George Bernard Shaw:
“…All progress depends on the
unreasonable man”

If you are anything like me, you loathe household duties. But they have to get done, so I try to use the time as constructively as possible by listening to podcasts (you don’t need a fancy player, just a computer with an internet connection and some speakers).

Recently, Harvard Business Review‘s IdeaCast interviewed John Elkington, Founder and Chief Entrepreneur of SustainAbility and author of The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World, along with Social Entrepreneurship Summit speaker and Managing Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Pamela Hartigan. The two distill their observations about what makes a highly effective social entrepreneur tick, and how other business leaders can learn a few things along the way.

During this interview, they tether out three traits of social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs are:

  1. Unreasonable – the authors use the example of playwright, George Bernard Shaw’s quote: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
  2. Compelled by emotion – passion and drive to address the issues of the world in an entrepreneurial way
  3. Seek profit in the “unprofitable” – profit here could be defined as a blended value of income and service

What strikes me is that all of these points, paired with some creative process, could serve all forms and stages of entrepreneurship, including established corporations. Some of the most innovative companies scour the world to examine other business models for insights that will expand their own opportunities. Do you see any connections?

David Smith

David is Project Leader at the Martin Prosperity Institute and a practicing management consultant. He is a recent MBA grad from the Rotman School of Management and is passionate about developing the thinking and leadership potential of others. See more…