Posted by: robbryan | August 9, 2011

Turning the Tide.

This past weekend I took a short trip to San Francisco to see the Pacific Voyagers fleet welcoming ceremony. When it was first suggested to me that I should see them and what they are doing, I didn’t understand how what they are doing related to what we are doing. At the heart of it, they seek to share a  “message of stewardship with the world”. That raising awareness thing again. But this is much more than that. It’s a demonstration and a challenge. The Vaka are a melding of the ancient traditional and the modern. Based on an ancient design, but built with modern sustainable materials (their words, I don’t see fiberglass as sustainable) and modern technology- solar panels that power their electric motors. To me, they say “we can do this, why can’t you?” Or more to the point, “we can and are doing this, why won’t you?  Point taken here.

The Vaka arrived in San Francisco last week after a three month trip from Hawaii where they participated in the Kava Bowl Ocean Summit, an invitation only, conference on the state of the Pacific and threats and solutions to those threats. I have heard that the consensus it that we have 8 years to effect substantial change in the way we do things. Some might ask “what happens on Dec 31, 2019 then?” Nothing specifically of course. Bad stuff is already happening. Will this be a smooth transition into a very stark future, or will we turn the tide before then? Or maybe we’ll turn the tide halfway by then? I’m guessing the latter.

I see evidence of the age of transcendence almost every day.  Some might call it a tipping point. I think we will turn the tide, but slowly, and later than we would have liked when we look back to now from the future.

There are lots of people and organizations working to raise awareness. Oceana, Sylvia Earle’s “Mission Blue”, Oceanic Preservation Society, The Ocean Foundation, and on. We still need more of course, and I’m not questioning the effects of their work here at all. I’m asking “what is our vision of the future, our expectations of our success at turning the tide?” Are we acting in a manner that assumes success, at some level, of the continued existence of a life that resembles what we have now? Many are working on fixing the worst of the insults to the health of the ocean and stopping the destruction. Not so many are working on what comes next, what comes after we have turned the tide.

If we are to be successful at turning the tide, we must believe it and act like it. You know, whether you believe you can or believe you can’t you’re probably right. That means that we must make our plans for the future under the assumption we will turn it around or we will not.

So what then? The folks working to raise awareness are succeeding. Many of these ocean conferences might seem to be more preaching to the choir than reaching out to the unwashed. That’s okay though, the choir needs revivals as much as the congregation. But what does the choir do in the meantime, besides the obvious?

One of the things we think needs to happen is that everyone needs to take responsibility and action for our life support system and not continue to leave it to the scientists and politicians. In a sense, we have been relegated to minor roles as mere consumers. Too many believe their responsibility to this planet and as members of the human race, ends with ends with consuming and maybe voting once in a while. Too many seem to have lost the thirst for knowledge and the drive to explore. I say “seem to” because I don’t think we have, it’s just that our culture and this distorted form of capitalism have pushed us this way. I think that all we lack is the opportunity and direction. I know that people want to help, they want to do more than just drive hybrids and put solar panels on their roofs (still speaking of the choir here of course). They want to go and do things with meaning, and make a real difference. Don’t you?

The journey the Pacific Fleet is on should not be taken lightly. They did it themselves, they didn’t hire professional sailors or put the Vaka’s on a yacht transport. We need to acknowledge their bravery. We need to look inside and find our own. Then we need to go and do.

Posted by: robbryan | July 29, 2011

Does “Raising Awareness” move the needle?

In a recent 3P blog, Boyd Cohen asks “Are NGOs Like and WWF Failing to Move the Needle?” Read it and decide for yourself. I think NGOs whose objectives are limited to  “raising awareness” need to realize that that is not enough. (btw “raising awareness” qualifies as “educational” for the IRS). Awareness by itself doesn’t equal change, it’s just one step on the way to change.

Seth Godin, a modern marketing guru and generally smart guy, blogs and writes books on his unique view of marketing science. In “Permission Marketing” he makes the point that interruption marketing is no longer working, we just aren’t listening anymore. I know I’m not. We use the DVR all the time, even for the Superbowl (we fastfwded through the game to see the commercials), toss junk mail for even the most worthy of causes right in the recycling, and delete “outreach” emails immediately, even for the most worthy of causes. I’m not listening because if I did I’d have to absorb something like 3,000 messages a day and turn into a consumer zombie.We are not listening.

I have most all the plastic junk from China that I need, and if I do need something, your 30 sec spot (that I hit fastfwd through) isn’t going to sway me. I will google it and ask my friends what they have. I will google it and ask my friends what they have. So “raising awareness” through traditional channels is probably not actually working. Recognition is not awareness either.

Even if one does manage to “raise awareness” so what? Awareness is not change. If you have been given the opportunity (permission) to interrupt someones life with your message, and you don’t “make the sale” or “Flipped their Switch“, you have squandered a valuable asset and maybe wasted the capital invested.

I think flipping the switch or effecting change in people, requires taking them there and showing them. Introducing them to the sea turtle, or having them rescue oiled penguins, or rebuilding a coral reef. They will be changed and will take that change back with them.

To carry it a step further, suppose we involve their friends and family in their adventure? In real time. Streaming video of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things to not just raise awareness but actions that help biodiversity preservation or MPA promulgation.  Live streaming video of them diving a submersible to 1,000 foot depths to assess deep coral reef habitat! (we have the technology, this is completely doable).

Perhaps one of the things we need is metrics that include change, not just how many ears or eyes were reached. Are you measuring change effected? or just awareness?

We have a very short time to effect change. If you can reach someone and raise their awareness, I think you also have the responsibility to figure out how to change their behavior. That is the deeper strategy behind Windhorse Lightships.

Posted by: robbryan | April 24, 2011

Can compassionate capitalists really win?

Fortune Magazine, March 30, 2011 11:57 am

Raj Sisodia, head of the Conscious Capitalism Institute, believes companies that focus on the bottom line, instead of on employees’ needs, will fall behind.

By David Whitford, editor-at-large

After years of layoffs, cutbacks, and closures in the corporate sector, it’s hard to imagine that any competitive American company really puts the needs of its employees before its profits. But Raj Sisodia is a big believer in corporate compassion. Born in India, Sisodia was educated there and at Columbia University in New York, where he received his PhD, and he’s currently professor of marketing at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass.

In May, Bentley will host the third annual international conference sponsored by the Conscious Capitalism Institute, of which Sisodia is chairman and co-founder. Its supporters include Whole Foods (WFMI), Costco (COST) and the Indian multinational, Tata Group. Fortune caught up with Sisodia to discuss the changing dynamics of American capitalism after the deepest recession in decades.

What is Conscious Capitalism?

Conscious Capitalism is defined by four characteristics. First is a higher purpose. There needs to be some other reason why you exist, not just to make money. Second is aligning all the stakeholders around that sense of higher purpose and recognizing that their interests are all connected to each other, and therefore there’s no exploitation of one for the benefit of another. The third element is conscious leadership, which is driven by purpose and by service to people, and not by power or by personal enrichment. And the fourth is a conscious culture, which really embodies all of these elements: trust, caring, compassion, and authenticity. (here is a one-page pdf)

That sounds conscious but it doesn’t sound like capitalism. How well do those attitudes and policies hold up during hard times?

It was interesting to observe how some of the companies that we’ve become very closely aligned with dealt with the global economic downturn in 2008. The Container Store and REI, for instance. Those two CEOs said first of all, “We are not going to lay off anybody. That’s number one. Second, we are going to protect the weakest within the system, which are the part-time workers. They will not be asked to take any kind of pay cut, any kind of benefit deduction, or even reduction in their hours, because they are the most vulnerable in the system. And then all the salaried people will take an across-the-board pay freeze, or even a pay reduction.” The sacrifice was shared equally between the people who could most afford to do it, and the weakest were protected.

Did the companies suffer as a result?

We tracked them. They were down much less than others. Because conscious companies operate in a system of loyalty, trust and caring, they tend to rally around each other when times are tough. They have a greater sense of oneness with their suppliers, with their employees, with their customers.

I had a CEO in my class the other day that said, “Our business went through a 30% decline. If I had laid off 20% of my work force, it probably would have resulted in seven or eight foreclosures, and maybe six or seven divorces. I decided that as a company, we are better able to manage through this crisis than many of these families are, so we’ll just get through it together.”

So they were building a factory. They decided to look at their own employees. A number of them had been masonry workers and carpenters and plumbers and electricians in a previous life. They actually put their own employees to work building the new factory. So now they have this building, pretty much built by their own employees. Of course the business has come back, and now they’re growing 40% quarter over quarter. The level of engagement and oneness and commitment and gratitude that these employees feel towards these kinds of businesses is tremendous. It’s just immense.

In your book, Firms of Endearment, which came out in 2007, you talk about how social and demographic trends are influencing capitalism.

There is a fundamental shift going on in the culture. It’s not a drastic choice anymore between Communism and capitalism; everybody believes in free markets and free people. The question is how do we refine it? How do we create the best possible kind of free markets and free people? Beyond that, the median age crossed 40 for the first time in 1989. If you look at what happens to people as they age, mid-life and beyond, it’s not so much about, “How much can I accumulate?” and “What’s in it for me?” They start asking questions about meaning and purpose and legacy. And then if you look at the impact of the Web, it has created almost total transparency and almost total connectivity.

So people know about more things. They’re more concerned about the well-being of others. They can organize. And the last thing — this has been a longer-term trend — is the so-called Flynn Effect: The human IQ has been rising at the rate of 4% a year for decades now. We’re more intelligent than we were 50, 60 years ago.

I am, or just the new people coming along?

All of us. [Laughter] Maybe it’s skewed towards the younger generation, I’m not sure. But I think the fact is that through better nutrition, education, or just human evolution, we are becoming more intelligent. And there’s a long-term journey of rising consciousness that we are all part of. If you go back 150 years, slavery was acceptable to most people. A hundred years ago women did not have the right to vote. Fifty years ago we lived in a segregated society and colonialism was common. Until three months ago we had “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

To me, these are all examples that suggest we are in fact moving in the direction of truly recognizing what is right, what is wrong, what is acceptable, and what is not. Companies that are not changing their approach — that are still focusing on their own bottom line and not worrying more broadly about consequences — are finding that people don’t want to work there, they don’t want to shop there, and they don’t want them in their communities. People are migrating, when they have a choice, to businesses that do offer meaning and purpose and a positive impact all around.

So you believe that capitalism is a force for good?

I do strongly believe in the power of capitalism.

Karl Marx believed in the power of capitalism, too. But he saw it as ultimately promoting inequality. You disagree?

Yes, because if you have a conscious approach to business, it doesn’t lead to inequality. There’s a built-in mechanism to make sure that everybody prospers at the same time. And that’s ultimately the power behind this: Recognizing the interconnectedness and interdependence. Any exploitation of one element for the benefit of others in the long run is not going to work. It’s basic system theory. The system is only as good as its overall ability to function, and to be healthy all the components have to be healthy.

The Conscious Capitalism Institute- here

Ariel at Fast Company Magazine- “Timberland is being refreshingly honest about not hitting its greenhouse gas-reduction goals. “We have to fix our business process fundamentally,” CEO Jeff Swartz tells us. If they can’t do it, though, how can anyone?” Read the article here.

Swartz and Schwartz both give reasons they didn’t hit it. At the heart of the matter is a prevalent myth in our culture, also part of the reason I don’t read Fast Company. Ariel says simply “But we need multinational corporations.” We do??? Who needs them? We don’t. If we paid the true sustainable cost for carbon and all natural resources, Ariel’s previous statement would govern- “be a local business”.

But this post is about the reasons Jeff Swartz thinks they didn’t make it. “We have to fix our business process fundamentally. 80% [of our travel] is problem solving”.  Swartz still doesn’t see that the problem is arrogance of management. “we should be distributing people closer to [the problems that need solving]”. Aren’t there already people there? Are the people who can solve the problems really that much smarter than the people doing the job? No, they aren’t, they just have the authority necessary and believe they are that much smarter than their reports. Gary Hamel in his book “The Future of Management” shows the myth behind “the arrogance of management” (my term not his).In a flat organization, the air travel is not necessary.

Of course in a sustainable organization, there is no manufacturing 8,000 miles from the market. Swartz is correct that they have to fix their fundamental business process, unfortunately though he still doesn’t get it.



Posted by: robbryan | April 4, 2011

More on “How” and “Why”

The Power of “Why”

By Presidio Marketing

The other day I watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”: The title is a bit misleading because Sinek’s message is really about the importance of knowing why we do the things we do. “The golden circle,” he calls it, a bulls-eye graphic in which the outer ring is the what, the middle ring is the how, and the inner core section is the why. It all corresponds to the way our brains are wired. This model applies to both individuals and companies but of course I want to focus on what this means at the organizational level and more specifically how the model can and should be used in marketing.

The rest of the article is here.

Posted by: robbryan | March 30, 2011

The “How” is as important as the “What”.

The first boat I built, the 65′ catamaran (now named Legacy) was build using money that was earned by dragging, one of the most destructive fishing practices there is. I didn’t have a problem with that. We were putting the money to better use than if it had gone into another fishing boat. It was poetic justice of a sort, using money earned in a bad way to help correct some of the damage.

We built the boat in a pretty egalitarian non-extractive way. We tried to pay good wages, offered equity, and treated people with respect. We had workers driving 40 minutes to work with us, when higher wages were available 5 minutes away. That was probably a good indication. So I think we put “bad” money to “good” use (What) and we did it in good way (how).

Would I take Windhorse Lightships forward with say, funding from Exxon-Mobil? Very probably, as long as the what and the how were not compromised. The mission is clear so the what wouldn’t be a problem (the What), but if Exxon-Mobil or any other funding source required us to pay returns that forced us to pay below market wages or compromise safety (the How), no.

Albert Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Can we address some of our problems doing business the same way we always have? Can we do good while paying our work force extractive wages? Do the ends justify the means?

An example might be studying ocean acidification from a vessel producing tons of CO2 everyday, directly over the very reefs we’re trying to protect. Think buying offsets is a solution? It’s not, as a 2009 report by Friends of the Earth, titled “A Dangerous Distraction”. Another problem I see with offsets is that what started as a cottage industry is now big (or medium) business. An industry that is supposed to go away as we get closer to carbon neutral. Business industries usually find ways of growing and perpetuating themselves. Do any of the offset businesses (either for or nonprofit) have exit strategies???

I’m not advocating that we just quit, tie up our ships and do our ocean research from kayaks. I am advocating that before you purchase those offsets, first do everything possible to reduce the emissions.  Right after putting the workforce on a living wage.

Posted by: robbryan | March 26, 2011


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” -Lazarus Long

Posted by: robbryan | March 25, 2011

The 100% Social Media Marketing Plan.

Earlier this week, I posted an outline of a marketing plan to our development group that eschews traditional one way marketing channels and uses social media. Two days later this pops up. “Guayaki Yerba Mate to Market Only with Social Media”. “The company announced yesterday that it will be engaging their consumers solely through social media channels. Guayaki going all out with social media begs the question, is it a risky strategy? Or is it a smart move?”

We are inundated with over 3,000 marketing messages a day. The fact is, we aren’t listening to them. We don’t trust them, since all they want to do is sell us their product for the most possible money at the least possible cost, and we already have most of what we need. What we DO listen to is what our friends have tried and rave about.

A close friend, when I told her about this revolutionary strategy, said “that’s nothing new you know”. She’s owned a successful salon business for 20 years. She and most successful small service business owners already know that a referral is worth 10 walk-ins as a long term customer prospect.

I don’t think most people understand social media marketing. The phrase itself seems to be an oxymoron to me. Social media is simply a communication tool, not a strategy, plan or policy. It changes things because it is a two way communication channel, not a broadcast channel as traditional marketing uses. The strategy is to build a community or “tribe”, in which the product or service is incorporated as an integral part. The key fundamentals of tribe building are multi channel, two way communication, authenticity, transparency, and a totally awesome product or service that has meaning and value for the tribe. So the latter leaves out most of today’s throwaway plastic junk that we’re told we’re losers if we don’t have.

This is also an excellent strategy for a triple bottom line organization with a mission that has real value for the planet. Most of the marketing dollars are spent on people, rather than mega corporate owned media advertising that our tribe and potential tribe members don’t read anyway. It’s another factor that strengthens the commitment to the “people” and “planet” part of People, Planet, Profit. (note: the order is important here.)

Posted by: robbryan | March 23, 2011

501c3’s AND L3Cs, not 501c3’s vs. L3Cs.

In L3C Connect, a popular discussion list on Linked In,  Paul Miller wrote: “As a founder of a 501c3 I have witnessed first hand management’s self-serving, waste that no for profit would tolerate, and Boards who are quicker to resign than take true fiduciary responsibility. I am very excited to use the L3C structure for my latest venture… Happy 3rd Birthday L3C! I feel that Nonprofiteers need to change but change is never easy..”

I don’t know Paul’s experience, but this sounds a bit like he’s advocating replacing 501c3’s with L3Cs. With few exceptions, I can’t see how that would work, and I don’t think the L3C should be used that way if it could be. (my apologies if I’m putting words in his mouth for journalistic efficiency).

The L3C is a special purpose entity for when there is a social need that can be filled in a for profit or breakeven business. Much of the work of nonprofits is just that- non profit, and there’s no way to make a profit and serve the constituency while doing it. The idea that there are market solutions to every social problem overlooks the fact that governments arose to fill the gaps of market failures, and philanthropy arose to fill the gaps of both.

I’m a collaborative thinker, not a competitive one, so I don’t see the L3C and 501c3 as an either/or, I see them as working together. A big part of Windhorse Lightships, L3C’s program is directed at supporting nonprofits, not competing with them.

I think Paul has a point about waste and fiduciary responsibility, though I use the term efficiency instead of waste. While there are plenty of reasonably efficient nonprofits and for profits, the most efficient is the sole proprietor or employee owned enterprise. Like the nonprofit they believe in what they are doing and are fully engaged in the mission, but unlike the nonprofit, they have skin in the game. I think it is difficult, even for the altruistic, to become fully engaged on a long term basis in an enterprise/cause when a shift in board membership could put them out on the street with nothing but memories. Or a downturn in the economy reduces donations and the same happens. I should repeat- “fully engaged on a long term basis”.

Few nonprofits pay market wages or offer retirement plans. None offer ownership. It’s not about getting rich, it’s about having the same opportunities as the for profit sector to provide for your family and future. An organization that has high turnover, regardless of the dedication of the workers, will never operate as efficiently as one with workers fully engaged on a long term basis. Windhorse Lightships needs highly skilled and well trained workers to operate our vessels and programs safely and efficiently. While safety of our volunteers and crew is paramount, high turnover = higher safety risk and high training costs and diminishes our ability to accomplish the mission. Recent research shows us that employee ownership is a viable solution (See “Equity”, by Rosen, Case, & Staubus) that also addresses some other social deficiencies, such as disparity of wealth. The L3C proscribes the same dedication to a charitable mission (by statute) as the 501c3 but allows ownership that can enable higher efficiency. One should not confuse the absentee, speculative proxy ownership of Wall Street with employee ownership. They are apples and bricks and Windhorse Lightships will never go public. Never.

As for fiduciary responsibility, it is sort of an oxymoron in a 501c3. Since a board member can resign anytime with no consequences and most are indemnified (who would serve if not?) there’s no skin in the game. Contrast that with the employee/owner/board member who has the same dedication to the mission as in a 501c3, but also needs to see it high levels of efficiency for their livelihood to prosper. More like a team of huskies pulling together than one person herding cats….

Posted by: danadaldoss | March 18, 2011

Guest Post: Marine Sanctuaries

Marine Sanctuaries: To Shelter or to Plunder?

by Dana Daldos

Sanctuaries MapThe time to defend our marine wilderness is now, more than ever, yet our oceans grow increasingly weak. Research in the past decade has revealed that 75% of the seed beds of our oceans, coral reefs, are delicately balanced on the precipice of ecosystemic collapse.  In the next forty years that number will, if unchecked, grow to 95%.[1]  Overfishing has destroyed many of the top and middle predators of the sea leading to imbalances in the ecosystem, and ocean acidification—the most frightening and widely unknown aspect of global climate change—threatens to wipe-out  the rest of the ecosystem from the bottom of the food chain up. Research needs to be conducted into the exact scale of these problems and ways they can be reversed, and conservation needs to be stepped-up to preserve what little pristine ocean wilderness still exists. Yet policymakers continue to treat the ocean as a pool of exploitable resources.

As the economy continues its lurching, uncertain progress, money is growing scarcer for programs deemed non-essential. If the very government itself is forced to survive on piecemeal, month to month spending approvals, then what hope is there for permanent allocations for vital marine areas—things that many consider out of sight and often out of mind? Presently, the government organization charged with ocean research and protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), falls under the purview of the US Department of Commerce. For our oceanic sanctuaries this is both a blessing and a curse. In recent testimony, Jason Patlis, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, had to defend marine sanctuaries not on their intrinsic value, or the value that future generations may hold in them, but on the economic basis of how much revenue these sanctuaries generate year to year.[2] The problem with this is manifold in that if we continue to treat these sanctuaries as economic resources, rather than national/natural treasures—priceless and irreplaceable—then should Congress ever deem their protection economically unjustifiable, their protection may be scrapped.  It is tantamount to putting a price tag on Yellowstone. Marine sanctuaries and protected areas do not merely serve to provide an annual revenue stream; they provide respite for a wholly overtaxed ecosystem. They demonstrate the overall health of the oceans and contain untold biodiversity. Their existence marks a turning point in history when people began to understand that the survival of humanity is deeply linked to the survival of the oceans. Yet even now their protected status is primarily legal, a theoretical fiat with little enforcement. Will we forsake protected ocean areas in lieu of short term gains? Or will we grow and empower our marine protected areas so that they might one day stand in the national consciousness alongside their terrestrial siblings Yosemite, Acadia, Yellowstone, and others?

Speaking of price tags, for comparison’s sake, Yellowstone National Park—a single park of 3,400 square miles—has an annual base funding (as of 2003) of roughly $30M, whereas the entire Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has an annual budget of $58M to cover a 150,000 square mile system.[3][4] Yellowstone employs ~600 people, the National Marine Sanctuaries Program (NMSP) has a workforce of 400.[5][6] Clearly, if a single—albeit majestic and awe-inspiring—park warrants the kind of Federal funding Yellowstone receives, not counting the over $250M it brings in through fees and services, then our marine sanctuaries deserve a bit more attention. Perhaps we should begin by shifting the NMSP from the Department of Commerce into the Department of the Interior to reflect our commitment to ocean conservation? However, maybe we don’t need to rely entirely on the government to carry out our conservation mission.

Windhorse Lightships Logo

Windhorse Lightships, L3C, is an expressly triple bottom line company with a cutting-edge structure that seeks to further our understanding and appreciation of the ocean ecosystem. In the coming decades Windhorse Lightships will join concerned citizens with scientists in bringing the plight of the oceans into mainstream consciousness—striving for nothing less than a complete paradigm shift with regard to our oceans. Through the creation and operation of a fleet of zero-impact research vessels, the company will provide a means for research, exploration, and enforcement that up to now has been fulfilled partly by NOAA by way of the National Ocean Service (parent to the NMSP), and partly by the US Navy—who provides many of the research vessels. Yet, while the Navy deserves thanks for their contribution thus far, it is clear that the Navy (like the Department of Commerce) has a different purpose and is not the best instrument for ocean conservation. By facilitating education, research, and beneficial interaction with our ocean’s natural treasures, Windhorse Lightships intends to spark a social movement that will help humanity realize that the value of our oceans transcends dollars.

Dana Daldos is Chief Provocateur for Windhorse Lightships, L3C. His personal blog can be found at

[1]: Reefs at Risk Revisited, an update of the milestone 1998 assessment. Available at:

[2]: March 11, 2011. Testimony available at:





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