I believe that within 10 years, the widely-held opinion will be that people who consider themselves leaders pay attention to the broad societal impact of their investments.
When we designed economics, the firm was complex enough; we developed externalities as a way of dealing with the rest of the community and world. We're now in a time where economics is being overhauled. As a result of that, Finance is also changing. We used to think of simply maximizing financial return on an individual investment; then we began thinking of a "portfolio"; we will soon think of a "compendium" - a set of porfolios - that look at overall impact depending on what element of the human condition is being addressed.
There is a lot that needs to be done to get from there to here:
- We need to build the model, and that means we need to collect data on how firms and communities interact.
- We need to help those investment advisors who want to understand how to best help their clients learn knew ways of thinking.
- We need to develop new technologies for them to use.
In the broadest sense, my interest is creating environments that develop the precursors* necessary to build products and services, and then designing products and services so that they regenerate these precursors in society. In this way, the cycle - the economy - can function elegantly and support what we, as humans, value in our lives.
This approach is highly relevant to evaluating the impact of investment and grantmaking, creating innovation environments, ensuring corporate social responsibility programs are strategic assets, developing sustainability efforts, etc.
* - These precursors are also known as "intangible assets."