Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bainbridge Graduate Institute

"Changing Business for Good" is the motto of Bainbridge Graduate Institute. One of its founders, Gifford Pinchot, recently invited me up to see BGI in action. What a cool place!

First of all, its location at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island just fits so well. They time-share with the local schools, and take over this facitily for long weekends. Green buildings tucked in the forest.

Second, the community is terrific as well. The students are there to learn, and they are a diverse and interesting bunch. Seeing them interact over the weekend was inspiring... creative, passionate, dedicated to making the world a sustainable place. For those who have built organizations, this one is special and reflects well on all those that have been involved in building BGI. I felt very welcome as a "newcomer" and had great conversations with many students.

Third, the curriculum is ground breaking. I teach a class on Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Business, and am in the process of designing a graduate program for the Colorado State Business School in this area. It was great to see a functioning program that emphasizes the "triple bottom line" and see the student presentations applying these concepts. Many of the projects were for companies (e.g., REI, Chaco Sandals) that had sought out advice from these students.

So, I am a big fan and recommend this program to those who believe that business can be a powerful force for positive change. For another take on this program, see the recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Personally... I didn't hear even one chorus of Kumbaya while I was there, although they throw a great end of the year campfire/roast!

I like Seth Godin's concept of the "purple cow" of market differentiation. To me, differentiation is not just about being different, but being "clearly better" for some market segment. BGI lives up to its motto, and for some, is clearly better than a traditional (and not so differentiated anymore) MBA program.

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