This is a story about unsung heroes, dancing like nobody’s watching, and the unsexy process of making big things happen.
It holds a clue for accomplishing that game-changing initiative you’ve been contemplating.
Just before the close of 2016, the B Corp community hit a major milestone: We are now 2,000+ businesses strong. B Corps are for-profit companies using business as a force for good. We are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Widespread adoption of B Corp certification wasn’t exactly a shoo-in when the U.S.-based nonprofit certifying body, B Lab, was created in 2006. The business world already had an alphabet soup of sustainability and corporate responsibility certifications to choose from. While the B Corp assessment took a uniquely holistic approach, evaluating and reporting on the operations of a business is a non-trivial undertaking. And, would-be B Corps were scattered all over the world, with limited connections to each other.
It took seven years for the first 1,000 B Corps to sign on. It only took another two years to double that number.
The movement is now scaling rapidly. Social diffusion from one passionate advocate to another — many anonymous outside their own circles — is a hallmark of the B Corp community.
Against Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom says that people join a movement when they are inspired to action by a leader’s vision, and they change their own behavior to act on that vision.
The B Corp concept emerged to a receptive audience. In the early 2000s, the U.S. experienced a swell in demand for sustainable products and socially-and-environmentally responsible companies to buy them from.
Whether or not we can put it into words — which we often can’t — most people carry a sense of purpose. Simon Sinek calls it our “why.” Think about a public figure or organization that communicate their purpose so clearly and vividly that you can feel it. So vividly that you can feel the tingling in your fingers and the urge to go out and do something. When that vivid vision kindles the flame of your own purpose — that’s your “why” and a leader’s “why” clicking and catalyzing you to be more of yourself.
As the marketplace filled with sustainable options, a rush of people saw their values reflected in the business world. Click!
The B Corp community enabled thousands of people to lead from their own individual purpose, and spurred a volunteer movement that now spans the globe. Rather than changing to fit a leader’s vision, as conventional wisdom suggests, members of the B Corp movement found the network to accelerate their own mission.
Passion spreads ideas quickly.
This is where the solo dancing guy comes in. In Derek Silver’s classic TED talk, we see how one man grooving solo on a hillside catalyzes a crowd to get and create an impromptu dance party.
At a speedy 3:02 minutes, the video’s worth watching now.
The video reveals an unsexy secret to making big things happen: The followers are the unsung heroes that make the leader, and the movement itself, successful. As a leader, the solo dancing guy started off looking a little crazy, and then welcomed followers as equals.
The B Corp community followed the business strategy guidebook to the letter: Create a shared vision. Establish shared language and open communication. Define a set of core business practices. Execute on the plan.The secret sauce to growth was likely the way B Lab welcomed members to take on influential roles in the movement and claim it as their own.
Volunteer teams hold B Lab-sanctioned B Corp Leadership Development (BLD) events around the world, offering personal connections and professional development. Committees led by volunteers schedule campaigns and mixers and educational events to engage the public with B Corps.
These volunteer leaders are locally visible, vocal champions that galvanize the community. Standing firmly on the B Lab platform, they build and reiterate the community’s core values.
The (not so) surprising feat that created 2,000+ B Corps is simple, yet rare: The B Corp community is a beacon for professionals that see themselves using business as a force for good, and the movement’s leaders welcome others to take on influential roles.
Once the music starts playing, we’re all up and dancing.
Do you need some help making positive change in your organization? Kosmenko & Co. assists you to move from intention to action. Our game-changing clients look to us for advising on change leadership and sustainability, and to build their strengths through high-impact training.
- Posted by Kimberly Kosmenko