Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

In our rush to ‘rethink’ our world we must not forget to think! Robert Reich is making several insightful statements about where we are going and where we may end up if we don’t think ahead. Entrepreneurs and young folks, in general, don’t think about being sick, old, or at the effect of a shifting economy – mostly because it is outside of their experience. The trouble is that all of these will be in their experience, at some time in the future, but if accommodations are not made now they won’t be available then.

The ‘sharing economy’ was construed to create work, which it does. But the deeper ramifications have not been thought through. The rise of both Uber and Airnib have made it clear that there is a dark side to some of these new business models. Designed for young singles or retired folks they are huge traps for anyone trying to create a life! By removing all the support frameworks, as Reich points out, they undermine the very life’s they are purporting to support. We are growing without building the infrastructure that will support that growth over the long-term. This leads to collapse and is unsustainable!

We need to rethink growth, in any case. The issue is NOT about getting bigger, but about getting better, and a large part of better is the creation and maintenance of a sustainable foundation and infrastructure. Innovation is GREAT, but let’s not let greed interfere or undermine our ability to create the world we to live in!


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For centuries people have searched for ethical constructs that would be applicable world-wide. Some ethical framework that all people believed in and practiced. That has always seemed like a logical search to me. However even simple ethics like don’t steal and don’t kill generate exceptions, even in my own culture, let alone world-wide.

Paul F. Buller, John J. Kohls and Kenneth S. Anderson in their work “The Challenge of global ethics” think leaders need to begin to create just such an ethic. I smile as I write this, for the idea that a few ‘good’ people can just create ethics is a bit amusing. I can agree, however on the need for such an ethic, especially in this time of global commerce.

The other issue I see is the tendency to create medical ethics; marketing ethics; business ethics; etc. This seems to suggest that there are different ethics for different situations. That’s rather confusing and scary, actually. I believe the confusion comes from our subtle conviction that the world is composed of pieces and parts, so every piece needs its own ethic. It is this very fragmentedness that is at the heart of the problems stated above. The lack of clarity around stealing and killing. We all know that there are times when both of these acceptable, self preservation, for one. Yest we also know that there are times when both of these are very, very wrong. The dilemma is in trying to determine in a fairly clear fashion, which is which.

I think I have the answer to this problem and its been under our nose for the whole time.

The Sustainable Values Set® was ‘discovered’ by looking at how the Earth works. If the Earth was alive and made choices about her actions, what values would she be practicing? Understanding this has opened up a deeper understanding that gets around all of the issues inherent in most ethic systems. It’s that parts and pieces thing. The Earth acts on behalf of the WHOLE system. She’s not into parts and pieces.

Here’s the prime directive: The Earth/Nature creates the conditions that support Life. Sort’a a ‘Duh’ isn’t it? Yet, does YOUR business do this? How often do we create the conditions in which there is NO Life possible? That’s the fodder for another post.

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Ecological Thinking.

Here’s a short video on one of the shifts in thinking that are necessary to become sustainable. Remember the old saw that doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. Hummm, how often do I do that?

One trick is slowing down a tad and actually thinking about things that I have a kneejerk reaction for. That quick response is habit and that habit isn’t going to get me a new result. It’s painful to slow down, and sometimes it makes me cranky…but when I do and I get to a new place it’s VERY worth it!

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We are moving into a new time that requires new leadership skills. In my last Enlightened Business radio show I talked about Feminine Leadership, what it is, why it’s different and how it compliments masculine leadership. The quest to mimic nature by business has one key piece that is very different from any other shift in business practices that have happened in the past 15-20 years.

The “Prime Directive” of nature is that she always creates the conditions that support life! Always! This is what business must also do and to be effective at that you must care. This is heart work. It’s not soft and it’s not optional. We need to care about the planet and all the life that is on it. We need to care about each other and ourselves. If we do not want to have our species disappear, then we also need to care about Life.

At its core sustainability is all about relationships; internal to the company and external to the company. Understanding those relationships and being able to respond to the subtle nuances in each of them is something that women are particularly good at. Men need to learn this too and not just abdicate this strength to women, but the model remains feminine.

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My concern in responding to the Economist Blog,  is that we are still not measuring the right things, nor are we understanding the point of all of these measures. The intent is good, but it still gets translated into cost reduction and consumer response. The understanding and need to shift business practices to mimic natural processes, for business to act like the Earth and CREATE THE CONDITIONS THAT SUPPORT LIFE is never mentioned nor realized. It is THIS shift we need to measure. Our work at Ethical Impact L3C uses values evoked from natural law to help better assess this issues. I can only hope that GRI will awaken and follow suit.

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Working in organizations for years I’ve come to see and deeply appreciate one of the most unsung aspects of most organizations – structure.

Structure is the hidden aspect that has a pervasive impact on almost everything. Unacknowledged and unseen it works its results in ways that most people never recognize or appreciate.

Structure can be either a support or a hindrance. It is often the crippling agent that prevents desired outcomes and no one is the wiser.

A recent article in Fast Company is a fascinating case study in how biomimicry (learning from nature’s examples) can be used to rethink an organizations structure. The United Sates Green Building Council, working with IDEO developed a new approach to their internal structure that would increase their internal agility and communication. Part of the team was an assigned biologist (BaDT) from the Biomimicry Institute.

They developed a ‘symbiotic keystone structure’ taking lessons from the mycorrhiza fungi which from a mat between trees and help distribute water and sunlight amid the trees.

To improve communication among their far flung chapters they created a ‘distributed initiative selection’ process that took its inspiration from octopi reproduction. An octopus will have thousands of offspring and then natural selection will make sure that only the fit survive. USGBG decided to create such a process for new ideas from the chapters. This would ensure active generation of ideas and that only the best would get implemented.

In creating community they looked at cleaner shrimp, and this led to a robust intranet where individuals can become recognized for their unique contributions. This will make partnering easier and the identifying of pressing issues easier as well.

To address the need to keep people motivated they looked at how swarms of fish and flocks of birds pair up and created a chapter ‘buddy’ network between chapters to help information and inter-chapter communication flow.

Amazing no? The Biomimicry Guild loves to partner with business to help them tap nature’s wisdom, and we do too!

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I Love My Life!

Not everyone gets to do things they love doing. I think more people could – if they’d take the risk & if they trusted themselves and knew they were worth it. I also think more people should do the work they love. Second best doesn’t really make it. Choosing second best leaves a hole in your heart, an emptiness that nothing else can fill.

Today I spoke before the Sunrise Optimist Club in Lakewood, Colorado. I love their creed – their insistence on being optimistic and helpful! It was also gratifying to learn that they had learned more about what it means to be sustainable and how they could make a difference.

For me the journey toward sustainability is a joyful journey. I’m not so caught up in loss as I am in discovering new ways to live, experiencing less stress as I fit into the natural cycles of life and not those created by Madison Avenue, and thrilled at the unceasing creativity that the human species exhibits. I LOVE doing more with less!!!!!

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