In May 1996 I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Willis Harman at a World Business Academy meeting on Vancouver Island. What a wonderful experience that was.
This morning, as I am trying to push through a report I am (as I often do when under pressure) finding productive ways to procrastinate (I claim it is making space for creativity to emerge).
Willis was an incredible visionary (see below), the Founder of the World Business Academy and architect of the visionary concept of Business and Responsibility for the Whole.
He argued that throughout history the dominant institutions in society had assumed some level of responsibility for the whole, or the society ended up not lasting long or well. He noted that through time the dominant institutions had included; clan, tribe, church, nation-state and now we are clearly in a state where business is the most dominant institution in society.
In May 1996 I was just getting ready to enter the Sloan Fellowship program at Stanford Business School. I was a bit apprehensive as my educational background was, well, unique at the least (I felt like I had earned a few degrees from the school of hard knocks but had never completed high school nor university. A Masters from Stanford Business School was slated to be my first academic graduation.
Anyway, I had read many of Willis' writings prior to the meeting and was looking forward to meeting him. He was even more interesting and insightful than I had imagined and very approachable. When I confessed some of my apprehension to him he laughed it off and assured me I would enjoy the time at Stanford.
I left the week with him with an invitation to spend time with him when I was at Stanford and even had a half-formed plan that I would find a way to work with him and learn from him after graduation.
Unfortunately, soon after this Willis was diagnosed with cancer and did not last long.
His thinking and his energy helped to provide a lot of intellectual foundation for what is today called Corporate Social Responsibility.
I was very fortunate to have known him and spent some time with him, and my good fortune continues as I get to work and explore in that interesting space where business meets society.
Below is some more information on Willis and links to more on the internet.
Willis Harman (1918-1997) founder of the World Business Academy (1987)—re-imagined the role of business from being solely focused on profit-making to include taking responsibility for the whole. Here is an excerpt:
Above copied from http://www.creativityatwork.com/2009/07/03/taking-responsibility-for-the-whole/