I have been an author, an entrepreneur, a consultant, a husband and father, a blacksmith and a school founder. I am best known as the author of Intrapreneuring: Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur and as a founder and President of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), a #1 rated school of socially and environmentally responsible business.
Currently, in addition to facilitating the growth and evolution of BGI, I am writing my fourth book, enjoying my new granddaughters, being a husband, a father of adult children and chairman of both Sustainable Business Transformations and Pinchot & Company.
And yes, I am related to the Gifford Pinchot. Being his grandson, I was sheep dipped as a child in concern for the environment, a dislike of the concentration of power and wealth and a love of adventure. My grandfather was not just a conservationist and a forester, he was a trust buster, a fearless explorer and a proponent of public electrical power. He fought the corruption in which the rich and powerful dominated the agenda of government. He built roads to “get the farmers out of the mud.” I embrace my family's goals of conservation and social justice, but am struggling to lighten up and find more playful ways to pursue them.
I believe in fun and the playfulness for their own sake and as needed for creativity. To make the innovations needed to save our civilization, change makers will have to be less serious and more fun. People will only give up the status quo if they imagine themselves as happier living the new paradigm.
In my youth I wanted to be an inventor. My first success at age 8 was an underwater diving apparatus using a bicycle pump, a garden hose, a giant pot and a bag of stones. It worked nicely as long as my younger brother pumped. I liked it at the bottom of the pool.
In college I studied physics, social relations and economics, but bad grades led me to take a year off, during which I was a civil rights worker with CORE and SNCC.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on alternative ways of measuring the performance of an economy using Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development as a rough measure of the benefit provided by an economy. I used historical evidence of the impact of slavery on the slaves’ ability to move beyond the struggle for autonomy as an example of how economic systems affect psychosocial development. The economics department accepted my thesis for honors and told me I was not an economist but rather a sociologist. In sociology graduate school the first major paper I wrote was on the evolution of altruism, starting with the ants and working forward to marriage customs, group size and patterns of conflict in humans. The sociology department told me I was not a sociologist, but rather a biologist.
I ended my academic studies in neurophysiology when the department told me that given my desire to understand consciousness, I was clearly a philosopher. I decided it would be best to make an honest living, because an academic career was not going to work. I became a blacksmith, dairy farmer and leader of an intentional community in upstate New York.
Since then I have built and sold the ironworks, launched a consulting firm that provided creativity, innovation and intrapreneuring services to half the Fortune 100, and helped found and later became CEO of an internet security software firm. Fearful of the tech bubble, we sold that firm in 1998. My wife and I used the money from that sale to build the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.
What I stand for is building a world that works for all, as soon as possible and in the future. I stand for the responsibility and opportunity of business to play a major role in making it so. I stand for those who believe they have enough talent to make a living making the world better. I stand for freedom and creativity and the social systems that make it profitable to trust people to be freer and more creative. I stand for helping intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity to create products, services and productive relationships that move us toward the world that needs to be.
By a world that works for all, I don’t mean just that everyone has enough to eat and a place to stay, though we are a long way from that. What I work toward is a world in which most people have meaningful lives filled with joy and a sense of accomplishment. I realize that given desertification, sea rise and population increase this may be an unrealistic goal, but I still am moved to work in that direction. We must adapt to what will be regardless of the difficulties.
I am seeking examples of what the world could be like. I am seeking visions of whole societies, designs physical and social, new ways of thinking, inspiring goals, system interventions, promising technologies and new ways to meet people’s physical, psychological and spiritual needs without destroying the planet or exploiting others.
Though this blog I am hoping to connect to people who are also thinking and writing, designing and living these issues. Please comment and send me to other places where I can learn.
(photo credit: William Hertling 2006 )