Business as a World Healer: Bentley University Leadership Forum

Update – Sept. 14, 2014: I recently revisited this article, among the first I wrote for this blog back in early 2009. America and the world was still reeling from an unconscionably cratered economy; and yet, there was substantial optimism that the global economy – as well as global society and well-being at large – would recover and become stronger. That optimism has since been proven to have been on the mark.

Now more than ever, the advancement of global business and global civilization are increasingly viewed as intertwined and no longer commonly regarded as being mutually exclusive. With all that in mind, it is even more gratifying to look back and read this write-up of Bentley University’s 2009 Leadership Forum: The Business of Healing Our World.

Bentley University 2009 Leadership Forum.

As a Bentley University MBA alum, I am proud that Bentley fully understands and deeply values the importance of business leadership firmly grounded in ethics and social responsibility. It is this variety of true leadership, critical to cultivating the innovations key to solving global challenges, that Bentley advocates for – most recently with its outstanding 5th Annual Leadership Forum (2009), co-produced once again with TIME magazine.

The Bentley Annual Leadership Forum brings together innovative business professionals, NGO executives, thought leaders and more to discuss and share successes on the positive impact enlightened business can have and is having on our society, our environment, our global quality of life. The Forum is capped off by a luncheon honoring student winners of the Tomorrow 25, an international competition honoring 25 outstanding high school juniors with a series of special events on the Bentley campus.

One of the best examples of business for social good profiled at the Leadership Forum was World of Good, presented by founder and CEO Priya Haji (photo).

Priya Haji established a new global distribution system for ethically developed products by over 150 artisan cooperatives in 34 countries around the world. These products are already sold through retail partners like Whole Foods Market, with new partnerships with Hallmark and Disney in progress, as well as online via World of Good on EBay.

The Bentley brand, consisting of its longtime business pragmatism melded with a very strong sense of business ethics, integrity and responsibility is one I am pleased to claim as part of my personal brand. And I am hardly the only Bentley alum who feels that way: Fellow Bentley alum and social entrepreneur Nancy Gallant wrote a fine post in praise of the Leadership Forum on the Bentley University Alumni LinkedIn Group which she has allowed me to share here:

As a social entrepreneur, I found the speakers, their stories and their message inspiring and empowering. And, the Tomorrow 25 “kids” that were introduced, don’t even get me started!

The Leadership Summit is the perfect illustration of Bentley’s dedication to “doing well by doing good.” Given the recent (and, I believe, inevitable) upheaval in the economy, I am hopeful that, in addition to Bentley’s current student population, Bentley alums will help lead the way toward conscious capitalism, a concept with considerable merit and in need of passionate support. Given their leadership role in business ethics, among other things, it only makes sense that Bentley would be a major part of the conversation to promote positive change, socially and environmentally, while embracing and espousing the benefits of a capitalistic economy in which ethics, morality, transparency and stewardship to our future generations, those less fortunate, and our environment are all part of the equation…

I could go on (and on). If you are interested in digging deeper, your time would be well spent checking out a couple of related links:

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Got $1 Billion? “Differentiate and Thrive” – Part 2

Product Positioning MessageLast post I mentioned how helpful Jack Trout’s book Differentiate or Die has been for me in developing unique product positioning. Now on to the actual construction of a positioning message. For excellent advice I have utilized many times over, I am indebted to past guests from the Boston Product Management Association (BPMA), a Greater Boston professional association of product managers and marketers I was privileged to have served as President and board member for three years.

Product management author Alyssa Dver who has spoken at a number of BPMA events over the years offered this advice during a guest presentation on effective communication for product managers:

Alyssa Dver presented the following sample template to build your own short but sweet product message:

“(Your Company) develops (describe product) that (describe benefit of using). Unlike other solutions, our product (compare to the competition, your unique selling proposition).”

Alyssa Dver went further, offering excellent advice on the actual verbal communication of the positioning message / unique selling proposition. I have found Alyssa’s attention-commanding “flag and flank” strategy very useful during live presentations with large audiences:

Product Managers should also be ready to interject ‘quotables’ – statistics, reference stories, etc. – designed to validate the product message. One especially effective speaking tactic Alyssa Dver recommended to command attention to such quotables is that of “flag and flank.” First, “flag” to your audience that you are about to say something very important (“What I’m about to say is the most important fact about XYZ product”). Follow this by the message you want noticed, and “flank” that message with a concluding comment (“I hope you understand; that is really an important fact”).

You can read my BPMA e-newsletter article on Alyssa Dver’s presentation here .

Billion Dollar Business PlansAnd one of the best-attended BPMA meetings in recent years featured SolidWorks founder Jon Hirschtick and his presentation entitled Billion Dollar Business Plans

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