Net Impact Soap Box

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Will Rosenzweig- Successful Entreprenuer, Investor, and Teacher - Returns to Haas

I just listened to Will Rosenzweig speak at the kickoff event for Social Impact Week. Simply put, it was one of the most inspiring and insightful hours I have spent here at Haas. He started with a timeline of his remarkable career and titled it, “It takes 15 years to become an overnight success.”

He talked of planting seeds and described how he serendipitously had a hand in the beginning of what have now become established landmarks in the socially responsible business landscape. From running an early TED conference to helping found Net Impact, Business for Social Responsibility, Republic of Tea, Haas’s Center for Responsible Business, and the Global Social Venture Competition, Will has found himself –whether a central character or role player – an actor in many of the key events in the history of socially responsible business. The point I took away from his talk was that the field of socially responsible business we see blooming today took years of seed-planting and nurturing to grow and that we should not forget that the seeds we plant today, if nurtured, will continue to bear powerful fruit over time.

Amazingly, the second half of his talk was even better. He shared with us 10 guiding principles that he has learned about having a successful career at the intersection of business and social change. Some of my favorites were:
• Reciprocity and generosity – not talked about in business school, he said, but a truly powerful force in business.
• Keep your overhead low – financially, emotionally, and spiritually, he said it allows you the flexibility to respond to opportunities.

But my favorite was “Don’t be afraid of niches.” Business school often makes us afraid of niches and instead encourages us to follow the big thing, but niches are where you will find many of the future innovations. I think many of us who come to business school with dreams and interests that fall outside of the recruiting mainstream can easily feel under assault in business school. Coming from a man who has integrated his personal values and interests with his professional career, these words provided further proof that investing in heart and meaning is almost never a bad choice.

Will has graciously agreed to send us his presentation deck which we will be posting here shortly.

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