Business books by and about eco-entrepreneurs are all the rage these days. Biographies of newly famous entrepreneurs vie with “How to” books on greening your business to get your attention.
The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan, takes a slightly different tack and explores how altruistically minded people operate a bit differently in the business arena than typical entrepreneurs.
Published by Harvard Business Press, this book reminded me a bit of, Blink and The Tipping Point, both by Malcolm Gladwell as the authors discuss how a small movement can gain momentum until reaching critical mass. Filled with case studies from around the world, ranging from Whole Foods to Band Aid, Elkington and Hartigan demonstrate how compassionate entrepreneurs use market based solutions to tackle problems and opportunities in a variety of situations.
An easy read, the authors cover building innovative enterprises, creating markets of the future and leading sustainable and scalable change. They take us into the minds of some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs operating today including Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, and Whole Foods founder, John Mackey.
Importantly for budding eco-entrepreneurs, they outline the common characteristics that social and environmental entrepreneurs share, including some shared by all entrepreneurs and a few that are atypical:
1. Try to shrug off the constraints of ideology
2. Identify and apply practical solutions to social problems
3. Have an unwavering belief in everyone’s innate capacity regardless of education, to contribute meaningfully to economic and social development.
4. Focus first and foremost on social value and are therefore willing to share their innovations.
A quote included in the book, from George Bernard Shaw, sums up the mantra of every entrepreneur and especially the social entrepreneurs that are changing the world today.
"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."
Replete with advice and thoughtful discussion, The Power of Unreasonable People, engages and entertains while providing practical advice for ecopreneurs.