How Benefit Corporations Understand the Secret of Innovation

Photo by    Skye Studios

Photo by Skye Studios

“Those who do most, dream most.” 

 -S. Leacock

Dreamers, visionaries, and out-of-the-box thinkers. These descriptive words aren’t just for bigger-than-life leaders and inventors. These words can describe each one of us. We all have the potential to dream and create. As children we often used our imagination to create all sorts of make-believe games, even fantasy friends and worlds. And then somewhere along the line some of us stopped dreaming – losing that sense of wonder, excitement and enthusiasm for ‘doing things differently.’

Yet, we maintain that many of the Benefit Corporations we have met approach each day as an opportunity to dream, to think fresh about products and services offered to others. Their mantra: Who knows what is possible? Their dreams and ideas may be the path to a better world. 

In a classic article on innovation, Nick Foley, President LANDOR, SE Asia Pacific & Japan outlined the eight key elements to innovation. They are something we see so often in the leaders of the Benefit Corporations we meet.

  • Curiosity

  • Play

  • Intuition

  • Collaboration

  • Diversity

  • Failure

  • Courage

  • Momentum

These are the traits we assess for certification as a Benefit Corporation for Good. Sometimes it is challenging for small social entrepreneurs who are just starting on their path as a Benefit Company or Benefit Corporation.  It takes courage and all of the above attributes but as Robert Kennedy once stated:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” 

Business owners need to remember that missteps and even failures sow the seeds for a continual path of learning and self-improvement. It’s the story of two steps forward and one step backwards. It’s progress, but this path requires risks that may sometimes lead to failures.

Additionally, the conscientious leaders within Benefit Corporations that we have certified recognize that at times colleagues and partners will screw up. But rather than spending energy around blame or punishment, it is generally best to allow others  to reflect and learn from the experience –growing personally and professionally through their errors.

Just as important, it is often hard for leaders to admit their own mistakes and failures. To quickly say, “I messed up,” “I made the wrong call,” or “I was wrong” is difficult. Yet, showing vulnerability to those around us is a lesson in humility. By admitting and sharing failures, a culture of trust is created – a cornerstone of every conscientious organization.

It is also a key step in the path toward innovation.  As quoted in an article published in Entrepreneur magazine:

“If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still. When you stand still, the world is leaving you behind.”

We applaud  all those Benefit Corporations for pushing our world forward with innovation.