Professor of social entrepreneurship, Case Western Reserve University
The Dalai Lama has bought into David Cooperrider’s theory. So has former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan. It’s called Appreciative Inquiry. Used correctly, it saves a company money while improving the world at the same time. Here’s how it works: A summit is held to gather a company’s stakeholders — from line workers to customers and community members — and figure out what the group can do to improve the world. A plan is then made to get it done. What can a company do about pollution? What can a business do to generate alternative energy? What about world poverty, unclean drinking water, oil dependency? The answers usually lead to innovation, new products, new markets and, eventually, profit. It works. Take Chardon-based Fairmount Minerals. Its employees discovered a shared concern for the world’s drinking water. They drafted an affordable sandstone water filter for Third World countries and tapped new markets, growing sales by 30 percent.