Innovation Lab

On January 28th nominations for the Aspen Institute's 2011 First Movers Fellowship are due.

If you are a CEO or Senior Manager focused on integrating the fundamentals of what is variously called Shared Value (discussed by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer in this month's issue of the Harvard Business Review), New Capitalism (described by Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth and David Wolfe in their book Firms of Endearment) or Conscious Capitalism (a term popularized by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and now promoted by the Conscious Capitalism Institute) into your corporate strategy and business practices, consider sponsoring one of your team members for this terrific program.

As each of these frameworks identifies, doing good can be bottom-line beneficial. Rather than sidelining Corporate Responsibility as a cost center, making social awareness central to corporate operations can increase profitability. Firms of Endearment convincingly quantifies the case for defining value broadly--incorporating not only financial metrics but also social and emotional measures, demonstrating that firms that do yield superior returns to investors. Helping individuals and companies innovate in order to do just this is at the heart of the First Movers Fellowship.

Designed in conjunction with IDEO, Mastercard and The Fetzer Institute, the First Movers program runs for a year. Fellows meet three times to flesh out design of a game-changing business plan or project that they will carry back into their companies at the end of the program. Less Executive Management Seminar, more hands-on Innovation Lab, companies benefit from their employees' participation in the fellowship across multiple dimensions, including enhanced innovation and leadership skills and expanded business networks.

Aspen seeks nominees who are mid-career executives, with a demonstrated commitment to business growth and positive social change, who are viewed as high potential leaders with an ability to execute within their area of business operations. Late last week I spoke with the fellowship's director Nancy McGaw, Deputy Director of the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program. She described participants as individuals "who are enormously generous and who have deep enthusiasm for possibilities, as much teachers as they are learners."

Professionals from companies as large as Coca Cola, IBM and Wal-Mart and as small as Good and IceStone have sponsored fellows in the first two years of the program. Nine out of the 31 participants to date have been from outside of the United States.

For those who have examined the compelling evidence that integrating social considerations into business practices makes good business sense, Aspen's First Movers Fellowship is an exceptional resource to explore, as you look for innovative ways to incorporate social values into your own company's products, processes and infrastructure.

Details on the fellowship experience are here. Details on the fellowship criteria, the nomination process and timeline are here.