When you watch this Google Zeitgeist video for 2011 it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer volume and impact of changes that have taken place this year. Equally hard to ignore is the breath and depth of human suffering playing out across the world. But rather than feeling dishearted, 2011 stands as a testament to what we can achieve through deep empathy and coordinated effort. For there is no limit to what creativity, collaboration and cooperation can achieve, even in relation to chronic problems such as economic inequality, climate change or the political inertia. And, as such, we each bear a responsibility to help shape the story that will be our shared future.
Corporate America has been under constant attack in 2011 and it stands on the precipice of failure or greatness. Yet financial failure is not what I’m talking about. The corporate leaders and their brands are being called to greatness, to becoming more meaningful than they ever imagined in customers lives, to literally being the architects of a more prosperous and sustainable future.
The alternative is all too familiar: a greater disparity of wealth, chronic unemployment, a disappearing middle class, and growing ranks of the poor, to name a few. And merely shifting focus to faster-growing, emerging markets will only postpone the inevitable collapse of a system propped up by unsustainable practices.
The possibilities for renewal, however, are breathtaking, if 2011 is any guide to what is possible. For corporate America, this requires a fundamental shift in intention, a re-prioritization of values, a fresh recognition that in a global community our own success and well-being turns on the well-being of others.
This is not idealistic, unrealistic or naive. In fact, it’s the most selfish thing you can do. Not just because a sustainable practice of capitalism will ensure your own prosperity, but because the fulfillment that comes through contribution is the wealth that makes life meaningful.
The multiple global crises we face and the groundswell for change around the world is a call to arms to build a world that does a better job of sharing prosperity. Each of us – every consumer, shareholder, employee and CEO has a role to play – and by working together, we can make 2012 a year of greatness for all.