The Occupy Wall Street movement has generated a slew of questions from those outside the occupying ranks: Who are these people? What do they really want? Which city will be next? How will our public officials respond? And as the protests have stretched well into their second month, when will it all end? These questions represent an understandable attempt to make sense of a complex, diffuse and divisive movement. They attempt to explain what is happening. But they aren’t the questions we really need to ask. Instead, we should be asking why it is happening. And more importantly, we should be asking what we can learn it.
The Occupy Wall Street movement can be a catalyst for change. But only if we ask the right questions. As of now, next steps for the movement are unclear. Perhaps winter will cause the occupiers to decamp. Or perhaps conditions and fraying nerves will lead to a very violent, very bad denouement. Or perhaps the movement will continue to grow and spread, as it has over these past weeks, to more cities and more people. In any case, the challenge for business is to dig deeper into the roots of the protest and to respond thoughtfully, rewriting our own rules before they are rewritten for us.