Corporations Should Create a New Role: 'Chief Social Engineer' Accountable for the Company Second or Third Bottom Line

futurelab placeholder website

Very crazy weeks with 8 key projects in critical phases and we’re excited on every one of them. MIT Global Challenge is one of my favorite since day one as it is a great idea to bring the brightest minds of MIT alumni to solve the world’s wicked problems. There is no shortage of wicked problems, while we try to solve one, new ones are being created.

And I think B-schools need to follow what MIT is doing. I think the true impact is how the MIT Global Challenge will inspire young students and aware of what challenges we are dealing with and the true power of communities and purposes. B-schools need to start breeding a different generation of humanistic capitalists and not the old school i-bankers, we don’t need more.

Another exciting one is Aviva Change Fund. The last one was a runaway success and this year we expect the same. Great client of ours that truly understands how the world has changed and it takes real action to build an authentic brand. Building great brands and creating positive change is not mutually exclusive. And there is Recyclebank, for which we have a dedicated team working day and night for some really exciting change. And there is the Adopt a School project which has just come to an end with some fantastic results. 26,960 books raised for children in high-need elementary schools, far exceeding our client Indigo’s initial goal. Everyone at IC is so excited about these projects. More to come next month.

Over the years I’ve seen that many large multinationals developed a cowboy mentality, where greed, ego and arrogant aggressiveness took over and they were living on capitalism horsebacks, especially during a long interrupted post war boom. US-dominated international financial order has experienced a series of crises as its flaws manifested and we see one after another-big industries failing. In fact, the current world financial crisis has once again exposed the flaws of the US version of extreme capitalism (I am also a capitalist make no mistake) and it went to the extreme.

Management theories were mostly invented during those period based on assumptions that now seem outdated and some of them were flawed in the first place. Instead of thinking about how we can create more sustainable and humanistic societies, we pushed the other buttons to drive things to the extreme and the world is widely polarized.

Innovation did not happen in areas of how to make business models sustainable and how to develop human capital and social equality as a differentiating competitive advantage, instead money and creativity were spent on how to expand new profits by using “financial technology innovations” to develop financial derivatives and establish a man(not many women)-made “virtual financial world”. That world is virtual but the damage is not.

Take the subprime mortgage credits as a perfect example. They were integrated, split and repackaged into a series of securities-like commodities, which were then sold throughout the world as new virtual financial products after being split and repackaged again and again by downstream retailers. These money machines did not add value to societies. They simply push risks to the mass, which have no idea of what’s going on. The focus on short-term profit over long-term client shareholder and social/environmental value and the lack of consideration for the global impact of their decisions is causing us pain for a long time.

Large multinationals often profess to have a higher moral vision (at least according to the annual reports) and to be pursuing a world with laudable goals of sustainable economies and environment. On the other hand, it is convenient to ignore the socially destructive behavior of those economies that rely heavily on governmental regulations and state-operated monopolistic enterprises. These economies have incurred extreme rates of poverty, repressed human rights, and excessive or even irreversible environmental damage. I want to see large multinational corporations starting or incubating social enterprises just as they incubate technology start-ups through their venture funds.

They need to play in this sandbox to prepare for a sea change and apply their scale and structural advantage to see what a social enterprise can do. I don’t know when we can see a first multi-national social enterprise with certain scale and scope. Maybe a first publicly traded social enterprise. That will be next birthday wish. Or my next or last career move?

I suggest every large organization should create a role for a Chief Social Engineer similar to the role of a CMO or CFO, his or her job is to identify systemic problems within the social systems and structures and responsibility for the second bottom line or call it the third if you wish. Just as a CFO is responsible for the financial bottom line, the CSE will be responsible for measuring the positive social impact bottom line. And I am not talking about the fuzzy CSR thing; I am talking about hard-core metrics that show social economic impact. And that should be part of the market valuation.

The Chief Social Engineer’s job (not a PR role for sure) is to create innovative path- breaking new ways to address social problems that are aligned with the corporation business strategy. I will consider taking that job if GE hires me as the CSE. Or they can outsource that role to our Idea Couture, that’s even better.

Original Post: