I had the honour of being invited to be one of the ‘talkers’ at the Walrus Talks on Innovation in Whistler last week. The talks were all super interesting, and I had a lot of fun preparing my talk. My topic was inspired by a line used by Mike Rowlands @ Junxion Strategy earlier this year – ‘The Space Between’ and I modified it to ‘The Space In Between,’ thinking about the space where change and innovation happens. So then I had to figure out how to communicate this idea in a 7-minute Walrus Talk. So here is what I talked about.
[Scroll down to the bottom for a link to a video of the talk.]
The idea of ‘The Space In Between’ for me describes a place of not one definitive thing or another, but a blend of two ends of a spectrum, of two polar perspectives, of two ways of doing things. It’s a place of innovation.
The Space in Between conjures up two ideas: Millennials and social entrepreneurism.
While most/many of us may not be Millennials (born somewhere between 1982 and the early 2000s), I would venture to say that we may all have an inner Millennial. In other words, we may have a Millennial mindset. Even though we may think of Millennials as self-absorbed and conspicuous in everything they do, there are some pretty interesting characteristics that are conducive for changing the world.
These characteristics include:
· Conspicuous leisure – Millennials are compelled to document everything they do and then share it with the world on social media, taking business accountability and transparency to a new level; they embrace rare and unique experiences, but they must be authentic
· Sharing economy – they embrace opportunities such as Airbnb, tool libraries, Uber, mealsharing; they are connected and networked and like to collaborate
· Healthonism – Millennials are less concerned with weight loss and looking good, but more concerned about being healthy; however, they wouldn’t hesitate to mix fitness with hedonism, and good food is an essential cultural experience that is to be shared
Another characteristic about Millennials is Bleisure – U.S. Millennials are more likely than other demographics to combine a business trip with leisure travel that aligns with their personal interests.
And how does the Millennial Mindset think about work and money?
· They are careful about taking on too much debt and spending frivolously
· They are motivated more by experiences than by stuff
· They are socially conscious – They shop and buy products and services from businesses that prioritize social causes that align with theirs, including the environment; they expect hotels and resorts to incorporate social and environmental responsibility practices into their operations
So….let’s learn from the Milllennial Mindset where the Space In Between dichotomies is blurred, and can become the place for innovation.
With respect to business, let’s move beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – while CSR are important practices, they are often distinct from the mission. Instead, let’s focus on the innovation space in between business and society, between financial profit and social profit…. This is the social enterprise space.
A social enterprise is an organization (non-profit or for-profit) that uses business strategies to create social and/or environmental benefits. Its social mission is as core to their success as any potential profit. We could say that the social purpose is literally baked into the DNA of the organization.
Here are a few inspirational social enterprises that I’ve learned about recently.
Wize Monkey – coffee leaf tea, whose mission is: “To break the poverty cycle in coffee communities by harvesting a tasty, healthy, and sustainable product.”
The social purpose is integrated right into its business purpose.
Wize Monkey was started by two guys doing research for a new business project. They had been to Nicaragua, and were aware of the difficulties that Latin American coffee farmers face, so they started doing research and found out about the health benefits of “coffee leaf tea.”
They realized that this could solve a serious problem in the coffee industry.
In the last few years, the coffee market has become flooded and revenues have been plummeting for all coffee farmers worldwide. Because coffee beans can only be harvested 3 months a year, 90% of staff are seasonal. They figured that if the farmers could also sell coffee leaves, they could create a second source of income and help make ends meet.
They went to Nicaragua, and met with dozens of organic farmers. They then came up with a one-of-a-kind revolutionary tea. “Not only does it do your body some good, it does the farmers some awesome.” The coffee leaf can be harvested year round, creating year round employment. They source their coffee leaves from an organic, fair trade producer, Armando Matagalpa in Nicaragua, who can now employ his workers year round.
Wize Monkey won the World Tea Awards Best Product 2015.
Another social enterprise I just heard about is Culitech. This social enterprise is smart cutlery that can detect allergens and harmful bacteria. It is the creation of two young women who were inspired to help combat the spread of a common bacteria often spread through restaurant cutlery in China and causes cancer. These young entrepreneurs are sixteen, and this was a project for their Grade 11 class at West Point Grey Academy. Not only can the cutlery detect allergens, it can detect nutrition and calories! They came and spoke at the International Day of the Girl event in Whistler last week.
Close to home, here are just a few of the Millennial thinking entrepreneurs who are disrupting how we do business in the Sea to Sky Corridor. They were all part of the Social Venture Challenge program run by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.
Dooshi – sushi for pets; an enterprise created by two chefs in Whistler; they take leftover salmon skins and products from sushi restaurants, combined with leftover pulp from organic juice bars, upcycling it into nutritious pet food.
Ski Heaven – takes your treasured old skis and snowboards and creates works of art to capture your mountain memories and to keep them out of the landfill.
The Pie Company in Squamish created the Cutting Barriers Training and Employment Society to train people with barriers to employment and help place them in service industry positions where there is a dire employee shortage in the S2S Corridor.
There are so many more innovative and world changing social enterprises developing everywhere – all launched by people blending their passion and skills with a desire to make their communities a better place.
I encourage everyone who reads this to release your inner Millennial and use The Space In Between as your innovation space to create a better world.
Thanks to: Junxion Strategies for Space In Between idea, and Origin Designs, Huffington Post and Forbes for millennial mindset ideas.
Watch The Walrus Talks Innovation in Whistler Oct 22, 2016
By Cheeying Ho