Social Enterprise

It is in our hands to make a difference…


This holiday season, we have made a contribution to The PAST Foundation, in recognition of our neighbors, clients, family, and friends. The funds will support the prototype of a new high school Drone and Robot Team competition that will be launched in 2018. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a healthy, happy New Year! 

– Ann and Gary Ralston

What is The PAST Foundation?

For 18 years, PAST, a non-profit foundation, has been a leader in designing STEM education, bringing transdisciplinary problem-based learning to educators and experiential programs to students. PAST was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its Excellence in Innovation in the STEM 2026 vision report.

Working across 34 states, offering 136 programs, educating over 15,000 teachers, engaging 327 partners impacting nearly 185,000 students, we have remained laser-focused on transforming education.  https://pastfoundation.org/

PAST Innovation Lab, a world-class Education R&D prototyping facility in Columbus, Ohio, connects schools, business and industry and the community together to build innovative programs for students to prepare them for the future.


Watercolor © 2017 Ann Ralston

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Thursday, December 21st, 2017 Art and Inspiration, Article Archive, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Social Enterprise Comments Off on It is in our hands to make a difference…

Biomimicry – How Nature is Inspiring Radical Innovation

How can Biomimicry help my product or service gain a competitive edge?

Nature has already solved virtually every problem that humans are facing and in considerably better ways than anything humans have achieved.

Biomimicry is a rapidly growing design discipline that provides breakthrough¬†strategies for solving business and technical challenges.¬†At the center of this growing movement has been award-winning inventor and biomimetic entrepreneur Jay Harman, author of¬†The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation.

A 2013 Fermanian Institute report determined that by 2030, bioinspiration could account for $1 .6 trillion in total GDP, including $425 billion of US GDP. Savings in reduced resource depletion and pollution could amount to an additional $0.5 trillion worldwide.

There is not a business or product today that can’t improve profits, reduce liability, or solve intractable problems through the application of biomimetics.

“The Shark‚Äôs Paintbrush reveals how nature is inspiring design to be more efficient, effective, resilient, and beautiful.

In Nature’s 3.8 billion years of design experience, the roughly 99% of designs that didn’t work got recalled by the Manufacturer. The 1% that survived can teach profound lessons about how things should be made, how they work, and how they fit.

Jay Harman‚Äôs immersion in and curiosity about the natural world have made him one of the best biomimetic designers. The Shark‚Äôs Paintbrush is a masterly field guide for all designers and entrepreneurs who aspire to help the world of the made work like, and live harmoniously with, the world of the born.”

‚ÄďAmory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

Resources

  • asknature.org: explore or search for solutions by function, strategy, or organism

Articles

Books

To reach Jay Harman:

Email: jharman@paxscientific.com
Facebook: @TheSharksPaintbrush
Web: thesharkspaintbrush.com


This article ¬©2016 gazelles.com, from a program guide for The Fortune¬ģ Growth Summit, October 25 and 26, 2016, Dallas, TX, held in partnership with Gazelles.com.

Join us for our next Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Columbus, OH.

To learn more and register your team, go to http://scalingup.cvent.com/columbusoh or contact Ann Ralston, events@ralstonconsulting.com or 614-761-1841 x2.

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Friday, March 17th, 2017 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Insights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Process Improvement, Scaling Up, Social Enterprise, Start Up, Sustainability, Technology Comments Off on Biomimicry – How Nature is Inspiring Radical Innovation

Get Your Free Scaling Up One-Page Growth Tools!

Simple, Practical, Actionable – and Downloadable Right Now!

Get Scaling Up on Amazon!Scaling Up Growth Tools are designed to get to the point and get results, helping you and your team scale up your organization like never before.

Based on Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish

Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t [ read¬†| listen ], is your definitive manual for learning and applying these tools to scale up your venture.

Three types of one-page tools are available:

11 Growth Tools for Business РIf you are the do-it-yourself type, here are 11 core tools you can download and use in your business, in conjunction with the Scaling Up book. These tools are also featured in our Scaling Up Public Workshops (see below for our next course).

11¬†Growth Tools for Social Sector –¬†Your¬†Social Sector venture is¬†not simply a Private Sector outfit with a different tax return! These tools are tuned to the specific needs of Social Sector organizations, using¬†language that resonates with your board, staff, volunteers and stakeholders. Ask about our Scaling Up Social Sector Workshops‚Ķ

50+ Growth Tools for RCI Clients Рas one of our Business or Social Sector clients, we access over 50 (and growing!) powerful one-page tools to help your organization begin, advance and master Scaling Up! Call us to discuss if this route is right for your venture.

Sample One-Page Strategic Plans (OPSP)

All this talk of One-Page Strategic Plans – show me some examples!


Running a business is ultimately about freedom. Scaling Up shows owners and leaders how to get their organizations moving in sync to create something significant while enjoying the climb to success!

Best regards,
Ann and Gary Ralston

Join us for our next Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Columbus, OH.

To learn more and register your team, go to http://scalingup.cvent.com/columbusoh or contact Ann Ralston, events@ralstonconsulting.com or 614-561-5273.

© 2017 Ralston Consulting Inc.

Shortlink to this article: http://bit.ly/RCIgrowthtools

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Saturday, February 11th, 2017 Article Archive, Business Insights, Main Page, Scaling Up, Social Enterprise Comments Off on Get Your Free Scaling Up One-Page Growth Tools!

TED Talks: Michael Porter – Why business can be good at solving social problems

Why do we turn to nonprofits, NGOs and governments to solve society’s biggest problems? Michael E. Porter¬†wrote the book on modern competitive strategy for business. Now he is thinking deeply about the intersection between society and corporate interests. While he admits he’s biased, as a business school professor, he has started four not-for-profits, himself. He¬†wants you to hear his case for letting business try to solve massive problems like climate change and access to water.

Why? Because when business solves a problem, it makes a profit — which lets that solution grow.

Can’t view the video? Want to access the interactive transcript? ¬†Click here.

Getting the discussion rolling…

There is much to like in this presentation, and it does a very good job of bridging the terrain that divides social and corporate ventures.

That said, as we reviewed this video, (and in the tradition of Muppet Show hecklers, Statler and Waldorf), Ann and I had a few thoughts:

Would business take on reform of global monetary and financial systems?

Does Porter’s premise that business will resource the solving of¬†society’s biggest problems, out of a profit motive / enlightened self-interest, ¬†scale to all of¬†society’s biggest problems? For instance, why and how would businesses around the world resource a fundamental restructuring of the current global monetary and investment systems?

Many think these systems are fundamentally broken, and at the very least, the systems are reinforcing the wealth divide. So how would that work? Business, by virtue of being able to generate wealth would voluntarily fund a global overhaul of the broken mechanisms of wealth creation and distribution, in cooperation with the worlds’ governments? The same mechanisms that capitalize business growth and fund governments, through taxation? The same governments who rarely agree about matters relating to the global commons – atmosphere, oceans, global warming, nuclear proliferation, etc.?

(I’m picturing the world described in Neal Stephenson’s intense and dark science fiction novel, Snow Crash, in which governments had¬†ceded most of their power to private corporations, organizations, and entrepreneurs operating as nation-states. brrr!)

Will public companies be allowed to move to a longer view of profitability?

On the bright side, Porter gives examples of businesses that are taking a longer view of profitability:

‚ÄúThe deeper work, the new work, the new thinking on the interface between business and social problems is actually showing that there’s a fundamental, deep synergy, particularly if you’re not thinking in the very short run. In the very short run, you can sometimes fool yourself into thinking that there’s fundamentally opposing goals, but in the long run, ultimately, we’re learning in field after field that this is simply not true.‚ÄĚ

Glad to hear it, because the last couple of public multinational corporations we worked with had a VERY difficult time making socially-conscious, longer-term investments. The pressure to meet quarterly projections coming from Wall Street, alone, was devastating, forcing them to give up their long-term aspirations or be punished in the short-term as their stock prices fell. It is ironic that the multinational companies that could do the most good may be least able within the existing system.

What do you think?

Ann and I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on Porter’s video. If you feel moved to contribute to our community’s discussion, we welcome your input on the commentary thread, below.

Thanks for watching!

 

– Ann and Gary Ralston

© 2014 Ralston Consulting Inc.

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Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 Article Archive, Business Insights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Social Enterprise, Sustainability, Values Comments Off on TED Talks: Michael Porter – Why business can be good at solving social problems

“We Aren’t the World” – Required Reading Before Going Global

What do we really know about human behavior and motivation, worldwide?

Sustainable business models and social enterprise models count on our ability to understand why our customers buy and use our products and services. Our most successful clients have developed an uncanny sixth sense ability to know the customer’s motivations better than the customer.

On their home turf.

“Home turf”, for many of our clients, means¬†WEIRD countries. Now before anyone takes offense –¬†WEIRD stands for¬†Western,¬†Educated,¬†Industrialized,¬†Rich, and¬†Democratic. As long as they grow their ventures into other WEIRD markets, that sixth sense about customer motivation can serve them. But go beyond, and it’s a different story (to which our clients with global reach can attest).

weirdstudylesscrop-Mark_McGinnis

Why is this so?  Why do some of our instincts about customer motives in foreign markets turn out to be wrong Рand sometimes waaay wrong??

“We Aren’t the World” is a brilliant article / interview about three researchers at University of British Columbia who, according to author, Ethan Watters, “are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics‚ÄĒand hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.”

Their work has taken them around the world, testing how¬†perceptions, behaviors, and motivations vary by culture. Along the way, they discovered significant biases in the research methods of “…a¬†vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences‚ÄĒparticularly in economics and psychology…”

“As the three continued their work, they noticed something else that was remarkable: again and again one group of people appeared to be particularly unusual when compared to other populations‚ÄĒwith perceptions, behaviors, and motivations that were almost always sliding down one end of the human bell curve.

In the end they titled their paper ‚ÄúThe Weirdest People in the World‚ÄĚ (pdf) By ‚Äúweird‚ÄĚ they meant both unusual and Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others‚ÄĒand even the way we perceive reality‚ÄĒmakes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that ‚ÄúAmerican participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners‚ÄĒoutliers among outliers.‚ÄĚ

Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.”

How could this happen?? (Did you guess: ‘European colonialism and political correctness’?)

“The last generation or two of undergraduates have largely been taught by a cohort of social scientists busily doing penance for the racism and Eurocentrism of their predecessors… “

Decolonizing_Methodologies__CoverI cannot overestimate the importance of developing acute cultural sensitivity when going into regions affected by European colonial expansion, which began in the 15th century and whose impact is felt to this day.

Also, don’t assume you have to cross oceans to find such cultures. I owe a debt of gratitude to my aboriginal clients and friends – members of Coastal First Nations in British Columbia. They helped me through one of the most powerful, disturbing experiences of my career as I learned about the terrible history of abuse of aboriginals in residential schools in Canada.¬†For more information, please visit¬†Canada’s¬†Truth and Reconciliation Commission¬†site.

 

For any colleagues heading into similar territory, the site above, as well as the book: Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples may help heighten your cultural sensitivity.

To avoid stereotyping, it is rarely stated bluntly just exactly what those culturally derived qualities might be…¬†Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners‚ÄĒwith nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world‚Äôs population.”

But it gets worse. From the research paper:

“Even within the West, however, the typical sampling method for psychological studies is far from representative. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the premier journal in social psychology‚ÄĒthe sub‚Äźdiscipline of psychology that should (arguably) be the most attentive to questions about the subjects‚Äô backgrounds‚ÄĒ67% of the American samples (and 80% of the samples from other countries) were composed solely of undergraduates in psychology courses (Arnett 2008). …”

No. Way. Epic experiment design assumption goes horribly wrong and throws a shadow over an entire field of study. Oh Рand anything else that is based on the field in question.

The magazine article concludes:

“And here is the rub: the culturally shaped analytic/individualistic mind-sets may partly explain why Western researchers have so dramatically failed to take into account the interplay between culture and cognition. In the end, the goal of boiling down human psychology to hardwiring is not surprising given the type of mind that has been designing the studies. Taking an object (in this case the human mind) out of its context is, after all, what distinguishes the analytic reasoning style prevalent in the West. Similarly, we may have underestimated the impact of culture because the very ideas of being subject to the will of larger historical currents and of unconsciously mimicking the cognition of those around us challenges our Western conception of the self as independent and self-determined. The historical missteps of Western researchers, in other words, have been the predictable consequences of the WEIRD mind doing the thinking.”

So take heed – if your organization has plans to operate in a foreign cultural context and marketplace:

  • Read the article, research paper, and anything credible you can find about the culture.
  • Find local cultural guides and take a learning journey, immersive¬†far beyond the ‘airport hotel and tour bus’ visit. The aim is to¬†experience firsthand¬†the nation, the people and their culture – down to the specifics of¬†where and how they will buy and use your offering. (Be prepared to put aside anything you’ve read in favor of direct experience.)
  • Given all you have learned, localize your business model, offering and approach.

Maybe then, the locals won’t dismiss you as too¬†WEIRD.

A shout out to Fleurette Sweeny at SelfDesign Learning Foundation for turning us on to this article!

– Gary Ralston

© 2013 Ralston Consulting Inc.

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Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Article Archive, Book and Media Reviews, Business Models, Corporate Social Responsibility, Main Page, Marketing, Social Enterprise, Values Comments Off on “We Aren’t the World” – Required Reading Before Going Global

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ANN RALSTON

T 614-761-1841 ext 2
Schedule a Meeting

Call me! - Ann Ralston


GARY RALSTON

T 614-761-1841 ext 3
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