Meet Benoit Beaufils, Co-Founder and Business Humanizer at In8motion, a company that helps integrate human sense and sustainability into brands and businesses.
What is your vision of a sustainable future?
I am much happier when my life is simpler, closer to nature and well-balanced. For me, sustainability is all about creating a world where we stop running after “more”, as abundance does not make people happy. We need a different construct of the economy to move to a more equitable society, where growth comes from the bottom, not through the top.
What is your model of change towards a more sustainable world?
Business and market forces are key drivers of change. New systems should create profit, so they are scalable. Business has always been a driver of change, but can do even more to create new economic systems that shift from being vicious to becoming virtuous. NGOs also have a role to play, as catalysts to make people in companies realize they have to change.
What drives you? What kind of role do you see for yourself in this change?
By contributing tools and sharing best practices, I like to bring about change by working with people who believe they can have an impact. I like to think of myself as a catalyst, the kind of chemical that can create a big change even in a small quantity. I really like making a difference, in seeing things that matter move ahead. I come from a family of doctors, where everyone had a very strong motion of having a job with meaning. I initially struggled to see how business could be meaningful, but now see business quite differently, as it has the potential to be the provider of jobs, decent life, access to health and education, and much more. Business is all about making society work. But we need to keep it simple, always realizing that business too is all about people connecting with people.
What kind of leadership is needed for positive change?
To drive change, leadership needs to be based on participation and co-creation, rather than top-down and pyramidal. Effective leaders know what they want and have a strong vision for themselves. Leaders also have a key role to play in building faith. You can only make change happen if you believe something is possible and that something good will come. With vision and faith, they’re able to create a group of people to work together to drive change. Individual power is disappearing. Groups are increasingly important and contribution to groups and society is the new power. The philosopher/theologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin already predicted that humanity would become a kind of hyper-intelligent organism, that the future of intelligence is in working together. He did not live to see it, but the internet certainly is facilitating the creation and power of this “organism”. Hopefully, working together in this connected way can make society better.
One of my favorite examples of this is Coca Cola’s Ekocenter project. An innovator came to Coca Cola with a technology that allows the generation of clean drinking water anywhere in the world. We helped them engage with communities to understand how to make the best use of the technology to create access to clean drinking water at a larger scale. Together, we designed a way to put the technology at the core of a simple community center, ensuring it supports the needs of the users. This is a new way for communities and businesses to work together to create value. Another example is the work we are doing for Sunsilk, a brand that wants to build the autonomy of young women in emerging countries. This haircare brand feels they can play a role to help young women thrive, to help them go beyond the secondary role traditionally given to them. Rather than designing ideas in a corporate office, we are working with an online community of 60 young women from 8 countries. This virtual group generates ideas that help build both their autonomy, as well as the business. Both the women in the community and the people in the client team love this way of working together, and the ideas are amazing!
What is next for you and In8motion?
Many of our clients are joining us in a more “activist” take on their work. We are helping them define the role they can play – and to use their businesses as a tool for change. For most people, this is quite scary, but at the same time incredibly exciting. To me, it is fabulous to see die-hard business people dare to care for the people their business touches, put that sense of care into action, and use it as a tool to drive both positive change and their brands.
Benoit just published a book on creating value people to people, together with Christophe Fauconnier, one of the co-founders of In8motion. They have also recently written an interesting article on “daring to care” in The Guardian. For more information on their work at In8motion, please visit www.in8motion.com, follow @innatemotion on Twitter or buy the book on Amazon