I'm excited that there is an increased interest in creativity in business thinking these days. But what I worry about, and what I've been worrying about for years, is what the creative outcome from it will be. What I'm afraid of is that creatives are coming to the table simply to make more fancy do-dads for the top 1% of the economic pyramid. But could I be wrong? Will they instead make a more meaningful contribution?
Below are a few innovative business models from the world market that promote what I see as a laudable combination of creativity and social responsibility. I want to shine a light on these examples and offer some thoughts on how to be inspired by them, in your own business ventures.
Micro Entrepreneurship is a type of business that creates jobs for poor people. One of the most elegant applications of this principle that I've seen is Oorja Stove. The product in and of itself is innovative because it helps people who traditionally cook on wood fires, which is bad for health and environment, transition to cooking on fires made from agricultural waste pellets. But what is most innovative about this stove is how it's distributed and sold: It is designed so that sales can be handled by people within the communities in which the products are sold, a door-to-door sales force.
TIP: If you are thinking about creating a new product or service, then think about how your venture could be designed so that it creates jobs for people who need them.
BUY ONE, GIVE ONE
Buy One, Give One is a business model in which for every product sold, another product is given to someone who needs it. Toms Shoes, for example, is a shoe company that gives away a pair of shoes for every pair that is sold and the shoes have a distinct look that is now instantly recognizable precisely as a charitable product. As far as corporate philanthropy goes, this model is the most creative because the charitable giving is not hidden in an annual report but becomes symbolically embedded in the product itself. The shoes empower the purchasers to take pride in their own charitable contribution and to spread awareness about the mission of the company.
TIP: If you are thinking about including charitable giving in your business, then think about doing it in a way that delivers not only the charity but an awareness about the cause.
Good Food Collective
This model is being employed by local farmers in New York State and I hope in other places. Local farmers have a tough time competing with factory farmers in the market. So these local farmers band together to share resources, knowledge, marketing power and distribution channels. The Good Food Collective is in its third year of coordinating sales between local farms and local consumers. Another successful example of a food collective is Full Plate Collective, just outside of Ithaca, NY.
TIP: If you are developing a product or service that is trying to compete with similar offerings from global mega-corporations, then form a hyperlocal collective to share resources with like-minded businesses in your region.
Toyota Ideas for Good
This model is an alternative to the currently prevalent model that compels stakeholders to protect their intellectual property (IP) at all cost. In contrast to that model, for example, Toyota and other Japanese car companies have received a lot of recognition for how they share knowledge with each other. How it works is that competing companies get together and share technological breakthroughs, then go back to their respective labs and implement the technologies in different ways. The competing companies decided that sharing knowledge was in the best interest for all of them. I am excited to see that Toyota is extending this knowledge sharing concept to users, with its 'Ideas for Good' campaign, a knowledge-sharing campaign that asks users to apply the technology to areas outside the car industry.
TIP: If your business offers an innovation that has a potential to make positive change in the world, then think about sharing that innovation with as many people as you can and asking for their creative input.