In recent years, I’ve shifted my own perspective on business development as it applies to solving problems after boiling down a few projects on my hot list to their most basic form and working through them all on my own. While I have certainly needed the help of others, and at various scales, and always will, the mechanism of engagement is where things have changed. Rather than assume it takes big business and big bucks to solve a problem, I’ve shifted focus to the realization that it takes people to solve problems – big, bold ideas, and staying motivated against often times losing odds.
This is social innovation at work – leveraging horizontal relationships for vertical successes that in the end benefit all involved. It can be a difficult talk to walk. Often times problems that we seek to address are not quantifiable. In other cases, they are, but the motives of problem solving may not be purely for-profit or not for profit; hence the effort undertaken does not lend itself well to developing a dedicated entity, nor perhaps engaging any specific existing entity. In almost all cases, it is the collective effort of many – from a variety of business types and sectors – to adequately address the problem, invoke change, and ultimately make progress.
The challenge for the social innovator becomes arriving at a degree of sustainability – after all we all have to eat, and generate funds to keep our engines turning. So, move over social innovator, and enter social entrepreneur. This is a term we’ve heard a lot about in recent years, largely streaming from something else that has gone social – media. Thanks to social media, the right mix of demonstrated need, a call for action, and a bit of motivation can turn almost anyone into the leading authority on any given subject. While this can be dangerous, the lack of depth in a falsified expert quickly leads to their own self destruction. For the legitimate social entrepreneurs rising to the top, the world we live in today could not be better engineered to facilitate successful problem solving – so much so, in my opinion anyway, that I think we are on the cusp of major change as a global civilization.
That change is at the hands of individuals.
The old way was all big – big corporations, big institutions, big top down investment to steer problem solving. The new way is to take problems on at the level of the individual – the free thinker – and embed them within the bigger engines that turn our global economy. Very, very interesting and exciting time.
I get excited about social entrepreneurship today as I reflect on the work of Jacques Cousteau – perhaps the father of this way of thinking, and way ahead of his time in that regard. Cousteau was able to capitalize on a huge social network which left a lasting and sustainable legacy, but before we had the social connectivity we have today. At the time, people were reached in books and movies. Today people are reached with Tweets, and Blog posts (and even the latter may be dated – sigh). Figuring out what the future deliverable form will be, will cast our entire civilization into this next great era of problem-solving, and of exploration – within ourselves, our Planet, and beyond.
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