Posted By: Rosemary

Innovation Minds is pleased to present our next series focused on Innovators and Leaders who are the “Difference Makers,” helping us to see the future first and inspire the very best in our organizations and us. All of our Featured Innovators and Leaders challenge us to create new solutions and to leverage the amazing power of individual and collective creativity.

In this article, we talk with Author and Speaker, Michael J. Gelb on “The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World”.

About our Spotlight Guest: Michael J. Gelb

I met Michael Gelb several years ago while we were both working with CEOs and Leadership Teams in Costa Rica. A fan of his many books including “How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci” it came as no surprise that he was honoured as “Brain of the Year” in 1999 by the Brain Trust Charity. Other recipients include Steven Hawking and Edward De Bono. A true Renaissance man, Michael has earned a fifth-degree black belt in the martial art of Aikido, originated the team building concept of “Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork your Creative Juices” and “Samurai Chess: Mastering Strategic Thinking through the Martial Art of the Mind.” Oh, and yes, he’s also a professional juggler.

In his latest book, “The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World” co-authored with Raj Sisodia, Gelb’s life work and passions jumps off the pages with stories of goodness, generosity, creativity and courage.

So what? Who cares? Anyone working and leading today’s organizations and indeed anyone with a concern for the health and well being of society and our planet.

What is a Healing Organization?

It’s about looking at business in a new context. Research demonstrating that those organizations that seek a higher, nobler purpose, indeed outperform those who put profit at the center of their business model.

What if there was a company whose CEO said, “Let’s pay all our people as much as possible?” What if that same company showed up to help communities in distress before FEMA and the Red Cross when there was a disaster?

What if your company treated your spouse, your children, and even your pets, as stakeholders, and made it a priority to ensure that you can be present for them?

What if there was a company that not only reduced its environmental footprint to zero but actually made a net positive contribution to their ecosystem?

And what if these businesses, who prioritize the welfare of all their stakeholders, who help heal their employees, customers and communities, are more profitable and prosperous than their industry peers?

Such businesses, and many others like them, do exist, and in this inspiring, life-changing book Michael and his co-author Professor Raj Sisodia explain how your business can become a place of healing for employees and their families, a source of healing for customers, communities and ecosystems, and a force for healing in society, helping alleviate cultural, economic and political divides.

A Case Study in Doing the Right Thing: Ramon Mendiola, FIFCO

In this article, let’s explore one such company based in Costa Rica, that while their company’s core products could be classified as unhealthy (Beer and Sodas), the leadership of CEO Ramŏn Mendiola at FIFCO who began his career with Phillip Morris represents a model of the Healing Organization. In Gelb’s book, 25 different organizations are studied as businesses that are not only profitable but also focused on improving the quality of life in their communities. Mendiola built a company from 150 million in revenue and 1,800 employees in 2004 to over 1.2 billion dollars in revenue and 6,500 employees in 2018. So yes, FIFCO is highly profitable to the tune of 260 million dollars a year.

  1. However, in what seems like an impossible feat, FIFCO’s CEO did not place profitability over the well being of stakeholders. It’s what Mendiola refers to as a Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, then Profits). The results are an impressive role model for any organization in corporate citizenship.
  2. While making money for shareholders, Mendiola brought all of his employees out of poverty in 3 years, when the average is 10 years:o While making money for shareholders, Mendiola brought all of his employees out of poverty in 3 years, when the average is 10 years:
  3. Achieved not only a negative environmental impact but also a positive environmental footprint.
  4. Contributed in a real way to both the decline of obesity and drunk driving in Costa Rica through reduction of sugar in beverages, public education on binge drinking versus moderation and removal of sodas from school cafeteria’s replaced with healthier beverage choices.
  5. The company also re-invests 7.5 of net profits in Costa Rica’s focus on the environment and sustainability.

Where and how did this CEO begin the transformation? Mendiola began by listening to all stakeholders, even those voices who were critical of the company’s product line.

Listening to staff, customers and shareholders are of key importance to the team at Innovation Minds who use a state of the art technology platform to tap into the wisdom of stakeholders.

The Recipe for the Success of Healing Organizations like FIFCO?

Michael Gelb and Raj Sisodia identify common principals in their study of Healing Organizations: Companies doing well by doing better.

  1. Companies assume the moral responsibility to prevent and alleviate unnecessary suffering and look for ways to bring joy, play and love into the workplace.
  2. Healing Organizations recognize that employees and their families are the first stakeholders to be engaged in creative and community problem-solving. Healing Organizations focus on enabling their people to continually grow and evolve.
  3. Leaders of Healing Organizations define, communicate and live by a healing purpose. And while there’s always a little healthy competition, leaders seek to eliminate hurtful rules and practices, minimize hierarchy and never incentivize bad behaviour.
  4. Finally, Healing Organizations invest in healing as they invest in marketing or research and development.

But Really Business Can Save the World?

According to Gelb, the answer is yes and we’re at a critical tipping point. The theory that profit is king is both slowly and rapidly killing us. In the US over the last decade, Suicide is up to 30%, Anxiety, Obesity, Opioid Addiction, Gun Violence and Global Warming presenting clear and present dangers. We’re facing a technological tsunami that will eliminate jobs and promise growing unemployment. How can Business take the lead in problem solving and innovation? Gelb’s belief is that we do it one organization at a time, like Ramon Mendiola at FIFCO. Gelb notes that those companies who put profits before people are under increasing pressure to change.

A first step is knowing that the dream is possible. It’s a dream that companies like Southwest Airlines embraced early on with their culture of “Having a Warrior Spirit a Servants Heart and a Fun-Loving Attitude. As Southwest pioneer, Herb Kelleher pointed out the “Business of Business is people, yesterday, today and forever”.

On Creativity, Innovation and Failure

In our interview we asked Gelb, considered the world’s leading authority on the application of genius to personal creativity, how as a Renaissance Man, he keeps and sustains personal creativity. Gelb practices what he preaches in his more than 16 books including practices of the Great Leonardo. Walks in Nature, Juggling, Mind Mapping, Tai Chi and even Wine Tasting keep Gelb’s creative senses at their peak.

As to failure, while he doesn’t care for that word, Gelb looks at the gaps between his goals for what he wants to happen and the end reality. If the gap is sizable, Gelb uses the expression “How Fascinating” to describe lessons learned.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Past, Present and Future?

In this series on Innovators, we’re asking our spotlight guests whom they would invite to dinner for a stimulating conversation on creativity and innovation? Michael’s guest list includes Leonardo, of course, Thomas Jefferson, Queen Elizabeth the First, Ben Franklin, Emilie Chatelet, Garry Kasparov, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Jerry Seinfeld, and his wife and life partner, Mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski. An evening with great thinkers who have lived, led, learned, loved and laughed in the spirit of making our world a better place.

By Rosemary.