I know I have been silent for long – perhaps too long – and would like to apologize to my over 500 followers for my silence. Meanwhile, I would like to thank you all for following me. Thank you!!! I would not say I have been a proliferic blogger, but whatever I have posted, I have tried to make sure it is of good quality. I hope this has worked for YOU, my followers. A big thanks to you all, once and again. :)

I am currently going through a transition, and as part of that I am rethinking the focus of my blog and blog posts. As part of this, I would like to conduct a small experiement, and I would like you, those of you who follow me, to participate in it. Let us turn this blog into more of a multi-way communication!

By commenting on this blog post, would you please let me know the following:

- Why did you click on the ‘FOLLOW’ button on my blog? Why do you follow me? What resonates with you in my posts?

- What have you appreciated about my blog posts?

- What would you like to see more of in my posts?

- What have you not liked, what would you think I should improve?

I would LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK. Please do let me know what you think by commenting on this blog post.

Can’t wait to hear from you. :)


Last night I went to a Starbucks coffee shop in Zurich. I went up to the top floor and sat down. I had had a long and busy day and needed some time with my own thoughts. And, then, I saw this badly anorexic girl. It took me sometime to figure out she was anorexic. It honestly felt like I was looking at a calm and quiet ghost sitting in the corner. I felt really eery.

I guess the girl was in the last stages of anorexia. So bad! You could see the skull through her skin. It was like she was both 16 and 80. I as so afraid like I have never been in my life, looking at her. I was both drawn to her, because the intensity of her element was so strong, and so afraid to look at her. She was in an element I could not understand, but I could feel its intensity. Felt like she is going down a tunnel from which there is no way back, and she knew it.

She was very weak, I think she was drinking her own saliva from a handkerchief. At some point she started crying. That was horrific to look at. Her face … was the mask of a ”dead person walking”, the alive mask of a dead body. I am so sorry. I felt so bad, so shaken, so moved by the whole thing. Nobody noticed her or seemed to notice her, everyone went about their conversations. If they did notice her crying, they pretended they did not see anything. Some people came to sit close to her, saw her, then moved away. Then at some point she asked about the hour, politely, and left. Very skinny, weak and all that.

Image

The whole experience deeply disturbed me. First, It felt like she wanted to feel like we all do but could not. This is why she was there, to try to feel what it feels like to be ”normal”. She did not eat or drink anything. I think she knew she looked bad, and she knew I was looking at her, but was calm and thoughtful. She blank very little.

I know that in anorexia at some point there is a point of no return, your body actually rejects food, your digestive system gets out of practice, and even if you do want to eat, and even enjoy it, it feels so bad for you, your body actively rejects food. Often these people are also among the brightest, most creative and most intelligent. Anorexia has many causes, it is linked to a predisposition in the brain, but then the showing of the condition is unlocked by so many other factors, just one of which is the idea that we as women (or men) have to be skinny in order to be beautiful. (All of these advertisement sorts of things we are being bombarded with.) This is just one factor though. There can be other factors, like family problems, and all that mixing together.

Should I have done something more, should I have talked to her? May be she would have not understood my English. May be I could have gone down to the Starbucks staff, and talked to them about this. I assume she would/should be in hospital.

I was watching her closely, and anyway, felt could not do much else. But if she had started harming herself, I would have done something, I was also watching all around me, all these nice people. Really beautiful, nice people. Engaged in conversations. Zurich is new to me, so I am naturally observing everything, absorbing every aspect of the Swiss German reality. I do not know it very well yet and do not speak the language. That makes me even more open to whatever is going on, beyond what words can express.

I remember as I was sitting there, with the girl sitting diagonally to me, I only wanted to leave. I did not though. Then I was suddenly overtaken by a feeling of such gratitude and joy. I think it was a defense mechanism. What I felt there is a realization of how lucky I am. Sitting there, with my worries and concerns, I understood I have the privilege to live a full life on our planet with all of its ups and downs, which are all these awesome opportunities to live fully and grow. I also felt, I thought the girl knew this, and she simply could not belong to this world.

I am so very sorry. I thought the least I could do is write about this here. So that people know. Not sure whether I should have done something differently. I tell you, I have never been so afraid. Really. Because I felt what she knew through her serious psychopathological condition, we, the rest of us, do not know, at all, do not want to, simply can not. Most of us would say we are just blessed with not being like ”that”. Not being like ”that” always carries with it its own drama, and worries and concerns, but it is, to us at least, delightfully alive.

I am not at all angry, or displeased with all of the wonderful people around her who went about their conversations. I was in some way one of them, I went about my emails, and tried to focus in on my own thoughts. But I just could not forget about this girl. And I just wanted to share my experience here with you.

Let’s remember that challenges and worries in life are opportunities to outgrow ourselves, to focus and take the right decisions. :) I wish all of you who read this well. Let’s remember to embrace life as it is, change it as much as we can do and where we want to, live it with our full hearts, have patience where it takes, and have love and sympathy.

 

To close off, a wonderful video by the Piano Guys -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ_fkw5j-t0&list=RD02fz4MzJTeL0c


I just read this really excellent article by Bill Barnett in the Harvard Business Review Blog. It is called ”When Choosing a Job, Culture Matters”. I highly recommend it not only to job seekers, but also to anyone who’s looking for herself/himself in the organisation where she/he works, especially those who are not that happy with these organisatons and how they do what they do.

Organisational culture, or organisational mindset, is something I have already explored in another post. The culture within the organisation, the team, and so on where we work, is key to whether we can be successful in it. It is a key determinant, almost as important, if not more important than what the organisation or the team actually does.

Despite this, when we look for jobs, we often look for such in organisations that do something we believe in, be it reducing poverty, feeding the hungry, saving the displaced-by-disasters, developing social businesses, driving the digital revolution, and so forth. As we do this, we rarely ask the ”culture” and ”mindset” questions.

Personally, having worked with a variety of organisations for already more than nine years, and having experienced a variety of cultures, and having struggled a number of times, I am at a point where I think culture is more important than organisation purpose.

Think this scenario:

You have high integrity. You are environmental sustainability minded. You believe in business that is both responsible and sustainable. You value and respect others and expect them to value and respect you. You are focused on doing the right thing, always, and are prepared to work hard by yourself and with others to figure out what that is and then implement it. You are open to learning and new experiences. You believe in that real, all-encompassing and overturning change is the result of many working well together, not just a few doing their own thing. You believe in working with all the stakeholders. You are competitive and like winning. You are exhilarated by the possibility of winning a contest based on nothing but your abilities and outstanding performance. You have a vigorous approach to both practice and research. You want to make a difference in this world.

Image

You join an oil and gas company. Doesn’t make sense, right? How will you ever contribute to a business that is socially responsible and brings environmental sustainability to the world from within there? What this company does is in stark opposition with your values. But, think again, is it?

As it turns out, the oil and gas company has a culture that greatly suits what your personality needs in order to succeed. It is transparent when it comes down to promotions, and, because of the nature of the the business, there is a deep and shared commitment to health and safety. The people there want to do good (albeit it may sound like a paradox to you initially). They don’t want any spills. They want to innovate solutions to extracting the oil and gas in the depths of the Earth, solutions that do not damage it in the long term, solutions that do not cause and precipitate earthquakes, solutions that are clean and minimal in terms of impact. Furthermore, they are investing in renewable energy and are well familiar with how challenging is to produce such sustainably. They want to tackle this as a corporation. They are looking for the answers, together. There is respect for points of view different than yours. Knowledge sharing and knowledge management catalyse good practices emerging from the bottom-up, and scale them up through corporately adopted solutions. It is all bubbling inside that company, actually. There is urgency to innovate and plenty of commitment to doing good.

And so, surprisingly, culture-wise the company is a good fit for you, which is also why you took the job. You know it will be hard and challenging at times, but the culture is there to support you and carry you on its waves. Besides, a little bit of hardship and challenge is what you welcome to make things interesting and really make it possible for you to achieve your vision and goals.

Makes sense?

While this example is entirely fictitious, it helps to illustrate the point.

Culture, and not organisation purpose per se, is what creates conditions for us to succeed, to show and put to work what we are capable of, and to achieve our personal visions. The right culture is what brings it all out, connects us deeply with our colleagues and stakeholders, and makes it possible for us to run fast yet never be tired.

In a similar way, the people we work with, how they are, their aspirations and ways of working, their motivations and integrity are almost as important if not more important that what we actually do together with these people. And, this is because, if there is chemistry inherent to how we work together, we are willing to listen, learn together, change the course of action and even re-examine and change our values. If the culture is good, we are genuinely putting ourselves at work and positive growth can emerge. This is why culture, and that chemistry that imbues our teamwork with others, is by the far the most important prerequisite for us being successful, happy and satisfied at the workplace.

If you are reading this and are not happy with your work, think why that might be. Think what it is about it that is stopping you. Think of how to overcome it. If the only way of doing this is by joining another organisation (and leaving your current one), do that, don’t be complacent. It is all about growth in the end. Making yourself a success is the one most important thing you want to achieve in your life.

Image


I see the following dynamic streams in the future of our world (i.e., world = the dynamic system that represent the planet, environment, and humanity):

  • Religion

The role of religion, spiritual values and norms will increase in the years to come. This will not have much to do with the various sorts of religious institutions there are, however, unless these succeed to transform and embrace gender equality, social justice and innovation.

People will more and more want to be guided by religion in their day-to-day lives and decision making. More and more they will construct their own religion(s) though, rather than follow the ones that have been written. As much as they will appreciate the existing religions, they will also recognise their insufficiency. A world awaits where all religions fuse together to provide people with the spiritual guidance and answers they seek and need.

  • Environment

Sustainability and sustainable development will continue to be one of the most topical issues on the world’s plate today (the other ones being peace and security). The businesses that will win will generate sustainability from the heart of their organisations, and pursue sustainability as an opportunity for increased revenues.

Governments will provide more and more frameworks for business and society to embrace environmental sustainability, however a major challenge will lie in operationalising these frameworks.

Whilst richer countries will struggle to reinvent their entire systems and integrate sustainability and environmental preservation in them, poorer countries will be torn between 1) adopting sustainability as core to their systems and 2) pursuing development solutions that lift people from poverty in the short term but are unsustainable and damaging in the long run.

  • Social Innovation

What is more, stronger religion and sustainable systems underlying life on our planet will be accompanied by increased connections and collaboration within communities and across geographies. Solutions to pressing issues such as security, hunger, disease, justice, and the gender gap, will be the result of multi-stakeholder collaboration at every level – global, regional, local.

Innovation will take place in social spaces especially designed for this purpose, such as hubs, communities of practice, and groups like the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils. Agents of change will emerge and lead projects and initiatives beneficial to society and the environment.

  • The Human Species

With ecosystems often inadvertently changing, our bodies will change too. More and more people will live in polluted cities which will lead to gradual evolutionary changes to the human body.

In addition, the increased pace and connectedness of our lives, and the fact that we are bombarded with information, will mean changes in our brain capacity, minds and spirit. Children will learn faster than we used to. More and more of them will be born with the innate ability to intuitively sense the state of the dynamic systems we are part of, and will want to rebel against structures no longer viable.

  • The Animal Species

Some animal species will disapear, although not as many as currently feared. However, the majority of those who stay will be in decreased numbers which will tilt the biodiversity on the Earth.

For the Earth’s biodiversity to survive, human consumption will have to decrease. I believe this trend is at a tipping point and it is not yet clear how it will tip. What do you think?

What do you think about these trends? Are these all? Are there others?

Thank you.


Every year, on March 1st, I wish my friends and loved ones ”Chestita Baba Marta!” and give those whom I can reach geographically (and that is only a small proportion of them) a martenitsa. Every year, I love seeing the appreciation my friends and loved ones feel at this gesture. Martenitsas are beautiful in that they celebrate a Bulgarian custom that has survived through very many centuries (its origins are pagan).  They celebrate love, humanity and humility for nature’s law.

Matenitsas protect as the seasons change from winter to spring. They bring you good health, fortune and luck. They attract love and happiness. They ensure the energy and vitality of the coming spring throw only their good side on you. Every martenitsa is made from white and red threads, white to bring peace and good fortune, and red to bring love, good health, vitality and energy.

I wish you Chestita Baba Marta! Happy Granny Marta Day! :)

More about martenitsas is here.

A nice slideshow of selected martenitsas is here.

 


I had a small operation the other day. Here is the story:

One of my wisdom teeth had been growing at a right angle with respect to the one next to it. It had just started breaking into that other tooth. (Despite that, I had no pain, which was fantastic.) They recommended it to be taken out. I thought that is a good idea, considering it could cause problems and discomfort at some point in the future. And so we (I and my mom) chose a day, called the doctors and made all necessary arrangements.

The day came. I was quite nervous the night before, even though I knew all was going to be fine. I mean, I am healthy, all is ok with me, why do I have to go through this? I had to trust the doctors. At the end of the day, sometimes that is all we can do: trust and love our fellow people.

The operation went very well. The doctors were brilliant. They gave me local anesthetic and started working. They first cut into the gum, and then into the bone. They did not cut out any pieces, which was great I was told (and I am sure very happy about it!). It was hard work for them (two of them, working on me!) and hard work also for me. Although I did not feel any pain, there was quite some pressure being put on my jaw. They said I have a delicate jaw, and so were careful.

The tooth would not come out at first, but in the end they pulled it out. Wonderfully shaped thing, just growing the wrong way. Then they put a couple of stitches, and the operation was over. They said it went very well and that there was going to be no swelling (and there hasn’t been). Knowing their job well, they could foresee how the case was going to develop.

I could not feel my mouth and jaw for a while afterwards, off course. Then when I could, I was crying because of the pain. Then, my mom made me a painkiller cocktail and I was fine. I am still not able to open my mouth fully, but after a few days, that will be gone, too.

So why am I telling you all this? Throughout the operation, the doctors were talking, and asking me questions. One of them was: ”What do you do? What is your job?”. ”I do organisational development.” I said. ”I work with the UN and International Organisations.”. ”You have a complicated job.”, they said. They knew nothing about it, just as I knew nothing about dentistry, and pulling out (very difficult!) wisdom teeth.

And so there I was, totally vulnerable and relying on their skill and expertise. I know exactly how (I’d like to think) to go about most sustainable development and/or knowledge management puzzles, but I know nothing about wisdom teeth puzzles. I am very happy they knew, because in that moment, all I knew wasn’t worth a penny. They were in charge. They were working on my system and solving the wisdom tooth puzzle. I could not do that. I solve different kinds of puzzles.

In a way, what the doctors knew made possible what I know, and vice versa. They look after me, and I look after them, by working with my clients, and helping them look after the world. We all have a role to play, are related to one another, and depend on each other. I would not be here unless they were too, and vice versa. In the ”developed world”, people would not exist unless the ”developing” world also existed. There would not be consumption unless people had things to consume. There would not be justice unless there was also lack there of.

Our values with respect to and attitudes towards the elements that make our systems define the nature of the relationships among these elements, and from there on, how the systems behave. First, I and my mom chose the best doctors who could pull out difficult teeth. We also chose a good day for the operation (i.e., moon was in the right sign, and waning – medicine astrology knowledge worth considering, and yet another system that is – I tend to think – operating on us). Then, despite I was scared, I managed my fear, I trusted the doctors, and they appreciated that. And all went well and for this I am super happy and grateful.

Systems are beautiful in that they hold us, and keep us together.They give us life, and we give them life. They make us be, and we make them be. System dynamics are something we can give a direction to, in the very least, if we know the system elements and the relationships between these elements, and if we know what we want out of these systems.

We are always in a system, and we should all know about systems. Knowing about systems gives us the power to transform them and do better at the next level (or iteration). It has got to be easy to see, feel and understand systems, because they are all in and around us. All it takes is to look into something as small (although it felt big, I tell you!) as a wisdom tooth and feel the connections between it, us, and everything else.

:)


My great great friend Jono sent me the below poem sometime back. I find it speaks true and from within the depths of my heart. I love it (and Jono does too). I wanted to share it with you.

Merry Christmas! :)

The Invitation – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.


I came across this beautiful quote today.  I could not make it invisible by not sharing it. Here it is:
————

“It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion towards others.  If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.”

- Author unknown…
————

After I read it, I took a moment to reflect whether it is true. I realised that it is. Whenever we are in love with ourselves, we immediately open to all and everything around us. And, if we are feeling negative about our lives, it is actually because we are unhappy with something about ourselves.

Such a simple yet powerful realisation. It all starts with us. We can change the world by changing ourselves. Often, we go about it the other way around, and that is a waste of our souls.

For example, you may feel stuck in a really difficult meeting with your colleagues. And you may want to escape. And you may not understand how your colleagues can be so irritating. It is not them, actually. It is you. Why is that you find them irritating? What is it about you that makes you feel irritated?

And so on. Plenty of examples can be given.

I am going to experiment with this state of being over the coming days. Join me! :)

My and my sister’s favourite artist, Josephine Wall, is again to my rescue in helping me to put my message across. The below two pieces speak of love and opening of the heart (and so much else). Thank you Josephine.



A beautiful Saturday day. Sun shining in Rome. All’s great. And, an article, a truly amazing article by the McKinsey Quarterly. It got my brain firing on a number of issues. It resonated with both my mind and heart.

The article is about women at the workplace, the challenges and the opportunities. It talks about why, despite decades of talking about the need to have more women in senior positions of management, this is yet to happen. There is the general notion we urgently need to strike a gender balance in senior and at all levels of management, and yet there are (often unconscious) barriers that stop us from doing so.

Here’s the article:

Changing companies’ minds about women

Leaders who are serious about getting more women into senior management need a hard-edged approach to overcome the invisible barriers holding them back.

On Mindset …

So, let’s talk about mindset first. On a metalevel, I was struck by how often the notion of ‘mindset’ comes up in the article, directly and indirectly, as well as the need to change that ‘mindset’. Struck and pleasantly surprised. If McKinsey talks about it chances are the corporate world is thinking and talking about it too. And that is a good thing because tackling mindset in the context of change is what wins us the change.

A synonym for mindset is approach, motivation, belief, inspiration. Mindset is exactly what we have deeply ingrained in ourselves which drives us to feel, think and behave. It is complex and over-arching. To put it bluntly, mindset creates our world. And if we change it, our world changes. We have the power to play with our mindsets and in that way change our contexts and what we attract and happens to us. And when we do this, and if we pair in sustainability, love, openness, fairness and justice values, powerful transformations at personal, interpersonal, organisational, systems and other levels emerge.

Therefore, tackling mindset as we seek to effectively address challenges at every level is important. For this, we don’t need to understand mindset in all of its components as it will be different each time we look at it. Still, models like the below are helpful tools in diving deep into mindset and becoming more conscious of how it works in us. It is the journey (motivated by the need to transform for the better) that matters more than the result.

(The image is courtesy of Paradigms, Mental Models, and Mindsets: Triple Barriers to Transformational Change in School Systems.)

Despite the power we hold through creating and leveraging our mindsets, I have seen mindset being somewhat overlooked in the context of change in the corporations and organizations I have worked with. What is more, people resist talking about mindset. It is too general they say, too intangible. There is nothing we can do about it because there is nothing to hold onto. And, if we try to change the mindset underlying what we do, it won’t work because people resist change …

Well, to be frank, I’ve often felt like an alien hearing such thoughts and comments. I guess I am often overly idealistic! But that doesn’t mean there is no truth in the notion that mindset is our greatest power and asset, our greatest tool in changing our world, and organisations, and communities, for the better.

Also, mindset is not at all that intangible. We can often feel it, taste is even as it is coming across at us from people, teams and organisations. The point is how aware we are of these waves of meaning constantly conveyed to us. And, if we are not aware, how to develop that awareness. Because if we are aware, we have to power to change our world.

For example, research on the development action logic of sustainability leaders by Barrett Brown explains how leaders of large-scale sustainability initiatives approach, understand and engage with the world in order to enable sustainability changes in their organisations and society. Barrett has found out that effective leaders for sustainability, i.e. leaders who are able to foresee and drive large-scale sustainability transformations, tend to be at later stage of development action logic or cognitive development/meaning-making capacity. According to the Washington University Science Completion Test, they are Strategists, Alchemists and Ironists. The descriptions of these cognitive profiles make mindset sufficiently tangible for a leader, a trainer, or anybody else, to work with and develop.

And so, mindset is not only important, it can also be sufficiently tangible for us to develop and cultivate.

On Mindset and Women in our Organisations …

So how does the McKinsey article I refer to above entertain the notion of mindset? It generally assumes it is something we all know and are aware of but often choose to ignore in the way we work:

”Subtle changes in these attitudes toward advancement are another powerful benefit of changing how companies “think about women around here.” By addressing the mind-sets holding women back, corporate leaders can reshape the talent pipeline and its odds, increasing the number of women role models at the top and, in turn, making it likelier that more women will retain their ambition.”

”This is a powerful idea that resonates with our experience: strong as the general business case for women is, companies are more likely to transform mind-sets if they build their own case. That case should be grounded in the impact women are having at your own organization—whether hard business results or indirect benefits, such as building better teams.”

”When the findings are impossible to overlook, leaders can use them to make the invisible mind-sets visible and then manage these mind-sets to remove their influence.”

”If you’re ready to start challenging the broadly held mind-sets holding women back in your organization, first become conscious of your own beliefs and how they affect your behavior and decisions. Then, as you help your company move forward, remain vigilant: every time a senior executive leaves or enters an organization, its culture can—and does—shift.”

The article gives some interesting facts:

For example, with the corporate world being predominantly male-oriented, it can be hard for women to move up the corporate ladder simply because they are of a different kind. In order to move up, anyone, not just a woman, needs dedicated sponsorship, feedback and support. (Coaching, yheah?) Tough feedback men tend to give to men is well received by men but is not always appreciated by women. Support on the other hand is well appreciated by women but tends to be shunned away by men. With male and female brains being wired differently, and not many men in the corporate world being able to coach and support women in a way that women find useful and constructive, even if opportunities are available for women to move up, they either do not take them or do not perform in a way that is perceived as impactful and successful. And, in this way, the corporate system is not being transformed because the most powerful lever in it, i.e., the mindset, is not being pushed in order to enable all-encompassing transformations.

Another point the authors of the article make is that it is not just whether there is the ”right’ mindset in an organisation. It is also where it is if it is there. Because our organisations are still largely hierarchical, unless there is the ”right” (in this case, a mindset that sees the barriers that stop women from moving up the corporate ladder and also a mindset that is able to cultivate confidence and skill in women) mindset among senior executives, change won’t be rippled down and across the organisation.

In a nutshell, mindset is our greatest asset and resource. What we do with it determines our future. Allowing women to assume senior management positions and blend into the senior management of our organisations determines our future too. The more balanced the gender outlook of our organisations is, the more sustainable our world can be.

Beautiful ”Sweet Synergy” by amazing artist Josephine Wall:


Embedded Sustainability: The next big competitive advantage

By Chris Lazslo and Nadia Zhexembayeva

Greenleaf Publishing 2011

I put together a summary of Lazslo’s and Zhexembayeva’s book as part of my LEAD Europe training in leadership for sustainability. The book is very good and so the summary worth sharing with you here.

The book is organized in two parts: business strategy and change management.

1.    Business strategy – This part explains why embedding sustainability creates business value.

There are three distinct but interconnected trends that are putting increasing pressure on business to be sustainable. Whether business managers like it or not, business has to transform. These trends are as follows:

  • Declining resources (i.e., fish, and other natural capital rapidly diminishing),
  • Radical transparency (i.e., increasing number of activist organizations and NGOs using social media to catalyze change) and
  • Increased expectations (i.e., employees wanting to work for ethical companies; customers not willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, but wanting smarter products with sustainability at their core).

Lazslo and Zhexembayeva argue that the most adequate way for business to transform with sustainability at its core is by Creating Shared Value (CSV) for both stakeholders and shareholders.  Pursuing both stakeholder and shareholder value creation means value is created for both business and society. Responsible business does not have to compromise profits. CSV creates increased competitiveness by getting business to embrace what is sustainable whilst realistic and possible. CSV also ensures that business invests not only in the present but also the future.

Lazslo’s and Zhexembayeva point out that business strategy tends to focus on adding and removing costs, making trade-offs, mitigating risk, reducing energy and waste, differentiating products, entering new markets, protecting and enhancing brand and influencing industry standards. In all these, it does not normally look at resource  and natural capital availability and value chain security. This is despite that resources are declining and value chain security is rapidly diminishing.

It is good practice to look at business strategy as an opportunity:  i.e. pursue change proactively, systemically and aim for zero harm and positive benefits. Sustainability strategy should be no exception. Pursuing sustainability may be about a radical and disruptive move-away from the classical business paradigm. Pursuing sustainability should be inherent to the business, as well as motivating and aligning employees around a common vision for sustainable business. In this, product differentiation and radical innovation (facilitated by methods such as The Embedded Sustainability Cloud) are key.

2.    Change management – The second part of the book outlines the methods, competencies and processes for embedding sustainability.

The authors point out that embedding sustainability means incorporating health, environmental and social values into the business with no trade-offs in product price and quality. Embedding sustainability means a radical transformation in values, mindset, consciousness and behaviors. Here are some of the key messages:

  • Building transformative relationships is at the core of embedding sustainability. Cooperation with competitors is a source of gain.
  • Developing new competencies such as design, inquiry, appreciation (open mind) and wholeness is important. Leadership and design thinking should join forces.
  • There has to be on-going cultivation of an inspiration-ideation-implementation cycle of feeling-thought-behaviour. This cycle, if inspired by values around sustainability, can be deeply transformative. Topsy Turvy (reverse brainstorming) and appreciative inquiry are useful methods to cultivate such a cycle. Same goes for learning the language of systems thinking and practicing lifecycle analysis.
  • In order to get change to stick in, we must harvest the low-hanging fruit, balance short-term with long-term thinking, monitor and evaluate and remain open to change and circumstance.

The messages the authors put across in the book are simple yet sophisticated. To sum them up, the authors quote George Orwell who once said that industrialization has cut the soul of man, but he did not notice it for many years. In a similar way, the paintings of Tamara Lempicka from the industrialization age show lots of beautiful however sad and empty people surrounded by grey and cold buildings. In my mind, embedding sustainability in business and our lives is key to achieving not only a comfortable balance with our environment, but also a new way of living life. We can do it.


Calendar

October 2014
M T W T F S S
« May    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 16,907 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 548 other followers

My Twitter Feed

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Flickr Photos

More Photos
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 548 other followers