"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
Through our work facilitating leadership development and helping those leaders develop their organizations in sustainable directions we have realized that it is not enough to just learn a new set of tricks, skills or competencies.
In our work with individuals, teams and organizations, the best results emerge when we engender and embed holistic development and change. This means helping clients to “onboard” the skills they need while developing the capacity to sufficiently hold them and effectively employ them in their current and future work contexts.
This requires helping our clients actively cultivate a worldview that is highly inclusive and tolerant of the benefit that multiple perspectives bring and is capable of leveraging them. To accelerate this change, we work with our clients to create an adaptable sense of scope and context allowing them to see and understand patterns at play from the personal to global levels and begin looking at opportunities for leverage and synthesis.
Finally, for people to really engage the world of complexity around them they need similar development within them. Thus, a key element of our work is to generate and hold time and space for reflection that allows people to look within themselves at the changes taking place, and understand and appreciate their own inner complexity.
The shorthand version of this process is BE – SEE – DO – GET. To GET the results that will sustain your organization your need to be generating results that sustain that which sustains us. Simply, we need to DO differently. To DO differently means to SEE differently. We need to develop the capacity to SEE our selves and the world around us as interconnected, interpenetrating systems. To develop that capacity we have to BE differently. We need to become adept at embracing and understanding our inner complexity as well as the complexity that surrounds us and into which we are embedded.
This is hard work. It takes discipline. And, it is definitely not business as usual. Are you ready to…just be it?
H is for Health That Should Never Be Poor. Basho: Old pond / frog jumps in / the sound of water. In the US we are currently wrapped up in a very important, often ridiculous debate about healthcare or, more accurately, health insurance. Having just repatriated and wandered the maze of healthcare choices”, as a consumer, I can say the array of choices in front of me was more like a game of Russian roulette or a bizarre amalgam of Sophie’s Choice and Groundhog Day. Each of the myriad “choices” I had to make was a gamble or a sacrifice. It was stressful, unsatisfying and, well, unhealthy.
David Gilmour: I am you and what I see is me. Consider a frog. Essentially frogs need water, warmth and bugs. Taint or take away one of those essentials (or the conditions that support these essentials) and you’ve got a mess of unhealthy, mutated frogs or no frogs at all. Frogs are voracious consumers in their eco-systemic niche. So are we. As humans we need a healthy, resilient, sustaining Value Web, yet so many of the choices we are being asked to make are neither healthy for us, our communities and the eco-systems that sustain us.
For consumers, shopping is a highly entertaining game of choice. The question is what are we really choosing? In the case of healthcare we are “choosing” damaged goods from a broken system. In the case of health, though, as we shop, we have the opportunity to choose for our selves and support the health of our communities and the eco-systems that support them. Our choices can give life instead damaging the conditions that make it possible. We can design the effects of our purchases to be less bad and more good and healthier for all of us-including the frogs.
Imagine you’re looking at a gauge. The left half of the gauge has black hash marks with numbers that go from “-10″ to “0″ at the top. The background color on this half is red. The right half of the gauge has numbers that start from “0″ at the top of the gauge and go to “+10″ on the lower right. Let’s say the background color for the right half is green.
The goal is simple. As much as possible, keep the needle in the green. Keep things positive.
In Cradle to Cradle Will McDonough writes that eco-efficiency (aiming for “-2 instead of, say, “-8″) really isn’t an option. It’s like being the frog in the pot of boiling water. The water warms slowly. The frog sits comfortably. By the time the water is too hot, it’s too late to jump out. We’re already half cooked. We’ve boiled ourselves to death slowly.
“Life creates the conditions conducive to life” – Janine Benyus. This is true except for when we’re in the red, the negative half of the gauge. When we’re in the red, we’re burning through resources, devouring capital, depleting our savings. When we’re in the red we’re actually creating conditions that make life hard. We’re degrading the systems that support life, that support us. We’re creating our own Hell, cycles of suffering and destruction. From a mindset of scarcity (use what I can, when I can, to maximize my short-term benefit) we create scarcity.
The other half of the gauge is abundance. When the needle is in the green we, ourselves, businesses, communities, cities, nations and the economies that support us are creating conditions conducive to life. We’re strengthening the systems that support life. Well-being emerges from well-being. We’re creating and sustaining life-generating, life-giving cycles. From a mindset of abundance (use what I can to create long-term prosperity for myself by sustaining and enhancing that which supports and sustains me) we create abundance.
The goal is simple. Keep things positive. Making the changes in the ways we think, see, and act in our lives, communities and our work are difficult, daunting. Sustainability is something we do together. Abundance is something we create together.
Red or green? You make the call.
As I talk with prospective members of Abound about their businesses, the business of sustainability and the challenges of being a leader in sustainable business, one of the recurring themes we encounter is that of value.
This theme of value was echoed at the Triple Bottom Line Investment (TBLI) conference I attended in Tokyo. A number of speakers admitted and were confounded by the fact that, from a conventional assessment paradigm, sustainable businesses were often not the best choice for ROI.
A recent conversation with Stephen Aiguier from Green Hammer, a sustainable building company in Oregon, led us to the under-developed notion of relational capital. As it is currently understood relational capital is a subset of the valuation of “intangibles”. This begs the question of what is “tangible?”
Well, assets are tangible but what is their value? The value of assets depends on their valuation-a process of assigning an amount to them. This amount is a shared understanding, an agreement.
Traditionally, a business has been valued by it’s bottom line and top line performance. Cash flow is also a popular indicator. For a publicly traded business this becomes a much more complex process as all sorts of arcane formulae are applied to a business to describe its value to various stakeholders. The business has different values depending on the interests of the stakeholders. Again, we are looking at shared understanding, agreement.
We need to expand our shared understanding and agreement around this concept of value. Legally businesses are people. Actually businesses are complex open systems subtracting and adding value in the markets, communities and environments in which they operate. Both spiders and web, they weave and are nodes in a Value Web. The more resilient the web, the more value it provides. The more skillful the spider, the more resilient the web, the stronger the nodes.
The value of business is its capacity to sustain that which sustains the business-the Value Web. This is relational. In these relationships is the real value of sustainable businesses. Skillful engagement with the Value Web is the pathway to abundance. Abundance is a healthy, highly resilient Value Web.
What is the value of your business?
Time. We are very time sensitive these days. Blogs need updating. Twitter demands tweets. Our Facebook and other social networking clans compel us to post, respond, upload. We are deeply and diversely connected.
Last night, talking with friends, we talked about relationships, disciplines and discipline. We talked about exciting, inspiring vertical spikes and the lonely disorienting vistas of plateaus-the long, seemingly endless flat land of practice. George Leonard writes eloquently about this in Mastery.
Relationships and connection need time. They take commitment, practice. Discipline. They also need flexibility, variation, and forgiveness. Last night we also talked about over-commitment where single-mindedness takes over and all of our energy pours into one place.
Over-commitment, over-concentration leads to illness. Illness takes time, steals and hordes time, saps and pools energy. Illness disconnects us from that which sustains. That which sustains are the diverse and myriad relationships, the abundance around and within us.
As we commit, as we practice, as we deepen our capacity to live and contribute, we also must allow our selves distance from our disciplines without disconnection. Forgive the necessary wandering, exploration and reflection that emerges from wide open spaces. Walk the fine line between distance, reflection and neglect.
Vertical growth and Big Change is exciting, addictive in the disorienting rush and clarity it brings. It is also rare, fleeting. Most of our time is spent on the plateaus, gazing out at the horizons surrounding us. This is where our communities-virtual and visceral-and the web of relationships within them sustain us. This is where discipline serves us.
Update the blogs, tweet away, maintain and strengthen those Facebook connections. Call friends. Get together, break bread, grill salmon, let the kids run wild in the houseyardneighborhoodpark. Get back on the mat and do some aikido. Renew commitments.
Every once in a while it is OK to step away. Take a breath and slide off line. Tenkan-take a different perspective. Plateaus are truly vast. Exploring the territory within and around us takes practice, discipline. It needs time.
When you come back you’ve got stories to tell, maybe a little wisdom to pass around the fire with the wine. Your communities are curious. Your people want to know where you’ve been. Your children want to play. You are home.
We are pleased to announce the launch of our global sustainability leadership organization: Abound.
Commitment Connection Opportunity
Who We Are
We are leaders in businesses, non-profit organizations and institutions with a mission for sustainability who want to accelerate the pace of change. We believe it is time to re-imagine, re-design, re-organize and re-align to create a present that carries us through sustainability to a future of abundance.
We are all over the world. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, we have chapters developing across the US and Canada, Japan and the Asia Pacific region. Our global mission is to:
- Strengthen and enhance sustainable leadership
- Develop powerful and deep connections between leaders
- Create sustainable abundance
What We Do
Abound is a membership supported, driven and defined non-profit organization. We provide:
- Leadership Circles: Peer to peer learning groups committed to helping members deepen their individual, organizational, community and national leadership capacity.
- Learning Events: Integrated into the Leadership Circle experience, these learning sessions provide participants with the hands on expertise and learning they need to take their organizations beyond sustainability to abundance.
- Individual and Organizational Assessment: Every member will receive free initial assessments of their leadership capacities, strengths and styles. After a year, follow up assessments will be made so each member can account for their growth and development. Abound will also provide assessments of the member organizations to determine the level of sustainability the organization has achieved upon joining and over time.
- Knowledge Net: A repository of individual member, sponsor and supporter capabilities and knowledge which any member can access and harness for support.
- Research & Publishing: Thorough, relevant and leading edge research into sustainable practices and their connection to helping member organizations grow and thrive.
- Projects: Supporting members and gathering member support for community, educational and sustainable development projects.
Stay tuned for more…or check out our the Abound website at: www.aboundglobal.org
We’ll be giving a talk on the connections between social media and sustainability next week. As I was doing some research on the topic I came upon this slightly dated piece over at Max Gladwell.
They make a good point that there is nothing “inherently green about social media.” Indeed. Social media is exactly what it sounds like: means for conveying ideas and information, connecting people and creating and maintaining relationships.
We also need to understand that sustainable sustainability is not “green” either. Or rather, it is “green” but it also red, orange, yellow, blue, turquoise, indigo, violet, etc. Simply, if we want to sustain our selves and the potential in the human endeavor for all sentient beings to prosper, we must go full spectrum.
We live in a value web. We need to manage multiple polarities and find a way to stream value into as many of the nodes of the web as possible. The more we are able to strengthen and enhance the web the more we are able to benefit in return. It is (almost) instant karma.
This is where social media comes in. The potential in social media to deeply interconnect us and provide cross-functional, cross-divisional, cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration is already being realized in technologies like Facebook and Twitter. A recent Business Week article shows how Accenture has developed enterprise versions of these systems as well. WiserEarth, an online community, also has adapted Wiki technology to connect sustainability-oriented groups and individuals.
Social media can accelerate and deepen the connection process. Interconnection is a key success factor for sustainability, and beyond sustainability, abundance. In the end, though, it is not the technology that matters. It is the intent and capacity of the users. Designers can and will design user interfaces that can meet a wide variety of needs. If we want to get the most out of Web 2.0, I believe we first need to design Sustainability 2.0. Sustainability 2.0 is a full-spectrum, value web centered, coherent approach to doing well together.
Let’s see what we can emerge.
P&G and Microsoft have both recently strongly committed themselves to “sustainability.” P&G’s Lafley saying:
P&G’s commitment to sustainability is strategic. It is how our company conducts business. [Specifically]
- Develop and market at least $50 billion in innovative and sustainable products, up from a goal of $20 billion.
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions, energy consumption, water usage and disposed waste by 20 percent, leading to a 50 percent reduction over the last 10 years.
- Increase use of rail transportation from 10 percent now to 30 percent by 2015.
- Increase the number of children benefiting from P&G’s Safe Drinking Water Program to 300 million, up from the original goal of 250 million.
and Microsoft’s saying:
Recently our CEO, Steve Ballmer, sent out an e-mail to all 90,000 Microsoft employees. He made clear that environmental sustainability is a core value for the company that is embedded in all we do,” Robert Bernard said in an interview with CNET News. He added that Ballmer talked about the topic as a corporate belief, “as opposed to a green campaign or a marketing campaign or a marketing issue.
P&G’s commitment is wide ranging and touches on a number of nodes of the value web, including resources and trade, atmosphere, energy, water, transportation, and family and community. They seem to be systematically working sustainability into their value chain.
Microsoft’s statement, though bold, is a little more confused, referring to “environmental sustainability.” Not quite sure how Microsoft is sustaining the environment. Rather than “environmental sustainability” I would recommend something like “environmental awareness is a core value”.
Sustainability is bigger than you, me, the environment, climate change and renewable energy. It’s what links all of the essential nodes of the value web together.
I applaud both companies for their concern and commitment. However, I believe both have a way to go before they fully embrace and embed sustainability in their organizations. They need to take the lead by leaping from focussing on discrete parts to developing strategies that link these parts holistically to what they do.
Sustainability is about relationships and connections and not disconnected metrics. The sooner we see this the sooner we can start doing to get sustainable results.
Tags: A. J. Lafley, carbon dioxide emissions, climate change, core value, Microsoft, P&G, renewable energy, safe drinking water, Steve Balmer, sustainability, sustainable products, value web, waste reduction
There is growing evidence that CSR as commonly practiced is not an effective use of corporate resources.
In a recent McKinsey poll of 391 CEO’s whose companies participate in the UN Global Compact, the CEO’s listed “competing strategic priorities” as the most significant barrier to implementing an integrated strategic approach to CSR. This was followed by:
- complexity of implementing their strategies across diverse business functions and divisions
- lack of recognition by financial markets
- differing definitions of CSR across regions and cultures
…companies aren’t using that tool [CSR] as well as they could. Executives doubt that their philanthropy programs fully meet their social goals or stakeholders’ expectations for them.
their corporate philanthropy programs are very or extremely effective at meeting social goals and stakeholder expectations. Their companies take a somewhat different approach than others do: their programs are more likely to address social and political trends relevant to the business and to be influenced by community and business needs. Executives…say that efforts are already more likely to involve collaboration with other companies. Finally, these companies are much likelier than others to say they are achieving any business goals they have set for their philanthropy programs in addition to social goals.
So, what’s happening here?
We are seeing a clear difference between companies that see CSR as a “tool” or one of many competing strategies and those that are embedding CSR priorities into the business. It is a story of commitment. Or, as Charlie Parker said, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.”
Companies that aren’t “living it” are doing CSR for other reasons. Generally they fall into one of three categories: Compliance, Conformity or Cooperation. What these categories have in common is fragmented, frequently externally driven, adoption of CSR behavior.
Further, organizations that are “living it” frequently aren’t doing CSR at all. They are being sustainable and, at best, targeting abundance. By “being sustainable” I mean generating value for a wide range of stakeholders within the company and in the communities, regions and countries in which they operate.
This is a big difference. What the McKinsey polls point to is this: being the change you want to see in the world is good business. Doing CSR, while not a bad thing, as a strategy (competing with other strategies) is ineffective, inefficient and, basically, not good business.
Don’t get me wrong. Giving and philanthropy are good. These acts help people, communities and the environment, a lot. Doing philanthropy and CSR as a strategy is good. Being sustainable is better. Better return on investment, better use of resources, better, bigger impact.
Beyond strategy, being sustainable is a way of thinking, seeing and doing business. Being sustainable is living it and enjoying the value we create. Being sustainable is, simply, better business.
Tags: CEO's, Charlie Parker, Co-operation, Coherence, collaboration, Compliance, Conformity, Constellation, corporate philanthropy, csr, McKinsey, stakeholders, strategy, sustainability, UN Global Compact
“Sustainability” is not always sustainable. Simply, doing and describing what you do as sustainable does not make it so. For organizations (and us, personally!) to be sustainable in what we do, we have to be sustainable in who we are and how we see the world. This gives us our best shot at doing something that is actually going to get or generate sustainable results. In the following series of six posts I will introduce the six levels of engaging in sustainability: Compliance, Conformity, Cooperation, Collaboration, Coherence and Constellation. We use these at Interkannections to help our clients clarify their current goals around sustainability and map out their paths for deepening their practice and impact.
Constellation is characterized by reaching across industry, sector and national boundaries to create “constellations” of organizations capable of making systemic level change that benefits a multitude of stakeholders including, of course, the constellation members. These constellations are characterized by high degrees of transparency and innovation in a rich learning, rich opportunity environment. They are driven by a strong sense of purpose to build systemic capacity wherever they may be operating.
- Sustainability is internally driven and collaboratively realized in multi-stakeholder interventions
- Example sustainability activities: Kalundborg, a workable, meaningful approach to changing climate change, expanding Burgerville’s quality of supplier relationships throughout Cascadia, the “Integral Cities” movement.
- Being at Constellation innovating and organizing from an abundance mindset.
- What we see at this level is our capacity to effect systems level benefit and change with an array of other capable stakeholders.
- What we are doing is creating long-term value and resilience in the systems in which we do business thus making them and us more sustainable.
- What we get from Constellation is a strong, healthy, positive-value, business opportunity generating Value Web.
- Operating at Constellation is our best bet at sustaining the systems that sustain us and allow us to economically innovate and ecologically flourish.
We are just beginning to see Constellation level work emerge. The simplest way to imagine it is collaboration at a systems level. The project, instead of being clean tech. development project would entail a focus on a node or multiple nodes of the value web. Again, if the way Burgerville develops and maintains relationships with suppliers was expanded and implemented with a number of restaurants and suppliers across Cascadia we would be looking at a constellation-like scope and impact.
Tags: abundance, Burgerville, Cascadia, Coherence, collaboration, Compliance, Conformity, Constellation, cooperation, Country Natural Beef, integral cities, Interkannections, Kalundborg, resilience, sustainability, systems level change, systems thinking, transparency