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What is business for? 24 Bold Ideas & Experiments for Reinventing Capitalism

by Polly LaBarre on May 21, 2012
polly-labarre's picture

What is business for? 24 Bold Ideas & Experiments for Reinventing Capitalism

It’s an idea with few enemies—and many authors: how do we renew the soul of capitalism and fundamentally reimagine it for a new age and a new set of challenges? That was the question we put to a global community of hackers and innovators in the Long-Term Capitalism Challenge. Specifically, what real world experiment or bold ideas are you advancing to accelerate the shift toward a more principled, patient, and social accountable capitalism?

In just two-and-a-half months, we received some 148 entries from leaders, thinkers, and innovators of all stripes, from every corner of the planet. The diversity of ideas was as striking as the diversity of the contributors. We learned about initiatives and transformation at the firm level, of the entire ecosystem, from the realms of nonprofits, for-profits, hybrid organizations and coalitions of competitors. We heard about embedding the ethos of community and citizenship in an organization at the deepest level; pushing the boundaries of sustainability, transparency, and inclusion; reinventing metrics and developing new feedback loops; redesigning management education; and fundamentally rethinking what business is for, who it serves, and what it means to create value.

We were looking for depth, originality, clarity, and the ability to inspire and instruct in equal measure. We found those qualities in a remarkable number of the entries—and were hard-pressed to advance just twenty-four finalists to the next round.

Along with our partners at HBR and McKinsey, we’re delighted to announce those finalists today (in alphabetical order):

Please check out the finalist stories and hacks and add your comments and ratings—they’ll make a difference as finalists update and build on their entries for final judging. We’ll announce the winners of the challenge here the week of June 4th.

You can also meet many of the winners from all three rounds of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation at the MIX Mashup on June 19, 2012 in San Francisco. The event is a day-long gathering of the vanguard of management innovators—pioneering leaders, courageous innovators, and agenda-setting thinkers—designed to unpack the fundamental design principles for 21st century organizations, to learn from the most progressive management experiments and initiatives we've discovered, and to equip everyone with the most powerfully practical approaches to taking on the status quo. We’ll announce the grand prize winners of the M-Prize at the event. You can learn more and apply to attend here.

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jeff-mowatt's picture

Interestingly the question reflects how our own paper opened by asking:

"At first glance, it might seem redundant to emphasize people as the central focus of economics. After all, isn't the purpose of economics, as well as business, people? Aren't people automatically the central focus of business and economic activities? Yes and no."

Unaware of this competition until now, I've just posted my hack on deploying capitalism for social benefit.

It's called Every Child Deserves a Loving Family and describes how those in institutions and living on the streets could be confined to history, by deploying profit for purpose.