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From "Me" to "We": Are You Ready to Shift?

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In 2011 Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein launched Asana, a collaborative task management application that they said would improve "the way teams communicate and collaborate." They generated a lot of buzz at the time because of their rock-star engineer status and track records at Facebook, and it turns out the buzz was justified. Asana is now the first tool I hear mentioned when someone asks, "What application should we use to manage all this work?" Now, together with the team he and Dustin have built at Asana, Justin has once again captured my attention.

Last week, I stumbled upon a live feed from the Wisdom 2.0 Conference. Justin was on stage giving a talk called, "Do Great Things: Understanding and Compassion." While watching Justin's talk, it became crystal clear to me that Asana's mission, vision, and culture were driven by a much greater calling than just making our work easier. I realized that in all likelihood, I was watching someone who could be one of the greatest leaders and messengers of my generation. Here's a bit of what he had to say:

"I believe world problems stem from a confusion of who we are. What is required is a radical shift in consciousness: the shift from Me to We, a recognition at least by the world's influencers, technologist, and leaders that we are one team. Today we will look at two big ideas that motivate this shift:

Interconnectedness and Universal Love.

These are often relegated to the realm of spirituality or seen as abstract platitudes, but today we will look at how they can be applied to a pragmatic understanding and repurposing of business, technology, and other global human systems. This shift is not only essential for our species to survive and thrive, but also rather conveniently for individual human happiness. And, we can achieve it. Each of us in isolation is powerless, but together we are powerful."


Skeptics and pessimists might dismiss this as yet another lofty, woo-woo talk from a well-intentioned but naïve "guru." But let me assure you -- it's much deeper than that. The technological leverage that we now have changes everything. It's real. It's moving at an exponential rate. And Justin is anything but naïve. (Though he may in fact be a guru!)

Take the time to watch his entire talk. It's worth it.

The shift from the "Me to We" is a real shift that is starting to take place all around us. It is the core ethos that drives great organizations, from large companies to scrappy start-ups, from religious and educational institutions to individuals. When the focus is on the "We," humanity as a whole, our fellow citizens, our family, our customers, our students, etc., magic happens. Few have articulated this shift better than Justin. He explains the issues, our interconnectedness, the tools at our disposal or how we can create new ones, and provides examples of how to apply the "Me to We" shift to ecology, nations, business and technology in a thoughtful and purposeful way. It's what drives us at Zaya.org to help bring world-class education to every neighborhood on the planet. When we focus on the greater good, we all move ahead together.

As inspired as I was by Justin's talk, it wasn't until later this week that I really understood the power of his message. I forwarded a link to the talk to our team at Zaya.org and to a variety of friends who run different types of companies. I was in Los Angeles meeting with one of those friends on Wednesday. He is the CEO of a $100M consumer products company that has been in business for over 15 years. He asked me to join a meeting he was having with his President and Chief Marketing Officer. I wasn't sure why he wanted me to sit in, but when we started the meeting, it became very clear. My CEO friend had not only watched Justin's talk several times, he had forwarded the email I sent him to his core team and asked them to think deeply about the culture and ethos of the company.

We spent the next several hours discussing how he wanted to redefine the ethos of his company. There wasn't one mention of the "Me" (i.e. "How can we make more money? How can we market better? What do we have to do for an exit?"). The entire conversation focused on the "We" -- how the company could leverage its assets to do more good in the world and how to ensure that everything they did and sold represented the interest of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, distributors, vendors, and the planet. It was an incredibly inspiring meeting; I can't wait to see the results.

Shouldn't we all be engaged with designing a world where we lift each other up rather than tearing each other down? Justin provides some great examples of companies that are engaged in the "We" economy: Nation Builder, Lyft, KickStarter, Quora, Tesla, Coursera, Method, Sungevity, Solar City, Google, and Facebook. There are a slew of other social enterprises I would add to this list: Kiva.org, Uber, Change.org, Rally.org, GetAround.com, Matter.net, Patagonia, and thousands of other B-Corporations and Benefit Corporations. There are even several new academic institutions like Singularity University that have been establish to specifically address the grand challenges - and interest in these programs is exploding.

I am not currently a customer of Asana, but when I listen to the founder of a company talk so passionately about the greater good, it certainly makes it more likely to become a customer of that company in the future.

At the end of his talk, Justin closes with a call to action: asking people who are interested in participating in this shift to "conscious evolution" to join him and others at OneProject.org -- "The Human Project for Global Thriving." There aren't a lot of details on the site yet, but I'm sure it will be powerful and I have a hunch that it will help us all communicate and collaborate, perhaps even solving our grand challenges.