May 14, 1999
Newsbrief #1: The late futurist Willis Harman is being honored by the World Future Society at their Ninth Annual General Assembly in Washington, DC on July 29. Charlene Harman (Willis’ wife for over 55 years) will be accepting the Society’s Distinguished Service Award on his behalf.
Newsbrief #2: John will be co-hosting a panel entitled Can Business Unite the World at the World Future Society’s annual conference in July.
Newsbrief #3: Dee Hock’s long-awaited book on “chaordic organizations” will be published by Berrett-Koehler in September.
May 14, 1999
Aha! #8: Where is Everybody?
by John E. Renesch
In each of the last few years, millions of business books have been sold to people who claim they believe that work can be personally meaningful while becoming more socially responsible. Publishers continue to pump titles into the business sections of bookstores – books that contain revolutionary ideas for transforming our corporate cultures, making companies better corporate citizens and managers more holistic while maintaining the corporation’s requisite profitability.
Since 1989, hundreds of progressive business books have joined the chorus of higher-minded corporate refrain sparking the birth of several new specialty publishing companies as a part of this “spiritual renaissance.” Concurrently, some large publishers have launched new lines of books for this growing market – since the appetite continues to crave its periodic feeding of “soul food.” New periodicals aimed at this same audience of “new paradigm” thinkers in the business world have been started. During this same timeframe, several associations have sprouted up, here in the U.S. and elsewhere. Conferences and retreats, most of which were not around ten years ago, have also become focused on the “softer side” of business.
Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Ray, a California researcher and sociologist, has discovered that 44 million adults here in the U.S. have adapted a new sub-culture over the past thirty or so years. Until he and his colleagues found this cache of new attitudes, the only large subcultures were Traditionalists and Modernists. He calls these newly-discovered folks “Cultural Creatives” and identifies them as the only one of the three large subcultures which is growing. According to Ray, Traditionalists are diminishing in number and Modernists are maintaining their number – neither growing nor declining.
Cultural Creatives average about 42 years in age, are much more accepting of conversations about psychological and spiritual matters, and possess a deep caring for the future of the Earth. Women outnumber men by about two to one among these pioneers of new attitudes, who also are the folks who buy most of the books.
Out of these 44 million adults, I’d assume that most of them work. Out of the working Cultural Creatives, I’d also imagine most are white collar workers. If these assumptions and assertions are reasonably accurate, there could be at least 30 million people who would like to see business change the way it relates to the rest of society. That’s a lot of people! Thirty million people can change the world!
In the past decade, I’ve known of several membership associations espousing transformational perspectives which have been started here in the U.S. and in Great Britain. None have been tremendously successful in the way most of us would define “success.” The World Business Academy, Social Venture Network, Business for Social Responsibility, Conscious Business Alliance, Renaissance Business Associates, and The Business Network (UK) may have achieved a collective membership (not allowing for duplicates) of less than three or four thousand people throughout the world! Compared to the tens of millions of Cultural Creatives out there, these numbers are hardly significant.
Conferences designed to attract people with this point-of-view, in venues ranging from Hilton Head to Mexico, Boston to Minneapolis, and Dallas to Boise, have drawn a few hundred people each at best. Of four new periodicals dedicated to these new business thinkers, two of them have ceased publication, although two new ones have come on the scene more recently.
These facts do not suggest there’s a huge untapped market out there. No opportunist would rush out to start an association, launch a periodical or organize an event aimed at higher-minded professionals in light of this news.
So, where are the nearly 50 million people Ray has identified? Why aren’t they more conspicuous in the movement to bring greater consciousness to business?
One explanation might be that Cultural Creatives possess a very different sensitivity for self-promotion or entrepreneurship. They may have a nose for self-promotion or individual ego so that typical ways of attracting followers won’t work with them. Doing it the “American Way” may not work on these people. They may not be followers at all.
My late friend and colleague, Willis Harman, wrote and spoke of this next transformation of society, what he called the “Second Copernican Revolution.” He saw it originating from the grassroots, not from any one designated leader or group of leaders
In the social paradigm we are entering, entrepreneurship with its associated heroism and recognition won’t be the same. The new paradigm won’t acknowledge stardom or celebrity to the degree that the old one did. It recognizes results and shifts in consciousness, not necessarily heroes or heroines. It honors everyone, acting together, without singling out any one person to reward. Therefore, groups, associations, events and other business endeavors aligned behind any entrepreneur or charismatic leader won’t be received in the same way by the new system or paradigm.
Another explanation may be that the Cultural Creatives aren’t organized and don’t realize how large their numbers are. After all, while several publications have published Ray’s articles about his discovery, their combined circulation is still quite small compared to the large population of Cultural Creatives. These people don’t all live together; they are located all over the country, in various industries and economic categories. As much as many of us would like to obtain a mailing list of these people, one simply doesn’t exist. They are spread throughout our citizenry, amounting to about one quarter of our number and growing.
How can these folks learn about each other and how can they co-create enough critical mass and legitimacy for doing business in a holistic, sustainable and life-affirming way?
Over the past few months, several dozen of us have been working on a project that could achieve this. The public will be invited – through word of mouth – to participate in something that won’t require them to join any group, subscribe to any periodical, purchase any book, support any candidate or accept any one person’s model for change. It will take only a few minutes of their time. Yet their participation could change the world!
In the next issue of Aha! (due out in a few weeks) I expect that this project will be ready to “go public” and I can give you the details on how you and your friends can join us in this exciting experiment in galvanizing “group mind” toward a more conscious relationship between business and the rest of society.
John E. Renesch is a San Francisco writer, futurist, and business philosopher. Since 1990, he has edited a series of forward-thinking business anthologies that have included the writings of over 300 visionaries from industry, business academia, and the professional communities. Among the twelve anthologies he has created is The Conscious Organization: Multiple Perspectives on Organizational Transformation which includes the writings of MIT’s Peter Senge (author of The Fifth Discipline), Margaret Wheatley (author of Leadership and the New Science), Peter Russell and the late Willis Harman (author of Global Mind Change). The Conscious Organization is to be published by New Leaders Press in the Spring of 1999.
Renesch served as editor of The New Leaders business newsletter from 1990 to 1997 and has caused more writings on the subject of human consciousness and business to be published than any other person in the world. He is also a frequent international keynote speaker, having addressed audiences in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Brussels, Budapest as well as many cities throughout the U.S. For more information about his work, visit his homepage on the Web at John Renesch. To contact him call 415-437-6974.