact on affluence and ethics and here’s how one idea of how a solution could unfold from an individual, business and global perspective. » Continue reading “The impacts of Technology and Ethics on Sustainability and Business”

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Sailing! An interesting tack on achieving Sustainability

My extended visit to British Columbia has enabled me to enjoy many of the blessings of the Vancouver Island. It is a place of tourism, boating and every sort of adventure, caving, sailing, kayaking, swimming, crabbing, whale watching, you name it. An island paradise to be sure. That having been said, there is a tremendous amount of traffic and obvious contributions to the CO2 levels which impact climate. After having taken part in some of these adventures, I have to ask myself, besides paying for carbon offsets, what would actually get me, never mind anyone else, to stop traveling up and down island between my parents home, my sisters homes and the many other points of interest the island has to offer. No question that, at least in my family, we are driving smaller 4 cylinder cars thus reducing fuel consumption over larger vehicles and we drive slightly older cars (my parents car is a 1992). Maintaining vehicles extends their life and reduces manufacturing and resource requirements. But even with many smaller cars on the road, their is a pollution problem in certain congested spots especially along Highways 1 and 17 and, even with the tremendous number of trees, the island traffic still contributes to the global CO2 problems.

It’s fairly clear that people are just not ready to give up their holidays, their retirement freedoms or their independent modes of transportation. Even those of us who are aware of the severe issues have difficulty giving up our carbon habit. A book called “Right Relationship” by Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver discusses how we have, for the most part, failed to maintain a right relationship with the planet and suggests how we might re-establish such relationships. But if we are going to maintain “Right Relationship” with our planet while maintaining “Right Relationship” with our friends and our families (who often live some distance from us) and our own sense of well-being which requires exercising some level of freedom, we will need to take a different “tack” than just sitting at home. For those not familiar with this use of the word “tack” it is a method used by sailors when sailing against the wind, whereby they zigzag diagonally across the line of the opposing wind in order to reach their up-wind destination. Ironically, the other way of going up-wind is to motor. Even though sailboats for the most part are powered by the wind, most have on-board diesel motors for travelling in harbors where using wind power is unreliable. Yet another source of CO2.

If we imagine Sustainability as our up-wind destination (i.e. the wind of our personal freedoms seems to blow in the opposite direction). What are the “tacks” we might take in order to reach our desired destination? We want to arrive at a place where we are in “Right Relationship” with our planet and where we have the freedoms we desire. We want to get their without having to motor all the way and creating a problem for the planet and for future generations. » Continue reading “Sailing! An interesting tack on achieving Sustainability”

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Sustainable Business and Global Innovation Networks

Have you ever noticed how world of business increasingly depends on concepts such as Business Clustering (geographically grouped businesses that work together to provide functions that one business alone can’t) as well as the growth of Global Innovation Networks (GIN – businesses that connect together globally to provide innovative products more efficiently by utilizing the local strengths and unique competative qualities of each country and market). Both trends continue in spite of the fact that, particularly from a GIN perspective and especially in weak economies, there is a continuous outcry to stop outsourcing and create jobs locally.

Have you ever noticed how much the structure of Business Clustering and Global Innovation Networks resemble the formation of neural nets in the brain? Just as there is a certain randomness in the brain’s learning process where dendrites create random spikes to other neural paths, some of which survive and other of which don’t, businesses create collaborative ventures and, likewise, some of these serve the needs of the market and others don’t. Just as the brain has compartmentalized functions and specific neurons that play different roles in the functioning of the brain, businesses have specific roles which they play and each cluster serves a different market segment.

So what does this similarity teach business leaders about the creation of Sustainable Businesses?

» Continue reading “Sustainable Business and Global Innovation Networks”

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Thoughts on Creating a Sustainable Capitalism

An interesting news item made me ponder on the how optimum the current market is for creating and acting on new ideas.

The news item was about Canadian research on obesity and how the researcher was regarding obesity as an auto-immune disease which impacts T-cell production by reducing the so-called “Good” T-cells and increasing the “Bad” T-cells. The researcher indicated that already they had found ways of normalizing T-cell production in mice and that potential treatments for humans are on the horizon, the implication of which would be a potential for reducing obesity, type 2-diabetes, and the plethora of diseases associated with obesity.

From a health perspective, such a discovery has amazing potential for reducing the costs of health-care, especially in developed countries where obesity is prevalent. But that same discovery could be devastating for the long term and potentially even short term profits of drug companies that have invested billions in research for treating symptoms.

At this point, it is a hypothetical problem but leads to the old question: Do drug companies hide cures, do oil companies buy up technologies up like cold fusion, do auto companies crush electric cars to protect current investments? Do large multinationals buy up threatening new technologies in order to protect their original investments in outdated technologies at the peril of greater human interests?  What does or should a top executive pay the most attention to when they make decisions: personal reward, company profits, shareholder dividends, their own sense of power to make decisions, building a legacy or ethics?

Asked the opposite way: Can we make a better system of economics for propagating new ideas which uses profit potential in different ways? Can we create incentives in our economic system that would consistantly encourage executives to make decisions based on any one of the above motivations and still come up with the same decision, ideally the one that benefits human society the most?

» Continue reading “Thoughts on Creating a Sustainable Capitalism”

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Reaching the future together (Leadership, Conflict, Sovereignty and Organizational Culture)

An on-going theme in the world is how countries tend to argue about land claims, especially when resources are involved. Businesses have similar disputes over intellectual property, defense of minerals rights, and other competitive matters. Individuals have disputes over ideas, who is right and who is wrong. Whenever one person or one institution violates the claim or values of another, disputes arise. 

Conflict, by it’s nature, signals a need for change. But underlying the existance of conflict is a deeper and more distressing issue. The fact that we accept conflict as a tool and allow conflicts to flourish signals a lack of maturity in human creativity and development. If not handled with extreme care, conflicts are destructive, either physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, socially or environmentally. The larger the dispute, the more destructive.

What’s worse is that conflicts tend to be destructive long after the disputing parties find a way to stop the dispute. They continue to cause challenges as long as bad feelings linger, until learning occurs, mindsets change and reparations are completed. Some disputes unfortunately last centuries.

But there are better and more creative solutions that using conflict to find solutions. Let’s look at a few impacts of conflict and consider alternatives. » Continue reading “Reaching the future together (Leadership, Conflict, Sovereignty and Organizational Culture)”

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Climate Change impact on Business Leadership and Planning

As we watch the news of enormous red dust clouds over Arizona and Australia due to record drought, the discovery of the record melting of Icebergs in Greenland at a rate that the IPCC models failed to predict, record temperatures being set in northern and western Canada, record flooding in Atlanta which is sweeping people and vehicles away and  record wild-fires in California all at the same time, in addition to the recent first time ever passage of a commercial German vessel through the north east passage without an icebreaker, along with record flooding this year in Taiwan, Burma, and Vietnam, if there was any doubt left that we are experiencing climate change, there certainly isn’t anymore. And anyone who believes that it’s not caused by human activities simply isn’t accepting reality.

The question now is, how will the world be impacted and how will businesses respond? Although there is still far too much rhetoric, even the world leaders at the UN Summit on Climate Change preceding the Copenhagen meeting, most notably Obama noting that “the old habits, the old arguments are irrelevant”, are beginning to speak seriously about the issue. Even China, which understandably refuses hard targets in the light of excessive energy usage and emissions from developed countries, is taking a leadership role in developing solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

 The question is not about whether changes in business will occur: the question is, what will drive business the most? Will there be sufficient agreement on policy and limits at the global or national government levels or will the change in the earth’s environment itself be the greatest imputus for business to adapt and what will that mean for business? » Continue reading “Climate Change impact on Business Leadership and Planning”

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