at Our Door
Ecology, & Soul Part One: Cultural Creatives
by Cate Gable
The Internet looked like the Next Big Thing, and it has been pretty
disruptive; but, in my humble opinion, we ain't seen nothin' yet.
The new economy, 24/7, serial entrepreneurs, and Napster are the
tip of the iceberg. I believe we are witnessing a convergence of
transformational trends and technological developments that will
provide the foundation for a radical revolution in all aspects of
These are the trend-trains steaming toward convergence on the rails
of the 21st Century:
- Information technology (IT) advances & innovation
- Environmental crises & concerns
- Human & societal values realignment
Let me explain.
By Information Technology, I mean the universe that includes the
web, websites and portals, digital commerce, email communication,
internet access devices and services, and all the supporting mechanisms
for IT: electronics and telecommunications devices and manufacturing,
database management and all software tools.
The environmental crises, though still controversial in some quarters,
I count as including the loss of species worldwide, global warming,
and the breakdown of earth's macro-systems (water, air, climate
control, pollination, etc.)-basically, all manifestations of mankind's
effect on the natural world. (Let me also say that I believe that
mankind is part of nature, but, currently, a stumbling, seeking
part. As a species we are in our infancy, just beginning to be aware
of ourselves and our environment.)
The human values revolution has to do with the growing feeling
of malaise in the workplace, a broader-based mistrust of the corporate
bottom-line, the sense that family structure is fractured, and that
our basic institutions-legal, governmental, educational, religious-aren't
keeping up with our needs. Ten years ago who would have guessed
there would be a how-to niche for 'soul in the workplace' literature.
Yet, if you go to Amazon and type in "soul" you will get 4,230 matches,
for books only!
So, let me start this dialogue by saying I can't think of a more
exciting time to be living and, on the other hand, we'd better be
in this experiment called "conscious life" for the long-haul because
this tangle we're in is plenty complex. Let's look at a few of the
The following folks generally either sit on opposite sides of the
negotiating table or have no contact with one another at all:
- Bill Coors, past CEO of Coors Brewing Company and inventor of
the aluminum can
- Anita Burke, Royal Dutch Shell engineer
- Karl Tiefert, Agilent engineer
- that bulldog for the environment, Randy Hayes of Rainforest
- systems philosopher Ervin Laszlo
- Club of Budapest president Heidi Hall
- U.S. EPA, Region 9, San Francisco Office, Director of Solid
- evolution biologist Elizabeth Satouris
- Janine Benyus author of Biomimicry
What would bring them together? Last week's fifth annual Industrial
Ecology Conference, sponsored by Global Futures, at the University
of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business. 1
And what do these people have in common? An emerging set of values
that includes environmental awareness.
I know Industrial Ecology sounds like an oxymoron -- like some
greenwashed corporate Frankenstein whose left hand, tearing out
forests, doesn't know what his right hand, replanting trees, is
doing (see my August 15 column for
a broader discussion of IE). But, in fact, industrial ecology, which
is the application of biological models to business practices, is
one of the machines driving this revolution to our door.
Another driver for change may be a new demographic group that Paul
Ray has identified. In the mid-1990s Ray discovered that 24% to
26% of Americans fit into a group he calls "Cultural Creatives."
The individuals of this group are prime supporters of natural and
organic products, alternative medicine, ecolo gical goods and services,
and personal development tools.
Ray's survey information, soon to be published in a book co-written
with psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson, and its implications for
business seem to be gathering steam. From the first chapter:
Imagine a country the size of France suddenly sprouting in the
middle of the United States. It is immensely rich in culture,
with new ways of life, values and worldviews. It has its own heroes
and its own vision for the future. . .
You are likely to be in this Cultural Creative group if you
- Love nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction.
- Want more equality for women at work and more women leaders
in business and politics.
- Want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life
in our country.
- Care intensely about both psychological and spiritual development.
- Like people and places that are exotic and foreign, and like
experiencing and learning about other ways of life.
Frank Lampe, managing partner and co-founder of Natural Business
Communications LLC, has launched a new magazine that tracks and
speaks to this developing demographic group. The journal is called
LOHAS, for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.2
And according to Bill Capsalis, vice president of marketing for
Gaiam (NASDAQ: GAIA), the LOHAS marketplace includes more than 50
million consumers who generate $230 billion in sales. 3
This demographic group may provide the beginnings of a marketplace
structure that, in combination with IT and the refocusing on human
values, will change the landscape of human existence on our planet-home.
I believe that business organizations and processes will be the
engines of this transformation
Several days ago, I was part of a group of diverse business thinkers,
academics and professionals looking at the topic of "Redefining
the Construction Industry's Value Chain: New Business Rules for
Collaboration and Procurement." This workshop, sponsored by the
Fisher Center for Information Technology and Marketplace Transformation,
was created by Beatrice Benne, a young friend of mine with a European
architectural degree, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in architecture
and computer studies at UCB.
Beatrice is a native of Lacabarede, a tiny town in the Southwest
of France (with "500 people if you count the cows!" she says) near
Albi, the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec. Beatrice has been in the
US four years exploring the influence of IT on collaborative business
processes. She is looking into the murky crystal ball of the 21st
Century to see if she can make out the construction industry of
Ironically, Beatrice comes from a neighborhood in the world that
experienced its own transforming revolution years ago. And I don't
mean the French revolution. I mean the industrial revolution in
the town of Mazamet, just fifteen minutes from Lacabarede.4
By the 16th century Mazamet, situated at the foot of La Montagne
Noire (Black Mountain), had become a large wool center because of
the skills of their tradesmen and the pure water flowing down the
mountain from the River Arnette. In 1851, Monsieur Houlès and sons
started importing bales of sheepskin from Buenos Aires for processing;
later skins from Australia and New Zealand were also sent to this
now booming region. Mazamet tradesmen, as the story goes, had discovered
a new methodology for processing wool using fermentation.5
Thus was born the fellmongering or délainage industry-(it sounds
much better in French, but then doesn't everything?)
As a result of this superior methodology and the abundant source
of clean water, Mazamet was the center of the wool trade until the
middle of the 20th Century. At that time new forms of transportation,
industrial automation, and increasingly sophisticated technology
developing in urban centers changed the structure of commerce so
radically that Mazamet fell back to being a small village at the
foot of a mountain known for its clear water.
In our next episode, we'll come back to Mazamet, to Beatrice's
quest, and the pending revolution. And, in so doing, we'll explore
the following questions:
- How will businesses make money in the 21st Century?
- What do the dot.coms have to teach the Bechtels and the GMs
of the world?
- What values in our lives will reshape the future?
- Will our wild rivers survive?
b i o :
Cate Gable is a poet and writer (author of Strategic Action Planning
NOW!) , strategic marketing consultant in e-commerce, teacher,
and President of Axioun Communications
International. She divides her time between Berkeley, CA;
the Pacific Northwest; and Paris, France. Send comments to her