I regularly teach a Transformative Storytelling workshop organized by BeSocialChange at the Centre for Social Innovation in New York City. I wrote this post as a resource for former and prospective students, as well as anybody else interested in the subject matter. You will find an outline of what we cover in the workshop as well as links to resources below.
Register for Cornell Executive Business Education’s first 2-day Intensive Innovation Lab in New York City, May 7-8. People only associate Stanford with Design Thinking, the 5-step innovation methodology that helps companies create new products, services and redesign processes (an $11,500 investment).
Now, Cornell will be offering executive classes teaching the methodology in NYC. A 10% discount off the $3990 fee is available for 2 or more people from a corporation and the fee is reduced to $2500 startups and nonprofits. The April 17th deadline is nearly here. I will be there as a coach and mentor.
Think of the best conference you can imagine. Combine it with a vacation where you meet a random group of wonderful, whip-smart, people that you embark on a series of unforgettable adventures with. Top off all that awesomeness with the fact that you’ll be cerebrally stimulated and learning game changing skills for active participation and purpose. That’s what our fellowship programs are. Join us in NYC! I hope to see you there.
APPLICATIONS FOR OUR JUNE PROGRAM CLOSE APRIL 15th 2015.
12 Fellows. 7-Day Intensive Program.
Sunday 14th – Saturday 20th June 2015 in NYC
By Application Only
Extensive Experiences In Disruptive Design and Social Innovation. Amazing Mentors. Curated Networks. Mind-changing Activations.
Real World Projects and Challenges. Clients. Change. Sustainability. Design. Social Innovation.
Learn to be a Design Thinker at Cornell. Design Thinking, is the practice pioneered by top innovation firm IDEO, taught at Stanford University and used by some of the worlds’ most innovative companies. Cornell Executive Business Education has built upon this design and added an increased element of applicability to your everyday business life as well as an element of how do you lead innovation back on the job which is vital in the current market. It allows organizations to innovate & solve problems quickly around the needs of key stakeholders. This innovation methodology helps organizations to unlock hidden customer needs and build customer ideas into breakthrough solutions. It works for business to consumer, business to business and for nonprofits.
What is it?
This intensive, two-day skill-building workshop in New York City on May 7-8, 2015 is designed to introduce business leaders to this innovation methodology. It is part of the Cornell Executive Business Education delivered by the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.
Led by a team of Cornell experts, Tracy Brandenburg and Toddi Gutner, you will learn a new way to generate innovative ideas, how to get to know your customers better, and design an innovative solution to a complex, real-world business problem.
You will hear from, Claudia Kotchka, Senior Executive and Change Agent who successfully led an innovation culture transformation at Procter & Gamble. A pioneer in innovation practices, she led the integration of design, innovation, and strategy while globalizing the design capability of P&G and currently advises Fortune 500 Companies on Innovation and Design.
You will introduced to practical tools and techniques that you can implement in your workplace to generate fresh ideas that improve business performance. New York City will be your “classroom” as you develop consumer insight strategies and learn world-class best practices in the competitive environment.
What Can You Expect to Learn?
Multi-disciplinary teams learn the process to solve challenges quickly and cheaply. Participants can expect to learn:
- Techniques for building empathy in order to understand human needs and desires
- How to generate a compelling a design vision based on deep insights gleaned from fieldwork
- Effective brainstorming techniques to generate and select innovative ideas
- How to do rapid, low-resolution prototyping and understand its importance in the innovation process
- How to test prototypes with real users and make multiple iterations based on user feedback
- The ability to implement the Design Thinking process in any organization
Throughout, you will benefit from Cornell’s extensive connections, Ivy League faculty expertise, and an immersive learning process. At the end of the program, successful graduates will receive a Cornell Executive Business Education certificate of completion.
Who Should Attend?
The program is designed for middle to senior managers and business owners who want to strengthen their skills as innovation leaders.
Building on the idea that all managers and leaders can be innovative in their roles and organizations, the program focuses on developing skills, tools, and practices that can be applied immediately to transform ideas into action.
When and Where is it?
Thursday, May 7th; workshop 8am-5pm; cocktails and dinner 6-9pm
Friday, May 8th; workshop 8am-5pm
Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan
55 Broad Street
New York, NY
$3,990.00 per person for two-day intensive, including meals, cocktails.
Organizations that send multiple participants will receive discount.
Note: Enrollment is limited to a first-come, first-serve basis to the first 40 registrants.
If you would like additional information about this program, please contact Toddi Gutner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like additional information about our Individual Executive Education programs, please contact Devin Bigoness (Executive Director for Cornell Executive Business Education) at email@example.com.
WeWashing is a new term that refers to the abuse of words like “sharing” and “community.” Use #WeWashing to identify and critique this abuse.
Whitewash, Greenwash, WeWash
I am usually a satisfied user of services like AirBnb and Uber, even if I don’t 100% agree with all of their corporate policies and practices. But I cringe every time I hear these companies, and others like it, described as part of the “Sharing Economy.”
New technologies can extend the meaning of words, such as “friend” in a post-Facebook world. But for the sake of clarity, new social phenomena also require us to coin new terms for them. Given the expanding use and abuse of terms like “community” and “sharing,” I would like to propose a new term: WeWashing.
Based on terms like whitewashing and greenwashing, WeWashing is when corporations, brands, and other groups use the language of “sharing” and “community” to describe what are essentially capitalist commercial transactions.
Whitewash: when organizations cover up or gloss over their misdeeds, scandals, or negative facts about them.
Greenwash: when organizations use “green” marketing or public relations techniques to communicate an environmentally-friendly image that contrast with the reality of their products, policies, or practices.
WeWash: when organizations refer to renting and selling services as “sharing” and/or use terms like “community” in misleading ways.
We Are Greater Than Our Consumer Selves
In his recent speech at the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches, President Obama points out:
[T]he single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone.
Words like “we,” “sharing” and “community” may be common, but they are also meaningful. These words are reminders that we are part of something greater than ourselves. As community members and citizens, we share common bonds and common interests. We are more than consumers. We interact in ways that go beyond commercial transactions.
“We the people.”
Not “We the Monarch.”
Not “We the corporation.”
Not even “We the consumers.”
Our “we” is the “we” of true community, of collaboration, and the shared commons. It is not the “we” of royal or corporate decree.
Our shared language is itself a form of cultural commons that is owned by no one and belongs to everyone. As such, so-called “sharing economy” companies are free to use these words as they like, but we are also free to use them in ways that work for us. We can create our own forms of meaning. We can mold and adapt the language to coin terms like WeWashing.
Now that we have a word for this phenomenon that affects our reality, we can draw attention to it. We can engage in dialog about the pros and cons of “micro entrepreneurship” and the so-called “sharing economy. We can differentiate the “renting economy” from true sharing.
The Rectification of Names
The Rectification of Names (正名) is a doctrine in Confucian philosophy that argues that, for the good of society, we need to call things by their correct and proper names. We need to call a spade a spade. If we can name and identify a problematic phenomenon, we can call it out more easily and take actions to deconstruct it.
For example, by calling discrimination “discrimination,” we are able to take actions to combat it. By coining the term, “environmentalism,” we were able to unite different causes such as air pollution, water contamination, and animal habitat preservation under the umbrella of a single movement.
By calling out incidents of WeWashing, we can preserve the meaning of altruistic sharing and the bonds of community beyond narrowly-defined economic transactions. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with buying, selling, and renting to and from one another, but we should rectify our language to separate these kinds of transactions and relationships with ones that are not tied to narrowly capitalist forms of exchange. There is nothing wrong with “friending” or “following” as social media conventions, but we also need ways to differentiate these relationships from deeper forms of friendship or fandom.
At best, the “sharing economy” label is a brand marketing strategy that attempts to take advantage of the “feel good” halo associated with words like “community” and “sharing.” At worst, it is a way of obfuscating commercial transactions as “sharing” as a way of evade the reach of regulation and oversight. This is why we need to rectify the names of explicitly commercial transactions that get labelled as “sharing.”
The idea behind coining the term WeWashing is not meant to create an exclusive binary between “real” sharing and “fake” sharing, “real” community and “fake” community, but to draw attention to the fact that a spectrum exists. My life has been enriched by my experiences in the so-called “sharing economy,” beyond what I paid for the services. I have met Uber drivers from places ranging from Tibet to Mauritania, and they have shared with me about their countries and cultures, enriching my understanding of the world. An AirBnB hostess invited me into her family dinner, making me feel instantly at home in a new place. The fact that these were in the context of commercial transactions and relationships did not diminish their meaning.
However, we need to recognize that there are different kinds of sharing and different kinds of community, just as with the concept of “green,” where we recognize that there is a spectrum of “sustainability.” Some products are greener than others, just as some communities are more selflessly “sharing” than others. We need to keep each other honest about where on the spectrum something falls.
Let’s Hack the Language and Take Action
“WeWashing” as a term enhances our vocabulary and enables us to identify, critique, and engage in dialogue about the misleading use and abuse of terms like “sharing” and “community.” Let’s drop it into our conversations and use it as a hashtag online to call out this phenomenon.
Writing this post and coining the term “WeWashing” is not just a language hack; it is also a cultural intervention and invitation to reflect. It is ultimately not about demonizing corporations who appropriate the language of community and sharing. As my colleague Garance Choko puts it:
The issue is not with corporations co-opting these terms, but more so for us to reclaim how we abide to our “ideal” notion of solidarity, sharing and community.
We must ask ourselves how we can expand the possibilities of the “we.”How should we treat each other? How can we collaborate and cooperate beyond the narrow confines of the marketplace?