Earlier this week I spoke to one of the first people I met in the early days of Kusaga Athletic- my friend Brett Tait from WeRefill. He recently returned from Australia's largest music event Splendour in the Grass where they supplied cold filtered water backstage from their beautifully-designed water machines.
There were many stories, but as we all know from our experience at similar events, what happens at Splendour ... enough said. He did share one experience that stayed with me, and prompted this article.
Backstage one evening, one of Australia's leading musicians - really a global music star - approached Brett and flanked by his kids, thanked him and the WeRefill team for making Splendour the most sustainable event he has experienced anywhere in the world.
Brett appreciated hearing the feedback and thanked the musician before asking if he could take a picture of his children holding their sustainable WeRefill water cups. He readily agreed and prepared to join his kids for the picture, seemingly keen to use his celebrity aura to help promote a smart business that does good for the world. This is where Brett surprised me. He explained that he politely asked the star if he would step OUT of the shot as he wanted it to reflect future generations.
My first thought was, what a missed opportunity - it's madness, right? In this social media obsessed world of hashtags and celebrity endorsements, who wouldn't want a global star associated with their brand?
A little while after I spoke to Brett, I realised what had happened. Brett is a true long game thinker. He knows that hashtags won't reduce single use plastic bottles, that a star's value is fleeting and that significant change is created through hearts and minds.
It got me thinking about 'long gamers' and how many entrepreneurs with a focus on social purpose are gifted with this trait. This week, @Intrepid_Travel became the largest certified B Corp in Australia & NZ, and the largest certified B Corp in the travel industry globally. A terrific achievement for a company that has offices all over the world with each country having unique certification requirements. I encourage you to read more about BCorps.
I mention Intrepid because, when Geoff Manchester and Darrell Wade founded the company 30 years ago, they had no way of knowing what the world would look like in 2018. What they did know is they wanted to build a company and culture based on adventure and discovery with a light tread. Travel that respected the people and places they visited.
Geoff and Darrell are classic examples of long game thinkers. Intrepid has been carbon neutral since 2010 with a not-for-profit arm - The Intrepid Foundation - delivering over AUD $5 million into grassroots projects around the world. Intrepid was the first tour operator to stop offering elephant rides, and they have partnered with local businesses to ensure ‘at risk’ children are protected. Their focus has been educating their clients on light touch travelling.
Building a responsible business was their long game and it's paid off in spades for the company and for the people Intrepid has crossed paths with.
Are you playing a long game? It's a question I've asked myself on many occasions on the Kusaga journey and is central to the new venture I recently launched that aims to change an industry. The success of BlockTexx will come from a long game attitude that puts environmental and social impact front and centre. Long gamers think about impact and societal benefit first, profit is delivered as a consequence.
Short term thinkers talk about maximising profit and reducing headcount.
It’s a similar concept to cathedral thinking which I've spoken about in some of my keynotes. I love the concept of cathedral thinking - it's based around the history of Gothic cathedrals built during the Middle Ages. Many of these magnificent constructions were finished years, sometimes decades after the end of life for the architects, builders, labourers and painters who started the project. Their focus was not to see the finished product, it was turning up day after day and working towards a bigger goal.
Applying cathedral thinking to social entrepreneurship means building something that you may not see finished, something you might pour your heart and soul (and money) into and not live to see what you have imagined, to experience first hand what is ultimately possible. It's the polar opposite of instant gratification.
Most start up founders all have some level of cathedral thinking in them - it's almost an imperative. It's an unspoken drive to forge your own path and create something that you believe is important, something you will work 100 hours a week on (for free) just to make it happen. But cathedral thinking isn’t just for start ups and free thinkers, any business can and should adopt these principles. Imagine the positive influence that could have on decision making and staff engagement.
To be like Brett, to act like a true long gamer, you will have to take another step forward and bring societal benefit to your cathedral thinking. People like Brett don’t see the instant gratification … they’re too busy with their eye on the future, imagining a better world for all of us.