Friday, February 23, 2007

Drayton’s Ethical Fabric Test

Attended Bill Drayton’s talk at SAIS this afternoon. Francis Fukuyama sat in the front row. Drayton said we are at a historical moment: Entrepreneurship is entering the social realm. Since this phenomenon is just starting to be seen, supply of people in this field exceeds demand. After the era of solo-led entrepreneurship, we will see group competitive, messy, and even more productive entrepreneurship.

The power of entrepreneurs is to get yeses. Rodrigo’s story is an example of this power. It’s a function of the primal brain at work. The perceiver can sense something about whether a person has a passion. He calls this the magic of belief and trustworthiness.

A lot of talk about the importance of one’s ethical fabric. Drayton has five criteria for granting fellowships to entrepreneurs. First, they must have a new system-changing idea (a.k.a. an innovation). Second, they must be creative. Third, they must be entrepreneurs, meaning they won’t be satisfied until their vision is implemented. They are always focusing on how to apply their vision. Finally, they must have ethical fiber.

Ethical fiber is something that elite schools like SAIS shouldn’t shy away from instilling in their students, Drayton said. People’s judgment gets confused when they try hard to be impartial rather than relying on a deeper feeling of whether they can trust someone.

Drayton continued that people cannot build social capital, which is so critical to an entrepreneur’s success, without ethical fiber. We need to move to empathy-based ethics. While society is in transition toward this sense of ethics, people who cannot grasp it will be lost. Empathy allows teamwork, which allows leadership. The world is working hard on understanding otherness.

We make decisions everyday on whether we believe or trust people. Does this person make me feel nervous? Drayton offered his ethical fabric test. After a fellowship or job candidate has interviewed with him he does the following thought experiment: Take your biggest fear, in his case it was heights. Close your eyes and pretend you are on the edge of a cliff. Do you grip your seat or do you believe this person will prevent you from falling? Trust your instincts.

My friend and filmmaker Steve Dorst agreed that a good narrative goes beyond words. In making a film, you need to empathize with the characters for it to be a compelling story.

Check out Drayton's piece in Policy Innovations today here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hmm I'm an Ashoka fellow and this speach by Bill confuses me. At the same time Bill is saying that ethical fibre is a feeling or sentiment (something is right bbecause it feels right), that ethical fibre is empathic which is not about sympathy but a function of understanding. and also that we should trust and have faith in the social entrepreneur...but trust or faith is not based upon understanding what is it Bill?