Leadership for Sustainable Value
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Leadership for Sustainable Value The HR Opportunity of the 21 st Century How to Magnify Human Strengths Through Appreciative Inquiry’s “Whole System” Approach to Sustainable Value Creation. David Cooperrider, Fairmount Minerals Professor of Organizational Behavior

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Leadership for Sustainable Value The HR Opportunity of the 21st CenturyHow to Magnify Human Strengths Through Appreciative Inquiry’s “Whole System” Approach to Sustainable Value Creation

David Cooperrider, Fairmount Minerals Professor of Organizational Behavior

Weatherhead School of Management

Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Case Western Reserve University

[email protected]

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Setting the Context for Huge HR Opportunities

--Insights and Global Trends--

A Positive Revolution in HR Research

  • Strengths-Elevating

  • Strengths-Combining

  • Strengths-Extending Organizations

    Appreciative Inquiry: Turning Green to Gold &

    Turning on the Entire Workforce

    Tom Brokow’s “Greatest Generation” to our Most Privileged Generation?

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A Story:The Most Exciting Project I Have Ever Worked On

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Business as an Agent of World Benefit--More Than 2,000 Interviews--100s of Published Profiles “Positive Institutions” --see www.worldinquiry.org“Awe is What Moves Us Forward”

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Sustainable Value —From Obligation to Innovation Mindset(source: Chris Lazslo)

Shareholder Value


(Value Transfer)

Sustainable Value

Clean energyvehicles




Fossil fuel ICE




(Value Transfer)

¹ absolute standards or

relative to competitors

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UN Global Compact and Civil Society LeadersAI Summit Results—and Surprises

  • Innovations: HP, Novartis, BP, Ericcson, Tata, etc

  • Vision of PRI Project: Goldman Sachs and Other Investment Firms, Representing $10 Trillion in Assets

  • Who Cares Wins— eclipse of “the great tradeoff illusion”—ESG issues move to the strategic core—25% greater stock appreciation

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Results (cont.) and Civil Society Leaders

  • 10 Stock Exchanges & Climate Change Initiative

  • 43 Local Networks…China

  • 100% Growth in Members by 2007 Summit

  • Companies Calling for New Leaders

    Counter-Summit Collaborative Innovation

    But Why?


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Appreciative Inquiry and Civil Society LeadersInvolves a Shift

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.”

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

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Elevate-and-Extend and Civil Society Leaders

Spirit of Inquiry & Ethos of Appreciation

Resonating Patterns of Positive Emotions

High Quality Connections


Pro-fusion of Strengths

Magnification (analysis, synthesis)

Savoring (ritual, story, meaning)


Generative Imagination and Energy

Doing & Undergoing (“undoing”)

Upward spiral

Theory AI: Co-elevation

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Fairmount Minerals Story and Civil Society LeadersBirth of the “Sustainable Design Factory”

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External Stakeholders: and Civil Society Leaders





Board of Directors

Imagine 300 Stakeholders—designing new products, services.

Internal Stakeholders


Administration & Corporate Services

Customer Service





Technical Support / R&D

Whole System Sustainable Value Design

Accelerating Strengths-based Learning Indiv. to Institution

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Images of the and Civil Society LeadersSustainable Design AI Summit

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Initiative Samples: and Civil Society LeadersFrom One Sustainable Design Summit

  • Spent Sand: Recover, Recycle & Re-Use: $mutlti-million new business unit

  • Sustainable Resin Packaging: Reduce landfill waste, reduce fuel, saves labor: $300,000 annual savings

  • Truck to rail conversion: Conserves fuel, satisfied neighbors,

    • $125,000 annual savings…MUCH MORE

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Initiative Samples: and Civil Society LeadersFrom One Sustainable Design Summit

  • Fast Track site development: Transparency, environment, community impact:

    • $6 million (one year of early operations)

  • BoP Initiatives—example: water filter prototype: whole new market partnerships

  • 38%Increase Sales Growth. ALL empowerment measures up “valuing and recognizing my strengths”

  • 2007 #1 Corporate Citizen Award, US Chamber of Commerce

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Fairmount Started with Appreciative Inquiry in 1990 and Civil Society LeadersWith a Focus on Empowerment 40% CAGR Past Four Years

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Implications for Human Resources Leadership and Civil Society Leaders

Sustainable Value is a Huge Business Opportunity

Our CEOs Know It.

HR Leading the Way. Enormous Changes Lie Ahead.

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New High Engagement Turbocharger and Civil Society LeadersA Question for You:

Which organization will help save more lives in the next five years than any other— children, women, and men—who are picking cotton in toxic and chemically treated fields all over the world—fields that are so toxic that when you touch the cotton it feels like an electric jolt around your fingers?

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  • It employs 1.9 million people and Civil Society Leaders

  • Its serves 138 million people per week.

  • It has approximately $350 billion in sales

  • It’s attracting the most brilliant and radical environmental minds e.g. Amory Lovins

  • It’s raising many eyebrows

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Be supplied by 100% renewable energy and Civil Society Leaders

Create zero waste

Sell products that sustain the environment

Wal-Mart’s Early StepsMany are Watching.

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Sustainable Value Networks and Civil Society Leaders




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One of 12 Sustainable Value Creation Networks and Civil Society Leaders

64% of Magazines Put on Shelf Don’t’ Get Sold

2.6 Billion—are Shredded

Would Circle the Earth 13 Times

Amazing AI Summit

The Recent Magazine Summit on Sustainability

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Magazine Industry System Map and Civil Society Leaders










Logistics Provider








RDA Consultant


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Results: “Something that’s never happened in 50 years” and Civil Society Leaders

Consensus on 50% Improvement in Sustainability in First Year

12 major prototype entrepreneurial initiatives

An improvement of 50% = Saving 443,572 trees

= 4,640,816 gal. diesel fuel

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Call to high purpose, sustainable value creation turns on an entire workforce--strengths come alive

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Implications of Packaging entire workforce--strengths come aliveEco- Innovation & People Turned On

  • Prevented millions of pounds of trash from reaching landfills

  • Across the supply chain, the initiative will save 667,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere

  • Equal to taking 213,000 trucks off the road annually, and saving 323,800 tons of coal and 66.7 million gallons of diesel fuel from being burned.

    “The packaging is renewable in 90 days instead of 9 million years”

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Implications of Packaging entire workforce--strengths come aliveSustainable Value Innovation

Broadening this initiative to 255 items in Toys:

  • This employee driven initiative saved 3,425 tons of corrugated materials

  • 1,358 barrels of oil annually

  • 5,190 trees

  • Millions of dollars in transportation costs

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Strengths-elevating entire workforce--strengths come alive


Strengths-extending organizations

Magnifying the Strengths-Revolution in HR StrategyThrough Appreciative Inquiry

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(3 facts about all human beings)



Equality of Voice

For more tools and resources on Appreciative Inquiry