This past semester, I had the pleasure of participating in the inaugural Quantum Leadership class taught by Professor of Organizational Behavior Chris Laszlo, PhD. Quantum Leadership involves changing how we conceive of ourselves within the global community. To paraphrase Design & Innovation Professor Youngjin Yoo, PhD: at Weatherhead, we believe management can be a noble profession. Quantum Leadership seeks to transform business into an Agent of World Benefit by helping individuals in the business community to understand that they are not (just) individuals, but are connected to the natural and human global communities.
Quantum Leadership takes its name from the fact that, when graphically represented it is reminiscent of an atom. If you imagine the “basic” firm, as compared with firms that practice varying levels of sustainable leadership, you can represent the basic firm as a dot. Then draw concentric circles around the dot to represent increasing levels of sustainability. The outermost circle would represent a company that exists primarily to fulfill a social or environmental mission, and turns a profit on the side. Most of us know that it is difficult to balance personal well-being with a demanding career. But research suggests that companies where employees and managers are able to take care of their own well-being demonstrate a stronger social and ecological conscience. Each week, in the Quantum Leadership class, two students led a lesson of meditative practices to help shore up personal well-being. Such practices included things like yoga and art mediation.
Students in this class worked in five teams to consult for five companies that have been featured on AIM2Flourish.com: World Centric and four of the 2017 Flourish Prize Winners: SmartPaani, Bioconexion, MPOWERD, and Buza Ice Cream.
My team worked with SmartPaani, Nepal-based rainwater capture and water filtration company. In our view, since SmartPaani is a company that already embodies the principles of Quantum Leadership, the best way to promote Quantum Leadership through our consulting project was not to council the company on what it was already great at, but to help it expand its business, and, by extension, its positive business philosophy. First, we gathered information about opportunities for expansion in two new markets in South Asia, and then, after conferring with SmartPaani leadership, did in-depth research to help the company strategize its entry into on one of those markets.
The team working with Bioconexion, which is a platform company that connects farmers and their markets in Argentina, helped company founder Juan Gerardi plan how he would digitize the platform, which will allow for greater efficiency. It may also let Bioconexion expand beyond Argentina.
MPOWERD is a solar charging battery powered light company with a business model that promotes gender equity by providing an opportunity for female entrepreneurs selling its Luci lights in Kenya. The students who worked with MPOWERD examined how the company could further support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through the application of quantum leadership. They also conducted research to help MPOWERD expand beyond Kenya.
Another group of students worked with Buza Ice Cream, an Ice Cream chain in Israel/Palestine that promotes an end to hostilities in the region. They prepared a personnel handbook for the company and oversaw its translation into Arabic.
Finally, a team worked with World Centric, a company that produces compostable eating utensils and flatware. This group helped World Centric better identify their target market and improve their website to tell their story in the best way possible.
In addition to providing the theoretical framework of Business as an Agent of World Benefit, the class helped students develop practical skills through real world experience with company partners.