Times may well come when the past needs to be broken to give hope for a better future. The Arab Spring and the latest gruesome images from Libya remind us that basic constructs of society must sometimes be bashed to restore justice and equal opportunity.
But breaking things cannot be our recipe for social change. History tells us that breaking things almost always spreads to the destruction of people and institutions who could have been powerful agents of progress.
We must get ahead of the pain and the breaking points, and help our governments, businesses and non-profits find ways to deal more effectively with our social challenges. As I observe rallies in the streets from Athens, Madrid to New York – I admire the courage but I fear the breaking instinct. I ponder the energy dedicated to protest, but I hope to channel it towards action.
At FSG, when we talk about “reinventing capitalism,” and the opportunity companies have today to “create shared value,” we focus on the power of business to change the world – not on breaking business. We shine the spotlight on business leaders who give their companies a renewed sense of mission in serving unmet needs rather than over-supplied “wants,” who design their products to be 100% recyclable, who work with schools and universities to ensure that their industry will have the talent it needs in 20 years. There is no doubt that business still has a long way to go in seizing opportunities from unmet needs and a resource constrained world. But our bet is that business will deal with our challenges more effectively, because we see it and accompany that journey every day.