The Surprising Solution: Creating Possibility in a Swift and Severe World [NOOK Book]


"Bruce Piasecki's underlying theme in The Surprising Solution that business can and will lead our society into this new and better world is right on target. In this new frontier, sustainability and innovation are inextricably linked and are the only two guarantors of long-term corporate success and profitability."
Vance D. Bell | Chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.

The world today is more swift, more severe and has never been more ...

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The Surprising Solution: Creating Possibility in a Swift and Severe World

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"Bruce Piasecki's underlying theme in The Surprising Solution that business can and will lead our society into this new and better world is right on target. In this new frontier, sustainability and innovation are inextricably linked and are the only two guarantors of long-term corporate success and profitability."
Vance D. Bell | Chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.

The world today is more swift, more severe and has never been more full of opportunity.

The rapid wave of change is sweeping outdated strategies away quicker than ever before, but those who can get in front of this wave will achieve untold success and customer loyalty. And the solution for how to get in front of this wave is as inspiring as it is surprising.

The Surprising Solution describes the revolution in business in which the corporations that can best address environmental and social issues by creating superior products will thrive and profit in this new world. Discover how to take hold of this vital new force in business and improve both the world and your bottom line at the same time.

Going green is no longer something businesses just do for good's the most important and revolutionary factor driving the incredible success of businesses that are a part of the movement, and hurting those that are falling behind.


"The Surprising Solution is a must-read during this time of economic turmoil."
Steve Percy | Former CEO of BP America and Coordinating Lead Author of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

"This book should be read by all consumers and social and business leaders concerned about this new century. Bruce Piasecki writes in an engaging and readable style about items of consequence to your life and firm."
Frank Boren | Former CEO of the Nature Conservancy, Former ARCO Board Member, and Founder of Sustainable Conservation

"Read this book and learn how today's business leaders are innovating, growing, and enhancing the economic performance of their companies while building long-term social, environmental, and moral capital for their shareholders."
Tyler J. Elm | Operating Partner, 2Degrees Capital Partners

"Read Bruce Piasecki's The Surprising Solution for your future, your family, and financial health."
Jay Whitehead | Editor and Publisher, CRO magazine

"An eye-opener."
Charles Osgood

New Book By Expert Bruce Piasecki Reveals Why Social Responsiveness Is Key To Long Term Profitability And Sustained Success

For nearly thirty years, Bruce Piasecki and his firm, AHC Group, have been helping companies become more socially responsive without sacrificing bottom-line success. Today, as we stand at what Piasecki calls the "S-Frontier," social responsiveness is no longer a choice it is imperative for survival. In his new book, THE SURPRISING SOLUTION: Creating Possibility in a Swift and Severe World (SourceBooks, Inc.; November 2009), Piasecki offers practical, hands-on advice, supported by in-depth case studies of such corporations as Toyota , Suncor Energy, and Hewlett-Packard to explain precisely what companies can do to thrive in this new frontier.

How the S-Frontier Affects Product Development
According to Piasecki, the S-Frontier is comprised of three key elements: the swiftness of information; the severity of such global problems as climate change and the rising price of oil; and the need for business leaders to become "social response capitalists." To flourish in the coming decades, companies must be on the upswing of the S-Frontier, and create innovative products that help solve the problems confronting customers in the 21st century. In addition to long-term viability, this "social response product development," will create other business benefits as well, including margin improvement, rapid cycle time, global market access, and product differentiation.

A master of social response product development is Toyota, a firm with which Piasecki worked as a consultant for many years. "The core of Toyota's product strategy," he explains, "lies in its reading of public needs, in advance, to anticipate and build long-term markets for its products," he writes. Not only has Toyota, with its energy-efficient Prius, been on the forefront of automobile technology, it has, from the beginning, intended to install hybrid engines into ten core car models demonstrating a powerful commitment to responding to social needs over the long-term.

How Leaders Can Meet the Challenges of the S-Frontier
For Piasecki, leadership demands in the S-Frontier are more complex than ever. "The best leaders are both in this world and in the world of the near future at the same time," he writes. In THE SURPRISING SOLUTION, he outlines his key insights into the leadership skills needed to meet these new challenges, including the ability to tolerate discomforting information and thrive on constant learning; the willingness to listen to input from a variety of sources and then choose the right path to follow; and the ability to articulately spread the word about new business models and social goals. Piasecki also points to the need for leaders to look outside their "trade group box" in the search for superior products and processes, explaining how Seattle's Virginia Mason hospital was able to drastically cut costs and raise patient satisfaction by applying lessons learned from "just in time" manufacturing and Toyota's assembly line techniques.

Show Me the Money: How Companies are Valued in the S-Frontier
The S-Frontier also impacts the money side of business. With greater transparency and access to information, the ways that individuals and institutions choose to invest is changing. At the same time, traditional valuation models don't take into account many of the factors such as the launch of initiatives designed to reduce future liabilities and create new, unique business opportunities that influence a company's success or failure. In his book, Piasecki describes how such organizations as the Calvert Group, Innovest, and even Standard and Poor's are discovering ways to measure these intangibles further incentive for companies to find their way to the upswing of the S-Frontier if they hope to attract investment capital in the future.

The Need for a Smart, Readjusted Form of Global Capitalism
"To profit in a sustained way, you must leverage your money, corporate resources, energy, and people in a fashion that answers mounting social needs," writes Piasecki. This is what will separate companies that thrive from those that wither in the new S-Frontier. THE SURPRISING SOLUTION is a critical handbook for creating success for your firm and your future.

Visit these sites for more information about Bruce Piasecki:

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Piasecki (In Search of Environmental Excellence) updates his 2007 book (formerly titled World, Inc.) to address the current economic crisis and further explore the new frontier of sustainability, innovation and corporate social responsibility. The underlying theme of this thought-provoking work is that big businesses have overtaken governments in terms of political and economic power—51 of the 100 largest economies in the world are now corporations; 300 multinational businesses control 25% of the world's assets, and as much as 40% of world trade now occurs within these top multinationals. With their disproportionate power, big businesses now wield a tremendous ability to shape our social landscape, and the author impresses the importance of “Social Response Capitalism,” an approach that emphasizes a business's “social brand” as well as the price and quality of their product or service. While the concepts are fascinating, the shifts in tone from academic to more casual create a jarring inconsistency. Still, for any reader who is a student of innovation and who seeks to understand the role of corporations in addressing global problems in the future, this is a treasure trove of provocative ideas. (Nov.)
Quality Digest
"Piasecki shares extraordinary personal experiences, corporate perspectives, and case studies on how to come up with solutions to deal the swiftness of information and with the severity of the global marketplace and its meltdown."
Triangle Business Journal
"The techniques he [Piasecki] teaches for accomplishing this change are as applicable to small business owners as they are to corporate kingpins."
The Hindu
"Imperative addition to your reading list."
"He also calls social history the "grand hand larger than the invisible hand of markets" - and his case is so persuasive that readers can only hope he's right."
From the Publisher
""Imperative addition to your reading list."" - The Hindu

""He also calls social history the "grand hand larger than the invisible hand of markets" - and his case is so persuasive that readers can only hope he's right."" - BizEd

""The techniques he [Piasecki] teaches for accomplishing this change are as applicable to small business owners as they are to corporate kingpins."" - Triangle Business Journal

""Piasecki shares extraordinary personal experiences, corporate perspectives, and case studies on how to come up with solutions to deal the swiftness of information and with the severity of the global marketplace and its meltdown."
" - Quality Digest

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402245374
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Dr. Bruce Piasecki is the President and Founder of the American Hazard Control Group, a management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials, and environmental corporate matters since 1981. He is the author of five seminal books on business strategy, valuation, and corporate change. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Competition and Social Needs

There is something incredibly rapid and shocking about global consolidation. When one company merges with another, they grow exponentially overnight. We see it happen all the time, but we do not know exactly what it means.

I once shared a five-minute elevator ride with a senator in Washington before a key session of Congress. As we discussed this global phenomenon, he said: "Certainly, the seven sisters the world's largest oil players must be doing something right to get that big. It could not just be their love of debt, their faith in complex technologies, and their thirst to span the globe. They must be doing something right, don't you think?"

I have been pondering this question for ten years now. There are only five oil giants left standing, so not all do it exactly right. Yet, overall, is this rapid expanse of companies a result of doing things right? And by "right," what exactly is meant: right for the environment, right for people of all means, right for the profitability of the owners at any cost to others? Is the growth of these companies good or bad for our world and those of us who live in it?

Consider these facts:

  1. Fifty-one of the one hundred largest economies in the world are now corporations, not nations.
  2. They are massive mansions unto themselves who have great political leverage.
  3. The one hundred largest multinational corporations (MNCs) now control about 20 percent of global foreign assets. These top one hundred are household names.
  4. Three hundred MNCs conglomerates such as Honeywell, IBM, DuPont, Dow, and Whirlpool now account for 25 percent of the world's total assets, a sizeable impact.
  5. As much as 40 percent of world trade now occurs within these top multinationals, which explains why they are studied and emulated by smaller companies.
  6. Only twenty-one nations have gross domestic product markets larger than the annual sales revenue of each of the six largest multinational corporations.

This astonishing increase in the size and global scope of a few key companies defines our world. Three hundred billion dollar entities with businesses in at least 150 countries each are no longer rare. GE is in this realm, as are Wal-Mart and Microsoft, among others. I now believe this new global world can help improve your car, your computer, your food and its safety, medical devices, the length, comfort, and satisfaction of your life, and even the appliances and construction of your home. By doing so, it can also address the social problems we struggle with, in conjunction with the government, in a way that's good for both society and business. And in fact, it must do this. What is at stake is our very sense of the future.

Why do I now believe this? We will take the time to explore the answers to that throughout the book. Yet, the important thing to understand up front is that corporate globalization is not something new or something in the future that we can plan for or decide upon. It is here. There is hardly a nation on earth not impacted and reshaped by these large multinationals. There are few citizens whose days are not directly shaped by the choices of these firms, from the food we choose to make for dinner to the tools we use to get our jobs done and keep our families safe. Even airports and hospitals are influenced by the behavior of large oil and automobile companies, as are our news outlets and daily commutes.

Four-fifths of the world's population now live in cities, rather than farms or rural areas, for the first time in human history. Oil, energy, the mobility of citizens, and the price of goods are the central variables that made this rapid urbanization possible, from the things you buy in Milan and Rome to those you can expect to enjoy in megacities like London and Singapore. This has been made possible by the corporate strategies explored throughout the book.

So if this is the world we live in, we must be aware of and understand it if we are to succeed and thrive in the future. Yet most of us, as demonstrated by Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat (2006, second edition), take this rapid globalization for granted and celebrate it with something close to abandon. Isn't it wonderful, we say, that we can get all this entertainment from Sony, all these imported goods for so little at Wal-Mart, and all this information "for free" deposited so swiftly into our iPod, our HP portable, or our PDA handheld? But we have yet to stop and take assessment of the situation, and understand how to harness the power of this rapid set of changes.

I intend this book to start a conversation about the powers and responsibilities of the multinational corporations. This conversation will get more intense, louder, more nuanced, and more focused on specific companies' behaviors over the next fifteen to thirty years. The basis of the conversation is this: I now believe the best path to that common goal of a better world resides in the rising role of large firms to develop better products.

Archimedes peaked his effort to win support in defending his land against all common invaders with his famous sound bite, "Give me a lever large enough, and I will move the world." This great preindustrial thinker understood the power of finding the pivot point in a fulcrum. Today, people's need to help create a better world is becoming the pivot point for all of our investments, hopes, and aspirations.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Darryl Poole: An Introduction to the 21st Century
An Introduction to the Paperback Edition by the Author

Part One: The New Wave of Understanding
Chapter One: Competition and Social Needs
Chapter Two: The Panic and Resolve of Leaders
Chapter Three: Social Response Capitalism

Part Two: Redefining Corporate Leadership: The Surprising Solution in Action
Chapter Four: Accepting the Future: Toyota and the Search for the Superior Car
Chapter Five: Inside the Corporate Mansion
Chapter Six: Developing Leaders We Can Trust

Part Three: Understanding Value in the 21st Century
Chapter Seven: HP and the Vast Universe of Consumer Delight
Chapter Eight: Money Will Not Manage Itself
Chapter Nine: Money Matters: The Force and Grace of Social Products
Afterword: The Global Financial Meltdown Today and Tomorrow
Afterword by Patricia Aburdene
Afterword by Standard and Poor's George Dallas: The Power of Money and the Power of the Consumer: Social Response from an Investment

Appendix A: Leveraging Social Change by Bruce Piasecki and Mark Coleman
Appendix B: Endnotes and Bibliography
About the Author and His Firm

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    Camp SWIFTA

    Weapons training arena

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  • Posted December 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Business can change the world!

    I first heard Dr. Piasecki when he was a guest lecturer for the Green Mountain College Sustainable MBA program residency. His presentation, based on ideas in the book, was a practical guide to how businesses can make a difference in the world.

    I read and digested the book during a trip to Guatemala. The international travel and location provided a vivid backdrop with which to integrate Piasecki's ideas and experiences with Social Response Capitalism. Global corporations have enormous power to use their products and practices for promoting a greater good. Piasecki shows how a sampling of companies are doing just that within the framework of good business practices that will keep companies at the top of the S curve. What is the S curve? Read the book and find out!!

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  • Posted November 29, 2009

    Sustainable Business 101

    When it comes to how sound business makes for sustained success, Bruce Piasecki hits the nail on the head in his latest book on social responsibility. As corporations scratch and claw for every competitive advantage, Dr. Piasecki reminds us that nations and states were not built over night. Instead it takes a view of the entire spectrum of capitalism. The foundation of every home must be built on solid ground and the same is true of every successful corporation. Especially as Dr. Piasecki reminds us that many of these corporations are larger, and thus have more responsibility to society, than most nations in the worid today.

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