Evoking Ecosystems: As Nature Intended

Evoking Ecosystems: As Nature Intended

There is essentially no framework, which we can construct, that can truly describe a “framework” for ecosystems because an ecosystem’s success is typically based on its ability to capture the least common denominators of a community, or the groups typically left out of the discussion.

In the process of becoming in this new status quo, we hear a lot of reference to creating, (re)building, and maintaining entrepreneurial ecosystems. Session two of the New Professor program elicited a need to further our discussion of not only what an ecosystem is and what it necessitates, but additionally, the parts of entrepreneurship that affect (or determine) success or lack thereof within these ecosystems.

Ecosystem, originally a biological term, describes a community or environment in which organisms (or entities) interact with each other and their physical environment, or the structure that creates the confounds and limits on that particular system. We can find ecosystems practically everywhere; nature is and consists of many ecosystems, there are ecosystems within our institutions, and we can even find ecosystems within and throughout the inner workings of the human body. There seems to be, however, one specific commonality that holds for all of these ecosystems, and that is that they do, operate, and functions better, more efficiently, and more progress when they are left alone.

As the entrepreneurial community seeks to find a way to curate these ecosystems artificially, I must question why a need is there and from where it originates. There seems to be much energy being allotted to the research and construction of a “framework,” or collection of similarities with which we can manipulate and build ecosystems worldwide. Yet, I must bring light to this particular confusion.

We are spending time and money looking to create something artificially that can occur naturally in our societies.

Is the problem truly that we do not have enough or enough well-built ecosystems, or is it instead of that our institutions and we are not ready to recognize their problematic nature? Throughout the discussion on ecosystems, Humane Entrepreneurship, and more, we hear time and time again, the need to center the entrepreneur, or “place the entrepreneur in the driver seat.” We want to intensely and deeply return the natural balance to our communities, so we speak of focusing on the human as if it is a hard thing to do. Humans focus on humans. Seemingly a simple equation, but for some reason, a much more complex formulation.

As we take so much effort to center the entrepreneur and their needs in this artificial system we have made, we must question, What is an entrepreneurial ecosystem more than the act of removing our institutions and organizations to get them out of the way of the entrepreneurs?”

I want to note that, of course, we have spent centuries building the society in which we now inhabit. However, I would like to postulate that the need for entrepreneurial ecosystems has advanced as a need to “return to our roots” and find a more natural and organic balance within the ecosystem. Similar to the havoc being placed on the Amazon by humans, the ecosystem will survive when we stop pretending that there is anything that we can do to enable entrepreneurship and empower entrepreneurs, other than give them the space to do just that.

I want to stop for a moment to remind everyone that these pieces are specifically written to make us pause. These ICSB Reflections are released for the challenge and encouragement of “questioning the system.” Let us not fall claim to an idea just because it receives much attraction; let us, instead, better understand a concept and see it as a possible solution to aid us in advancing society.

Therefore, it is here that we will “refocus” on Humane Entrepreneurship. Dr. Norris Krueger and his ecosystem gurus are urging us to do so. As these experts release their reviews on thriving and failing ecosystems and the phenomena of ecosystems at large, I cannot help but notice the “humane” in all of it. They provide a solution to help institutions, regions, and governments better understand how the human must sit first and at the forefront of all our decisions around entrepreneurship.

The New Professor’s second class ended with a view of the group’s takeaways. They were all (unsurprisingly) focused on the human. Simultaneously, person after person reiterated ways in which these organizations and institutions that need to get out of the course are made up of individuals. If we change our thinking — from the entity in which the people exist within to the people themselves, then we will be simultaneously creating solutions in two frameworks of understanding: HumEnt and that of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

In both theories and practices, two essential concepts can hold true in both our natural and artificial systems, being bottom-up and intangible. In nature, ecosystems are created by the symbiosis of microscopic living organisms working synergistically together. The masses (bottom-up) are responsible for creating and maintaining the system, while it is inexplicable energy (the intangible) that provides the conduction of an ecosystem’s seamless flow.

We can think of the intangible in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, or frankly any human ecosystem, as the culture. Culture works as a significant driving force that, although very difficult to describe, guides an ecosystem. Culture — created, accepted, and perpetuated by the people — decides the parameters of success, failure, and an ecosystem’s ability to flow seamlessly. I want to pose that this might be a missing piece in the discussion of ecosystem building. There is essentially no framework, which we can construct, that can truly describe a “framework” for ecosystems because an ecosystem’s success is typically based on its ability to capture the least common denominators of a community, or the groups typically left out of the discussion. The ability of an ecosystem to adequately engage with the women, children, and disenfranchised will change depending on each culture. Yet, it is a guiding and determining factor for the prosperity in every entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As always, I hope that this reflection will illicit much thought and discussion going forward. This is not a comprehensive review but rather a call to the greater narrative we are all taking part in. We can easily find contradictions in all theories and most practices, and therefore, it is our responsibility to find our seat in the uncertainty of the gray area.

It is here we will advance. It is here where entrepreneurship lies.

article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy,

President and CEO, ICSB and Deputy Chair of the Department of Management, GW School of Business

The Stakeholder Share: Entrepreneurship’s Return to Its Roots

The Stakeholder Share: Entrepreneurship’s Return to Its Roots

The simple act of transforming our previous consideration as shareholders as the most important aspect in a corporation to integrating stakeholders as active contributors can work significantly toward establishing a culture of humane entrepreneurship.

This week, having started the New Professor Program, we have been reflecting much on the elements necessary as we build entrepreneurship that is focused on innovation for humanity and the pursuit of business opportunities for profit, society well-being, sustainability, and the integration of all people. These concepts are not new to this organization nor its members. However, as we have previously taken time to specifically examine opportunities for wealth generation, sustainable practices and cycles of growth, and humane inclusion, we have yet had a chance to discuss the importance of societal well-being. To properly portray how community well-being can be illuminated in our new and humane normal, we need to examine our understanding of stakeholders’ and shareholders’ role and relationship to an enterprise.

Humane Entrepreneurship can be thought of as the harmony of applied innovation, the pursuit of business opportunities for profit, and the sustainable well-being of society, which is for the people and by the people. It is, in essence, a humane way of treating entrepreneurship, where the well-being of each individual is paramount. This is an excellent concept, but it becomes interesting when we look to our historical roots, examining the operational environment. Returning to 1970, Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman announced that any business who pursued a goal other than making money was “an unwitting puppet of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” His declaration was taken as religion, and for the next 40 some years, we, collectively, viewed shareholders as the only group to indeed have a moral claim on the corporation, which existed, in essence, to maximize their value, specifically, the bottom line. However, as we know, corporations, just as individuals and communities, do not exist in silos, nor do their company practices. In recent years, the evil and unprecedented harm on cities worldwide for the sake of the bottom line has become more visible thanks to innovations in technology, which allow people to see both the social successes and havoc caused by enterprises globally.

Next, we might look to Edward Freeman, an American philosopher. He, around the same time, stated, conversely, that many groups can make moral claims on the corporation because the corporation has the potential to harm or benefit these groups. Freeman’s theory can encompass a variable that Friedman forgot, which would be the stakeholders. Including the owners, corporate managers, the local community, customers, employees, suppliers, stakeholders are essential to the survival and success of the corporation as their relationship with the corporation affects them.

A little over a year ago, many of us applauded the Business Roundtable’s incredible statement, declaring “181 CEOs of American’s largest corporations overturned a 22-year-old policy statement that defined a corporation’s principal purpose as maximizing shareholder return.” A glorious moment in history and a small victory for the ICSB community. After nearly five years of attempts to bring visibility to this alternative perspective of viewing stakeholders as merit holders of an enterprise and organization, a significant collective, such as the Business Roundtable, decided to assist in welcoming in the transition to a more humane centered view of the enterprise.

This modality of transforming our previous consideration of shareholders as contributors and stakeholders as invisible to critical is a significant step in establishing a culture of humane entrepreneurship that works to heal rather than hurt. We kindly thank organizations, such as the Business Roundtable, for their action towards a better tomorrow. However, given the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ask organizations such as this, what next? Almost a month after a lockdown in the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Business Roundtable addressed Vice President Pence in a letter, stating that:

“We appreciate the efforts of the Trump Administration and many Governors to begin the difficult work of developing economic recovery plans. It is important to plan now for the gradual lifting of some restrictions on activity when policymakers, guided by public health officials, conclude the time is right. This work is especially important to small and medium-sized businesses — many of whom are our customers and suppliers — and for individuals and families who are bearing the brunt of the current crisis” (Business Roundtable, 2020).

These kind words are essential from an organization such as this, but we must now ask, how are you and your invested CEOs honoring stakeholders at this moment? When an organization declares the importance of stakeholders openly, they must act appropriately in their communities when pressure tightens. We must tread lightly and be aware that while we make this gallant movement back to our roots and Freeman’s emphasis on stakeholders, we do not mean to repeat history. Move to stakeholder inclusion, promoted by the lens of Humane Entrepreneurship, is not intended to enable philanthropic or socially responsible acts, nor are we promoting the re-establishment of social entrepreneurship. We are specifically and directly asking for a holistic approach that incorporates social achievements (the Sustainable Development Goals) and focuses on the Employees to accelerate and sustain solutions and increase opportunities on a local and global level.

We look forward to reports which cover how corporations involved in the Business Roundtable look to create more job opportunities and to empower their current employees, even in moments such as this. How are foundational organizations, such as this, providing an equitable policy that allows parents to successfully do their work, while feeling supported to care for their children learning from home? How can we ensure that we keep up with ecological policies that care for our local communities is necessary ways to continue our combat against climate change? How are organizations, such as this, advocating for fair and inclusive policies for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and appropriate measures that ensure that these MSMEs have access to such aid? We commend your service to stakeholders, and we provide that we will stay current with how you uphold your practice of Humane Entrepreneurship at this moment.

We, your supporters, and your stakeholders are watching and waiting.

article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy,

President and CEO, ICSB and Deputy Chair of the Department of Management, GW School of Business

The Origins of the term Sustainable Development

The Origins of the term Sustainable Development

We have imagined tomorrow’s world. It is a world that celebrates and nurtures the essential diversity of life, cultures, and peoples.

In declaring an end to the status quo, we are simultaneously admitting and choosing to move towards sustainability, human-focused efforts, and ecological endeavors that uplift the human-Earth symbiotic relationship. In our efforts to seek sustainable efforts and to foster sustainable practices within and throughout entrepreneurship, we must first define the term, so that we can more greatly embody its cyclical, caring, and forward-focused nature.

On an unassuming day in November 1998, in Fontainebleau, 25 miles outside Paris, one of the most significant environmental conferences of the 20th century was finding its conclusion. During the previous three days, 350 inspired leaders, policymakers, and scientists from around the world had gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and to reflect on the organization’s historic achievements since its founding in 1948. During the conference, however, rather than focus solely on past successes, IUCN positioned itself as a visionary among conservation organizations by bringing attention to the future under the theme of “Imagine Tomorrow’s World.” In doing this, IUCN laid the foundations of the developing concept and understanding of the “Ecozoic Era,” a period of enhanced human-Earth symbiosis beginning at the commencement of the 2nd millennium and continuing into the present day.

The commemoration’s concluding “Appel de Fontaintainebleau,” or the Fontainebleau Challenge reflected the tripartite attention of the organization: human consumption, ecological conservation, and our interdependent communities. In their universal appeal to the attending chiefs of state, IUCN declared:

We have imagined tomorrow’s world. It is a world that celebrates and nurtures the essential diversity of life, cultures, and peoples. It is a world in which we will embrace a new environmental ethic that recognizes that without nature, there is no happiness, no tranquility, no life…Our challenge is not just to imagine, but to build a world that values and conserves nature and that is confident in its commitment to equity.[1]

IUCN’s historic challenge to its members established an organizational philosophy of connectedness between humans and the earth and, thus, ushered in an enhanced understanding of sustainable development. Out of many heads of state in attendance, the commitment of the French government, specifically, to bridge conservation initiatives with sustainable ecological management was cemented through the attendance of Jacques Chirac, the French President (1995–2007). President Chirac gave opening remarks at the conference, and the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin (1997–2002), concluded the event with an endorsement of the ICUN’s work.

Amongst all of the speeches and remarks were given by key world and environmental leaders, the history-altering moment was surprisingly mentioned as an off-hand comment during a reception and tour of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. In his welcoming remarks, Henry de Lumley, former Director of the Museum from 1994–1999, mentioned the term “development durable,” meaning sustainable or resilient development, which happened first to be used at the Museum 1920s. The employment of this term came as a surprise.

Those who participated throughout the preparatory process for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or the so-called “Earth Summit,” in Rio de Janeiro had assumed that the term originated from the Brundtland Commission in the 1980s. By 1983, the UN had documented growing worldwide environmental degradation over the previous ten years, affecting both human and natural resources. Out of a need to rally UN countries to commit to unified preventative actions against a worsening environment, the UN established the World Commission on Environment and Development, which ultimately became known as the Brundtland Commission, to recognize former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland’s role as Commission Chair. During the next four years, the Commission documented, analyzed, and formulated action plans to tackle environmental challenges, culminating in the publication of a landmark report in 1987, titled Our Common Future. Through the report, the term “sustainable development” became an accepted term in the international development lexicon. An oft-used definition taken from the report defines sustainable development as “a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs.[2]

Our Common Future fundamentally changed the way development work was both engaged with and experienced. By pivoting the focus of development from isolated economic actions to a holistic process, the needs of the present community — both human and other — are met “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[3] Through research, it has not been able to find any proof to validate Director de Lumley’s reference to the term sustainable development dating back to the 1920s. However, his statement has permanently imprinted itself into the minds of many due to the remarks singular importance spoken in the exact place that demonstrates how natural and human worlds can appropriately exist together.

The National Museum of Natural History serves as a place that, compellingly, draws us back through millennia while simultaneously propelling us into the future. With its unique ability to communicate publicly through its exhibits, the National Museum of Natural History allows visitors to understand how we, humans, developed as a species on earth, tracing the origins of life and our development as a species from the Cenozoic, Mesozoic, and Paleozoic eras into the present day. In drawing these connections, visitors can understand our intrinsic connection to the world around us and the cosmos, while realizing that we have entered a new era: the “Ecozoic Era” as coined by Thomas Berry, a cultural historian, in his 1989 book The Universe Story, co-written with Brian Swimme. The “Ecozoic Era” can best be described as the “geologic era in which humans live in a mutually enhancing relationship with Earth and the Earth community.”[4]

Berry’s writings, ruminating on humanity’s relationship to the natural world, were provoked mainly by the environmental crises he witnessed during his lifetime in the 20th century. He urged his fellow humans to recognize their unique position on a planet within a vast and complex ecosystem and evolving universe. A quote from The University Story best represents his philosophy, “The world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”[5] Berry’s philosophy aligned closely with the Brundtland Commission’s model of sustainable development in that it recognized the mutually entangled benefits of ecological conservation to environmental and human populations.

Barry’s sustainable philosophy was deeply influenced by the teachings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher, geologist, and Jesuit Catholic priest. They theorized the relationship and evolutionary development of both the material and the spiritual world. While Teilhard’s writings were rooted in his greater belief in a divine presence, his various works became, after his death in 1955, a catalyst for developing the concept of the interlinking enhancement of humanity, the natural world, and the cosmos as a whole. A key component of Teilhard’s work was the notion of the noosphere, which he envisioned as a body of knowledge, human consciousness, or mental activity surrounding the earth, similar to the atmosphere, which worked to influence the biosphere and to continue its evolution. This concept has origins in the research of biogeochemist Vladimir Vernadsky; however, it differs in that Teilhard’s understanding of the noosphere stems from theology rather than science.

While initially considered to be a new age theory by established scientists, the creation of the Internet, which so to speak, surrounds the globe with a body of knowledge, as well as the more recent research connecting human ecosystems to the human impact on the biosphere has led to renewed interest in the noosphere theory. Despite its scientific flaws, it is clear that Teilhard’s early emphasis on sustainability and desire to find harmony between human and biological actions is critical to our current understanding of sustainable development.

Since Teilhard’s earliest philosophical writings, we have come full circle as a society in confirming the interconnected nature of humans and the world around us and the need for heightened development of sustainability. Being reminded of that memorable statement, made almost 22 years ago, in a setting that took usback through geologic eras and forwards into our present and ever-developing civilization, we are hopeful. We only now realize the significance of the National Museum in Paris, the Ecozoic era, and our collective understanding of “resilient and sustainable development.” In a time of pandemic and uncertainty, the idea of a shared future and harmony between humanity and nature brings hope and resolve to carry forward through our efforts towards sustainable development.

In the realm of entrepreneurship specifically, then, where does this leave us? As we walked through the overwhelming chaos and left the status quo behind, we made the decision, intentionally or unintentionally, to choose the path of the human. This is not mistaken as something that ignores our surrounding nature, but rather human-centered entrepreneurship is sustainable development. When the earth is cared for and respected, the human population becomes healthier, more active, and more empowered to make a further change for their species and others. It is the practice of Humane Entrepreneurship, which will one day transition from company culture to a global, cultural force that ensures both inputs and outcomes are grounded in sustainable ways. From the care of the environment and attention to the ozone to ensuring adequate standards for food quality and equitable opportunity for all, Humane Entrepreneurship is the vessel that will carry us into our sustainable world.

As we prepare for the upcoming 2021 ICSB World Congress in Paris, we are focusing on moving beyond Humane Entrepreneurship as a concept to be discussed but as one to be practiced. By making the conference exceptionally inclusive, we will share and learn how organizations are acting sustainably and how we, as a community, can act as a resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world to implement and advance in their practice of Humane Entrepreneurship to nurture a sustainable and more resilient environment for all.

article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, President and CEO, ICSB and Deputy Chair of the Department of Management, GW School of Business

Mr. Richard Jordan. Founder & Co-CEO of World Harmony Foundation

[1] “Annual Report IUCN 1998,” IUCN, 17.

[2] “Our Common Future,” World Commission on Environment and Development, 9.

[3] Ibid, 8.

[4] Allysyn Kiplinger, “What does Ecozoic mean?” The Ecozoic Times. 16 Sept 2020. https://ecozoictimes.com/what-is-the-ecozoic/what-does-ecozoic-mean/#:~:text=The%20term%20%E2%80%9CEcozoic%20era%E2%80%9D%20was,Earth%20and%20the%20Earth%20community.

[5] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era — A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 243.

Democratization of Knowledge

Democratization of Knowledge

“Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy… cities will never have rest from their evils — no, nor the human race as I believe…” (Plato)

As theory grows and develops in its ability to encompass the more greatly faceted institutional pillars of Government, University, Industry, Civil Society, and the Environment, we can imagine how our movement from the information age to the humane age provides the world even more excellent opportunities than before. People are no longer left responsible for the choice between human-focused work and progress, but rather our society is taking the necessary steps to change our perspectives to see how the invitation of technology will quickly lead to a more human-centric society. The concept of Quadruple and Quintuple Helix Innovation systems offers us a systemic perspective for knowledge and innovation, meaning that we can use the model of these institutional pillars to see knowledge and innovation in an entirely new light that allows humans to both feel enabled and empowered by technology to more fully act as democratic agents in the greater society.

This theory, which demonstrates balance amongst the major world systems, allows for new modes of profit by the way that creativity thrives on helping with the interaction and synergies between innovation, entrepreneurship, and design thinking. Therefore, one action informs the next. Through this approach, we can “adopt a much more complex approach to considering our surroundings and dealing with challenges” (Carayannis, 2020). In broader terms, each pillar or facet of the model allows for more advanced opportunities in knowledge and innovation, which beholds the possibility to completely alter how we participate and embody the subsequent usage of power coming from this participation.

Democracy and our empowered participation in it are said to be a “requirement for the further evolution of knowledge and democracy,” demonstrating that we will not progress or succeed in our ability to reimage a better application of knowledge and democracy until we accept the requirement of our full participation in our current forms of knowledge and democracy. Yet, if we can maximize the interfaces and intersections between the pillars of the Quintuple Helix theory, then we might be able to introduce an expansion of the Democratization of Knowledge to attain Society 5.0 ultimately.

This unique opportunity will allow for the spread of knowledge to reach unprecedented levels, migrating to a system with which everyone has full access to knowledge and, therefore, revealing a populace who is empowered and liberated to participate in creating a better world for themselves. As mentioned above, this transition will not come until we activate this participation in our current systems, leading those to demand the dissemination of knowledge to further limits at this moment. Once everyone has access to the knowledge — and the societal hierarchy that decides who has access to which information is abolished — people will have equal access to the very knowledge that will help them create real and actionable solutions for the world. By engaging with the knowledge available in this technocentric age, we will initiate a workforce transition, meaning that the widespread usage of technology will transform jobs rather than replace the employment of human beings. This will provide an entirely new and important platform from which humans can begin making innovative and creative decisions to facilitate the care for the human person and our surrounding environment.

Dr. Elias Carayannis foresees a world in which we embody Society 5.0, where:

“Every project… should always have the quintuple helix in mind when calling for proposals; all projects should have our common good as the foremost goal. We should, therefore, always ask ourselves how does this project supports democracy and protect the environment, and that is a Quadruple and Quintuple Innovation Helix framework thinking approach to policy and practice” (Carayannis, 2020).

The migration towards the democratization of knowledge and the subsequent collaboration with technology will offer an unbelievable opportunity to look clearly at society as it is and begin changing our chosen “either/or” approach to one that allows for “both/and.” In pursuing more powerful platforms to engage with the democratization of knowledge, we will all become enablers, participants, and protectors of a democratic world. With democracy, we will be able to create solutions to the missing pieces throughout the complex issues that plague our world today. Let us all be active participants in creating a next level society that finds the humane by engaging with tech solution advances for our collective future.

Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy and Dr. Elias Carayannis 
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business
Editor in Chief of the Journal of Small Business Management (JSBM)


Dr. Elias Carayannis, Full Professor of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, as well as co-Founder and co-Director of the Global and Entrepreneurial Finance Research Institute (GEFRI) and Director of Research on Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, European Union Research Center, (EURC) at the School of Business of the George Washington University in Washington, DC.


Carayannis, E. (2020). Research Reconfiguring and Innovation Constellations. Personal interview [European Union’s Horizon]. Available at http://riconfigure.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Interview-with-Elias-Carayannis_2020_Final.pdf

Reference video: The Ecosystem as Helix: Towards Industry and Society 5.0 via the Quadruple/Quintuple Innovation Helix Lens. Featuring Dr. Elias Carayannis:


The Deficit in Downsizing

The Deficit in Downsizing

When you downsize a company, you are decreasing an enterprise’s generational knowledge, creativity, workplace culture, trust, and in turn, production, performance, and profitability.

Often implemented as a fast response to the potential for or the presence of short-term failures, downsizing seems to be a go-to strategy for increasing profit and performance. However, reality demonstrates a concrete divider between the perceived results and those that exist. Referring to the planned elimination of positions or jobs, most commonly in the form of layoffs, the process is typically expected to create economic and organizational benefits. Economic benefits include an “increase in value for their stakeholders” (i.e., the company’s stock). In contrast, organizational benefits involve “lower overhead, less bureaucracy, faster decision making, smoother communications, greater entrepreneurship, and increased productivity” (Cascio, 1993). Interestingly enough, however, despite these grand hopes and elaborate strides to react to short-term losses, the lack of communication and consideration in downsizing ventures often results in adverse outcomes for participating enterprises. In responding to this apparent deficit in our workplace and societal structure, we might be able to capture the important notion that companies who push off layoffs as long as possible do best, or in other words, companies who take long consideration into planning, who communicate openly, and who demonstrate their value in their employees in all company practices finish on top of the rest.

More specifically, research demonstrates that firms that could, in fact, “absorb more pain and delay downsizing employees and assets did much better two years later” (Cascio et al., 2020). It is recommended that firms avoid downsizing as a “quick fix for profitability” (Cascio, 1993). A particular study captured “an adverse association with 9 of the 12 work conditions and all 16 employee outcomes” (Frone & Blais, 2020). Other research revealed that layoffs result in the smallest payoff and that only 46 percent of surveyed companies described that their preformed cutbacks reduced their expenses enough. The most common reason for this would be that 4 out of 5 times, managers who were previously dismissed are rehired.

Additionally, companies end up paying the costs of having to hire consultants to replace the staff functions that were removed. Companies also must engage with retraining programs for their employees who remain at the company but now must take on a more significant or different role (Cascio, 1993). Enterprises often forget to account for these costs when creating their downsizing plans, and more so, they often “ignore the importance of establishing policies to deal with cutbacks and therefore experience negative results of cutting back” (Cascio, 1993).

Downsizing significantly impacts company culture. Studies show that employee productivity either stayed the same or deteriorated after the layoffs, reporting that upon downsizing, “surviving employees become narrow-minded, self-absorbed, and risk-averse,” which work counterproductively to an entrepreneurial mindset that is looking to increase company wealth or even stay afloat (Cascio, 1993). Typically after layoffs, employees often describe declined commitment and performance, which has been tied to survivor syndrome, which is the concept that downsizing causes lower identification with the employer, which in turn relates to lower performance of employees” (van Dick et al., 2016). The culture of Corporate America, specifically, has ignored the possibility of a downside of downsizing. Companies demand department heads to decide on “long-term research and development expenditures, capital investments, or workforce training when they are paid to attend to short-term profit or production” (Cascio, 1993).

In more greatly comprehending the reasons why anticipated cost savings do not necessarily take shape as planned, we might turn our attention to the fact that focusing only on short-term numbers is not a strategy for the breeding of short nor long-term success. Dr. Cascio of the University of Colorado described in his review, “Downsizing: What Do We Know? What Have We Learned?”:

“Effective downsizing often involves contradictions — that is, processes that are thought to be opposite and incompatible. Organizations that downsized effectively generally tried to maintain consistency, harmony, and fit in their downsizing approach. The key seems to be to adopt a “both/and” approach to downsizing, even though this is not consistent with traditional techniques to change” (Cascio, 1993).

Downsizing negates the empowering and enabling culture that looks for the opportunity in challenge. If leadership demonstrates to their employees that they must respond to crises and losses by placing blame on specific individuals and then removing them, they are both directly and indirectly, creating a culture of unease for employees. Additionally, a culture of blame, which identifies the removal of specific individuals as the method for improving company outcomes, does not represent an equitable nor empathetic company culture. Downsizing also constructs a poor environment that has been shown to cause negative psychological effects that equate to poor health outcomes (another outcome of survivor syndrome) (Moore et al., 1996). It will be the firms that implement the principles of HumEnt that will understand that employee health is the vital and non-negotiable foundation upon which an enterprise can operate.

Therefore, these outcomes are not to demonstrate that strategic downsizing is not possible nor should be avoided, but instead, that downsizing typically initiates more cycles of downsizing. So, if downsizing is to be successfully executed, enterprises need to instate effective planning measures before, during, and long after the downsizing occurs (Davis, 2003). Looking at specific studies in the realm of healthcare management, Davis et al. wrote that:

“This must be included in the strategic management plan of all organizations, regardless of whether they plan to downsize or not. By including such a plan, the organization will be better prepared to begin the staff-reduction process should it be forced to do so in response to environmental changes. Finally, providing ample support and protection for staff is key to the organization’s recovery and growth” (Davis, 2003).

If one must downsize, the recommendation is for the company to not only execute layoffs but also look to downsize assets when faced with deteriorating results (Cascio, 1993). This strategy is more demanding and comprehensive, which would demonstrate the seriousness with which the company is taking its downsizing ventures. This, combined with open and clear communication as well as care for the current and old employees, could grant a profitable downsizing venture for a company. Successful downsizing also, unsurprisingly, involves top-level communication with managers who can provide a narrative to their numbers. When there is open and clear communication throughout the process of downsizing, companies can more than not avoid the common trend of eventually replacing between 10 and 20 percent of those that had been previously dismissed (Cascio, 1993).

Better yet, companies that can “resist downsizing benefit from retaining key employees and attracting new talent, which, in turn, enhances profitability” (Cascio, 1993) — returning us to the well-backed notion that the people are a firm’s greatest asset. When you downsize a company, you are decreasing an enterprise’s generational knowledge, creativity, workplace culture, trust, and in turn, production, performance, and profitability. As Humane Entrepreneurs, we must spread the mission of human-centered business ventures, execution, and maintenance. Downsizing must no longer be seen as a one-time, quick-fix solution to enhance competitiveness. Instead, by creating a real and authentic company culture that centers around the human, viewing hiring and firing as a way to ensure that employees are both benefitting and benefiting from their position, downsizing can be seen as part of a process of continuous improvement. In searching for guidance through the lens of Humane Entrepreneurship, we will be able to decide more purposely ways in which we can create healthy and whole work environments that endure profitably regardless of the circumstances.

Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business
Editor in Chief of the Journal of Small Business Management (JSBM)


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Humane Entrepreneurship in Action

Humane Entrepreneurship in Action

In guiding our actions towards Humane Entrepreneurship, we can be an organization that does not only preach about Humane Entrepreneurship but one that also practices it.

Following our reflection last week discussing the “End of the Status Quo,” we think it is time that we seriously share and discuss the steps that ICSB has and will continue to take as we endlessly strive towards a more humane-centered way of acting entrepreneurially in this world. Over the past couple of months, we have reflected upon the theory and practice of Humane Entrepreneurship. Now, it is time to move beyond thinking and imagining; now is the time to model Humane Entrepreneurship.

As promoters and upholders of Humane Entrepreneurship, what an excellent opportunity we have to exemplify the practice ourselves! Given the perspective-altering moments of the past couple months, ICSB has been able to genuinely narrow in on what is important to us as an organization, including our values, the organization’s sustainable practices, and our collective community. Flowing from this reflection, ICSB has worked to center all of our programmings around the interests of our members as well as new and pressing topics that we see as crucial to the formation of our community. We are centered around the human, being empathetically oriented to the whole person and not just the sliver of our members’ lives, which pertains to ICSB. We have attempted to curate an empowering environment, working consciously to open up opportunities to women and younger entrepreneurs. Enablement has and continues to develop as we formalize programs, bolster the ICSB Gazette, and continuously try to discover new and enticing opportunities for our members. ICSB models the equitable work of Humane Entrepreneurship as we provide discounts for members from developing nations, ensuring that all voices are brought to the table, and work to promote MSMEs for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As we are continually attempting to show up as our best selves for this community, we recognize that we have a way to go to reach the peak of the Ideal orientation for our Humane Entrepreneurship categorization. Reaching for this Ideal status, at ICSB, we are focusing on ways that we can formalize our desire to promote a human-focused conscious while creating sustainable patterns of growth. It is from this place of discovery; we have created the ICSB Resiliency program.

This program focuses on supporting the individual. It combines ICSB’s top-level programs into one calendar and cost so that you can fully engage with the learning available to you. Finishing with an ICSB diploma and a heightened understanding of your entrepreneurial interests, this formal connection to ICSB offers and opens clear pathways of communication with ICSB leadership, which will be ever more critical as you become be a vital role in leading the ICSB community as well as the local community to the 2021 ICSB World Congress in Paris.

Being the first of its kind, the ICBS World Congress will bring Humane Entrepreneurship to “l’Exposition Universelle,” so that entrepreneurship and SMEs can take the lead in ushering the world into peace, prosperity, and happiness. This event works innovatively and creatively to bring together all voices throughout the field of entrepreneurship so that we can pull down the unnecessary walls that keep communication and support at a distance from the people that need it the most. In moving into Humane Entrepreneurship, we are building a resilient community that can succeed no matter the circumstances.

We look forward to you joining us on this journey to and with Humane Entrepreneurship. ICSB recognizes the necessity to both offer and realizes a humane-entrepreneurial orientation (H-EO), meaning that we are concurrently advocating and partaking in the widespread adoption of HumEnt. In knowing that “large-scale organizational performance effects are more likely to occur as a result of shared cultural values and beliefs that are accepted by organization members,” we must work individually for the greater collective. In guiding our actions towards HumEnt, we can be an organization that does not only preach about Humane Entrepreneurship but one that also practices it.


Kim, K., A. El Tarabishy, Z. Bae (2018). “Humane Entrepreneurship: How Focusing on People Can Drive a New Era of Wealth and Quality Job Creation in a Sustainable World,” Journal of Small Business Management 56(S1), 10–29.

Article by:

Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management, GW School of Business