Patagonia is an Interesting Company

The conventional wisdom these days is that engagement produces innovation. E leads to I. And without E you get stagnation.

BTW, this is not a belief that 18th century thinkers would ascribe to.  They were trying to disengage from the rigid belief structures that religion imposed. And they freed themselves with the “smile of reason”. Not passion — No! No! No! But detached reasoning that led to better appreciation of the problem at hand. They were great dabblers and tinkerers and amateurs. Clark gives a brilliant view of their world, epitomized by Voltaire, in his Civilisation series.

But ok. Things are different now. We accept the more romantic idea that detachment produces artificial and suspect attitude. We expect people to “commit” and “follow their bliss” into “adventure”. Even scientists are expected to be “passionate” about their subject and speak in terms of the “adventure of discovery”.

So what does a “corporate adventure” look like? I can think of no better example than the adventure that “Patagonia” is on. They sell clothes, right? Well, not exactly. More precisely, they sell a commitment and passion to thriving in the outdoors — especially in its harsher regions. That includes committing to building a sustainable business model. It is all about passion, not just profit, though it turns out that this kind of passion can be profitable.

So it should not be a huge surprise that they are thinking beyond clothing — that ignite their passion as well. Like salmon jerky? Yup! Check it out.

So is this a model for future corporate collaborations? It is vastly different than the buttoned down look of the old IBM and GM and GE where discipline reigned. And yet both survive these days side by side. Which are the humans and which the neanderthals? It will be rather interesting to find out.

PS – if you want to peek into the world of the passion driven business model, this short post about a start up based on passion might be fun.

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