Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the GlobStrat program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”
There’s growing momentum in the business world to respond to the global challenges laid out by Andrew Winston in The Big Pivot.
But actually making it happen — at scale — is still a huge practical challenge. There’s a gap between knowing what to do, and actually doing it. A Dec. 2013 report by MIT SMR neatly defined it as the divide between the “talkers” and “walkers.”*
There is the tried-and-true way to handle this, of course. If you want to get good at running a profitable business that’s also socially responsible, run one. Enter new markets. Develop new products. Invest in sustainable practices. Give yourself 5 years. I bet you’ll win some. You’ll lose some (maybe a lot). But you’ll learn.
The trouble is, the world can’t wait for all the leaders we need to run a $100M triple-bottom-line company for 5 years. Or to shoulder all the risks involved if they fail.
And compounding that inertia is that the scale of the problems we face today means that we need getting more employees — not just senior types — up to speed on what goes into running a profitable, socially and environmentally responsible company.
So the gap isn’t about why businesses should pursue more sustainable outcomes, or even what to do. It’s managing the heavy trade-offs of cash flow and share price and real-world complications. It’s answering the question: What should we do and how are we going to pay for it?
Last year, I took a course that speeds up learning as a solution to this problem. It uses a combination of classroom learning, virtual meetings, intense teamwork, and an online business simulation platform. I came out of it a better business person with a vastly broadened understanding of how every part of a business has to work together if you want to achieve sustainable outcomes.
The course features an online business simulation called GlobStrat where teams compete head-to-head to build and grow a triple-bottom-line company. Each team gets $100m in capital to run their company successfully — or into the ground — over 5 years, completely risk-free.
Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot, saw a demo of the program recently and here’s what he said about it: “What’s interesting about the GlobStrat game is how it sets up real-world conditions. Players can’t avoid dealing with the hard stuff of debt, balance sheets, global competition and multi-year investment time frames. It forces you to grapple with the financial and business realities that go into achieving a triple-bottom-line result for the long term.”
Many non-finance people (including me) in my class reported that this gave them a completely new understanding and appreciation of the CFO’s role in achieving sustainable outcomes.
Each decision gets weighed from a financial perspective by exploring the cost-benefit analysis from a triple-bottom-line perspective. The GlobStrat game bakes in all those choices, so my team could see how a decision changed the balance sheet dashboard, in real time, often for the better.
The course is led by Dr. Jeana Wirtenberg (author of the 2014 book, Building a Culture for Sustainability, with a foreword by Andrew Winston) and her team at Transitioning to Green. A previous class last winter included senior and middle level leaders from BASF, Honeywell, Novartis, Alcoa, Church and Dwight, Sanofi, and Alcatel-Lucent.
And there are two more good reasons why this course might be just what you and your team have been looking for.
I’m encouraged that this course is being hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, right across the street from the White House. The Foundation is a separate nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I personally find this to be a hopeful setting for a sustainability leadership program that addresses environmental issues head-on as one of the major challenges leaders and businesses face today.
Here’s the second. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Hartzfeld, formerly of Interface, speak at a conference. He talked about how he, Ray Anderson and their colleagues never talked about technologies. Rather, they talked about people. Hartzfeld said that our job as sustainability professionals should be about, “Accelerating learning rather than being an expert of knowing.” What he meant by this is that sustainability know-how has to live and breathe beyond senior-level or siloed departments. Knowing how to run a business sustainably—for people, the planet and profit—is a leadership responsibility at all levels and every function.
If you agree with this assessment, then the Jul 30-Aug. 1 Leadership for Sustainability program is worth checking out.
The problems we face are fundamentally beyond the reach and influence of any of us as individuals, employees of a company, or citizens of a country. We need to collaborate, negotiate, take risks, and accept responsibility for the consequences of our decisions and the results and impacts we produce — together. And the faster we learn to do that, the better.
This course is a step in that direction.