December 22, 1999
While I wouldn’t ordinarily be writing a second issue of Aha! in December, I wanted to examine a major event in my life this past year, sharing some wonderment, and ask you the reader for some feedback. So, this is a “special issue” of Aha! , but it is also a request.
In the early months of 1999, I became involved with a small group of visionaries who shared a common interest in bringing forth new thinking in the mainstream business community. We began with an idea – a resolution (or a declaration) that could be signed by everyone who shared certain values and concerns about the future of the world. Like a petition or an initiative, this document could serve as a sort of galvanizing force for people who agreed with these values.
And, it was important that it not be any one person’s “thing” so we integrated principles from a number of the popular gurus and thought leaders for business transformation and planned to launch it with at least a hundred “signatures” listed.
The Internet seemed like the perfect place to post this document – a modern-day version of a notice in the town square for all the villagers to read. Only this document could be signed by everyone who agreed with it – on the spot! The only condition was that the people need to have access to the Internet.
We drafted the resolution, not sure at first what we’d call it. Some of us served as wordsmiths, some as editors and proof-readers, others as net-workers who recruited friends to help test the sign-up technology. Some chipped in to pay for the programming work that our volunteer webmaster couldn’t do.
Finally, we managed to get our document posted for all the world to see and join us, adding their names to ours as comrades in transformation. In all, our group grew from 42 to over 220 people during the testing process, representing nearly 20 countries. Each person was asked to inform their networks about the debut of the resolution. We had the national diversity we wanted and thought we had sufficient numbers so that word would spread like a firestorm and thousands, maybe millions, of people would be attracted to the site and join us by adding their names. We named it “The 21 st Century Agenda for Business: A Global Resolution for New Corporate Values and Priorities” – certainly a mouthful but nonetheless an accurate description of what we created.
This was in mid-July, five months ago.
The first week after we all got the word out was inspiring. Hundreds of additional co-signers came aboard very quickly, thanks to those of us who shared the news with our Internet lists. But then, instead of the firestorm of exponential growth I had expected, the rate of signups slowed.
On several occasions these past several months, I promoted the Agenda to everyone in my database for whom I have email addresses. Each time I was somewhat disappointed because so few people took the time to sign up. Checking out the site, reading the Agenda and adding your signature takes about five to ten minutes – not very long. Yet people tell me they haven’t gotten around to it yet. Or, they didn’t see the email I sent them. Or they must have deleted it because it wasn’t personalized.
Could we have promoted the Agenda more effectively? I’m sure we could have. Could the message of the Agenda be too strong, so people are afraid to be identified with it publicly? I suppose that’s possible although I know of at least two well-known people who refused to sign it because it wasn’t strong enough in its stance.
But why don’t people who we know sign up in greater numbers? Are they too busy? Do they suspect that it’s a ruse and that, despite our promise that they won’t be solicited, we’ll go back on our word and sell their names to a third party, or somehow impose ourselves on them in some unwanted way?
Perhaps they just don’t see a need for changing the way business relates to the rest of the world. Could this be? I really don’t think so, at least not among the folks I have in my database.
So, why aren’t people signing up in droves? Why aren’t they overloading the server with traffic, given that each co-signer agrees to promote the Agenda to his/her network so the word is spread?
These questions are not meant to be rhetorical. I’m asking you, the reader of this article, for any ideas or reasons you can think of regarding why people aren’t leaping at the opportunity to add their name to this resolution and be part of a firestorm of public opinion about the new “agenda” for business worldwide.
Please let me hear from you and, if you have suggestions as to how we can improve the signup rate worldwide, I’d like to hear those as well. [Please keep in mind that the Agenda itself cannot be changed; its words have been subscribed to by many people so changing it in any way would invalidate their signatures. But our approaches to getting the word out can be changed.]
John E. Renesch is a San Francisco writer, futurist, and business philosopher. His forthcoming book – Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing – is due out in mid-January, 2000. To contact him call 415-437-6974 in the U.S. More information about him and his work can be found on the Web at John Renesch.
If you haven’t already done so, join other visionary business people and become a co-signer to the Internet’s global resolution for new corporate values and priorities – The 21st Century Agenda for Business – which was initiated by over 200 people in nearly 20 countries in mid-July, 1999.
FEEL FREE TO FORWARD THIS ISSUE OF AHA! TO YOUR FRIENDS AND TELL THEM HOW TO GET THEIR OWN FREE SUBSCRIPTION BY GOING TO John Renesch, AND SIGNING UP.