Artist Rob Mango (with one of his paintings) and Charlie Michaels
This evening I’m delighted to be speaking at an event hard by New York’s Central Park that I suspect will be quite (American sense) frustrating … but for the very best of reasons.
The challenge at today’s NYC launch of our book The Breakthrough Challenge will be to talk to even a proportion of the people I want to catch up with.
The audience will be made up of a heady mix of people I have known for ages (people like Alice Tepper Marlin, founder of organisations like the Council on Economic Priorities and Social Accountability International), people that Volans and SustainAbility work with day-to-day, and a score or two people I haven’t yet met.
Still, my aim is to do three things at the event, kindly hosted by Doris Michaels of the DSM Agency—who has been my literary agent for the last three books.
The first is to celebrate Doris’s 20-year stint at DSM, which is now coming to an end as she hands over to Sheree Bykofsky.
The second is to introduce The Breakthrough Challenge as the latest in what increasingly looks like a trilogy:
And the third is to hand over to B Team Managing Director Raj Joshi to provide an update on where the business-leaders-set-to-change-the-world initiative has got to. (Jochen Zeitz is co-Chair with Sir Richard Branson of The B Team and I am a long-standing member of the Advisory Board.)
On the first of these, the celebration of Doris Michaels, I was recalling that when we founded Volans back in 2008 we picked a short-list of values we felt we wanted to embrace—and one of mine that made the final cut was Serendipity. Looking back, serendipity was definitely in play that evening 7-8 years ago when, after I gave a plenary speech at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, California, Elaine bumped into Doris at the reception afterwards—and she was wearing a label saying ‘Literary Agent’ – at exactly the moment I was looking for a new one.
Given that writers write and authors produce books, it may seem strange that one question I will raise this evening is: Why another book?
This was the question in my mind when Jochen first proposed the idea of writing a book together after we met at a small Virgin Unite roundtable outside Geneva.
And the question will be accentuated for me if Art Kleiner makes it to the launch event. The author of wonderfully provocative book The Age of Heretics, he is also Editor-in-Chief of the magazine strategy + business. And he recently commissioned me to review a barrowload of sustainable business books—and, in the end, to pick just three as the top picks. In the event, my #1 choice was Andrew Winston’s The Big Pivot.
But the very fact that there is now this new book suggests that Jochen and I soon found an answer. It struck us that the combination of my work on the Triple Bottom Line (20 years old in 2014) and Jochen’s work at PUMA on the Environmental Profit & Loss accounting approach, which he has always seen as a key step towards a fully-fledged TBL approach, could create something greater than the sum of the parts.
Our focus is summed up in the book’s sub-title: ‘How to Connect Today’s Profits With Tomorrow’s Bottom Line.’
So: my profound thanks and godspeed to Doris; a warm welcome to Sherree; please do track down a copy of The Breakthrough Challenge if you haven’t already got one; and brace yourselves for a B Team Call to Action when the 2015 World Economic Forum event opens its doors in Davos early in the New Year—focusing in on its theme, The New Global Context.
That, in effect, is what the new book’s about. The challenges, the opportunities and the growing number of solutions being developed and promoted by new generations of innovators, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, policy-makers and educators.
Let us know what you think of the book—and its call to breakthrough action. Keep track of developments on the Volans and B Team websites. And let us know how we can help you do more, faster and better.
Just in to New York for a couple of days whizzing around – and am preparing comments for an evening hosted by my literary agent, Doris Michaels, at her home by Central Park on Tuesday. It’s virtually her swan-song, because she is handing over to Sheree Bykofsky. And in the process of thinking through what I would say, I recalled reviewing a barrowload of sustainable business books for strategy + business magazine a month or two back, the results of which process are now on their website.
It made me realise that the three books I have done with Doris – The Power of Unreasonable People (2008), The Zeronauts (2012) and The Breakthrough Challenge (2014) – have been, in effect, a trilogy. The first largely looked at people attempting the impossible outside the business mainstream, the second largely at people attempting it inside, and the third largely looks at what we now need to do to the rules of the market game to ensure that all aspects of capitalism now jump to a different level.
Across early to Science Museum, for a tour around their wonderful new Information Age exhibition – featuring “Six Networks That Changed Our World.” Our guide was the Curator, Tilly Blyth.
One of the most moving features was the story of how African American singer Paul Robeson, banned from travelling during the McCarthy era of anti-Communist insanity in the United States, nonetheless managed to do a concert in London via the magic of a submarine repeater cable. More on that here.
His The Canoe Song made it into my Top 16 pieces of music many moons ago. In other news, he also had an affair with actress Peggy Ashcroft, when she played Desdemona to his Othello. She was later mother-in-law to Molly March, who I grew up with in Cyprus in the 1950s.
Then back to the office for a series of meetings with people like Matt Scott of the Bank of England and a sustainability duo from Schindler Group, who make lifts and escalators. Both sessions fascinating.
Then with Elaine to 2071, a one-man climate show by Professor Chris Rapley, a former Director for the Science Museum. Sitting right behind us was Greenpeace Director John Sauven, with whom we discussed the frequent LEGO campaign, among other things. And on the way out we said a brief hello to Steve Waygood of AVIVA.
The show, mis-labelled a “play” by some, is impressive in terms of the research findings and statistics, but not the liveliest of shows. Rapley reminded me at various points of a toned down Jim Lovelock, way more temperate in his language and dispassionate in his presentation, though at times you could feel the emotion struggling to break through. Next time, though, more visuals, please.
Spent the bulk of today judging the first round the Royal Bank of Scotland Innovation Gateway Awards. The other judges included Martin Chilcott of 2degrees Network, Stephen Howard of Business in the Community, Maggie Philbin of the BBC and Caroline Rainbird, RBS Director of Corporate Services. RBS don’t seem to have publicly posted the winners yet, so will retain from doing so until they do so.
Something of a tourist trap, but nicely managed and remarkably clean, San Pedro proved an intriguing place to wander around once the days had cooled. The dogs were remarkably well tempered. And the graveyard is nicely kept and surprisingly playful, if basic.
Friends in Berlin sent us this link to a stunning celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. The short video is highly recommended. It’s amazing how much this world of ours can change in around a third of the Biblical lifetime.
Fernando, Tere and I were driven out of San Pedro this morning to some hot springs around 45 minutes away. The Termas Baños de Puritama are at somewhat higher altitude, over 3,400 metres, so I busily chewed coca leaves at one point where I was feeling the effects of the climb – though they were nothing to complain about.
The series of pools formed by the hot springs are invisible from above, from where you can only see a jagged, linear rent in the earth. Having driven through cactus-dotted hills en route, the idea that there were would be verdant growth here seemed far-fetched.
The track in is probably the bumpiest track I have been on in two decades, but as we walked in it felt as though people had been there for quite a while. And they had: there were reconstituted stone ruins to show where their huts had been.
I read later that the Atacameño people used the waters for medicinal purposes – and they are now recommended for a range of complains, including stress and fatigue. No wonder I felt I was in heaven, though one had to keep a wary eye out for biting insects rather like horseflies.
Fabriola, our guide, walked us in and ensured we had a wonderful lunch. Before that, Fernando and I savoured several of the pools. They proved to be remarkably warm and the cascades give you a thorough massage, if you tuck yourself in underneath them. Disconcerting, though, to feel the earth (or at least the pond floor under your feet) move.
Nice to see little fish swimming around in the hot water, alongside a range of birds ducking in and out of the pampas grass and lunch tables. Plus a number of brilliant blue dragonflies – which I was told are called helicópteras in Spanish. When I looked them up later, I found a more common term is libélulas, or (more exotically) caballitos del diablo.
Was also fascinated by the hot spring algae. Recalled planning to write a novel decades ago based on the work I was doing as Editor of Biotechnology Bulletin. And intriguing, too, that Paula, our guide around the Valle de la Luna yesterday, was once a marine biologist who researched red algae for commercial applications. There’s something bubbling up in my mind here.
This is an out-of-sequence blog entry, largely because when we went to the Los Flamencos National Reserve here in the Atacama Desert yesterday afternoon, in the middle of the great Salar de Atacama, I forgot my camera – and felt bereft for much of the trip.
Then I recalled that I had my BlackBerry, so took some pictures with that, through the quality is significantly lower. Am posting the images before doing the rest of the sequence on the Chile trip so that I can free up the minuscule memory on the phone.
We learned a good deal about the hydrogeology of the Atacama, adding to what we had been told by Paula in the morning when we visited the Valle de la Luna. What sticks in my mind particularly is the fact that the Atlantic and Pacific once met in this area, before the Latin american land mass began its inexorable rise, thanks to tectonic subduction.
The salt-flats of the Salar are wonderfully monotonous, though the landscape is broken by occasional bright green trees – and even a ‘forest’ planted some time back by the government.
In the distance , on the flanks of the Andes, we saw the base camp of the extraordinary ALMA project, with its 66 antenna observatory. In San Pedro last night, we discussed the planning controls here that minimise light pollution – something other countries and regions could learn from.
Apart from the flamingos, I saw a variety of birdlife, a number of what I imagine were Darwin’s leaf-eared mouse and a green and red lizard that I was told had only arrived in the area some 20 years ago.
The wind picked up markedly as the sun set – and then we went out behind the visitor centre to see the mountains pick up the reddish hues of the sunset. Some time after 20.00, a Full Moon popped its head over the Andes, and then rose majestically into the night sky.
The ride back was enlivened a woman who decided that her passport had been stolen from her bag while we were at the reserve. Silence settled. Fernando slept on the back seat. Then a vicious swerve as the driver steered around a wayward burro in the night. And then the missing papers were found in the woman’s bedroom.
After a late dinner, we sat out, around a blazing fire pit, and watched the Moon gradually ascend into the heavens – albeit drowning out many of the constellations it would have been good to see in more detail.
Wonderful conversation with a Swiss couple from Zurich, he apparently a very successful architect, she raised in the UK, and the family of four doing a 2-month trip around Latin America. Next, at least for them, is Easter Island. Given that I also learned yesterday that Easter Island is on the sub ducting plate, so will eventually collide with Chile, I said I would probably wait for the island to hove into view.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.