In the throes of our rapidly changing economy and culture, individuals and organizations have placed the fundamentals back on the table for consideration. As we lumber along our respective paths, we pass the jettisoned notions of selfish victories and win/lose triumphs. Our values and belief systems are experiencing a correction much like the stock market. We can no longer sustain our ascent to security and satisfaction without considering a “foundation first” strategy; and our greatest moneymaking opportunities are in the businesses of conscious contribution.
The Bamboo Principle theory answers the question, “What is that distinguishes great companies and high achievers from those who merely possess talent?” The answers are found in the virtues of timber bamboo — the strongest woody grass in the world that doesn’t grow much in its early stages, and then grows an impressive eighty feet in six weeks. This growth is made possible by a complex root system that grows rapidly for a few years until it can support this magnificent ascent and contribute to its environment.
An acre of bamboo releases 35% more oxygen than an acre of trees; you can eat it, wear it and build with it. In addition to providing shade and windbreak, it removes harmful nitrogen from the soil as its fallen leaves protect the soils nutrients and moisture. Similarly, people and businesses are taking a proactive position on contribution and legacy. Taking our cues from bamboo, we now attempt contribute more to our environment than we take. The “business of benevolence,” as Rockefeller described, is more than acknowledged, it is pursued. Many companies have retrofitted their business plans and corporate values to include time for worthy causes, even paying employees for volunteering and social responsibility activities. Studies tell us that volunteering increases employee engagement and team cohesiveness as work efforts expand to benefit the greater good. Some companies incorporate these efforts into their marketing and business models.
Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, provides a free pair of shoes for each pair of shoes his company sells. After traveling abroad and witnessing impoverished children and adults without shoes, and the difficulties of mobility and disease, he made it his mission to give back while moving forward. His work has been rewarded by consumers not only buying his shoes, but also telling the TOMS story to a potential customer, allowing for three thousand-pair “shoe drops” in different countries around the world. His successes are not enjoyed independently, but interdependently—he wins as others win.
Companies now mobilize their employees not only to perform their work, but to perform their work with an eye on methods for leaving smaller “footprints” on our planet, and, like bamboo, ensure that the surrounding community is enriched by their presence. The Walt Disney Company has aligned its efforts with contributions to the environment, community, and product development. The plastic spoons in the cafeteria are made from compostable, corn-based cutlery that replace plastic, and fully compost in two months. They also make efforts to reduce the volume of packaging materials and lessen emissions at their theme parks.
On almost every aisle of your grocery store, you see companies offering a “green” addition to their product lines. There are bamboo paper coffee filters, “safe” detergents, and money donated to a charity per purchase. According to a new study commissioned by Green Seal and EnviroMedia Social Marketing, four out of five people say they buy green products and services–which sometimes cost more in the midst of a U.S. recession. If we don’t personally provide solutions, we willingly support those who do.
Today, corporate America and philanthropy are not separate entities. We no longer rely on a Gates or a Buffett to buoy worthy causes. Social networking provides scores of mediums through which we raise awareness and mobilize our contributions. Responsible achievement is not limited to cash donations; people now dedicate time and talents to others in need, and are rewarded by the health benefits of improved self-esteem and purpose. People cultivate their efforts to ensure that others share their victories.
Wise managers and entrepreneurs recognize this trend and monetize it. They consider their talents, create plans for their development, and create win/win outcomes for their company and those in need. When the shift is made from “self-centered success” to “success for the common good,” magical things happen. Guilt about personal success is diminished and replaced by gratitude earned by recognizing how others—others we may never meet—have had a door help open, a path cleared and a staircase provided to advance in their chosen direction.
The easiest and most productive method for networking is to volunteer. Share your expertise and speak at a charity, a convention, or your local chamber of commerce. There is no better way to display credibility, increase visibility and help others. It is in giving your services away that you build your business, promote your brand and even leave a legacy.
Ken Lodi is the author of several books, including The Bamboo Principle: The Roots Beneath Results. He consults and speaks to organizations on the subjects of Talent Development, Productivity and Improved Communication. www.kenlodi.com (323-932-1026).
By Ken Lodi