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:
- This started with The Power of Unreasonable People, co-authored with Volans co-founder Pamela Hartigan, with copies given to every participant in the 2008 World Economic Forum event in Davos. The focus here was largely on extraordinary change agents operating outside mainstream business, but with plenty to teach mainstream business leaders.
- Then came The Zeronauts, whose sub-title is ‘Breaking the Sustainability Barrier,’ a book launched in 2012 at our Breakthrough Capitalism Forum. This time the focus was largely on extraordinary people working inside business who are embracing zero-based targets.
- And now there is The Breakthrough Challenge, co-authored with Jochen Zeitz, which focuses on extraordinary change agents both inside and outside the capitalist mainstream—but all of whom share the conviction that the system must change, that we need to change the rules of the market game.
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.