Whats that you say,
Doctor? Itll help me if I let it all out? I should just go
ahead and ventilate about the things that drive me to distraction?
Youre positive its okay?
Well, if you say so . . . (deep breath) . . . here goes.
Ill start with the people I think of as smug greenies. We
can even turn them into a market segment: the Smugreenies! These
people just know that corporations are evil, and that anyone who
consorts with them is evil, too. Sometimes they also decide that
anything remotely smacking of business rigor is tainted as well.
Theyve got it all figured out, those Smugreenies, and conveniently
their answers always manage somehow to put them in the right. Geez,
doc, how sweet it must be to live with the light of perfect righteousness
shining down on one perpetually!
Ill tell ya, doc, those Smugreenies drive me crazy. And what
I find especially galling is that their view has so much meritthe
world is going to hell in a handbasket, after all, and corporations
are a big part of the problem. Their blind spot is so big, though!
Theyre like Olympians with a limp, those Smugreenies.
And then theres the Skew. This isnt a person or group
of people; its a way of thinking, a reality tunnel
about the world. Our culture disseminates a story about who we are
and what matters. It is everywhere, this story, a web of assumptions
and constructions that, for all practical purposes, we imbibe with
the air. Its what postmodern academics call a control
mythology. It tilts things. It skews things. It makes us blindnot
in the Smugreenie sense of projecting imperfection onto something,
anything, other than oneself, but in the sense of a pervasive, generalized
We are so inside the Skew, so much a part of it, that its
virtually impossible for us to understand how powerfully it affects
us. Consider, for example, the familiar concepts of financial capital,
social capital, human capital and intellectual capital. But what
about vision capital? Isnt there business value in being able
to envisage something grand? The answer, for me, is a resounding
and obvious yes. Vision inspires loyalty and commitment: its
a superb recruiting tool. It also delivers competitive advantage,
and often creates entirely new technologies and markets, too.
Vision capital is such an obvious concept that one would expect
the term to have entered the business vernacular long ago. As best
I can tell, its a foreign concept, though. I can think of
only one way to explain this: a massive cultural blindness.
The Skew is what allows us to externalize environmental costs without
giving it a second thought. Its what has us hurtling toward
the ecological abyss without realizing whats happening.
Doc, can you see now why Im so upset? Smugreenies and the
Skew: talk about your basic double bind! (Or maybe its your
basic double blind . . .) Its the Skew the greens are railing
against, and thank goodness someones doing it. Yet lots of
greens are Smugreenies, and if theyre the cavalry coming to
our rescue, Im inclined to decline the ride. Trust me on this,
doc: when self-righteousness takes over, the end of the world is
So whats a person to do, trapped in this dilemma? Its
been said that schizophrenics choose insanity because it makes more
sense to them than the sane solutions. Thats not
what Im doing here (Right, doc? Right?), but I am choosing
to follow my imagination, and where its taking me is to a
world where a whole lot more people see the Skew for what it is,
while at the same time managing to stay humble. Its a world
where business is reinvented for the better, and the Skew is, too
(which is the best we can hope for, given that every culture comes
with blinders). Its a world, in short, that is less pathological.
Am I dreaming? Maybe. But Im okay with that. Even if we cant
take the smugness out of some greenies, we can put more caring into
capital. Doing so will require enormous innovation and persistence,
but those are assets we can musterand dreams are what set
them into motion.
Dreams, docyouve just got to love em. Theyre
what take us beyond the Skew. Theyre what create vision capital.
Carl Frankels next book, Out of the Labyrinth: Who We are,
How We Go Wrong and What We Can Do About It, will be published in
2004. Frankel can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.