Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Book - Business of Changing the World

Title: The Business of Changing the World
Author: Marc Benioff & Carlye Adler
Published: NY: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

This is a book that contain voices of 20 prominent leaders of business organizations. They share one thing in common: they practice generous philanthropy. They consist of companies in a wide range of industries like technology, food, pharmaceutical, financial, human resources, transportation and many others. There are several observations:

  • All try to make a difference in the communities they are in;
  • they are large firms with a well-known brand name;
  • Most of them are North-American based;
  • Giving money is a big part of their philanthropy.
  • They think more long-term, which is exactly right as the fruits of philanthropy are in many ways, long-term in nature.
  • The CEOs take initiative and leadership;
  • Most of them are in the private sectors.
About the Book
This book reminds us of the size of the non-profit industry. With corporate businesses pouring US$30 billion each year to this industry, it is certainly one that deserves more attention. Each person give a brief background of their company. They almost always describe philanthropy as giving to various causes. They describe their company philosophy, with philanthropy as an integral part of their business strategy.  They state their primary philosophy at the beginning of their chapter. The common thread in the book is described as:
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." (Winston Churchill)

Many of the chapters are packed with personal testimonies of stories about how they become passionate about philanthropy. Their toughest challenges remain on how to spread this message to the rest of their organizations. Some of them establish trust funds, or foundations. Many integrate the giving philosophy in their company credos.

My Comments
Philanthropy is something evolved into, not designed upfront. Many of them are still in the process of formulating and learning about how to give more effectively. All of them gives out of what is meaningful for them in the first place, that is, out of who they are. For example, Cisco by virtue of their networking business, translates this into building a community that is able to humanly network with each other. GlaxoSmithkline helps tackle world health problems.

While some people may accuse them of either showing off, or trying to use their philanthropy efforts as another attempt to expand their business empire, I think we should learn to show more grace to what they are doing. After all, if they do not practice what they preach, it will be a matter of time before the truth catches up on them. For me, I take the optimistic approach. It makes business a lot more meaningful and a lot more humane. Any success that cannot be shared is downright pitiful. Thus, being human is really learning to share our successes. Our world is much better off with more interdependent initiatives instead of independent narcissistic endeavors. The former builds up prosperity for all. The latter accumulates riches for self-consumption and self-gratification.

This is an uplifting book. Read it if you want to know the brief background of the 20 humble beginnings to current success stories.  Some businesses struggle for survival. Other businesses constantly seek more success and profits. For all businesses, success is not everything. Leaving a meaningful legacy is more important. May the philanthropic examples in the book show the various industries the way to go, that businesses will not be caught up in profit-making to the detriment of forgetting the very society that allows them to be where they are in the first place. Indeed, true business is not only about counting how much money we make in our hard work. It is making those money count for us and our communities. Pick up this book and read.

Rating: 3.5 stars of 5


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