Inspiration. Prosperity. Flourishing. Connectedness. Love.
These are just a few of the words that came to mind for those who participated in the Fourth Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in June on the campus of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio.
More than 300 individuals from business, academia, and non-governmental organizations gathered to Discover Flourishing Enterprise
—to learn and share how business can be a positive force for good in our society. This topic was explored at the individual, organizational and systemic levels, resulting in a shared consciousness that is not often felt at typical management conferences. The gathering was remarkable for many reasons, but what stood out for me and for many participants was the bond forged between those of us there and the sense of hope for the future that emerged throughout the three days.
Inspirational speakers included Jeff Hoffman, a co-founder of Priceline.com, who encouraged us all to focus on the same innate sense of wonder and joy we felt as five-year-olds; Barbara Fredrickson, an eminent scholar in positive psychology, who gave us the scientific and academic data to support the idea that love and happiness are essential for our well-being and success; and Jonathan Halperin from Greyston Bakery, who shared his company’s compassionate—and profitable—mission of open hiring and how it creates flourishing at all levels. Peter Senge from MIT led a fascinating panel with Julie Reiter from Clarke and Fred Tsao from the IMC Pan Asian Alliance Group, who shared tangible, real-world examples of how their organizations have prospered through conscious leadership and a shared commitment to a higher purpose.
It would be impossible not to feel a sense of hope about the future of business—and our world—after celebrating the 17 Flourish Prize winners. These companies, the students who uncovered their stories and the professors who guided them—all through the AIM2Flourish initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at CWRU—showcased tremendous innovations that are addressing the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
. If the creativity, energy, and dedication to purpose shared by these Flourish Prize honorees is any indication of what the next generation of business leaders plans to accomplish, then I think we are on the right path.
Guided by Appreciative Inquiry
, the whole systems based approach to design developed at CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management under the guidance of professors David Cooperrider and Ron Fry, participants worked within their organizational and corporate teams, or in working groups based on shared interests, such as the Conscious Business Initiative, the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, and Impact Investing. Some individuals worked alongside others on their own priority issues, benefitting from the collective energy and wisdom of the whole. In essence, we came together to explore how each of us—as business leaders, as teachers, as learners, and most importantly, as human beings—has the power to transform the way we address the social and global challenges ahead of us through a commitment to shared prosperity and flourishing.
Chris Laszlo, PhD
Faculty Executive Director
Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit
Weatherhead School of Management
Case Western Reserve University