Big Heart Intelligence and Corporate Destiny
The idea that “character is destiny” is ascribed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (535-475 BC) who taught that the world is constantly in flux.1 The two are related, because character is the quality that provides balance, foresight, and wisdom against forces seemingly beyond our control. Like people, organizations have character often referred to as “culture.” And also like people, character can govern their destinies. Our spotlight here is on corporations and non-profit organizations: how by systematically cultivating Big Heart Intelligence (the integration of heart, brain, and mind) they can powerfully influence their otherwise immutable fortunes.
Mission. Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman once famously observed (somewhat paraphrased) that a company’s greatest act of charity is to put money in the pockets of its shareholders.2 This position has been challenged by leading academic writers such as Harvard Business School’s Professor Michael Porter, who documents how by “creating shared value” for their customers and communities companies can generate higher returns for shareholders and society.3 Big Heart Intelligence (BHI) builds on this core insight, enhancing the vitality of every aspect of organizational life.
Practical Application: Mission statements that are self-referential, for example, to expand market share, or are heedless of the consequences, i.e. designed simply to increase corporate profits, lack power and vision. In the worst cases they excuse all manner of predatory behaviors.4 BHI-inspired mission statements on the other hand invoke the big picture. They appeal to both the intellect and the emotive qualities of the heart that engage support from all levels of the organization and within its ecosystem of customers, allies, financiers, and supply chain contractors.
Leadership. BHI builds especially on the work on “authentic leadership” well articulated by Professor William George of the Harvard Business School (5). Professor George teaches that qualities of character such as integrity, courage, and fortitude are essential in inspiring others to contribute to a bold and compelling vision. BHI is the wellspring of authentic leadership in precisely the sense Professor George expresses it.
Practical Application. Among the truest historic exemplars of BHI leadership are Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. Both displayed in their lives the essentials of a generous heart working in perfect harmony with a keen intellect and a powerful hand. These same qualities of character are as applicable and urgently needed in business leaders today as they are in our political leadership.
Strategy. The art of corporate strategy according to Professor James E. Schrager of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago boiled down to its essentials rests on the following: a. representation or how a problem is conceived, mapped, and expressed; b. patterns or trends, story lines, data, and knowledge points by which experts find and derive solutions c. memory links; recognition of these patterns by the stories we tell, indexed and encoded in snapshots or “gists”; and d. practice or the ability rapidly to recall, process, and apply the patterns and narratives more powerfully than competitors.6 By cultivating BHI we expand our capacities to sense and to perceive patterns and to comprehend their meanings. This is because we are engaging not only the analytic faculty of our minds, but also the sensorial capabilities of our minds and hearts working simultaneously and in synergy.
Practical Application: A Japanese company concerned about the shrinking of the digital camera market conceives a strategy to take a leadership position in the rapidly expanding ophthalmic imaging market. A core part of its strategy is to build the world’s largest data base on clinical applications of a next frontier technology platform known as “adaptive optics” focusing first on glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetic retinopathy. Today these and many other ophthalmic and neurodegenerative diseases are destroying the lives of over a billion people worldwide. The board passes a corporate resolution to make its instruments and databases affordably available so that the benefits can reach the largest numbers of people around the world in the shortest period of time.
Change Management. I once asked my colleague, Dr. Ichak Adizes, quite possibly the world’s highest paid consultant on corporate change management, if he could express in one word the most important factor of success in the companies he has studied or worked with. “Heart!” he replied. Then he continued in an oddly spiritual vein for a man of business, “Love needs to be expressed in action: To make a better world. That is what mystic Judaism called Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “improve the world.” And he elaborated further by this concise expression:7
When the powers of the heart and mind combine, the inner and outer worlds come into balance and harmony. Change is no longer a threat but becomes an opportunity. In his work Dr. Adizes has been able to chart how organizations behave during their life cycles and how they can constructively intervene to influence their corporate destinies. BHI can enhance this process by pinpointing the essentials of heart-centric adaptive behavior.
Practical Applications. Dr. Ichak Adizes’ collective works are replete with case studies of corporate life cycles and effective organizational responses (8).
Innovation. Innovation is the art and science of transforming discoveries and inventions into profitable products and services. Social innovation applies some of these same principles to discover practical solutions to urgent societal challenges. Collaborative innovation gathers the creative energies and resources of many parties to produce greater commercial gains and societal benefits. In each case innovation is enhanced both in conception and practical implementation by engaging the heart as a source of creative inspiration and a mooring for wise decision making.
Practical Application. Stanford’s Byers Eye Institute is bringing frontier thinking in innovation integration and engineering to the accelerated development of adaptive optics. The new Vision Research Center will house in one facility laboratory, clinical, and engineering experts who will have access to other relevant parts of the campus; for example, colleagues working at the new frontier of tele-medicine as well as a reservoir of talented engineering students. Giving engineers an opportunity to understand the challenges and suffering of patients in a clinical setting is proving an essential motivator and source of creative inspiration.
Negotiation. In Book I of Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorers Mind I introduce a practical system that enables a negotiator to advance any cause effectively, profitably, and with a sense of play and discovery. The guiding principle is “integrity,” which is written in the Chinese and Japanese languages as the “hand” of action in dynamic balance with the “eye” of discovery and the “heart” of compassion. A “negotiation” is viewed as a process of navigation analogous to negotiating a river or a mountain. Integrity is the negotiator’s compass and north star combined. After twenty years of practice I have come to appreciate how BHI lifts the “production possibility” curve, as it is called in economics, for every move in my system and at every moment in time.
Practical Applications. One in a myriad of examples: In negotiations as in the art of war it is essential to know ourselves and to know the other party, for then as the Chinese military strategist/philosopher Sun Tzu (~544 BC–496 BC) wrote “You cannot be defeated in a hundred battles.” But he doesn’t explain how to know ourselves and the other players. More specifically, how can we go behind the mask (“persona” in Latin) that we all wear to protect our inner secrets? You cannot go behind the mask by mind alone. You must open the gates of your heart and mind simultaneously and look inside to discover what is really happening in the negotiation right before you. This requires a precise and advanced sensorial capacity that like any art is cultivated by practice. An effective way to test this process is first to prepare a Player Integrity Profile (PIPs) for any important negotiation using your “normal” way of analyzing the negotiation. PIPs is a checklist of key indicators of an effective negotiator’s performance.9 Then revise and enrich your analysis by taking a new look with fresh eyes and the prism of BHI.
Strategic Alliances. The linchpin of all successful strategic alliances and other collaborative relationships is trust. Although this principle is well documented in the scholarly and professional literature on strategic alliances, few alliance professionals actually know how to build and sustain trust. Trust is a complex phenomenon that involves a combination of cognitive and emotional faculties of the brain, but at least as importantly, the capabilities of the heart. In fact, the essential components for building trust cited in the literature– effective communication, deep listening, adaptability, reliability, resilience, patience, generosity of spirit, to name a few– are attributes of BHI. BHI offers a practical path to nourish these qualities that are the bedrocks of effective collaboration.
Practical Applications. In advancing the Alliances for Discovery’s Collaborative for early detection, prevention, and more effective therapies for neurodegenerative disease, the two key factors that have sustained all of us is a shared humanitarian vision and the trust that no one in the innovation network is playing for personal gain or competitive advantage. Our minds are engaged, and we are connected at the level of heart as well.
Marketing and Sales. A foundation for effective marketing and sales is to define a strong customer point of “pain” and the distinctive features and benefits of the solution that we can deliver as an affordable product or service to address this pain.10 BHI sharpens and deepens the understanding of pain and couples this faculty of perception with an advanced capability to see the “big picture”. This enables us to anticipate more accurately future inflection points in the market.
Practical Application. A core market for Laughing Heart is people in their later years (50+). The Longevity Economy is already a multi-$ billion market and expanding rapidly.11 People in their later years experience a spectrum of stresses and worries they generally did not encounter at least with similar intensity in younger life. These include: declining powers, a sense of vulnerability, a loss of relevance and meaning, closing options, listlessness and passivity, disengagement, loss of loved ones, a sense of being cared for and caring, and the existential question of death.12 There is a strong statistical correlation between a sense of disempowerment associated with retirement and the onset of serious illnesses such as cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.13 Exuberant vitality, steadily and joyfully cultivated by Laughing Heart (BHI) practice and delivered in a wide variety of congenial ways, offers a powerful response to the challenges and opportunities of advancing age.
Human Resources. Economists have long recognized that the financial and other returns on human capital, in particular creativity and innovation, can exceed that of classical factors of production consisting of financial capital, land, and ordinary labor. For this reason the development of human resources is considered the backbone of some of the most successful companies.14
Practical Application #1—Organizational Health.15 Stress it is estimated is costing American businesses $ billions and the amount is increasing annually. The accelerating pace of corporate life along with a new malady that that has actually been given a name, “acute busy-ness,” are significantly increasing the cost to the nation cost. BHI practice offers a solution to the paradox of how to reconcile the basic human need for space and quietude with modern business’ demand for immediate and decisive action. Thomas L. Friedman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late tracks this same logic by pointing out that the most successful companies will learn how to connect internally with the restful yet powerful medium of the heart.16
Practical Application #2. My Harvard ‘65 classmate William Drayton, now Chair of Get America Working has just published a blog outlining a practical tax solution to create 45 million new jobs. Essentially he proposes to “phase out payroll taxes and substitute budget–neutral taxes on things. That would instantly make hiring more people 30 percent less expensive compared to consuming things…It creates no bureaucracies with their delays, possible corruption, would avoid choosing winners and losers, and would be one of the best things we could do for the environment.”17 What if the energy and dedication of even 10% of these new entries to the workforce were to combine with the creative power of BHI? What beneficial transformation for the nation could ensue when a tipping point is reached?
Compensation and Employee Relations. How an organization treats its employees, in particular how it compensates and otherwise rewards their work, is often the acid test of whether BHI principles are embodied in action. The first element in PIPs as applied to an organization is “matching/mismatching.” Does this organization present itself to the world as a good corporate citizen but at home starves its employees or abuses its partners? A breakdown in matching its words to deeds will provide a crucial insight into the likely existence of many other serious flaws that can spell an organization’s decline and early demise.
Practical Applications. Law firms are notorious in this respect. Some profess to be social concerned and even win prizes for their pro bono activity. But internally they are shark tanks where partners claw for client control and billable hours, steal opportunities from each other, and cannibalize the practice of older partners whose lifelong services to the firm are no longer needed. Such firms may be beneficial for the controlling clique that gobbles up the lion’s share of the profits, while the remaining partners and associates make do underneath. The turnover in such firms is rapid which itself is wasteful of resources, because the firm must invest in new employees, whether an associate or partner, to familiarize them with the firm’s culture. Such firms rarely retain their best talents very long, and clients suffer as the quality of services also declines.
Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution. Effective resolution of disputes by the services of a neutral facilitator or mediator has become an important institution in the U.S. UK, and many other industrialized countries. The most successful mediators naturally embody core BHI attributes such as deep listening, empathy, patience, and resilience. BHI shifts the energetic field in a way that opens new possibilities for the parties to reframe their issues and to resolve them efficiently.
Practical Applications. One of the most powerful uses of BHI principles is in the new specialty of strategic alliance mediation (SAM) which has been recommended as one of the best international practices by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals. Unlike conventional mediation, SAM treats controversies as opportunities to enhance the vitality of an alliance. This is because strategic alliances thrive by discovering new synergy within significant differences. The strategic alliance mediator’s task, in addition to facilitating the resolution of the dispute, is to help the parties discover creative alternatives. As in conventional mediation, the strategic alliance mediator must remain neutral and independent, yet at the same time he or she is also an ardent advocate for the alliance “interest.” This interest is distinct and separate from the parties’ individual and often more limited perspectives. Strategic alliance mediation requires the neutral facilitator not only to understand the challenges of alliances, but equally importantly, to shift the energetic field, which is a distinctive BHI capability, in a way that inspires the parties to rediscover the potentialities of their relationship that they may be placing at risk.18
BHI Metrics: A Breakthrough in Enhancing Organizational Performance. As in modern science, business relies on data and measurement. There are now well established metrics to assess corporate social and environmental responsibility such as the lead index of the Global Reporting Initiative.19 GRI reviews are now regularly made an integral part of the financial reports by major companies. On the public front countries such as Bhutan have introduced National Happiness Indices as a way to account for an intangible variable (happiness) that they deem to be as important a standard for national well being and productivity as Gross National Product (GNP).
BHI can advance the field of sustainability accounting by introducing a new metric, the BHI Vital Signs Quotient (BVQ) based on specific Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The BVQ can easily be integrated within GRI accounting and will measure the degree of coherence and integration of an organization’s business acumen and brain power (Mind) and effectiveness in its ambit of action (Hand) with a dynamic energetic intelligence that includes wisdom, good judgment, foresight, compassion, generosity, balance, courage, resilience, adaptive vitality, and other attributes to which we refer collectively as Big Heart Intelligence™.
The BVQ will provide quantitative and qualitative proof that BHI organizations make wiser decisions, are more stable, balanced, and resilient, see farther and more deeply, therefore are willing to take bold yet well considered (heart and brain) risks, and cope more effectively with change — actually create beneficial change. Such organizations have greater employee and customer loyalty, are viewed internally and by the outside world as more trustworthy and reliable, build stronger alliances, are more inventive and innovative, create better brands, are more productive and profitable, and because of all of the above, can command a financial premium in the capital markets. Such organizations like the people they employ and the customers they serve are happier, healthier, and live longer. Organizations achieving high BVQ ratings are high candidates for BHI certification and will serve as exemplars for visionary corporate leaders in all business sectors.20
Extending BHI Advantage through Artificial Intelligence
We are a few months away from writing Version 1.0 code for a BVQ algorithm. It will be unique: It will integrate data relevant to all corporate functions discussed in this article and likely many others. Because BHI is by its nature holistic and holographic, every point of data will enhance and can lend insight to every other data point. This produces formidable efficiencies in the uses of these data, but also poses a considerable challenge of how to weight the relative importance of each data set. We have a way to solve this challenge by weighting different variables based on the prism of BHI and user requirements. The program will assess, track, analyze, and adapt to what it learns from new data, becoming a trusted friend and ally for every person who has a stake in the success of the enterprise from senior management to the support staff. It will capture some of the attributes that Jack Stack envisioned almost twenty years ago in his best seller, The Great Game of Business (21), where he urged that the chances of corporate success can be increased by engaging every person in a creative learning process about the challenges and opportunities of their company or organization. Yet, an intelligent BHI program will offer something more. It will enable everyone to see the big and individual pictures simultaneously and dynamically. This opportunity will provide invaluable insights in advance into patterns, trends, and pitfalls that the program’s fallible human partners might not as easily detect.
Postscript: A robot is generally understood as a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions, behaving in a mechanical or unemotional manner, devoid of feeling. A corporation living under the sufferance of the state is effectively a legal robot. Unfortunately today our robots are running amok, dictating what we eat, breathe, and think, and poking themselves into every vital aspect of modern society. BHI offers a practical way to turn these robot hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. It can be an auspicious beginning with profound implications for every sphere of civic life.
(4) For one egregious example is the film Black November: Struggle for the Niger Delta. It is difficult to understand how the CEO of this oil company can sleep at night knowing the remediable evil his company is continuously inflicting upon these impoverished and defenseless people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_November
(6) See Julian Gresser, Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorers Mind (2013) Book I. https://www.amazon.com/Piloting-Through-Chaos-Julian-Gresser/dp/1626430004/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1486691261&sr=8-2&keywords=Julian+Gresser
(9) Gresser, op. cit. fn.6.
(15) http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2267-workplace-stress-health-epidemic-perventable-employee-assistance-programs.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gina-soleil-/workplace-stress-the-heal_b_8923678.html;
for a counter viewpoint see: https://workplacepsychology.net/2016/07/04/cost-of-stress-on-the-u-s-economy-is-300-billion-says-who/
(18) See Julian Gresser, “Strategic Alliance Mediation: Creating Value from Difference and Discord in Global Business” https://alliancesfordiscovery.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Strategic-Alliance-Mediation.pdf
(20) http://bigheartintelligence.org/bhi-vital-signs-quotient-survey/ ; http://bigheartintelligence.org/bhi-performance-metrics/ The BHI Effect can easily be measured through both qualitative and quantitative metrics. Big Heart Intelligence structured methods, practices, and engagement platforms will typically produce measurable results in an extremely short period as little as a month after implementation.
© Copyright April 2017 by Julian Gresser and Alliances for Discovery. All rights reserved. The author wishes to thank his close colleague and AFD Board member, William Moulton, for his ideas and suggestions on this article and many other contributions past and present.
Julian Gresser is Chairman of Alliances for Discovery a 510c3 non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating breakthrough innovations for humanity. Julian Gresser has been twice Mitsubishi Visiting Professor of Japanese law at the Harvard Law School and a Visiting Professor at MIT’s Program on Science Technology and Society. He has served as a legal and business adviser to many international companies and governments. (https://alliancesfordiscovery.org/guide/laughing-heart/about-the-author/)