Saving the World at Work: A book review by Bob Morris

Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference
Tim Sanders
Crown Business (2008)

Note: Here is a review of a book I read when it was first published in 2003. I recently re-read it prior to reading and reviewing Sanders’ latest, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence.

Why did Tim Sanders write this book? He answers that question in the first chapter: “I want to recruit you, and train you, for the Responsibility Revolution. I want to help you feel good about your company and grow more good within it. I want to help you feel more fulfilled by your job, by helping your company to see the value of giving back to the larger world.” This declaration should come as no surprise to those who have read Sanders’ previous books, Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends (2002) and then The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams (2006). He really does believe that it is possible to link personal goals with business goals while adding value, do so without a great deal of funding, and thereby reduce a company’s “social inefficiency.” This book is best viewed as an operations manual for “infectious revolutionaries,” one in which Sanders explains how to use various “business social” and assessment skills.

Sanders’ use of the words “revolution” and “revolutionary” are not hyperbolic. He wants to help achieve what Clayton Christensen characterizes as “movements punctuated with disruptive innovations that either create new markets or reshape existing markets.” These movements will change, radically, how companies do business. That is certainly true of Aveda, IBM, Interface, Lush, Medtronic, Patagonia, SAS Institute, Timberland, and Whole Foods. These disruptive movements occur in five phases and Sanders devotes a separate chapter to each: First, a major change of circumstances that dramatically impacts how we think about the business landscape, creating in Phase Two a new set of values prior to the arrival of the innovators in Phase Three; then, “as the new values reach a tipping point of mass popularity, the fourth, and most extreme, phase of a business revolution occurs: disruption.”

In Leading the Revolution, Gary Hamel describes it this way: “First, the revolutionaries will take your markets and your customers. Next they’ll take your best employees. Finally, they’ll take your assets. The barbarians are no longer banging on the gates, they are eating off your best china.”

During the final phase, what Sanders calls The New Order, companies develop proficiency in service to new markets, innovators become more sophisticated, and customers become more demanding. “Eventually, surviving companies will satisfy the new market needs and the competition will then turn to who does it best.” The process of natural selection continues as new “infectious revolutionaries” appear, disrupting the terms of engagement in what continues to be a Responsibility Revolution.

Of special interest to me is what Sanders has to say about what he calls the “saver soldier,” a highly motivated individual who leverages work as a platform to help save the world. She or he is convinced that a business can do well by doing good. Sanders examines various saver soldiers, three of whom (e.g. IBM’s Jeff Immelt, Patagonia’s Yvon Choinard, and Aveda’s Horst Rechelbacher) “have stated that they don’t expect to achieve their vision single-handedly; they need foot soldiers to scout, innovate, and execute new ideas.” Sanders identifies and examines “The Six Laws of the Saver Soldier” in Chapter 8 that, together, offer an appropriate belief system for newly enlisted “troops.” For example, The Law of Abundance (#3) essentially asserts that there is always enough to go around. That is, “doing good” and “doing well” are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, Sanders insists, they are inter-dependent. It would be very difficult (if not impossible) to have one without the other. Companies that are actively engaged in the Responsibility Revolution will probably attract the “best and brightest” people and then retain them. What these companies offer will have greater appeal to customers. Most important of all, these companies will make a difference to their society, indeed to their planet, while gaining and then sustaining “an unshakable edge” over their “laggard competitors.” Tim Sanders asks, “If not now, when? If not you, who?”

Meanwhile, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock….

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