In praise of standardization (The Bento Society #33)

In this issue:

  • 🧱 In praise of standardization

  • 🪄 The three magic words for community building with SwissMiss

  • 🔮 The Bento Society in 2021, the long hello continues…


In praise of standardization

From BusinessWeek on how Asian companies are becoming leaders in addressing climate change:

After years of pressure from mostly European investors, Asian companies are pulling ahead of their North American counterparts when it comes to climate risk reporting.

In Asia, a key turning point was 2017, when the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures finalized its recommendations for reporting climate risk. The proposal offered companies a standardized framework that helped boost disclosures…

“Climate change went from a topic that might have been one item on an agenda somewhere in a meeting,” Simmonds said. Now, it’s “probably the first question asked by investors on every presentation.”

“If you are able to put a dollar number on that and people can understand and see it improving year on year, then it brings in much more comfort and clarity,” said Rishi Kalra, managing director and group chief financial officer at Olam Food Ingredients. “I think that really has been a big differentiator for us.”

Also this from BusinessWeek on new metrics to track companies’ full impact on its community and environment:

“It will help managers make stronger business cases,” said Susanne Stormer, chief sustainability adviser at Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk AS. “Instead of saying, ‘This is the right thing to do or we need to avoid that,’ they’ll have more robust data, better information, which is lacking right now.”

I experienced this first-hand as a CEO. When you face a tough decision you look for legibility in potential outcomes. Which path more clearly satisfies our goals? The black and whiteness of money is extremely useful. It simplifies the math. 

The flipside is that this de-emphasizes concerns that aren’t legible. This default towards profit motive is the seemingly natural inertia that drives all companies unless their founders explicitly define other goals or ways of working to counterbalance them. This is not an easy thing to do, even for the best teams and the best people.

Using metrics to rationalize the values and considerations now considered irrational may change those conversations. Instead of a debate between what feels rational and what seems to be emotional, there could be a shared language through which teams could make decisions that balance these considerations.

What I think we’re likely to find — to the consternation of many — is that capitalism will successfully incorporate these new values into its operating system, the great hegemon that it is. But what is defined as capital will change. Money has been the monopolist of value and capital over the past few centuries. But the proliferation of measurement and increasing ability to distribute goods according to non-financial values will change this. Not through any political revolution, but through the flow of opportunity and necessity.

Most people will nod along to this, but many of those same people will also bristle at what comes next: we’re going to use math to define things we’ve never defined before. As we’ve talked about in past issues and will talk about in many future ones, if we want non-financial considerations to be legible and functional at the society-wide level, we’re going to have to translate them into numbers. When those values are expressed as numbers they’re far more likely to scale in their impact (as those articles above attest). This creates lots of good and bad (see: the past ten years of the internet).

Defining these new values is a key new frontier and a tricky one. My focus with the Bento Society in 2021 is to better understand the scope, feasibility, and upsides and downsides of this evolution in metrics and values. This will involve talking to experts in these fields and conducting our own research and projects (all of which are already underway), and reporting back to you on what we find.

Crucially, I’m approaching this work not as an advocate for any particular position, but as a curious person (and a former journalist in my pre-Kickstarter life) trying to understand what’s true and what’s not about this space. Seeking truth, not our desired outcomes, is a core value to our work at the Bento Society.


The three magic words for community building

A few weeks ago I reached out to my friend Tina Roth Eisenberg, the founder of CreativeMornings better known online as SwissMiss, to seek her advice on the future of the Bento Society. How should our community evolve? This week I posted a transcript of our conversation, which significantly influenced my thinking. Some excerpts: 

TINA: “I trust you” was the thing I said the most. These are the magic words. I've learned that trust breeds magic. If you inherently trust someone, if you extend your trust, it's the biggest compliment of all. If you pick good people, thoughtful people, they will surprise you. That's what's happened with me. A community is not a living breathing thing until it self-organizes.


TINA: It becomes more magical the more you allow other people to hold it with you. As long as you're really clear on what the essence of it is. Because at the end of the day, if we go a little whoo, you’re already the energetic source of what you've built. It channels through you. But now if you find the right people, everyone that comes in helps add their own energy. Find the right people that the resonance is there. They’re going to amplify and make it so much better.

Read the full conversation here.


Bento Society 2021

Last month at the first Bento Society Town Hall I presented how we got to now and our strategy for the coming year. The full rollout of that plan will be happening in the coming weeks. Until then, I wanted to share this video that talks about where we’re going:



Thanks to Erika Batista for hosting Sunday’s Weekly Bento. Erika gave a great prompt to help us discover what makes us feel most alive, and to guide our energy in that direction this week. Wonderful stuff.

This Sunday’s Weekly Bento will be hosted by Alicia Visser, a longtime member of the Bento Society who lives in a small town in rural Alberta, works at a nonprofit, and is the the mom of two kids. Join Alicia and the Bento Society community to set your weekly priorities this Sunday:

The Community Weekly Bento (w/ Alicia Visser)
Sunday December 6
12pm EST

The Yearly Bento

On December 13th I’m hosting an event called “The Yearly Bento,” a ninety-minute workshop to take stock of what happened in your life this past year, make plans for the coming year, and learn tools to help you get there. I’d love it if you were there. RSVP here to join:

The Yearly Bento
Sunday December 13
1pm EST

Roundtable: What to measure and what not to measure

On December 11th I’m hosting an experimental roundtable to explore the question of “What to measure and what not to measure.” If you have experience working in areas that touch on this question, fill out this form to join us.

On Tuesday December 8th I’ll be doing a live Q&A as part of the Reboot HQ event series at 8pm EST. You can RSVP for that here.

Peace and love my friends,

The Bento Society