Creating Shared Value

March 9, 2011

Well it looks like Kitware is on the leading edge again, this time for our business practices. If you haven’t heard, the new corporate buzz is “creating shared value” or as this article so simplistically puts it “making money while doing good.” If you search, you’ll see that large companies as diverse as Nestlé and business schools as prestigious as Harvard are embracing this “big idea.”  Well I’ve got news for these folks: Kitware, along with many open source businesses and communities has been doing this for well over a decade.

As this article in the Harvard Business Review states:

“Not all profit is equal. Profits involving a social purpose represent a higher form of capitalism, one that creates a positive cycle of company  and community prosperity.”

This is actually a point of pride at our company, and a differentiator to many of our customers. It’s simple really: we build scientific computing infrastructure that benefits everybody (i.e., create shared value) and then make a living by servicing and/or growing this infrastructure. We find that those customers with the vision to embrace Kitware’s business model understand that by working with us they are actually investing in their own future. This is particularly beneficial to government funding agencies who are under the dual mandate of promoting technology and fueling business growth. For them a dollar invested in Kitware not only results in cool technology and creates jobs, but grows our shared computing infrastructure which others can build upon to further grow technology and jobs. It’s a virtuous cycle that makes winners out of all of us.

To be honest, I am having trouble responding to this new buzz since it’s like reading the headline “scientists discover we breathe air” when you’ve been doing it your whole life. So when this article quotes Robert Harrison, chief executive of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative as saying more companies “are building into their DNA doing social or environmental good” my only response is “the DNA of open source communitiesfrom conception,has been about social good” followed by “what took you so long?” If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that anyone desiring to “create shared value” take a hard look at the many open source communities and businesses out there. There’s much we can teach you. 


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