Persia, Detroit, Blockbuster Video, and the New York Yankees. These seemingly unrelated words have one common attribute: Each failed to embrace change and became extinct or irrelevant. As we speak, the world is undergoing a massive shift in the way knowledge is being disseminated. The idea that an organization can be built by acquiring knowledge and using people to repeat the process over and over with a few minor changes along the way is going the way of the dinosaurs. The words, “change maker”, “social entrepreneur”, and “cognitive empathy” will determine whether individuals working for an organization will be contributing components of a bright future or decaying relics of the past.
What is going on while most of the country focuses on the travails of “The Situation”, New Jersey Housewives, or Bruce Jenner’s gender? Read about Ashoka, and you will gain some insight. Learn about recent Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafazi, who stood up to the Taliban as a teenager and led the charge for education reform for young girls in her country. The answers can be found here and in many like-minded organizations scattered throughout the world that will lead this new social revolution.
The founder and leader of this movement is a man named William Drayton, founder of Ashoka Youth Venture. He is an enormously intelligent person who used his outstanding education and experience in both private and public industry to make the world a better place. More importantly, he devoted his life to building a sustainable ecosystem of young social entrepreneurs to begin to transform modern society and industry in a bottom-up, team of teams approach. I recently attended a lecture by Mr. Drayton at Stony Brook University on Long Island. He gave a compelling message of inspiration and terror; i.e., Inspiration for those who will ride the wave of innovative, empathetic problem-solving (change makers); and terror for those who choose to keep the status quo. The message is adapt or die. The days of becoming highly skilled at something by going to college and repeating your knowledge over and over in a stable and lucrative career are coming to an end. You will be the prey, and complex algorithims and robots will be the hunters. Watson, IBM’s super computer, will soon figure out a way to displace the functions of 50% of highly skilled doctors and nurses. Bankers will be replaced by technologies from non-bank companies like Alibaba. A career in transportation will be in the design of self-driving cars and trucks, not in operating the vehicles. The list is endless.
While the picture painted may seem a bit apocalyptic, the opposite is actually true for those willing to embrace, instead of fight, the change. A new world filled with social entrepreneurs like Malala is about to reach critical mass and burst upon the scene. A social entrepreneur is someone who seeks out a problem affecting a group of people and solves it in a sustainable manner. The problem is usually something that is inaccessible due to cost, greed or inefficiency. It can be in any portion of society. Education, health care and the environment are prime targets. No matter the problem, the formula is the same: Find like- minded individuals; create groups of groups that share data; plan for sustainability; and, most important, focus on cognitive empathy. This means your business model not only will provide personal fulfillment, but will have a greater goal or purpose that will make the world a better place. Think this is far-fetched? Go visit Google and study their model, it is being done there on a large scale.
Why is the time right? Here are some things we have no shortage of in our society:
1.People who are not fulfilled at work. Cube Farms anyone?
2.Various social problems that are hindering the great potential of billions of people.
3. Young people who care and want to express themselves in a meaningful, impactful way. They also need jobs!
The tinder has been gathered; and once the catalyst does its thing, there will be no turning back. The catalyst, by the way, will be large-scale acceptance of social entrepreneurship as the way of the future in industries, public schools and universities throughout the country . It is actually happening in your own community or near-by, if you bother to look closely.
This brings us to my industry: financial services. If there was ever a sector that was prime for a disruptive force, it would be the land of greed. You could not pick a greater antithesis to social entrepreneurship if you tried: Top-down structures that cherish non-transparency. It harkens back to the days when The Church kept all of its dogma in Latin to control the peasants, who couldn’t read the language. Leaders like Sandy Weil, Richard Fuld, Stanley O’Neil, and Angelo Mozilo, showed just how deep their cognitive empathy flows when they took the money and ran. The good of all cannot be found anywhere in expensive sales charges, complex and dangerous products, and contests for top sales people to win free trips to Barbados. This zero sum game in which counterparties, I mean “clients,” are treated like ‘muppets” is not long for this world. The change has already begun.
The leader has been the aptly-named Vanguard Group, led by Jack Bogle, which saw the social problem of millions of investors getting taken advantage of, and provided a solution: The low-cost index fund, which made proper savings for retirement accessible at a low cost to the average Joe. Many others have seen the light and have become change makers and social entrepreneurs that will enable them to thrive while the old dinosaurs become dead men walking. The rise of bloggers, such as Barry Ritholz, Josh Brown, Ben Carlson, Tadas Viskanta, Jason Zweig, Carl Richards, Morgan Housel and many others have spread the word about how to avoid being prey to financial sharks. Companies like Beterment, Wealth Front, Upside and Riskalyze are creating easy-to-use, accessible technology for those who have either been abandoned by the industry or gouged by it. The battle is being joined by those who have seen the light or the writing on the wall. This industry will be unrecognizable to the old guard in less than a decade for the good of all. These social entrepreneurs of finance identified a problem, formed collaborative groups and alliances with like-minded people, and are developing a sustainable, affordable, solution to a huge problem affecting hundreds of millions of people. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes people cannot see the forest through the tress.
The choice is clear. Embrace this monumental shift and become a fulfilled valued member of society who is looking out for the greater good of all, or ignore it at your own peril. This will lead to extinction or worse — walking with the undead feeding off the remnants of a world that no longer exists.