«Big Sur, California, March 24 - 27, 2013 CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 2 Executive Summary In March 2013 a number of CEOs, top executives, and social ...»
Recently, Fisher has held meetings on how to appeal to the up-and-coming generation of millennials.
In a sense, this challenge is a perfect test case for her company to continue to practice and embody conscious principles. After all, many think that those principles are exactly what the millennial generation is naturally assumes to be the way a business should be run. In sum, Fisher thinks that the more her company—or any company—can practice new kinds of feminine leadership, the more the fruits will burst forth. Thanks to this kind of leadership the Eileen Fisher brand is currently the bestseller at Bloomingdale’s.
The Story of Ping Fu: The Triumph of Resilience Over Adversity Early in life Ping Fu was told by her Shanghai Papa, “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times.” Ever since hearing this, Fu has carried this image with her as she has journeyed through the challenging ups and downs of life in China and America.
Fu shared with the conference participants what she has written about in her recently published book, Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds. Growing up just before and during Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and early 70s, Fu opened up about some of the grisly and traumatic experiences that she was able to endure by bending but not breaking. Fu was separated from her family when she was eight because her parents were considered as “black elements” due to their well-educated and wellto-do background. Fu was gang-raped at the age of ten and became a child soldier, a factory worker, a university student, a political prisoner, and eventually an exile to America for her journalistic reports on China’s one-child policy.
As she described her ordeals, she emphasized that she had very loving parents in the first 8 years of her life before the Cultural Revolution radically uprooted her relationship to her family. Those years provided her with a thick and fibrous core of self-esteem (like bamboo) that endured within her despite all of the austerities and depravations she had to suffer. She also attributed her survival to unexpected acts of courage and kindness, like food placed outside her door at nights by a stranger risking life-threatening reprisal by Red Guards, when she and her little sister were at the brink of
CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 8starving to death. During the darkest moment, Ping would dream, “If only I could fly, I’d soar like a bird up into the heavens, out of this nightmare, and back home to Shanghai, to my loving mama and siblings and our peaceful home.” When Fu arrived in the United States at the age of twenty-five, she had $80 in traveler’s checks, spoke only a few phases of English and knew nothing about writing computer software programs. To start her new life in a strange land, without family and friends, she worked as a maid and waitress while learning English and studying software design. After getting a degree in computer science, she earned success in several supercomputing companies and ventures. For example, she initiated and managed the National Center for Supercomputing Application’s Mosaic software project, which eventually led to Netscape and Internet Explorer.
In 1997 Fu was ready to launch her first company, Geomagic, which soon became a leader in innovative software design, particularly for the application of 3D print technologies. It is no exaggeration to say that over the past decade and a half, Geomagic and similar companies have fundamentally changed the way products are designed and manufactured around the world. Thanks to advances in computer design and multi-layer printing techniques, unique prototypes and one-off objects can be fashioned at a fraction of the cost that physical prototypes used to cost. This new technology could revolutionize the entire manufacturing industry, to say nothing of reducing expenses for transport and warehousing if single items can be manufactured at their point of use.
As she shared her story to her peer CEOs, Fu also described how Geomagic’s software has been instrumental in the development of novel prosthetic devices, which are now designed to fit the precise anatomical needs of each client. Formerly, someone with a permanently damaged or genetically deformed knee was resigned to crutches. Now that same person might be seen running in an Olympic race.
One notable area where Geomagic has made a major advance is in orthodontics. Many older people are familiar with metal braces that slowly correct one’s teeth. Today, younger generations may never need braces because computer software can now animate precise micro-movements of teeth. Using 3-D printing, technicians can design a series of near-invisible corrective liners that slide easily onto one’s teeth. The company Align Technology has a product Invisiline, which implements Geomagic’s software to do just this. The entire process is more cost effective for the othodontist, and it takes less lime and is easier on the customer’s mouth and facial appearance.
As Fu told her life story, fellow participants at the gathering were viscerally moved and deeply inspired by her courage, resilience, and humanity. She has progressed through her journey in America as a software designer, an innovator, a visionary, an entrepreneur, and a CEO. She was selected by Inc.
magazine as the Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005, and since 2010 has been an advisor to President Obama through her service on the board of National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the White House.
CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 9Fu resonates with conscious capitalism in many ways. She personally experienced the form of political and economic freedom that underlies capitalism that has provided the opportunity for her to succeed in America. One of the key tenets of conscious capitalism is that a company must have a higher purpose than making money. As an entrepreneur, she was more inspired and driven by a higher purpose than making money. Geomagic was started with Fu's vision to enable mass customization a digital form-fitting and manufacturing system that makes shoes and thousands of other items that were both one of a kind and produced with the efficiency of mass production." Ping shared her vision with her friend Mike Facello, “We will call it the Personal Factory, or PF". “Cute, Ping,” Mike observed.
“You’ve managed to name an industry after your own initials.” In sum, it may be no exaggeration to say that Geomagic has the potential to revolutionize the world’s manufacturing supply chain toward a whole series of practices that are lighter on the earth than our current system.
Practicing Consciousness at Clif Bar and Prana Kevin Cleary is the COO of Clif Bar, which produces high-energy food bars for athletes, hikers, and active people in general. Over the past decade Cleary has expanded Clif Bar’s national and international distribution and directed the increasing use of organic ingredients, the rapid expansion of the company’s product portfolio, and groundbreaking initiatives in the area of environmental sustainability. As he has done this, his company has followed its own set of conscious principles, or, what he calls the five bottom line model: Sustaining our Business, our Brands, our People, our Community and the Planet.
Cleary became a devoted athlete and leader at an early age. During his training for triathlons he came to love Clif Bars well before he joined the company in 2004. Since then, Cleary has helped Clif Bar embody its values in both the workplace and marketplace. For example, the company encourages its employees to engage in 20+ hours per year of community service, and many of them are so inspired they regularly exceed that goal. Recently, the company noticed it was behind on its community service goal for 2012, but Cleary was quickly impressed by how everyone rallied to meet the goal by the end of the year. In addition to its community orientation, Clif Bar is also a fabulous place to work if you are an athlete or just live a busy life. The company’s HQ has trainers in their gym, and employees can even get massages and haircuts at work as well.
Thanks to Cleary's leadership over the past few years, Clif Bar has developed five core personal communication values that they continually integrate into their workplace interactions: Create, Inspire, Connect, Own it, and Be Yourself. Cleary said that when Clif Bar does company engagement assessments, they find that there is hardly any need for improvement; nearly everyone already feels engaged at work.
bottom line: The compounded annual growth rate of Clif Bar over the past 10 years has been 17% plus, and employee turnover has been less than 1%. Thus, the company does almost no retraining. During Cleary’s tenure, Clif Bar has gone from a 16% market share to 40+% market share. With many consumers now wanting to eat organic foods, Clif Bar can also be proud that it has bought over 400 million pounds of organic ingredients. In short, Clif Bar is an excellent example of a conscious company.
The CEO of prAna, Scott Kerslake, followed Cleary with further vignettes about how to run a small-tomid sized company according to conscious principles. Kerslake began by noting that prAna is named after the Sanskrit word meaning “vitality and breath,” and his company, whose roots are in rock climbing and yoga, is now becoming a leader in the ever-expanding active apparel sector. Kerslake shared some of prAna’s business figures that revealed very robust growth in the past few years.
As Kerslake has worked with prAna’s leadership team over the past few years, the employees of this eclectic and funky company have moved from an implicit under-standing of the company’s core vision and values toward a more explicit one. In this effort, Kerslake has helped communicate the company values to all of the employee teams and has gotten them to fully identify with them. Today, with prAna’s values more clearly articulated Kerslake shared that the company’s founders were in tears recently when then saw how employees were being recognized and rewarded for the precise values that they had originally envisioned.
Kerslake turned next to the topic of greater consciousness and sustainability in prAna’s manufacturing practices, noting that his company is working in two major areas in this regard. First, with respect to labor, many consumers have read horror stories of sweat shops in Asia that make the clothing sold in American shopping malls. Kerslake has helped prAna phase out any such labor practices. He has personally visited a number of prAna’s clothing manufacturing sites, and he has helped develop a set of 12 criteria by which prAna assesses a “good” labor factory. In recent years, the factories that have not met these 12 have been dropped from prAna’s supply chain.
Second, Kerslake said that the production and distribution of clothing in the global marketplace is ripe for a sustainability revolution. Too many of its dyeing and finishing processes and material suppliers are far from ecological. And the land that much of the cotton is grown on is being degraded.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of prAna’s competitors do not offer any sustainable clothing lines, and Kerslake emphasized that consumers are willing to spend only 10 to 15% more for a sustainably made shirt or dress. Even as prAna continues to increase the number of such items, it must be attentive to the final sales price. Kerslake added that prAna is phasing out rayon fabrics and increasing its share of organic cottons. He speculated that fairly soon organic fabrics will be just as cost-competitive as non-sustainable and chemically-altered ones. At present, certified organic cotton constitutes only 1% of the total cotton used to make clothes.
CONFERENCE SUMMARY | 11 Kerslake turned next some of the ways prAna embodies consciousness in the daily workplace. With a background in rock climbing and yoga, perhaps it is less of a surprise that prAna has brought in Buddhist meditation teachers to help employees embody mindfulness as they move through their daily tasks. This commitment to spiritual practice includes a company wide policy by which a large gong is rung at 3pm every day followed by all employees observing a moment of silence.
Ever the humble CEO, Kerslake did not share with the group a few awards that we can mention here:
In 2012 PrAna was recognized by Free2Work as being in the top 1% of brands with respect to working conditions, traceability, and overall supply chain health. In addition, the Global Sourcing Council recently recognized prAna with a Sustainable and Socially Responsible Award as the most innovative and ‘out of the box’ thinking company pertaining to sustainability.
An Integral Approach to Reducing Political Polarization On Tuesday morning Steve McIntosh and Carter Phipps gave consecutive presentations that proposed how we might speed up cultural evolution in order to reduce America’s current political polarization on such issues as climate change. Both McIntosh and Phipps are founders of the Institute for Cultural Evolution (ICE) in Boulder, CO, which employs an integral model (based on the ideas coming out of evolutionary theory, Integral philosophy and developmental psychology) to generate novel approaches to pressing social problems. At the heart of their vision is the observation that the unnecessary antagonisms among three worldviews—traditionalism, modernism, and postmodernism—are what really keep the progressive political movements of our era mired in ineffectiveness. Concerned about the fact that the political will to take action on climate change has decreased in recent years due to the efforts of Tea Party think-tanks, McIntosh and ICE think that the most effective way to reverse this trend on climate change is to reduce the antagonistic polarity between the worldviews of modernism and postmodernism. To achieve this, ICE plans to reach out to the postmodern environmental movement to encourage it to recognize the real achievements of modernism—rather than focus so much on its negative aspects. If ICE can do this, it will be helping both postmodernism to evolve (that is, to be less antagonistic toward modernism) and modernism as well (that is, to embrace postmodern environmental values with less reluctance).